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HOME > Classical Novels > Rilla of Ingleside > CHAPTER XII IN THE DAYS OF LANGEMARCK
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 "How can spring come and be beautiful in such a horror," wrote Rilla in her diary. "When the sun shines and the fluffy1 yellow catkins are coming out on the willow-trees down by the brook2, and the garden is beginning to be beautiful I can't realize that such dreadful things are happening in Flanders. But they are!  
"This past week has been terrible for us all, since the news came of the fighting around Ypres and the battles of Langemarck and St. Julien. Our Canadian boys have done splendidly—General French says they 'saved the situation,' when the Germans had all but broken through. But I can't feel pride or exultation4 or anything but a gnawing5 anxiety over Jem and Jerry and Mr. Grant. The casualty lists are coming out in the papers every day—oh, there are so many of them. I can't bear to read them for fear I'd find Jem's name—for there have been cases where people have seen their boys' names in the casualty lists before the official telegram came. As for the telephone, for a day or two I just refused to answer it, because I thought I could not endure the horrible moment that came between saying 'Hello' and hearing the response. That moment seemed a hundred years long, for I was always dreading6 to hear 'There is a telegram for Dr. Blythe.' Then, when I had shirked for a while, I was ashamed of leaving it all for mother or Susan, and now I make myself go. But it never gets any easier. Gertrude teaches school and reads compositions and sets examination papers just as she always has done, but I know her thoughts are over in Flanders all the time. Her eyes haunt me.
"And Kenneth is in khaki now, too. He has got a lieutenant's commission and expects to go overseas in midsummer, so he wrote me. There wasn't much else in the letter—he seemed to be thinking of nothing but going overseas. I shall not see him again before he goes—perhaps I will never see him again. Sometimes I ask myself if that evening at Four Winds was all a dream. It might as well be—it seems as if it happened in another life lived years ago—and everybody has forgotten it but me.
"Walter and Nan and Di came home last night from Redmond. When Walter stepped off the train Dog Monday rushed to meet him, frantic7 with joy. I suppose he thought Jem would be there, too. After the first moment, he paid no attention to Walter and his pats, but just stood there, wagging his tail nervously8 and looking past Walter at the other people coming out, with eyes that made me choke up, for I couldn't help thinking that, for all we knew, Monday might never see Jem come off that train again. Then, when all the people were out, Monday looked up at Walter, gave his hand a little lick as if to say, 'I know it isn't your fault he didn't come—excuse me for feeling disappointed,' and then he trotted9 back to his shed, with that funny little sidelong waggle of his that always makes it seem that his hind10 legs are travelling directly away from the point at which his forelegs are aiming.
"We tried to coax11 him home with us—Di even got down and kissed him between the eyes and said, 'Monday, old duck, won't you come up with us just for the evening?' And Monday said—he did!—'I am very sorry but I can't. I've got a date to meet Jem here, you know, and there's a train goes through at eight.'
"It's lovely to have Walter back again though he seems quiet and sad, just as he was at Christmas. But I'm going to love him hard and cheer him up and make him laugh as he used to. It seems to me that every day of my life Walter means more to me.
"The other evening Susan happened to say that the mayflowers were out in Rainbow Valley. I chanced to be looking at mother when Susan spoke12. Her face changed and she gave a queer little choked cry. Most of the time mother is so spunky and gay you would never guess what she feels inside; but now and then some little thing is too much for her and we see under the surface. 'Mayflowers!' she said. 'Jem brought me mayflowers last year!' and she got up and went out of the room. I would have rushed off to Rainbow Valley and brought her an armful of mayflowers, but I knew that wasn't what she wanted. And after Walter got home last night he slipped away to the valley and brought mother home all the mayflowers he could find. Nobody had said a word to him about it—he just remembered himself that Jem used to bring mother the first mayflowers and so he brought them in Jem's place. It shows how tender and thoughtful he is. And yet there are people who send him cruel letters!
"It seems strange that we can go in with ordinary life just as if nothing were happening overseas that concerned us, just as if any day might not bring us awful news. But we can and do. Susan is putting in the garden, and mother and she are housecleaning, and we Junior Reds are getting up a concert in aid of the Belgians. We have been practising for a month and having no end of trouble and bother with cranky people. Miranda Pryor promised to help with a dialogue and when she had her part all learnt her father put his foot down and refused to allow her to help at all. I am not blaming Miranda exactly, but I do think she might have a little more spunk13 sometimes. If she put her foot down once in a while she might bring her father to terms, for she is all the housekeeper14 he has and what would he do if she 'struck'? If I were in Miranda's shoes I'd find some way of managing Whiskers-on-the-moon. I would horse-whip him, or bite him, if nothing else would serve. But Miranda is a meek15 and obedient daughter whose days should be long in the land.
"I couldn't get anyone else to take the part, because nobody liked it, so finally I had to take it myself. Olive Kirk is on the concert committee and goes against me in every single thing. But I got my way in asking Mrs. Channing to come out from town and sing for us, anyhow. She is a beautiful singer and will draw such a crowd that we will make more than we will have to pay her. Olive Kirk thought our local talent good enough and Minnie Clow won't sing at all now in the choruses because she would be so nervous before Mrs. Channing. And Minnie is the only good alto we have! There are times when I am so exasperated16 that I feel tempted17 to wash my hands of the whole affair; but after I dance round my room a few times in sheer rage I cool down and have another whack18 at it. Just at present I am racked with worry for fear the Isaac Reeses are taking whooping-cough. They have all got a dreadful cold and there are five of them who have important parts in the programme and if they go and develop whooping-cough what shall I do? Dick Reese's violin solo is to be one of our titbits and Kit19 Reese is in every tableau20 and the three small girls have the cutest flag-drill. I've been toiling21 for weeks to train them in it, and now it seems likely that all my trouble will go for nothing.
"Jims cut his first tooth today. I am very glad, for he is nearly nine months old and Mary Vance has been insinuating22 that he is
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