Part 4 out of 4
Her mother lay quite still, her head turned and drooping a little
on the pillow. Her left hand was folded softly up against her
breast, the fingers of the right partly covering it, as if
protecting something precious.
Was it the moonlight that made the patient brow so white, and
where were the lines of anxiety and pain? The face of the mother
who had washed and cried and cried and washed was as radiant as
if the closed eye were beholding heavenly visions.
"Something must have cured her!" thought Clara Belle, awed and
almost frightened by the whiteness and the silence.
She tiptoed across the floor to look more closely at the still,
smiling shape, and bending over it saw, under the shadow of the
caressing right hand, a narrow gold band gleaming on the
"Oh, the ring came, after all!" she said in a glad whisper, "and
perhaps it was that that made her better!"
She put her hand on her mother's gently. A terrified shiver, a
warning shudder, shook the girl from head to foot at the chilling
touch. A dread presence she had never met before suddenly took
shape. It filled the room; stifled the cry on her lips; froze her
steps to the floor, stopped the beating of her heart.
Just then the door opened.
"Oh, doctor! Come quick!" she sobbed, stretching out her hand for
help, and then covering her eyes. "Come close! Look at mother! Is
she better--or is she dead?"
The doctor put one hand on the shoulder of the shrinking child,
and touched the woman with the other.
"She is better!" he said gently, "and she is dead."
Rebecca was sitting by the window in her room at the Wareham
Female Seminary. She was alone, as her roommate, Emma Jane
Perkins, was reciting Latin down below in some academic vault of
the old brick building.
A new and most ardent passion for the classics had been born in
Emma Jane's hitherto unfertile brain, for Abijah Flagg, who was
carrying off all the prizes at Limerick Academy, had written her
a letter in Latin, a letter which she had been unable to
translate for herself, even with the aid of a dictionary, and
which she had been apparently unwilling that Rebecca, her bosom
friend, confidant, and roommate, should render into English.
An old-fashioned Female Seminary, with its allotment of one
medium-sized room to two medium sized young females, gave small
opportunities for privacy by night or day, for neither the double
washstand, nor the thus far unimagined bathroom, nor even indeed
the humble and serviceable screen, had been realized, in these
dark ages of which I write. Accordingly, like the irrational
ostrich, which defends itself by the simple process of not
looking at its pursuers, Emma Jane had kept her Latin letter in
her closed hand, in her pocket, or in her open book, flattering
herself that no one had noticed her pleased bewilderment at its
only half-imagined contents.
All the fairies were not present at Rebecca's cradle. A goodly
number of them telegraphed that they were previously engaged or
unavoidably absent from town. The village of Temperance, Maine,
where Rebecca first saw the light, was hardly a place on its own
merits to attract large throngs of fairies. But one dear old
personage who keeps her pocket full of Merry Leaves from the
Laughing Tree, took a fancy to come to the little birthday party;
and seeing so few of her sister-fairies present, she dowered the
sleeping baby more richly than was her wont, because of its
apparent lack of wealth in other directions. So the child grew,
and the Merry Leaves from the Laughing Tree rustled where they
hung from the hood of her cradle, and, being fairy leaves, when
the cradle was given up they festooned themselves on the
cribside, and later on blew themselves up to the ceilings at
Sunnybook Farm and dangled there, making fun for everybody. They
never withered, even at the brick house in Riverboro, where the
air was particularly inimical to fairies, for Miss Miranda Sawyer
would have scared any ordinary elf out of her seventeen senses.
They followed Rebecca to Wareham, and during Abijah Flagg's Latin
correspondence with Emma Jane they fluttered about that young
person's head in such a manner that Rebecca was almost afraid
that she would discover them herself, although this is something,
as a matter of fact, that never does happen.
A week had gone by since the Latin missive had been taken from
the post-office by Emma Jane, and now, by means of much midnight
oil-burning, by much cautious questioning of Miss Maxwell, by
such scrutiny of the moods and tenses of Latin verbs as wellnigh
destroyed her brain tissue, she had mastered its romantic
message. If it was conventional in style, Emma Jane never
suspected it. If some of the similes seemed to have been culled
from the Latin poets, and some of the phrases built up from Latin
exercises, Emma Jane was neither scholar nor critic; the similes,
the phrases, the sentiments, when finally translated and written
down in black-and-white English, made, in her opinion, the most
convincing and heart-melting document ever sent through the
Mea cara Emma:
Cur audeo scribere ad te epistulam? Es mihi dea! Semper es in mea
anima. Iterum et iterum es cum me in somnis. Saepe video tuas
capillos auri, tuos pulchros oculos similes caelo, tuas genas,
quasi rubentes rosas in nive. Tua vox est dulcior quam cantus
avium aut murmur rivuli in montibus.
Cur sum ego tam miser et pauper et indignus, et tu tam dulcis et
bona et nobilis?
Si cogitabis de me ero beatus. Tu es sola puella quam amo, et
semper eris. Alias puellas non amavi. Forte olim amabis me, sed
sum indignus. Sine te sum miser, cum tu es prope mea vita omni
Vale, carissima, carissima puella!
De tuo fideli servo A.F.
My dear Emma:
Why dare I write to you a letter? You are to me a goddess! Always
you are in my heart. Again and again you are with me in dreams.
Often I see your locks of gold, your beautiful eyes like the sky,
your cheeks, as red roses in snow. Your voice is sweeter than the
singing of birds or the murmur of the stream in the mountains.
Why am I so wretched and poor and unworthy, and you so sweet and
good and noble?
If you will think of me I shall be happy. You are the only girl
that I love and always will be. Other girls I have not loved.
Perhaps sometime you will love me, but I am unworthy. Without
you, I am wretched, when you are near my life is all joy.
Farewell, dearest, dearest girl!
From your faithful slave A.F.
Emma Jane knew the letter by heart in English. She even knew it
in Latin, only a few days before a dead language to her, but now
one filled with life and meaning. From beginning to end the
epistle had the effect upon her as of an intoxicating elixir.
Often, at morning prayers, or while eating her rice pudding at
the noon dinner, or when sinking off to sleep at night, she heard
a voice murmuring in her ear, "Vale, carissima, carissima
puella!" As to the effect on her modest, countrified little heart
of the phrases in which Abijah stated she was a goddess and he
her faithful slave, that quite baffles description; for it lifted
her bodily out of the scenes in which she moved, into a new,
rosy, ethereal atmosphere in which even Rebecca had no place.
Rebecca did not know this, fortunately; she only suspected, and
waited for the day when Emma Jane would pour out her confidences,
as she always did, and always would until the end of time. At the
present moment she was busily employed in thinking about her own
affairs. A shabby composition book with mottled board covers lay
open on the table before her, and sometimes she wrote in it with
feverish haste and absorption, and sometimes she rested her chin
in the cup of her palm, and with the pencil poised in the other
hand looked dreamily out on the village, its huddle of roofs and
steeples all blurred into positive beauty by the fast-falling
It was the middle of December and the friendly sky was softly
dropping a great white mantle of peace and good-will over the
little town, making all ready within and without for the Feast o'
The main street, that in summer was made dignified by its
splendid avenue of shade trees, now ran quiet and white between
rows of stalwart trunks, whose leafless branches were all hanging
heavy under their dazzling burden.
The path leading straight up the hill to the Academy was broken
only by the feet of the hurrying, breathless boys and girls who
ran up and down, carrying piles of books under their arms; books
which they remembered so long as they were within the four walls
of the recitation room, and which they eagerly forgot as soon as
they met one another in the living, laughing world, going up and
down the hill.
"It's very becoming to the universe, snow is!" though Rebecca,
looking out of the window dreamily. "Really there's little to
choose between the world and heaven when a snowstorm is going on.
I feel as if I ought to look at it every minute. I wish I could
get over being greedy, but it still seems to me at sixteen as if
there weren't waking hours enough in the day, and as if somehow I
were pressed for time and continually losing something. How well
I remember mother's story about me when I was four. It was at
early breakfast on the farm, but I called all meals dinner' then,
and when I had finished I folded up my bib and sighed: O, dear!
Only two more dinners, play a while and go to bed!' This was at
six in the morning--lamplight in the kitchen, snowlight outside!
Powdery, powdery, powdery snow,
Making things lovely wherever you go!
Merciful, merciful, merciful snow,
Masking the ugliness hidden below.
Herbert made me promise to do a poem for the January 'Pilot,' but
I mustn't take the snow as a subject; there has been too great
competition among the older poets!" And with that she turned in
her chair and began writing again in the shabby book, which was
already three quarters filled with childish scribblings,
sometimes in pencil, and sometimes in violet ink with carefully
shaded capital letters.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Squire Bean has had a sharp attack of rheumatism and Abijah Flagg
came back from Limerick for a few days to nurse him. One morning
the Burnham sisters from North Riverboro came over to spend the
day with Aunt Miranda, and Abijah went down to put up their
horse. ("'Commodatin' 'Bijah" was his pet name when we were all
He scaled the ladder to the barn chamber--the dear old ladder
that used to be my safety valve!--and pitched down the last
forkful of grandfather's hay that will ever be eaten by any
visiting horse. They WILL be delighted to hear that it is all
gone; they have grumbled at it for years and years.
What should Abijah find at the bottom of the heap but my Thought
Book, hidden there two or three years ago and forgotten!
When I think of what it was to me, the place it filled in my
life, the affection I lavished on it, I wonder that I could
forget it, even in all the excitement of coming to Wareham to
school. And that gives me "an uncommon thought" as I used to say!
It is this: that when we finish building an air castle we seldom
live in it after all; we sometimes even forget that we ever
longed to! Perhaps we have gone so far as to begin another castle
on a higher hilltop, and this is so beautiful,-- especially while
we are building, and before we live in it!--that the first one
has quite vanished from sight and mind, like the outgrown shell
of the nautilus that he casts off on the shore and never looks at
again. (At least I suppose he doesn't; but perhaps he takes one
backward glance, half-smiling, half-serious, just as I am doing
at my old Thought Book, and says, "WAS THAT MY SHELL! GOODNESS
GRACIOUS! HOW DID I EVER SQUEEZE MYSELF INTO IT!"
That bit about the nautilus sounds like an extract from a school
theme, or a "Pilot" editorial, or a fragment of one of dear Miss
Maxwell's lectures, but I think girls of sixteen are principally
imitations of the people and things they love and admire; and
between editing the "Pilot," writing out Virgil translations,
searching for composition subjects, and studying rhetorical
models, there is very little of the original Rebecca Rowena about
me at the present moment; I am just a member of the graduating
class in good and regular standing. We do our hair alike, dress
alike as much as possible, eat and drink alike, talk alike,--I am
not even sure that we do not think alike; and what will become of
the poor world when we are all let loose upon it on the same day
of June? Will life, real life, bring our true selves back to us?
Will love and duty and sorrow and trouble and work finally wear
off the "school stamp" that has been pressed upon all of us until
we look like rows of shining copper cents fresh from the mint?
Yet there must be a little difference between us somewhere, or
why does Abijah Flagg write Latin letters to Emma Jane, instead
of to me? There is one example on the other side of the
argument,--Abijah Flagg. He stands out from all the rest of the
boys like the Rock of Gibraltar in the geography pictures. Is it
because he never went to school until he was sixteen? He almost
died of longing to go, and the longing seemed to teach him more
than going. He knew his letters, and could read simple things,
but it was I who taught him what books really meant when I was
eleven and he thirteen. We studied while he was husking corn or
cutting potatoes for seed, or shelling beans in the Squire's
barn. His beloved Emma Jane didn't teach him; her father wold not
have let her be friends with a chore-boy! It was I who found him
after milking-time, summer nights, suffering, yes dying, of Least
Common Multiple and Greatest Common Divisor; I who struck the
shackles from the slave and told him to skip it all and go on to
something easier, like Fractions, Percentage, and Compound
Interest, as I did myself. Oh! How he used to smell of the cows
when I was correcting his sums on warm evenings, but I don't
regret it, for he is now the joy of Limerick and the pride of
Riverboro, and I suppose has forgotten the proper side on which
to approach a cow if you wish to milk her. This now unserviceable
knowledge is neatly inclosed in the outgrown shell he threw off
two or three years ago. His gratitude to me knows no bounds,
but--he writes Latin letters to Emma Jane! But as Mr. Perkins
said about drowning the kittens (I now quote from myself at
thirteen), "It is the way of the world and how things have to
Well, I have read the Thought Book all through, and when I want
to make Mr. Aladdin laugh, I shall show him my composition on the
relative values of punishment and reward as builders of
I am not at all the same Rebecca today at sixteen that I was
then, at twelve and thirteen. I hope, in getting rid of my
failings, that I haven't scrubbed and rubbed so hard that I have
taken the gloss off the poor little virtues that lay just
alongside of the faults; for as I read the foolish doggerel and
the funny, funny "Remerniscences," I see on the whole a nice,
well-meaning, trusting, loving heedless little creature, that
after all I'd rather build on than outgrow altogether, because
she is Me; the Me that was made and born just a little different
from all the rest of the babies in my birthday year.
One thing is alike in the child and the girl. They both love to
set thoughts down in black and white; to see how they look, how
they sound, and how they make one feel when one reads them over.
They both love the sound of beautiful sentences and the tinkle of
rhyming words, and in fact, of the three great R's of life, they
adore Reading and Riting, as much as they abhor "Rithmetic.
The little girl in the old book is always thinking of what she is
"going to be."
Uncle Jerry Cobb spoiled me a good deal in this direction. I
remember he said to everybody when I wrote my verses for the
flag-raising: "Nary rung on the ladder o' fame but that child'll
climb if you give her time!"--poor Uncle Jerry! He will be so
disappointed in me as time goes on. And still he would think I
have already climbed two rungs on the ladder, although it is only
a little Wareham ladder, for I am one of the "Pilot" editors, the
first "girl editor"--and I have taken a fifty dollar prize in
composition and paid off the interest on a twelve hundred dollar
mortgage with it.
"High is the rank we now possess,
But higher we shall rise;
Though what we shall hereafter be
Is hid from mortal eyes."
This hymn was sung in meeting the Sunday after my election, and
Mr. Aladdin was there that day and looked across the aisle and
smiled at me. Then he sent me a sheet of paper from Boston the
next morning with just one verse in the middle of it.
"She made the cleverest people quite ashamed;
And ev'n the good with inward envy groan,
Finding themselves so very much exceeded,
In their own way by all the things that she did."
Miss Maxwell says it is Byron, and I wish I had thought of the
last rhyme before Byron did; my rhymes are always so common.
I am too busy doing, nowadays, to give very much thought to
being. Mr. Aladdin was teasing me one day about what he calls my
"What makes you aim at any mark in particular, Rebecca?" he
asked, looking at Miss Maxwell and laughing. "Women never hit
what they aim at, anyway; but if they shut their eyes and shoot
in the air they generally find themselves in the bull's eye."
I think one reason that I have always dreamed of what I should
be, when I grew up, was, that even before father died mother
worried about the mortgage on the farm, and what would become of
us if it were foreclosed.
It was hard on children to be brought up on a mortgage that way,
but oh! it was harder still on poor dear mother, who had seven of
us then to think of, and still has three at home to feed and
clothe out of the farm.
Aunt Jane says I am young for my age, Aunt Miranda is afraid that
I will never really "grow up," Mr. Aladdin says that I don't know
the world any better than the pearl inside of the oyster. They
none of them know the old, old thoughts I have, some of them
going back years and years; for they are never ones that I can
I remember how we children used to admire father, he was so
handsome and graceful and amusing, never cross like mother, or
too busy to play with us. He never did any work at home because
he had to keep his hands nice for playing the church melodeon, or
the violin or piano for dances.
Mother used to say: "Hannah and Rebecca, you must hull the
strawberries, your father cannot help." "John, you must milk next
year for I haven't the time and it would spoil your father's
All the other men in Temperance village wore calico, or flannel
shirts, except on Sundays, but Father never wore any but white
ones with starched bosoms. He was very particular about them and
mother used to stitch and stitch on the pleats, and press and
press the bosoms and collar and cuffs, sometimes late at night.
Then she was tired and thin and gray, with no time to sew on new
dresses for herself, and no time to wear them, because she was
always taking care of the babies; and father was happy and well
and handsome. But we children never thought much about it until
once, after father had mortgaged the farm, there was going to be
a sociable in Temperance village. Mother could not go as Jenny
had whooping-cough and Mark had just broken his arm, and when she
was tying father's necktie, the last thing before he started, he
said: "I wish, Aurelia, that you cared a little about YOUR
appearance and YOUR dress; it goes a long way with a man like
Mother had finished the tie, and her hands dropped suddenly. I
looked at her eyes and mouth while she looked at father and in a
minute I was ever so old, with a grown-up ache in my heart. It
has always stayed there, although I admired my handsome father
and was proud of him because he was so talented; but now that I
am older and have thought about things, my love for mother is
different from what it used to be. Father was always the favorite
when we were little, he was so interesting, and I wonder
sometimes if we don't remember interesting people longer and
better than we do those who are just good and patient. If so it
seems very cruel.
As I look back I see that Miss Ross, the artist who brought me my
pink parasol from Paris, sowed the first seeds in me of ambition
to do something special. Her life seemed so beautiful and so easy
to a child. I had not been to school then, or read George
Macdonald, so I did not know that "Ease is the lovely result of
Miss Ross sat out of doors and painted lovely things, and
everybody said how wonderful they were, and bought them straight
away; and she took care of a blind father and two brothers, and
traveled wherever she wished. It comes back to me now, that
summer when I was ten and Miss Ross painted me sitting by the
mill-wheel while she talked to me of foreign countries!
The other day Miss Maxwell read something from Browning's poems
to the girls of her literature class. It was about David the
shepherd boy who used to lie in his hollow watching one eagle
"wheeling slow as in sleep." He used to wonder about the wide
world that the eagle beheld, the eagle that was stretching his
wings so far up in the blue, while he, the poor shepherd boy,
could see only the "strip twixt the hill and the sky;" for he lay
in a hollow.
I told Mr. Baxter about it the next day, which was the Saturday
before I joined the church. I asked him if it was wicked to long
to see as much as the eagle saw?
There was never anybody quite like Mr. Baxter. "Rebecca dear," he
said, "it may be that you need not always lie in a hollow, as the
shepherd boy did; but wherever you lie, that little strip you see
'twixt the hill and the sky' is able to hold all of earth and all
of heaven, if only you have the right sort of vision."
I was a long, long time about "experiencing religion." I remember
Sunday afternoons at the brick house the first winter after I
went there; when I used to sit in the middle of the dining-room
as I was bid, silent and still, with the big family Bible on my
knees. Aunt Miranda had Baxter's "Saints' Rest," but her seat was
by the window, and she at least could give a glance into the
street now and then without being positively wicked.
Aunt Jane used to read the "Pilgrim's Progress." The fire burned
low; the tall clock ticked, ticked, so slowly and steadily, that
the pictures swam before my eyes and I almost fell asleep.
They thought by shutting everything else out that I should see
God; but I didn't, not once. I was so homesick for Sunnybook and
John that I could hardly learn my weekly hymns, especially the
sad, long one beginning:
"My thoughts on awful subjects roll,
Damnation and the dead."
It was brother John for whom I was chiefly homesick on Sunday
afternoons, because at Sunnybrook Farm father was dead and mother
was always busy, and Hannah never liked to talk.
Then the next year the missionaries from Syria came to Riverboro;
and at the meeting Mr. Burch saw me playing the melodeon, and
thought I was grown up and a church member, and so he asked me to
lead in prayer.
I didn't dare to refuse, and when I prayed, which was just like
thinking out loud, I found I could talk to God a great deal
easier than to Aunt Miranda or even to Uncle Jerry Cobb. There
were things I could say to Him that I could never say to anybody
else, and saying them always made me happy and contented.
When Mr. Baxter asked me last year about joining the church, I
told him I was afraid I did not understand God quite well enough
to be a real member.
"So you don't quite understand God, Rebecca?' he asked, smiling.
"Well, there is something else much more important, which is,
that He understands you! He understands your feeble love, your
longings, desires, hopes, faults, ambitions, crosses; and that,
after all, is what counts! Of course you don't understand Him!
You are overshadowed by His love, His power, His benignity, His
wisdom; that is as it should be! Why, Rebecca, dear, if you could
stand erect and unabashed in God's presence, as one who perfectly
comprehended His nature or His purposes, it would be sacrilege!
Don't be puzzled out of your blessed inheritance of faith, my
child; accept God easily and naturally, just as He accepts you!"
"God never puzzled me, Mr. Baxter; it isn't that," I said; "but
the doctrines do worry me dreadfully."
"Let them alone for the present," Mr Baxter said. "Anyway,
Rebecca, you can never prove God; you can only find Him!"
"Then do you think I have really experienced religion, Mr.
Baxter?" I asked. "Am I the beginnings of a Christian?"
"You are a dear child of the understanding God!" Mr. Baxter said;
and I say it over to myself night and morning so that I can never
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The year is nearly over and the next few months will be lived in
the rush and whirlwind of work that comes before graduation. The
bell for philosophy class will ring in ten minutes, and as I have
been writing for nearly two hours, I must learn my lesson going
up the Academy hill. It will not be the first time; it is a grand
hill for learning! I suppose after fifty years or so the very
ground has become soaked with knowledge, and every particle of
air in the vicinity is crammed with useful information.
I will put my book into my trunk (having no blessed haymow
hereabouts) and take it out again,-- when shall I take it out
After graduation perhaps I shall be too grown up and too busy to
write in a Thought Book; but oh, if only something would happen
worth putting down; something strange; something unusual;
something different from the things that happen every day in
Riverboro and Edgewood!
Graduation will surely take me a little out of "the
hollow,"--make me a little more like the soaring eagle, gazing at
the whole wide world beneath him while he wheels "slow as in
sleep." But whether or not, I'll try not to be a discontented
shepherd, but remember what Mr. Baxter said, that the little
strip that I see " twixt the hill and the sky" is able to hold
all of earth and all of heaven, if only I have the eyes to see
it. Rebecca Rowena Randall. Wareham Female Seminary, December
ABIJAH THE BRAVE AND THE FAIR EMMAJANE
"A warrior so bold and a maiden so bright
Conversed as they sat on the green.
They gazed at each other in tender delight.
Alonzo the brave was the name of the knight,
And the maid was the fair Imogene.
"Alas!' said the youth, 'since tomorrow I go
To fight in a far distant land,
Your tears for my absence soon ceasing to flow,
Some other will court you, and you will bestow
On a wealthier suitor your hand.'
'Oh, hush these suspicions!' Fair Imogene said,
"So hurtful to love and to me!
For if you be living, or if you be dead,
I swear by the Virgin that none in your stead
Shall the husband of Imogene be!'
Ever since she was eight years old Rebecca had wished to be
eighteen, but now that she was within a month of that
awe-inspiring and long-desired age she wondered if, after all, it
was destined to be a turning point in her quiet existence. Her
eleventh year, for instance, had been a real turning-point, since
it was then that she had left Sunnybrook Farm and come to her
maiden aunts in Riverboro. Aurelia Randall may have been doubtful
as to the effect upon her spinster sisters of the irrepressible
child, but she was hopeful from the first that the larger
opportunities of Riverboro would be the "making" of Rebecca
The next turning-point was her fourteenth year, when she left the
district school for the Wareham Female Seminary, then in the
hey-day of its local fame. Graduation (next to marriage, perhaps,
the most thrilling episode in the life of a little country girl)
happened at seventeen, and not long afterward her Aunt Miranda's
death, sudden and unexpected, changed not only all the outward
activities and conditions of her life, but played its own part in
The brick house looked very homelike and pleasant on a June
morning nowadays with children's faces smiling at the windows and
youthful footsteps sounding through the halls; and the brass
knocker on the red-painted front door might have remembered
Rebecca's prayer of a year before, when she leaned against its
sun-warmed brightness and whispered: "God bless Aunt Miranda; God
bless the brick house that was; God bless the brick house that's
going to be!"
All the doors and blinds were open to the sun and air as they had
never been in Miss Miranda Sawyer's time. The hollyhock bed that
had been her chief pride was never neglected, and Rebecca liked
to hear the neighbors say that there was no such row of beautiful
plants and no such variety of beautiful colors in Riverboro as
those that climbed up and peeped in at the kitchen windows where
old Miss Miranda used to sit.
Now that the place was her very own Rebecca felt a passion of
pride in its smoothly mown fields, its carefully thinned-out
woods, its blooming garden spots, and its well-weeded vegetable
patch; felt, too whenever she looked at any part of it, a passion
of gratitude to the stern old aunt who had looked upon her as the
future head of the family, as well as a passion of desire to be
worthy of that trust.
It had been a very difficult year for a girl fresh from school:
the death of her aunt, the nursing of Miss Jane, prematurely
enfeebled by the shock, the removal of her own invalid mother and
the rest of the little family from Sunnybrook Farm. But all had
gone smoothly; and when once the Randall fortunes had taken an
upward turn nothing seemed able to stop their intrepid ascent.
Aurelia Randall renewed her youth in the companionship of her
sister Jane and the comforts by which her children were
surrounded; the mortgage was no longer a daily terror, for
Sunnybrook had been sold to the new railroad; Hannah, now Mrs.
Will Melville, was happily situated; John, at last, was studying
medicine; Mark, the boisterous and unlucky brother, had broken no
bones for several months; while Jenny and Fanny were doing well
at the district school under Miss Libby Moses, Miss Dearborn's
"I don't feel very safe," thought Rebecca, remembering all these
unaccustomed mercies as she sat on the front doorsteps, with her
tatting shuttle flying in and out of the fine cotton like a
hummingbird. "It's just like one of those too beautiful July days
that winds up with a thundershower before night! Still, when you
remember that the Randalls never had anything but thunder and
lightning, rain, snow, and hail, in their family history for
twelve or fifteen years, perhaps it is only natural that they
should enjoy a little spell of settled weather. If it really
turns out to BE settled, now that Aunt Jane and mother are strong
again I must be looking up one of what Mr. Aladdin calls my
cast-off careers."--There comes Emma Jane Perkins through her
front gate; she will be here in a minute, and I'll tease her!"
and Rebecca ran in the door and seated herself at the old piano
that stood between the open windows in the parlor.
Peeping from behind the muslin curtains, she waited until Emma
Jane was on the very threshold and then began singing her version
of an old ballad, made that morning while she was dressing. The
ballad was a great favorite of hers, and she counted on doing
telling execution with it in the present instance by the simple
subterfuge of removing the original hero and heroine, Alonzo and
Imogene, and substituting Abijah the Brave and the Fair Emmajane,
leaving the circumstances in the first three verses unaltered,
because in truth they seemed to require no alteration.
Her high, clear voice, quivering with merriment, floated through
the windows into the still summer air:
"'A warrior so bold and a maiden so bright
Conversed as they sat on the green.
They gazed at each other in tender delight.
Abijah the Brave was the name of the knight,
And the maid was the Fair Emmajane.'"
"Rebecca Randall, stop! Somebody'll hear you!"
"No, they won't--they're making jelly in the kitchen, miles
"'Alas!' said the youth, since tomorrow I go
To fight in a far distant land,
Your tears for my absence soon ceasing to flow,
Some other will court you, and you will bestow
On a wealthier suitor your hand.'"
"Rebecca, you can't THINK how your voice carries! I believe
mother can hear it over to my house!"
"Then, if she can, I must sing the third verse, just to clear
your reputation from the cloud cast upon it in the second,"
laughed her tormentor, going on with the song:
"'Oh, hush these suspicions!' Fair Emmajane said,
'So hurtful to love and to me!
For if you be living, or if you be dead,
I swear, my Abijah, that none in your stead,
Shall the husband of Emmajane be!'"
After ending the third verse Rebecca wheeled around on the piano
stool and confronted her friend, who was carefully closing the
"Emma Jane Perkins, it is an ordinary Thursday afternoon at four
o'clock and you have on your new blue barege, although there is
not even a church sociable in prospect this evening. What does
this mean? Is Abijah the Brave coming at last?"
"I don't know certainly, but it will be some time this week."
"And of course you'd rather be dressed up and not seen, than seen
when not dressed up. Right, my Fair Emmajane; so would I. Not
that it makes any difference to poor me, wearing my fourth best
black and white calico and expecting nobody.
"Oh, well, YOU! There's something inside of you that does instead
of pretty dresses," cried Emma Jane, whose adoration of her
friend had never altered nor lessened since they met at the age
of eleven. "You know you are as different from anybody else in
Riverboro as a princess in a fairy story. Libby Moses says they
would notice you in Lowell, Massachusetts!"
"Would they? I wonder," speculated Rebecca, rendered almost
speechless by this tribute to her charms. "Well, if Lowell,
Massachusetts, could see me, or if you could see me, in my new
lavender muslin with the violet sash, it would die of envy, and
so would you!"
"If I had been going to be envious of you, Rebecca, I should have
died years ago. Come, let's go out on the steps where it's shady
"And where we can see the Perkins front gate and the road running
both ways," teased Rebecca, and then, softening her tone, she
said: "How is it getting on, Emmy? Tell me what's happened since
I've been in Brunswick."
"Nothing much," confessed Emma Jane. "He writes to me, but I
don't write to him, you know. I don't dare to, till he comes to
"Are his letters still in Latin?" asked Rebecca, with a twinkling
"Oh, no! Not now, because--well, because there are things you
can't seem to write in Latin. I saw him at the Masonic picnic in
the grove, but he won't say anything REAL to me till he gets more
pay and dares to speak to mother and father. He IS brave in all
other ways, but I ain't sure he'll ever have the courage for
that, he's so afraid of them and always has been. Just remember
what's in his mind all the time, Rebecca, that my folks know all
about what his mother was, and how he was born on the poor-farm.
Not that I care; look how he's educated and worked himself up! I
think he's perfectly elegant, and I shouldn't mind if he had been
born in the bulrushes, like Moses."
Emma Jane's every-day vocabulary was pretty much what it had been
before she went to the expensive Wareham Female Seminary. She had
acquired a certain amount of information concerning the art of
speech, but in moments of strong feeling she lapsed into the
vernacular. She grew slowly in all directions, did Emma Jane,
and, to use Rebecca's favorite nautilus figure, she had left
comparatively few outgrown shells on the shores of "life's
"Moses wasn't born in the bulrushes, Emmy dear," corrected
Rebecca laughingly. "Pharaoh's daughter found him there. It
wasn't quite as romantic a scene--Squire Bean's wife taking
little Abijah Flagg from the poorhouse when his girl-mother died,
but, oh, I think Abijah's splendid! Mr. Ladd says Riverboro'll be
proud of him yet, and I shouldn't wonder, Emmy dear, if you had a
three-story house with a cupola on it, some day; and sitting down
at your mahogany desk inlaid with garnets, you will write notes
stating that Mrs. Abijah Flagg requests the pleasure of Miss
Rebecca Randall's company to tea, and that the Hon. Abijah Flagg,
M.C., will call for her on his way from the station with a span
of horses and the turquoise carryall!"
Emma Jane laughed at the ridiculous prophecy, and answered: "If I
ever write the invitation I shan't be addressing it to Miss
Randall, I'm sure of that; it'll be to Mrs.-----"
"Don't!" cried Rebecca impetuously, changing color and putting
her hand over Emma Jane's lips. "If you won't I'll stop teasing.
I couldn't bear a name put to anything, I couldn't, Emmy dear! I
wouldn't tease you, either, if it weren't something we've both
known ever so long--something that you have always consulted me
about of your own accord, and Abijah too."
"Don't get excited," replied Emma Jane, "I was only going to say
you were sure to be Mrs. Somebody in course of time."
"Oh," said Rebecca with a relieved sigh, her color coming back;
"if that's all you meant, just nonsense; but I thought, I
thought--I don't really know just what I thought!"
"I think you thought something you didn't want me to think you
thought," said Emma Jane with unusual felicity.
"No, it's not that; but somehow, today, I have been remembering
things. Perhaps it was because at breakfast Aunt Jane and mother
reminded me of my coming birthday and said that Squire Bean would
give me the deed of the brick house. That made me feel very old
and responsible; and when I came out on the steps this afternoon
it was just as if pictures of the old years were moving up and
down the road. Everything is so beautiful today! Doesn't the sky
look as if it had been dyed blue and the fields painted pink and
green and yellow this very minute?"
"It's a perfectly elegant day!" responded Emma Jane with a sigh.
"If only my mind was at rest! That's the difference between being
young and grown-up. We never used to think and worry."
"Indeed we didn't!" Look, Emmy, there's the very spot where Uncle
Jerry Cobb stopped the stage and I stepped out with my pink
parasol and my bouquet of purple lilacs, and you were watching me
from your bedroom window and wondering what I had in mother's
little hair trunk strapped on behind. Poor Aunt Miranda didn't
love me at first sight, and oh, how cross she was the first two
years! But now every hard thought I ever had comes back to me and
cuts like a knife!"
"She was dreadful hard to get along with, and I used to hate her
like poison," confessed Emma Jane; "but I am sorry now. She was
kinder toward the last, anyway, and then, you see children know
so little! We never suspected she was sick or that she was
worrying over that lost interest money."
"That's the trouble. People seem hard and unreasonable and
unjust, and we can't help being hurt at the time, but if they die
we forget everything but our own angry speeches; somehow we never
remember theirs. And oh, Emma Jane, there's another such a sweet
little picture out there in the road. The next day after I came
to Riverboro, do you remember, I stole out of the brick house
crying, and leaned against the front gate. You pushed your little
fat pink-and-white face through the pickets and said: Don't cry!
I'll kiss you if you will me!'"
Lumps rose suddenly in Emma Jane's throat, and she put her arm
around Rebecca's waist as they sat together side by side.
"Oh, I do remember," she said in a choking voice. "And I can see
the two of us driving over to North Riverboro and selling soap to
Mr. Adam Ladd; and lighting up the premium banquet lamp at the
Simpson party; and laying the daisies round Jacky Winslow's
mother when she was dead in the cabin; and trundling Jacky up and
down the street in our old baby carriage!"
"And I remember you," continued Rebecca, "being chased down the
hill by Jacob Moody, when we were being Daughters of Zion and you
had been chosen to convert him!"
"And I remember you, getting the flag back from Mr. Simpson; and
how you looked when you spoke your verses at the flag-raising."
"And have you forgotten the week I refused to speak to Abijah
Flagg because he fished my turban with the porcupine quills out
of the river when I hoped at last that I had lost it! Oh, Emma
Jane, we had dear good times together in the little harbor.'"
"I always thought that was an elegant composition of yours--that
farewell to the class," said Emma Jane.
"The strong tide bears us on, out of the little harbor of
childhood into the unknown seas," recalled Rebecca. "It is
bearing you almost out of my sight, Emmy, these last days, when
you put on a new dress in the afternoon and look out of the
window instead of coming across the street. Abijah Flagg never
used to be in the little harbor with the rest of us; when did he
first sail in, Emmy?"
Emma Jane grew a deeper pink and her button-hole of a mouth
quivered with delicious excitement.
"It was last year at the seminary, when he wrote me his first
Latin letter from Limerick Academy," she said in a half whisper.
"I remember," laughed Rebecca. "You suddenly began the study of
the dead languages, and the Latin dictionary took the place of
the crochet needle in your affections. It was cruel of you never
to show me that letter, Emmy!"
"I know every word of it by heart," said the blushing Emma Jane,
"and I think I really ought to say it to you, because it's the
only way you will ever know how perfectly elegant Abijah is. Look
the other way, Rebecca. Shall I have to translate it for you, do
you think, because it seems to me I could not bear to do that!"
"It depends upon Abijah's Latin and your pronunciation," teased
Rebecca. "Go on; I will turn my eyes toward the orchard."
The Fair Emmajane, looking none too old still for the "little
harbor," but almost too young for the "unknown seas," gathered up
her courage and recited like a tremulous parrot the boyish love
letter that had so fired her youthful imagination.
"Vale, carissima, carissima puella!" repeated Rebecca in her
musical voice. "Oh, how beautiful it sounds! I don't wonder it
altered your feeling for Abijah! Upon my word, Emma Jane," she
cried with a sudden change of tone, "if I had suspected for an
instant that Abijah the Brave had that Latin letter in him I
should have tried to get him to write it to me; and then it would
be I who would sit down at my mahogany desk and ask Miss Perkins
to come to tea with Mrs. Flagg."
Emma Jane paled and shuddered openly. "I speak as a church
member, Rebecca," she said, "when I tell you I've always thanked
the Lord that you never looked at Abijah Flagg and he never
looked at you. If either of you ever had, there never would have
been a chance for me, and I've always known it!"
The romance alluded to in the foregoing chapter had been going
on, so far as Abijah Flagg's part of it was concerned, for many
years, his affection dating back in his own mind to the first
moment that he saw Emma Jane Perkins at the age of nine.
Emma Jane had shown no sign of reciprocating his attachment until
the last three years, when the evolution of the chore-boy into
the budding scholar and man of affairs had inflamed even her
somewhat dull imagination.
Squire Bean's wife had taken Abijah away from the poorhouse,
thinking that she could make him of some little use in her home.
Abbie Flagg, the mother, was neither wise nor beautiful; it is to
be feared that she was not even good, and her lack of all these
desirable qualities, particularly the last one, had been
impressed upon the child ever since he could remember. People
seemed to blame him for being in the world at all; this world
that had not expected him nor desired him, nor made any provision
for him. The great battle-axe of poorhouse opinion was forever
leveled at the mere little atom of innocent transgression, until
he grew sad and shy, clumsy, stiff, and self-conscious. He had an
indomitable craving for love in his heart and had never received
a caress in his life.
He was more contented when he came to Squire Bean's house. The
first year he could only pick up chips, carry pine wood into the
kitchen, go to the post-office, run errands, drive the cows, and
feed the hens, but every day he grew more and more useful.
His only friend was little Jim Watson, the storekeeper's son, and
they were inseparable companions whenever Abijah had time for
One never-to-be-forgotten July day a new family moved into the
white cottage between Squire Bean's house and the Sawyers'. Mr.
Perkins had sold his farm beyond North Riverboro and had
established a blacksmith's shop in the village, at the Edgewood
end of the bridge. This fact was of no special interest to the
nine-year-old Abijah, but what really was of importance, was the
appearance of a pretty little girl of seven in the front yard; a
pretty little fat doll of a girl, with bright fuzzy hair, pink
cheeks, blue eyes, and a smile of almost bewildering continuity.
Another might have criticised it as having the air of being glued
on, but Abijah was already in the toils and never wished it to
The next day being the glorious Fourth and a holiday, Jimmy
Watson came over like David, to visit his favorite Jonathan. His
Jonathan met him at the top of the hill, pleaded a pressing
engagement, curtly sent him home, and then went back to play with
his new idol, with whom he had already scraped acquaintance, her
parents being exceedingly busy settling the new house.
After the noon dinner Jimmy again yearned to resume friendly
relations, and, forgetting his rebuff, again toiled up the hill
and appeared unexpectedly at no great distance from the Perkins
premises, wearing the broad and beaming smile of one who is
confident of welcome.
His morning call had been officious and unpleasant and
unsolicited, but his afternoon visit could only be regarded as
impudent, audacious, and positively dangerous; for Abijah and
Emma Jane were cosily playing house, the game of all others in
which it is particularly desirable to have two and not three
At that moment the nature of Abijah changed, at once and forever.
Without a pang of conscience he flew over the intervening patch
of ground between himself and his dreaded rival, and seizing
small stones and larger ones, as haste and fury demanded, flung
them at Jimmy Watson, and flung and flung, till the bewildered
boy ran down the hill howling. Then he made a "stickin'" door to
the play-house, put the awed Emma Jane inside and strode up and
down in front of the edifice like an Indian brave. At such an
early age does woman become a distracting and disturbing
influence in man's career!
Time went on, and so did the rivalry between the poorhouse boy
and the son of wealth, but Abijah's chances of friendship with
Emma Jane grew fewer and fewer as they both grew older. He did
not go to school, so there was no meeting-ground there, but
sometimes, when he saw the knot of boys and girls returning in
the afternoon, he would invite Elijah and Elisha, the Simpson
twins, to visit him, and take pains to be in Squire Bean's front
yard, doing something that might impress his inamorata as she
passed the premises.
As Jimmy Watson was particularly small and fragile, Abijah
generally chose feats of strength and skill for these prearranged
Sometimes he would throw his hat up into the elm trees as far as
he could and, when it came down, catch it on his head. Sometimes
he would walk on his hands, with his legs wriggling in the air,
or turn a double somersault, or jump incredible distances across
the extended arms of the Simpson twins; and his bosom swelled
with pride when the girls exclaimed, "Isn't he splendid!"
although he often heard his rival murmur scornfully, "SMARTY
ALECK!"--a scathing allusion of unknown origin.
Squire Bean, although he did not send the boy to school
(thinking, as he was of no possible importance in the universe,
it was not worth while bothering about his education), finally
became impressed with his ability, lent him books, and gave him
more time to study. These were all he needed, books and time, and
when there was an especially hard knot to untie, Rebecca, as the
star scholar of the neighborhood, helped him to untie it.
When he was sixteen he longed to go away from Riverboro and be
something better than a chore boy. Squire Bean had been giving
him small wages for three or four years, and when the time of
parting came presented him with a ten-dollar bill and a silver
Many a time had he discussed his future with Rebecca and asked
This was not strange, for there was nothing in human form that
she could not and did not converse with, easily and delightedly.
She had ideas on every conceivable subject, and would have
cheerfully advised the minister if he had asked her. The fishman
consulted her when he couldn't endure his mother-in-law another
minute in the house; Uncle Jerry Cobb didn't part with his river
field until he had talked it over with Rebecca; and as for Aunt
Jane, she couldn't decide whether to wear her black merino or her
gray thibet unless Rebecca cast the final vote.
Abijah wanted to go far away from Riverboro, as far as Limerick
Academy, which was at least fifteen miles; but although this
seemed extreme, Rebecca agreed, saying pensively: "There IS a
kind of magicness about going far away and then coming back all
This was precisely Abijah's unspoken thought. Limerick knew
nothing of Abbie Flagg's worthlessness, birth, and training, and
the awful stigma of his poorhouse birth, so that he would start
fair. He could have gone to Wareham and thus remained within
daily sight of the beloved Emma Jane; but no, he was not going to
permit her to watch him in the process of "becoming," but after
he had "become" something. He did not propose to take any risks
after all these years of silence and patience. Not he! He
proposed to disappear, like the moon on a dark night, and as he
was, at present, something that Mr. Perkins would by no means
have in the family nor Mrs. Perkins allow in the house, he would
neither return to Riverboro nor ask any favors of them until he
had something to offer. Yes, sir. He was going to be crammed to
the eyebrows with learning for one thing,--useless kinds and
all,--going to have good clothes, and a good income. Everything
that was in his power should be right, because there would always
be lurking in the background the things he never could help--the
mother and the poorhouse.
So he went away, and, although at Squire Bean's invitation he
came back the first year for two brief visits at Christmas and
Easter, he was little seen in Riverboro, for Mr. Ladd finally
found him a place where he could make his vacations profitable
and learn bookkeeping at the same time.
The visits in Riverboro were tantalizing rather than pleasant. He
was invited to two parties, but he was all the time conscious of
his shirt-collar, and he was sure that his "pants" were not the
proper thing, for by this time his ideals of dress had attained
an almost unrealizable height. As for his shoes, he felt that he
walked on carpets as if they were furrows and he were propelling
a plow or a harrow before him. They played Drop the Handkerchief
and Copenhagen at the parties, but he had not had the audacity to
kiss Emma Jane, which was bad enough, but Jimmy had and did,
which was infinitely worse! The sight of James Watson's unworthy
and over-ambitious lips on Emma Jane's pink cheek almost
destroyed his faith in an overruling Providence.
After the parties were over he went back to his old room in
Squire Bean's shed chamber. As he lay in bed his thoughts
fluttered about Emma Jane as swallows circle around the eaves.
The terrible sickness of hopeless handicapped love kept him
awake. Once he crawled out of bed in the night, lighted the lamp,
and looked for his mustache, remembering that he had seen a
suspicion of down on his rival's upper lip. He rose again half an
hour later, again lighted the lamp, put a few drops of oil on his
hair, and brushed it violently for several minutes. Then he went
back to bed, and after making up his mind that he would buy a
dulcimer and learn to play on it so that he would be more
attractive at parties, and outshine his rival in society as he
had aforetime in athletics, he finally sank into a troubled
Those days, so full of hope and doubt and torture, seemed
mercifully unreal now, they lay so far back in the past--six or
eight years, in fact, which is a lifetime to the lad of
twenty--and meantime he had conquered many of the adverse
circumstances that had threatened to cloud his career.
Abijah Flagg was a true child of his native State. Something of
the same timber that Maine puts into her forests, something of
the same strength and resisting power that she works into her
rocks, goes into her sons and daughters; and at twenty Abijah was
going to take his fate in his hand and ask Mr. Perkins, the rich
blacksmith, if, after a suitable period of probation (during
which he would further prepare himself for his exalted destiny),
he might marry the fair Emma Jane, sole heiress of the Perkins
house and fortunes.
This was boy and girl love, calf love, perhaps, though even that
may develop into something larger, truer, and finer; but not so
far away were other and very different hearts growing and
budding, each in its own way. There was little Miss Dearborn, the
pretty school teacher, drifting into a foolish alliance because
she did not agree with her stepmother at home; there was Herbert
Dunn, valedictorian of his class, dazzled by Huldah Meserve, who
like a glowworm "shone afar off bright, but looked at near, had
neither heat nor light."
There was sweet Emily Maxwell, less than thirty still, with most
of her heart bestowed in the wrong quarter. She was toiling on at
the Wareham school, living as unselfish a life as a nun in a
convent; lavishing the mind and soul of her, the heart and body
of her, on her chosen work. How many women give themselves thus,
consciously and unconsciously; and, though they themselves miss
the joys and compensations of mothering their own little twos and
threes, God must be grateful to them for their mothering of the
hundreds which make them so precious in His regenerating
Then there was Adam Ladd, waiting at thirty-five for a girl to
grow a little older, simply because he could not find one already
grown who suited his somewhat fastidious and exacting tastes.
"I'll not call Rebecca perfection," he quoted once, in a letter
to Emily Maxwell,--"I'll not call her perfection, for that's a
post, afraid to move. But she's a dancing sprig of the tree next
When first she appeared on his aunt's piazza in North Riverboro
and insisted on selling him a large quantity of very inferior
soap in order that her friends, the Simpsons, might possess a
premium in the shape of a greatly needed banquet lamp, she had
riveted his attention. He thought all the time that he enjoyed
talking with her more than with any woman alive, and he had never
changed his opinion. She always caught what he said as if it were
a ball tossed to her, and sometimes her mind, as through it his
thoughts came back to him, seemed like a prism which had dyed
them with deeper colors.
Adam Ladd always called Rebecca in his heart his little Spring.
His boyhood had been lonely and unhappy. That was the part of
life he had missed, and although it was the full summer of
success and prosperity with him now, he found his lost youth only
She was to him--how shall I describe it?
Do you remember an early day in May with budding leaf, warm
earth, tremulous air, and changing, willful sky--how new it
seemed? How fresh and joyous beyond all explaining?
Have you lain with half-closed eyes where the flickering of
sunlight through young leaves, the song of birds and brook and
the fragrance of wild flowers combined to charm your senses, and
you felt the sweetness and grace of nature as never before?
Rebecca was springtide to Adam's thirsty heart. She was blithe
youth incarnate; she was music--an Aeolian harp that every
passing breeze woke to some whispering little tune; she was a
changing, iridescent joy-bubble; she was the shadow of a leaf
dancing across a dusty floor. No bough of his thought could be so
bare but she somehow built a nest in it and evoked life where
none was before.
And Rebecca herself?
She had been quite unconscious of all this until very lately, and
even now she was but half awakened; searching among her childish
instincts and her girlish dreams for some Ariadne thread that
should guide her safely through the labyrinth of her new
For the moment she was absorbed, or thought she was, in the
little love story of Abijah and Emma Jane, but in reality, had
she realized it, that love story served chiefly as a basis of
comparison for a possible one of her own, later on.
She liked and respected Abijah Flagg, and loving Emma Jane was a
habit contracted early in life; but everything that they did or
said, or thought or wrote, or hoped or feared, seemed so
inadequate, so painfully short of what might be done or said, or
thought or written, or hoped or feared, under easily conceivable
circumstances, that she almost felt a disposition to smile gently
at the fancy of the ignorant young couple that they had caught a
glimpse of the great vision.
She was sitting under the sweet apple tree at twilight. Supper
was over; Mark's restless feet were quiet, Fanny and Jenny were
tucked safely in bed; her aunt and her mother were stemming
currants on the side porch.
A blue spot at one of the Perkins windows showed that in one
vestal bosom hope was not dead yet, although it was seven
Suddenly there was the sound of a horse's feet coming up the
quiet road; plainly a steed hired from some metropolis like
Milltown or Wareham, as Riverboro horses when through with their
day's work never disported themselves so gayly.
A little open vehicle came in sight, and in it sat Abijah Flagg.
The wagon was so freshly painted and so shiny that Rebecca
thought that he must have alighted at the bridge and given it a
last polish. The creases in his trousers, too, had an air of
having been pressed in only a few minutes before. The whip was
new and had a yellow ribbon on it; the gray suit of clothes was
new, and the coat flourished a flower in its button-hole. The hat
was the latest thing in hats, and the intrepid swain wore a
seal-ring on the little finger of his right hand. As Rebecca
remembered that she had guided it in making capital G's in his
copy-book, she felt positively maternal, although she was two
years younger than Abijah the Brave.
He drove up to the Perkins gate and was so long about hitching
the horse that Rebecca's heart beat tumultuously at the thought
of Emma Jane's heart waiting under the blue barege. Then he
brushed an imaginary speck off his sleeve, then he drew on a pair
of buff kid gloves, then he went up the path, rapped at the
knocker, and went in.
"Not all the heroes go to the wars," thought Rebecca. "Abijah has
laid the ghost of his father and redeemed the memory of his
mother, for no one will dare say again that Abbie Flagg's son
could never amount to anything!"
The minutes went by, and more minutes, and more. The tranquil
dusk settled down over the little village street and the young
moon came out just behind the top of the Perkins pine tree.
The Perkins front door opened and Abijah the Brave came out hand
in hand with his Fair Emma Jane.
They walked through the orchard, the eyes of the old couple
following them from the window, and just as they disappeared down
the green slope that led to the riverside the gray coat sleeve
encircled the blue barege waist.
Rebecca, quivering with instant sympathy and comprehension, hid
her face in her hands.
"Emmy has sailed away and I am all alone in the little harbor,"
It was as if childhood, like a thing real and visible, were
slipping down the grassy river banks, after Abijah and Emma Jane,
and disappearing like them into the moon-lit shadows of the
"I am all alone in the little harbor," she repeated; "and oh, I
wonder, I wonder, shall I be afraid to leave it, if anybody ever
comes to carry me out to sea!"