Lucy Maud Montgomery

Emily of New Moon

Chapter 15

Various Tragedies

Emily, obedient to Aunt Elizabeth's command, had eliminated the word "bull" from her vocabulary. But to ignore the existence of bulls was not to do away with them--and specifically with Mr James Lee's English bull, who inhabited the big windy pasture west of Blair Water and who bore a dreadful reputation. He was certainly an awesome looking creature and Emily sometimes had fearful dreams of being chased by him and being unable to move. And one sharp November day these dreams came true.

There was a certain well at the far end of the pasture concerning which Emily felt a curiosity, because Cousin Jimmy had told her a dreadful tale about it. The well had been dug sixty years ago by two brothers who lived in a little house which was built down near the shore. It was a very deep well, which was considered a curious thing in that low-lying land near pond and sea; the brothers had gone ninety feet before they found a spring. Then the sides of the well had been stoned up--but the work never went farther. Thomas and Silas Lee had quarrelled over some trivial difference of opinion as to what kind of a hood should be put over it; and in the heat of his anger Silas had struck Thomas on the head with his hammer and killed him.

The well-house was never built. Silas Lee was sent to prison for manslaughter and died there. The farm passed to another brother--Mr James Lee's father--who moved the house to the other end of it and planked the well over. Cousin Jimmy added that Tom Lee's ghost was supposed to haunt the scene of his tragic death but he couldn't vouch for that, though he had written a poem on it. A very eerie poem it was, too, and made Emily's blood run cold with a fearful joy when he recited it to her one misty night by the big potato pot. Ever since she had wanted to see the old well.

Her chance came one Saturday when she was prowling alone in the old graveyard. Beyond it lay the Lee pasture and there was apparently not a sign of a bull in or about it. Emily decided to pay a visit to the old well and went skimming down the field against the sweep of the north wind racing across the gulf. The Wind Woman was a giantess that day and a mighty swirl she was stirring up along the shore; but as Emily drew near the big sand-dunes they made a little harbour of calmness around the old well.

Emily coolly lifted up one of the planks, knelt on the others and peered down. Fortunately the planks were strong and comparatively new--otherwise the small maiden of New Moon might have explored the well more thoroughly than she desired to do. As it was, she could see little of it; huge ferns grew thickly out of the crevices among the stones of its sides and reached across it, shutting out the view of its gloomy depths. Rather disappointed, Emily replaced the plank and started homeward. She had not gone ten steps before she stopped. Mr James Lee's bull was coming straight towards her and was less than twenty yards away.

The shore fence was not far behind Emily, and she might possibly have reached it in time had she run. But she was incapable of running; as she wrote that night in her letter to her father she was "parralised" with terror and could no more move than she could in her dreams of this very occurrence. It is quite conceivable that a dreadful thing might have happened then and there had not a certain boy been sitting on the shore fence. He had been sitting there unnoticed all the time Emily had been peering into the well, now he sprang down.

Emily saw, or sensed, a sturdy body dashing past her. The owner thereof ran to within ten feet of the bull, hurled a stone squarely into the monster's hairy face, then sped off at right angles towards the side fence. The bull, thus insulted, turned with a menacing rumble and lumbered off after this intruder.

"Run now!" screamed the boy over his shoulder to Emily.

Emily did not run. Terrified as she was, there was something in her that would not let her run until she saw whether her gallant rescuer made good his escape. He reached his fence in the nick of time. Then and not till then Emily ran too, and scrambled over the shore fence just as the bull started back across the pasture, evidently determined to catch somebody. Trembling, she made her way through the spiky grass of the sand-hills and met the boy at the corner. They stood and looked at each other for a moment.

The boy was a stranger to Emily. He had a cheery, impudent, clean-cut face, with keen, grey eyes and plenty of tawny curls. He wore as few clothes as decency permitted and had only the pretence of a hat. Emily liked him; there was nothing of Teddy's subtle charm in him but he had a certain forceful attraction of his own and he had just saved her from a terrible death.

"Thank you," said Emily shyly, looking up at him with great grey eyes that looked blue under her long lashes. It was a very effective look which lost nothing of effectiveness from being wholly unconscious. Nobody had as yet told Emily how very winsome that shy, sudden, up-glance of hers was.

"Isn't he a rip-snorter?" said the boy easily. He thrust his hands into his ragged pockets and stared at Emily so fixedly that she dropped her eyes in confusion--thereby doing further damage with those demure lids and silken fringes.

"He's dreadful," she said with a shudder. "And I was so scared."

"Were you now? And me thinking you were full of grit to be standing there like that looking at him cool as a cucumber. What's it like to be afraid?"

"Weren't you ever afraid?" asked Emily.

"No--don't know what it's like," said the boy carelessly, and a bit boastfully. "What's your name?"

"Emily Byrd Starr."

"Live round here?"

"I live at New Moon."

"Where Simple Jimmy Murray lives?"

"He isn't simple," cried Emily indignantly.

"Oh, all right. I don't know him. But I'm going to. I'm going to hire with him for chore boy for the winter."

"I didn't know," said Emily, surprised. "Are you really?"

"Yep. I didn't know it myself till just this minute. He was asking Aunt Tom about me last week but I didn't mean to hire out then. Now I guess I will. Want to know my name?"

"Of course."

"Perry Miller. I live with my old beast of an Aunt Tom down at Stovepipe Town. Dad was a sea captain and I uster sail with him when he was alive--sailed everywhere. Go to school?"


"I don't--never did. Aunt Tom lives so far away. Anyhow, I didn't think I'd like it. Guess I'll go now, though."

"Can't you read?" asked Emily wonderingly.

"Yes--some--and figger. Dad learned me some when he was alive. I hain't bothered with it since--I'd ruther be down round the harbour. Great fun there. But if I make up my mind to go to school I'll learn like thunder. I s'pose you're awful clever."

"No--not very. Father said I was a genius, but Aunt Elizabeth says I'm just queer."

"What's a genius?"

"I'm not sure. Sometimes it's a person who writes poetry. I write poetry."

Perry stared at her.

"Golly. I'll write poetry too, then."

"I don't believe you could write poetry," said Emily--a little disdainfully, it must be admitted. "Teddy can't--and he's very clever."

"Who's Teddy?"

"A friend of mine." There was just a trace of stiffness in Emily's voice.

"Then," said Perry, folding his arms across his breast and scowling, "I'm going to punch this friend of yours' head for him."

"You're not," cried Emily. She was very indignant and quite forgot for the moment that Perry had rescued her from the bull. She tossed her own head and started homeward. Perry turned too.

"May as well go up and see Jimmy Murray about hiring 'fore I go home," he said. "Don't be mad, now. If you don't want anybody's head punched I won't punch it. Only you've gotter like me, too."

"Why, of course I'll like you," said Emily, as if there could be no question about it. She smiled her slow, blossoming smile at Perry and thereby reduced him to hopeless bondage.

Two days later Perry Miller was installed as chore boy at New Moon and in a fortnight's time Emily felt as if he must have been there always.

"Aunt Elizabeth didn't want Cousin Jimmy to hire him," she wrote to her father, "because he was one of the boys who did a dreadful thing one night last fall. They changed all the horses that were tied to the fence one Sunday night when preaching was going on and when folks came out the confushun was awful. Aunt Elizabeth said it wouldn't be safe to have him round the place. But Cousin Jimmy said it was awful hard to get a chore boy and that we ode Perry something for saving my life from the bull. So Aunt Elizabeth gave in and lets him sit at the table with us but he has to stay in the kitchen in the evenings. The rest of us are in the sitting-room, but I am allowed to go out and help Perry with his lessons. He can only have one candle and the light is very dim. It keeps us snuffing it all the time. It is great fun to snuff candles. Perry is head of his class in school already. He is only in the third book allthough he is nearly twelve. Miss Brownell said something sarkastik to him the first day in school and he just threw back his head and laughed loud and long. Miss Brownell gave him a whipping for it but she has never been sarkastik to him again. She does not like to be laughed at I can see. Perry isn't afraid of anything. I thought he might not go to school any more when she whipped him but he says a little thing like that isn't going to keep him from getting an educashun since he has made up his mind to it. He is very determined.

"Aunt Elizabeth is determined too. But she says Perry is stubborn. I am teaching Perry grammar. He says he wants to learn to speak properly. I told him he should not call his Aunt Tom an old beast but he said he had to because she wasn't a young beast. He says the place he lives in is called Stovepipe Town because the houses have no chimneys, only pipes sticking out of the roof, but he would live in a manshun some day. Aunt Elizabeth says I ought not to be so friendly with a hired boy. But he is a nice boy though his manners are crood. Aunt Laura says they are crood. I don't know what it means but I guess it means he always says what he thinks right out and eats beans with his knife. I like Perry but in a different way from Teddy. Isn't it funny, dear Father, how many kinds of ways of liking there are? I don't think Ilse likes him. She makes fun of his ignerance and turns up her nose at him because his close are patched though her own close are queer enough. Teddy doesn't like him much and he drew such a funny picture of Perry hanging by his heels from a gallos. The face looked like Perrys and still it didn't. Cousin Jimmy said it was a carrycachure and laughed at it but I dared not show it to Perry for fear he would punch Teddys head. I showed it to Ilse and she got mad and tore it in two. I cant imagine why.

"Perry says he can recite as well as Ilse and could draw pictures too if he put his mind to it. I can see he doesnt like to think anybody can do anything he cant. But he cant see the wallpaper in the air like I can though he tries until I fear he will strane his eyes. He can make better speeches than any of us. He says he used to mean to be a sailer like his father but now he thinks he will be a lawyer when he grows up and go to parlament. Teddy is going to be an artist if his mother will let him, and Ilse is going to be a concert reciter--there is another name but I don't know how it is spelled--and I am going to be a poetess. I think we are a tallented crowd. Perhaps that is a vane thing to say, dear Father.

"A very terrible thing happened the day before yesterday. On Saturday morning we were at family prayers, all kneeling quite solemn around the kitchen. I just looked at Perry once and he made such a funny face at me that I laughed right out loud before I could help it. (That was not the terrible thing.) Aunt Elizabeth was very angry. I would not tell that it was Perry made me laugh because I was afraid he might be sent away if I did. So Aunt Elizabeth said I was to be punished and I was not let go to Jennie Strangs party in the afternoon. (It was a dreadful disappointment but it was not the terrible thing either.) Perry was away with Cousin Jimmy all day and when he came home at night he said to me, very feerce, Who has been making you cry. I said I had been crying--a little but not much--because I was not let go to the party because I had laughed at prayers. And Perry marched right up to Aunt Elizabeth and told her it was all his fault that I laughed. Aunt Elizabeth said I should not have laughed anyhow, but Aunt Laura was greevously upset and said my punishment had been far too severe; and she said that she would let me ware her pearl ring to school Monday to make up for it. I was enraptured for it is a lovely ring and no other girl has one. As soon as roll call was over Monday morning I put up my hand to ask Miss Brownell a question but really to show off my ring. That was wikked pride and I was punished. At recess Cora Lee, one of the big girls in the sixth class came and asked me to let her ware the ring for a while. I didnt want to but she said if I didnt she would get all the girls in my class to send me to Coventry (which is a dreadful thing, dear Father, and makes you feel like an outcast). So I let her and she kept it on till the afternoon recess and then she came and told me she had lost it in the brook. (This was the terrible thing.) Oh, Father dear, I was nearly wild. I dared not go home and face Aunt Laura. I had promised her I would be so careful with the ring. I thought I might earn money to get her another ring but when I figgered it out on my slate I knew I would have to wash dishes for twenty years to do it. I wepped in my despare. Perry saw me and after school he marched up to Cora Lee and said You fork over that ring or I'll tell Miss Brownell about it. And Cora Lee forked it over, very meek and said I was going to give it to her anyhow. I was just playing a joke and Perry said, Dont you play any more jokes on Emily or I'll joke you. It is very comforting to have such a champeen! I tremble to think what it would have been like if I had had to go home and tell Aunt Laura I had lost her ring. But it was crewel of Cora Lee to tell me she had lost it when she had not and harrow up my mind so. I could not be so crewel to an orfan girl.

"When I got home I looked in the glass to see if my hair had turned white. I am told that sometimes happens. But it hadnt.

"Perry knows more geograffy than any of us because he has been nearly everywhere in the world with his father. He tells me such fassinating stories after his lessons are done. He talks till the candle is burned to the last inch and then he uses that to go to bed with up the black hole into the kitchen loft because Aunt Elizabeth will not let him have more than one candle a night.

"Ilse and I had a fight yesterday about which we'd rather be Joan of Arc or Frances Willard. We didn't begin it as a fight but just as an argewment but it ended that way. I would rather be Frances Willard because she is alive.

"We had the first snow yesterday. I made a poem on it. This is it.

Along the snow the sunbeams glide,
Earth is a peerless, gleaming bride,
Dripping with diamonds, clad in traling white,
No bride was ever half so fair and bright.

"I read it to Perry and he said he could make poetry just as good and he said right off,

Mike has made a long row
of tracks across the snow.

Now isnt that as good as yours. I didnt think it was because you could say it just as well in prose. But when you talk of peerless gleaming brides in prose it sounds funny. Mike did make a row of little tracks right across the barn field and they looked so pretty, but not so pretty as the mice tracks in some flour Cousin Jimmy spilled on the granary floor. They are the dearest little things. They look like poetry.

"I am sorry winter has come because Ilse and I cant play in our house in Lofty Johns bush any more till spring or outside at the Tansy Patch. Sometimes we play indoors at the Tansy Patch but Mrs Kent makes us feel queer. She sits and watches us all the time. So we dont go only when Teddy coaxes very hard. And the pigs have been killed, poor things, so Cousin Jimmy doesnt boil for them any more. But there is one consolashun I do not have to ware a sunbonnet to school now. Aunt Laura made me such a pretty red hood with ribbons on it at which Aunt Elizabeth looked skornfully saying it was extravagant. I like school here better every day but I cant like Miss Brownell. She isnt fair. She told us she would give the one who wrote the best conposishun a pink ribbon to wear from Friday night to Monday. I wrote The Brooks Story about the brook in Lofty John's bush--all its advenshures and thoughts--and Miss Brownell said I must have copyed it and Rhoda Stuart got the ribbon. Aunt Elizabeth said You waste enough time writing trash I think you might have won that ribbon. She was mortifyed (I think) because I had disgraced New Moon by not getting it but I did not tell her what had happened. Teddy says a good sport never whines over losing. I want to be a good sport. Rhoda is so hateful to me now. She says she is surprised that a New Moon girl should have a hired boy for a bow. That is very silly because Perry is not my bow. Perry told her she had more gab than sense. That was not polite but it is true. One day in class Rhoda said the moon was situated east of Canada. Perry laughed right out and Miss Brownell made him stay in at recess but she never said anything to Rhoda for saying such a ridiklus thing. But the meanest thing Rhoda said was that she had forgiven me for the way I had used her. That made my blood boil when I hadnt done anything to be forgiven for. The idea.

"We have begun to eat the big beef ham that hung in the south-west corner of the kitchen.

"The other Wednesday night Perry and I helped Cousin Jimmy pick a road through the turnips in the first cellar. We have to go through it to the second cellar because the outside hatch is banked up now. It was great fun. We had a candle stuck up in a hole in the wall and it made such lovely shadows and we coud eat all the apples we wanted from the big barrel in the corner and the spirit moved Cousin Jimmy to recite some of his poetry as he threw the turnips.

"I am reading The Alhambra. It belongs to our book case. Aunt Elizabeth does not like to say it isnt fit for me to read because it was one of her fathers books, but I dont believe she aproves because she knits very furiously and looks black at me over her glasses. Teddy lent me Hans Andersons stories. I love them--only I always think of a different end for the Ice Maiden and save Rudy.

"They say Mrs John Killegrew has swallowed her wedding-ring. I wonder what she did that for.

"Cousin Jimmy says there is to be an eklips of the sun in December. I hope it wont interfear with Chrismas.

"My hands are chapped. Aunt Laura rubs mutton tallow on them every night when I go to bed. It is hard to write poetry with chapped hands. I wonder if Mrs Hemans ever had chapped hands. It does not mention anything like that in her biograffy.

"Jimmy Ball has to be a minister when he grows up. His mother told Aunt Laura that she consekrated him to it in his cradle. I wonder how she did it.

"We have brekfast by candlelight now and I like it.

"Ilse was up here Sunday afternoon and we went up in the garret and talked about God, because that is propper on Sundays. We have to be very careful what we do on Sundays. It is a traddishun of New Moon to keep Sundays very holy. Grandfather Murray was very strikt. Cousin Jimmy told me a story about him. They always cut the wood for Sunday on Saturday night, but one time they forgot and there was no wood on Sunday to cook the dinner, so Grandfather Murray said you must not cut wood on Sundays, boys, but just break a little with the back of the axe. Ilse is very curious about God although she doesnt believe in Him most of the time and doesnt like to talk about Him but still wants to find out about Him. She says she thinks she might like Him if she knew Him. She spells his name with a Capital G now because it is best to be on the safe side. I think God is just like my flash, only it lasts only a second and He lasts always. We talked so long we got hungry and I went down to the sitting-room cubbord and got two donuts. I forgot Aunt Elizabeth had told me I could not have donuts between meals. It was not stealing it was just forgetting. But Ilse got mad at the last and said I was a she jakobite (whatever that is) and a thief and that no Christian would steal donuts from her poor old aunt. So I went and confessed to Aunt Elizabeth and she said I was not to have a donut at supper. It was hard to see the others eating them. I thought Perry et his very quick but after supper he bekoned me out doors and gave me half his donut which he had kept for me. He had rapped it in his hangkerchief which was not very clean but I et it because I did not want to hurt his feelings.

"Aunt Laura says Ilse has a nice smile. I wonder if I have a nice smile. I looked at the glass in Ilse's room and smiled but it did not seem to me very nice.

"Now the nights have got cold Aunt Elizabeth always puts a gin jar full of hot water in the bed. I like to put my toes against it. That is all we use the gin jar for nowadays. But Grandfather Murray used to keep real gin in it.

"Now that the snow has come Cousin Jimmy cant work in his garden any more and he is very lonesome. I think the garden is just as pretty in winter as in summer. There are such pretty dimples and baby hills where the snow has covered up the flower beds. And in the evenings it is all pink and rosy at sunset and by moonlight it is like dreamland. I like to look out of the sitting-room window at it and watch the rabbits candles floting in the air above it and wonder what all the little roots and seeds are thinking of down under the snow. And it gives me a lovely creepy feeling to look at it through the red glass in the front door.

"There is a beautiful fringe of isikles along the cook-house roof. But there will be much more beautiful things in heaven. I was reading about Anzonetta to-day and it made me feel relijus. Good night, my dearest of fathers.


"P. S. That doesnt mean that I have any other Father. It is just a way of saying very very dear.

"E. B. S."