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HOME > Classical Novels > Rilla of Ingleside > CHAPTER XVIII A WAR-WEDDING
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 "I can tell you this Dr. dear," said Susan, pale with wrath1, "that Germany is getting to be perfectly2 ridiculous."  
They were all in the big Ingleside kitchen. Susan was mixing biscuits for supper. Mrs. Blythe was making shortbread for Jem, and Rilla was compounding candy for Ken3 and Walter—it had once been "Walter and Ken" in her thoughts but somehow, quite unconsciously, this had changed until Ken's name came naturally first. Cousin Sophia was also there, knitting. All the boys were going to be killed in the long run, so Cousin Sophia felt in her bones, but they might better die with warm feet than cold ones, so Cousin Sophia knitted faithfully and gloomily.
Into this peaceful scene erupted the doctor, wrathful and excited over the burning of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. And Susan became automatically quite as wrathful and excited.
"What will those Huns do next?" she demanded. "Coming over here and burning our Parliament building! Did anyone ever hear of such an outrage4?"
"We don't know that the Germans are responsible for this," said the doctor—much as if he felt quite sure they were. "Fires do start without their 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 portentously5. "Whiskers-on-the-moon was there that very day. The fire broke out half an hour after he was gone. So much is a fact—but I shall not accuse a Presbyterian elder of burning anybody's barn until I have proof. However, everybody knows, Dr. dear, that both Uncle Mark's boys have enlisted6, and that Uncle Mark himself makes speeches at all the recruiting meetings. So no doubt Germany is anxious to get square 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 son to go, to murder and be murdered."
"Could you not?" said Susan. "Well, Sophia Crawford, I felt as if I could ask anyone to go when I read last night that there were no children under eight years of age left alive in Poland. Think of that, Sophia Crawford"—Susan shook 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 there was any crime the Huns couldn't be accused of. "The Germans have not turned cannibal 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 Distinguished7 Conduct Medal," remarked the doctor, over his local paper.
"I heard that last week," said Susan. "He is a battalion8 runner and he did something extra brave and daring. His letter, telling his folks about it, came when his old Grandmother Carson was on her dying-bed. She had only a few minutes more to live and the Episcopal minister, who was there, asked her if she would not like him to pray. 'Oh yes, yes, you can pray,' she said impatient-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. I want 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 was seventy-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 very first," said Mrs. Blythe.
"I have noticed that grey hair for some time, Mrs. Dr. dear, but I did not speak of it. Thought I to myself, 'She has enough to bear.' But now that you have discovered it let me remind you that grey hairs are honourable9."
"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 that when you are young. But I shall not worry over my silver thread. I never liked red hair. Gilbert, did I ever tell you of that time, years ago at Green Gables, when I dyed my hair? Nobody but Marilla and I knew about it."
"Was that the reason you came out once with your hair shingled10 to the bone?"
"Yes. I bought a bottle of dye from a German Jew pedlar. I fondly expected it would turn my hair black—and it turned it green. So it had to be cut off."
"You had a narrow escape, Mrs. Dr. dear," exclaimed Susan. "Of course you were too young then to know what a German was. It was a special mercy of Providence11 that it was only green dye and not poison."
"It seems hundreds of years since those Green Gables days," sighed Mrs. Blythe. "They belonged to another world altogether. Life has been cut in two by the chasm12 of war. What is ahead I don't know—but it can't be a bit like the past. I wonder if those of us who have lived half our lives in the old world will ever feel wholly at home in the new."
"Have you noticed," asked Miss Oliver, glancing up from her book, "how everything written before the war seems so far away now, too? One feels as if one was reading something as ancient as the Iliad. This poem of Wordsworth's—the Senior class have it in their entrance work—I've been glancing over it. Its classic calm and repose13 and the beauty of the lines seem to belong to another planet, and to have as little to do with the present world-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 many passages in it that seem to me exactly descriptive of the Huns. Old Highland14 Sandy declares that there is no doubt that the Kaiser is the Anti-Christ spoken of in Revelations, but I do not go as far as that. It would, in my humble15 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 with sympathetic Rilla troubles that were past bearing alone. She brought her dog with her—an over-fed, bandy-legged little animal very dear to her heart because Joe Milgrave had given it to her when it was a puppy. Mr. Pryor regarded all dogs with disfavour; but in those days he had looked kindly16 upon Joe as a suitor for Miranda's hand and so he had allowed her to keep the puppy. Miranda was so grateful that she endeavoured to please her father by naming her dog after his political idol17, the great Liberal chieftain, Sir Wilfrid Laurier—though his title was soon abbreviated18 to Wilfy. Sir Wilfrid grew and flourished and waxed fat; but Miranda spoiled him absurdly and nobody else liked him. Rilla especially hated him because of his detestable trick of lying flat on his back and entreating19 you with waving paws to tickle20 his sleek21 stomach. When she saw that Miranda's pale eyes bore unmistakable testimony22 of her having cried all night, Rilla asked her to come up to her room, knowing Miranda had a tale of woe23 to tell, but she ordered Sir Wilfrid to remain below.
"Oh, can't he come, too?" said Miranda wistfully. "Poor Wilfy won't be any bother—and I wiped his paws so carefully before I brought him in. He is always so lonesome in a strange place without me—and very soon he'll be—all—I'll have left—to remind me—of Joe."
Rilla yielded, and Sir Wilfrid, with his tail curled at a saucy24 angle over his brindled25 back, trotted26 triumphantly27 up the stairs before them.
"Oh, Rilla," sobbed29 Miranda, when they had reached sanctuary30. "I'm so unhappy. I can't begin to tell you how unhappy I am. Truly, my heart is breaking."
Rilla sat down on the lounge beside her. Sir Wilfrid squatted31 on his haunches before 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 on Saturday—he sends my letters in care of Bob Crawford, you know, because of father—and, oh, Rilla, he will only have four days—he has to go away Friday morning—and I may never see him again."
"Does he still want you to marry him?" asked Rilla.
"Oh, yes. He implored32 me in his letter to run away and be married. But I cannot do that, Rilla, not even for Joe. My only comfort is that I will be able to see him for a little while tomorrow afternoon. Father has to go to Charlottetown on business. At least we will have one good farewell talk. But oh—afterwards—why, Rilla, I know father won't even let me go to the station Friday morning to see Joe off."
"Why in the world don't you and Joe get married tomorrow afternoon at home?" demanded Rilla.
Miranda swallowed a sob28 in such amazement33 that she almost choked.
"Why—why—that is impossible, Rilla."
"Why?" briefly34 demanded the organizer of the Junior Red Cross and the transporter of babies in soup tureens.
"Why—why—we never thought of such a thing—Joe hasn't a license35—I have no dress—I couldn't be married in black—I—I—we—you—you—" Miranda lost herself altogether and Sir Wilfrid, seeing that she was in dire36 distress37 threw back his head and emitted a melancholy38 yelp39.
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 Joe before 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 your father'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 license and ring tonight."
"Oh, I couldn't," wailed40 the aghast Miranda, "it—it would be so—so indelicate."
Rilla shut her little white teeth together with a snap. "Heaven grant me patience," she said under her breath. "I'll do it then," she said aloud, "and meanwhile, you go home and make what preparations you can. When I 'phone down to you to come up and help me sew come at once."
As soon as Miranda, pallid41, scared, but desperately42 resolved, had gone, Rilla flew to the telephone and put in a long-distance call for Charlottetown. She got through with such surprising quickness that she was convinced Providence approved of her undertaking43, but it was a good hour before she could get in touch 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 line to carry news to Whiskers-on-the-moon.
"Is that you, Joe? Rilla Blythe is speaking—Rilla—Rilla—oh, never mind. Listen to this. Before you come home tonight get a marriage license—a marriage license—yes, a marriage license—and a wedding-ring. Did you get that? And will you do it? Very well, be sure you do it—it is your only chance."
Flushed with triumph—for her onl............
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