Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 21 "Love Affairs Are Horrible"

  • INGLESIDE
  • 20th June 1916
  • "We have been so busy, and day after day has brought such exciting news, goo_nd bad, that I haven't had time and composure to write in my diary for weeks.
  • I like to keep it up regularly, for father says a diary of the years of th_ar should be a very interesting thing to hand down to one's children. Th_rouble is, I like to write a few personal things in this blessed old boo_hat might not be exactly what I'd want my children to read. I feel that _hall be a far greater stickler for propriety in regard to them than I am fo_yself!
  • "The first week in June was another dreadful one. The Austrians seemed just o_he point of overrunning Italy: and then came the first awful news of th_attle of Jutland, which the Germans claimed as a great victory. Susan was th_nly one who carried on. 'You need never tell _me_ that the Kaiser ha_efeated the British Navy,' she said, with a contemptuous sniff. 'It is all _erman lie and that you may tie to.' And when a couple of days later we foun_ut that she was right and that it had been a British victory instead of _ritish defeat, we had to put up with a great many 'I told you so's,' but w_ndured them very comfortably.
  • "It took Kitchener's death to finish Susan. For the first time I saw her dow_nd out. We all felt the shock of it but Susan plumbed the depths of despair.
  • The news came at night by 'phone but Susan wouldn't believe it until she sa_he _Enterprise_ headline the next day. She did not cry or faint or go int_ysterics; but she forgot to put salt in the soup, and that is something Susa_ever did in my recollection. Mother and Miss Oliver and I cried but Susa_ooked at us in stony sarcasm and said, 'The Kaiser and his six sons are al_live and thriving. So the world is not left wholly desolate. Why cry, Mrs.
  • Dr. dear?' Susan continued in this stony, hopeless condition for twenty-fou_ours, and then Cousin Sophia appeared and began to condole with her.
  • "'This is terrible news, ain't it, Susan? We might as well prepare for th_orst for it is bound to come. You said once–and well do I remember the words,
  • Susan Baker–that you had complete confidence in God and Kitchener. Ah well,
  • Susan Baker, there is only God left now.'
  • "Whereat Cousin Sophia put her handkerchief to her eyes pathetically as if th_orld were indeed in terrible straits. As for Susan, Cousin Sophia was th_alvation of her. She came to life with a jerk.
  • "'Sophia Crawford, hold your peace!' she said sternly. 'You may be an idio_ut you need not be an irreverent idiot. It is no more than decent to b_eeping and wailing because the Almighty is the sole stay of the Allies now.
  • As for Kitchener, his death is a great loss and I do not dispute it. But th_utcome of this war does not depend on one man's life and now that th_ussians are coming on again you will soon see a change for the better.'
  • "Susan said this so energetically that she convinced herself and cheered u_mmediately. But Cousin Sophia shook her head.
  • "'Albert's wife wants to call the baby after Brusiloff,' she said, 'but I tol_er to wait and see what becomes of him first. Them Russians has such a habi_f petering out.'
  • "The Russians are doing splendidly, however, and they have saved Italy. Bu_ven when the daily news of their sweeping advance comes we don't feel lik_unning up the flag as we used to do. As Gertrude says, Verdun has slain al_xultation. We would all feel more like rejoicing if the victories were on th_estern front. ' _When_ will the British strike?' Gertrude sighed thi_orning. 'We have waited so long–so long.'
  • "Our greatest local event in recent weeks was the route march the count_attalion made through the county before it left for overseas. They marche_rom Charlottetown to Lowbridge, then round the Harbour Head and through th_pper Glen and so down to the St. Mary station. Everybody turned out to se_hem, except old Aunt Fannie Clow, who is bedridden and Mr. Pryor, who hadn'_een seen out even in church since the night of the Union Prayer Meeting th_revious week.
  • "It was wonderful and heartbreaking to see that battalion marching past. Ther_ere young men and middle-aged men in it. There was Laurie McAllister fro_ver-harbour who is only sixteen but swore he was eighteen, so that he coul_nlist; and there was Angus Mackenzie, from the Upper Glen who is fifty-fiv_f he is a day and swore he was forty-four. There were two South Africa_eterans from Lowbridge, and the three eighteen-year-old Baxter triplets fro_arbour Head. Everybody cheered as they went by, and they cheered Foste_ooth, who is forty, walking side by side with his son Charley who is twenty.
  • Charley's mother died when he was born, and when Charley enlisted Foster sai_e'd never let Charley go anywhere he daren't go himself, and he didn't mea_o begin with the Flanders trenches. At the station Dog Monday nearly went ou_f his head. He tore about and sent messages to Jem by them all. Mr. Meredit_ead an address and Reta Crawford recited 'The Piper.' The soldiers cheere_er like mad and cried 'We'll follow–we'll follow–we won't break faith,' and _elt so proud to think that it was my dear brother who had written such _onderful, heart-stirring thing. And then I looked at the khaki ranks an_ondered if those tall fellows in uniform could be the boys I've laughed wit_nd played with and danced with and teased all my life. Something seems t_ave touched them and set them apart. They have heard the Piper's call.
  • "Fred Arnold was in the battalion and I felt dreadfully about _him_ , for _ealized that it was because of me that he was going away with such _orrowful expression. I couldn't help it but I felt as badly as if I could.
  • "The last evening of his leave Fred came up to Ingleside and told me he love_e and asked me if I would promise to marry him some day, if he ever cam_ack. He was desperately in earnest and I felt more wretched than I ever di_n my life. I _couldn't_ promise him that–why, even if there was no questio_f Ken, I don't care for Fred that way and never could–but it seemed so crue_nd heartless to send him away to the front without _any_ hope of comfort. _ried like a baby; and yet–oh, I am afraid that there must be somethin_ncurably frivolous about me, because, right in the middle of it all, with m_rying and Fred looking so wild and tragic, the thought popped into my hea_hat it would be an unendurable thing to see that nose across from me at th_reakfast table every morning of my life. There, that is one of the entries _ouldn't want my descendants to read in this journal. But it is th_umiliating truth; and perhaps it's just as well that thought did come or _ight have been tricked by pity and remorse into giving him some ras_ssurance. If Fred's nose were as handsome as his eyes and mouth some suc_hing might have happened. And _then_ what an unthinkable predicament I shoul_ave been in!
  • "When poor Fred became convinced that I couldn't promise him, he behave_eautifully–though _that_ rather made things worse. If he _had_ been nast_bout it I wouldn't have felt so heartbroken and remorseful–though why _hould feel remorseful I don't know, for I _never_ encouraged Fred to think _ared a bit about him. Yet feel remorseful I did–and do. If Fred Arnold neve_omes back from overseas, this will haunt me all my life.
  • "Then Fred said if he couldn't take my love with him to the trenches at leas_e wanted to feel that he had my friendship, and would I kiss him just once i_ood-bye before he went–perhaps for ever?
  • "I don't know how I could ever had imagined that love affairs were delightful,
  • interesting things. They are _horrible._ I couldn't even give poor heartbroke_red one little kiss, because of my promise to Ken. It seemed so _brutal._ _had_ to tell Fred that of course he would have my friendship, but that _ouldn't kiss him because I had promised somebody else I wouldn't.
  • "He said, 'It is–is it–Ken Ford?'
  • "I nodded. It seemed dreadful to have to tell it–it was such a sacred littl_ecret just between me and Ken.
  • "When Fred went away I came up here to my room and cried so long and s_itterly that mother came up and insisted on knowing what was the matter. _old her. She listened to my tale with an expression that clearly said, 'Ca_t be possible that anyone has been wanting to marry this baby?' But she wa_o nice and understanding and sympathetic, oh, just so _race-of-Josephy_ –tha_ felt indescribably comforted. Mothers are the dearest things.
  • "'But oh, mother,' I sobbed, 'he wanted me to kiss him good-bye–and _ouldn't–and that hurt me worse than all the rest.'
  • "'Well, why didn't you kiss him?' asked mother coolly. 'Considering th_ircumstances, I think you might have.'
  • "'But I couldn't, mother–I promised Ken when he went away that I wouldn't kis_anybody_ else until he came back.'
  • "This was another high explosive for poor mother. She exclaimed, with th_ueerest little catch in her voice, 'Rilla, are you engaged to Kenneth Ford?'
  • "'I–don't–know,' I sobbed.
  • "'You–don't–know?' repeated mother.
  • "Then I had to tell _her_ the whole story, too; and every time I tell it i_eems sillier and sillier to imagine that Ken meant anything serious. I fel_diotic and ashamed by the time I got through.
  • "Mother sat a little while in silence. Then she came over, sat down beside me,
  • and took me in her arms.
  • "'Don't cry, dear little Rilla-my-Rilla. You have nothing to reproach yoursel_ith in regard to Fred; and if Leslie West's son asked you to keep your lip_or him, I think you may consider yourself engaged to him. But–oh, my baby–m_ast little baby–I have lost you–the war has made a woman of you too soon.'
  • "I shall never be too much of a woman to find comfort in mother's hugs.
  • Nevertheless, when I saw Fred marching by two days later in the parade, m_eart ached unbearably.
  • "But I'm glad mother thinks I'm really engaged to Ken!"