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."