Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 32 Word From Jem

  • _4th August 1918_
  • "It is four years tonight since the dance at the lighthouse–four years of war.
  • It seems like three times four. I was fifteen then. I am nineteen now. _xpected that these past four years would be the most delightful years of m_ife and they have been years of war–years of fear and grief and worry–but _umbly hope, of a little growth in strength and character as well.
  • "Today I was going through the hall and I heard mother saying something t_ather about me. I didn't mean to listen–I couldn't help hearing her as I wen_long the hall and upstairs–so perhaps that is why I heard what listeners ar_aid never to hear–something good of myself. And because it was mother wh_aid it I'm going to write it here in my journal, for my comforting when day_f discouragement come upon me, in which I feel that I am vain and selfish an_eak and that there is no good thing in me.
  • "'Rilla has developed in a wonderful fashion these past four years. She use_o be such an irresponsible young creature. She has changed into a capable, womanly girl and she is such a comfort to me. Nan and Di have grown a littl_way from me–they have been so little at home–but Rilla has grown closer an_loser to me. We are _chums_. I don't see how I could have got through thes_errible years without her, Gilbert.'
  • "There, that is just what mother said–and I feel glad–and sorry–and proud–an_umble! It's beautiful to have my mother think that about me–but I don'_eserve it quite. I'm not as good and strong as all that. There are heaps o_imes when I have felt cross and impatient and woeful and despairing. It i_other and Susan who have been this family's backbone. But I have helped _ittle, I believe, and I am so glad and thankful.
  • "The war news has been good right along. The French and Americans are pushin_he Germans back and back and back. Sometimes I am afraid it is too good t_ast–after nearly four years of disasters one has a feeling that this constan_uccess is unbelievable. We don't rejoice noisily over it. Susan keeps th_lag up but we go softly. The price paid has been too high for jubilation. W_re just thankful that it has not been paid in vain.
  • "No word has come from Jem. We hope–because we dare not do anything else. Bu_here are hours when we _all_ feel–though we never say so–that such hoping i_oolishness. These hours come more and more frequently as the weeks go by. An_e may never _know_. That is the most terrible thought of all. I wonder ho_aith is bearing it. To judge from her letters she has never for a momen_iven up hope, but she must have had her dark hours of doubt like the rest o_s."
  • _20th August 1918_
  • "The Canadians have been in action again and Mr. Meredith had a cable toda_aying that Carl had been slightly wounded and is in the hospital. It did no_ay where the wound was, which is unusual, and we all feel worried.
  • "There is news of a fresh victory every day now."
  • _30th August 1918_
  • "The Merediths had a letter from Carl today. His wound was "only a sligh_ne"–but it was in his right eye and the sight is gone for ever!
  • "'One eye is enough to watch bugs with,' Carl writes cheerfully. And we kno_t might have been oh so much worse! If it had been both eyes! But I cried al_he afternoon after I saw Carl's letter. Those beautiful, fearless blue eye_f his!
  • "There is one comfort–he will not have to go back to the front. He is comin_ome as soon as he is out of the hospital–the first of our boys to return.
  • When will the others come?
  • "And there is one who will never come. At least we will not see him if h_oes. But, oh, I think he will be there–when our Canadian soldiers retur_here will be a shadow army with them–the army of the fallen. We will no_see_ them–but they will be there!"
  • _1st September 1918_
  • "Mother and I went into Charlottetown yesterday to see the moving picture,
  • 'Hearts of the World.' I made an awful goose of myself–father will never sto_easing me about it for the rest of my life. But it all seemed so horribl_real_ –and I was so intensely interested that I forgot _everything_ but th_cenes I saw enacted before my eyes. And then, quite near the last came _erribly exciting one. The heroine was struggling with a horrible Germa_oldier who was trying to drag her away. I _knew_ she had a knife–I had see_er hide it, to have it in readiness–and I couldn't understand _why_ sh_idn't produce it and finish the brute. I thought _she must have forgotten it_ , and just at the tensest moment of the scene I lost my head altogether. _ust stood right up on my feet in that crowded house and shrieked at the to_f my voice– _'The knife is in your stocking–the knife is in your stocking!'_
  • "I created a sensation! The funny part was, that just as I said it, the gir_did_ snatch out the knife and stab the soldier with it!
  • "Everybody in the house laughed. I came to my senses and fell back in my seat, overcome with mortification. Mother was shaking with laughter. _I_ could hav_haken _her_. Why hadn't she pulled me down and choked me before I had mad_uch an idiot of myself. She protests that there wasn't time.
  • "Fortunately the house was dark, and I don't believe there was anybody ther_ho knew me. And I thought I was becoming sensible and self-controlled an_omanly! It is plain I have some distance to go yet before I attain tha_evoutly desired consummation."
  • _20th September 1918_
  • "In the east Bulgaria has asked for peace, and in the west the British hav_mashed the Hindenburg line; and right here in Glen St. Mary little Bruc_eredith has done something that I think wonderful–wonderful because of th_ove behind it. Mrs. Meredith was here tonight and told us about it–and mothe_nd I cried, and Susan got up and clattered the things about the stove.
  • "Bruce always loved Jem very devotedly, and the child has never forgotten hi_n all these years. He has been as faithful in his way as Dog Monday was i_is. We have always told him that Jem would come back. But it seems that h_as in Carter Flagg's store last night and he heard his Uncle Norman flatl_eclaring that Jem Blythe would never come back and that the Ingleside fol_ight as well give up hoping he would. Bruce went home and cried himself t_leep. This morning his mother saw him going out of the yard, with a ver_orrowful and determined look, carrying his pet kitten. She didn't think muc_ore about it until later on he came in, with the most tragic little face, an_old her, his little body shaking with sobs, that he had drowned Stripey.
  • "'Why did you do that?' Mrs. Meredith exclaimed.
  • "'To bring Jem back,' sobbed Bruce. 'I thought if I sacrificed Stripey Go_ould send Jem back. So I drownded him–and, oh mother, it was _awful_ hard–bu_urely God will send Jem back now, 'cause Stripey was the dearest thing I had.
  • I just told God I would give Him Stripey if He would send Jem back. And H_ill, won't He, mother?'
  • "Mrs. Meredith didn't know what to say to the poor child. She just could _not_ell him that perhaps his sacrifice wouldn't bring Jem back–that God didn'_ork that way. She told him that he mustn't expect it right away–that perhap_t would be quite a long time yet before Jem came back.
  • "But Bruce said, 'It oughtn't to take longer'n a week, mother. Oh, mother, Stripey was such a nice little cat. He purred so pretty. Don't you think Go_ought_ to like him enough to let us have Jem?"
  • "Mr. Meredith is worried about the effect on Bruce's faith in God, and Mrs.
  • Meredith is worried about the effect on Bruce himself if his hope isn'_ulfilled. And I feel as if I must cry every time I think of it. It was s_plendid–and sad–and beautiful. The dear devoted little fellow! He worshippe_hat kitten. And if it all goes for nothing–as so many sacrifices _seem_ to g_or nothing–he will be brokenhearted, for he isn't old enough to understan_hat God doesn't answer our prayers just as we hope–and doesn't make bargain_ith us when we yield something we love up to Him"
  • _24th September 1918_
  • "I have been kneeling at my window in the moonshine for a long time, jus_hanking God over and over again. The joy of last night and today has been s_reat that it seemed half pain–as if our hearts weren't big enough to hold it.
  • "Last night I was sitting here in my room at eleven o'clock writing a lette_o Shirley. Every one else was in bed, except father, who was out. I heard th_elephone ring and I ran out to the hall to answer it, before it should wake_other. It was long-distance calling, and when I answered it said 'This is th_elegraph Company's office in Charlottetown. There is an overseas cable fo_r. Blythe.'
  • "I thought of Shirley–my heart stood still–and then I heard him saying, 'It'_rom Holland.'
  • "The message was,
  • "'Just arrived. Escaped from Germany. Quite well. Writing. James Blythe.'
  • "I didn't faint or fall or scream. I didn't feel glad or surprised. I didn'_eel _anything_. I felt numb, just as I did when I heard Walter had enlisted.
  • I hung up the receiver and turned round. Mother was standing in her doorway.
  • She wore her old rose kimono, and her hair was hanging down her back in a lon_hick braid, and her eyes were shining. She looked just like a young girl.
  • "'There is word from Jem?' she said.
  • "How did she know? I hadn't said a word at the phone except 'Yes–yes–yes.' Sh_ays she doesn't know how she knew, but she _did_ know. She was awake and sh_eard the ring and she knew that there was word from Jem.
  • "'He's alive–he's well–he's in Holland,' I said.
  • "Mother came out into the hall and said, 'I must get your father on the 'phon_nd tell him. He is in the Upper Glen.'
  • "She was very calm and quiet–not a bit like I would have expected her to be.
  • But then I wasn't either. I went and woke up Gertrude and Susan and told them.
  • Susan said 'Thank God,' firstly, and secondly she said 'Did I not tell you Do_onday knew?' and thirdly, 'I'll go down and make a cup of tea'–and sh_talked down in her nightdress to make it. She did make it–and made mother an_ertrude drink it–but I went back to my room and shut my door and locked it, and I knelt by my window and cried–just as Gertrude did when her great new_ame.
  • "I think I know at last exactly what I shall feel like on the resurrectio_orning."
  • _4th October 1918_
  • "Today Jem's letter came. It has been in the house only six hours and it i_lmost read to pieces. The post-mistress told everybody in the Glen it ha_ome, and everybody came up to hear the news.
  • "Jem was badly wounded in the thigh–and he was picked up and taken to prison, so delirious with fever that he didn't know what was happening to him or wher_e was. It was weeks before he came to his senses and was able to write. The_e did write–but it never came. He wasn't treated at all badly at hi_amp–only the food was poor. He had nothing to eat but a little black brea_nd boiled turnips and now and then a little soup with black peas in it. An_e sat down every one of those days to three good square luxurious meals! H_rote us as often as he could but he was afraid we were not getting hi_etters because no reply came. As soon as he was strong enough he tried t_scape, but was caught and brought back; a month later he and a comrade mad_nother attempt and succeeded in reaching Holland.
  • "Jem can't come home right away. He isn't _quite_ so well as his cable said, for his wound has not healed properly and he has to go into a hospital i_ngland for further treatment. But he says he will be all right eventually, and we know he is safe and will be back home sometime, and oh, the differenc_t makes in _everything!_
  • "I had a letter from Jim Anderson today, too. He _has married an English girl_ , got his discharge, and is coming right home to Canada with his bride. _on't know whether to be glad or sorry. It will depend on what kind of a woma_he is. I had a second letter also of a somewhat mysterious tenor. It is fro_ Charlottetown lawyer, asking me to go in to see him at my earlies_onvenience in regard to a certain matter connected with the estate of the
  • 'late Mrs. Matilda Pitman.'
  • "I read a notice of Mrs. Pitman's death–from heart failure–in the _Enterprise_ few weeks ago. I wonder if this summons has anything to do with Jims."
  • _5th October 1918_
  • "I went into town this morning and had an interview with Mrs. Pitman'_awyer–a little thin, wispy man, who spoke of his late client with such _rofound respect that it is evident that he as was much under her thumb a_obert and Amelia were. He drew up a new will for her a short time before he_eath. She was worth thirty thousand dollars, the bulk of which was left t_melia Chapley. But she left five thousand to me in trust for Jims. Th_nterest is to be used as I see fit for his education, and the principal is t_e paid over to him on his twentieth birthday. Certainly Jims was born lucky.
  • I saved him from slow extinction at the hands of Mrs. Conover–Mary Vance save_im from death by diptheritic croup–his star saved him when he fell off th_rain. And he tumbled not only into a clump of bracken, but right into thi_ice little legacy. Evidently, as Mrs. Matilda Pitman said, and as I hav_lways believed, he is no common child and he has no common destiny in stor_or him.
  • "At all events he is provided for, and in such a fashion that Jim Anderso_an't squander his inheritance if he wanted to. Now, if the new Englis_tepmother is only a good sort I shall feel quite easy about the future of m_ar-baby.
  • "I wonder what Robert and Amelia think of it. I fancy they will nail dow_heir windows when they leave home after this!"