Lucy Maud Montgomery

Emily of New Moon

Chapter 20

By Aerial Post


"My heart is very sore to-night. Mike died this morning. Cousin Jimmy says he must have been poisoned. Oh, Father dear, I felt so bad. He was such a lovely cat. I cried and cried and cried. Aunt Elizabeth was disgusted. She said, 'You did not make half so much fuss when your father died.' What a crewel speech. Aunt Laura was nicer but when she said, 'Don't cry, dear. I will get you another kitten,' I saw she didn't understand either. I don't want another kitten. If I had millions of kittens they wouldn't make up for Mike.

"Ilse and I buried him in Lofty John's bush. I am so thankful the ground wasn't frozen yet. Aunt Laura gave me a shoe box for a coffin, and some pink tissue paper to wrap his poor little body in. And we put a stone over the grave and I said 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.' When I told Aunt Laura about it she was horrified and said, 'Oh, Emily, that was a dreadful thing. You should not have said that over a cat.' And Cousin Jimmy said, 'Don't you think, Laura, that an innocent little dum creature has a share in God? Emily loved him and all love is part of God.' And Aunt Laura said, 'Maybe you are right, Jimmy. But I am thankful Elizabeth did not hear her.'

"Cousin Jimmy may not be all there, but what is there is very nice.

"But oh, Father, I am so lonesome for Mike to-night. Last night he was here playing with me, so cunning and pretty and smee, and now he is cold and dead in Lofty John's bush.

"December 18.


"I am here in the garret. The Wind Woman is very sorry about something to-night. She is sying so sadly around the window. And yet the first time I heard her to-night the flash came--I felt as if I had just seen something that happened long, long ago--something so lovely that it hurt me.

"Cousin Jimmy says there will be a snow storm to-night. I am glad. I like to hear a storm at night. It's so cosy to snuggle down among the blankets and feel it can't get at you. Only when I snuggle Aunt Elizabeth says I skwirm. The idea of any one not knowing the difference between snuggling and skwirming.

"I am glad we will have snow for Christmas. The Murray dinner is to be at New Moon this year. It is our turn. Last year it was at Uncle Oliver's but Cousin Jimmy had grippe and couldn't go so I stayed home with him. I will be right in the thick of it this year and it excites me. I will write you all about it after it is over, dearest.

"I want to tell you something, Father. I am ashamed of it, but I think I'll feel better if I tell you all about it. Last Saturday Ella Lee had a birthday party and I was invited. Aunt Elizabeth let me put on my new blue cashmere dress. It is a very pretty dress. Aunt Elizabeth wanted to get a dark brown but Aunt Laura insisted on blue. I looked at myself in my glass and I remembered that Ilse had told me her father told her I would be handsome if I had more colour. So I pinched my cheeks to make them red. I looked ever so much nicer but it didn't last. Then I took an old red velvet flower that had once been in Aunt Laura's bonnet and wet it and then rubbed the red on my cheeks. I went to the party and the girls all looked at me but nobody said anything, only Rhoda Stuart giggled and giggled. I meant to come home and wash the red off before Aunt Elizabeth saw me. But she took a notion to call for me on her way home from the store. She did not say anything there but when we got home she said, 'What have you been doing to your face, Emily?' I told her and I expected an awful scolding, but all she said was, 'Don't you know that you have made yourself cheap?' I did know it, too. I had felt that all along although I couldn't think of the right word for it before. 'I will never do such a thing again, Aunt Elizabeth,' I said. 'You'd better not,' she said. 'Go and wash your face this instant.' I did and I was not half so pretty but I felt ever so much better. Strange to relate, dear Father, I heard Aunt Elizabeth laughing about it in the pantry to Aunt Laura afterwards. You never can tell what will make Aunt Elizabeth laugh. I am sure it was ever so much funnier when Saucy Sal followed me to prayer-meeting last Wednesday night, but Aunt Elizabeth never laughed a bit then. I don't often go to prayer-meeting but Aunt Laura couldn't go that night so Aunt Elizabeth took me because she doesn't like to go alone. I didn't know Sal was following us till just as we got to the church I saw her. I shooed her away but after we went in I suppose Sal sneaked in when some one opened the door and got upstairs into the galery. And just as soon as Mr Dare began to pray Sal began to yowl. It sounded awful up in that big empty galery. I felt so gilty and miserable. I did not need to paint my face. It was just burning red and Aunt Elizabeth's eyes glittered feendishly. Mr Dare prayed a long time. He is deaf, so he did not hear Sal any more than when he sat on her. But every one else did and the boys giggled. After the prayer Mr Morris went up to the galery and chased Sal out. We could hear her skrambling over the seats and Mr Morris after her. I was wild for fear he'd hurt her. I ment to spank her myself with a shingle next day but I did not want her to be kicked. After a long time he got her out of the galery and she tore down the stairs and into the church, up one isle and down the other two or three times, as fast as she could go and Mr Morris after her with a broom. It is awfully funny to think of it now but I did not think it so funny at the time I was so ashamed and so afraid Sal would be hurt.

"Mr Morris chased her out at last. When he sat down I made a face at him behind my hymn-book. Coming home Aunt Elizabeth said, 'I hope you have disgraced us enough to-night, Emily Starr. I shall never take you to prayer-meeting again.' I am sorry I disgraced the Murrays but I don't see how I was to blame and anyway I don't like prayer-meeting because it is dull.

"But it wasn't dull that night, dear Father.

"Do you notice how my spelling is improved? I have thought of such a good plan. I write my letter first and then I look up all the words I'm not sure of and correct them. Sometimes though I think a word is all right when it isn't.

"Ilse and I have given up our language. We fought over the verbs. Ilse didn't want to have any tenses for the verbs. She just wanted to have a different word altogether for every tense. I said if I was going to make a language it was going to be a proper one and Ilse got mad and said she had enough bother with grammer in English and I could go and make my old language by myself. But that is no fun so I let it go too. I was sorry because it was very interesting and it was such fun to puzzle the other girls in school. We weren't able to get square with the French boys after all for Ilse had sore throat all through potato-picking time and couldn't come over. It seems to me that life is full of disappointments.

"We had examinations in school this week. I did pretty well in all except arithmetic. Miss Brownell explained something about the questions but I was busy composing a story in my mind and did not hear her so I got poor marks. The story is called Madge MacPherson's Secret. I am going to buy four sheets of foolscap with my egg money and sew them into a book and write the story in it. I can do what I like with my egg money. I think maybe I'll write novels when I grow up as well as poetry. But Aunt Elizabeth won't let me read any novels so how can I find out how to write them? Another thing that worries me, if I do grow up and write a wonderful poem, perhaps people won't see how wonderful it is.

"Cousin Jimmy says that a man in Priest Pond says the end of the world is coming soon. I hope it won't come till I've seen everything in it.

"Poor Elder MacKay has the mumps.

"I was over sleeping with Ilse the other night because her father was away. Ilse says her prayers now and she said she'd bet me anything she could pray longer than me. I said she couldn't and I prayed ever so long about everything I could think of and when I couldn't think of anything more I thought at first I'd begin over again. Then I thought, 'No, that would not be honerable. A Starr must be honerable.' So I got up and said 'You win' and Ilse never answered. I went around the bed and there she was asleep on her knees. When I woke her up she said we'd have to call the bet off because she could have gone on praying for ever so long if she hadn't fell asleep.

"After we got into bed I told her a lot of things I wished afterwards I hadn't. Secrets.

"The other day in history class Miss Brownell read that Sir Walter Raleigh had to lie in the Tower for fourteen years. Perry said, 'Wouldn't they let him get up sometimes?' Then Miss Brownell punished him for impertinence, but Perry was in earnest. Ilse was mad at Miss Brownell for whipping Perry and mad at Perry for asking such a fool question as if he didn't know anything. But Perry says he is going to write a history book some day that won't have such puzzling things in it."

"I am finishing the Disappointed House in my mind. I'm furnishing the rooms like flowers. I'll have a rose room all pink and a lily room all white and silver and a pansy room, blue and gold. I wish the Disappointed House could have a Christmas. It never has any Christmases.

"Oh, Father, I've just thought of something nice. When I grow up and write a great novel and make lots of money, I will buy the Disappointed House and finish it. Then it won't be Disappointed any more.

"Ilse's Sunday-school teacher, Miss Willeson, gave her a Bible for learnig 200 verses. But when she took it home her father laid it on the floor and kicked it out in the yard. Mrs Simms says a judgment will come on him but nothing has happened yet. The poor man is warped. That is why he did such a wicked thing.

"Aunt Laura took me to old Mrs Mason's funeral last Wednesday. I like funerals. They are so dramatic.

"My pig died last week. It was a great finanshul loss to me. Aunt Elizabeth says Cousin Jimmy fed it too well. I suppose I should not have called it after Lofty John.

"We have maps to draw in school now. Rhoda Stuart always gets the most marks. Miss Brownell doesn't know that Rhoda just puts the map up against a window pane and the paper over it and copies it off. I like drawing maps. Norway and Sweden look like a tiger with mountains for stripes and Ireland looks like a little dog with its back turned on England, and its paws held up against its breast, and Africa looks like a big pork ham. Australia is a lovely map to draw.

"Ilse is getting on real well in school now. She says she isn't going to have me beating her. She can learn like the dickens as Perry says, when she tries, and she has won the silver medal for Queen's County. The W.C.T.U. in Charlottetown gave it for the best reciter. They had the contest in Shrewsbury and Aunt Laura took Ilse because Dr Burnley wouldn't and Ilse won it. Aunt Laura told Dr Burnley when he was here one day that he ought to give Ilse a good education. He said, 'I'm not going to waste money educating any she-thing.' And he looked black as a thunder cloud. Oh, I wish Dr Burnley would love Ilse. I'm so glad you loved me, Father.

"DEC. 22.

"Dear Father: We had our school examination to-day. It was a great occasion. Almost everybody was there except Dr Burnley and Aunt Elizabeth. All the girls wore their best dresses but me. I knew Ilse had nothing to wear but her shabby old last winter's plaid that is too short for her, so to keep her from feeling bad, I put on my old brown dress, too. Aunt Elizabeth did not want to let me do it at first because New Moon Murrays should be well dressed but when I explained about Ilse she looked at Aunt Laura and then said I might.

"Rhoda Stuart made fun of Ilse and me but I heaped coals of fire on her head. (That is what is called a figure of speech.) She got stuck in her recitation. She had left the book home and nobody else knew the piece but me. At first I looked at her triumphantly. But then a queer feeling came into me and I thought 'What would I feel like if I was stuck before a big crowd of people like this? And besides the honour of the school is at stake,' so I whispered it to her because I was quite close. She got through the rest all right. The strange thing is, dear Father, that now I don't feel any more as if I hated her. I feel quite kindly to her and it is much nicer. It is uncomfortable to hate people.

"DEC. 28.


"Christmas is over. It was pretty nice. I never saw so many good things cooked all at once. Uncle Wallace and Aunt Eva and Uncle Oliver and Aunt Addie and Aunt Ruth were here. Uncle Oliver didn't bring any of his children and I was much disappointed. We had Dr Burnley and Ilse too. Every one was dressed up. Aunt Elizabeth wore her black satin dress with a pointed lace collar and cap. She looked quite handsome and I was proud of her. You like your relations to look well even if you don't like them. Aunt Laura wore her brown silk and Aunt Ruth had on a grey dress. Aunt Eva was very elegant. Her dress had a train. But it smelled of moth balls.

"I had on my blue cashmere and wore my hair tied with blue ribbons, and Aunt Laura let me wear mother's blue silk sash with the pink daisies on it that she had when she was a little girl at New Moon. Aunt Ruth sniffed when she saw me. She said, 'You have grown a good deal, Em'ly. I hope you are a better girl.'

"But she didn't hope it (really). I saw that quite plain. Then she told me my bootlace was untyed.

"'She looks better,' said Uncle Oliver. 'I wouldn't wonder if she grew up into a strong, healthy girl after all.'

"Aunt Eva sighed and shook her head. Uncle Wallace didn't say anything but shook hands with me. His hand was as cold as a fish. When we went out to the sitting-room for dinner I stepped on Aunt Eva's train and I could hear some stitches rip somewhere. Aunt Eva pushed me away and Aunt Ruth said, 'What a very awkward child you are, Em'ly.' I stepped behind Aunt Ruth and stuck out my tongue at her. Uncle Oliver makes a noise eating his soup. We had all the good silver spoons out. Cousin Jimmy carved the turkeys and he gave me two slices of the breast because he knows I like the white meat best. Aunt Ruth said 'When I was a little girl the wing was good enough for me,' and Cousin Jimmy put another white slice on my plate. Aunt Ruth didn't say anything more then till the carving was done, and then she said, 'I saw your school teacher in Shrewsbury last Saturday, Em'ly, and she did not give me a very good account of you. If you were my daughter I would expect a different report.'

"'I am very glad I am not your daughter,' I said in my mind. I didn't say it out loud of course but Aunt Ruth said, 'Please do not look so sulky when I speak to you, Em'ly.' And Uncle Wallace said, 'It is a pity she has such an unattractive expression.'

"'You are conceited and domineering and stingy,' I said, still in my mind. 'I heard Dr Burnley say you were.'

"'I see there is an ink-stain on her finger,' said Aunt Ruth. (I had been writing a poem before dinner.)

"And then a most surprising thing happened. Relations are always surprising you. Aunt Elizabeth spoke up and said, 'I do wish, Ruth, that you and Wallace would leave that child alone.' I could hardly believe my ears. Aunt Ruth looked annoyed but she did leave me alone after that and only sniffed when Cousin Jimmy slipped a bit more white meat on my plate.

"After that the dinner was nice. And when they got as far as the pudding they all began to talk and it was splendid to listen to. They told stories and jokes about the Murrays. Even Uncle Wallace laughed and Aunt Ruth told some things about Great-Aunt Nancy. They were sarcastic but they were interesting. Aunt Elizabeth opened Grandfather Murray's desk and took out an old poem that had been written to Aunt Nancy by a lover when she was young and Uncle Oliver read it. Great-Aunt Nancy must have been very beautiful. I wonder if anyone will ever write a poem to me. If I could have a bang somebody might. I said, 'Was Great-Aunt Nancy really as pretty as that?' and Uncle Oliver said, 'They say she was seventy years ago' and Uncle Wallace said, 'She hangs on well--she'll see the century mark yet,' and Uncle Oliver said, 'Oh, she's got so in the habit of living she'll never die.'

"Dr Burnley told a story I didn't understand. Uncle Wallace hawhawed right out and Uncle Oliver put his napkin up to his face. Aunt Addie and Aunt Eva looked at each other sidewise and then at their plates and smiled a little bit. Aunt Ruth seemed offended and Aunt Elizabeth looked coldly at Dr Burnley and said, 'I think you forget that there are children present.' Dr Burnley said, 'I beg your pardon, Elizabeth,' very politely. He can speak with a grand air when he likes. He is very handsome when he is dressed up and shaved. Ilse says she is proud of him even if he hates her.

"After dinner was over the presents were given. That is a Murray tradishun. We never have stockings or trees but a big bran pie is passed all around with the presents buried in it and ribbons hanging out with names on them. It was fun. My relations all give me useful presents except Aunt Laura. She gave me a bottle of perfume. I love it. I love nice smells. Aunt Elizabeth does not approve of perfumes. She gave me a new apron but I am thankful to say not a baby one. Aunt Ruth gave me a New Testament and said 'Em'ly, I hope you will read a portion of that every day until you have read it through,' and I said, 'Why, Aunt Ruth, I've read the whole New Testament a dozen times (and so I have.) I love Revelations.' (And I do. When I read the verse 'and the twelve gates were twelve pearls,' I just saw them and the flash came.) 'The Bible is not to be read as a story-book,' Aunt Ruth said coldly. Uncle Wallace and Aunt Eva gave me a pair of black mits and Uncle Oliver and Aunt Addie gave me a whole dollar in nice new silver dimes and Cousin Jimmy gave me a hair-ribbon. Perry had left a silk bookmark for me. He had to go home to spend Christmas day with his Aunt Tom at Stovepipe Town but I saved a lot of nuts and raisins for him. I gave him and Teddy handkerchiefs (Teddy's was a little the nicest) and I gave Ilse a hair-ribbon. I bought them myself out of my egg money. (I will not have any more egg money for a long time because my hen has stopped laying.) Everybody was happy and once Uncle Wallace smiled right at me. I did not think him so ugly when he smiled.

"After dinner Ilse and I played games in the kitchen and Cousin Jimmy helped us make taffy. We had a big supper but nobody could eat much because they had had such a dinner. Aunt Eva's head ached and Aunt Ruth said she didn't see why Elizabeth made the sausages so rich. But the rest were good humoured and Aunt Laura kept things pleasant. She is good at making things pleasant. And after it was all over Uncle Wallace said (this is another Murray tradishun) 'Let us think for a few moments of those who have gone before.' I liked the way he said it--very solemnly and kind. It was one of the times when I am glad the blood of the Murrays flows in my vains. And I thought of you, darling Father, and Mother and poor little Mike and Great-great-Grandmother Murray, and of my old account-book that Aunt Elizabeth burned, because it seemed just like a person to me. And then we all joined hands and sung 'For Auld Lang Syne' before they went home. I didn't feel like a stranger among the Murrays any more. Aunt Laura and I stood out on the porch to watch them go. Aunt Laura put her arm around me and said, 'Your mother and I used to stand like this long ago, Emily, to watch the Christmas guests go away.' The snow creaked and the bells rang back through the trees and the frost on the pighouse roof sparkled in the moonlight. And it was all so lovely (the bells and the frost and the big shining white night) that the flash came and that was best of all."