Chapter 17 i
The Murray clan had a really terrible time in the summer that followed Emily's twenty-second birthday. Neither Teddy nor Ilse came home that summer. Ilse was touring in the West and Teddy betook himself into some northern hinterland with an Indian treaty party to make illustrations for a serial. But Emily had so many beaus that Blair Water gossip was in as bad a plight as the centipede who couldn't tell which foot came after which. So many beaus and not one of them such as the connection could approve of.
There was handsome, dashing Jack Bannister, the Derry Pond Don Juan—"a picturesque scoundrel," as Dr. Burnley called him. Certainly Jack was untrammelled by any moral code. But who knew what effect his silver tongue and good looks might have on temperamental Emily? It worried the Murrays for three weeks and then it appeared that Emily had some sense, after all. Jack Bannister faded out of the picture.
"Emily should never have even spoken to him," said Uncle Oliver indignantly. "Why, they say he keeps a diary and writes down all his love affairs in it and what the girls said to him."
"Don't worry. He won't write down what I said to him," said Emily, when Aunt Laura reported this to her anxiously.
Harold Conway was another anxiety. A Shrewsbury man in his thirties, who looked like a poet gone to seed. With a shock of wavy dark auburn hair and brilliant brown eyes. Who "fiddled for a living."
Emily went to a concert and a play with him and the New Moon aunts had some sleepless nights. But when in Blair Water parlance Rod Dunbar "cut him out" things were even worse. The Dunbars were "nothing" when it came to religion. Rod's mother, to be sure, was a Presbyterian, but his father was a Methodist, his brother a Baptist and one sister a Christian Scientist. The other sister was a Theosophist, which was worse than all the rest because they had no idea what it was. In all this mixture what on earth was Rod? Certainly no match for an orthodox niece of New Moon.
"His great-uncle was a religious maniac," said Uncle Wallace gloomily. "He was kept chained in his bedroom for sixteen years. What has got into that girl? Is she idiot or demon?"
Yet the Dunbars were at least a respectable family; but what was to be said of Larry Dix—one of the "notorious Priest Pond Dixes"—whose father had once pastured his cows in the graveyard and whose uncle was more than suspected of having thrown a dead cat down a neighbour's well for spite? To be sure, Larry himself was doing well as a dentist and was such a deadly-serious, solemn-in-earnest young man that nothing much could be urged against him, if one could only swallow the fact that he was a Dix. Nevertheless, Aunt Elizabeth was much relieved when Emily turned him adrift.
"Such presumption," said Aunt Laura, meaning for a Dix to aspire to a Murray.
"It wasn't because of his presumption I packed him off," said Emily. "It was because of the way he made love. He made a thing ugly that should have been beautiful."
"I suppose you wouldn't have him because he didn't propose romantically," said Aunt Elizabeth contemptuously.
"No. I think my real reason was that I felt sure he was the kind of man who would give his wife a vacuum cleaner for a Christmas present," vowed Emily.
"She will not take anything seriously," said Aunt Elizabeth in despair.
"I think she is bewitched," said Uncle Wallace. "She hasn't had one decent beau this summer. She's so temperamental decent fellows are scared of her."
"She's getting a terrible reputation as a flirt," mourned Aunt Ruth. "It's no wonder nobody worth while will have anything to do with her.
"Always with some fantastic love-affair on hand," snapped Uncle Wallace. The clan felt that Uncle Wallace had, with unusual felicity, hit on the very word. Emily's "love-affairs" were never the conventional, decorous things Murray love-affairs should be. They were indeed fantastic.