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HOME > Classical Novels > Rilla of Ingleside > CHAPTER XXXII WORD FROM JEM
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CHAPTER XXXII 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. I expected that these past four years would be the most delightful1 years of my life and they have been years of war—years of fear and grief and worry—but I humbly2 hope, of a little growth in strength and character as well.
 
"Today I was going through the hall and I heard mother saying something to father about me. I didn't mean to listen—I couldn't help hearing her as I went along the hall and upstairs—so perhaps that is why I heard what listeners are said never to hear—something good of myself. And because it was mother who said it I'm going to write it here in my journal, for my comforting when days of discouragement come upon me, in which I feel that I am vain and selfish and weak and that there is no good thing in me.
 
"'Rilla has developed in a wonderful fashion these past four years. She used to 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 little away from me—they have been so little at home—but Rilla has grown closer and closer to me. We are chums. I don't see how I could have got through these terrible years without her, Gilbert.'
 
"There, that is just what mother said—and I feel glad—and sorry—and proud—and humble3! It's beautiful to have my mother think that about me—but I don't deserve it quite. I'm not as good and strong as all that. There are heaps of times when I have felt cross and impatient and woeful and despairing. It is mother and Susan who have been this family's backbone4. But I have helped a little, I believe, and I am so glad and thankful.
 
"The war news has been good right along. The French and Americans are pushing the Germans back and back and back. Sometimes I am afraid it is too good to last—after nearly four years of disasters one has a feeling that this constant success is unbelievable. We don't rejoice noisily over it. Susan keeps the flag up but we go softly. The price paid has been too high for jubilation5. We are 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. But there are hours when we all feel—though we never say so—that such hoping is foolishness. These hours come more and more frequently as the weeks go by. And we may never know. That is the most terrible thought of all. I wonder how Faith is bearing it. To judge from her letters she has never for a moment given up hope, but she must have had her dark hours of doubt like the rest of us."
 
 
20th August 1918
 
"The Canadians have been in action again and Mr. Meredith had a cable today saying that Carl had been slightly wounded and is in the hospital. It did not say 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 slight one"—but it was in his right eye and the sight is gone for ever!
 
"'One eye is enough to watch bugs6 with,' Carl writes cheerfully. And we know it might have been oh so much worse! If it had been both eyes! But I cried all the afternoon after I saw Carl's letter. Those beautiful, fearless blue eyes of his!
 
"There is one comfort—he will not have to go back to the front. He is coming home 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 he does. But, oh, I think he will be there—when our Canadian soldiers return there will be a shadow army with them—the army of the fallen. We will not 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 stop teasing me about it for the rest of my life. But it all seemed so horribly real—and I was so intensely interested that I forgot everything but the scenes I saw enacted7 before my eyes. And then, quite near the last came a terribly exciting one. The heroine was struggling with a horrible German soldier who was trying to drag her away. I knew she had a knife—I had seen her hide it, to have it in readiness—and I couldn't understand why she didn't produce it and finish the brute8. I thought she must have forgotten it, and just at the tensest moment of the scene I lost my head altogether. I just stood right up on my feet in that crowded house and shrieked9 at the top of 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 girl 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 mortification10. Mother was shaking with laughter. I could have shaken her. Why hadn't she pulled me down and choked me before I had made such an idiot of myself. She protests that there wasn't time.
 
"Fortunately the house was dark, and I don't believe there was anybody there who knew me. And I thought I was becoming sensible and self-controlled and womanly! It is plain I have some distance to go yet before I attain11 that devoutly12 desired consummation."
 
 
20th September 1918
 
"In the east Bulgaria has asked for peace, and in the west the British have smashed the Hindenburg line; and right here in Glen St. Mary little Bruce Meredith has done something that I think wonderful—wonderful because of the love behind it. Mrs. Meredith was here tonight and told us about it—and mother and I cried, and Susan got up and clattered13 the things about the stove.
 
"Bruce always loved Jem very devotedly14, and the child has never forgotten him in all these years. He has been as faithful in his way as Dog Monday was in his. We have always told him that Jem would come back. But it seems that he was in Carter Flagg's store last night and he heard his Uncle Norman flatly declaring that Jem Blythe would never come back and that the Ingleside folk might as well give up hoping he would. Bruce went home and cried himself to sleep. This morning his mother saw him going out of the yard, with a very sorrowful and determined16 look, carrying his pet kitten. She didn't think much more about it until later on he came in, with the most tragic17 little face, and told her, his little body shaking with sobs18, that he had drowned Stripey.
 
"'Why did you do that?' Mrs. Meredith exclaimed.
 
"'To bring Jem back,' sobbed19 Bruce. 'I thought if I sacrificed Stripey God would send Jem back. So I drownded him&m............
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