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HOME > Classical Novels > Rilla of Ingleside > CHAPTER XXV SHIRLEY GOES
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 "No, Woodrow, there will be no peace without victory," said Susan, sticking her knitting needle viciously through President Wilson's name in the newspaper column. "We Canadians mean to have peace and victory, too. You, if it pleases you, Woodrow, can have the peace without the victory"—and Susan stalked off to bed with the comfortable consciousness of having got the better of the argument with the President. But a few days later she rushed to Mrs. Blythe in red-hot excitement.  
"Mrs. Dr. dear, what do you think? A 'phone message has just come through from Charlottetown that Woodrow Wilson has sent that German ambassador man to the right about at last. They tell me that means war. So I begin to think that Woodrow's heart is in the right place after all, wherever his head may be, and I am going to commandeer a little sugar and celebrate the occasion with some fudge, despite the howls of the Food Board. I thought that submarine business would bring things to a crisis. I told Cousin Sophia so when she said it was the beginning of the end for the Allies."
"Don't let the doctor hear of the fudge, Susan," said Anne, with a smile. "You know he has laid down very strict rules for us along the lines of economy the government has asked for."
"Yes, Mrs. Dr. dear, and a man should be master in his own household, and his women folk should bow to his decrees. I flatter myself that I am becoming quite efficient in economizing"—Susan had taken to using certain German terms with killing3 effect—"but one can exercise a little gumption4 on the quiet now and then. Shirley was wishing for some of my fudge the other day—the Susan brand, as he called it—and I said 'The first victory there is to celebrate I shall make you some.' I consider this news quite equal to a victory, and what the doctor does not know will never grieve him. I take the whole responsibility, Mrs. Dr. dear, so do not you vex5 your conscience."
Susan spoiled Shirley shamelessly that winter. He came home from Queen's every week-end, and Susan had all his favourite dishes for him, in so far as she could evade6 or wheedle7 the doctor, and waited on him hand and foot. Though she talked war constantly to everyone else she never mentioned it to him or before him, but she watched him like a cat watching a mouse; and when the German retreat from the Bapaume salient began and continued, Susan's exultation8 was linked up with something deeper than anything she expressed. Surely the end was in sight—would come now before—anyone else—could go.
"Things are coming our way at last. We have got the Germans on the run," she boasted. "The United States has declared war at last, as I always believed they would, in spite of Woodrow's gift for letter writing, and you will see they will go into it with a vim9 since I understand that is their habit, when they do start. And we have got the Germans on the run, too."
"The States mean well," moaned Cousin Sophia, "but all the vim in the world cannot put them on the fighting line this spring, and the Allies will be finished before that. The Germans are just luring10 them on. That man Simonds says their retreat has put the Allies in a hole."
"That man Simonds has said more than he will ever live to make good," retorted Susan. "I do not worry myself about his opinion as long as Lloyd George is Premier11 of England. He will not be bamboozled12 and that you may tie to. Things look good to me. The U. S. is in the war, and we have got Kut and Bagdad back—and I would not be surprised to see the Allies in Berlin by June—and the Russians, too, since they have got rid of the Czar. That, in my opinion was a good piece of work."
"Time will show if it is," said Cousin Sophia, who would have been very indignant if anyone had told her that she would rather see Susan put to shame as a seer, than a successful overthrow13 of tyranny, or even the march of the Allies down Unter den1 Linden. But then the woes14 of the Russian people were quite unknown to Cousin Sophia, while this aggravating15, optimistic Susan was an ever-present thorn in her side.
Just at that moment Shirley was sitting on the edge of the table in the living-room, swinging his legs—a brown, ruddy, wholesome16 lad, from top to toe, every inch of him—and saying coolly, "Mother and dad, I was eighteen last Monday. Don't you think it's about time I joined up?"
The pale mother looked at him.
"Two of my sons have gone and one will never return. Must I give you too, Shirley?"
The age-old cry—"Joseph is not and Simeon is not; and ye will take Benjamin away." How the mothers of the Great War echoed the old Patriarch's moan of so many centuries agone!
"You wouldn't have me a slacker, mother? I can get into the flying-corps. What say, dad?"
The doctor's hands were not quite steady as he folded up the powders he was concocting17 for Abbie Flagg's rheumatism18. He had known this moment was coming, yet he was not altogether prepared for it. He answered slowly, "I won't try to hold you back from what you believe to be your duty. But you must not go unless your mother says you may."
Shirley said nothing more. He was not a lad of many words. Anne did not say anything more just then, either. She was thinking of little Joyce's grave in the old burying-ground over-harbour—little Joyce who would have been a woman now, had she lived—of the white cross in France and the splendid grey eyes of the little boy who had been taught his first lessons of duty and loyalty19 at her knee—of Jem in the terrible trenches20—of Nan and Di and Rilla, waiting—waiting—waiting, while the golden years of youth passed by—and she wondered if she could bear any more. She thought not; surely she had given enough.
Yet that night she told Shirley that he might go.
They did not tell Susan right away. She did not know it until, a few days later, Shirley presented himself in her kitchen in his aviation uniform. Susan didn't make half the fuss she had made when Jem and Walter had gone. She said stonily21, "So they're going to take you, too."
"Take me? No. I'm going, Susan—got to."
Susan sat down by the table, folded her knotted old hands, that had grown warped22 and twisted working for the Ingleside children to still their shaking, and said:
"Yes, you must go. I did not see once why such things must be, but I can see now."
"You're a brick, Susan," said Shirley. He was relieved that she took it so coolly—he had been a little afraid, with a boy's horror of "a scene." He went out whistling gaily23; but half an hour later, when pale Anne Blythe came in, Susan was still sitting there.
"Mrs. Dr. dear," said Susan, making an admission she would once have died rather than make, "I feel very old. Jem and Walter were yours but Shirley is mine. And I cannot bear to think of him flying—his machine crashing down—the life crushed out of his body—the dear little body I nursed and cuddled when he was a wee baby."
"Susan—don't," cried Anne.
"Oh, Mrs. Dr. dear, I beg your pardon. I ought not to have said anything like that out loud. I sometimes forget that I resolved to be a heroine. This—this has shaken me a little. But I will not forget myself again. Only if things do not go as smoothly24 in the kitchen for a few days I hope you will make due allowance for me. At least," said poor Susan, forcing a grim smile in a desperate effort to recover lost standing25, "............
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