Lucy Maud Montgomery

Emily of New Moon

Chapter 22

Wyther Grange

No reply or acknowledgment came from Great-Aunt-Nancy Priest regarding Emily's picture. Aunt Elizabeth and Aunt Laura, knowing Great-Aunt Nancy's ways tolerably well, were not surprised at this, but Emily felt rather worried over it. Perhaps Great-Aunt Nancy did not approve of what she had done; or perhaps she still thought her too stupid to bother with.

Emily did not like to lie under the imputation of stupidity. She wrote a scathing epistle to Great-Aunt Nancy on a letter-bill in which she did not mince her opinions as to that ancient lady's knowledge of the rules of epistolary etiquette; the letter was folded up and stowed away on the little shelf under the sofa but it served its purpose in blowing off steam and Emily had ceased to think about the matter when a letter came from Great-Aunt Nancy in July.

Elizabeth and Laura talked the matter over in the cookhouse, forgetful or ignorant of the fact that Emily was sitting on the kitchen doorstep just outside. Emily was imagining herself attending a drawing-room of Queen Victoria. Robed in white, with ostrich plumes, veil, and court train, she had just bent to kiss the Queen's hand when Aunt Elizabeth's voice shattered her dream as a pebble thrown into a pool scatters the fairy reflection.

"What is your opinion, Laura," Aunt Elizabeth was saying, "of letting Emily visit Aunt Nancy?"

Emily pricked up her ears. What was in the wind now?

"From her letter she seems very anxious to have the child," said Laura.

Elizabeth sniffed.

"A whim--a whim. You know what her whims are. Likely by the time Emily got there she'd be quite over it and have no use for her."

"Yes, but on the other hand if we don't let her go she will be dreadfully offended and never forgive us--or Emily. Emily should have her chance."

"I don't know that her chance is worth much. If Aunt Nancy really has any money beyond her annuity--and that's what neither you nor I nor any living soul knows, unless it's Caroline--she'll likely leave it all to some of the Priests--Leslie Priest's a favourite of hers, I understand. Aunt Nancy always liked her husband's family better than her own, even though she's always slurring at them. Still--she might take a fancy to Emily--they're both so odd they might suit each other--but you know the way she talks--she and that abominable old Caroline."

"Emily is too young to understand," said Aunt Laura.

"I understand more than you think," cried Emily indignantly.

Aunt Elizabeth jerked open the cook-house door.

"Emily Starr, haven't you learned by this time not to listen?"

"I wasn't listening. I thought you knew I was sitting here--I can't help my ears hearing. Why didn't you whisper? When you whisper I know you're talking secrets and I don't try to hear them. Am I going to Great-Aunt Nancy's for a visit?"

"We haven't decided," said Aunt Elizabeth coldly, and that was all the satisfaction Emily got for a week. She hardly knew herself whether she wanted to go or not. Aunt Elizabeth had begun making cheese--New Moon was noted for its cheeses--and Emily found the whole process absorbing, from the time the rennet was put in the warm new milk till the white curds were packed away in the hoop and put under the press in the old orchard, with the big, round, grey "cheese" stone to weight it down as it had weighed down New Moon cheeses for a hundred years. And then she and Ilse and Teddy and Perry were absorbed heart and soul in "playing out" the Midsummer Night's Dream in Lofty John's bush and it was very fascinating. When they entered Lofty John's bush they went out of the realm of daylight and things known into the realm of twilight and mystery and enchantment. Teddy had painted wonderful scenery on old boards and pieces of sails, which Perry had got at the Harbour. Ilse had fashioned delightful fairy wings from tissue paper and tinsel, and Perry had made an ass's head for Bottom out of an old calfskin that was very realistic. Emily had toiled happily for many weeks copying out the different parts and adapting them to circumstances. She had "cut" the play after a fashion that would have harrowed Shakespeare's soul, but after all the result was quite pretty and coherent. It did not worry them that four small actors had to take six times as many parts. Emily was Titania and Hermia and a job lot of fairies besides, Ilse was Hippolyta and Helena, plus some more fairies, and the boys were anything that the dialogue required. Aunt Elizabeth knew nothing of it all; she would promptly have put a stop to the whole thing, for she thought play-acting exceedingly wicked; but Aunt Laura was privy to the plot, and Cousin Jimmy and Lofty John had already attended a moonlight rehearsal.

To go away and leave all this, even for a time, would be a hard wrench, but on the other hand Emily had a burning curiosity to see Great-Aunt Nancy and Wyther Grange, her quaint, old house at Priest Pond with the famous stone dogs on the gate-posts. On the whole, she thought she would like to go; and when she saw Aunt Laura doing up her starched white petticoats and Aunt Elizabeth grimly dusting off a small, black, nail-studded trunk in the garret she knew, before she was told, that the visit to Priest Pond was going to come off; so she took out the letter she had written to Aunt Nancy and added an apologetic postscript.

Ilse chose to be disgruntled because Emily was going for a visit. In reality Ilse felt appalled at the lonely prospects of a month or more without her inseparable chum. No more jolly evenings of play-acting in Lofty John's bush, no more pungent quarrels. Besides, Ilse herself had never been anywhere for a visit in her whole life and she felt sore over this fact.

"I wouldn't go to Wyther Grange for anything," said Ilse. "It's haunted."


"Yes! It's haunted by a ghost you can feel and hear but never see. Oh, I wouldn't be you for the world! Your Great-Aunt Nancy is an awful crank, and the old woman who lives with her is a witch. She'll put a spell on you. You'll pine away and die."

"I won't--she isn't!"

"Is! Why, she makes the stone dogs on the gate-posts howl every night if any one comes near the place. They go, 'Wo-or-oo-oo.'"

Ilse was not a born elocutionist for nothing. Her "wo-or-oo-oo" was extremely gruesome. But it was daylight, and Emily was as brave as a lion in daylight.

"You're jealous," she said, and walked off.

"I'm not, you blithering centipede," Ilse yelled after her. "Putting on airs because your aunt has stone dogs on her gateposts! Why, I know a woman in Shrewsbury who has dogs on her posts that are ten times stonier than your aunt's!"

But next morning Ilse was over to bid Emily good-bye and entreat her to write every week. Emily was going to drive to Priest Pond with Old Kelly. Aunt Elizabeth was to have driven her but Aunt Elizabeth was not feeling well that day and Aunt Laura could not leave her. Cousin Jimmy had to work at the hay. It looked as if she could not go, and this was rather serious, for Aunt Nancy had been told to expect her that day and Aunt Nancy did not like to be disappointed. If Emily did not turn up at Priest Pond on the day set Great-Aunt Nancy was quite capable of shutting the door in her face when she did appear and telling her to go back home. Nothing less than this conviction would have induced Aunt Elizabeth to fall in with Old Kelly's suggestion that Emily should ride to Priest Pond with him. His home was on the other side of it and he was going straight there.

Emily was quite delighted. She liked Old Kelly and thought that a drive on his fine red waggon would be quite an adventure. Her little black box was hoisted to the roof and tied there and they went clinking and glittering down the New Moon lane in fine style. The tins in the bowels of the waggon behind them rumbled like a young earthquake.

"Get up, my nag, get up," said Old Kelly. "Sure, an' I always like to drive the pretty gurrls. An' when is the wedding to be?"

"Whose wedding?"

"The slyness av her? Your own, av coorse."

"I have no intention of being married--immediately," said Emily, in a very good imitation of Aunt Elizabeth's tone and manner.

"Sure, and ye're a chip av the ould block. Miss Elizabeth herself couldn't have said it better. Get up, my nag, get up."

"I only meant," said Emily, fearing that she had insulted Old Kelly, "that I am too young to be married."

"The younger the better--the less mischief ye'll be after working with them come-hither eyes. Get up, my nag, get up. The baste is tired. So we'll let him go at his own swate will. Here's a bag av swaties for ye. Ould Kelly always trates the ladies. Come now, tell me all about him."

"About whom?"--but Emily knew quite well.

"Your beau, av coorse."

"I haven't any beau. Mr Kelly, I wish you wouldn't talk to me about such things."

"Sure, and I won't if 'tis a sore subject. Don't ye be minding if ye haven't got one--there'll be scads av them after a while. And if the right one doesn't know what's good for him, just ye come to Ould Kelly and get some toad ointment."

Toad ointment! It sounded horrible. Emily shivered. But she would rather talk about toad ointment than beaux.

"What is that for?"

"It's a love charm," said Old Kelly mysteriously. "Put a li'l smootch on his eyelids and he's yourn for life with never a squint at any other gurrl."

"It doesn't sound very nice," said Emily. "How do you make it?"

"You bile four toads alive till they're good and soft and then mash--"

"Oh, stop, stop!" implored Emily, putting her hands to her ears. "I don't want to hear any more--you couldn't be so cruel!"

"Cruel is it? You were after eating lobsters this day that were biled alive--"

"I don't believe it. I don't. If it's true I'll never, never eat one again. Oh, Mr Kelly, I thought you were a nice kind man--but those poor toads!"

"Gurrl dear, it was only me joke. An' you won't be nading toad ointment to win your lad's love. Wait you now--I've something in the till behind me for a prisent for you."

Old Kelly fished out a box which he put into Emily's lap. She found a dainty little hair-brush in it.

"Look at the back av it," said Old Kelly. "You'll see something handsome--all the love charm ye'll ever nade."

Emily turned it over. Her own face looked back at her from a little inset mirror surrounded by a scroll of painted roses.

"Oh, Mr Kelly--how pretty--I mean the roses and the glass," she cried. "Is it really for me? Oh, thank you, thank you! Now, I can have Emily-in-the-glass whenever I want her. Why, I can carry her round with me. And you were really only in fun about the toads!"

"Av coorse. Get up, my nag, get up. An' so ye're going to visit the ould lady over at Praste Pond? Ever been there?"


"It's full of Prastes. Ye can't throw a stone but ye hit one. And hit one--hit all. They're as proud and lofty as the Murrays themselves. The only wan I know is Adam Praste--the others hold too high. He's the black shape and quite sociable. But if ye want to see how the world looked on the morning after the flood, go into his barnyard on a rainy day. Look a-here, gurrl dear"--Old Kelly lowered his voice mysteriously--"don't ye ever marry a Praste."

"Why not?" asked Emily, who had never thought of marrying a Priest but was immediately curious as to why she shouldn't.

"They're ill to marry--ill to live with. The wives die young. The ould lady of the Grange fought her man out and buried him but she had the Murray luck. I wouldn't trust it too far. The only dacent Praste among them is the wan they call Jarback Praste and he's too auld for you."

"Why do they call him Jarback?"

"Wan av his shoulders is a l'il bit higher than the other. He's got a bit of money and doesn't be after having to work. A book worrum, I'm belaving. Have ye got a bit av cold iron about you?"

"No; why?"

"Ye should have. Old Caroline Praste at the Grange is a witch if ever there was one."

"Why, that's what Ilse said. But there are no such thing as witches really, Mr Kelly."

"Maybe that's thrue but it's better to be on the safe side. Here, put this horseshoe-nail in your pocket and don't cross her if ye can help it. Ye don't mind if I have a bit av a smoke, do ye?"

Emily did not mind at all. It left her free to follow her own thoughts, which were more agreeable than Old Kelly's talk of toads and witches. The road from Blair Water to, Priest Pond was a very lovely one, winding along the gulf shore, crossing fir-fringed rivers and inlets, and coming ever and anon on one of the ponds for which that part of the north shore was noted--Blair Water, Derry Pond, Long Pond, Three Ponds where three blue lakelets were strung together like three great sapphires held by a silver thread; and then Priest Pond, the largest of all, almost as round as Blair Water. As they drove down towards it Emily drank the scene in with avid eyes--as soon as possible she must write a description of it; she had packed the Jimmy blank book in her box for just such purposes.

The air seemed to be filled with opal dust over the great pond and the bowery summer homesteads around it. A western sky of smoky red was arched over the big Malvern Bay beyond. Little grey sails were drifting along by the fir-fringed shores. A sequestered side road, fringed thickly with young maples and birches, led down to Wyther Grange. How damp and cool the air was in the hollows! And how the ferns did smell! Emily was sorry when they reached Wyther Grange and climbed in between the gate-posts whereon the big stone dogs sat very stonily, looking grim enough in the twilight.

The wide hall door was open and a flood of light streamed out over the lawn. A little old woman was standing in it. Old Kelly seemed suddenly in something of a hurry. He swung Emily and her box to the ground, shook hands hastily and whispered, "Don't lose that bit av a nail. Good-bye. I wish ye a cool head and a warm heart," and was off before the little old woman could reach them.

"So this is Emily of New Moon!" Emily heard a rather shrill, cracked voice saying. She felt a thin, claw-like hand grasp hers and draw her towards the door. There were no witches, Emily knew--but she thrust her hand into her pocket and touched the horseshoe-nail.