Emily's Quest

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Viii

Even an hour like that passed. But Dr. Burnley and Rob returned alone. Ilse would not come—that was all there was to it. Perry Miller was not killed—was not even seriously injured—but Ilse would not come. She told her father that she was going to marry Perry Miller and nobody else.

The doctor was the centre of a little group of dismayed and tearful women in the upper hall. Aunt Elizabeth, Aunt Laura, Aunt Ruth, Emily.

"I suppose if her mother had lived this wouldn't have happened," said the doctor dazedly. "I never dreamed she cared for Miller. I wish somebody had wrung Ida Mitchell's neck in time. Oh, cry—cry—yes, cry"—fiercely to poor Aunt Laura. "What good will yelping do? What a devil of a mess! Somebody's got to tell Kent—I suppose I must. And those distracted fools down there have to be fed. That's what half of them came for, anyway. Emily, you seem to be the only creature left in the world with a grain of sense. See to things, there's a good girl."

Emily was not of an hysterical temperament, but for the second time in her life she was feeling that the only thing she could do would be to scream as loud and long as possible. Things had got to the point where only screaming would clear the air. But she got the guests marshalled to the tables. Excitement calmed down somewhat when they found they were not to be cheated out of everything. But the wedding-feast was hardly a success.

Even those who were hungry had an uneasy feeling that it wasn't the thing to eat heartily under such circumstances. Nobody enjoyed it except old Uncle Tom Mitchell, who frankly went to weddings for the spread and didn't care whether there was a ceremony or not. Brides might come and brides might go but a square meal was a feed. So he ate steadily away, only pausing now and then to shake his head solemnly and ask, "What air the women coming to?"

Cousin Isabella was set up on presentiments for life, but nobody listened to her. Most of the guests were afraid to speak, for fear of saying the wrong thing. Uncle Oliver reflected that he had seen many funeral repasts that were more cheerful. The waitresses were hurried and flurried and made ludicrous mistakes. Mrs. Derwent, the young and pretty wife of the new minister, looked to be on the point of tears—nay, actually had tears in her eyes. Perhaps she had been building on the prospective wedding fee. Perhaps its loss meant no new hat for her. Emily, glancing at her as she passed a jelly, wanted to laugh—a desire as hysterical as her wish to scream. But no desire at all showed itself on her cold white face. Shrewsbury people said she was as disdainful and indifferent as always. Could anything really make that girl feel?

And under it all she was keenly conscious of only one question. "Where was Teddy? What was he feeling—thinking—doing?" She hated Ilse for hurting him—shaming him. She did not see how anything could go on after this. It was one of those events which must stop time.

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