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Chapter 10 The Troubles of Rilla

  • October passed out and the dreary days of November and December dragged by.
  • The world shook with the thunder of contending armies; Antwerp fell–Turke_eclared war–gallant little Serbia gathered herself together and struck _eadly blow at her oppressor; and in quiet, hill-girdled Glen St. Mary, thousands of miles away, hearts beat with hope and fear over the varyin_ispatches from day to day.
  • "A few months ago," said Miss Oliver, "we thought and talked in terms of Gle_t. Mary. Now, we think and talk in terms of military tactics and diplomati_ntrigue."
  • There was just one great event every day–the coming of the mail. Even Susa_dmitted that from the time the mail-courier's buggy rumbled over the littl_ridge between the station and the village until the papers were brought hom_nd read, she could not work properly.
  • "I must take up my knitting then and knit hard till the papers come, Mrs. Dr.
  • dear. Then when I see the headlines, be they good or be they bad, I calm dow_nd am able to go about my business again. It is an unfortunate thing that th_ail comes in just when our dinner rush is on, and I think the Governmen_ould arrange things better. But the drive on Calais has failed, as I fel_erfectly sure it would, and the Kaiser will not eat his Christmas dinner i_ondon _this_ year. Well, I must bestir myself this afternoon and get littl_em's Christmas cake packed up for him. He will enjoy it, if the blessed bo_s not drowned in mud before that time."
  • Jem was in camp on Salisbury Plain and was writing gay, cheery letters home i_pite of the mud. Walter was at Redmond and his letters to Rilla were anythin_ut cheerful. She never opened one without a dread tugging at her heart tha_t would tell her he had enlisted. His unhappiness made her unhappy. Sh_anted to put her arm round him and comfort him, as she had done that day i_ainbow Valley. She hated everybody who was responsible for Walter'_nhappiness.
  • "He will go yet," she murmured miserably to herself one afternoon, as she sa_lone in Rainbow Valley, reading a letter from him, "he will go yet–and if h_oes I just can't bear it."
  • Walter wrote that some one had sent him an envelope containing a whit_eather.
  • "I deserved it, Rilla. I felt that I ought to put it on and wea_t–proclaiming myself to all Redmond the coward I know I am. The boys of m_ear are going–going. Every day two or three of them join up. Some days _almost_ make up my mind to do it–and then I see myself thrusting a bayone_hrough another man–some woman's husband or sweetheart or son–perhaps th_ather of little children–I see myself lying alone torn and mangled, burnin_ith thirst on a cold, wet field, surrounded by dead and dying men–and I kno_ _never_ can. I can't face even the thought of it. How could I face th_eality? There are times when I wish I had never been born. Life has alway_eemed such a beautiful thing to me–and now it is a hideous thing. Rilla-my- Rilla, if it weren't for your letters–your dear, bright, merry, funny, comical, _believing_ letters–I think I'd give up. And Una's! Una is really _ittle brick, isn't she? There's a wonderful fineness and firmness under al_hat shy, wistful girlishness of her. She hasn't your knack of writing laugh- provoking epistles, but there's something in her letters–I don't kno_hat–that makes me feel at least while I'm reading them, that I could even g_o the front. Not that she ever says a word about my going–or hints that _ught to go–she isn't that kind. It's just the _spirit_ of them–th_ersonality that is in them. Well, I can't go. You have a brother and Una ha_ friend who is a _coward._ "
  • "Oh, I wish Walter wouldn't write such things," sighed Rilla. "It _hurts_ me.
  • He isn't a coward–he isn't–he isn't!"
  • She looked wistfully about her–at the little woodland valley and the grey, lonely fallows beyond. How everything reminded her of Walter! The red leave_till clung to the wild sweet-briars that overhung a curve of the brook; thei_tems were gemmed with the pearls of the gentle rain that had fallen a littl_hile before. Walter had once written a poem describing them. The wind wa_ighing and rustling among the frosted brown bracken ferns, then lessenin_orrowfully away down the brook. Walter had said once that he loved th_elancholy of the autumn wind on a November day. The old Tree Lovers stil_lasped each other in a faithful embrace, and the White Lady, now a grea_hite-branched tree, stood out beautifully fine, against the grey velvet sky.
  • Walter had named them long ago; and last November, when he had walked with he_nd Miss Oliver in the Valley, he had said, looking at the leafless Lady, wit_ young silver moon hanging over her, "A white birch is a beautiful Paga_aiden who has never lost the Eden secret of being naked and unashamed." Mis_liver had said, "Put that into a poem, Walter," and he had done so, and rea_t to them the next day–just a short thing with goblin imagination in ever_ine of it. Oh, how happy they had been then!
  • Well–Rilla scrambled to her feet–time was up. Jims would soon be awake–hi_unch had to be prepared–his little slips had to be ironed–there was _ommittee meeting of the Junior Reds that night–there was her new knitting ba_o finish–it would be the handsomest bag in the Junior Society–handsomer eve_han Irene Howard's–she must get home and get to work. She was busy these day_rom morning till night. That little monkey of a Jims took so much time. Bu_e was growing–he was certainly growing. And there were times when Rilla fel_ure that it was not merely a pious hope but an absolute fact that he wa_etting decidedly better looking. Sometimes she felt quite proud of him; an_ometimes she yearned to spank him. But she never kissed him or wanted to kis_im.
  • "The Germans captured Lodz today," said Miss Oliver, one December evening, when she, Mrs. Blythe, and Susan were busy sewing or knitting in the cos_iving-room. "This war is at least extending my knowledge of geography.
  • Schoolma'am though I am, three months ago I didn't know there was such a plac_n the world such as Lodz. Had I heard it mentioned I would have known nothin_bout it and cared as little. I know all about it now–its size, its standing, its military significance. Yesterday the news that the Germans have capture_t in their second rush to Warsaw made my heart sink into my boots. I woke u_n the night and worried over it. I don't wonder babies always cry when the_ake up in the night. Everything presses on my soul then and no cloud has _ilver lining."
  • "When _I_ wake up in the night and cannot go to sleep again," remarked Susan, who was knitting and reading at the same time, "I pass the moments b_orturing the Kaiser to death. Last night I fried him in boiling oil and _reat comfort it was to me, remembering those Belgian babies."
  • "We are told to love our enemies, Susan," said the doctor solemnly.
  • "Yes, _our_ enemies, but not King George's enemies, doctor dear," retorte_usan crushingly. She was so well pleased with herself over this flattenin_ut of the doctor completely that she even smiled as she polished her glasses.
  • Susan had never given in to glasses before, but she had done so at last i_rder to be able to read the war news–and not a dispatch got by her. "Can yo_ell me, Miss Oliver, how to pronounce M-l-a-w-a and B-z-u-r-a an_-r-z-e-m-y-s-l?"
  • "That last is a conundrum which nobody seems to have solved yet, Susan. And _an make only a guess at the others."
  • "These foreign names are far from being decent, in my opinion," said disguste_usan.
  • "I dare say the Austrians and Russians would think Saskatchewan an_usquodoboit about as bad, Susan," said Miss Oliver.
  • Rilla was upstairs relieving her over-charged feelings by writing in he_iary.
  • "Things have all 'gone catawampus,' as Susan says, with me this week. Part o_t was my own fault and part of it wasn't, and I seem to be equally unhapp_ver both parts.
  • "I went to town the other day to buy a new winter hat. It was the first tim_obody insisted on coming with me to help me select it, and I felt that mothe_ad really given up thinking of me as a child. And I found the dearest hat–i_as simply bewitching. It was a velvet hat, of the very shade of rich gree_hat was _made_ for me. It just goes with my hair and complexion beautifully, bringing out the red-brown shades and what Miss Oliver calls my 'creaminess'
  • so well. Only once before in my life have I come across that precise shade o_reen. When I was twelve I had a little beaver hat of it, and all the girls i_chool were wild over it. Well, as soon as I saw this hat I felt that I simpl_ust have it–and have it I did. The price was dreadful. I will not put it dow_ere because I don't want my descendants to know I was guilty of paying s_uch for a hat, in war-time, too, when everybody is–or should be–trying to b_conomical.
  • "When I got home and tried on the hat again in my room I was assailed b_ualms. Of course, it was very becoming; but somehow it seemed too elaborat_nd fussy for church going and our quiet little doings in the Glen–to_onspicuous, in short. It hadn't seemed so at the milliner's but here in m_ittle white room it did. And that dreadful price tag! _And_ the starvin_elgians! When mother saw the hat and the tag she just _looked_ at me. Mothe_s some expert at looking.
  • " 'Do you think, Rilla,' mother said quietly–far too quietly–'that it wa_ight to spend so much for a hat, especially when the need of the world is s_reat?'
  • " 'I paid for it out of my own allowance, mother,' I exclaimed.
  • " 'That is not the point. Your allowance is based on the principle of _easonable amount for each thing you need. If you pay too much for one thin_ou must cut off somewhere else and that is not satisfactory. But if you thin_ou did right, Rilla, I have no more to say. I leave it to your conscience.'
  • "I _wish_ mother would not leave things to my conscience! And anyway, what wa_ to do? I couldn't take that hat back–I had worn it to a concert in town–_ad to keep it! I was so uncomfortable that I flew into a temper–a cold, calm, deadly temper.
  • " 'Mother,' I said haughtily, 'I am sorry you disapprove of my hat–'
  • " 'Not of the hat exactly,' said mother, 'though I consider it in doubtfu_aste for so young a girl–but of the price you paid for it.'
  • "Being interrupted didn't improve my temper, so I went on, colder and calme_nd deadlier than ever, just as if mother had not spoken.
  • " '–but I have to keep it now. However, I promise you that I will not ge_nother hat for three years or for the duration of the war, if it lasts longe_han that. Even _you_ '–oh, the sarcasm I put into the 'you'–'cannot say tha_hat I paid was too much when spread over at least three years.'
  • " 'You will be very tired of that hat before three years, Rilla,' said mother, with a provoking grin, which, being interpreted, meant that I wouldn't stic_t out.
  • " 'Tired or not, I will wear it that long,' I said: and then I marche_pstairs and cried to think that I had been sarcastic to mother.
  • "I hate that hat already. But three years or the duration of the war, I said, and three years or the duration of the war it shall be. I vowed and I shal_eep my vow, cost what it will.
  • "That is one of the 'catawampus' things. The other is that I have quarrelle_ith Irene Howard–or she quarrelled with me–or, no, we _both_ quarrelled.
  • "The Junior Red Cross met here yesterday. The hour of meeting was half-pas_wo but Irene came at half-past one, because she got the chance of a driv_own from the Upper Glen. Irene hasn't been a bit nice to me since the fus_bout the eats; and besides I feel sure she resents not being president. But _ave been determined that things should go smoothly, so I have never taken an_otice, and when she came yesterday she seemed so nice and sweet again that _oped she had got over her huffiness and we could be the chums we used to be.
  • "But as soon as we sat down Irene began to rub me the wrong way. I saw he_ast a look at my new knitting-bag. All the girls have always said Irene wa_ealous-minded and I would never believe them before.
  • "The first thing she did was to pounce on Jims–Irene pretends to ador_abies–pick him out of his cradle and kiss him _all over his face._ Now, Iren_nows perfectly well that I don't like to have Jims kissed like that. It i_ot hygienic.
  • "After she had worried him till he began to fuss, she looked at me and gav_uite a nasty little laugh but she said, oh, so sweetly, 'Why, Rilla, _darling_ , you look as if you thought I was poisoning the baby.'
  • " 'Oh, no, I don't, Irene,' I said– _every bit_ as sweetly, 'but you kno_organ says that the only place a baby should be kissed is on its forehead, for fear of germs, and that is my rule with Jims.'
  • " 'Dear me, am I so full of germs?' said Irene plaintively. I knew she wa_aking fun of me and I began to boil inside–but outside no sign of a simmer. _as determined I would _not_ scrap with Irene.
  • "Then she began to _bounce_ Jims. Now, Morgan says bouncing is almost th_orst thing that can be done to a baby. I _never_ allow Jims to be bounced.
  • But Irene bounced him and that exasperating child liked it. He smiled–for th_ery first time. He is four months old and he has never smiled once before.
  • Not even mother or Susan have been able to coax that thing to smile, try a_hey would. And here he was smiling because Irene Howard bounced him! Talk o_ratitude!
  • "I admit that smile made a big difference in him. Two of the dearest dimple_ame out in his cheeks and his big brown eyes seemed full of laughter. The wa_rene raved over those dimples was silly, I consider. You would have suppose_he thought she had really brought them into existence. But I sewed steadil_nd did not enthuse, and soon Irene got tired of bouncing Jims and put hi_ack in his cradle. He did not like that after being played with, and he bega_o cry and was fussy the rest of the afternoon, whereas if Irene had only lef_im alone he would not have been a bit of trouble.
  • "Irene looked at him and said, 'Does he often cry like that?' as if she ha_ever heard a baby crying before.
  • "I explained patiently that children _have_ to cry so many minutes per day i_rder to expand their lungs. Morgan says so.
  • " 'If Jims didn't cry at all I'd have to _make_ him cry for at _least_ twent_inutes,' I said.
  • " 'Oh, _indeed!_ ' said Irene, laughing as if she didn't believe me. _Morga_n the Care of Infants_ was upstairs or I would soon have convinced her. The_he said Jims didn't have much hair–she had never seen a four months old bab_o bald.
  • "Of course, I knew Jims hadn't much hair–yet; but Irene said it in a tone tha_eemed to imply it was my fault that he hadn't any hair. I said I had see_dozens_ of babies every bit as bald as Jims, and Irene said, Oh very well, she hadn't meant to offend me–when I _wasn't_ offended.
  • "It went on like that the rest of the hour–Irene kept giving me little dig_ll the time. The girls have always said she was revengeful like that if sh_ere peeved about anything; but I never believed it before; I used to thin_rene just perfect, and it hurt me dreadfully to find she could stoop to this.
  • But I corked up my feelings and sewed away for dear life on a Belgian child'_ightgown.
  • "Then Irene told me the meanest, most contemptible thing that someone had sai_bout _Walter._ I won't write it down–I can't. Of course, _she_ said it mad_her_ furious to hear it and all that–but there was no need for her to tell m_uch a thing even if she _did_ hear it. She simply did it to hurt me.
  • "I just exploded. 'How dare you come here and repeat such a thing about m_rother, Irene Howard?' I exclaimed. 'I shall never forgive you–never. _Your_rother hasn't enlisted–hasn't any idea of enlisting.'
  • " 'Why Rilla, _dear, I_ didn't say it,' said Irene. 'I told you it was Mrs.
  • George Burr. And _I_ told _her_ –'
  • " 'I don't want to hear what you told her. Don't you _ever_ speak to me again, Irene Howard.'
  • "Oh course, I shouldn't have said that. But it just seemed to say itself. The_he other girls all came in a bunch and I had to calm down and act th_ostess's part as well as I could. Irene paired off with Olive Kirk all th_est of the afternoon and went away without so much as a look. So I suppos_he means to take me at my word and I don't care, for I do not want to b_riends with a girl who could repeat such a falsehood about Walter. But I fee_nhappy over it for all that. We've always been such good chums and unti_ately Irene was lovely to me; and now another illusion has been stripped fro_y eyes and I feel as if there wasn't such a thing as real true friendship i_he world.
  • "Father got old Joe Mead to build a kennel for Dog Monday in the corner of th_hipping-shed today. We thought perhaps Monday would come home when the col_eather came but he wouldn't. No earthly influence can coax Monday away fro_hat shed even for a few minutes. There he stays and meets every train. So w_ad to do something to make him comfortable. Joe built the kennel so tha_onday could lie in it and still see the platform, so we hope he will occup_t.
  • "Monday has become quite famous. A reporter of the _Enterprise_ came out fro_own and photographed him and wrote up the whole story of his faithful vigil.
  • It was published in the _Enterprise_ and copied all over Canada. But tha_oesn't matter to poor little Monday, Jem has gone away–Monday doesn't kno_here or why–but he will wait until he comes back. Somehow it comforts me: it's foolish, I suppose, but it gives me a feeling that Jem _will_ come bac_r else Monday wouldn't keep on waiting for him.
  • "Jims is snoring beside me in his cradle. It is just a cold that makes hi_nore–not adenoids. Irene had a cold yesterday and I _know_ she gave it t_im, kissing him. He is not quite such a nuisance as he was; he has got som_ackbone and can sit up quite nicely, and he loves his bath now and splashe_nsmilingly in the water instead of twisting and shrieking. I tickled him _ittle bit tonight when I undressed him–I wouldn't bounce him but Morga_oesn't mention tickling–just to see if he would smile for _me_ as well a_rene. And he _did_ –and out popped the dimples. What a pity his mothe_ouldn't have seen them!
  • "I finished my sixth pair of socks today. With the first three I got Susan t_et the heel for me. Then I thought that was a bit of shirking, so I learne_o do it myself. I hate it–but I have done so many things I hate since 4th o_ugust that one more or less doesn't matter. I just think of Jem joking abou_he mud on Salisbury Plain and I go at them."