May 1919, Ingleside
"It's still new to me, to Carl, to Jerry. It'll be new to Shirley when he comes back in July," Jem said, shaking his head. "I still can't believe that Walter is gone - I knew it then, but it hits harder now that I'm back and in places we used to play together. How did -"
"It was hard," said Rilla softly, looking around the sitting room the Blythes and Merediths were gathered in. "So hard." Una remembered the moments after they had - after they had found out and Rilla had tried her best to laugh and smile even though everyone who knew her best could tell that such were colorless compared to her true laughs and smiles. "Mother was sick and she didn't recover as well - we didn't tell you because we didn't want you to worry, Jem, besides, Father was with her."
Susan shook her head before she stood up to get some food. "We did our best to work even with the news, that's what we did."
"Your mother started writing a lot after a spell" said Dr. Blythe slowly, his eyes on his wife. "Sometimes almost feverishly, while I slept."
"It helps," said Mrs. Blythe slowly, her hands in her lap. "For the longest time I couldn't hold a pen after I h-heard, but then when I had had a good cry, the words just kept tumbling out, one by one, until I had written maybe ten pages and the sun had come out." Dr. Blythe patted his wife's eyes, an infinite look of sadness passing between them. Una looked away; she had no right to look sad, she reminded herself, for while she had lost no lover, the Blythes had lost a son.
"It does," agreed Rilla, a far away look in her eye as she glanced in the direction of Rainbow Valley. Una knew that Rilla kept a diary and writing in it had helped her terribly during the war. She remembered Walter's words, how he had placed his emotions and that premonition he had of the Piper he had seen when they were children in the poem that would be his legacy. She placed her hand on her heart, trying to calm her emotions.
Jem shook his head. "I'm not as good with words as you, Mother, but if it helps, I'll give it a go."
It started with writing letters. Una was no poet nor writer, but she could at least express herself better with words with a pen than with her voice. This time there would be no one to receive her letters, but now she would be able to write without omitting anything.
(Dear Walter, I love you. She wishes she could have written it properly to him at least once. She knew he would have let her down gently had she done so and he read it which would have been too painful to bear, she thought, so she didn't. But it was more painful now to know that she could never properly tell him.)
June 1919, Glen St. Mary's
It is strange to have most everyone back without you. We've... we've gotten used to it, but the Jerry, Carl, and Jem still have moments when they call your name expectantly before they remember. I'm sure you're in a better place, Walter. I hope that the world will be a better place now, after the war you fought in, no, I'm sure it will be. I will keep faith, as you asked me to, with this life in this new world.
June 1919, Glen St. Mary's
I decided to take Household Science in Redmond College this fall. Faith and Carl tell me that I probably know most of what will be taught to me as I did my best to run the house before Father married Rosemary, but I'm sure that there will be more to learn than the little I knew from watching Mother before she died and what I did back then. Father and Rosemary support the idea wholeheartedly - I don't need to worry about father so much since I know Rosemary will take care of him.
I do not know what I plan to do after college, but maybe the experiences and people I will meet there will help me figure out what I should do next.
College is different from the life at the Glen. I realize how isolated I was in the Glen, maybe because I was the Reverend's daughter, maybe because everyone looked at Faith, Carl, and Jerry who were larger than life. While they're here too, it's different to talk to people without their always knowing about them, or talking with me while they are there. For people to ask about my opinion about things... it's very different. I know they tried their best to shelter me from the harshness of the world, but I suppose the war has taken care of that. Losing you has taken care of that.
I don’t think my writing skills have improved, even though some of my professors have commented that my papers have improved in quality, but somehow I think writing to you (even though you will never get these letters) helps.
Rilla's letter arrived yesterday. She plans to get married to Kenneth Ford during the holidays so that we can all attend. It was a shock for many of the boys that Ken was courting Rilla during the war and that he proposed before he left for the war. (Rilla says it wasn't very clear, but she says that Mrs. Blythe agreed with her that it was a proposal.) It's terrible, Rilla says, she's trying her best to learn all that she needs to before she can be a proper wife to Ken and she says that Susan is a harsh teacher and asks me to take over the teaching when I come home. She also says Kenneth just laughs and eats all her 'failures' when he comes by. She also asked me to be her bridesmaid. I'm sure the wedding will be wonderful. Rilla assures me that the Glen is talking all about it and how scandalous it is that they're getting married before Jem and Faith do. But Jem hasn't finished his studies - only half a year to go - and Ken has finished his, so the circumstances are different.
Today I graduated from College. It will be strange to go back to the Glen - to Father and Rosemary and little Bruce - but it will also be a comfort.
Carl came by with Rilla to congratulate me. They surprised me with their gift - an amount of money to go to - go to France. When I argued that the money would be better spent for repairing the house, Carl shot me down and told me that I should relax and take a vacation. Rilla chimed in that if Susan could take a 'honeymoon' (I wish I could see you smile when I tell you that story), I could certainly take a forthnight to go - to go there.
I guess I'll see what Father says.
When I stepped on the soil of France, I ended up crying. It's not something I can admit to anyone; the conductor looked horrified when he found me sobbing outside the train. He led me to his office and gave me a cup of tea. So many people are good in this world.
I wanted to place flowers on your grave, but all we knew was that you are buried "Somewhere in France." I asked around - someone from Courcelette said that there is a cemetery there for the fallen soldiers, though not all the graves are marked. I plan to travel there immediately.
There were many people at the Courcelette British Cemetery paying their respects. I walked around it but I couldn't find your name on the markers that were there, so I found a grave near a beautiful tree and laid the flowers I brought there. It will have to do; I know you would understand best. I recited your poem there as best as I could and left a copy of it there for you and the rest of the brave soldiers who had died for this peace we have now.
When I come back to the Glen, I will tell your parents and Rilla about the cemetery so that they can visit if they want to. It has helped. I'm glad I came.
I took down the names of the soldiers with markers there - I'll show the list to those I meet on my journey back and to the people in the Glen. Maybe there are others who are looking for their loved ones and will take comfort in knowing where they are buried - I would like to at least give others the chance at comfort that visiting has given me.
It's wonderful to be back in the Glen - this trip has given me more peace than most anyone could ever know. I am indebted to Rilla and Carl many times over, more than I can ever tell them. Your mother asked me about my visiting Courcelette - I think they are planning on going there soon, once your father can arrange for someone to cover for him here.
A professor of mine wrote to me telling me of some volunteer work I might be interested in. Something clicked inside me when I read his letter - maybe I can do things like this, even if I'm not in the medical field like Jem or Faith. I immediately wrote to one of the organizations I'm interested in - the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. If Faith and Jerry knew they would approve because of Carl. He's doing well even with the loss of one eye - and at least only one eye - but I'd like to help the veterans of the war who are also dealing with blindness.
I don't know how well I'll do there, but I want to try to help. Father and Rosemary also approve wholeheartedly of my decision, even though I know they worry about me.
I've met so many people here - people who like you were called by the Piper and answered his call. But when so many thought about enlisting for the war, they didn't worry about the future, but of the present. There are so many veterans of the war to help, not only with walking or finding a job, but to help them unburden what they've seen in the war. Listening to their stories help me better understand you, Walter, how much you sacrificed of your peaceful nature to fight for an Ideal that we who are left have to live up to now. We've been teaching them how to read Braille, helping them to find work that they can do and it helps my heart more than anything could have done. My BA in Household Science has been useful in many ways, to my surprise.
Only Rilla knows that I loved you, Walter, or at least I suspect she does. I still do; I think I'll love you all my life. But you're gone now; I never got to tell you of what I feel for you. I wish that I had been able to all over again, even though it wouldn't have changed anything, but now there is something I can do to help those who also fought for the ideal you believe in - those who are still alive and can be helped.
Maybe partly due to the experience of working in the Junior Reds with Rilla helping me here, I've been offered a job at the Institute organizing activities that we still need to implement. I've accepted, though I haven't told anyone back home yet. I'll miss the Glen, Father, everyone very much, but like you answered the call of the Piper back then, I think this is my own kind of Piper. I'm needed here, Walter. I know you would understand best, if you were still here.
Una smiled softly as she walked up to the Ingleside porch. It had been a long while since she had been able to visit the Glen; two years had gone by since she had started working officially for the Canadian Institute for the Blind. It would be wonderful to see Jem and Faith's little baby boy, Nan and Jerry's little baby girl, and Rilla and Kenneth's little baby boy; she doubted she would ever marry as her heart was still Walter's, but at least the ideals everyone had fought for would live up in their brothers' and sisters' children.
"Una, you're early! Mother and Susan haven't finished cooking yet," Rilla said while opening the door. "I volunteered to help out but they shooed me away," she said with a wry smile. "Susan doesn't trust my cooking, even though I've improved after being married to Ken for five years. How are you? Your last letters got held up in the mail for so long; Rosemary went to the postmaster to make sure they hadn't gotten stuck somewhere."
Una laughed. "I'm fine. I think she wants you to relax, especially since you've been taking care of your baby all this year. Have you visited Jims yet? He must be big now," she said.
"Yes, he is, the wee mite. So much bigger than when I first got him. It's been easy to take care of the baby after all the practice I got with Jims." She smiled. "Well, I have to run out to buy something for father; why don't you go to Rainbow Valley first? It's really beautiful right now, you haven't been there in a while, right?"
"Okay," she said.
And In Rainbow Valley, Una Meredith reflects and writes of what could have been and what happened instead. As promised, she would continue to keep faith even if it was lonely.