Rilla of Ingleside HTML version
XIX. "They Shall Not Pass"
One cold grey morning in February Gertrude Oliver wakened with a shiver, slipped into
Rilla's room, and crept in beside her.
"Rilla--I'm frightened--frightened as a baby--I've had another of my strange dreams.
Something terrible is before us--I know."
"What was it?" asked Rilla.
"I was standing again on the veranda steps--just as I stood in that dream on the night
before the lighthouse dance, and in the sky a huge black, menacing thunder cloud rolled
up from the east. I could see its shadow racing before it and when it enveloped me I
shivered with icy cold. Then the storm broke--and it was a dreadful storm--blinding flash
after flash and deafening peal after peal, driving torrents of rain. I turned in panic and
tried to run for shelter, and as I did so a man--a soldier in the uniform of a French army
officer--dashed up the steps and stood beside me on the threshold of the door. His
clothes were soaked with blood from a wound in his breast, he seemed spent and
exhausted; but his white face was set and his eyes blazed in his hollow face. 'They shall
not pass,' he said, in low, passionate tones which I heard distinctly amid all the turmoil
of the storm. Then I awakened. Rilla, I'm frightened--the spring will not bring the Big
Push we've all been hoping for--instead it is going to bring some dreadful blow to
France. I am sure of it. The Germans will try to smash through somewhere."
"But he told you that they would not pass," said Rilla, seriously. She never laughed at
Gertrude's dreams as the doctor did.
"I do not know if that was prophecy or desperation, Rilla, the horror of that dream holds
me yet in an icy grip. We shall need all our courage before long."
Dr. Blythe did laugh at the breakfast table--but he never laughed at Miss Oliver's
dreams again; for that day brought news of the opening of the Verdun offensive, and
thereafter through all the beautiful weeks of spring the Ingleside family, one and all,
lived in a trance of dread. There were days when they waited in despair for the end as
foot by foot the Germans crept nearer and nearer to the grim barrier of desperate
Susan's deeds were in her spotless kitchen at Ingleside, but her thoughts were on the
hills around Verdun. "Mrs. Dr. dear," she would stick her head in at Mrs. Blythe's door
the last thing at night to remark, "I do hope the French have hung onto the Crow's Wood
today," and she woke at dawn to wonder if Dead Man's Hill--surely named by some