Part 2 out of 2
The minister's wife, ignorant of the results of her kind little
experiment, resolved to question Rebecca Mary the next time she
came on an errand. She would do it with extreme caution.
"I'll just feel round," she said. "I want to know if her aunt's given
it to her. You think she must have, don't you, Robert? By this time? Why, it was six weeks ago I carried it over! It was such a nice, friendly little doll! By this time they would be such friends--
if her aunt gave it to her. Robert, you think--"
"I think it's going to rain," the minister said. But he kissed her
to make it easier.
Rebecca Mary came over to bring Aunt Olivia's rule for parson-cake
that the minister's wife had asked for.
"Come in, Rebecca Mary," the minister's wife said, cordially.
"Don't you want to see the new dress Rhoda's doll is going to have?
I suppose you could make your doll's dress yourself?" It seemed
a hard thing to say. Feeling round was not pleasant.
"P'haps I could, but she doesn't wear dresses," Rebecca Mary
"No?" This was puzzling. "Her clothes don't come off, I suppose?"
Then it could not be the nice, friendly doll.
"No'm. Nor they don't go on, either. She isn't a feel doll."
"A--what kind did you say, dear?" The minister's wife paused in
her work interestedly. Distinctly, Miss Olivia had not given her
THE doll; but this doll--"I don't think I quite understood,
"No'm; it's a little hard. She isn't a FEEL doll, I said. I never
had a feel one. Mine hasn't any body, just a soul. But she's a
"Robert," appealed the minister's wife, helplessly. This was a case
for the minister--a case of souls.
"Tell us some more about her, Rebecca Mary," the minister urged,
gently. But there was helplessness, too, in his eyes.
"Why, that's all!" returned Rebecca Mary, in surprise. "Of course
I can't dress her or undress her or take her out calling. But
it's a great comfort to rock her soul to sleep."
"Call Rhoda," murmured the wife to the minister; but Rhoda was
already there. She volunteered prompt explanation. There was no
hesitation in Rhoda's face.
"She means a make believe doll. Don't you, Rebecca Mary?"
"Yes," Rebecca Mary assented; "that's her other name, I suppose,
but I never called her by it."
"What did you call her?" demanded practical Rhoda. "What's her
"Rhoda!"--hastily, from the minister's wife. This seemed like
sacrilege. But Rhoda's clear, blue eyes were fixed upon Rebecca
Mary; she had not heard her mother's warning little word.
A shy color spread thinly over the lean little face of Rebecca
Mary. For the space of a breath or two she hesitated.
"Her name's--Felicia," then, softly.
"Robert"--the children had gone out together; the minister's
wife's eyes were unashamedly wet--" Robert, I wish you were a--a
sheriff instead of a minister. Because I think I would make a
better sheriff's wife. Do you know what I would make you do?"
The minister could guess.
"I'd make you ARREST that woman, Robert!"
"Felicia!" But she saw willingness to be a sheriff come into his
own eyes and stop there briefly.
"Don't call me 'Felicia' while I feel as wicked as this! Oh,
Robert, to think she named her little soul-doll after me!"
"It's a beautiful name."
Suddenly the wickedness was over. She laughed unsteadily.
"It wouldn't be a good name for a sheriff's wife, would it?" she said.
"So I'll stay by my own minister."
One day close upon this time Aunt Olivia came abruptly upon
Rebecca Mary in the grape arbor. She was sitting in her little
rocking chair, swaying back and forth slowly. She did not see
Aunt Olivia. What was she was crooning half under her breath?
"Oh, hush, oh, hush, my dollie;
Don't worry any more,
For Rebecca Mary 'n' the angels
Are watching o'er,
---O'er 'n' o'er 'n' o'er."
The same words over and over--growing perhaps a little softer and
tenderer. Rebecca Mary's arm was crooked as though a little
flaxen head lay in the bend of it. Rebecca Mary's brooding little
face was gazing downward intently at her empty arm. Quite
suddenly it came upon Aunt Olivia that she had seen the child
rocking like this before--that she must have seen her often.
"Rebecca Mary 'n' the angels
Are watching o'er,"
sang on the crooning little voice in Aunt Olivia's ears.
The doll in its coffin upstairs; down here Rebecca Mary rocking
her empty arms. The two thoughts flashed into Aunt Olivia's mind
and welded into one. All her vacillations and Duty's sharp
reminders occurred to her clearly. She had thought that at last
she was proof against temptation, but she had not thought of
this. She was not prepared for Rebecca Mary, here in her little
rocking chair, rocking her little soul-doll to sleep.
The angels were used to watching o'er, but Aunt Olivia could not
bear it. She went away with a strange, unaccustomed ache in her
throat. The minister's wife would not have wanted her arrested
Aunt Olivia tiptoed away as though Rebecca Mary had said, "'Sh!"
She was remembering, as she went, the brief, sweet moment when
she had sat like that and rocked, with the doll the minister's
wife dressed, in her arms. It seemed to establish a new link of
kinship between her and Rebecca Mary.
She ran plump into Duty.
"Oh!" she gasped. She was a little stunned. Aunt Olivia's Duty
"I know where you've been. I tried get there in time."
"You're too late," Aunt Olivia said, firmly, "Don't stop me;
there's something I must do before it gets too dark. It's six
"Wait!" commanded Duty. "Are you crazy? You don't mean--"
"Go back there and look at that child--and hear what she's
singing! Stay long enough to take it all in--don't hurry."
But Duty barred her way, grim and stern.
Palely she put up both her hands and thrust it aside. She did not
once look back at it.
Already it was dusky under the guest chamber window. She had to
stoop and peer and feel in the long tangle of grass. She kept on
patiently with the Plummer kind of patience that never gave up.
She was eager and smiling, as though something pleasant were at
the end of the peering and stooping and feeling.
Aunt Olivia was hunting for a key.
The Plummer Kind
The doll's name was Olivicia.
Rebecca Mary had evolved the name from her inner consciousness
and her intense gratitude to Aunt Olivia and the minister's wife.
She had put Aunt Olivia first with instinctive loyalty, though in
the secret little closet of her soul she had longed to call the
beautiful being Felicia, intact and sweet. She did not know the
meaning of Felicia, but she knew that the doll, as it lay in the
loving cradle of her arms, gazing upward with changeless
placidity and graciousness, looked as one should look whose name
was Felicia. Greater compliment than this Rebecca Mary could not
have paid the minister's wife.
"Olivicia," she had placed the being on the sill of the attic
window, stood confronting, addressing it: "Olivicia, it's coming-
-it is very near to! Sit there and listen and smile--oh yes,
smile, SMILE. I don't wonder! I would too, only I'm too glad.
When you're TOO glad you can't smile. I've been waiting for it to
come. Olivicia, seems as if I'd been waiting a thousan' years.
You're so young, you've only lived such little while, of course I
don't expect you understand the deep-downness inside o' me when I
The address fluttered and came to a standstill here. Rebecca Mary
was suddenly minded that Olivicia was in the dark; must be
enlightened before she could smile understandingly.
"Why, you poor dear!--why, you don't know what it is that's
coming and that's near to! It's the--city, Olivicia," enlightened
Rebecca Mary, gently, to insure against shock. "Aunt Olivia's
In Rebecca Mary's dreamings it had always been THE city. It did
not need local habitation and a name; enough that it had streets
upon streets, houses upon houses upon houses, a dazzling swirl of
men, women, and little children--noise, glitter, glory. In her
dreamings the city was something so wondrous and grand that
Heaven might have been its name. The streets upon streets were
not paved with gold, of course--of course she knew they were not
paved with gold! But in spite of herself she knew that she would
be disappointed if they did not shine.
Aunt Olivia had said it that morning. At breakfast--quite matter-
of-factly. Think of saying it matter-of-factly!
"I'm going to the city soon, Rebecca Mary," she had said, between
sips of her tea. "Perhaps by Friday week, but I haven't set the
day, really. There's a good deal to do."
Rebecca Mary had been helping do it all day. Now it was nearly
time for the pageant of red and gold in the west that Rebecca
Mary loved, and she had come up here with the beautiful being to
watch it through the tiny panes of the attic window, but more to
ease the aching rapture in her soul by speech. She must say it
out loud. The city--the city--to the city of streets and houses
and men and wonders upon wonders!
Olivicia had come in the capacity of calm listener; for nothing
"I," Aunt Olivia had said, but Aunt Olivia usually said "I."
There was no discouragement in that to Rebecca Mary. It did not
for a moment occur to her that "I" did not mean "we."
The valise they had got down from its cobwebby niche was roomy;
it would hold enough for two. Rebecca Mary knew that, because she
had packed it so many times in her dreamings. She wished Aunt
Olivia would let her pack it now. She knew just where she would
put everything--her best dress and Aunt Olivia's (for of course
they would wear their second-bests), their best hats and shoes
and gloves. Their nightgowns she would roll tightly and put in
one end, for it doesn't hurt nightgowns to be rolled tightly. Of
course she would not put anything heavy, like hair brushes and
shoes and things, on top of anything--unless it was the
nightgowns, for it doesn't hurt--
"Oh, Olivicia--oh, Olivicia, how I hope she'll say, 'Rebecca
Mary, you may pack the valise'! I could do it with my eyes shut,
I've done it so many, many times!"
But Aunt Olivia did not say it. One day and then another went by
without her saying it, and then one morning Rebecca Mary knew by
the plump, well-fed aspect of the valise that it was packed. Aunt
Olivia had packed it in the night.
There was no one else in the room when Rebecca Mary made her
disappointing little discovery. She went over to the plump valise
and prodded it gently with her finger. But it is so difficult to
tell in that way whether your own best dress, your own best hat,
best shoes, best gloves, are in there. Rebecca Mary hurried
upstairs and looked in her closet and in her "best" bureau
They were not there! In her relief she caught up the beautiful
being and strained her hard, lifeless little body to her own warm
breast. If she had not been Rebecca Mary, she would have danced
about the room.
"Oh, I'm so relieved, Olivicia!" she laughed, softly. "If they're
not up here, THEY'RE DOWN THERE. They've got to be somewhere.
They're in that valise--valise--vali-i-ise!"
Rebecca Mary had never been to a city, and within her remembrance
Aunt Olivia had never been. Curiosity was not a Plummer trait,
hence Rebecca Mary had never asked many questions about the
remote period before her own advent into Aunt Olivia's life. The
same Plummer restraint kept her now from asking questions. There
was nothing to do but wait, but the waiting was illumined by her
Oddly enough, Aunt Olivia seemed to have no anticipations--at
least joyous ones. Her, thin, grave face may even have looked a
little thinner and graver, IF Rebecca Mary had thought to
The night the lean old valise took on plumpness, Aunt Olivia went
often into Mary's little room. Many of the times she came out
very shortly with the child's "best" things trailing from her
arms, but once or twice she stayed rather long--long enough to
stand beside a little white bed and look down on a flushed little
face. A pair of wide-open eyes watched her smilingly from the
pillows, but they were not Rebecca Mary's eyes, and Olivicia was
An odd thing happened--but O1ivicia never told. Why should she
publish abroad that she had lain there and seen Aunt Olivia bend
once--bend twice--over Rebecca Mary and kiss her?
Softly, patiently, very wearily, Aunt Olivia went in and out. The
things she brought out in her arms she folded carefully and
packed, but not in the lank old valise. She put them all with
tender painstaking into a quaint little carpetbag. When the work
was done she set the bag away out of sight, and went about
packing her own things in the old valise.
The day before, she had been to see the minister and the
minister's wife. She called for them both, and sat down gravely
and made her proposition. It was startling only because of the
few words it took to make it. Otherwise it was very pleasant, and
the minister and the minister's wife received it with nods and
"Of course, Miss Olivia--why, certainly!" smiled and nodded the
"Why, it will be delightful--and Rhoda will be so pleased!"
nodded and smiled the minister's wife. But after their caller had
gone she faced the minister with indignant eyes.
"Why did you let her?" she demanded. "Why did you spoil it all by
"Because she was Miss Olivia," he answered, gently.
"Yes--yes, I suppose so," reluctantly; "but, anyway, you needn't
have let her do it in advance. Actually it made me blush,
The minister rubbed his cheeks tentatively. "Made me, too," he
admitted, "but I respect Miss Olivia so much--"
The minister's wife tacked abruptly to her other source of
"Why doesn't she TAKE Rebecca Mary? Robert, wait! You know it
isn't because--You know better!"
"It isn't because, dear--I know better," he hurried, assuringly.
The minister was used to her little indignations and loved them
for being hers. They were harmless, too, and wont to have a good
excuse for being. This one, now--the minister in his heart
wondered that Miss Olivia did not take Rebecca Mary.
"It would be such a treat. Robert, you think what a treat it
would be to Rebecca Mary!"
"I don't want to be still! I want Rebecca Mary to have that
treat!" But she kissed him in token of being willing to drop it
there--it was her usual token--and ran away to get a little room
ready. There was not a device known to the minister's wife that
she did not use to make that room pleasant.
"Shall I take your pincushion, Rhoda?" Rhoda had come up to help.
"Yes," eagerly, "and I'll write Welcome with the pins."
"And the little fan to put on the wall--the pink one?"
"Yes, yes; let me spread it out, mamma!"
"That's grand. Now if we only had a pink quilt--"
"I 'only have' one!" laughed Rhoda, hurrying after it.
The whole little room when they left, like the pins in the
pincushion, spelled "WELCOME."
Aunt Olivia got up earlier than usual one day and went about the
house for a survey. The valise and the little carpetbag she
carried downstairs and out on to the front steps. Her face was
whitened as if by a long night's vigil. When she called Rebecca
Mary it was with a voice strained hoarse. The beautiful being
Olivicia watched her with intent, unwinking gaze. Could it be
"Hurry and dress, Rebecca Mary; there's a good deal to do," Aunt
Olivia said at the door. She did not go in. "Yes, in your second-
best--don't you see I've put it out. You can wear that every day
now, till--for a while." Something in the voice startled Rebecca
Mary out of her subdued ecstasy and sent her down to breakfast
with a nameless fear tugging at her heart.
"You're going to stay at the minister's--I've paid your board in
advance," Aunt Olivia said, monotonously, as if it were her
lesson. She did not look at Rebecca Mary. "I've put in your long-
sleeve aprons so you can help do up the dishes. There's plenty of
handkerchiefs to last. You mustn't forget your rubbers when it's
wet, or to make up your bed yourself. I don't want you to make
the minister's wife any more trouble than you can help."
The lesson went monotonously on, but Rebecca Mary scarcely heard.
She had heard the first sentence--her sentence, poor child!
"You're going to stay at the minister's--stay at the minister's--
stay at the minister's." It said itself over and over again in
her ears. In her need for somebody to lean on, her startled gaze
sought the beautiful being across the room in agonized appeal.
But Olivicia was staring smilingly at Aunt Olivia. ET TU,
If Rebecca Mary had noticed, there was an appealing, wistful look
in Aunt Olivia's eyes too, in odd contrast to the firm lips that
moved steadily on with their lesson:
"You can walk to school with Rhoda, you'll enjoy that. You've
never had folks to walk with. And you can stay with her, only you
mustn't forget your stents. I've put in some towels to hem. Maybe
the minister's wife has got something; if so, hem hers first.
You'll be like one o' the family, and they're nice folks, but I
want you to keep right on being a Plummer."
Years afterwards Rebecca Mary remembered the dizzy dance of the
bottles in the caster--they seemed to join hands and sway and
swing about their silver circlet and how Aunt Olivia's buttons
marched and countermarched up and down Aunt Olivia's alpaca
dress. She did not look above the buttons--she did not dare to.
If she was to keep right on being a Plummer, she must not cry.
"That's all," she heard through the daze and dizziness, "except
that I can't tell when I'll be back. It--ain't decided. Likely I
shan't be able--there won't be much chance to write, and you
needn't expect me to. No need to write me either. That's
all, I guess."
The stage that came for Aunt Olivia dropped the little carpetbag
and Rebecca Mary at the minister's. In the brief interval between
the start and the dropping, Rebecca Mary sat, stiff and numb, on
the edge of the high seat and gazed out unfamiliarly at the
familiar landmarks they lurched past. At any other time the
knowledge that she was going to the minister's to stay--to live--
would have filled her with staid joy. At any other time--but THIS
time only a dull ache filled her little dreary world. Everything
seemed to ache--the munching cows in the Trumbull pasture, the
cats on the doorsteps, the dog loping along beside the stage, the
stage driver's stooping old back. Aunt Olivia was going to the
city--Rebecca Mary wasn't going to the city. There was no room in
the world for anything but that and the ache.
Rebecca Mary's indignation was not born till night. Then, lying
in the dainty bed under Rhoda's pink quilt, her mood changed.
Until then she had only been disappointed. But then she sat up
suddenly and said bitter things about Aunt Olivia.
"She's gone to have a good time all to herself--and she might
have taken me. She didn't, she didn't, and she might've. She
wanted all the good time herself! She didn't want me to have
"Rebecca Mary!--did you speak, dear?" It was the gentle voice of
the minister's wife outside the door. Rebecca Mary's red little
hands unwrung and dropped on the pink quilt.
"No'm, I did--I mean yes'm, I didn't--I mean--"
"You don't feel sick? There isn't anything the matter, dear?"
"No'm--oh, yes'm, yes'm!" for there was something the matter. It
was Aunt Olivia. But she must not say it--must not cry--must keep
right on being a Plummer.
"Robert, I didn't go in--I couldn't," the minister's wife said,
back in the cheery sitting room. "I suppose you think I'd have
gone in and comforted her, taken her right in my arms and
comforted her the Rhoda way, but I didn't."
"No?" The minister's voice was a little vague on account of the
sermon on his knees.
"I seemed to know--something told me right through that door--
that she'd rather I wouldn't. Robert, if the child is homesick,
it's a different kind of homesickness."
"The Plummer kind," he suggested. The minister was coming to.
"Yes, the Plummer kind, I suppose, Plummers are such--such
PLUMMERY persons, Robert!"
Upstairs under the pink quilt the rigid little figure relaxed
just enough to admit of getting out of bed and fumbling in the
little carpetbag. With her diary in her hand--for Aunt Olivia had
remembered her diary--Rebecca Mary went to the window and sat
down. She had to hold the cookbook up at a painful angle and peer
at it sharply, for the moonlight that filtered into the little
room through the vines was dim and soft.
"Aunt Olivia has gone to the city and I haven't," painfully
traced Rebecca Mary. "She wanted the good time all to herself. I
shall never forgive Aunt Olivia the Lord have mercy on her." Then
Rebecca Mary went back to bed. She dreamed that the cars ran off
the track and they brought Aunt Olivia's pieces home to her. In
the dreadful dream she forgave Aunt Olivia.
It was very pleasant at the minister's and the minister's wife's.
Rebecca Mary felt the warmth and pleasantness of it in every
fibre of her body and soul. But she was not happy nor warm. She
thought it was indignation against Aunt Olivia--she did not know
she was homesick. She did not know why she went to the old home
every day after school and wandered through Aunt Olivia's flower
garden, and sat with little brown chin palm-deep on the
doorsteps. Gradually the indignation melted out of existence and
only the homesickness was left. It sat on her small, lean face
like a little spectre. It troubled the minister's wife.
"What can we do, Robert?" she asked.
"What?" he echoed; for the minister, too, was troubled.
"She wanders about like a little lost soul. When she plays with
the children it's only the outside of her that plays."
"Only the outside," he nodded.
"Last night I went in, Robert, and--and tried the Rhoda way. I
think she liked it, but it didn't comfort her. I am sure now
that it is homesickness, Robert." They were both sure, but the
grim little spectre sat on, undaunted by all their kindnesses.
"When thy father and thy mother forsake the," wrote Rebecca Mary
in the cookbook diary, "and thy Aunt Olivia for I know it means
and thy Aunt Olivia then the Lord will take the up, but I dont
feal as if anyboddy had taken me up. The ministers wife did once
but of course she had to put me down again rite away. She is a
beutiful person and I love her but she is differunt from thy
father and thy mother and thy Aunt Olivia. Ide rather have Aunt
Olivia take me up than to have the Lord."
It was when she shut the battered little book this time that
Rebecca Mary remembered one or two things that had happened the
morning Aunt Olivia went away. It was queer how she HADN'T
remembered them before.
She remembered that Aunt Olivia had taken her sharp little face
between her own hands and looked down wistfully at it--wistfully,
Rebecca Mary remembered now, though she did not call it by that
name. She remembered Aunt Olivia had said, "You needn't hem
anything unless it's for the minister's wife--never mind the
towels I put in." That was almost the last thing she had said.
She had put her head out of the stage door to say it. Rebecca
Mary had hemmed a towel each day. There were but two left, and
she resolved to hem both of those tomorrow. A sudden little
longing was born within her for more towels to hem for Aunt
It was nearly three weeks after Rebecca Mary's entrance into the
minister's family when the letter came. It was directed to
Rebecca Mary, and lay on her plate when she came home from
"Oh, look, you've got a letter, Rebecca Mary!" heralded Rhoda,
joyfully. Then her face fell, for maybe the letter would say Aunt
Olivia was coming home.
"Is it from your aunt Olivia?" she asked, anxiously.
"No," Rebecca Mary said, in slow surprise. "The writing isn't,
anyway, and the name is another one--"
"Oh! Oh! Maybe she's got mar--"
"Rhoda!" cautioned the minister.
This is the letter Rebecca Mary read:
"Dear Rebecca Mary,--You see I know your name from your aunt. She
talked about you all the time, but I am writing you of my own
accord. She does not know it. I think you will like to know that
at last we are feeling very hopeful about your aunt. We have been
very anxious since the operation, she had so little strength to
rally with. But now if she keeps on as well as this you will have
her home again in a little while. The doctors say three weeks.
She is the patientest patient in the ward.
Yours very truly,
Sara Ellen Nesbitt, Nurse"
Ward A, Emmons Hospital
That was the letter. Rebecca Mary's face grew a little whiter at
every line of it. At every line understanding grew clearer, till
at the end she knew it all. She gave a little cry, and ran out of
the room. Love and remorse and sympathy fought for first place in
her laboring little breast. In the next few minutes she lived so
long a time and thought so many thoughts! But above everything
else towered joy that Aunt Olivia was coming home.
Rebecca Mary's eyes blazed with pride at being a Plummer. This
kind of courage was the Plummer kind. The child's lank little
figure seemed to grow taller and straighter. She held up her head
splendidly and exulted. She felt like going up on the minister's
housetop and proclaiming: "She's my aunt Olivia! She's mine! She's
mine--I'm a Plummer, too! All o' you listen, she's my aunt Olivia,
and she's coming home!"
Suddenly the child flung out her arms towards the south where
Aunt Olivia was. And though she stood quite still, something
within her seemed to spring away and go hurrying through the
"I shouldn't suppose Aunt Olivia would ever forgive me, but she's
Aunt Olivia and she will," wrote Rebecca Mary that night, her
small, dark face full of a solemn peace--it seemed so long since
she had been full of peace before. She wrote on eagerly:
"When she gets home Ime going to hug her I can't help it if it
wont be keeping right on."
Rebecca Mary measured them. Against the woodshed wall, with
chalk--it was not altogether an easy thing to do. The result
startled her. With rather unsteady little fingers she measured
from chalk mark to floor again, to make sure it was as bad as
that. It was even a little worse.
"Oh," sighed Rebecca Mary, "to think they belong to me--to think
they're hitched on!" She gazed down at them with scorn and was
ashamed of them. She tried to conceal their length with her brief
skirts; but when she straightened up, there they were again, as
long as ever. She sat down suddenly on the shed floor and drew
them up underneath her. That was temporarily a relief. "If I sit
here world without end nobody'll see 'em," grimly smiled Rebecca
It was her legs Rebecca Mary measured against the woodshed wall.
It was her legs she was ashamed of. No wonder the minister's wife
had said to the minister going home from meeting, with Rebecca
Mary behind them unawares,--no wonder she had said, "Robert, HAVE
you noticed Rebecca Mary's legs?"
Rebecca Mary had not heard the reply of the minister, for of
course she had gone away then. If she had stayed she would have
heard him say, with exaggerated prudery, "Felicia! My dear! Were
you alluding to Rebecca Mary's limbs?" for the minister wickedly
remembered inadvertent occasions when he himself had called legs
"LEGS," the minister's wife repeated, calmly--"Rebecca Mary's are
too long for limbs. Robert, that child will grow up one of these
"They all do," sighed the minister. "It's human nature, dear.
You'll be telling me next that there's something the matter with
The minister's wife gazed thoughtfully ahead at a little trio
fast approaching the vanishing point. Her eyes grew a little
"There is now, perhaps, but I haven't noticed--I won't look!" she
murmured. "And, anyway, Robert, Rhoda will give us a little time
to get used to it in. But Rebecca Mary isn't the Rhoda kind--I
don't believe Rebecca Mary will give us even three days of
"I always supposed Rebecca Mary was born that way--grown up," the
minister remarked, tucking a gloved hand comfortably close under
his arm. "I wouldn't let it worry me, dear."
"Oh, I don't--not worry, really," she said, smiling--"only her
legs startled me a little today. If she were mine, I should let
her dresses down."
"If she were Rhod--"
"She isn't, she's Rebecca Mary. Probably if I were Miss Olivia I
would let Rhoda's down!" And she knew she would.
Rebecca Mary on the woodshed floor sat and thought "deep-down"
thoughts. Her eyes were fixed dreamily on a big knothole before
her, and the thoughts seemed to come out of it and stand before
her, demanding imperiously to be thought. One after another--a
"Think me," the first one had commanded. "I'm the Thought of
Growing Up. I saw you measuring your legs, and I concluded it was
time for me to introduce myself. I had to come some time, didn't
"Oh yes," breathed Rebecca Mary, sadly. "I don't suppose I could
expect you to stay in there always; but--but I'm not very glad
to see you. You needn't have come so SUDDEN," she added, with
The Thought of Growing Up crept into her mind and nestled down
there. As thoughts go, it was not an unkind one.
"You'll get used to me sometime and like me," it said,
comfortingly. But Rebecca Mary knew better. She drove it out.
Why must legs keep on growing and unwelcome Thoughts come out of
knotholes? Why could not little girls keep on sewing stents and
learning arithmetic and carrying beautiful doll-beings to bed?
Why had the Lord created little girls like this--this growing
"If I had made the world," began Rebecca Mary--but stopped in a
hurry. The irreverence of presuming to make a better world than
the Lord shamed her.
"I suppose He knew best, but if He'd ever been a little girl--"
This was worse than the other. Rebecca Mary hastily dismissed the
world and its Maker from her musings for fear of further
One Thought came out of the knothole, illustrated. It was leading
a tall woman-girl by the hand--no, it was pushing it as though
the woman-girl were loath to come.
"Come along," urged the new Thought, laughingly. "Here she is--
this is Rebecca Mary. Rebecca Mary, this is YOU! You needn't be
afraid of each other, you two. Take a good long look and get
The woman-girl was tall and straight. She had Rebecca Mary's
hair, Rebecca Mary's eyes, mouth, little pointed chin. But not
Rebecca Mary's legs--unless the long skirts covered them. She was
rather comely and pleasant to look at. But Rebecca Mary tried not
"She's got a lover---some day she'll be getting married," the new
Thought said more abruptly, startlingly, than grammatically. And
then with a little muffled cry Rebecca Mary put out her hands and
pushed the woman-girl away--back into the knothole whence she had
come. The Thought, too, for she had no room in her mind for
thoughts like that.
"My aunt Olivia wouldn't allow me to think of you," she explained
in dismissing them. "And," with dignity she added, "neither would
It was to be as the minister's wife had prophesied--there were to
be not even the three days of grace allowed by law when Rebecca
Mary grew up. Sitting there with her legs, her poor little
unappreciated legs, the innocent cause of the whole trouble,
curled out of sight, Rebecca Mary planned that there should be
but one day of grace. She would allow one day more to be a little
girl in, and then she would grow up. But that one day--Rebecca
Mary got up hastily and went to find Aunt Olivia.
"Aunt Olivia," she began, without preamble--Rebecca Mary never
preambled--"Aunt Olivia, may I have a holiday tomorrow?"
Aunt Olivia was rocking in her easy chair on the porch. It had
taken her sixty-two years to learn to sit in an easy chair and
rock. Even now, and she had been home from the hospital many
months, she felt a little as though the friendly birds that
perched on the porch railing were twittering tauntingly, "Plummer!
Plummer! Plummer!--rocking in an easy chair!"
"May I, Aunt Olivia?" It was an unusual occurrence for Rebecca
Mary to ask again so soon. But this was an unusual occurrence.
Aunt Olivia's thin face turned affectionately towards the child.
"School doesn't begin again tomorrow, does it?" she said in
surprise. Weren't all Rebecca Mary's days now holidays?
"Oh no---no'm. But I mean may I skip my stents? And--and may I
soak the kettles and pans? Just tomorrow."
"Just tomorrow," repeated bewildered Aunt Olivia--"soak your--
"Because it's going to be a pretty busy day. It's going to be a--
a celebration," Rebecca Mary said, softly. There was a strangely
exalted look on her face. Oddly enough she was not afraid that
Aunt Olivia would say no.
Aunt Olivia said yes. She did not ask any questions about the
celebration, on account of the exalted look. She could wait. But
the bewildered look stayed for a while on her thin face. Rebecca
Mary was a queer child, a queer child--but she was a dear child.
Dearness atoned for queerness in Aunt Olivia's creed.
The celebration began early the next morning before Aunt Olivia
was up. She lay in bed and heard it begin. Rebecca Mary out in
the dewy garden was singing at the top of her voice. Aunt Olivia
had never heard her sing like that before--not at the top. Her
sweet, shrill voice sounded rather unacquainted with such free
heights as that, and the woman in the bed wondered with a staid
little smile if it did not make Rebecca Mary feel as she felt
when she sat in the easy chair rocking.
Rebecca Mary sang hymns mostly, but interspersed in her programme
were bits of Mother Goose set to original tunes--she had learned
the Mother Goose of the minister's Littlest Little Boy--and
original bits set to familiar tunes. It was a wild little orgy of
"My grief!" Aunt Olivia ejaculated under her breath; but she did
not mean her grief. Other people might think Rebecca Mary was
crazy--not Aunt Olivia. But yet she wondered a little and found
it hard to wait.
Rebecca Mary washed the breakfast cup and plates, but put the
pans and kettles to soak, and hurried away to her play. There was
so much playing to be done before the sun set on her opportunity.
She had made a little programme on a slip of paper, with
approximate times allotted to each item. As:
Tree climbing...1 hr.
(Do not tare anything)
Mud pies ...1 hr. and 1/2.
(Do not get anything muddy)
Tea party...2 hrs.
(Do not break anything)
Rebecca Mary had written 1 hr. at first opposite skipping, but it
had rather appalled her to think of skipping for so long a period
of time, and, with a sense of being already out of breath, she
had hurriedly erased the 1 and substituted 1/2. Underneath she had
written, ("Do not tip over anything"). All the items had
cautionary parentheses underneath them, for Rebecca Mary did not
wish the celebration to injure "anything." Not this last day,
when all the days of all the years before it, that had gone to
make up her little girlhood, nothing had been torn or muddied or
Rebecca Mary had never climbed trees, had never made mud pies,
never had tea parties, nor skipped. It was with rather a
hesitating step that she went forward to meet them all. She was
even a little awed. But she went. No item on her programme was
From her rocker on the porch Aunt Olivia watched proceedings with
quiet patience. It was a good vantage point--she could see nearly
all of the celebration. The tree Rebecca Mary climbed was on the
edge of the old orchard next to Aunt Olivia, and there was a
providential little rift through the shrubbery and vines that
intervened. This part of the programme she could see almost too
clearly, for it must be confessed that this part startled Aunt
Olivia out of her calm. It--it was so unexpected. She stopped
rocking and leaned forward in her chair to peer more sharply.
What was the child--"She's climbing a tree!" breathed Aunt
Olivia in undisguised astonishment. Even as she breathed it, there
came to her faintly the snapping of twigs and flutter of leaves.
Then all was quite still, but she could discern with her pair of
trusty Plummer eyes two long legs gently dangling.
If Aunt Olivia had known, Rebecca Mary, too, was startled. It--it
was so strange an experience. She was not in the least afraid--it
was a mental start rather than a physical one. When she had
reached the limb set down in her programme she sat on it in a
little daze of bewildered delight. She liked it!
"Why, why, it's nice!" Rebecca Mary breathed. Her turn had come
for undisguised astonishment. The leaves all about her nodded to
her and stroked her cheeks and hair and hands. They whispered
things into her ears. They were such friendly little leaves!
Nothing looked quite the same up there. It was a little as if she
were in a new world, and she felt odd thrills of pride, as
probably people who had discovered countries and rivers and north
poles felt. Through a rift in the leaves she could see with her
good Plummer eyes a swaying spot of brown and white that was Aunt
Olivia rocking. Suddenly Rebecca Mary experienced a pang of
remorse that she had wasted so many opportunities like this--that
this was her only one. She wished she had put 2 hrs. instead of 1
hr. over against "Tree climbing," but it was too late now. She
had borrowed Aunt Olivia's open-faced gold watch to serve as
timekeeper, and promptly at the expiration of the 1 hr. she slid
down through the crackling twigs and friendly leaves to the old
world below. She did not allow herself to look back, but she
could not help the sigh. It was going to be harder to grow up
than she had thought it would be.
The mud pies she made with conscientious care as Rhoda, the
minister's little girl, had said she used to make them. She made
rows and rows of them and set them in the sun to bake. There were
raisin stones in them all and crimped edges around them . It did
not take nearly all the 1 hr. and 1/2, so she made another and
still another batch. When the time was up she did not sigh, but
she had had rather a good time. How many mud pies she HADN'T made
in all those years that were to end today!
Olivicia and the little white cat went to the tea party. Rebecca
Mary thought of inviting Aunt Olivia--she got as far as the porch
steps, but no farther. She caught a glimpse of her own legs and
shrank back sensitively. They seemed to have grown since she
measured them against the woodshed wall. Rebecca Mary felt the
contrast between her legs and the tea party. Aunt Olivia never
knew how near she had come to being invited to take part in the
celebration, at Article III. on the programme.
Rhoda had had tea parties unnumbered, like the sands of the sea.
She had described them fluently, so Rebecca Mary was not as one
in the dark. She knew how to cut the bread and the cake into tiny
dice, and the cookies into tiny rounds. She knew how to make the
cambric tea and to arrange the jelly and flowers. But Rhoda had
forgotten to tell her how to make a rose pie--how to select two
large rose leaves for upper and under crust, and to fill in the
pie between them with pink and white rose petals and sugar in
alternate layers. Press until "done." Why had Rhoda forgotten? It
seemed a pity that there was no rose pie at Rebecca Mary's tea
party--and no time left to make one.
"Will you take sugar in your tea, Olivicia?" Rebecca Mary asked,
shyly. She sat on the ground with her legs drawn under her out of
sight, but there were little warm spots in her cheeks. She had
not expected to be--ashamed. If there had been a knothole
anywhere, she thought to herself, the Thought of Growing Up would
have come out of it and confronted her and reminded her of her
"Will you help yourself to the bread? Won't you have another
cookie?" She left nothing out, and gradually the strangeness wore
away. It got gradually to be a good time. "How many tea parties,"
thought Rebecca Mary, "there might have been!"
Rebecca Mary was skipping, when the minister's wife came to call
on Aunt Olivia. It was the minister's wife who discovered it.
Aunt Olivia caught the indrawing of her breath and saw her face.
Then Aunt Olivia discovered it, and a delicate color overspread
her thin cheeks and rose to her temples. Now what was the child--
"Rhoda is a great skipper," the minister's wife said, hurriedly.
But it was the wrong thing--she knew it was the wrong thing.
"Rebecca Mary is having a--celebration," hurried Aunt Olivia; but
she wished she had not, for it seemed like trying to excuse
Rebecca Mary. She, too, had said the wrong thing.
"How pleasant it is out here!" tried again the minister's wife.
"Yes, it's cool," Aunt Olivia agreed, gratefully. After that the
things they said were right things. The fantastic little figure
down there in the orchard, skipping wildly, determinedly, was in
none of them. Both of them felt it to be safer. But the
minister's wife's gaze dwelt on the skipping figure and followed
it through its amazing mazes, in spite of the minister's wife.
"I couldn't have helped it, Robert," she said. "Not if you'd been
there preaching 'Thou shalt not' to me! You would have looked
too, while you were preaching. You can't imagine, sitting there
at that desk, what the temptation was--Robert, you don't suppose
Rebecca Mary has gone crazy?"
"Felicia! You frighten me!"
"No, _I_ don't suppose either. But it was certainly very strange.
It was almost ALARMING, Robert. And she didn't know how at all. I
wanted to go down and show her!"
"It seems to me"--the minister spoke impressively "that it is not
Rebecca Mary who has gone crazy--"
"Why, the idea! Haven't I made it plain?" laughed she. "I'll
speak in A B C's then. Rebecca Mary was SKIPPING, Robert -
"Then it's Rebecca Mary," the minister murmured.
"That's what I'm afraid--didn't I say so? Or else it's her second
"First, you mean. If THAT'S it, don't let's say a word, dear--
don't breathe, Felicia, for fear we'll stop it."
"Dear child!" the minister's wife said, tenderly. "I wish I'd
gone down there and shown her how. And I'd have told her--Robert,
I'd have told her how to climb a tree! Don't tell the parish."
The day was to end at sunset, from sunrise to sunset, Rebecca
Mary had decreed. The last article on her crumpled little
programme was, "Saying Good-by to Olivicia(Don't cry)." It was
going to be the most difficult thing of all the articles.
Olivicia had existed so short a time comparatively--it might not
have been as difficult if there had always been an Olivicia. "Or
it might have been harder," Rebecca Mary said. She went towards
that article with reluctant feet. But it had to come.
The bureau drawer was all ready. Rebecca Mary had lined it with
something white and soft and sweetened it with dried rose petals
spiced in the century-old Plummer way. It bore rather grewsome
resemblance to Olivicia's coffin, but it was not grewsome to
Rebecca Mary. She laid the doll in it with the tender little
swinging motion mothers use in laying down their tiny sleepers.
"There, there the-re!" crooned Rebecca Mary, softly, brooding
over the beautiful being. "You'll rest there sweetly after your
mother is grown up. And you'll try not to miss her, won't you?
You'll understand, Olivicia?--oh, Olivicia!" But she did not cry.
Her eyes were very bright. For several minutes she stood there
stooped over painfully, gazing down into the cof--the bureau
drawer, wherein lay peaceful Olivicia. She was saying good-bye in
her heart--she never said it aloud.
"Dear," very softly indeed, "you are sure you understand?
Everybody has to grow up, dear. It--it hurts, but you have to. I
mean I'VE got to. I wouldn't so soon if it wasn't for my legs.
But they keep right on growing--they're awful, dear!--I can't
stop 'em. Olivicia, lie right there and be thankful you're a doll!
But I wish you could open your eyes and look at me just once
Rebecca Mary shut the drawer gently. It was over--no, she would
say one thing more to the beautiful being in there. She bent to
"Olivicia!" she called in a tender whisper, "I shall be right
here nights. We shan't be far away from each other."
But it would not be like lying in each other's arms--oh, not at
all like that. Rebecca Mary caught her breath; it was perilously
like a sob. Then she girded up her loins and went away to meet
her fate--the common fate of all.
She was very tired. The day had been a strain upon her that was
beginning now to tell. To put all one's childhood into one day--
that is not easy.
Article VI. was the last. In a way, it was a rest to Rebecca
Mary, for it entailed merely a visit to the woodshed. She could
sit quietly on the floor opposite the knothole and wait for the
Thoughts. If the Thought of Growing Up came out tonight, she
would say: "Oh, well, you may stay--you needn't go back. I'm not
any glad to see you, but I'm ready. I suppose I shall get used to
What Thoughts came out of the knothole to Rebecca Mary she never
told to any one. It was nearly dark when she went away, planting
her feet firmly, holding her head straight--Rebecca Mary Plummer.
She went to find Aunt Olivia and tell her. On the way, she
stopped to get Aunt Olivia's shawl, for it was getting chilly out
on the porch. Significantly the first thing Rebecca Mary did
after she began to grow up was to get the shawl and lay it over
Aunt Olivia's spare shoulders. The second thing was to bend to
the scant gray hair and lightly rub it with her cheek. It was a
Rebecca Mary kiss.
Out in front of the rocking chair, still straight and firm, she
told Aunt Olivia.
"It's over--I think I put everything in," she said. "I thought
you ought to know, so I came to tell you. I'm ready to grow up."
After all, if Rebecca Mary had known, her "programme" had not
ended with Article VI. Here was another. Take the pencil in your
steady little fingers, Rebecca Mary, and write:
Article VII.--Growing up. (Do not break Aunt Olivia's heart.)
Aunt Olivia sighed. It was the third time since she had begun to
let Rebecca Mary down. The third sigh was the longest one. Oh, this
letting down of children who would grow up!
"I won't do it!" Aunt Olivia rebelled, fiercely, but she took up her
scissors again at Duty's nudge.
"You don't want people laughing at her, do you?" Duty said, sensibly.
"Well, then, rip out that hem and face up that skirt and stop sighing.
What can't be cured must be endur--"
"I'm ripping it out," Aunt Olivia interrupted, crisply. But Duty
was not to be silenced.
"You ought to have done it before," dictatorially. "You've known
all along that Rebecca Mary was growing up."
Aunt Olivia, like the proverbial worm, turned.
"I didn't know till Rebecca Mary told me," she retorted; then the
rebellion died out of her thin face and tenderness came and took
its place. Aunt Olivia was thinking of the time when Rebecca Mary
told her. She gazed past Duty, past the skirt across her knees, out
through the porch vines, and saw Rebecca Mary coming to tell her.
She saw the shawl the child was bringing, felt it laid on her
shoulders, and something else laid on her hair, soft and smooth
like a little, lean, brown cheek. The memory was so pleasant
that Aunt Olivia closed her eyes to make it stay. When she opened
them some one was coming along the path, but it was not Rebecca Mary.
"Good afternoon!" some one said. Aunt Olivia stiffened into a
Plummer again with hurried embarrassment. She did not recognize
the voice nor the pleasant young face that followed it through
"It's Rebecca Mary's aunt, isn't it?" The stranger smiled. "I should
know it by the family resemblance."
"We're both Plummers," Aunt Olivia answered, gravely. "Won't you come
up on the porch and take a seat?"
"No, I'll sit down here on the steps--I'd rather. I think I'll sit
on the lowest step for I've come on a very humble errand! I'm Rebecca
"Oh!" It was all Aunt Olivia could manage, for a sudden horror had
come upon her. She had a distinct remembrance of being at the Tony
Trumbullses when the school teacher came to call.
"It's--it's rather hard to say it." The young person on the lowest
step laughed nervously. "I'd a good deal rather not. But I think so
much of Rebecca Mary--"
The horror grew in Aunt Olivia's soul. It was something terribly
like that the Tony Trumbullses' teacher had said. And like this:
"It hurts--there! But I made up my mind it was my duty to come up
here and say it, and so I've come. I'm sorry to have to say--"
"Don't!" ejaculated Aunt Olivia, trembling on her Plummer pedestal.
For she was laboring with the impulse to refuse to listen to this
intruder, to drive her away--to say: "I won't believe a word you say!
You may as well go home."
"Hoity-toity!" breathed Duty in her ear. It saved her.
"Well?" she said, gently. "Go on."
"I'm sorry to say I can't teach Rebecca Mary any more, Miss Plummer. That's what I came to tell you--"
This was awful--awful! But hot rebellion rose in Aunt Olivia's heart. There was some mistake--it was some other Rebecca Mary this person
meant. She would never believe it was HERS--the Plummer one!
"Because I've taught her all I know. There! Do you wonder I chose
the lowest step to sit on? But it's the truth, honest," the
little teacher laughed girlishly, but there were shame spots on
her cheeks--"Rebecca Mary is the smartest scholar I've got, and
I've taught her all I know." In her voice there was confession to
having taught Rebecca Mary a little more than that. The shame
spots flickered in a halo of humble honesty.
"She's been from Percentage through the arithmetic four times--
Rebecca Mary's splendid in arithmetic. And she knows the
geography and grammar by heart."
The look on Aunt Olivia's face! The transition from horror to
pride was overwhelming, transfiguring.
"Rebecca Mary's smart," added the honest one on the doorstep.
"_I_ think she ought to have a chance. There! That's all I came
for, so I'll be going. Only, I don't suppose--you don't think
you'll have to tell Rebecca Mary, do you? About--about me, I mean?"
"No, I don't," Aunt Olivia assured her, warmly. Her thin, lined
hand met and held for a moment the small, plump one--long enough
to say, "You're a good girl--I like you," in its own way. The
little teacher went away in some sort comforted for having taught
Rebecca Mary all she knew. She even hummed a relieved little tune
on her way home, because of the pleasant tingle in the hand that
Rebecca Mary's aunt had squeezed. After all, no matter how much
you dreaded doing it, it was better to tell the truth.
Aunt Olivia hummed no relieved little tune. The pride in her
heart battled with the Dread there and went down. Aunt Olivia did
not call the Dread by any other name. It was Duty who dared.
Confronting Aunt Olivia: "I suppose you know what it means?
I suppose you know it means you've got to give Rebecca Mary a
chance? When are you going to send her away to school?"
"Oh--don't!" pleaded Aunt Olivia. "You don't give me any time.
There's no need of hurry--"
"I'm still a Plummer, if you're not," broke in Duty, with ironic
sharpness. "The Plummers were never afraid to look their duty in
"I'm--I'm looking at you," groaned Aunt Olivia, climbing painfully
back on to her pedestal. "Go ahead and say it. I'm ready--only I
guess you've forgot how long I've had Rebecca Mary. When you've
brought a child up--"
"I brought her up myself," calmly. "I ought to know. She wouldn't
have been Rebecca Mary, would she, if I hadn't been right on hand?
Who was it taught her to sew patchwork before she was four years old?
And make sheets--and beds--and bread? Who was it kept her from being
a little tomboy like the minister's girl? Who taught her to walk
instead of run, and eat with her fork, and be a lady? Who was it--"
"Oh, you--you!" sighed Aunt Olivia, trembling for her balance.
"You did 'em all. I never could've alone."
"Then"--Duty was justly complacent--"Then perhaps you'll be willing
to leave Rebecca Mary's going away to school to me. She must go at
once, as soon as you can get her read--"
Aunt Olivia tumbled off. She did not wait to pick herself up before
she turned upon this Duty that delighted in torturing her.
"You better get her ready yourself! You better let her down and make
her some nightgowns and count her pocket-handkerchiefs! You think
you can do anything--no, I'M talking now! I guess it's my turn.
I guess I've waited long enough. Maybe you brought Rebecca Mary up,
but I'm not going to leave it to you whether she'd ought to go away
to school. She's my Rebecca Mary, isn't she? Well? It's me that
loves her, isn't it--not you? If I can't love her and stay a Plummer, then I'll--love her. I'm going to leave it to the minister."
The minister was a little embarrassed. The wistful look in Aunt
Olivia's eyes said, "Say no" so plainly. And he knew he must say
yes--the minister's Duty was imperative, too.
"If she can't get any more good out of the school here--" he began.
"She can't," said Aunt Olivia's Duty for her. "The teacher says
she can't. Rebecca Mary's smart." Then Duty, too, was proud of
"I know she is," said the minister, heartily. "My Rhoda--you
ought to hear my Rhoda set her up. She thinks Rebecca Mary knows
more than the teacher does."
"Rhoda's smart, too," breathed Duty in Aunt Olivia's ear.
"So you see, dear Miss Olivia, the child would make good use of
"You mean I ought to send her away? Well, I'm ready to--I said
I'd leave it to you. Where shall I send her? If there was only
--I don't suppose there's some place near to? Children go home
Friday nights sometimes, don't they?"
"There is no school near enough for that, I'm afraid," the
minister said, gently. He could not bear the look in Miss
"It hurt," he told his wife afterwards. "I wish she hadn't asked
"I know, dear, but it's the penalty of being a minister. Ministers'
hearts ought to be coated with--with asbestos or something, so the
looks in people's eyes wouldn't burn through. I'm glad she didn't
"It will nearly kill them both," ran on the minister's thoughts, aloud.
"You know how it was when Miss Olivia was at the hospital."
"Robert!"--the minister's wife's tone was reproachful--"you're
talking in the future tense! You said 'will.' Then you advised
her to send Rebecca Mary away!"
"Guilty," pleaded the minister. "What else could I do?"
"You could have offered to teach her yourself"--with prompt
inspiration. "Oh, Robert, why didn't you?"
"Felicia!--my dear!"--for the minister was modest.
"You know plenty for two Rebecca Marys," she triumphed. "Didn't
you appropriate all the honors at college, you selfish boy!"
"It's too late now, dear." But the minister's eyes thanked her,
and the big clasp of his arms. A minister may be mortal.
"Maybe it is and maybe it isn't," spoke the minister's wife, in
riddles. "We'll wait and see."
"But, Felicia--but, dear, they're both them Plummers."
"Maybe they are and maybe they aren't," laughed she.
That night Aunt Olivia told Rebecca Mary--after she went to bed,
"Rebecca Mary, how would you like to go away to school? For I'm
going to send you, my dear."
"'Away--to school--my dear!'" echoed Rebecca Mary, sitting
upright in bed. Her slight figure stretched up rigid and
preternaturally tall in the dim light.
"Yes; the minister advises it--I left it to him. He thinks you
ought to have advantages." Aunt Olivia slipped down suddenly beside
the little rigid figure and touched it rather timidly. She felt a
little in awe of the Rebecca Mary who knew more than her teacher did.
"They all seem to think you're--smart, my dear," Aunt Olivia said,
and she would scarcely have believed it could be so hard to say it.
For the life of her she could not keep the pride from pricking through
her tone. The wild temptation to sell her Plummer birthright for
a kiss assailed her. But she groped in the dimness for Duty's cool
touch and found it. In the Plummer code of laws it was writ, "Thou
shalt not kiss."
"I'm going right to work to make you some new nightgowns," Aunt
Olivia added, hastily. "I think I shall make them plain," for it
was in the nature of a reinforcement to her courage to leave off
Rebecca Mary's eyes shone like stars in the dark little room.
The child thought she was glad to be going away to school.
"Shall I study algebra and Latin?" she demanded.
"I suppose so--that'll be what you go for."
"And French--not FRENCH?"
Rebecca Mary fell back on the pillows to grasp it. But she was
presently up again.
"And that thing that tells about the air and--and gassy things?
And the one that tells about your bones?"
Aunt Olivia did not recognize chemistry, but she knew bones.
She sighed gently.
"Oh yes; I suppose you'll find out just how you're put together,
and likely it'll scare you so you won't ever dare to breathe deep
again. Maybe learning like that is important--I suppose the
"The minister knows everything," Rebecca Mary said, solemnly.
"If you let me go away to school, I'll try to learn to know as
much as he does, Aunt Olivia. You don't--you don't think he'd mind,
In the dark Aunt Olivia smiled. The small person there on the
pillows was, after all, a child. Rebecca Mary had not grown up,
"He won't mind," promised Aunt Olivia for the minister. She went
away presently and cut out Rebecca Mary's new nightgowns. She sat
and stitched them, far into the night, and stitched her sad
little bodings in, one by one. Already desolation gripped Aunt
Rebecca Mary's dreams that night were marvelous ones. She dreamed
she saw herself in a glass after she had learned all the things
there were to learn, and she looked like the minister! When she
spoke, her voice sounded deep and sweet like the minister's voice.
Somewhere a voice like the minister's wife's seemed to be calling
"Yes?" answered Rebecca Mary, and woke up.
There were many preparations to make. The days sped by busily,
and to Rebecca Mary full of joyous expectancy. Aunt Olivia made
no moan. She worked steadily over the plain little outfit and
thrust her Dreads away with resolute courage, to wait until
Rebecca Mary was gone. Time enough then.
"You're doing right--that ought to comfort you," encouraged Duty,
"Clear out!" was what Aunt Olivia cried out, sharply, in answer.
"You've done enough--this is all your work! Don't stand there
hugging yourself. YOU'RE not going to miss Rebecca Mary--"
"I shall miss her," Duty murmured. "I was awake all night, too,
dreading it. You didn't know, but I was there."
The last day, when it came, seemed a little--a good deal--like
that other day when Aunt Olivia went away, only it was the other
way about this time. Rebecca Mary was going away on this day.
The things packed snugly in the big valise were her things; it was
she, Rebecca Mary, who would unpack them in a wondrous, strange
place. It was Rebecca Mary the minister's wife and Rhoda came to
Aunt Olivia went to the station in the stage with the child.
She did not speak much on the way, but sat firmly straight and
smiled. Duty had told her the last thing to smile. But Duty had
not trusted her; unseen and uninvited, Duty had slipped into the
jolting old vehicle between Aunt Olivia and Rebecca Mary.
"She isn't the Plummer she was once," sighed Duty.
But at the little station, in those few final moments, two Plummers,
an old one and a young one, waited quietly together. Neither of them
broke down nor made ado. Duty retired in palpable chagrin.
"Good-bye, my dear," Aunt Olivia said, steadily, though her lips
"Good-bye, Aunt Olivia," Rebecca Mary Plummer said, steadily.
"I'm very MUCH obliged to you for sending me."
"You're--welcome. Don't forget to wear your rubbers. I put in
some liniment in case you need it--don't get any in your eyes."
Outside on the platform Aunt Olivia sought and found Rebecca
Mary's window and stood beside it till the train started. Through
the dusty pane their faces looked oddly unfamiliar to each other,
and the two pairs of eyes that gazed out and in had a startled
wistfulness in them that no Plummer eyes should have. If Duty had
The train shook itself, gave a jerk or two, and plunged down the
shining rails. Aunt Olivia watched it out of sight, then turned
patiently to meet her loneliness. The Dreads came flocking back
to her as if she had beckoned to them. For now was the time.
The letters Rebecca Mary wrote were formally correct and brief.
There was no homesickness in them. It was pleasant at the school,
that book about bones was going to be very interesting. Aunt
Olivia was not to worry about the rubbers, and Rebecca Mary would
never forget to air her clothes when they came from the wash.
Yes, she had aired the nightgown that Aunt Olivia ironed the last
thing. No, she hadn't needed any liniment yet, but she wouldn't
get any in her eyes.
Aunt Olivia's letters were to the point and calm, as though Duty
stood peering over her shoulder as she wrote. She was glad
Rebecca Mary liked the bones, but she was a little surprised.
She was glad about the rubbers and the wash; she was glad there had
been no need yet for the liniment. It was a good thing to rub on
a sore throat. The minister's wife had been over with her work
she said Rhoda missed Rebecca Mary. Yes, the little, white cat
was well--no, she hadn't caught any mice. The calla lily had two
buds, the Northern Spy tree was not going to bear very well.
"Robert, I've been to see Miss Olivia," the minister's wife said
"Yes?" The minister waited. He knew it was coming.
"She was knitting stockings for Rebecca Mary. Robert, she sat
there and smiled till I had to come home to cry!"
"My dear!--do you want me to cry, too?"
"I'm a-going to," sniffed Rhoda. "I feel it coming."
"She is so lonely, Robert! It would break your heart to see her
smile. How do I know she is? Oh no--no, she didn't say she was!
But I saw her eyes and she let the little, white cat get up in
"Proof enough," the minister said, gently.
Between the two of them--the child at school and Aunt Olivia at
home--letters came and went for six weeks. Aunt Olivia wrote six,
Rebecca Mary six. All the letters were terse and brief and
unemotional. Weather, bones, little white cats, liniment--
everything in them but loneliness or love. Rebecca Mary began all
hers "Dear Aunt Olivia," and ended them all "Respectfully your
niece, Rebecca Mary Plummer."
"Dear Rebecca Mary," began Aunt Olivia's. "Your aff. aunt, Olivia
Plummer," they closed. Yet both their hearts were breaking. Some
hearts break quicker than others; Plummer hearts hold out
splendidly, but in the end--
In the end Aunt Olivia went to see the minister and was closeted
with him for a little. The minister's wife could hear them talking--
mostly the minister--but she could not hear what they said.
"It's come," she nodded, sagely. "I was sure it would. That's
what the little, white cat purred when she rubbed against my skirts,
'She can't stand it much longer. She doesn't sleep nights nor eat
days--she's giving out.' Poor Miss Olivia!--but I can't understand
"It's the Plummer in her," the little, white cat would have purred.
Aunt Olivia turned back at the minister's study door. "Then you
will?" she said, eagerly. "You're perfectly willing to? I don't
want to feel--"
"You needn't feel," the minister smiled. "I'm more than willing.
I'm delighted. But in the matter of--er--remuneration, I cannot
"You needn't let me," smiled Miss Olivia; "I'll do it without."
She was gently radiant. Her pitifully thin face, so transfigured,
touched the big heart of the minister. He went to his window and
watched the slight figure hurry away. He would scarcely have been
surprised to see it turn down the road that led towards the
"Oh, Robert!" It was the minister's wife at his elbow. "You dear
boy, I know you've promised! You needn't tell me a thing--didn't
I suggest it in the first place? Dear Miss Olivia--I'm so glad,
Robert! So are you glad, you minister!" But they were neither of
them thinking of little, stubbed-out shoes that would be easier
Aunt Olivia turned down the station road the next morning, in the
swaying old stage. Her eager gaze never left the plodding horses,
as if by looking at them she could make them go faster.
"They're pretty slow, aren't they?" she said.
"Slow--THEM? Well, I guess you weren't never a stage horse!"
chuckled the old man at the reins.
"No," admitted Aunt Olivia, "I never was, but I know I'd go
At the Junction, halfway to Rebecca Mary, she descended alertly
from the train and crossed the platform. She must wait here, they
told her, an hour and twenty minutes. On the other side of the
station a train was just slowing up, and she stood a moment to
scan idly the thin stream of people that trickled from the cars.
There were old women--did any of them, she wondered, feel as happy
as she did? There were tall children, too. There was one--Aunt Olivia
started a little and fumbled in her soft hair, under the roses in
her bonnet brim, for her glasses. There was one tall child--she was
coming this way--she was coming fast--she was running! Her arms
"Aunt Olivia! Aunt Olivia!" the Tall Child was crying out,
joyously, "Oh, Aunt Olivia!"
"Rebecca Mary!--my dear, my dear!"
They were in each other's arms. The roses on Aunt Olivia's bonnet
brim slipped to one side--the two of them, not Plummers any more, but a
common, glad old woman and a common, glad, tall child, were kissing
each other as though they would never stop. The stream of people
reached them and flowed by on either side. Trains came and went,
and still they stood like that.
"Hoity-toity!" muttered Aunt Olivia's Duty, and slipped past with
the stream. A Plummer to the end, what use to stay any longer there?
"I was coming home," cried Rebecca Mary. "I couldn't bear it
"I was coming after you--my dear, my DEAR, _I_ couldn't bear it