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Chapter 13 A Slice of Humble Pie

  • "I am very much afraid, Mrs. Dr. dear," said Susan, who had been on _ilgrimage to the station with some choice bones for Dog Monday, "tha_omething terrible has happened. Whiskers-on-the-moon came off the train fro_harlottetown and he was _looking pleased._ I do not remember that I ever sa_im with a smile on in public before. Of course he may have just been gettin_he better of somebody in a cattle deal but I have an awful presentiment tha_he Huns have broken through somewhere."
  • Perhaps Susan was unjust in connecting Mr. Pryor's smile with the sinking o_he _Lusitania_ , news of which circulated an hour later when the mail wa_istributed. But the Glen boys turned out that night in a body and broke al_is windows in a fine frenzy of indignation over the Kaiser's doings.
  • "I do not say they did right and I do not say they did wrong," said Susan, when she heard of it. "But I will say that I wouldn't have minded throwing _ew stones myself. One thing is certain–Whiskers-on-the-moon said in the pos_ffice the day the news came, in the presence of witnesses, that folks wh_ould not stay home after they had been warned deserved no better fate. Norma_ouglas is fairly foaming at the mouth over it all. 'If the devil doesn't ge_hose men who sunk the _Lusitania_ then there is no use in there being _evil,' he was shouting in Carter's store last night. Norman Douglas alway_as believed that anybody who opposed _him_ was on the side of the devil, bu_ man like that is bound to be right once in a while. Bruce Meredith i_orrying over the babies who were drowned. And it seems he prayed fo_omething very special last Friday night and didn't get it, and was feelin_uite disgruntled over it. But when he heard about the _Lusitania_ he told hi_other that he understood now why God didn't answer his prayer–He was too bus_ttending to the souls of all the people who went down on the _Lusitania._hat child's brain is a hundred years older than his body, Mrs. Dr. dear. A_or the _Lusitania_. it is an awful occurrence, whatever way you look at it.
  • But Woodrow Wilson is going to write a note about it, so why worry? A prett_resident!" and Susan banged her pots about wrathfully. President Wilson wa_apidly becoming anathema in Susan's kitchen.
  • Mary Vance dropped in one evening to tell the Ingleside folks that she ha_ithdrawn all opposition to Miller Douglas's enlisting.
  • "This _Lusitania_ business was too much for me," said Mary brusquely. "Whe_he Kaiser takes to drowning innocent babies it's high time somebody told hi_here he gets off at. This thing must be fought to a finish. It's been soakin_nto my mind slow but I'm on now. So I up and told Miller he could go as fa_s I was concerned. Old Kitty Alec won't be converted though. If every ship i_he world was submarined and every baby drowned, Kitty wouldn't turn a hair.
  • But I flatter myself that it was _me_ kept Miller back all along and not th_air Kitty. I may have deceived myself–but we shall see."
  • They did see. The next Sunday Miller Douglas walked into the Glen Churc_eside Mary Vance in khaki. And Mary was so proud of him that her white eye_airly blazed. Joe Milgrave, back under the gallery, looked at Miller and Mar_nd then at Miranda Pryor, and sighed so heavily that every one within _adius of three pews heard him and knew what his trouble was. Walter Blyth_id not sigh. But Rilla, scanning his face anxiously, saw a look that cut int_er heart. It haunted her for the next week and made an undercurrent o_oreness in her soul, which was externally being harrowed up by the nea_pproach of the Red Cross concert and the worries connected therewith. Th_eese cold had not developed into whooping-cough, so that tangle wa_traightened out. But other things were hanging in the balance; and on th_ery day before the concert came a regretful letter from Mrs. Channing sayin_hat she could not come to sing. Her son, who was in Kingsport with hi_egiment, was seriously ill with pneumonia, and she must go to him at once.
  • The members of the concert committee looked at each other in blank dismay.
  • What was to be done?
  • "This comes of depending on outside help," said Olive Kirk, disagreeably.
  • "We must do something," said Rilla, too desperate to care for Olive's manner.
  • "We've advertised the concert everywhere–and crowds are coming–there's even _ig party coming out from town–and we were short enough of music as it was. W_must_ get some one to sing in Mrs. Channing's place."
  • "I don't know who you can get at this late date," said Olive. "Irene Howar_ould do it; but it is not likely she will after the way she was insulted b_ur society."
  • "How did our society insult her?" asked Rilla, in what she called her "cold- pale tone." Its coldness and pallor did not daunt Olive.
  • "You insulted her," she answered sharply. "Irene told me all about it–she wa_iterally _heart-broken._ You told her never to speak to you again–and Iren_old me she simply could not imagine what she had said or done to deserve suc_reatment. That was why she never came to our meetings again but joined i_ith the Lowbridge Red Cross. I do not blame her in the least, and I, for one, will not ask her to _lower herself_ by helping us out of this scrape."
  • "You don't expect _me_ to ask her?" giggled Amy MacAllister, the other membe_f the committee. "Irene and I haven't spoken for a hundred years. Irene i_lways getting 'insulted' by somebody. But she _is_ a lovely singer, I'l_dmit that, and people would just as soon hear her as Mrs. Channing."
  • "It wouldn't do any good if _you_ did ask her," said Olive significantly.
  • "Soon after we began planning this concert, back in April, I met Irene in tow_ne day and asked her if she wouldn't help us out. She said she'd love to bu_he really didn't see how she could when Rilla Blythe was running th_rogramme, after the strange way Rilla had behaved to her. So there it is an_ere we are, and a nice failure our concert will be."
  • Rilla went home and shut herself up in her room, her soul in a turmoil. Sh_ould not humiliate herself by apologizing to Irene Howard! Irene had been a_uch in the wrong as she had been; and she had told such mean, distorte_ersions of their quarrel everywhere, posing as a puzzled, injured martyr.
  • Rilla could never bring herself to tell _her_ side of it. The fact that a slu_t Walter was mixed up in it tied her tongue. So most people believed tha_rene had been badly used, except a few girls who had never liked her an_ided with Rilla. And yet–the concert over which she had worked so hard wa_oing to be a failure. Mrs. Channing's four solos were the feature of th_hole programme.
  • "Miss Oliver, what do you think about it?" she asked in desperation.
  • "I think Irene is the one who should apologize," said Miss Oliver. "Bu_nfortunately my opinion will not fill the blanks in your programme."
  • "If I went and apologized meekly to Irene she would sing, I am sure," sighe_illa. "She really loves to sing in public. But I know she'll be nasty abou_t–I feel I'd rather do _anything_ than go. I suppose I _should_ go–if Jem an_erry can face the Huns surely I can face Irene Howard, and swallow my prid_o ask a favour of her for the good of the Belgians. Just at present I fee_hat I _cannot_ do it but for all that I have a presentiment that after suppe_ou'll see me meekly trotting through Rainbow Valley on my way to the Uppe_len Road."
  • Rilla's presentiment proved correct. After supper she dressed hersel_arefully in her blue, beaded crepe–for vanity is harder to quell than prid_nd Irene always saw any flaw or shortcoming in another girl's appearance.
  • Besides, as Rilla had told her mother one day when she was nine years old, "I_s easier to behave nicely when you have your good clothes on."
  • Rilla did her hair very becomingly and donned a long raincoat for fear of _hower. But all the while her thoughts were concerned with the comin_istasteful interview, and she kept rehearsing mentally her part in it. Sh_ished it were over–she wished she had never tried to get up a Belgian Relie_oncert–she wished she had not quarreled with Irene. After all, disdainfu_ilence would have been much more effective in meeting the slur upon Walter.
  • It was foolish and childish to fly out as she had done–well, she would b_iser in the future, but meanwhile a large and very unpalatable slice o_umble pie had to be eaten, and Rilla Blythe was no fonder of that wholesom_rticle of diet than the rest of us.
  • By sunset she was at the door of the Howard house–a pretentious abode, wit_hite scroll-work round the eaves and an eruption of bay-windows on all it_ides. Mrs. Howard, a plump, voluble dame, met Rilla gushingly and left her i_he parlour while she went to call Irene. Rilla threw off her rain-coat an_ooked at herself critically in the mirror over the mantel. Hair, hat, an_ress were satisfactory–nothing there for Miss Irene to make fun of. Rill_emembered how clever and amusing she used to think Irene's biting littl_omments about other girls. Well, it had come home to her now.
  • Presently, Irene skimmed down, elegantly gowned, with her pale, straw-coloure_air done in the latest and most extreme fashion, and an over-lusciou_tmosphere of perfume enveloping her.
  • "Why how do you do, Miss Blythe?" she said sweetly. "This is a very unexpecte_leasure."
  • Rilla had risen to take Irene's chilly finger-tips and now, as she sat dow_gain, she saw something that temporarily stunned her. Irene saw it too, a_he sat down, and a little amused, impertinent smile appeared on her lips an_overed there during the rest of the interview.
  • On one of Rilla's feet was a smart little steel-buckled shoe and a filmy blu_ilk stocking. The other was clad in a stout and rather shabby boot and blac_isle!
  • Poor Rilla! She had changed, or begun to change her boots and stockings afte_he had put on her dress. _This_ was the result of doing one thing with you_ands and another with your brain. Oh, what a ridiculous position to be in–an_efore Irene Howard of all people–Irene, who was staring at Rilla's feet as i_he had never seen feet before! And once she had thought Irene's manne_erfection! Everything that Rilla had prepared to say vanished from he_emory. Vainly trying to tuck her unlucky foot under her chair, she blurte_ut a blunt statement.
  • "I have come to athk a favour of you, Irene."
  • There–lisping! Oh, she had been prepared for humiliation but not to thi_xtent! Really, there were limits!
  • "Yes?" said Irene in a cool, questioning tone, lifting her shallowly-set, insolent eyes to Rilla's crimson face for a moment and then dropping the_gain as if she could not tear them from their fascinated gaze at the shabb_oot and the gallant shoe.
  • Rilla gathered herself together. She would _not_ lisp– she _would_ be calm an_omposed.
  • "Mrs. Channing cannot come because her son is ill in Kingsport, and I hav_ome on behalf of the committee to ask you if you will be so kind as to sin_or us in her place." Rilla enunciated every word so precisely and carefull_hat she seemed to be reciting a lesson.
  • "It's something of a fiddler's invitation, isn't it?" said Irene, with one o_er disagreeable smiles.
  • "Olive Kirk asked you to help when we first thought of the concert and yo_efused," said Rilla.
  • "Why, I could hardly help–then–could I?" asked Irene plaintively. "After yo_rdered me never to speak to you again? It would have been very awkward for u_oth, don't you think?"
  • Now for the humble pie.
  • "I want to apologize to you for saying that, Irene." said Rilla steadily. "_hould not have said it and I have been very sorry ever since. Will yo_orgive me?"
  • "And sing at your concert?" said Irene sweetly and insultingly.
  • "If you mean," said Rilla miserably, "that I would _not_ be apologizing to yo_f it were not for the concert perhaps that is true. But it is also true tha_ have felt ever since it happened that I should not have said what I did an_hat I have been sorry for it all winter. That is all I can say. If you fee_ou can't forgive me I suppose there is nothing more to be said."
  • "Oh, Rilla dear, don't snap me up like that," pleaded Irene. "Of course I'l_orgive you–though I did feel awfully about it–how awfully I hope you'll neve_now. I cried for _weeks_ over it. And I hadn't said or done a thing!"
  • Rilla choked back a retort. After all, there was no use in arguing with Irene, and the Belgians were starving.
  • "Don't you think you can help us with the concert," she forced herself to say.
  • Oh, if only Irene would stop looking at that boot! Rilla could just _hear_ he_iving Olive Kirk an account of it.
  • "I don't see how I really can at the last moment like this," protested Irene.
  • "There isn't time to learn anything new."
  • "Oh, you have lots of lovely songs that nobody in the Glen ever heard before,"
  • said Rilla, who knew Irene had been going to town all winter for lessons an_hat this was only a pretext. "They will all be new down there."
  • "But I have no accompanist," protested Irene.
  • "Una Meredith can accompany you," said Rilla.
  • "Oh, I couldn't ask _her_ ," sighed Irene. "We haven't spoken since last fall.
  • She was so hateful to me the time of our Sunday-school concert that I simpl_ad to give her up."
  • Dear, dear, was Irene at feud with everybody? As for Una Meredith bein_ateful to anybody, the idea was so farcical that Rilla had much ado to kee_rom laughing in Irene's very face.
  • "Miss Oliver is a beautiful pianist and can play any accompaniment at sight,"
  • said Rilla desperately. "She will play for you and you could run over you_ongs easily tomorrow evening at Ingleside before the concert."
  • "But I haven't anything to wear. My new evening-dress isn't home fro_harlottetown yet, and I simply cannot wear my old one at such a big affair.
  • It is too shabby and old-fashioned."
  • "Our concert," said Rilla slowly, "is in aid of Belgian children who ar_tarving to death. Don't you think you could wear a shabby dress once fo_heir sake, Irene?"
  • "Oh, don't you think those accounts we get of the conditions of the Belgian_re very much exaggerated?" said Irene. "I'm sure they can't be actuall_starving_ you know, in the twentieth century. The newspapers always colou_hings so highly."
  • Rilla concluded that she had humiliated herself enough. There was such a thin_s self-respect. No more coaxing, concert or no concert. She got up, boot an_ll.
  • "I am sorry you can't help us, Irene, but since you cannot we must do the bes_e can."
  • Now this did not suit Irene at all. She desired exceedingly to sing at tha_oncert, and all her hesitations were merely by way of enhancing the boon o_er final consent. Besides, she really wanted to be friends with Rilla again.
  • Rilla's whole-hearted, ungrudging adoration had been very sweet incense t_er. _And_ Ingleside was a very charming house to visit, especially when _andsome college student like Walter was home. She stopped looking at Rilla'_eet.
  • "Rilla, darling, don't be so abrupt. I really want to help you, if I ca_anage it. Just sit down and let's talk it over."
  • "I'm sorry, but I can't. I have to be home soon–Jims has to be settled for th_ight, you know."
  • "Oh, yes–the baby you are bringing up by the book. It's perfectly sweet of yo_o do it when you hate children so. How cross you were just because I kisse_im! But we'll forget all that and be chums again, won't we? Now, about th_oncert–I dare say I can run into town on the morning train after my dress, and out again on the afternoon one in plenty of time for the concert, i_ou'll ask Miss Oliver to play for me. _I_ couldn't–she's so dreadfull_aughty and supercilious that she simply paralyses poor little me."
  • Rilla did not waste time or breath defending Miss Oliver. She coolly thanke_rene, who had suddenly become very amiable and gushing, and got away. She wa_ery thankful the interview was over. But she knew now that she and Iren_ould never be the friends they had been. Friendly, yes–but _friends_ , no.
  • Nor did she wish it. All winter she had felt under her other and more seriou_orries, a little feeling of regret for her lost chum. Now it was suddenl_one. Irene was not as Mrs. Elliott would say, of the race that knew Joseph.
  • Rilla did not say or think that she had outgrown Irene. Had the though_ccurred to her she would have considered it absurd when she was not ye_eventeen and Irene was twenty. But it was the truth. Irene was just what sh_ad been a year ago–just what she would always be. Rilla Blythe's nature i_hat year had changed and matured and deepened. She found herself seein_hrough Irene with a disconcerting clearness–discerning under all he_uperficial sweetness, her pettiness, her vindictiveness, her insincerity, he_ssential cheapness. Irene had lost for ever her faithful worshipper.
  • But not until Rilla had traversed the Upper Glen Road and found herself in th_oon-dappled solitude of Rainbow Valley did she fully recover her composure o_pirit. Then she stopped under a tall wild plum that was ghostly white an_air in its misty spring bloom and laughed.
  • "There is only one thing of importance just now–and that is that the Allie_in the war," she said aloud. " _Therefore_ , it follows without dispute tha_he fact that I went to see Irene Howard with odd shoes and stockings on is o_no_ importance whatever. Nevertheless, I, Bertha Marilla Blythe, swea_olemnly with the moon as witness"–Rilla lifted her hand dramatically to th_aid moon–"that I will never leave my room again without looking carefully a_both_ my feet.
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