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The triptych for 11th November

Chapter Text

The Germans captured Lodz today," said Miss Oliver, one December evening, when she, Mrs. Blythe, and Susan were busy sewing or knitting in the cosy living-room. "This war is at least extending my knowledge of geography. Schoolma'am though I am, three months ago I didn't know there was such a place in the world such as Lodz. Had I heard it mentioned I would have known nothing about it and cared as little. I know all about it now—its size, its standing, its military significance. Yesterday the news that the Germans have captured it in their second rush to Warsaw made my heart sink into my boots. I woke up in the night and worried over it. I don't wonder babies always cry when they wake up in the night. Everything presses on my soul then and no cloud has a silver lining."

" When I wake up in the night and cannot go to sleep again," remarked Susan, who was knitting and reading at the same time, "I pass the moments by torturing the Kaiser to death. Last night I fried him in boiling oil and a great comfort it was to me, remembering those Belgian babies."

"If the Kaiser were here and had a pain in his shoulder you'd be the first to run for the liniment bottle to rub him down," laughed Miss Oliver.

"Would I?" cried outraged Susan. "Would I, Miss Oliver? I would rub him down with coal oil, Miss Oliver—and leave it to blister. That is what I would do and that you may tie to. A pain in his shoulder, indeed! He will have pains all over him before he is through with what he has started."

"We are told to love our enemies, Susan," said the doctor solemnly.

" Yes, our enemies, but not King George's enemies, doctor dear," retorted Susan crushingly. She was so well pleased with herself over this flattening out of the doctor completely that she even smiled as she polished her glasses. Susan had never given in to glasses before, but she had done so at last in order to be able to read the war news—and not a dispatch got by her. "Can you tell me, Miss Oliver, how to pronounce M-l-a-w-a and B-z-u-r-a and P-r-z-e-m-y-s-l?"

" That last is a conundrum which nobody seems to have solved yet, Susan. And I can make only a guess at the others."

"These foreign names are far from being decent, in my opinion," said disgusted Susan.

" I dare say the Austrians and Russians would think Saskatchewan and Musquodoboit about as bad, Susan," said Miss Oliver.

-Poles - murmured Mrs. Blythe.

-Excuse me, you were saying, dear Mrs. Dr. dear? - asked Susan.

-Poles. It used to be a Polish town until something like 100 years back the wars changed the borders in Europe. Miss Oliver, you surely remember ‘The Downfall of Poland’ from the reader? Oh, I so enjoyed its tragic verses as a child*...Anyway, I looked the subject up while we analyzed it in Redmond hence I know. Austrians speak German, Przemysl must be a conundrum to them as well. Saskatchewan likewise - she smiled.

- Do you know any foreign language yourself, Mrs. Blythe - asked Miss Oliver, trying to lighten the mood even further.

- Latin and Greek, not much use outside the books nowadays I am afraid. And you?

- Oh, Latin as well. A little French, picked up on my trip to Quebec. I wonder how splendid it must be to fully master one.

- We should try one one day once socks won’t be as sorely needed anymore - Mrs. Blythe’s eyes lighted up - Any picks? Which would be the trickiest to learn, what do you think?

- Chinese. Or Japanese perhaps?

- My friend Priscilla could perhaps attest to that, she speaks Japanese fairly well by now I believe. Or the Fords.

- Chinese is indeed on top of the list - the doctor said - I saw a list recently in some old newspaper - he explained seeing surprise on all faces - You could try as well Hungarian, Arabic, Icelandic, Korean and a couple of others...Polish apparently as well if you wish to perfect your pronunciation of Przemysl - he chuckled.

- Do you think our boys in France will become linguists themselves - Susan said pensively.

- They might pick some French - pondered Miss Oliver - I wouldn’t think they would need any other with their current placement.

-Or German? - teased the doctor.

- Heaven forbid! - cried Susan in indignation.

Little did they know Jem would become pretty good at speaking German before war would be over, even if by necessity rather than choice. And Walter would master them all...or perhaps find himself understanding every language without effort...

Chapter Text

We go over the top tomorrow.

-Tomorrow is today - thought Walter climbing out of his trench - attack at Courcelette begins.

He saw the blurry tall figure with bagpipes in the far of mist around German trenches. They all started running and stumbling and running again across the muddy No-man’s-Land. He saw his comrades around him, struggling to keep pace among whistling bullets of German counter-fire. He saw the barbed wire as they neared the first row of defence forces of the enemy. He felt the pain in his chest, like a sharp needle, and closed his eyes. He opened them to blackness. Blinked and opened them again.

The sharp sunshine dazzled him. Warm wind caressed his skin. He did not feel the tiredness, he did not feel the needlelike pain anymore. If anything he felt at peace. He raised his eyes from the green grass under his feet, so different from the barren land of trenches, and surprised found himself in front of the front porch of Ingleside.

Before he had a chance to take a step forward a young woman in a flowing white dress appeared through the door. She was painstakingly pretty, a stranger to him and yet there were certain similarities he couldn’t at first put his finger like half of Ingleside residents always used to be...willowy of posture...with gray eyes that gave him an inexplicable feeling of gazing in the mirror...

- Hullo... Walter - she said, with just an infinitesimal pause before his name and smiled a mischievous smile that looked somehow familiar.

- Do I know you? - he asked perplexed.

- I am the Wee White Lady - she laughed aloud this time.

- How come I am here...I thought...last time I remembered... - he decided to drop for now the subject of her person and switched to another nagging matter only to find himself struggling to make himself clear.

- I thought you know - she answered and with a slight move of her head indicated the horizon behind Walter’s back.

Walter turned quickly just in time to see the dark tall figure with a cloak disappearing into the mist far away.

- The Piper - he whispered - will he be back? - he asked without thinking.

- Undoubtedly, at some point soon - she sighed - I can only hope not to my place. Oh, well, come on in, we are waiting for you - she grabbed his hand and pulled him forward.

He found himself in a dining room he knew so well. Only...there were slight differences...the smell for one thing - more flowery, airy, no familiar aroma of Susan’s baking despite a cake sitting on the table...and around it...surely the occupants were different to what he knew. Certainly he didn’t expect...wait!... Aunt Marilla?

- You’ve got him Joyce - the old lady said (only she looked somehow...younger than Walter remembered?) standing up an reaching out to hug him - welcome Home.

Something clicked finally in his brain. He began to understand the sudden disappearance of muddy trenches and barren land, of tiredness and pain, the nearness of Rainbow Valley he felt so acutely on the eve of the attack...

- So this is... - he trailed off looking at Joyce and saw her nodding silently - and you are... - she nodded again and now all this similarity made sense to him...he could see in her pieces of his Mother and Father and likeness to...probably Rilla the most.

- How come we are at Ingleside? - he demanded.

- We can ask Him for a preferred abode among other things upon coming - she answered simply - it is perfectly flexible really.

- Oh, enough of this for a moment! - cried an unknown but red-headed man who was until now sitting patiently next to aunt Marilla - give us the news! We can hardly wait anymore! uhm... - he saw Walter’s surprised expression and extended a hand towards him - uhm..Walter. Walter Shirley that is.

- News? - Walter’s eyes were now rounder than ever as he shook proffered hand of, he supposed, his maternal grandfather.

- Sit down..ehm..boy - Walter Sr sighed - take a gulp - he gestured towards a glass of water Joyce put in front of him - let me explain then as it seems inevitable - he chuckled - we don’t know much of what is happening in The Old Place. We get a word someone is coming but not much else. We learn all of the goings on from those that pass to This Side. And as you can see This Side of Ingleside has only one resident...or maybe two now...we all others are just visiting... so not much inside news for a long time, not since Marilla... Anyway...what are the news? How come you are here? Was it the Piper?

- So you know about him? - Walter gasped at the meaning of the question - And there are others?

- Yes, we know of the War since this is when the Piper appears. Normally...yes there are other conveyors. So how come he brought you here?

Walter started to tell his story, prompted from time to time by questions from his listeners. Gradually he began to feel like home, with kindred spirits of his relatives, warm glow of the setting sun, cake tasting of Green Gables. He spoke of his war time, then of Ingleside and all the happenings and shenanigans there, of all family members and neighbours (he noticed a small fair woman in the corner let out a sigh of relief upon hearing of Rilla and Jims), of feelings ripe and feelings fresh, of dreams and visions they used to span...

Finally the darkness fell, the guest stirred and decided perhaps their stories could wait for another time...they all had all the time in the world really... While Walter stood beside Joyce on the porch again, the others dispersed in various directions disappearing in the air...wait! disappearing?

- The distance is immaterial here - smiled Joyce - let’s take a walk to Rainbow Valley, shall we?

Chapter Text

The flag at Ingleside has seen it through all. Susan first put it out in the beginning, just as the news of England declaring the war on Germany reached them. She figured that it was as much as she, an old spinster of distant Glen, could do to show her support and loyalty. She never wavered in her beliefs and put it out resolutely for all victories throughout that awful four years. She put it out to wave farewell to all Blythes and Merediths embarking the train that started them on their journey to Europe. She kept it out billowing proudly and sadly for a full week after they learnt of Walter’s fate. Finally, washed and ironed and bright as new, the flag was put out in joy on 6th of October when Germany and Austria sued for peace and finally on 11th November 1918 - final capitulation of Germany and first day of ultimate final peace of their hearts after so long.

As years went by, she never forget to hang it out again twice a year - on November as everybody else did and mid September for Walter and Courcelette. She would put it out and look proudly up, keeping faith.