Emily's Quest

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Iii

But it was the affair of the Japanese prince which really gave the Murrays their bad summer.

Second-cousin Louise Murray, who had lived in Japan for twenty years, came home to Derry Pond for a visit and brought with her a young Japanese prince, the son of a friend of her husband's, who had been converted to Christianity by her efforts and wished to see something of Canada. His mere coming made a tremendous sensation in the clan and the community. But that was nothing to the next sensation when they realized that the prince had evidently and unmistakably fallen terrifically in love with Emily Byrd Starr of New Moon.

Emily liked him—was interested in him—was sorry for him in his bewildered reactions to the Presbyterian atmosphere of Derry Pond and Blair Water. Naturally a Japanese prince, even a converted one, couldn't feel exactly at home. So she talked a great deal to him—he could talk English excellently—and walked with him at moonrise in the garden—and almost every evening that slant-eyed, inscrutable face, with the black hair brushed straight back from it as smooth as satin, might be seen in the parlour of New Moon.

But it was not until he gave Emily a little frog beautifully cut out of moss agate that the Murrays took alarm. Cousin Louise sounded it first. Tearfully. She knew what that frog meant. Those agate frogs were heirlooms in the family of the prince. Never were they given away save as marriage and betrothal gifts. Was Emily engaged—to him? Aunt Ruth, looking as usual as if she thought everyone had gone mad, came over to New Moon and made quite a scene. It annoyed Emily so much that she refused to answer any questions. She was a bit edgy to begin with over the unnecessary way her clan had heckled her all summer over suitors that were not of her choosing and whom there was not the slightest danger of her taking seriously.

"There are some things not good for you to know," she told Aunt Ruth impertinently.

And the distracted Murrays despairingly concluded that she had decided to be a Japanese princess. And if she had—well, they knew what happened when Emily made up her mind. It was something inevitable—like a visitation of God; but it was a dreadful thing. His Princeship cast no halo about him in the Murray eyes. No Murray before her would ever have dreamed of marrying any foreigner, much less a Japanese. But then of course she was temperamental.

"Always with some disreputable creature in tow," said Aunt Ruth. "But this beats everything I ever feared. A pagan—a—"

"Oh, he isn't that, Ruth," mourned Aunt Laura. "He is converted—Cousin Louise says she is sure he is sincere, but—"

"I tell you he's a pagan!" reiterated Aunt Ruth. "Cousin Louise could never convert anybody. Why, she's none too sound herself. And her husband is a modernist if he's anything. Don't tell me! A yellow pagan! Him and his agate frogs!"

"She seems to have such an attraction for extraordinary men," said Aunt Elizabeth, thinking of the rock-crystal goblet.

Uncle Wallace said it was preposterous. Andrew said she might at least have picked on a white man. Cousin Louise, who felt that the clan blamed her for it all, pleaded tearfully that he had beautiful manners when you really knew him.

"And she might have had the Reverend James Wallace," said Aunt Elizabeth.

They lived through five weeks of this and then the prince went back to Japan. He had been summoned home by his family, Cousin Louise said—a marriage had been arranged for him with a princess of an old Samurai family. Of course he had obeyed; but he left the agate frog in Emily's possession and nobody ever knew just what he said to her one night at moonrise in the garden. Emily was a little white and strange and remote when she came in, but she smiled impishly at her aunts and Cousin Louise.

"So I'm not to be a Japanese princess after all," she said, wiping away some imaginary tears.

"Emily, I fear you've only been flirting with that poor boy," rebuked Cousin Louise. "You have made him very unhappy."

"I wasn't flirting. Our conversations were about literature and history—mostly. He will never think of me again."

"I know what he looked like when he read that letter," retorted Cousin Louise. "And I know the significance of agate frogs."

New Moon drew a breath of relief and thankfully settled down to routine again. Aunt Laura's old, tender eyes lost their troubled look, but Aunt Elizabeth thought sadly of the Rev. James Wallace. It had been a nerve-racking summer. Blair Water whispered about, that Emily Starr had been "disappointed," but predicted she would live to be thankful for it. You couldn't trust them foreigners. Not likely he was a prince at all.

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