Emily's Quest

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Chapter 26 i

Ilse did not look as if she wanted excuses made for her when, two days later, she walked unannounced into Emily's room. She looked rosy, audacious, triumphant.

Emily stared at her.

"Well, I suppose the earthquake is over. What is left standing?"

"Ilse! How could you!"

Ilse pulled a notebook out of her handbag and pretended to consult it.

"I wrote down a list of the things you'd say. That was the first one. You've said it. The next is, 'Aren't you ashamed of yourself?' I'm not, you know,' added Ilse impudently.

"I know you're not. That's why I don't ask it."

"I'm not ashamed—and I'm not sorry. I'm only a little bit sorry that I'm not sorry. And I'm shamelessly happy. But I suppose I spoiled the party. No doubt the old meows are having the time of their lives. They've got their craws full for once."

"How do you suppose Teddy is feeling?" asked Emily sternly.

"Is he feeling any worse than Dean did? There's an old proverb about glass houses."

Emily crimsoned.

"I know—I used Dean badly—but I didn't—

"Jilt him at the altar! True. But I didn't think about Teddy at all when I heard Aunt Ida say Perry was killed. I was quite mad. My one thought was to see Perry once before he died. I had to. And I found when I got there that, as Mark Twain said, the report of his death was greatly exaggerated. He wasn't even badly hurt—was sitting up in bed, his face all bruised and bandaged—looking like the devil. Want to hear what happened, Emily?"

Ilse dropped on the floor at Emily's feet—and looked coaxingly up into Emily's face.

"Honey, what's the use of disapproving a thing that was foreordained? That won't alter anything. I got a glimpse of Aunt Laura in the sitting-room as I sneaked upstairs. She was looking like something that had been left out overnight. But you have a streak in you that isn't Murray. You should understand. Don't waste your sympathy on Teddy. He doesn't love me—I've always known it. It's only his conceit that will suffer. Here—give him his sapphire for me, will you?" Ilse saw something in Emily's face she didn't like. "It can go to join Dean's emerald."

"Teddy left for Montreal the day after—after—"

"After the wedding that wasn't," finished Ilse. "Did you see him, Emily?"

"No."

"Well, if he'd go and shoot big game in Africa for awhile he'd get over it very quickly. Emily, I'm going to marry Perry—next year. It's all settled. I fell on his neck and kissed him as soon as I saw him. I let go my train and it streamed magnificently over the floor. I knew the nurse thought I had just got out of Dr. Percy's private asylum. But I turned her out of the room. And I told Perry I loved him and that I would never, never marry Teddy Kent no matter what happened—and then he asked me if I'd marryhim—or I told him he must marry me—or neither of us asked—we just understood. I honestly don't remember which—and I don't care. Emily, if I were dead and Perry came and looked at me I'd live again. Of course I know he's always been after you—but he's going to love me as he never loved you. We were made for each other."

"Perry was never really in love with me," said Emily. "He liked me tremendously, that was all. He didn't know the difference—then." She looked down into Ilse's radiant face—and all her old, old love for this perverse, adorable friend rushed to eyes and lips.

"Dearest, I hope you'll be happy—always."

"How blessedly Victorian that sounds!" said Ilse contentedly. "Oh, I can be quiet now, Emily. For weeks I've been afraid that if I let myself be quiet for a moment I'd bolt. And I don't even mind if Aunt Janie is praying for me. I believe I rather hope she is."

"What does your father say?"

"Oh, Dad." Ilse shrugged her shoulders. "He's still in the clutches of his old ancestral temper. Won't speak to me. But he'll come round. He's really as much to blame as I am for what I've done. You know I've never asked anyone in my life if I could do a thing. I just did it. Father never prevented me. At first because he hated me—then because he wanted to make up for hating me."

"I think you'll have to ask Perry sometimes if you can do things."

"I won't mind that. You'll be surprised to see what a dutiful wife I'll make. Of course I'm going right away—back to work. And in a year's time people will have forgotten—and Perry and I will be married quietly somewhere. No more rose-point veils and Oriental trains and clan weddings for me. Lord, what an escape! Then minutes later I'd have been married to Teddy. Think what a scandal there'd have been then when Aunt Ida arrived. Because I'd have gone just the same, you know."

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