Emily's Quest

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Ii

That summer was a hard time for Emily. The very anguish of her suffering had filled life and now that it was over she realized its emptiness. Then, too, to go anywhere meant martyrdom. Everyone talking about the wedding, asking, wondering, surmising. But at last the wild gossip and clatter over Ilse's kididoes had finally died away and people found something else to talk about. Emily was left alone.

Alone? Ay, that was it. Always alone. Love—friendship gone forever. Nothing left but ambition. Emily settled herself resolutely down to work. Life ran again in its old accustomed grooves. Year after year the seasons walked by her door. Violet-sprinkled valleys of spring—blossom-script of summer—minstrel-firs of autumn—pale fires of the Milky Way on winter nights—soft, new-mooned skies of April—gnomish beauty of dark Lombardies against a moonrise—deep of sea calling to deep of wind—lonely yellow leaves falling in October dusks—woven moonlight in the orchard. Oh, there was beauty in life still—always would be. Immortal, indestructible beauty beyond all the stain and blur of mortal passion. She had some very glorious hours of inspiration and achievement. But mere beauty which had once satisfied her soul could not wholly satisfy it now. New Moon was unchanged, undisturbed by the changes that came elsewhere. Mrs. Kent had gone to live with Teddy. The old Tansy Patch was sold to some Halifax man for a summer home. Perry went to Montreal one autumn and brought Ilse back with him. They were living happily in Charlottetown, where Emily often visited them, astutely evading the matrimonial traps Ilse was always setting for her. It was becoming an accepted thing in the clan that Emily would not marry.

"Another old maid at New Moon," as Uncle Wallace said gracefully.

"And to think of all the men she might have had," said Aunt Elizabeth bitterly. "Mr. Wallace—Aylmer Vincent—Andrew—"

"But if she didn't—love—them," faltered Aunt Laura.

"Laura, you need not be indelicate."

Old Kelly, who still went his rounds—"and will till the crack of doom," declared Ilse—had quite given up teasing Emily about getting married, though he occasionally made regretful, cryptic allusions to "toad ointment." There was none of his significant nods and winks. Instead, he always gravely asked her what book she did be working on now, and drove off shaking his spiky gray head. "What do the men be thinking of, anyway? Get up, my nag, get up."

Some men were still thinking of Emily, it appeared. Andrew, now a brisk young widower, would have come at the beck of a finger Emily never lifted. Graham Mitchell, of Shrewsbury, unmistakably had intentions. Emily wouldn't have him because he had a slight cast in one eye. At least, that was what the Murrays supposed. They could think of no other reason for her refusal of so good a match. Shrewsbury people declared that he figured in her next novel and that she had only been "leading him on" to "get material." A reputed Klondike "millionaire" pursued her for a winter, but disappeared as briefly in the spring.

"Since she has published those books she thinks no one good enough for her," said Blair Water folks.

Aunt Elizabeth did not regret the Klondike man—he was only a Derry Pond Butterworth, to begin with, and what were the Butterworths? Aunt Elizabeth always contrived to give the impression that Butterworths did not exist. They might imagine they did, but the Murrays knew better. But she did not see why Emily could not take Mooresby, of the firm of Mooresby and Parker, Charlottetown. Emily's explanation that Mr. Mooresby could never live down the fact that he had once had his picture in the papers as a Perkins' Food Baby struck Aunt Elizabeth as very inadequate. But Aunt Elizabeth at last admitted that she could not understand the younger generation.

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