Emily's Quest

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V

A very ghastly time followed. Fortunately Dean was away, having gone to Montreal on business. It was during his absence that the world was horrified by the tragedy of the Flavian's fatal collision with an iceberg. The headlines struck Emily in the face like a blow, Teddy was to have sailed on the Flavian—Had he—had he? Who could tell her? Perhaps his mother—his queer, solitary mother who hated her with a hatred that Emily always felt like a tangible thing between them. Hitherto Emily would have shrunk unspeakably from seeking Mrs. Kent. Now nothing mattered except finding out if Teddy were on the Flavian. She hurried to the Tansy Patch. Mrs Kent came to the door—unaltered in all the years since Emily had first known her—frail, furtive, with her bitter mouth and that disfiguring red scar across her paleness. Her face changed as it always did when she saw Emily. Hostility and fear contended in her dark, melancholy eyes.

"Did Teddy sail on the Flavian?" demanded Emily without circumlocution.

Mrs. Kent smiled—an unfriendly little smile.

"Does it matter to you?" she said.

"Yes." Emily was very blunt. The "Murray" look was on her face—the look few people could encounter undefeatedly. "If you know—tell me."

Mrs. Kent told her, unwillingly, hating her, shaking like a little dead leaf quivering with a semblance of life in a cruel wind.

"He did not. I had a cable from him to-day. At the last moment he was prevented from sailing."

"Thank you." Emily turned away, but not before Mrs. Kent had seen the joy and triumph that had leaped into her shadowy eyes. She sprang forward and caught Emily's arm.

"It is nothing to you," she cried wildly. "Nothing to you whether he is safe or not. You are going to marry another man. How dare you come here—demanding to know of my son—as if you had a right?"

Emily looked down at her pityingly, understandingly. This poor creature whose jealousy, coiled in her soul like a snake, had made life a vale of torment for her.

"No right perhaps—except the right of loving him," she said.

Mrs. Kent struck her hands together wildly.

"You—you dare to say that—you who are to marry another man?"

"I am not going to marry another man," Emily found herself saying. It was quite true. For days she had not known what to do—now quite unmistakably she knew what she must do. Dreadful as it would be, still something that must be done. Everything was suddenly clear and bitter and inevitable before her.

"I cannot marry another man, Mrs. Kent, because I love Teddy. But he does not love me. I know that quite well. So you need not hate me any longer."

She turned and went swiftly away from the Tansy Patch. Where was her pride, she wondered the pride of "the proud Murrays"—that she could so calmly acknowledge an unsought, unwanted love. But pride just then had no place in her.

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