Emily's Quest

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Ii

"NOVEMBER 26, 19—

"To-day was a glamorous November afternoon—summer-mild and autumn-sweet. I sat and read a long while in the pond burying-ground. Aunt Elizabeth thinks this a most gruesome place to sit in and tells Aunt Laura that she is afraid there's a morbid streak in me. I can't see anything morbid about it. It's a beautiful spot where wild, sweet odours are always coming across Blair Water on the wandering winds. And so quiet and peaceful, with the old graves all about me—little green hillocks with small frosted ferns sprinkled over them. Men and women of my house are lying there. Men and women who had been victorious—men and women who had been defeated—and their victory and defeat are now one. I never can feel either much exalted or much depressed there. The sting and the tang alike go out of things. I like the old, old red sandstone slabs, especially the one for Mary Murray with its 'Here I Stay'—the inscription into which her husband put all the concealed venom of a lifetime. His grave is right beside hers and I feel sure they have forgiven each other long ago. And perhaps they come back sometimes in the dark o' the moon and look at the inscription and laugh at it. It is growing a little dim with tiny lichens. Cousin Jimmy has given up scraping them away. Some day they will overgrow it so that it will be nothing but a green-and-red-and-silver smear on the old red stone."

 

"DEC. 20, 19—

"Something nice happened to-day. I feel pleasantly exhilarated. Madison's took my story, A Flaw in the Indictment!!!! Yes, it deserves some exclamation-points after it to a certainty. If it were not for Mr. Carpenter I would write it in italics. Italics! Nay, I'd use capitals. It is very hard to get in there. Don't I know! Haven't I tried repeatedly and gained nothing for my pains but a harvest of 'we-regrets?' And at last it has opened its doors to me. To be in Madison's is a clear and unmistakable sign that you're getting somewhere on the Alpine path. The dear editor was kind enough to say it was a charming story.

"Nice man!

"He sent me a cheque for fifty dollars. I'll soon be able to begin to repay Aunt Ruth and Uncle Wallace what they spent on me in Shrewsbury. Aunt Elizabeth as usual looked at the cheque suspiciously but for the first time forebore to wonder if the bank would really cash it. Aunt Laura's beautiful blue eyes beamed with pride. Aunt Laura's eyes really do beam. She is one of the Victorians. Edwardian eyes glitter and sparkle and allure but they never beam. And somehow I do like beaming eyes—especially when they beam over my success.

"Cousin Jimmy says that Madison's is worth all the other Yankee magazines put together in his opinion.

"I wonder if Dean Priest will like A Flaw in the Indictment. And if he will say so. He never praises anything I write nowadays. And I feel such a craving to compel him to. I feel that his is the only commendation, apart from Mr. Carpenter's, that is worth anything.

"It's odd about Dean. In some mysterious way he seems to be growing younger. A few years ago I thought of him as quite old. Now he seems only middle-aged. If this keeps up he'll soon be a mere youth. I suppose the truth is that my mind is beginning to mature a bit and I'm catching up with him. Aunt Elizabeth doesn't like my friendship with him any more than she ever did. Aunt Elizabeth has a well-marked antipathy to any Priest. But I don't know what I'd do without Dean's friendship. It's the very salt of life."

 

"JANUARY 15, 19—

"To-day was stormy. I had a white night last night after four rejections of MSS. I had thought especially good. As Miss Royal predicted, I felt that I had been an awful idiot not to have gone to New York with her when I had the chance. Oh, I don't wonder babies always cry when they wake up in the night. So often I want to do it, too. Everything presses on my soul then and no cloud has a silver lining. I was blue and disgruntled all the forenoon and looked forward to the coming of the mail as the one possible rescue from the doldrums. There is always such a fascinating expectancy and uncertainty about the mail. What would it bring me? A letter from Teddy—Teddy writes the most delightful letters. A nice thin envelope with a cheque? A fat one woefully eloquent of more rejected MSS.? One of Ilse's fascinating scrawls? Nothing of the sort. Merely an irate epistle from Second-cousin-once-removed Beulah Grant of Derry Pond, who is furious because she thinks I 'put her' into my story Fools of Habit, which has just been copied into a widely circulated Canadian farm paper. She wrote me a bitterly reproachful letter which I received to-day. She thinks I 'might have spared an old friend who has always wished me well.' She is 'not accustomed to being ridiculed in the newspapers' and will I, in future, be so kind as to refrain from making her the butt of my supposed wit in the public press. Second-cousin-once-removed Beulah wields a facile pen of her own, when it comes to that, and while certain things in her letter hurt me other parts infuriated me. I never once even thought of Cousin Beulah when I wrote that story. The character of Aunt Kate is purely imaginary. And if I had thought of Cousin Beulah I most certainly wouldn't have put her in a story. She is too stupid and commonplace. And she isn't a bit like Aunt Kate, who is, I flattered myself, a vivid, snappy, humorous old lady.

"But Cousin Beulah wrote to Aunt Elizabeth too, and we have had a family ruction. Aunt Elizabeth won't believe I am guiltless—she declares Aunt Kate is an exact picture of Cousin Beulah and she politely requests me—Aunt Elizabeth's polite requests are awesome things—not to caricature my relatives in my future productions.

"'It is not,' said Aunt Elizabeth in her stateliest manner, 'a thing any Murray should do—make money out of the peculiarities of her friends.'

"It was just another of Miss Royal's predictions fulfilled. Oh, was she as right about everything else? If she was—

"But the worst slam of all came from Cousin Jimmy, who had chuckled over Fools of Habit.

"'Never mind old Beulah, pussy,' he whispered. 'That was fine. You certainly did her up brown in Aunt Kate. I recognized her before I'd read a page. Knew her by her nose.' There you are! I unluckily happened to dower Aunt Kate with a 'long, drooping nose.' Nor can it be denied that Cousin Beulah's nose is long and drooping. People have been hanged on no clearer circumstantial evidence. It was of no use to wail despairingly that I had never even thought of Cousin Beulah. Cousin Jimmy just nodded and chuckled again.

"'Of course. Best to keep it quiet. Best to keep anything like that pretty quiet.'

"The worst sting in all this is, that if Aunt Kate is really like Cousin Beulah Grant then I failed egregiously in what I was trying to do.

"However, I feel much better now than when I began this entry. I've got quite a bit of resentment and rebellion and discouragement out of my system.

"That's the chief use of a diary, I believe."

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