EMILY, who had been pointedly ignored by the Murrays at breakfast, was called into the parlour when the meal was over.
They were all there—the whole phalanx of them—and it occurred to Emily as she looked at Uncle Wallace, sitting in the spring sunshine, that she had not just found the exact word after all to express his peculiar quality of grimness.
Aunt Elizabeth stood unsmilingly by the table with slips of paper in her hand.
“Emily,” she said, “last night we could not decide who should take you. I may say that none of us feel very much like doing so, for you have behaved very badly in many respects—”
“Oh, Elizabeth,—” protested Laura. “She—she is our sister’s child.”
Elizabeth lifted a hand regally.
“I am doing this, Laura. Have the goodness not to interrupt me. As I was saying, Emily, we could not decide as to who should have the care of you. So we have agreed to Cousin Jimmy’s suggestion that we settle the matter by lot. I have our names here, written on these slips of paper. You will draw one and the one whose name is on it will give you a home.”
Aunt Elizabeth held out the slips of paper. Emily trembled so violently that at first she could not draw one. This was terrible—it seemed as if she must blindly settle her own fate.
“Draw,” said Aunt Elizabeth.
Emily set her teeth, threw back her head with the air of one who challenges destiny, and drew. Aunt Elizabeth took the slip from the little shaking hand and held it up. On it was her own name—“Elizabeth Murray.” Laura Murray suddenly put her handkerchief to her eyes.
“Well, that’s settled,” said Uncle Wallace, getting up with an air of relief. “And if I’m going to catch that train I’ve got to hurry. Of course, as far as the matter of expense goes, Elizabeth, I’ll do my share.”
“We are not paupers at New Moon,” said Aunt Elizabeth rather coldly. “Since it has fallen to me to take her, I shall do all that is necessary, Wallace. I do not shirk my duty.”
“I am her duty,” thought Emily. “Father said nobody ever liked a duty. So Aunt Elizabeth will never like me.”
“You’ve got more of the Murray pride than all the rest of us put together, Elizabeth,” laughed Uncle Wallace.
They all followed him out—all except Aunt Laura. She came up to Emily, standing alone in the middle of the room, and drew her into her arms.
“I’m so glad, Emily—I’m so glad,” she whispered. “Don’t fret, dear child. I love you already—and New Moon is a nice place, Emily.”
“It has—a pretty name,” said Emily, struggling for self-control. “I’ve—always hoped—I could go with you, Aunt Laura. I think I am going to cry—but it’s not because I’m sorry I’m going there. My manners are not as bad as you may think, Aunt Laura—and I wouldn’t have listened last night if I’d known it was wrong.”
“Of course you wouldn’t,” said Aunt Laura.
“But I’m not a Murray, you know.”
Then Aunt Laura said a queer thing—for a Murray.
“Thank heaven for that!” said Aunt Laura.
Cousin Jimmy followed Emily out and overtook her in
the little hall. Looking carefully around to ensure privacy, he whispered,
“Your Aunt Laura is a great hand at making an apple turnover, pussy.”
Emily thought apple turnover sounded nice, though she did not know what it was. She whispered back a question which she would never have dared ask Aunt Elizabeth or even Aunt Laura.
“Cousin Jimmy, when they make a cake at New Moon, will they let me scrape out the mixing-bowl and eat the scrapings?”
“Laura will—Elizabeth won’t,” whispered Cousin Jimmy solemnly.
“And put my feet in the oven when they get cold? And have a cooky before I go to bed?”
“Answer same as before,” said Cousin Jimmy. “I’ll recite my poetry to you. It’s very few people I do that for. I’ve composed a thousand poems. They’re not written down—I carry them here.” Cousin Jimmy tapped his forehead.
“Is it very hard to write poetry?” asked Emily, looking with new respect at Cousin Jimmy.
“Easy as rolling off a log if you can find enough rhymes,” said Cousin Jimmy.
They all went away that morning except the New Moon people. Aunt Elizabeth announced that they would stay until the next day to pack up and take Emily with them.
“Most of the furniture belongs to the house,” she said, “so it won’t take us long to get ready. There are only Douglas Starr’s books and his few personal belongings to pack.”
“How shall I carry my cats?” asked Emily anxiously.
Aunt Elizabeth stared.
“Cats! You’ll take no cats, miss.”
“Oh, I must take Mike and Saucy Sal!” cried Emily
wildly. “I can’t leave them behind. I can’t live without a cat.”
“Nonsense! There are barn cats at New Moon, but they are never allowed in the house.”
“Don’t you like cats?” asked Emily wonderingly.
“No, I do not.”
“Don’t you like the feel of a nice, soft, fat cat?” persisted Emily.
“No; I would as soon touch a snake.”
“There’s a lovely old wax doll of your mother’s up there,” said Aunt Laura. “I’ll dress it up for you.”
“I don’t like dolls—they can’t talk,” exclaimed Emily.
“Neither can cats.”
“Oh, can’t they! Mike and Saucy Sal can. Oh, I must take them. Oh, please, Aunt Elizabeth. I love those cats. And they’re the only things left in the world that love me. Please!”
“What’s a cat more or less on two hundred acres?” said Cousin Jimmy, pulling his forked beard. “Take ’em along, Elizabeth.”
Aunt Elizabeth considered for a moment. She couldn’t understand why anybody should want a cat. Aunt Elizabeth was one of those people who never do understand anything unless it is told them in plain language and hammered into their heads. And then they understand it only with their brains and not with their hearts.
“You may take one of your cats,” she said at last, with the air of a person making a great concession. “One—and no more. No, don’t argue. You may as well learn first as last, Emily, that when I say a thing I mean it. That’s enough, Jimmy.”
Cousin Jimmy bit off something he had tried to say, stuck his hands in his pockets, and whistled at the ceiling.
“When she won’t, she won’t—Murray like. We’re all born with that kink in us, small pussy, and you’ll have
to put up with it—more by token that you’re full of it yourself, you know. Talk about your not being Murray! The Starr is only skin deep with you.”
“It isn’t—I’m all Starr—I want to be,” cried Emily. “And, oh, how can I choose between Mike and Saucy Sal?”
This was indeed a problem. Emily wrestled with it all day, her heart bursting. She liked Mike best—there was no doubt of that; but she couldn’t leave Saucy Sal to Ellen’s tender mercies. Ellen had always hated Sal; but she rather liked Mike and she would be good to him. Ellen was going back to her own little house in Maywood village and she wanted a cat. At last in the evening, Emily made her bitter decision. She would take Saucy Sal.
“Better take the Tom,” said Cousin Jimmy. “Not so much bother with kittens you know, Emily.”
“Jimmy!” said Aunt Elizabeth sternly. Emily wondered over the sternness. Why weren’t kittens to be spoken of? But she didn’t like to hear Mike called “the Tom.” It sounded insulting, someway.
And she didn’t like the bustle and commotion of packing up. She longed for the old quiet and the sweet, remembered talks with her father. She felt as if he had been thrust far away from her by this influx of Murrays.
“What’s this?” said Aunt Elizabeth suddenly, pausing for a moment in her packing. Emily looked up and saw with dismay that Aunt Elizabeth had in her hands the old account book—that she was opening it—that she was reading in it. Emily sprang across the floor and snatched the book.
“You mustn’t read that, Aunt Elizabeth,” she cried indignantly, “that’s mine,—my own private property.”
“Hoity-toity, Miss Starr,” said Aunt Elizabeth, staring at her, “let me tell you that I have a right to read your books. I am responsible for you now. I am not going to have anything hidden or underhanded, understand
that. You have evidently something there that you are ashamed to have seen and I mean to see it. Give me that book.”
“I’m not ashamed of it,” cried Emily, backing away, hugging her precious book to her breast. “But I won’t let you—or anybody—see it.”
Aunt Elizabeth followed.
“Emily Starr, do you hear what I say? Give me that book—at once.”
“No—no!” Emily turned and ran. She would never let Aunt Elizabeth see that book. She fled to the kitchen stove—she whisked off a cover—she crammed the book into the glowing fire. It caught and blazed merrily. Emily watched it in agony. It seemed as if part of herself were burning there. But Aunt Elizabeth should never see it—see all the little things she had written and read to Father—all her fancies about the Wind Woman, and Emily-in-the-glass—all her little cat dialogues—all the things she had said in it last night about the Murrays. She watched the leaves shrivel and shudder, as if they were sentient things, and then turn black. A line of white writing came out vividly on one. “Aunt Elizabeth is very cold and hawty.” What if Aunt Elizabeth had seen that? What if she were seeing it now! Emily glanced apprehensively over her shoulder. No, Aunt Elizabeth had gone back to the room and shut the door with what, in anybody but a Murray, would have been called a bang. The account book was a little heap of white film on the glowing coals. Emily sat down by the stove and cried. She felt as if she had lost something incalculably precious. It was terrible to think that all those dear things were gone. She could never write them again—not just the same; and if she could she wouldn’t dare—she would never dare to write anything again, if Aunt Elizabeth must see everything. Father never insisted on seeing them. She liked to read them to him—but if she hadn’t wanted to do it he would never
have made her. Suddenly Emily, with tears glistening on her cheeks, wrote a line in an imaginary account book.
“Aunt Elizabeth is cold and hawty; and she is not fair.”
Next morning, while Cousin Jimmy was tying the boxes at the back of the double-seated buggy, and Aunt Elizabeth was giving Ellen her final instructions, Emily said good-bye to everything—to the Rooster Pine and Adam-and-Eve—“they’ll miss me so when I’m gone; there won’t be any one here to love them,” she said wistfully—to the spider crack in the kitchen window—to the old wing-chair—to the bed of striped grass—to the silver birch-ladies. Then she went upstairs to the window of her own old room. That little window had always seemed to Emily to open on a world of wonder. In the burned account book there had been one piece of which she was especially proud. “A deskripshun of the vew from my Window.” She had sat there and dreamed; at night she used to kneel there and say her little prayers. Sometimes the stars shone through it—sometimes the rain beat against it—sometimes the little greybirds and swallows visited it—sometimes airy fragrances floated in from apple and lilac blossom—sometimes the Wind Woman laughed and sighed and sang and whistled round it—Emily had heard her there in the dark nights and in wild, white winter storms. She did not say good-bye to the Wind Woman, for she knew the Wind Woman would be at New Moon, too; but she said good-bye to the little window and the green hill she had loved, and to her fairy-haunted barrens and to little Emily-in-the-glass. There might be another Emily-in-the-glass at New Moon, but she wouldn’t be the same one. And she unpinned from the wall and stowed away in her pocket the picture of the ball dress she had cut from a fashion sheet. It was such a wonderful dress—all white lace and wreaths of rosebuds, with a long, long, train of lace flounces that must reach clear across a room.
Emily had pictured herself a thousand times wearing that dress, sweeping, a queen of beauty, across a ballroom floor.
Downstairs they were waiting for her. Emily said good-bye to Ellen Greene rather indifferently—she had never liked Ellen Greene at any time, and since the night Ellen had told her her father was going to die she had hated and feared her.
Ellen amazed Emily by bursting into tears and hugging her—begging her not to forget her—asking her to write to her—calling her “my blessed child.”
“I am not your blessed child,” said Emily, “but I will write to you. And will you be very good to Mike?”
“I b’lieve you feel worse over leaving that cat than you do over leaving me,” sniffed Ellen.
“Why, of course I do,” said Emily, amazed that there could be any question about it.
It took all her resolution not to cry when she bade farewell to Mike, who was curled up on the sun-warm grass at the back door.
“Maybe I’ll see you again sometime,” she whispered as she hugged him. “I’m sure good pussy cats go to heaven.”
Then they were off in the double-seated buggy with its fringed canopy, always affected by the Murrays of New Moon. Emily had never driven in anything so splendid before. She had never had many drives. Once or twice her father had borrowed Mr. Hubbard’s old buckboard and grey pony and driven to Charlottetown. The buckboard was rattly and the pony slow, but Father had talked to her all the way and made the road a wonder.
Cousin Jimmy and Aunt Elizabeth sat in front, the latter very imposing in black lace bonnet and mantle. Aunt Laura and Emily occupied the seat behind, with Saucy Sal between them in a basket, shrieking piteously.
Emily glanced back as they drove up the grassy lane, and thought the little, old, brown house in the hollow
had a broken-hearted look. She longed to run back and comfort it. In spite of her resolution, the tears came into her eyes; but Aunt Laura put a kid-gloved hand across Sal’s basket and caught Emily’s in a close, understanding squeeze.
“Oh, I just love you, Aunt Laura,” whispered Emily.
And Aunt Laura’s eyes were very, very blue and deep and kind.
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