Emily's Quest

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Life at New Moon had changed. She must adjust herself to it. A certain loneliness must be reckoned with. Ilse Burnley, the madcap pal of seven faithful years, had gone to the School of Literature and Expression in Montreal. The two girls parted with the tears and vows of girlhood. Never to meet on quite the same ground again. For, disguise the fact as we will, when friends, even the closest—perhaps the more because of that very closeness—meet again after a separation there is always a chill, lesser or greater, of change. Neither finds the other quite the same. This is natural and inevitable. Human nature is ever growing or retrogressing—never stationary. But still, with all our philosophy, who of us can repress a little feeling of bewildered disappointment when we realize that our friend is not and never can be just the same as before—even though the change may be by way of improvement? Emily, with the strange intuition which supplied the place of experience, felt this as Ilse did not, and felt that in a sense she was bidding good-bye for ever to the Ilse of New Moon days and Shrewsbury years.

Perry Miller, too, former "hired boy" of New Moon, medalist of Shrewsbury High School, rejected but not quite hopeless suitor of Emily, butt of Ilse's rages, was gone. Perry was studying law in an office in Charlottetown, with his eye fixed firmly on several glittering legal goals. No rainbow ends—no mythical pots of gold for Perry. He knew what he wanted would stay put and he was going after it. People were beginning to believe he would get it. After all, the gulf between the law clerk in Mr. Abel's office and the Supreme Court Bench of Canada was no wider than the gulf between that same law clerk and the barefoot gamin of Stovepipe Town-by-the-Harbour.

There was more of the rainbow-seeker in Teddy Kent, of the Tansy Patch. He, too, was going. To the School of Design in Montreal. He, too, knew—had known for years—the delight and allurement and despair and anguish of the rainbow quest.

"Even if we never find it," he said to Emily, as they lingered in the New Moon garden under the violet sky of a long, wondrous, northern twilight, on the last evening before he went away, "there's something in the search for it that's better than even the finding would be."

"But we will find it," said Emily, lifting her eyes to a star that glittered over the tip of one of the Three Princesses. Something in Teddy's use of "we" thrilled her with its implications. Emily was always very honest with herself and she never attempted to shut her eyes to the knowledge that Teddy Kent meant more to her than anyone else in the world. Whereas she—what did she mean to him? Little? Much? Or nothing?

She was bareheaded and she had put a star-like cluster of tiny yellow 'mums in her hair. She had thought a good deal about her dress before she decided on her primrose silk. She thought she was looking very well, but what difference did that make if Teddy didn't notice it? He always took her so for granted, she thought a little rebelliously. Dean Priest, now, would have noticed it and paid her some subtle compliment about it.

"I don't know," said Teddy, morosely scowling at Emily's topaz-eyed grey cat, Daffy, who was fancying himself as a skulking tiger in the spirea thicket. "I don't know. Now that I'm really flying the Blue Peter I feel—flat. After all—perhaps I can never do anything worth while. A little knack of drawing—what does it amount to? Especially when you're lying awake at three o'clock at night?"

"Oh, I know that feeling," agreed Emily. "Last night I mulled over a story for hours and concluded despairingly that I could never write—that it was no use to try—that I couldn't do anything really worth while. I went to bed on that note and drenched my pillow with tears. Woke up at three and couldn't even cry. Tears seemed as foolish as laughter—or ambition. I was quite bankrupt in hope and belief. And then I got up in the chilly grey dawn and began a new story. Don't let a three-o'clock-at-night feeling fog your soul."

"Unfortunately there's a three o'clock every night," said Teddy. "At that ungodly hour I am always convinced that if you want things too much you're not likely ever to get them. And there are two things that I want tremendously. One, of course, is to be a great artist. I never supposed I was a coward, Emily, but I'm afraid now. If I don't make good! Everybody'll laugh at me. Mother will say she knew it. She hates to see me go really, you know. To go and fail! It would be better not to go."

"No, it wouldn't," said Emily passionately, wondering at the same time in the back of her head what was the other thing Teddy wanted so tremendously. "You must not be afraid. Father said I wasn't to be afraid of anything in that talk I had with him the night he died. And isn't it Emerson who said, 'Always do what you are afraid to do?'"

"I'll bet Emerson said that when he'd got through with being afraid of things. It's easy to be brave when you're taking off your harness."

"You know I believe in you, Teddy," said Emily softly.

"Yes, you do. You and Mr. Carpenter. You are the only ones who really do believe in me. Even Ilse thinks that Perry has by far the better chance of bringing home the bacon."

"But you are not going after bacon. You're going after rainbow gold."

"And if I fail to find it—and disappoint you—that will be worst of all."

"You won't fail. Look at that star, Teddy—the one just over the youngest Princess. It's Vega of the Lyre. I've always loved it. It's my dearest among the stars. Do you remember how, years ago when you and Ilse and I sat out in the orchard on the evenings when Cousin Jimmy was boiling pigs' potatoes, you used to spin us wonderful tales about that star—and of a life you had lived in it before you came to this world. There was no three o'clock in the morning in that star."

"What happy, carefree little shavers we were those times," said Teddy, in the reminiscent voice of a middle-aged, care-oppressed man wistfully recalling youthful irresponsibility.

"I want you to promise me," said Emily, "that whenever you see that star you'll remember that I am believing in you—hard."

"Will you promise me that whenever you look at that star you'll think of me?" said Teddy. "Or rather, let us promise each other that whenever we see that star we'll always think of each other—always. Everywhere and as long as we live."

"I promise," said Emily, thrilled. She loved to have Teddy look at her like that.

A romantic compact. Meaning what? Emily did not know. She only knew that Teddy was going away—that life seemed suddenly very blank and cold—that the wind from the gulf, sighing among the trees in Lofty John's bush was very sorrowful—that summer had gone and autumn had come. And that the pot of gold at the rainbow's end was on some very far-distant hill.

Why had she said that thing about the star? Why did dusk and fir-scent and the afterglow of autumnal sunsets make people say absurd things?

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