Rilla of Rocky Point
Rilla bowed her head in silence. She hated, detested her lisping. After getting a hold of herself, Rilla said again, calmly, "Yes?" then continued. "Come in."
"Would you like to take a walk with me in Rainbow Valley?" Ken asked.
Rilla nodded. She wondered why Ken would even talk her now. Why did he even bother visiting Ingleside? He had written cold letters all during the war. He had been in Four Winds for over a fortnight, and he never once came during that time.
As Rilla closed her door, a cool breeze blew upon her face. She then walked nonchalantly with Ken, to the waters of the spring, where Walter had recited his beloved poetry. The moonlight was so alluring as it was reflected down on the earth. Rilla just wanted to look at it forever.
A thought came into her mind which started the conversation. "How is Persis? Miss Cornelia came over and told everyone at Ingleside today, that at one time she had been deathly ill. She had pneumonia, didn't she? Of course! Did you need a doctor to give her medical attention? Yes, Dr. Galbraith is on vacation. I can get-"
"Rilla," Ken interrupted, "Persis is doing quite well, considering her state of health. I came to ask another question."
"And that is . . . ?"
"Bertha Blythe, will you marry me?"
"I can't recall anyone calling me Bertha, except for the time when Mary - oh, that was a long time ago. Ken, I - I, don't know. No! I can't. Goodbye." Rilla fled to her house, because she was embarrassed that she had lisped and made a fool of herself of rejecting and running away from Ken.
She opened and slammed the grand, wooden door at Ingleside. If Susan had been there, it might have caused a commotion. But as the telephone was now ringing, she did not consider the conversation, but decided to answer it, for apparently it had been ringing for a while.
"Hello, this is Agnes Carr, Four Winds operator. I have a message here from Faith Meredith."
"Let's see, here it is. Faith wants to let you know that Una and Bruce are missing. She says that they went to go to Carter Flagg's store three hours ago, but she hasn't seen them since. She wants you to contact her if you know where they are."
"Thank you," Rilla said hastily, and did not even wait for Mrs. Carr to disconnect her, before she hung up the receiver.
Rilla ran the hundred yards to the manse. John, his wife and sons, were standing in front of the house. Rilla smiled and said, "Hello-"
"Is anything wrong? I haven't seen you run that fast, since you were eleven years old!" Carl exclaimed. Then seeing the disapproving look on his father's face, he added, "What do you need? What's the matter?"
"That's what I would like to find out," Rilla said slowly.
Faith opened the door and looked out at her peers. She had a worried look that showed signs of nervousness. "A lot happened in the four hours that you were gone. Rilla, how nice of you to come. All of you, come in the house to sit down." She led them to the couch and surrounding chairs and everyone sat down. She continued. "I just don't know what to do: Una and Bruce told me three hours ago, at half past four, that they were going to Carter Flagg's store to get a few things. It is hours later, and of course, I just started to get worried at sunset. Oh, Rilla, excuse me. Don't you know where they are?"
Rilla sighed. "I know Mrs. Carr told me to come over and tell you only if I knew where they were, but I came to see if I could help. In fact, I'll go over to Carter Flagg's store now. Miller Douglas should still be there."
"Rilla, if you wait for a minute or two, I'll get you a kerosene lamp. Jerry, Carl, I want you both to go to your Uncle Norman's house to see if they're there."
John found the lantern right away. Rilla set off for the store, where she could hopefully find some information on Una and Bruce. She walked over the bridge where she had, about fifteen years ago, thrown Susan's cake that she had baked for the church, because she had thought it unworthy. "Hullo!" cried a hoarse voice of a child. It was a voice that sounded as if it had been yelling all day long. It wasn't in a tone to greet; it was a desperate tone. "Who's there?" cried the pleading voice.
Rilla turned around and around, yet there was no one there. "Hello, this is Rilla Blythe speaking. Would you please tell me who and where you are?"
"This is Bruce Meredith. I'm stuck under the bridge."
"What? Where's Una?"
"I don't know. I think she might be trapped - somewhere. Please help me! I'm soaking wet, and I don't feel too well."
"I'm going to get help Bruce. I'll be right back!"
When she reached the store, only Miller and Mary were there, both talking over the counter, Mary on Rilla's side, putting away goods. "Rilla Blythe?" Mary asked. "What is the matter with you?"
Rilla practically fainted on the nearest chair. "Una - Bruce; somehow they've fallen over that bridge about a quarter of a mile away. Do not ask me how, but they have. I came to see if anyone here could help? I do not know how to swim. Do you-"
"I ain't worried that Miller's lame," Mary said abruptly. "I could lick anyone on the face of this earth when it comes to swimming. Come on, Rilla. We got two lives to save!" And with that, Mary started for the bridge.
Rilla followed Mary to the tall, wooden bridge, and they both heard Bruce right away. "I'm stuck-"
"Bruce, you quiet down," Mary said sternly. She took Rilla's lamp and walked off the bridge to the edge of the river. Rilla came down behind her. Mary held up the brilliant light to help overcome the darkness of the night. "It's quite steep. Whoa, Bruce! How did you get way up there?"
"I was followin' Una, Mary, when she slipped into the river with me. I got a hold of this bridge, though. That's how-"
"Yes, Bruce," Mary said, irritated. "That's nice, but time is wasting away. Here, let me help you get down from there." Mary cautiously waded into the water, and swam a few feet to the bridge, climbed it, and brought Bruce down. "Now Bruce," she said, "we only got a few minutes. We, we can...what can we do, Bruce? Do you know where she is?"
"Heaven?" he asked.
"Well, of course, if- now, Bruce don't you get smart with me. Where's your sister?"
"She's gone, Mary. I don't know where. When we fell into the river, she told me that we would never see each other again."
Mary looked at Rilla. "Of all the things your sister had to say!"
"Why don't you just tell me the truth, Mary?" Bruce asked. He was beginning to get agitated with Mary. "I'm really cold, too."
"Let's go back," Rilla said, "and hope that Una hasn't already met her grave."
Through the weeks, there was no sign of Una. It was like she had just disappeared into...no where. John Meredith finally conceded to have a funeral for his daughter. He considered it disgraceful to lead his own daughter's funeral, so his friend, Howard Bergin from a city some thirty miles away, was going to lead it for him.
People considered this funeral the strangest one they had seen in recent years. But as Rilla watched Una's coffin sink down slowly into the ground, she sighed. Una was a loving obedient daughter and her epitaph fit her perfectly:
Somebody put a hand on her shoulder. It was Jem. "Hello, Rilla."
"Well, one person died from the Blythe family, and one person died from the Meredith family," he said.
Rilla laughed, although she tried not to. "Oh Jem," she said seriously, "that's a wicked
thing to say."
"All right." In a whisper Jem said, "I heard that Ken..."
"I do not want to talk about him right now," Rilla interjected.
Rilla slapped his face. "Jem Blythe, be quiet!"
Jem chuckled away and started to talk to Faith Meredith. Faith! Rilla kept a close eye on her, and when Jem walked away from her, Rilla came up to Faith hurriedly.
"Faith," Rilla said in a low tone, "when Walter died I gave her his last letter. He addressed it to me, but...I was wondering if I could have the letter back, since Una won't be able to..."
"Yes. Come with me, Rilla." Faith and Rilla entered the manse and went up the dusty stairs into Una's room. Her few things were piled up against the walls. "Here's a locket that she bought. It has Walter's picture inside it. Let's see, there's some interesting things in here," said Faith looking through Una's memorabilia. "That is peculiar. There's no letter here, Rilla."
"Oh, I had better be going back to Ingleside, but thank you for looking. If you find it, will you give it to me?"
"Yes, Rilla; I can just imagine what that letter means to you."
Rilla awoke to the chirping of blackbirds, on a Sunday morning in March. She was feeling drowsy and idle, but found her soft, powder blue hat and flowered dress for church and decided to start the day. After she dressed, she ate the breakfast that Susan had prepared for her.
Two days before, Jem had left to finish medical school. Gerald said that he had wanted to stay home, though, and help his father through this hard time of Una's death, but Susan had her suspicion about him courting Nan and told John Meredith so. Thus, John made his son finish his last year at college. The Blythes had also received a letter from Shirley. He was to be back from the war sooner than they had expected: May.
Rilla thought about the sermon she was going to hear that morning. John Meredith had begun to preach dismally recently. He had never been a perfect minister; the Presbyterians persevered through the times when his notes got mixed up and when he asked them to look up verses in the Bible that didn't even exist, but he now was frail and preached insipidly, like one broken-hearted. He probably was, since Una's death.
Susan sighed in her kitchen. "Rilla-my-Rilla!"
"What?" Rilla asked. "Oh Susan, why are you calling me that?"
Susan laughed, then she became sober. "I don't know. There's a rumour going around Four Winds Harbour that ministers will die if too much pressure is put upon them. I'm starting to wonder if that's true."
"Die? John Meredith? He's-"
"Ringing bells Rilla, he's as alive as my cousin Sophia! No, poor, old Mr. Arnold died - the Methodist preacher. He was a good preacher; even Miss Cornelia took a fancy to his preaching. Now they got some over-stimulated preacher who's been trying to convert every single living person in Glenn St. Mary to Methodistianism."
Di came rushing down the stairs with her red hair bouncing side to side. "Rilla? Have you seen my grade book?"
"Are you doing work on the Sabbath?" Susan asked, appalled.
Di shook her head.
"Well, it's in my kitchen, Di, and you had better get it out right away," said Susan in a stern tone.
"When is the wedding - Gertrude's wedding? Oh, where is my white hat?" Di asked gathering up her grade book.
"Gertrude's wedding is to-night at seven o'clock at the church; the reception is here," said Rilla. "Oh, your white hat is on the table near the telephone, Di. Calm down!"
"Di, get the telephone," Susan ordered.
"Hello?" Di asked. "Mrs. Kentall?...I believe you are mistaken...We are Presbyterians, not Methodists...I don't think so...Yes, I teach her...Thank you...Goodbye Mrs. Kentall...I said goodbye! ..Mrs. Kentall?" and Di hung up the receiver with violent force, and walked back to the kitchen.
"Who is this Mrs. Kentall?" Rilla asked. "I have never heard of her, before."
"She's director of the Methodist choir, Rilla," said Di. "She told me that I had signed up for it. Me! She was persistent, though I truthfully denied it. The Kentall family moved from Charlottetown three years ago. Aileen Kentall's husband died in the war."
"Does she have any children?" Rilla asked.
"Yes; Neville and Rebecca," Di answered.
"Quite heathen names if you ask me," Susan replied distastefully.
"Oh, you judge because they are Methodists, Susan. I understand that you had a friend named Rebecca Dew. There was also a Rebekah in the Bible."
"Di, the 'Rebecca' in the Bible is spelled with a k-a-h, instead of c-c-a," Susan retorted. "Poor Rebecca Dew didn't have a choice to have her named spelled that way, anyhow. Diana Blythe, how do you know all this about on the Kentalls?"
"I teach Rebecca; she's twelve. Neville is twenty-five, and he always walks his sister home from school. I don't think he fought in the war."
"While Mrs. Dr. Dear so willingly gave up her three sons," Susan continued, and tried to win the argument. "The Kentalls you say; Methodists?"
"Yes," said Di.
That night, Gertrude Oliver married Major Robert Grant. The ceremony was led by Reverend John Meredith, although it was not even contemplated or even thought about in the mind of Rilla Blythe. Rilla was staring straight at Ken. She definitely shouldn't have rejected him. Her response was all too spontaneous, and she wished now that she had said yes. Yes! Of course, she had made her choice.
Rilla stood up; Robert and Gertrude were married, now. Rilla was standing, motionless in the same place, wondering, for a few minutes. Nan came dashing up to her. "Rilla, do you know where Di is? No, never mind. Have you seen Gertrude?"
"They might be talking somewhere," Rilla suggested.
"May I join the conversation?" Ken asked strategically.
"Yes, you may, Ken, but I for one have to find Gertrude...and Di," said Nan. "Have you seen them?"
"Actually, I heard Gertrude tell Robert that she was going to talk to Di. I didn't see where she went, though."
"Thank you," Nan said to Ken. Nan added with a slight smile on her face, "I sure hate to leave you two alone, but there's so much to do. Goodbye."
"Goodbye," Rilla and Ken said concurrently.
Ken turned to Rilla whispered in her ear, "Go outside; there's something I have to tell you and it's very important." Ken walked innocently outside, without another word for Rilla. When Rilla joined him, he added, "Aren't the stars so enchanting to-night? Oh, and I told your mother that I would walk you over to Ingleside for the reception, while the others are going in their cars and buggies. Some people prefer to walk. What would choose between?"
"You said that you had something strange to tell me, Ken?" Rilla tried to ask hastily.
Ken began. "The Methodists say Una is alive. They sent the Merediths a letter stating that they saw her running to the dock of the harbour saying part of Ecclesiastes chapter three: 'A time to get, and a time to lose; A time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; A time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; A time of war, and a time of peace...' and Una's voice dwindled away with the wind."
"They said that they saw Una get into a boat or the ferry. The people who claim it don't know which it was, because they 'couldn't see that well.' They criticised John, in their letter, for the funeral; they said he didn't look hard enough and that Una is probably miles away, now. Oh, John thinks that this is a bunch of rubberish, but quote the letter, 'What proof is there that Una is dead?' They should leave John alone, though. He's suffered plenty.
"All the other Methodists have been writing letters and calling with the telephone, settling old feuds and asking them to come to their church...why they must be desperate! My father got a letter stating that he was to be an elder at their church. Did you receive anything?"
Rilla remembered. "We got a call from Mrs. Aileen Kentall. She said that Di had signed up for choir. Those Methodists..." Rilla drifted off. She couldn't think of anything to say. Ken gave her a look that told that he wanted to tell her something. "Go on."
"Will you marry me?"
Rilla wanted to say yes, but she was afraid she would lisp. She wanted to cry, but the tears would not come. She wanted to laugh, but no, he wouldn't take her seriously then. She would have to speak now. "Yes!" she exclaimed surprised at her own words. "I can't believe I did not say this sooner, but why didn't you visit me after you had been home two weeks, after the war?"
"You should've guessed, since you were so worried about this when I first proposed to you, Rilla. Persis was, to tell the plain truth, dying. Besides that, although you may think me old-fashioned, I wrote to your father, to ask his permission for our marriage."
"And..." Rilla said.
Ken laughed. "Of course he said it was fine, or I wouldn't have asked you twice! Now," he said in a softer tone, "I have to tell you something. If you want to marry me, you'll have to go with me to America..."
"America!" Rilla exclaimed.
"Yes, but it won't be for another two years. I have to go to the States for a few months to get business straightened out, and then we'll get married and stay in Canada for about a year. Does that sound all right?"
"All right?" Rilla asked in total amazement. "America...o-oh...Mother will absolutely scream. Yes, but it's fine with me, Ken. America?"
"Yes, I haven't been out there yet, but I'm planning to in a few weeks."
"Good!" Rilla said excitedly. "I will marry you Ken Ford and go all the way to America with you!"
There upon they came to Ingleside and departed with a simple embrace. Ken left, wanting to get back to his sister who was not quite well yet.
That night after all the guests had left from the reception, Rilla announced her engagement to Ken to her family. Nan smiled to herself, thinking of how Ken had cut in her conversation between herself and Rilla. Her mother was a bit worried that she was going to move to the States. Joyce and Walter were gone, Jem was off in medical school, Shirley hadn't gotten back from the war, but Di and Nan were still at home, and Anne comfourted herself with that.
Although Rilla was exhausted from the incidents of that day, she had to write to Jem and tell him:
"It is funny, for I have never called you that before. I really do not have anything to say to you, dear Brother, that would interest you in the least, except for one thing; I think you should know of my marriage engagement to Captain Kenneth Ford.
"Although I am getting married, I would deeply appreciate it if you would still call me Rilla, and not Bertha. Ever since Etta MacAllister from over-harbour got married everyone calls her Henrietta, her full first name. I just can't even imagine anyone calling me Bertha!
"I also will be moving to the States, but not for awhile.
"In closing, I will say that the Ingleside dwellers are all very well.
Though it was half-past nine, Rilla asked her mother if she could mail a very important letter. She was going to leave on Mr. Collin's desk, at the post office, so it would be sure to get out the next morning. Mrs. Blythe consented.
Rilla walked the distance to the post office. There was the moon and few stars to guide her home, and she drank in the beauty that God created in them. There was a faint voice in the background, by the manse, growing stronger as Rilla came closer to it. She then came upon Faith Meredith.
Faith stopped in the middle of signing her favourite hymn and said, "Rilla, I didn't see you. I couldn't fall asleep, so I came to my graveyard. My graveyard? Anyhow, it seems to comfort me to come here; it reminds me of all memories."
"Yes...Faith?" Rilla asked. "Who is that coming around the corner? She's coming toward us..."
"Excuse me, ladies," the young, feminine voice said.
"Darling, why are you out so late?" Faith inquired.
"Oh, Mother sent me out to call on a few people to see if they wouldn't come to our Methodist church," the girl replied. "I must have gotten carried away, talking to Mrs. Carter Flagg so long. She said that though she is a pious Presbyterian, she will come to our church, just to visit mind you, just so that I would go home. Of course I did promise Mother that I would get at least one person to come to church, before I came home. This wasn't a real good day, though. Rarely anyone was at home. Say, are you Faith Meredith?"
"Yes, I am. And who might you be, you young converter?"
"My name is Rebecca Kentall. Would you both like to join us at the prayer meeting this Thursday?"
"My father is a Presbyterian minister, honey. I would like to follow in his footsteps as far as religion goes," Faith explained.
And to Rilla she asked, "Miss Blythe?"
"I have a question for you," Rilla retorted. "Why does your mother keep calling Diana about signing up for choir? She has called eleven times; I have kept track.
Rebecca gave a surprised look. "Good day, ladies. But before I go, would you care to give a donation?"
"No!" both ladies yelled simultaneously.
Twelve year-old Rebecca then ran as fast as she could to a certain yellow house that was about three hundred yards away.
It was the second of June. Shirley had finally returned from the war two weeks before. The day before Jem had also come home, finishing his second year at medical school.
Jem couldn't seem to understand that his sister and Ken were getting married after all the confusion and the fuss that was made. He thought Rilla was absurdly foolish, but he kept his thoughts to himself.
Rilla had noticed Jem's disapproval, for the look in his eyes told how he felt. But it being a lovely day in June, Rilla walked to Rainbow Valley, and didn't tell Jem of her awareness.
Setting herself comfourtably on the grass, she overlooked the rivulet in Rainbow Valley. The rustling of the wind was not all she heard. Faint voices were in the background. Rilla, not wanting to eavesdrop, decided to move to another spot. She did not, however, because she heard them talking about her.
"...before Rilla's wedding, though. But what will Father say?"
"Hang what your father will say, Carl. Jerry will be fine in college this fall. General-" "Shirley, I have this horrible independent streak in me, but I can't speak up to my father like this. I'd love to go, yet I cannot..."
So, Carl was talking to her brother, Shirley. What on Earth were they planning to do? Something about the past war, Rilla thought.
"Ireland?" Carl asked, although he knew what he was getting into. "All right, I'll tell Father to-night. This Sunday? What about my eye? Father won't-"
"Carl," Shirley laughed, " do you want to go?"
"Yes," Carl answered, and the two parted without another word.
"Yes, Di?" Mrs. Blythe asked.
"The Kentalls called again."
"This time it wasn't about choir or money," Di continued.
"What then?" Anne inquired.
"They want us to picnic with them this Saturday."
"Mother, I told them that. They said that it didn't matter, though, 'just that our heart was right.' Mother!...Don't speak yet. What should I say for an excuse?"
"No, Di, we don't need excuses. Tell them the truth...we don't communicate, no, we just don't...I don't know. Just tell them that if they write one more letter, or call one more time, oh Di, I don't know; there, ask your father. Gilbert? The Kentalls called again; what should we do?"
"According to Rilla, this would be the twelfth time that they called," Di said.
"First of all, ask Agnes Carr not to connect then with our line. Second...wait, what's wrong with Methodists? A picnic wouldn't hurt."
"Gilbert!" Anne protested.
"Do all of Kentalls join in on trying to convert us Presbyterians to Methodists?" Gilbert asked.
"Yes," Di said. "Even Rebecca. Why the other day while I was teaching school, I heard her telling Bruce that he should tell his father that Mrs. Jacob Lowry (over harbour) converted to a Methodist. She even tried to get Faith and I to do something profitable for the Methodist church. We said we wouldn't come, but that didn't stop her." Di laughed. "The phone is ringing! I'll get it." Di ran across the hall to their telephone and calmly answered, "Hello?...Neville?...Oh, well, we can't make it to the picnic...What? What!...Yes; goodbye." Di hung up the phone and walked back to the face of the kitchen where the others were. "It seems to be settled. Neville said that his family promised
Finally, it came to the day that Rilla was to be married. Luckily it was a nice, warm day and there wasn't a cloud in sight. There were many complications, though, despite the wonderful weather.
"Where should the cake go?"
"Will the turkey be warm or cold?"
"Bertha with an 'e' 't' 'h' 'a?'"
"Well, today's the day," Rilla said to Persis Ford looking down, out from her bedroom window. "I always said that if I ever got married, the ceremony would be held on the Ingleside lawn. It's such a lovely scene, Persis. I am sane. You are the maid of honour and Jem's the best man. Rhea Bailey and Janet Small are the bridesmaids as you probably already know. Oh, has John Meredith arrived yet?"
"He just came," Persis replied. "He's standing by Miller Douglas over there by that oak. There's Miss Cornelia; I have something to ask her. I'll be back in a few minutes."
Rilla was alone in her room. Everything was going smoothly, yet she shuddered slightly. She was going to marry Captain Kenneth Ford. Ken Ford? There had been a time when Rilla couldn't have stood to go near him. Providence has taken its place, though, and Rilla finished putting her hair up.
Soon the wedding ceremony led by John Meredith had come to an end. It was all over. Everyone devoured the delicious cream-filled pies, the warm turkey, and all the other various breads and fruits and other such delicacies.
At one o'clock in the afternoon, the two newlyweds left, wanting to see their new house in Mowbray Narrows, before they left for their honeymoon. Ken bought a car for Rilla and himself a few days before, and drove his new wife to the grounds of their house, which was about three miles from Glen St. Mary.
Upon entering the land, Rilla saw jasmine glowing alongside a neat path which was like a small road that led to their house. Four dozen oak trees grew around the back of the house and where there were not jasmine or oak trees there was green, neatly-trimmed grass that lay the boundaries from their neighbours. There lay a modest, stone house that stood in the midst of the handsome scenery, by a little creek that was shallow, but it definitely added to the atmosphere. It was a small, but nicely decorated piece of land.
"I've been struggling to find a name for it," Ken said when they got out of their car. "I've never seen, nor heard of anything so beautiful," Rilla said. The jasmine is everywhere; there are a lot of oak trees. Do you have anything to say about it in particular?"
"The name has to say something about the creek," Ken decided.
"Wasn't it called anything before?" Rilla asked.
"It was called Oak Valley, which doesn't even begin to describe..."
"Yes! That's a perfect name!"
"Really?" Rilla asked.
"Yes. Anyway, I bought the house from an old widow named Flora Donals," Ken explained. "She left most of the furniture in the house, since she was moving into her son's house. It's really in fine shape. There's everything you can imagine in this town of Mowbray Narrows."
As they came to the threshold of the house, Ken carried Rilla in and kissed her. "The train to New York leaves in an hour, so I'll show you around the house, and then we'll leave."
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