Emily's Quest

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Chapter 18 i

One day in the last week of October Cousin Jimmy began to plough the hill field, Emily found the lost legendary diamond of the Murrays,* and Aunt Elizabeth fell down the cellar steps and broke her leg.


*See Emily of New Moon.


Emily, in the warm amber of the afternoon, stood on the sandstone front steps of New Moon and looked about her with eyes avid for the mellow loveliness of the fading year. Most of the trees were leafless, but a little birch, still in golden array, peeped out of the young spruces—a birch Danae in their shadows—and the Lombardies down the lane were like a row of great golden candles. Beyond was the sere hill field scarfed with three bright red ribbons—the "ridges" Cousin Jimmy had ploughed. Emily had been writing all day and she was tired. She went down the garden to the little vine-hung summer house—she poked dreamily about; deciding where the new tulip bulbs should be planted. Here—in this moist rich soil where Cousin Jimmy had recently pried out the mouldering old side-steps. Next spring it should be a banquet board laden with stately chalices. Emily's heel sank deeply into the moist earth and came out laden. She sauntered over to the stone bench and daintily scraped off the earth with a twig. Something fell and glittered on the grass like a dewdrop. Emily picked it up with a little cry. There in her hand was the Lost Diamond—lost over sixty years before, when Great-aunt Miriam Murray had gone into the summer house.

It had been one of her childish dreams to find the Lost Diamond—she and Ilse and Teddy had hunted for it scores of times. But of late years she had not thought about it. And here it was—as bright, as beautiful, as ever. It must have been hidden in some crevice of the old side-steps and fallen to the earth when they had been torn away. It made quite a sensation at New Moon. A few days later the Murrays had a conclave about Aunt Elizabeth's bed to decide what should be done with it. Cousin Jimmy said stoutly that finding was keeping in this case. Edward and Miriam Murray were long since dead. They had left no family. The diamond by rights was Emily's.

"We are all heirs to it," said Uncle Wallace judicially. "It cost, I've heard, a thousand dollars sixty years ago. It's a beautiful stone. The fair thing is to sell it and give Emily her mother's share."

"One shouldn't sell a family diamond," said Aunt Elizabeth firmly.

This seemed to be the general opinion at bottom. Even Uncle Wallace acknowledged the sway of noblesse oblige. Eventually they all agreed that the diamond should be Emily's.

"She can have it set as a little pendant for her neck," said Aunt Laura.

"It was meant for a ring," said Aunt Ruth, just for the sake of disagreeing. "And she shouldn't wear it, in any case, until she is married. A diamond as big as that is in bad taste for a young girl."

"Oh, married!" Aunt Addie gave a rather nasty little laugh. It conveyed her opinion that if Emily waited for that to wear the diamond it was just possible she might never wear it. Aunt Addie had never forgiven Emily for refusing Andrew. And here she was at twenty-three—well, nearly—with no eligible beau in sight.

"The Lost Diamond will bring you luck, Emily," said Cousin Jimmy. "I'm glad they've left it with you. It's rightly yours. But will you let me hold it sometimes, Emily,—just hold it and look into it. When I look into anything like that I—I—find myself. I'm not simple Jimmy Murray then—I'm what I would have been if I hadn't been pushed into a well. Don't say anything about it to Elizabeth, Emily, but just let me hold it and look at it once in awhile."

"My favourite gem is the diamond, when all is said and done," Emily wrote to Ilse that night. "But I love gems of all kinds—except turquoise. Them I loathe—the shallow, insipid, soulless things. The gloss of pearl, glow of ruby, tenderness of sapphire, melting violet of amethyst, moonlit glimmer of acquamarine, milk and fire of opal—I love them all."

"What about emeralds?" Ilse wrote back—a bit nastily, Emily thought, not knowing that a Shrewsbury correspondent of Ilse's wrote her now and then some unreliable gossip about Perry Miller's visits to New Moon. Perry did come to New Moon occasionally. But he had given up asking Emily to marry him and seemed wholly absorbed in his profession. Already he was regarded as a coming man and shrewd politicians were said to be biding their time until he should be old enough to "bring out" as a candidate for the Provincial House.

"Who knows? You may be 'my lady' yet," wrote Ilse, "Perry will be Sir Perry some day."

Which Emily thought was even nastier than the scratch about the emerald.

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