"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?"
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.