Aunt Elizabeth had a more prosaic idea to account for Emily’s languor and lack of appetite. She had come to the conclusion that Emily’s heavy masses of hair “took from her strength” and that she would be much stronger and better if it were cut off. With Aunt Elizabeth to decide was to act. One morning she coolly informed Emily that her hair was to be “shingled.”
Emily could not believe her ears.
“You don’t mean that you are going to cut off my hair, Aunt Elizabeth,” she exclaimed.
“Yes, I mean exactly that,” said Aunt Elizabeth firmly. “You have entirely too much hair especially for hot weather. I feel sure that is why you have been so miserable lately. Now, I don’t want any crying.”
But Emily could not keep the tears back.
“Don’t cut it all
off,” she pleaded. “Just cut a good big bang. Lots of the girls have their hair banged clean from the crown of their heads. That would take half my hair off and the rest won’t take too much strength.”
“There will be no bangs here,” said Aunt Elizabeth. “I’ve told you so often enough. I’m going to shingle your hair close all over your head for the hot weather. You’ll be thankful to me some day for it.”
Emily felt anything but thankful just then.
“It’s my one beauty,” she sobbed, “it and my lashes. I suppose you want to cut off my lashes too.”
Aunt Elizabeth did
distrust those long, upcurled fringes of Emily’s, which were an inheritance from the girlish stepmother, and too un-Murray-like to be approved; but she had no designs against them. The hair must go, however, and she curtly bade Emily wait there, without any fuss, until she got the scissors.
Emily waited — quite hopelessly. She must lose her lovely hair — the hair her father had been so proud of. It might grow again in time — if Aunt Elizabeth let it — but that would take years, and meanwhile what a fright she would be! Aunt Laura and Cousin Jimmy were out; she had no one to back her up; this horrible thing must happen.
Aunt Elizabeth returned with the scissors; they clicked suggestively as she opened them; that click, as if by magic, seemed to loosen something — some strange formidable power in Emily’s soul. She turned deliberately around and faced her aunt. She felt her brows drawing together in an unaccustomed way — she felt an uprush as from unknown depths of some irresistible surge of energy.
“Aunt Elizabeth,” she said, looking straight at the lady with the scissors, “my hair is not going to be cut off
. Let me hear no more of this.”
An amazing thing happened to Aunt Elizabeth. She turned pale — she laid the scissors down — she looked aghast for one moment at the transformed or possessed child before her — and then for the first time in her life Elizabeth Murray turned tail and fled — literally fled — to the kitchen.
“What is the matter, Elizabeth?” cried Laura, coming in from the cook-house.
“I saw — Father — looking from her face,” gasped Elizabeth, trembling. “And she said, ‘Let me hear no more of this,’ — just as he
always said it — his very words.”
Copyright © 2007 by L.M. Montgomery Afterword by Alice Munro. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.