A Weaver of Dreamsby@lmmontgomery

A Weaver of Dreams

by L.M. MontgomeryJuly 30th, 2023
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IT took Emily several weeks to make up her mind whether she liked Mr. Carpenter or not. She knew she did not dislike him, not even though his first greeting, shot at her on the opening day of school in a gruff voice, accompanied by a startling lift of his spiky grey brows was, “So you’re the girl that writes poetry, eh? Better stick to your needle and duster. Too many fools in the world trying to write poetry and failing. I tried it myself once. Got better sense now.” “You don’t keep your nails clean,” thought Emily. But he upset every kind of school tradition so speedily and thoroughly that Ilse, who gloried in upsetting things and hated routine, was the only scholar that liked him from the start. Some never liked him—the Rhoda Stuart type for example—but most of them came to it after they got used to never being used to anything. And Emily finally decided that she liked him tremendously.
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Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. A Weaver of Dreams

CHAPTER XXVIII. A Weaver of Dreams

IT took Emily several weeks to make up her mind whether she liked Mr. Carpenter or not. She knew she did not dislike him, not even though his first greeting, shot at her on the opening day of school in a gruff voice, accompanied by a startling lift of his spiky grey brows was, “So you’re the girl that writes poetry, eh? Better stick to your needle and duster. Too many fools in the world trying to write poetry and failing. I tried it myself once. Got better sense now.”

“You don’t keep your nails clean,” thought Emily.

But he upset every kind of school tradition so speedily and thoroughly that Ilse, who gloried in upsetting things and hated routine, was the only scholar that liked him from the start. Some never liked him—the Rhoda Stuart type for example—but most of them came to it after they got used to never being used to anything. And Emily finally decided that she liked him tremendously.

Mr. Carpenter was somewhere between forty and fifty—a tall man, with an upstanding shock of bushy grey hair, bristling grey moustache and eyebrows, a truculent beard, bright blue eyes out of which all his wild life had not yet burned the fire, and a long, lean, greyish face, deeply lined. He lived in a little two-roomed house below the school with a shy mouse of a wife. He never talked of his past or offered any explanation of the fact that at his age he had no better profession than teaching a district school for a pittance of salary, but the truth leaked out after a while; for Prince Edward Island is a small province and everybody in it knows something about everybody else. So eventually Blair Water people, and even the school children, understood that Mr. Carpenter had been a brilliant student in his youth and had had his eye on the ministry. But at college he had got in with a “fast set”—Blair Water people nodded heads slowly and whispered the dreadful phrase portentously—and the fast set had ruined him. He “took to drink” and went to the dogs generally. And the upshot of it all was that Francis Carpenter, who had led his class in his first and second years at McGill, and for whom his teachers had predicted a great career, was a country school-teacher at forty-five with no prospect of ever being anything else. Perhaps he was resigned to it—perhaps not. Nobody ever knew, not even the brown mouse of a wife. Nobody in Blair Water cared—he was a good teacher, and that was all that mattered. Even if he did go on occasional “sprees” he always took Saturday for them and was sober enough by Monday. Sober, and especially dignified, wearing a rusty black frock coat which he never put on any other day of the week. He did not invite pity and he did not pose as a tragedy. But sometimes, when Emily looked at his face, bent over the arithmetic problems of Blair Water School, she felt horribly sorry for him without in the least understanding why.

He had an explosive temper which generally burst into flame at least once a day, and then he would storm about wildly for a few minutes, tugging at his beard, imploring heaven to grant him patience, abusing everybody in general and the luckless object of his wrath in particular. But these tempers never lasted long. In a few minutes Mr. Carpenter would be smiling as graciously as a sun bursting through a storm-cloud on the very pupil he had been rating. Nobody seemed to cherish any grudge because of his scoldings. He never said any of the biting things Miss Brownell was wont to say, which rankled and festered for weeks; his hail of words fell alike on just and unjust and rolled off harmlessly.

He could take a joke on himself in perfect good nature. “Do you hear me? Do you hear me, sirrah?” he bellowed to Perry Miller one day. “Of course I hear you,” retorted Perry coolly, “they could hear you in Charlottetown.” Mr. Carpenter stared for a moment, then broke into a great, jolly laugh.

His methods of teaching were so different from Miss Brownell’s that the Blair Water pupils at first felt as if he had stood them on their heads. Miss Brownell had been a martinet for order. Mr. Carpenter never tried to keep order apparently. But somehow he kept the children so busy that they had no time to do mischief. He taught history tempestuously for a month, making his pupils play the different characters and enact the incidents. He never bothered any one to learn dates—but the dates stuck in the memory just the same. If, as Mary Queen of Scots, you were beheaded by the school axe, kneeling blindfolded at the doorstep, with Perry Miller, wearing a mask made out of a piece of Aunt Laura’s old black silk, for executioner, wondering what would happen if he brought the axe down too hard, you did not forget the year it happened; and if you fought the battle of Waterloo all over the school playground, and heard Teddy Kent shouting, “Up, Guards and at ’em!” as he led the last furious charge you remembered 1815 without half trying to.

Next month history would be thrust aside altogether and geography would take its place, when school and playground were mapped out into countries and you dressed up as the animals inhabiting them or traded in various commodities over their rivers and cities. When Rhoda Stuart had cheated you in a bargain in hides, you remembered that she had bought the cargo from the Argentine Republic, and when Perry Miller would not drink any water for a whole hot summer day because he was crossing the Arabian Desert with a caravan of camels and could not find an oasis, and then drank so much that he took terrible cramps and Aunt Laura had to be up all night with him—you did not forget where the said desert was. The trustees were quite scandalized over some of the goings on and felt sure that the children were having too good a time to be really learning anything.

If you wanted to learn Latin and French you had to do it by talking your exercises, not writing them, and on Friday afternoons all lessons were put aside and Mr. Carpenter made the children recite poems, make speeches and declaim passages from Shakespeare and the Bible. This was the day Ilse loved. Mr. Carpenter pounced on her gift like a starving dog on a bone and drilled her without mercy. They had endless fights and Ilse stamped her foot and called him names while the other pupils wondered why she was not punished for it but at last had to give in and do as he willed. Ilse went to school regularly—something she had never done before. Mr. Carpenter had told her that if she were absent for a day without good excuse she could take no part in the Friday “exercises” and this would have killed her.

One day Mr. Carpenter had picked up Teddy’s slate and found a sketch of himself on it, in one of his favourite if not exactly beautiful attitudes. Teddy had labelled it “The Black Death”—half of the pupils of the school having died that day of the Great Plague, and having been carried out on stretchers to the Potter’s Field by the terrified survivors.

Teddy expected a roar of denunciation, for the day before Garrett Marshall had been ground into figurative pulp on being discovered with the picture of a harmless cow on his slate—at least, Garrett said he meant it for a cow. But now this amazing Mr. Carpenter only drew his beetling brows together, looked earnestly at Teddy’s slate, put it down on the desk, looked at Teddy, and said,

“I don’t know anything about drawing—I can’t help you, but, by gad, I think hereafter you’d better give up those extra arithmetic problems in the afternoon and draw pictures.”

Whereupon Garrett Marshall went home and told his father that “old Carpenter” wasn’t fair and “made favourites” over Teddy Kent.

Mr. Carpenter went up to the Tansy Patch that evening and saw the sketches in Teddy’s old barn-loft studio. Then he went into the house and talked to Mrs. Kent. What he said and what she said nobody ever knew. But Mr. Carpenter went away looking grim, as if he had met an unexpected match. He took great pains with Teddy’s general school work after that and procured from somewhere certain elementary text books on drawing which he gave him, telling him not to take them home—a caution Teddy did not require. He knew quite well that if he did they would disappear as mysteriously as his cats had done. He had taken Emily’s advice and told his mother he would not love her if anything happened to Leo, and Leo flourished and waxed fat and doggy. But Teddy was too gentle at heart and too fond of his mother to make such a threat more than once. He knew she had cried all that night after Mr. Carpenter had been there, and prayed on her knees in her little bedroom most of the next day, and looked at him with bitter, haunting eyes for a week. He wished she were more like other fellows’ mothers but they loved each other very much and had dear hours together in the little grey house on the tansy hill. It was only when other people were about that Mrs. Kent was queer and jealous.

“She’s always lovely when we’re alone,” Teddy had told Emily.

As for the other boys, Perry Miller was the only one Mr. Carpenter bothered much with in the way of speeches—and he was as merciless with him as with Ilse. Perry worked hard to please him and practiced his speeches in barn and field—and even by nights in the kitchen loft—until Aunt Elizabeth put a stop to that. Emily could not understand why Mr. Carpenter would smile amiably and say, “Very good” when Neddy Gray rattled off a speech glibly, without any expression whatever, and then rage at Perry and denounce him as a dunce and a nincompoop, by gad, because he had failed to give just the proper emphasis on a certain word, or had timed his gesture a fraction of a second too soon.

Neither could she understand why he made red pencil corrections all over her compositions and rated her for split infinitives and too lavish adjectives and strode up and down the aisle and hurled objurgations at her because she didn’t know “a good place to stop when she saw it, by gad,” and then told Rhoda Stuart and Nan Lee that their compositions were very pretty and gave them back without so much as a mark on them. Yet, in spite of it all, she liked him more and more as time went on and autumn passed and winter came with its beautiful bare-limbed trees, and soft pearl-grey skies that were slashed with rifts of gold in the afternoons, and cleared to a jewelled pageantry of stars over the wide white hills and valleys around New Moon.

Emily shot up so that winter that Aunt Laura had to let down the tucks in her dresses. Aunt Ruth, who had come for a week’s visit, said she was outgrowing her strength—consumptive children always did.

“I am not consumptive,” Emily said. “The Starrs are tall,” she added, with a touch of subtle malice hardly to be looked for in near-thirteen.

Aunt Ruth, who was sensitive in regard to her dumpiness, sniffed.

“It would be well if that were the only thing in which you resemble them,” she said. “How are you getting on in school?”

“Very well. I am the smartest scholar in my class,” answered Emily composedly.

“You conceited child!” said Aunt Ruth.

“I’m not conceited.” Emily looked scornful indignation. “Mr. Carpenter said it and he doesn’t flatter. Besides, I can’t help seeing it myself.”

“Well, it is to be hoped you have some brains, because you haven’t much in the way of looks,” said Aunt Ruth. “You’ve no complexion to speak of—and that inky hair around your white face is startling. I see you’re going to be a plain girl.”

“You wouldn’t say that to a grown-up person’s face,” said Emily with a deliberate gravity which always exasperated Aunt Ruth because she could not understand it in a child. “I don’t think it would hurt you to be as polite to me as you are to other people.”

“I’m telling you your faults so you may correct them,” said Aunt Ruth frigidly.

“It isn’t my fault that my face is pale and my hair black,” protested Emily. “I can’t correct that.”

“If you were a different girl,” said Aunt Ruth, “I would—”

“But I don’t want to be a different girl,” said Emily decidedly. She had no intention of lowering the Starr flag to Aunt Ruth. “I wouldn’t want to be anybody but myself even if I am plain. Besides,” she added impressively as she turned to go out of the room, “though I may not be very good-looking now, when I go to heaven I believe I’ll be very beautiful.”

“Some people think Emily quite pretty,” said Aunt Laura, but she did not say it until Emily was out of hearing. She was Murray enough for that.

“I don’t know where they see it,” said Aunt Ruth. “She’s vain and pert and says things to be thought smart. You heard her just now. But the thing I dislike most in her is that she is un-childlike—and deep as the sea. Yes, she is, Laura—deep as the sea. You’ll find it out to your cost one day if you disregard my warning. She’s capable of anything. Sly is no word for it. You and Elizabeth don’t keep a tight enough rein over her.”

“I’ve done my best,” said Elizabeth stiffly. She herself did think she had been much too lenient with Emily—Laura and Jimmy were two to one—but it nettled her to have Ruth say so.

Uncle Wallace also had an attack of worrying over Emily that winter.

He looked at her one day when he was at New Moon and remarked that she was getting to be a big girl.

“How old are you, Emily?” He asked her that every time he came to New Moon.

“Thirteen in May.”

“H’m. What are you going to do with her, Elizabeth?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” said Aunt Elizabeth coldly—or as coldly as is possible to speak when one is pouring melted tallow into candle-moulds.

“Why, she’ll soon be grown up. She can’t expect you to provide for her indefinitely”—

“I don’t,” Emily whispered resentfully under her breath.

“—and it’s time we decided what is best to be done for her.”

“The Murray women have never had to work out for a living,” said Aunt Elizabeth, as if that disposed of the matter.

“Emily is only half Murray,” said Wallace. “Besides, times are changing. You and Laura will not live forever, Elizabeth, and when you are gone New Moon goes to Oliver’s Andrew. In my opinion Emily should be fitted to support herself if necessary.”

Emily did not like Uncle Wallace but she was very grateful to him at that moment. Whatever his motives were he was proposing the very thing she secretly yearned for.

“I would suggest,” said Uncle Wallace, “that she be sent to Queen’s Academy to get a teacher’s license. Teaching is a genteel, lady-like occupation. I will do my share in providing for the expense of it.”

A blind person might have seen that Uncle Wallace thought this very splendid of himself.

“If you do,” thought Emily, “I’ll pay every cent back to you as soon as I’m able to earn it.”

But Aunt Elizabeth was adamant.

“I do not believe in girls going out into the world,” she said. “I don’t mean Emily to go to Queen’s. I told Mr. Carpenter so when he came to see me about her taking up the Entrance work. He was very rude—school-teachers knew their place better in my father’s time. But I made him understand, I think. I’m rather surprised at you, Wallace. You did not send your own daughter out to work.”

My daughter had parents to provide for her,” retorted Uncle Wallace pompously. “Emily is an orphan. I imagined from what I had heard about her that she would prefer earning her own living to living on charity.”

“So I would,” cried out Emily. “So I would, Uncle Wallace. Oh, Aunt Elizabeth, please let me study for the Entrance. Please! I’ll pay you back every cent you spend on it—I will indeed. I pledge you my word of honour.”

“It does not happen to be a question of money,” said Aunt Elizabeth in her stateliest manner. “I undertook to provide for you, Emily, and I will do it. When you are older I may send you to the High School in Shrewbury for a couple of years. I am not decrying education. But you are not going to be a slave to the public—no Murray girl ever was that.”

Emily realising the uselessness of pleading, went out in the same bitter disappointment she had felt after Mr. Carpenter’s visit. Then Aunt Elizabeth looked at Wallace.

“Have you forgotten what came of sending Juliet to Queen’s?” she asked significantly.

If Emily was not allowed to take up the Entrance classes, Perry had no one to say him nay and he went at them with the same dogged determination he showed in all other matters. Perry’s status at New Moon had changed subtly and steadily. Aunt Elizabeth had ceased to refer scornfully to him as “a hired boy.” Even she recognised that though he was still indubitably a hired boy he was not going to remain one, and she no longer objected to Laura’s patching up his ragged bits of clothing, or to Emily’s helping him with his lessons in the kitchen after supper, nor did she growl when Cousin Jimmy began to pay him a certain small wage—though older boys than Perry were still glad to put in the winter months choring for board and lodging in some comfortable home. If a future premier was in the making at New Moon Aunt Elizabeth wanted to have some small share in the making. It was credible and commendable that a boy should have ambitions. A girl was an entirely different matter. A girl’s place was at home.

Emily helped Perry work out algebra problems and heard his lessons in French and Latin. She picked up more thus than Aunt Elizabeth would have approved and more still when the Entrance pupils talked those languages in school. It was quite an easy matter for a girl who had once upon a time invented a language of her own. When George Bates, by way of showing off, asked her one day in French—his French, of which Mr. Carpenter had once said doubtfully that perhaps God might understand it—“Have you the ink of my grandmother and the shoebrush of my cousin and the umbrella of my aunt’s husband in your desk?” Emily retorted quite as glibly and quite as Frenchily, “No, but I have the pen of your father and the cheese of the innkeeper and the towel of your uncle’s maidservant in my basket.”

To console herself for her disappointment in regard to the Entrance class Emily wrote more poetry than ever. It was especially delightful to write poetry on a winter evening when the storm winds howled without and heaped the garden and orchard with big ghostly drifts, starred over with rabbits’ candles. She also wrote several stories—desperate love affairs wherein she struggled heroically against the difficulties of affectionate dialogue; tales of bandits and pirates—Emily liked these because there was no necessity for bandits and pirates to converse lovingly; tragedies of earls and countesses whose conversation she dearly loved to pepper with scraps of French; and a dozen other subjects she didn’t know anything about. She also meditated beginning a novel but decided it would be too hard to get enough paper for it. The letter-bills were all done now and the Jimmy-books were not big enough, though a new one always appeared mysteriously in her school basket when the old one was almost full. Cousin Jimmy seemed to have an uncanny prescience of the proper time—that was part of his Jimmyness.

Then one night, as she lay in her lookout bed and watched a full moon gleaming lustrously from a cloudless sky across the valley, she had a sudden dazzling idea.

She would send her latest poem to the Charlottetown Enterprise.

The Enterprise had a Poet’s Corner where “original” verses were frequently printed. Privately Emily thought her own were quite as good—as probably they were, for most of the Enterprise “poems” were sad trash.

Emily was so excited over the idea that she could not sleep for the greater part of the night—and didn’t want to. It was glorious to lie there, thrilling in the darkness, and picture the whole thing out. She saw her verses in print signed E. Byrd Starr—she saw Aunt Laura’s eyes shining with pride—she saw Mr. Carpenter pointing them out to strangers—“the work of a pupil of mine, by gad”—she saw all her schoolmates envying her or admiring, according to type—she saw herself with one foot at least firmly planted on the ladder of fame—one hill at least of the Alpine Path crested, with a new and glorious prospect opening therefrom.

Morning came. Emily went to school, so absent-minded because of her secret that she did badly in everything and was raged at by Mr. Carpenter. But it all slipped off her like the proverbial water off a duck’s back. Her body was in Blair Water school but her spirit was in kingdoms empyreal.

As soon as school was out she betook herself to the garret with half a sheet of blue-lined notepaper. Very painstakingly she copied down the poem, being especially careful to dot every i and cross every t. She wrote it on both sides of the paper, being in blissful ignorance of any taboo thereon. Then she read it aloud delightedly, not omitting the title Evening Dreams. There was one line in it she tasted two or three times:

The haunting elfin music of the air.

“I think that line is very good,” said Emily. “I wonder now how I happened to think of it.”

She mailed her poem the next day and lived in a delicious mystic rapture until the following Saturday. When the Enterprise came she opened it with tremulous eagerness and ice-cold fingers, and turned to the Poet’s Corner. Now for her great moment!

There was not a sign of an Evening Dream about it!

Emily threw down the Enterprise and fled to the garret dormer where, face downward on the old haircloth sofa, she wept out her bitterness of disappointment. She drained the draught of failure to the very dregs. It was horribly real and tragic to her. She felt exactly as if she had been slapped in the face. She was crushed in the very dust of humiliation and was sure she could never rise again.

How thankful she was that she hadn’t told Teddy anything about it—she had been so strongly tempted to, and only refrained because she didn’t want to spoil the dramatic surprise of the moment when she would show him the verses with her name signed to them. She had told Perry, and Perry was furious when he saw her tear-stained face later on in the dairy, as they strained the milk together. Ordinarily Emily loved this, but to-night the savour had gone out of the world. Even the milky splendour of the still, mild winter evening and the purple bloom over the hillside woods that presaged a thaw could not give her the accustomed soul-thrill.

“I’m going to Charlottetown if I have to walk and I’ll bust that Enterprise editor’s head,” said Perry, with the expression which, thirty years later, warned the members of his party to scatter for cover.

“That wouldn’t be any use,” said Emily drearily. “He didn’t think it good enough to print—that is what hurts me so, Perry—he didn’t think it any good. Busting his head wouldn’t change that.”

It took her a week to recover from the blow. Then she wrote a story in which the editor of the Enterprise played the part of a dark and desperate villain who found lodging eventually behind prison bars. This got the venom out of her system and she forgot all about him in the delight of writing a poem addressed to “Sweet Lady April.” But I question if she ever really forgave him—even when she discovered eventually that you must not write on both sides of the paper—even when she read over Evening Dreams a year later and wondered how she could ever have thought it any good.

This sort of thing was happening frequently now. Every time she read her little hoard of manuscripts over she found some of which the fairy gold had unaccountably turned to withered leaves, fit only for the burning. Emily burned them,—but it hurt her a little. Outgrowing things we love is never a pleasant process.

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This book is part of the public domain. L. M. Montgomery (2020). Emily of New Moon. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved

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