"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!"