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Chapter 18 A War- Wedding

  • "I can tell you this, Dr. dear," said Susan, pale with wrath, "that Germany i_etting to be perfectly ridiculous."
  • They were all in the big Ingleside kitchen. Susan was mixing biscuits fo_upper. Mrs. Blythe was making shortbread for Jem, and Rilla was compoundin_andy for Ken and Walter–it had once been "Walter and Ken" in her thoughts bu_omehow, quite unconsciously, this had changed until Ken's name came naturall_irst. Cousin Sophia was also there, knitting.
  • Into this peaceful scene erupted the doctor, wrathful and excited over th_urning of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. And Susan became automaticall_uite as wrathful and excited.
  • "What will those Huns do next?" she demanded. "Coming over here and burnin_our_ Parliament building! Did anyone ever _hear_ of such an outrage?"
  • "We don't know that the Germans are responsible for this," said th_octor–much as if he felt quite sure they were. "Fires _do_ start withou_heir agency sometimes. And Uncle Mark MacAllister's barn was burnt last week.
  • You can hardly accuse the Germans of that, Susan."
  • "Indeed, Dr. dear, I do not know." Susan nodded slowly and portentously.
  • "Whiskers-on-the-moon was there that very day. The fire broke out half an hou_fter he was gone. So much is a fact–but _I_ shall not accuse a Presbyteria_lder of burning anybody's barn until I have proof. However, everybody know_hat both Uncle Mark's boys have enlisted, and that Uncle Mark himself make_peeches at all the recruiting meetings. So no doubt Germany is anxious to ge_quare with him."
  • " _I_ could never speak at a recruiting meeting," said Cousin Sophia solemnly.
  • " _I_ could never reconcile it to _my_ conscience to ask another woman's so_o go, to murder and be murdered."
  • "Could you not?" said Susan. "Well, Sophia Crawford, _I_ felt as if I coul_sk anyone to go when I read last night that there were no children unde_ight years of age left alive in Poland. Think of that, Sophia Crawford"–Susa_hook a floury finger at Sophia–"not–one–child–under–eight–years–of–age!"
  • "I suppose the Germans has et 'em all," sighed Cousin Sophia.
  • "Well, no-o-o," said Susan reluctantly, as if she hated to admit that ther_as any crime the Huns couldn't be accused of. "The Germans have not turne_annibal yet– _as far as I know_. They have died of starvation and exposure, the poor little creatures. There is murdering for you, Cousin Sophia Crawford.
  • The thought of it poisons every bite and sup I take."
  • "I see that Fred Carson of Lowbridge has been awarded a Distinguished Conduc_edal," remarked the doctor, over his local paper.
  • "I heard that last week," said Susan. "He is a battalion runner and he di_omething extra brave and daring. His letter, telling his folks about it, cam_hen his old Grandmother Carson was on her dying-bed. She had only a fe_inutes more to live and the Episcopal minister, who was there, asked her i_he would not like him to pray. 'Oh yes, yes, you can pray,' she sai_mpatient-like–she was a Dean, Dr. dear, and the Deans were always high- spirited–'you can pray, but for pity's sake pray low and don't disturb me. _ant to think over this splendid news and I have not much time left to do it.'
  • That was Almira Carson all over. Fred was the apple of her eye. She wa_eventy-five years of age and had not a grey hair in her head, they tell me."
  • "By the way, that reminds me– _I_ found a grey hair this morning–my ver_irst," said Mrs. Blythe.
  • "I have noticed that grey hair for some time, Mrs. Dr. dear, but I did no_peak of it. Thought I to myself, 'She has enough to bear.' But now that yo_ave discovered it let me remind you that grey hairs are honourable."
  • "I must be getting old, Gilbert." Mrs. Blythe laughed a trifle ruefully.
  • "People are beginning to tell me I _look so young_. They never tell you tha_hen you are young. But I shall not worry over my silver thread. I never like_ed hair."
  • "Have you noticed," asked Miss Oliver, glancing up from her book, "ho_verything written before the war seems so far away now, too? One feels as i_ne was reading something as ancient as the Illiad. This poem o_ordsworth's–the Senior class have it in their entrance work–I've bee_lancing over it. Its classic calm and repose and the beauty of the lines see_o belong to another planet, and to have as little to do with the presen_orld-welter as the evening star."
  • "The only thing that I find much comfort in reading nowadays is the Bible,"
  • remarked Susan, whisking her biscuits into the oven. "There are so man_assages in it that seem to me exactly descriptive of the Huns. Old Highlan_andy declares that there is no doubt that the Kaiser is the Anti-Chris_poken of in Revelations, but I do not go as far as that. It would, in m_umble opinion, Mrs. Dr. dear, be too great an honour for him."
  • Early one morning, several days later, Miranda Pryor slipped up to Ingleside, ostensibly to get some Red Cross sewing, but in reality to talk over wit_ympathetic Rilla troubles that were past bearing alone. She brought her do_ith her–an over-fed, bandy-legged little animal very dear to her hear_ecause Joe Milgrave had given it to her when it was a puppy. Mr. Pryo_egarded all dogs with disfavour; but in those days he had looked kindly upo_oe as a suitor for Miranda's hand and so he had allowed her to keep th_uppy. Miranda was so grateful that she endeavoured to please her father b_aming her dog after his political idol, the great Liberal chieftain, Si_ilfrid Laurier–though his title was soon abbreviated to Wilfy. Sir Wilfri_rew and flourished and waxed fat; but Miranda spoiled him absurdly and nobod_lse liked him. Rilla especially hated him because of his detestable trick o_ying flat on his back and entreating you with waving paws to tickle his slee_tomach. When she saw that Miranda's pale eyes bore unmistakable testimony o_er having cried all night, Rilla asked her to come up to her room, knowin_iranda had a tale of woe to tell, but she ordered Sir Wilfrid to remai_elow.
  • "Oh, can't he come, too?" said Miranda wistfully. "Poor Wilfy won't be an_other–and I wiped his paws _so_ carefully before I brought him in. He i_lways so lonesome in a strange place without me–and very soon he'l_e–all–I'll have left–to remind me–of Joe."
  • Rilla yielded, and Sir Wilfrid, with his tail curled at a saucy angle over hi_rindled back, trotted triumphantly up the stairs before them.
  • "Oh, Rilla," sobbed Miranda, when they had reached sanctuary. "I'm _so_nhappy. I can't begin to tell you how unhappy I am. Truly, my heart i_reaking."
  • Rilla sat down on the lounge beside her. Sir Wilfrid squatted on his haunche_efore them, with his impertinent pink tongue stuck out, and listened.
  • "What is the trouble, Miranda?"
  • "Joe is coming home tonight on his last leave. I had a letter from him o_aturday–he sends my letters in care of Bob Crawford, you know, because o_ather–and, oh, Rilla, he will only have four days–he has to go away Frida_orning–and I may never see him again."
  • "Does he still want you to marry him?" asked Rilla.
  • "Oh, yes. He _implored_ me in his letter to run away and be married. But _annot do that, Rilla, not even for Joe. My only comfort is that I will b_ble to see him for a little while tomorrow afternoon. Father has to go t_harlottetown on business. At least we will have one good farewell talk. Bu_h–afterwards–why, Rilla, I know father won't even let me go to the statio_riday morning to see Joe off."
  • "Why in the world don't you and Joe get married tomorrow afternoon at home?"
  • demanded Rilla.
  • Miranda swallowed a sob in such amazement that she almost choked.
  • "Why–why–that is impossible, Rilla."
  • "Why?" briefly demanded the organizer of the Junior Red Cross and th_ransporter of babies in soup tureens.
  • "Why–why–we never thought of such a thing–Joe hasn't a license–I have n_ress–I couldn't be married in _black_ –I–I–we–you–you—" Miranda lost hersel_ltogether and Sir Wilfrid, seeing that she was in dire distress threw bac_is head and emitted a melancholy yelp.
  • Rilla Blythe thought hard and rapidly for a few minutes. Then she said,
  • "Miranda, if you will put yourself into my hands I'll have you married to Jo_efore four o'clock tomorrow afternoon."
  • "Oh, you couldn't."
  • "I can and I will. But you'll have to do exactly as I tell you."
  • "Oh–I–don't think–oh, father will kill me–"
  • "Nonsense. He'll be very angry I suppose. But are you more afraid of you_ather's anger than you are of Joe's never coming back to you?"
  • "No," said Miranda, with sudden firmness, "I'm not."
  • "Will you do as I tell you then?"
  • "Yes, I will."
  • "Then get Joe on the long-distance at once and tell him to bring out a licens_nd ring tonight."
  • "Oh, I couldn't," wailed the aghast Miranda, "it–it would be so–s_indelicate._ "
  • Rilla shut her little white teeth together with a snap. "Heaven grant m_atience," she said under her breath. "I'll do it then," she said aloud, "an_eanwhile, you go home and make what preparations you can. When I 'phone dow_o you to come up and help me sew come at once."
  • As soon as Miranda, pallid, scared, but desperately resolved, had gone, Rill_lew to the telephone and put in a long-distance call for Charlottetown. Sh_ot through with such surprising quickness that she was convinced Providenc_pproved of her undertaking, but it was a good hour before she could get i_ouch with Joe Milgrave at his camp. Meanwhile, she paced impatiently about, and prayed that when she did get Joe there would be no listeners on the lin_o carry news to Whiskers-on-the-moon.
  • "Is that you, Joe? Rilla Blythe is speaking–Rilla–Rilla–oh, never mind. Liste_o this. Before you come home tonight get a marriage license–a marriag_icense–yes, a marriage license–and a wedding-ring. Did you get that? And wil_ou do it? Very well, be sure you do it–it is your only chance."
  • Flushed with triumph–for her only fear was that she might not be able t_ocate Joe in time–Rilla rang the Pryor ring. This time she had not such goo_uck for she drew Whiskers-on-the-moon.
  • "Is that Miranda? _Oh_ –Mr. Pryor! Well, Mr. Pryor, will you kindly as_iranda if she can come up this afternoon and help me with some sewing. It i_ery important, or I would not trouble her. Oh– _thank_ you."
  • Mr. Pryor had consented somewhat grumpily, but he had consented–he did no_ant to offend Dr. Blythe, and he knew that if he refused to allow Miranda t_o any Red Cross work public opinion would make the Glen too hot for comfort.
  • Rilla went out to the kitchen, shut all the doors with a mysterious expressio_hich alarmed Susan, and then said solemnly, "Susan can you make a wedding- cake this afternoon?"
  • "A wedding-cake!" Susan stared. Rilla had, without any warning, brought her _ar-baby once upon a time. Was she now, with equal suddenness, going t_roduce a husband?
  • "Yes, a wedding-cake–a scrumptious wedding-cake, Susan–a beautiful, plummy, eggy, citron-peely wedding-cake. And we must make other things too. I'll hel_ou in the morning. But I can't help you in the afternoon for I have to make _edding-dress and time is the essence of the contract, Susan."
  • Susan felt that she was really too old to be subjected to such shocks.
  • "Who are you going to marry, Rilla?" she asked feebly.
  • "Susan, darling, _I_ am not the happy bride. Miranda Pryor is going to marr_oe Milgrave tomorrow afternoon while her father is away in town. A war- wedding, Susan–isn't that thrilling and romantic? I never was so excited in m_ife."
  • The excitement soon spread over Ingleside, infecting even Mrs. Blythe an_usan.
  • "I'll go to work on that cake at once," vowed Susan, with a glance at th_lock. "Mrs. Dr. dear, will you pick over the fruit and beat up the eggs? I_ou will I can have that cake ready for the oven by the evening. Tomorro_orning we can make salads and other things. I will work all night i_ecessary to get the better of Whiskers-on-the-moon."
  • Miranda arrived, tearful and breathless.
  • "We must fix over my white dress for you to wear," said Rilla. "It will fi_ou very nicely with a little alteration."
  • To work went the two girls, ripping, fitting, basting, sewing for dear life.
  • By dint of unceasing effort they got the dress done by seven o'clock an_iranda tried it on in Rilla's room.
  • "It's very pretty–but oh, if I could just have a veil," sighed Miranda. "I'v_lways dreamed of being married in a lovely white veil."
  • Some good fairy evidently waits on the wishes of war-brides. The door opene_nd Mrs. Blythe came in, her arms full of a filmy burden.
  • "Miranda dear," she said, "I want you to wear my wedding-veil tomorrow. It i_wenty-four years since I was a bride at old Green Gables–the happiest brid_hat ever was–and the wedding-veil of a happy bride brings good luck, the_ay."
  • "Oh, how sweet of you, Mrs. Blythe," said Miranda, the ready tears starting t_er eyes.
  • The veil was tried on and draped. Susan dropped in to approve but dared no_inger.
  • "I've got that cake in the oven," she said, "and I am pursuing a policy o_atchful waiting. The evening news is that the Grand Duke has capture_rzerum. That is a pill for the Turks. I wish I had a chance to tell the Cza_ust what a mistake he made when he turned Nicholas down."
  • Susan disappeared downstairs to the kitchen, whence a dreadful thud and _iercing shriek presently sounded. Everybody rushed to the kitchen–the docto_nd Miss Oliver, Mrs. Blythe, Rilla, Miranda in her wedding-veil. Susan wa_itting flatly in the middle of the kitchen floor with a dazed, bewildere_ook on her face, while Doc, evidently in his Hyde incarnation, was standin_n the dresser, with his back up, his eyes blazing, and his tail the size o_hree tails.
  • "Susan, what has happened?" cried Mrs. Blythe in alarm. "Did you fall? Are yo_urt?"
  • Susan picked herself up.
  • "No," she said grimly, "I am not hurt, though I am jarred all over. Do not b_larmed. As for what has happened–I tried to kick that darned cat with bot_eet, that is what happened."
  • Everybody shrieked with laughter. The doctor was quite helpless.
  • "Oh, Susan, Susan," he gasped. "That I should live to hear _you_ swear."
  • "I am sorry," said Susan in real distress, "that I used such an expressio_efore two young girls. But I said that beast was darned, and darned it is. I_elongs to Old Nick."
  • "Do you expect it will vanish some of these days with a bang and the odour o_rimstone, Susan?"
  • "It will go to its own place in due time and that you may tie to," said Susa_ourly, shaking out her raddled bones and going to her oven. "I suppose m_lunking down like that has shaken my cake so that it will be as heavy a_ead."
  • But the cake was not heavy. It was all a bride's cake should be, and Susa_ced it beautifully. Next day she and Rilla worked all the forenoon, makin_elicacies for the wedding-feast, and as soon as Miranda phoned up that he_ather was safely off everything was packed in a big hamper and taken down t_he Pryor house. Joe soon arrived in his uniform and a state of violen_xcitement, accompanied by his best man, Sergeant Malcolm Crawford. There wer_uite a few guests, for all the Manse and Ingleside folk were there, and _ozen or so of Joe's relatives, including his mother, "Mrs. Dead Angu_ilgrave," so called, cheerfully, to distinguish her from another lady whos_ngus was living. Mrs. Dead Angus wore a rather disapproving expression, no_aring over-much for this alliance with the house of Whiskers-on-the-moon.
  • So Miranda Pryor was married to Private Joseph Milgrave on his last leave. I_hould have been a romantic wedding but it was not. There were too man_actors working against romance, as even Rilla had to admit. In the firs_lace, Miranda, in spite of her dress and veil, was such a flat-faced, commonplace, uninteresting little bride. In the second place, Joe crie_itterly all through the ceremony, and this vexed Miranda unreasonably. Lon_fterwards she told Rilla, "I just felt like saying to him then and there, 'I_ou feel so bad over having to marry me you don't have to.' But it was jus_ecause he was thinking all the time of how soon he would have to leave me."
  • In the third place, Jims, who was usually so well-behaved in public, took _it of shyness and contrariness combined and began to cry at the top of hi_oice for "Willa." Nobody wanted to take him out, because everybody wanted t_ee the marriage, so Rilla who was a bridesmaid, had to take him and hold hi_uring the ceremony.
  • In the fourth place, Sir Wilfrid Laurier took a fit.
  • Sir Wilfrid was entrenched in a corner of the room behind Miranda's piano.
  • During his seizure he made the weirdest, most unearthly noises. He would begi_ith a series of choking, spasmodic sounds, continuing into a gruesome gurgle, and ending up with a strangled howl. Nobody could hear a word Mr. Meredith wa_aying, except now and then, when Sir Wilfrid stopped for breath. Nobod_ooked at the bride except Susan, who never dragged her fascinated eyes fro_iranda's face–all the others were gazing at the dog. Miranda had bee_rembling with nervousness but as soon as Sir Wilfrid began his performanc_he forgot it. All that she could think of was that her dear dog was dying an_he could not go to him. She never remembered a word of the ceremony.
  • Rilla, who in spite of Jims, had been trying her best to look rapt an_omantic, as beseemed a war bridesmaid, gave up the hopeless attempt, an_evoted her energies to choking down untimely merriment. She dared not look a_nybody in the room, especially Mrs. Dead Angus, for fear all her suppresse_irth should suddenly explode in a most un-young-ladylike yell of laughter.
  • But married they were, and then they had a wedding-supper in the dining-roo_hich was so lavish and bountiful that you would have thought it was th_roduct of a month's labour. Everybody had brought something. Mrs. Dead Angu_ad brought a large apple-pie, which she placed on a chair in the dining-roo_nd then absently sat down on it. Neither her temper nor her black sil_edding garment was improved thereby, but the pie was never missed at the ga_ridal feast. Mrs. Dead Angus eventually took it home with her again.
  • Whiskers-on-the-moon's pacifist pig should not get it, anyhow.
  • That evening Mr. and Mrs. Joe, accompanied by the recovered Sir Wilfrid, departed for the Four Winds Lighthouse, which was kept by Joe's uncle and i_hich they meant to spend their brief honeymoon. Una Meredith and Rilla an_usan washed the dishes, tidied up, left a cold supper and Miranda's pitifu_ittle note on the table for Mr. Pryor, and walked home, while the mystic vei_f dreamy, haunted winter twilight wrapped itself over the Glen.
  • "I would really not have minded being a war-bride myself," remarked Susa_entimentally.
  • But Rilla felt rather flat–perhaps as a reaction to all the excitement an_ush of the past thirty-six hours. She was disappointed somehow–the whol_ffair had been so ludicrous, and Miranda and Joe so lachrymose an_ommonplace.
  • "If Miranda hadn't given that wretched dog such an enormous dinner he wouldn'_ave had that fit," she said crossly. "I warned her–but she said she couldn'_tarve the poor dog–he would soon be all she had left, etc. I could hav_haken her."
  • "The best man was more excited than Joe was," said Susan. "He wished Mirand_any happy returns of the day. She did not look very happy, but perhaps yo_ould not expect that under the circumstances."
  • "Anyhow," thought Rilla, "I can write a perfectly killing account of it all t_he boys. How Jem will howl over Sir Wilfrid's part in it!"
  • But if Rilla was rather disappointed in the war wedding she found nothin_acking on Friday morning when Miranda said good-bye to her bridegroom at th_len station. The dawn was white as a pearl, clear as a diamond. Behind th_tation the balsamy copse of young firs was frost-misted. The cold moon o_awn hung over the westering snow fields but the golden fleeces of sunris_hone above the maples up at Ingleside. Joe took his pale little bride in hi_rms and she lifted her face to his. Rilla choked suddenly. It did not matte_hat Miranda was insignificant and commonplace and flat-featured. It did no_atter that she was the daughter of Whiskers-on-the-moon. All that mattere_as that rapt, sacrificial look in her eyes–that ever-burning, sacred fire o_evotion and loyalty and fine courage that she was mutely promising Joe sh_nd thousands of other women would keep alive at home while their men held th_estern front.
  • Rilla walked away, realising that she must not spy on such a moment. She wen_own to the end of the platform where Sir Wilfrid and Dog Monday were sitting, looking at each other.
  • Sir Wilfrid remarked condescendingly:
  • "Why do you haunt this old shed when you might lie on the hearthrug a_ngleside and live on the fat of the land? Is it a pose? Or a fixed idea?"
  • Whereat Dog Monday, laconically: "I have a tryst to keep."
  • When the train had gone Rilla rejoined the little trembling Miranda.
  • "Well, he's gone," said Miranda, "and he may never come back–but I'm his wife, and I'm going to be worthy of him. I'm going home."
  • "Don't you think you had better come with me now?" asked Rilla doubtfully.
  • Nobody knew yet how Mr. Pryor had taken the matter.
  • "No. If Joe can face the Huns I guess I can face father," said Mirand_aringly. "A soldier's wife can't be a coward. Come on, Wilfy. I'll g_traight home and meet the worst."
  • There was nothing very dreadful to face, however. Perhaps Mr. Pryor ha_eflected that housekeepers were hard to get and that there were many Milgrav_omes open to Miranda–also, that there was such a thing as a separatio_llowance. At all events, though he told her grumpily that she had made a nic_ool of herself, and would live to regret it, he said nothing worse, and Mrs.
  • Joe put on her apron and went to work as usual, while Sir Wilfrid Laurier, wh_ad a poor opinion of lighthouses for winter residences, went to sleep in hi_et nook behind the woodbox, a thankful dog that he was done with war- weddings.