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Chapter 11 Dark and Bright

  • At Christmas the college boys and girls came home and for a little whil_ngleside was gay again. But all were not there–for the first time one wa_issing from the circle round the Christmas table. Jem, of the steady lips an_earless eyes, was far away, and Rilla felt that the sight of his vacant chai_as more than she could endure. Susan had taken a stubborn freak and insiste_n setting out Jem's place for him as usual, with the twisted little napki_ing he had always had since a boy, and the odd, high Green Gables goblet tha_unt Marilla had once given him and from which he always insisted on drinking.
  • "That blessed boy shall have his place, Mrs. Dr. dear," said Susan firmly,
  • "and do not you feel over it, for you may be sure he is here in spirit an_ext Christmas he will be here in the body. Wait you till the Big Push come_n the spring and the war will be over in a jiffy."
  • They tried to think so, but a shadow stalked in the background of thei_etermined merrymaking. Walter, too, was quiet and dull, all through th_olidays. He showed Rilla a cruel, anonymous letter he had received a_edmond–a letter far more conspicuous for malice than for patrioti_ndignation.
  • "Nevertheless, all it says is true, Rilla."
  • Rilla had caught it from him and thrown it into the fire.
  • "There isn't one word of truth in it," she declared hotly. "Walter, you've go_orbid–as Miss Oliver says she gets when she broods too long over one thing."
  • "I can't get away from it at Redmond, Rilla. The whole college is aflame ove_he war. A perfectly fit fellow, of military age, who doesn't join up i_ooked upon as a shirker and treated accordingly. Dr. Milne, the Englis_rofessor, who has always made a special pet of me, has two sons in khaki; an_ can feel the change in his manner towards me."
  • "It's not fair–you're not fit."
  • "Physically I am. Sound as a bell. The unfitness is in the soul and it's _aint and a disgrace. There, don't cry, Rilla. I'm not going if that's wha_ou're afraid of. The Piper's music rings in my ears day and night–but _annot follow."
  • "You would break mother's heart and mine if you did," sobbed Rilla. "Oh, Walter, one is enough for any family."
  • The holidays were an unhappy time for her. Still, having Nan and Di and Walte_nd Shirley home helped in the enduring of things. A letter and book came fo_er from Kenneth Ford, too; some sentences in the letter made her cheeks bur_nd her heart beat–until the last paragraph, which sent an icy chill ove_verything.
  • "My ankle is about as good as new. I'll be fit to join up in a couple o_onths more, Rilla-my-Rilla. It will be some feeling to get into khaki al_ight. Little Ken will be able to look the whole world in the face then an_we not any man. It's been rotten lately, since I've been able to walk withou_imping. People who don't know look at me as much as to say 'Slacker!' Well, they won't have the chance to look it much longer."
  • "I hate this war," said Rilla bitterly, as she gazed out into the maple grov_hat was a chill glory of pink and gold in the winter sunset.
  • "Nineteen-fourteen has gone," said Dr. Blythe on New Year's Day. "Its sun, which rose fairly, has set in blood. What will nineteen-fifteen bring?"
  • "Victory!" said Susan, for once laconic.
  • "Do you really believe we'll win the war, Susan?" said Miss Oliver drearily.
  • She had come over from Lowbridge to spend the day and see Walter and the girl_efore they went back to Redmond. She was in a rather blue and cynical moo_nd inclined to look on the dark side.
  • "'Believe' we'll win the war!" exclaimed Susan. "No, Miss Oliver, dear, I d_ot believe–I know. We must just trust in God and make big guns."
  • "Sometimes I think the big guns are better to trust in than God," said Mis_liver defiantly.
  • "No, no, dear, you do not. The Germans had the big guns at the Marne, had the_ot? But Providence settled _them._ Do not ever forget _that._ Just hold on t_hat when you feel inclined to doubt. Clutch hold of the sides of your chai_nd sit tight and keep saying, 'Big guns are good but the Almighty is better, and _He_ is on our side, no matter what the Kaiser says about it.' My cousi_ophia is, like you, somewhat inclined to despond. 'Oh, dear me, what will w_o if the Germans ever get here,' she wailed to me yesterday. 'Bury them,'
  • said I, just as off-hand as that. 'There is plenty of room for the graves.'
  • Cousin Sophia said that I was flippant but I was not flippant, Miss Oliver, dear, only calm and confident in the British navy and our Canadian boys."
  • "I hate going to bed now," said Mrs. Blythe. "All my life I've liked going t_ed, to have a gay, mad, splendid half-hour of imagining things befor_leeping. Now I imagine them still. But much different things."
  • " _I_ am rather glad when the time comes to go to bed," said Miss Oliver. "_ike the darkness because I can be _myself_ in it–I needn't smile or tal_ravely. But sometimes my imagination gets out of hand, too, and I see wha_ou do–terrible things–terrible years to come."
  • "I am very thankful that I never had any imagination to speak of," said Susan.
  • "I have been spared _that._ I see by this paper that the Crown Prince i_illed again. Do you suppose there is any hope of his staying dead this time?
  • And I also see that Woodrow Wilson is going to write another note. I wonder,"
  • concluded Susan, with the bitter irony she had of late begun to use whe_eferring to the poor President, "if that man's schoolmaster is alive."
  • In January Jims was five months old and Rilla celebrated the anniversary b_hortening him.
  • "He weighs fourteen pounds," she announced jubilantly. "Just exactly what h_hould weigh at five months, according to Morgan."
  • There was no longer any doubt in anybody's mind that Jims was gettin_ositively pretty. His little cheeks were round and firm and faintly pink, hi_yes were big and bright, his tiny paws had dimples at the root of ever_inger. He had even begun to grow hair, much to Rilla's unspoken relief. Ther_as a pale golden fuzz all over his head that was distinctly visible in som_ights. He was a good infant, generally sleeping and digesting as Morga_ecreed. Occasionally he smiled but he had never laughed, in spite of al_fforts to make him. This worried Rilla also, because Morgan said that babie_sually laughed aloud from the third to the fifth month. Jims was five month_nd had no notion of laughing. Why hadn't he? Wasn't he normal?
  • One night Rilla came home late from a recruiting meeting at the Glen where sh_ad been giving patriotic recitations. Rilla had never been willing to recit_n public before. She was afraid of her tendency to lisp, which had a habit o_eviving if she were doing anything that made her nervous. When she had firs_een asked to recite at the Upper Glen meeting she had refused. Then she bega_o worry over her refusal. Was it cowardly? What would Jem think if he knew?
  • After two days of worry Rilla phoned to the president of the Patriotic Societ_hat she would recite. She did, and lisped several times, and lay awake mos_f the night in an agony of wounded vanity. Then two nights after she recite_gain at Harbour Head. She had been at Lowbridge and over-harbour since the_nd had become resigned to an occasional lisp. Nobody except herself seemed t_ind it. And she was so earnest and appealing and shining-eyed! More than on_ecruit joined up because Rilla's eyes seemed to look right at _him_ when sh_assionately demanded how could men die better than fighting for the ashes o_heir fathers and the temples of their gods, or assured her audience wit_hrilling intensity that one crowded hour of glorious life was worth an ag_ithout a name. Even stolid Miller Douglas was so fired one night that it too_ary Vance a good hour to talk him back to sense. Mary Vance said bitterl_hat if Rilla Blythe felt as bad as she had pretended to feel over Jem's goin_o the front she wouldn't be urging other girls' brothers and friends to go.
  • On this particular night Rilla was tired and cold and very thankful to cree_nto her warm nest and cuddle down between her blankets, though as usual wit_ sorrowful wonder how Jem and Jerry were faring. She was just getting war_nd drowsy when Jims suddenly began to cry–and kept on crying. Rilla curle_erself up in her bed and determined she would let him cry. She had Morga_ehind her for justification. Jims was warm, physically comfortable–his cr_asn't the cry of pain–and had his little tummy as full as was good for him.
  • Under such circumstances it would be simply spoiling him to fuss over him, an_he wasn't going to do it. He could cry until he got good and tired and read_o go to sleep again.
  • Then Rilla's imagination began to torment her. Suppose, she thought, I was _iny helpless creature only five months old, with my father somewhere i_rance and my poor little mother, who had been so worried about me, in th_raveyard. Suppose I was lying in a basket in a big, black room, without on_peck of light, and nobody within miles of me, for all I could see or know.
  • Suppose there wasn't a human being anywhere who loved me–for a father who ha_ever seen me couldn't love me very much, especially when he had never writte_ word to or about me. Wouldn't I cry, too? Wouldn't I feel just so lonely an_orsaken and frightened that I'd _have_ to cry?
  • Rilla hopped out. She picked Jims out of his basket and took him into her ow_ed. His hands _were_ cold, poor mite. But he had promptly ceased to cry. An_hen, as she held him close to her in the darkness, suddenly Jims laughed–_eal, gurgly, chuckly, delighted, delightful laugh.
  • "Oh, you dear little thing!" exclaimed Rilla. "Are you so pleased at findin_ou're not all alone, lost in a huge, big, black room?" Then she knew sh_anted to kiss him and she did. She kissed his silky, scented little head, sh_issed his chubby little cheek, she kissed his little cold hands. She wante_o squeeze him–to cuddle him, just as she used to squeeze and cuddle he_ittens. Something delightful and yearning and brooding seemed to have take_ossession of her. She had never felt like this before.
  • In a few minutes Jims was sound asleep; and, as Rilla listened to his soft, regular breathing and felt the little body warm and contented against her, sh_ealized that–at last–she loved her war-baby.
  • "He has got to be–such–a–darling," she thought drowsily, as she drifted off t_lumberland herself.
  • In February Jem and Jerry and Robert Grant were in the trenches and a littl_ore tension and dread was added to the Ingleside life. In March "Yiprez," a_usan called it, had come to have a bitter significance. The daily list o_asualties had begun to appear in the papers and no one at Ingleside eve_nswered the telephone without a horrible cold shrinking–for it might be th_tation-master phoning up to say a telegram had come from overseas. No one a_ngleside ever got up in the morning without a sudden piercing wonder ove_hat the day might bring.
  • "And I used to welcome the mornings so," thought Rilla.
  • Yet the round of life and duty went steadily on and every week or so one o_he Glen lads who had just the other day been a rollicking schoolboy went int_haki.
  • "It is bitter cold out tonight, Mrs. Dr. dear," said Susan, coming in out o_he clear starlit crispness of the Canadian winter twilight. "I wonder if th_oys in the trenches are warm."
  • "How _everything_ comes back to this war," cried Gertrude Oliver. "We can'_et away from it–not even when we talk of the weather. I never go out thes_ark cold nights myself without thinking of the men in the trenches–not onl_our_ men but _everybody's_ men. I would feel the same if there were nobody _new at the front. When I snuggle down in my comfortable bed I am ashamed o_eing comfortable. It seems as if it were wicked of me to be so when many ar_ot."
  • "I saw Mrs. Meredith down at the store," said Susan, "and she tells me tha_hey are really troubled over Bruce, he takes things so much to heart. He ha_ried himself to sleep for a week, over the starving Belgians. 'Oh, mother,'
  • he will say to her, so beseeching-like, 'surely the babies are neve_ungry–oh, not the _babies,_ mother! Just say the _babies_ are not hungry, mother.' And she cannot say it because it would not be true, and she is at he_its' end. They try to keep such things from him but he finds them out an_hen they cannot comfort him. It breaks my heart to read about them myself, Mrs. Dr. dear, and I cannot console myself with the thought that the tales ar_ot true. But we must carry on. Jack Crawford says he is going to the wa_ecause he is tired of farming. I hope he will find it a pleasant change. An_rs. Richard Elliott over-harbour is worrying herself sick because she used t_e always scolding her husband about smoking up the parlour curtains. Now tha_e has enlisted she wishes she had never said a word to him. Whiskers-on-the- moon vows he is no pro-German but calls himself a pacifist, whatever that ma_e. It is nothing proper or Whiskers would not be it and that you may tie to.
  • He says that the big British victory at New Chapelle cost more than it wa_orth and he has forbid Joe Milgrave to come near the house because Joe ran u_is father's flag when the news came. Have you noticed, Mrs. Dr. dear, tha_he Czar has changed that Prish name to Premysl, which proves that the man ha_ood sense, Russian though he is? Joe Vickers told me in the store that he sa_ very queer looking thing in the sky tonight over Lowbridge way. Do yo_uppose it could have been a Zeppelin, Mrs. Dr. dear?"
  • "I do not think it very likely, Susan."
  • "Well, I would feel easier about it if Whiskers-on-the-moon were not living i_he Glen. They say he was seen going through strange manoeuvres with a lanter_n his back yard one night lately. Some people think he was signalling."
  • "To whom–or what?"
  • "Ah, _that_ is the mystery, Mrs. Dr. dear. In my opinion the Government woul_o well to keep an eye on that man if it does not want us to be all murdere_n our beds some night. Now I shall just look over the papers a minute befor_oing to write a letter to little Jem. Two things I never did, Mrs. Dr. dear, were write letters and read politics. Yet here I am doing both regular and _ind there is something in politics after all. Whatever Woodrow Wilson means _annot fathom but I am hoping I will puzzle it out yet."
  • Susan, in her pursuit of Wilson and politics, presently came upon somethin_hat disturbed her and exclaimed in a tone of bitter disappointment,
  • "That devilish Kaiser has only a boil after all."
  • "Don't swear, Susan," said Dr. Blythe, pulling a long face.
  • "'Devilish' is not swearing, doctor, dear. I have always understood tha_wearing was taking the name of the Almighty in vain?"
  • "Well, it isn't–ahem–refined," said the doctor, winking at Miss Oliver.
  • "No, doctor, dear, the devil and the Kaiser–if so be that they are really tw_ifferent people–are _not_ refined. And you cannot refer to them in a refine_ay. So I abide by what I said, although you may notice that I am careful no_o use such expressions when young Rilla is about. And I maintain that th_apers have no right to say that the Kaiser has pneumonia and raise people'_opes, and then come out and say he has nothing but a boil. A boil, indeed! _ish he was covered with them."
  • Susan stalked out to the kitchen and settled down to write to Jem; deeming hi_n need of some home comfort from certain passages in his letter that day.
  • "We're in an old wine cellar tonight, dad," he wrote, "in water to our knees.
  • Rats everywhere–no fire–a drizzling rain coming down–rather dismal. But i_ight be worse. I got Susan's box today and everything was in tip-top orde_nd we had a feast. Jerry is up the line somewhere and he says the rations ar_ather worse than Aunt Martha's ditto used to be. But here they're no_ad–only monotonous. Tell Susan I'd give a year's pay for a good batch of he_onkey-faces; but don't let that inspire her to send any for they wouldn'_eep.
  • "We have been under fire since the last week in February. One boy–he was _ova Scotian–was killed right beside me yesterday. A shell burst near us an_hen the mess cleared away he was lying dead–not mangled at all–he just looke_ little startled. It was the first time I'd been close to anything like tha_nd it was a nasty sensation, but one soon gets used to horrors here. We're i_n absolutely different world. The only things that are the same are th_tars–and they are never in their right places, somehow.
  • "Tell mother not to worry–I'm all right–fit as a fiddle–and glad I came.
  • There's something across from us here that has got to be wiped out of th_orld, that's all–an emanation of evil that would otherwise poison life fo_ver. It's got to be done, dad, however long it takes, and whatever it costs, and you tell the Glen people this for me. They don't realize yet what it i_as broken loose–I didn't when I first joined up. I thought it was fun. Well, it isn't! But I'm in the right place all right–make no mistake about that.
  • When I saw what had been done here to homes and gardens and people–well, dad, I seemed to see a gang of Huns marching through Rainbow Valley and the Glen, and the garden at Ingleside. There were gardens over here–beautiful garden_ith the beauty of centuries–and what are they now? Mangled, desecrate_hings! We are fighting to make those dear old places where we had played a_hildren, safe for other boys and girls–fighting for the preservation an_afety of all sweet, wholesome things.
  • "Whenever any of you go to the station be sure to give Dog Monday a double pa_or me. Fancy the faithful little beggar waiting there for me like that!
  • Honestly, dad, on some of these dark cold nights in the trenches, it hearten_nd braces me up no end to think that thousands of miles away at the old Gle_tation there is a small spotted dog sharing my vigil.
  • "Tell Rilla I'm glad her war-baby is turning out so well, and tell Susan tha_'m fighting a good fight against both Huns and cooties."
  • "Mrs. Dr. dear," whispered Susan solemnly, "what are cooties?"
  • Mrs. Blythe whispered back and then said in reply to Susan's horrifie_jaculations, "It's always like that in the trenches, Susan."
  • Susan shook her head and went away in grim silence to re-open a parcel she ha_ewed up for Jem and slip in a fine tooth comb.