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Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm
by Kate Douglas Wiggin
TO MY MOTHER
Her eyes as stars of Twilight fair;
Like Twilight's, too, her dusky hair;
But all things else about her drawn
From May-time and the cheerful Dawn;
A dancing Shape, an Image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and way-lay.
I. "WE ARE SEVEN"
II. REBECCA'S RELATIONS
III. A DIFFERENCE IN HEARTS
IV. REBECCA'S POINT OF VIEW
V. WISDOM'S WAYS
VI. SUNSHINE IN A SHADY PLACE
VII. RIVERBORO SECRETS
VIII. COLOR OF ROSE
IX ASHES OF ROSES
X. RAINBOW BRIDGES
XI. "THE STIRRING OF THE POWERS"
XII. "SEE THE PALE MARTYR"
XIII. SNOW-WHITE; ROSE-RED
XIV. MR. ALADDIN
XV. THE BANQUET LAMP
XVI. SEASONS OF GROWTH
XVII. GRAY DAYS AND GOLD
XVIII. REBECCA REPRESENTS THE FAMILY
XIX. DEACON ISRAEL'S SUCCESSOR
XX. A CHANGE OF HEART
XXI. THE SKY LINE WIDENS
XXII. CLOVER BLOSSOMS AND SUNFLOWERS
XXIII. THE HILL DIFFICULTY
XXIV. ALADDIN RUBS HIS LAMP
XXV. ROSES OF JOY
XXVI. OVER THE TEACUPS
XXVII. "THE VISION SPLENDID"
XXVIII. "TH' INEVITABLE YOKE"
XXIX. MOTHER AND DAUGHTER
XXX. "GOOD-BY, SUNNYBROOK!"
XXXI. AUNT MIRANDA'S APOLOGY
OF SUNNYBROOK FARM
REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM
"WE ARE SEVEN"
The old stage coach was rumbling along
the dusty road that runs from Maplewood
to Riverboro. The day was as warm
as midsummer, though it was only the middle of
May, and Mr. Jeremiah Cobb was favoring the
horses as much as possible, yet never losing sight
of the fact that he carried the mail. The hills were
many, and the reins lay loosely in his hands as he
lolled back in his seat and extended one foot and
leg luxuriously over the dashboard. His brimmed
hat of worn felt was well pulled over his eyes, and
he revolved a quid of tobacco in his left cheek.
There was one passenger in the coach,--a small
dark-haired person in a glossy buff calico dress.
She was so slender and so stiffly starched that
she slid from space to space on the leather cushions,
though she braced herself against the middle
seat with her feet and extended her cotton-gloved
hands on each side, in order to maintain some sort
of balance. Whenever the wheels sank farther than
usual into a rut, or jolted suddenly over a stone,
she bounded involuntarily into the air, came down
again, pushed back her funny little straw hat, and
picked up or settled more firmly a small pink sun
shade, which seemed to be her chief responsibility,
--unless we except a bead purse, into which
she looked whenever the condition of the roads
would permit, finding great apparent satisfaction
in that its precious contents neither disappeared
nor grew less. Mr. Cobb guessed nothing of these
harassing details of travel, his business being to
carry people to their destinations, not, necessarily,
to make them comfortable on the way. Indeed he
had forgotten the very existence of this one
unnoteworthy little passenger.
When he was about to leave the post-office in
Maplewood that morning, a woman had alighted
from a wagon, and coming up to him, inquired
whether this were the Riverboro stage, and if he
were Mr. Cobb. Being answered in the affirmative,
she nodded to a child who was eagerly waiting
for the answer, and who ran towards her as if she
feared to be a moment too late. The child might
have been ten or eleven years old perhaps, but
whatever the number of her summers, she had an
air of being small for her age. Her mother helped
her into the stage coach, deposited a bundle and
a bouquet of lilacs beside her, superintended the
"roping on" behind of an old hair trunk, and finally
paid the fare, counting out the silver with great
"I want you should take her to my sisters'
in Riverboro," she said. "Do you know Mi-
randy and Jane Sawyer? They live in the brick
Lord bless your soul, he knew 'em as well as
if he'd made 'em!
"Well, she's going there, and they're expecting
her. Will you keep an eye on her, please? If she
can get out anywhere and get with folks, or get
anybody in to keep her company, she'll do it.
Good-by, Rebecca; try not to get into any mischief,
and sit quiet, so you'll look neat an' nice when
you get there. Don't be any trouble to Mr. Cobb.
--You see, she's kind of excited.--We came on
the cars from Temperance yesterday, slept all night
at my cousin's, and drove from her house--eight
miles it is--this morning."
"Good-by, mother, don't worry; you know it
isn't as if I hadn't traveled before."
The woman gave a short sardonic laugh and said
in an explanatory way to Mr. Cobb, "She's been to
Wareham and stayed over night; that isn't much
to be journey-proud on!"
"It WAS TRAVELING, mother," said the child
eagerly and willfully. "It was leaving the farm, and
putting up lunch in a basket, and a little riding
and a little steam cars, and we carried our nightgowns."
"Don't tell the whole village about it, if we did,"
said the mother, interrupting the reminiscences of
this experienced voyager. "Haven't I told you
before," she whispered, in a last attempt at
discipline, "that you shouldn't talk about night
gowns and stockings and--things like that, in a
loud tone of voice, and especially when there's
men folks round?"
"I know, mother, I know, and I won't. All I
want to say is"--here Mr. Cobb gave a cluck,
slapped the reins, and the horses started sedately
on their daily task--"all I want to say is that it
is a journey when"--the stage was really under
way now and Rebecca had to put her head out of
the window over the door in order to finish her
sentence--"it IS a journey when you carry a
The objectionable word, uttered in a high treble,
floated back to the offended ears of Mrs. Randall,
who watched the stage out of sight, gathered up
her packages from the bench at the store door,
and stepped into the wagon that had been standing
at the hitching-post. As she turned the horse's
head towards home she rose to her feet for a
moment, and shading her eyes with her hand, looked
at a cloud of dust in the dim distance.
"Mirandy'll have her hands full, I guess," she
said to herself; "but I shouldn't wonder if it would
be the making of Rebecca."
All this had been half an hour ago, and the sun,
the heat, the dust, the contemplation of errands to
be done in the great metropolis of Milltown, had
lulled Mr. Cobb's never active mind into complete
oblivion as to his promise of keeping an eye on
Suddenly he heard a small voice above the rattle
and rumble of the wheels and the creaking of the
harness. At first he thought it was a cricket, a tree
toad, or a bird, but having determined the direction
from which it came, he turned his head over his
shoulder and saw a small shape hanging as far out
of the window as safety would allow. A long black
braid of hair swung with the motion of the coach;
the child held her hat in one hand and with the
other made ineffectual attempts to stab the driver
with her microscopic sunshade.
"Please let me speak!" she called.
Mr. Cobb drew up the horses obediently.
"Does it cost any more to ride up there with
you?" she asked. "It's so slippery and shiny down
here, and the stage is so much too big for me, that
I rattle round in it till I'm 'most black and blue.
And the windows are so small I can only see pieces
of things, and I've 'most broken my neck stretching
round to find out whether my trunk has fallen
off the back. It's my mother's trunk, and she's
very choice of it."
Mr. Cobb waited until this flow of conversation,
or more properly speaking this flood of criticism,
had ceased, and then said jocularly:--
"You can come up if you want to; there ain't
no extry charge to sit side o' me." Whereupon he
helped her out, "boosted" her up to the front seat,
and resumed his own place.
Rebecca sat down carefully, smoothing her dress
under her with painstaking precision, and putting
her sunshade under its extended folds between the
driver and herself. This done she pushed back her
hat, pulled up her darned white cotton gloves, and
"Oh! this is better! This is like traveling! I
am a real passenger now, and down there I felt like
our setting hen when we shut her up in a coop. I
hope we have a long, long ways to go?"
"Oh! we've only just started on it," Mr. Cobb
responded genially; "it's more 'n two hours."
"Only two hours," she sighed "That will be
half past one; mother will be at cousin Ann's, the
children at home will have had their dinner, and
Hannah cleared all away. I have some lunch,
because mother said it would be a bad beginning to get
to the brick house hungry and have aunt Mirandy
have to get me something to eat the first thing.--
It's a good growing day, isn't it?"
"It is, certain; too hot, most. Why don't you
put up your parasol?"
She extended her dress still farther over the
article in question as she said, "Oh dear no! I never
put it up when the sun shines; pink fades awfully,
you know, and I only carry it to meetin' cloudy
Sundays; sometimes the sun comes out all of a
sudden, and I have a dreadful time covering it up;
it's the dearest thing in life to me, but it's an awful
At this moment the thought gradually permeated
Mr. Jeremiah Cobb's slow-moving mind that the
bird perched by his side was a bird of very different
feather from those to which he was accustomed in
his daily drives. He put the whip back in its socket,
took his foot from the dashboard, pushed his hat
back, blew his quid of tobacco into the road, and
having thus cleared his mental decks for action, he took
his first good look at the passenger, a look which
she met with a grave, childlike stare of friendly
The buff calico was faded, but scrupulously clean,
and starched within an inch of its life. From the
little standing ruffle at the neck the child's slender
throat rose very brown and thin, and the head looked
small to bear the weight of dark hair that hung in
a thick braid to her waist. She wore an odd little
vizored cap of white leghorn, which may either have
been the latest thing in children's hats, or some bit
of ancient finery furbished up for the occasion. It
was trimmed with a twist of buff ribbon and a cluster
of black and orange porcupine quills, which hung
or bristled stiffly over one ear, giving her the
quaintest and most unusual appearance. Her face was
without color and sharp in outline. As to features,
she must have had the usual number, though Mr.
Cobb's attention never proceeded so far as nose,
forehead, or chin, being caught on the way and held
fast by the eyes. Rebecca's eyes were like faith,--
"the substance of things hoped for, the evidence
of things not seen." Under her delicately etched
brows they glowed like two stars, their dancing
lights half hidden in lustrous darkness. Their
glance was eager and full of interest, yet never
satisfied; their steadfast gaze was brilliant and
mysterious, and had the effect of looking directly through
the obvious to something beyond, in the object, in
the landscape, in you. They had never been
accounted for, Rebecca's eyes. The school teacher
and the minister at Temperance had tried and
failed; the young artist who came for the summer
to sketch the red barn, the ruined mill, and the
bridge ended by giving up all these local beauties
and devoting herself to the face of a child,--a
small, plain face illuminated by a pair of eyes carrying
such messages, such suggestions, such hints of
sleeping power and insight, that one never tired of
looking into their shining depths, nor of fancying
that what one saw there was the reflection of one's
Mr. Cobb made none of these generalizations;
his remark to his wife that night was simply to the
effect that whenever the child looked at him she
knocked him galley-west.
"Miss Ross, a lady that paints, gave me the
sunshade," said Rebecca, when she had exchanged
looks with Mr. Cobb and learned his face by heart.
"Did you notice the pinked double ruffle and the
white tip and handle? They're ivory. The handle
is scarred, you see. That's because Fanny sucked
and chewed it in meeting when I wasn't looking.
I've never felt the same to Fanny since."
"Is Fanny your sister?"
"She's one of them."
"How many are there of you?"
"Seven. There's verses written about seven
"`Quick was the little Maid's reply,
O master! we are seven!'
I learned it to speak in school, but the scholars
were hateful and laughed. Hannah is the oldest, I
come next, then John, then Jenny, then Mark, then
Fanny, then Mira."
"Well, that IS a big family!"
"Far too big, everybody says," replied Rebecca
with an unexpected and thoroughly grown-up candor
that induced Mr. Cobb to murmur, "I swan!"
and insert more tobacco in his left cheek.
"They're dear, but such a bother, and cost so
much to feed, you see," she rippled on. "Hannah
and I haven't done anything but put babies to bed
at night and take them up in the morning for years
and years. But it's finished, that's one comfort,
and we'll have a lovely time when we're all grown
up and the mortgage is paid off."
"All finished? Oh, you mean you've come
"No, I mean they're all over and done with;
our family 's finished. Mother says so, and she always
keeps her promises. There hasn't been any
since Mira, and she's three. She was born the
day father died Aunt Miranda wanted Hannah
to come to Riverboro instead of me, but mother
couldn't spare her; she takes hold of housework
better than I do, Hannah does. I told mother last
night if there was likely to be any more children
while I was away I'd have to be sent for, for when
there's a baby it always takes Hannah and me
both, for mother has the cooking and the farm."
"Oh, you live on a farm, do ye? Where is it?
--near to where you got on?"
"Near? Why, it must be thousands of miles!
We came from Temperance in the cars. Then we
drove a long ways to cousin Ann's and went to bed.
Then we got up and drove ever so far to Maplewood,
where the stage was. Our farm is away off
from everywheres, but our school and meeting
house is at Temperance, and that's only two miles.
Sitting up here with you is most as good as climbing
the meeting-house steeple. I know a boy who's
been up on our steeple. He said the people and
cows looked like flies. We haven't met any people
yet, but I'm KIND of disappointed in the cows;--
they don't look so little as I hoped they would;
still (brightening) they don't look quite as big as
if we were down side of them, do they? Boys always
do the nice splendid things, and girls can only
do the nasty dull ones that get left over. They
can't climb so high, or go so far, or stay out so
late, or run so fast, or anything."
Mr. Cobb wiped his mouth on the back of his
hand and gasped. He had a feeling that he was being
hurried from peak to peak of a mountain range
without time to take a good breath in between.
"I can't seem to locate your farm," he said,
"though I've been to Temperance and used to live
up that way. What's your folks' name?"
"Randall. My mother's name is Aurelia Randall;
our names are Hannah Lucy Randall, Rebecca
Rowena Randall, John Halifax Randall, Jenny
Lind Randall, Marquis Randall, Fanny Ellsler
Randall, and Miranda Randall. Mother named half
of us and father the other half, but we didn't come
out even, so they both thought it would be nice to
name Mira after aunt Miranda in Riverboro; they
hoped it might do some good, but it didn't, and now
we call her Mira. We are all named after somebody
in particular. Hannah is Hannah at the
Window Binding Shoes, and I am taken out of
Ivanhoe; John Halifax was a gentleman in a book;
Mark is after his uncle Marquis de Lafayette that
died a twin. (Twins very often don't live to grow
up, and triplets almost never--did you know that,
Mr. Cobb?) We don't call him Marquis, only Mark.
Jenny is named for a singer and Fanny for a beautiful
dancer, but mother says they're both misfits, for
Jenny can't carry a tune and Fanny's kind of stiff-
legged. Mother would like to call them Jane and
Frances and give up their middle names, but she
says it wouldn't be fair to father. She says we
must always stand up for father, because everything
was against him, and he wouldn't have died if he
hadn't had such bad luck. I think that's all there
is to tell about us," she finished seriously.
"Land o' Liberty! I should think it was
enough," ejaculated Mr. Cobb. "There wa'n't
many names left when your mother got through
choosin'! You've got a powerful good memory!
I guess it ain't no trouble for you to learn your
lessons, is it?"
"Not much; the trouble is to get the shoes to
go and learn 'em. These are spandy new I've got
on, and they have to last six months. Mother
always says to save my shoes. There don't seem
to be any way of saving shoes but taking 'em off
and going barefoot; but I can't do that in Riverboro
without shaming aunt Mirandy. I'm going to
school right along now when I'm living with aunt
Mirandy, and in two years I'm going to the seminary
at Wareham; mother says it ought to be the
making of me! I'm going to be a painter like Miss
Ross when I get through school. At any rate, that's
what _I_ think I'm going to be. Mother thinks I'd
"Your farm ain't the old Hobbs place, is it?"
"No, it's just Randall's Farm. At least that's
what mother calls it. I call it Sunnybrook Farm."
"I guess it don't make no difference what you
call it so long as you know where it is," remarked
Mr. Cobb sententiously.
Rebecca turned the full light of her eyes upon
him reproachfully, almost severely, as she answered:--
"Oh! don't say that, and be like all the rest! It
does make a difference what you call things. When
I say Randall's Farm, do you see how it looks?"
"No, I can't say I do," responded Mr. Cobb uneasily.
"Now when I say Sunnybrook Farm, what does
it make you think of?"
Mr. Cobb felt like a fish removed from his native
element and left panting on the sand; there was
no evading the awful responsibility of a reply, for
Rebecca's eyes were searchlights, that pierced the
fiction of his brain and perceived the bald spot on
the back of his head.
"I s'pose there's a brook somewheres near it,"
he said timorously.
Rebecca looked disappointed but not quite dis-
heartened. "That's pretty good," she said
encouragingly. "You're warm but not hot; there's
a brook, but not a common brook. It has young
trees and baby bushes on each side of it, and it's a
shallow chattering little brook with a white sandy
bottom and lots of little shiny pebbles. Whenever
there's a bit of sunshine the brook catches it, and
it's always full of sparkles the livelong day.
Don't your stomach feel hollow? Mine doest I
was so 'fraid I'd miss the stage I couldn't eat any
"You'd better have your lunch, then. I don't
eat nothin' till I get to Milltown; then I get a
piece o' pie and cup o' coffee."
"I wish I could see Milltown. I suppose it's
bigger and grander even than Wareham; more like
Paris? Miss Ross told me about Paris; she bought
my pink sunshade there and my bead purse. You
see how it opens with a snap? I've twenty cents
in it, and it's got to last three months, for stamps
and paper and ink. Mother says aunt Mirandy
won't want to buy things like those when she's
feeding and clothing me and paying for my school
"Paris ain't no great," said Mr. Cobb
disparagingly. "It's the dullest place in the State o'
Maine. I've druv there many a time."
Again Rebecca was obliged to reprove Mr. Cobb,
tacitly and quietly, but none the less surely, though
the reproof was dealt with one glance, quickly sent
and as quickly withdrawn.
"Paris is the capital of France, and you have to
go to it on a boat," she said instructively. "It's in
my geography, and it says: `The French are a gay
and polite people, fond of dancing and light wines.'
I asked the teacher what light wines were, and he
thought it was something like new cider, or maybe
ginger pop. I can see Paris as plain as day by just
shutting my eyes. The beautiful ladies are always
gayly dancing around with pink sunshades and
bead purses, and the grand gentlemen are politely
dancing and drinking ginger pop. But you can see
Milltown most every day with your eyes wide
open," Rebecca said wistfully.
"Milltown ain't no great, neither," replied Mr.
Cobb, with the air of having visited all the cities of
the earth and found them as naught. "Now you
watch me heave this newspaper right onto Mis'
Piff! and the packet landed exactly as it was
intended, on the corn husk mat in front of the
"Oh, how splendid that was!" cried Rebecca
with enthusiasm. "Just like the knife thrower
Mark saw at the circus. I wish there was a long,
long row of houses each with a corn husk mat and
a screen door in the middle, and a newspaper to
throw on every one!"
"I might fail on some of 'em, you know," said
Mr. Cobb, beaming with modest pride. "If your
aunt Mirandy'll let you, I'll take you down to
Milltown some day this summer when the stage
A thrill of delicious excitement ran through
Rebecca's frame, from her new shoes up, up to the
leghorn cap and down the black braid. She pressed
Mr. Cobb's knee ardently and said in a voice choking
with tears of joy and astonishment, "Oh, it
can't be true, it can't; to think I should see
Milltown. It's like having a fairy godmother who asks
you your wish and then gives it to you! Did you
ever read Cinderella, or The Yellow Dwarf, or The
Enchanted Frog, or The Fair One with Golden
"No," said Mr. Cobb cautiously, after a moment's
reflection. "I don't seem to think I ever did read
jest those partic'lar ones. Where'd you get a
chance at so much readin'?"
"Oh, I've read lots of books," answered
Rebecca casually. "Father's and Miss Ross's and all
the dif'rent school teachers', and all in the Sunday-
school library. I've read The Lamplighter, and
Scottish Chiefs, and Ivanhoe, and The Heir of
Redclyffe, and Cora, the Doctor's Wife, and David
Copperfield, and The Gold of Chickaree, and Plutarch's
Lives, and Thaddeus of Warsaw, and Pilgrim's Progress,
and lots more.--What have you read?"
"I've never happened to read those partic'lar
books; but land! I've read a sight in my time!
Nowadays I'm so drove I get along with the
Almanac, the Weekly Argus, and the Maine State
Agriculturist.--There's the river again; this is
the last long hill, and when we get to the top of it
we'll see the chimbleys of Riverboro in the
distance. 'T ain't fur. I live 'bout half a mile beyond
the brick house myself."
Rebecca's hand stirred nervously in her lap and
she moved in her seat. "I didn't think I was going
to be afraid," she said almost under her breath;
"but I guess I am, just a little mite--when you
say it's coming so near."
"Would you go back?" asked Mr. Cobb curiously.
She flashed him an intrepid look and then said
proudly, "I'd never go back--I might be frightened,
but I'd be ashamed to run. Going to aunt
Mirandy's is like going down cellar in the dark.
There might be ogres and giants under the stairs,
--but, as I tell Hannah, there MIGHT be elves and
fairies and enchanted frogs!--Is there a main
street to the village, like that in Wareham?"
"I s'pose you might call it a main street, an'
your aunt Sawyer lives on it, but there ain't no
stores nor mills, an' it's an awful one-horse
village! You have to go 'cross the river an' get on
to our side if you want to see anything goin' on."
"I'm almost sorry," she sighed, "because it
would be so grand to drive down a real main street,
sitting high up like this behind two splendid horses,
with my pink sunshade up, and everybody in town
wondering who the bunch of lilacs and the hair
trunk belongs to. It would be just like the beautiful
lady in the parade. Last summer the circus
came to Temperance, and they had a procession in
the morning. Mother let us all walk in and wheel
Mira in the baby carriage, because we couldn't
afford to go to the circus in the afternoon. And
there were lovely horses and animals in cages, and
clowns on horseback; and at the very end came a
little red and gold chariot drawn by two ponies, and
in it, sitting on a velvet cushion, was the snake
charmer, all dressed in satin and spangles. She was
so beautiful beyond compare, Mr. Cobb, that you
had to swallow lumps in your throat when you
looked at her, and little cold feelings crept up and
down your back. Don't you know how I mean?
Didn't you ever see anybody that made you feel
Mr. Cobb was more distinctly uncomfortable at
this moment than he had been at any one time
during the eventful morning, but he evaded the
point dexterously by saying, "There ain't no harm,
as I can see, in our makin' the grand entry in the
biggest style we can. I'll take the whip out, set
up straight, an' drive fast; you hold your bo'quet
in your lap, an' open your little red parasol, an'
we'll jest make the natives stare!"
The child's face was radiant for a moment, but
the glow faded just as quickly as she said, "I forgot--
mother put me inside, and maybe she'd want
me to be there when I got to aunt Mirandy's.
Maybe I'd be more genteel inside, and then I
wouldn't have to be jumped down and my clothes
fly up, but could open the door and step down like
a lady passenger. Would you please stop a minute,
Mr. Cobb, and let me change?"
The stage driver good-naturedly pulled up his
horses, lifted the excited little creature down, opened
the door, and helped her in, putting the lilacs and
the pink sunshade beside her.
"We've had a great trip," he said, "and we've
got real well acquainted, haven't we?--You won't
forget about Milltown?"
"Never!" she exclaimed fervently; "and you're
sure you won't, either?"
"Never! Cross my heart!" vowed Mr. Cobb
solemnly, as he remounted his perch; and as the
stage rumbled down the village street between the
green maples, those who looked from their windows
saw a little brown elf in buff calico sitting primly
on the back seat holding a great bouquet tightly in
one hand and a pink parasol in the other. Had they
been farsighted enough they might have seen, when
the stage turned into the side dooryard of the old
brick house, a calico yoke rising and falling
tempestuously over the beating heart beneath, the red
color coming and going in two pale cheeks, and a
mist of tears swimming in two brilliant dark eyes.
Rebecca's journey had ended.
"There's the stage turnin' into the Sawyer
girls' dooryard," said Mrs. Perkins to her husband.
"That must be the niece from up Temperance way.
It seems they wrote to Aurelia and invited Hannah,
the oldest, but Aurelia said she could spare Rebecca
better, if 't was all the same to Mirandy 'n' Jane;
so it's Rebecca that's come. She'll be good
comp'ny for our Emma Jane, but I don't believe
they'll keep her three months! She looks black
as an Injun what I can see of her; black and kind
of up-an-comin'. They used to say that one o' the
Randalls married a Spanish woman, somebody
that was teachin' music and languages at a boardin'
school. Lorenzo was dark complected, you remember,
and this child is, too. Well, I don't know as
Spanish blood is any real disgrace, not if it's a good
ways back and the woman was respectable."
They had been called the Sawyer girls when
Miranda at eighteen, Jane at twelve, and
Aurelia at eight participated in the various
activities of village life; and when Riverboro fell
into a habit of thought or speech, it saw no reason
for falling out of it, at any rate in the same century.
So although Miranda and Jane were between fifty
and sixty at the time this story opens, Riverboro
still called them the Sawyer girls. They were
spinsters; but Aurelia, the youngest, had made what
she called a romantic marriage and what her sisters
termed a mighty poor speculation. "There's worse
things than bein' old maids," they said; whether
they thought so is quite another matter.
The element of romance in Aurelia's marriage
existed chiefly in the fact that Mr. L. D. M. Randall
had a soul above farming or trading and was a votary
of the Muses. He taught the weekly singing-school
(then a feature of village life) in half a dozen
neighboring towns, he played the violin and "called off"
at dances, or evoked rich harmonies from church
melodeons on Sundays. He taught certain uncouth
lads, when they were of an age to enter society, the
intricacies of contra dances, or the steps of the
schottische and mazurka, and he was a marked
figure in all social assemblies, though conspicuously
absent from town-meetings and the purely masculine
gatherings at the store or tavern or bridge.
His hair was a little longer, his hands a little
whiter, his shoes a little thinner, his manner a trifle
more polished, than that of his soberer mates;
indeed the only department of life in which he failed
to shine was the making of sufficient money to live
upon. Luckily he had no responsibilities; his father
and his twin brother had died when he was yet a
boy, and his mother, whose only noteworthy achievement
had been the naming of her twin sons Marquis
de Lafayette and Lorenzo de Medici Randall, had
supported herself and educated her child by making
coats up to the very day of her death. She was wont
to say plaintively, "I'm afraid the faculties was too
much divided up between my twins. L. D. M. is
awful talented, but I guess M. D. L. would 'a' ben
the practical one if he'd 'a' lived."
"L. D. M. was practical enough to get the richest
girl in the village," replied Mrs. Robinson.
"Yes," sighed his mother, "there it is again; if
the twins could 'a' married Aurelia Sawyer, 't would
'a' been all right. L. D. M. was talented 'nough to
GET Reely's money, but M. D. L. would 'a' ben practical
'nough to have KEP' it."
Aurelia's share of the modest Sawyer property
had been put into one thing after another by the
handsome and luckless Lorenzo de Medici. He had
a graceful and poetic way of making an investment
for each new son and daughter that blessed their
union. "A birthday present for our child, Aurelia,"
he would say,--"a little nest-egg for the future;"
but Aurelia once remarked in a moment of bitterness
that the hen never lived that could sit on
those eggs and hatch anything out of them.
Miranda and Jane had virtually washed their
hands of Aurelia when she married Lorenzo de
Medici Randall. Having exhausted the resources
of Riverboro and its immediate vicinity, the
unfortunate couple had moved on and on in a steadily
decreasing scale of prosperity until they had reached
Temperance, where they had settled down and
invited fate to do its worst, an invitation which was
promptly accepted. The maiden sisters at home
wrote to Aurelia two or three times a year, and sent
modest but serviceable presents to the children at
Christmas, but refused to assist L. D. M. with the
regular expenses of his rapidly growing family.
His last investment, made shortly before the birth
of Miranda (named in a lively hope of favors which
never came), was a small farm two miles from
Temperance. Aurelia managed this herself, and so
it proved a home at least, and a place for the
unsuccessful Lorenzo to die and to be buried from, a duty
somewhat too long deferred, many thought, which
he performed on the day of Mira's birth.
It was in this happy-go-lucky household that Rebecca
had grown up. It was just an ordinary family;
two or three of the children were handsome and the
rest plain, three of them rather clever, two industrious,
and two commonplace and dull. Rebecca had
her father's facility and had been his aptest pupil.
She "carried" the alto by ear, danced without being
taught, played the melodeon without knowing the
notes. Her love of books she inherited chiefly from
her mother, who found it hard to sweep or cook
or sew when there was a novel in the house.
Fortunately books were scarce, or the children might
sometimes have gone ragged and hungry.
But other forces had been at work in Rebecca,
and the traits of unknown forbears had been wrought
into her fibre. Lorenzo de Medici was flabby and
boneless; Rebecca was a thing of fire and spirit:
he lacked energy and courage; Rebecca was plucky
at two and dauntless at five. Mrs. Randall and
Hannah had no sense of humor; Rebecca possessed
and showed it as soon as she could walk and talk.
She had not been able, however, to borrow her
parents' virtues and those of other generous ancestors
and escape all the weaknesses in the calendar.
She had not her sister Hannah's patience or her
brother John's sturdy staying power. Her will was
sometimes willfulness, and the ease with which she
did most things led her to be impatient of hard tasks
or long ones. But whatever else there was or was
not, there was freedom at Randall's farm. The children
grew, worked, fought, ate what and slept where
they could; loved one another and their parents
pretty well, but with no tropical passion; and
educated themselves for nine months of the year, each
one in his own way.
As a result of this method Hannah, who could
only have been developed by forces applied from
without, was painstaking, humdrum, and limited;
while Rebecca, who apparently needed nothing but
space to develop in, and a knowledge of terms in
which to express herself, grew and grew and grew,
always from within outward. Her forces of one sort
and another had seemingly been set in motion when
she was born; they needed no daily spur, but moved
of their own accord--towards what no one knew,
least of all Rebecca herself. The field for the
exhibition of her creative instinct was painfully small,
and the only use she had made of it as yet was to
leave eggs out of the corn bread one day and milk
another, to see how it would turn out; to part
Fanny's hair sometimes in the middle, sometimes
on the right, and sometimes on the left side; and to
play all sorts of fantastic pranks with the children,
occasionally bringing them to the table as fictitious
or historical characters found in her favorite books.
Rebecca amused her mother and her family generally,
but she never was counted of serious
importance, and though considered "smart" and old for
her age, she was never thought superior in any way.
Aurelia's experience of genius, as exemplified in the
deceased Lorenzo de Medici led her into a greater
admiration of plain, every-day common sense, a quality
in which Rebecca, it must be confessed, seemed
sometimes painfully deficient.
Hannah was her mother's favorite, so far as Aurelia
could indulge herself in such recreations as partiality.
The parent who is obliged to feed and clothe
seven children on an income of fifteen dollars a
month seldom has time to discriminate carefully
between the various members of her brood, but Hannah
at fourteen was at once companion and partner in
all her mother's problems. She it was who kept the
house while Aurelia busied herself in barn and field.
Rebecca was capable of certain set tasks, such as
keeping the small children from killing themselves
and one another, feeding the poultry, picking up
chips, hulling strawberries, wiping dishes; but she
was thought irresponsible, and Aurelia, needing
somebody to lean on (having never enjoyed that
luxury with the gifted Lorenzo), leaned on Hannah.
Hannah showed the result of this attitude somewhat,
being a trifle careworn in face and sharp in manner;
but she was a self-contained, well-behaved, dependable
child, and that is the reason her aunts had invited
her to Riverboro to be a member of their family and
participate in all the advantages of their loftier
position in the world. It was several years since
Miranda and Jane had seen the children, but they
remembered with pleasure that Hannah had not
spoken a word during the interview, and it was
for this reason that they had asked for the pleasure
of her company. Rebecca, on the other hand, had
dressed up the dog in John's clothes, and being
requested to get the three younger children ready
for dinner, she had held them under the pump and
then proceeded to "smack" their hair flat to their
heads by vigorous brushing, bringing them to the
table in such a moist and hideous state of shininess
that their mother was ashamed of their appearance.
Rebecca's own black locks were commonly pushed
smoothly off her forehead, but on this occasion she
formed what I must perforce call by its only name,
a spit-curl, directly in the centre of her brow, an
ornament which she was allowed to wear a very
short time, only in fact till Hannah was able to call
her mother's attention to it, when she was sent
into the next room to remove it and to come back
looking like a Christian. This command she interpreted
somewhat too literally perhaps, because she
contrived in a space of two minutes an extremely
pious style of hairdressing, fully as effective if not
as startling as the first. These antics were solely
the result of nervous irritation, a mood born of Miss
Miranda Sawyer's stiff, grim, and martial attitude.
The remembrance of Rebecca was so vivid that their
sister Aurelia's letter was something of a shock to
the quiet, elderly spinsters of the brick house; for
it said that Hannah could not possibly be spared
for a few years yet, but that Rebecca would come
as soon as she could be made ready; that the offer
was most thankfully appreciated, and that the regular
schooling and church privileges, as well as the
influence of the Sawyer home, would doubtless be
"the making of Rebecca"
A DIFFERENCE IN HEARTS
I don' know as I cal'lated to be the makin' of any
child," Miranda had said as she folded Aurelia's
letter and laid it in the light-stand drawer.
"I s'posed, of course, Aurelia would send us the
one we asked for, but it's just like her to palm off
that wild young one on somebody else."
"You remember we said that Rebecca or even
Jenny might come, in case Hannah couldn't,"
"I know we did, but we hadn't any notion it would
turn out that way," grumbled Miranda.
"She was a mite of a thing when we saw her
three years ago," ventured Jane; "she's had time
"And time to grow worse!"
"Won't it be kind of a privilege to put her on the
right track?" asked Jane timidly.
"I don' know about the privilege part; it'll be
considerable of a chore, I guess. If her mother hain't
got her on the right track by now, she won't take to
it herself all of a sudden."
This depressed and depressing frame of mind had
lasted until the eventful day dawned on which Rebecca
was to arrive.
"If she makes as much work after she comes as
she has before, we might as well give up hope of
ever gettin' any rest," sighed Miranda as she hung
the dish towels on the barberry bushes at the side
"But we should have had to clean house, Rebecca
or no Rebecca," urged Jane; "and I can't see why
you've scrubbed and washed and baked as you have
for that one child, nor why you've about bought out
Watson's stock of dry goods."
"I know Aurelia if you don't," responded
Miranda. "I've seen her house, and I've seen that
batch o' children, wearin' one another's clothes and
never carin' whether they had 'em on right sid' out
or not; I know what they've had to live and dress
on, and so do you. That child will like as not come
here with a passel o' things borrowed from the
rest o' the family. She'll have Hannah's shoes and
John's undershirts and Mark's socks most likely.
I suppose she never had a thimble on her finger in
her life, but she'll know the feelin' o' one before
she's ben here many days. I've bought a piece of
unbleached muslin and a piece o' brown gingham
for her to make up; that'll keep her busy. Of
course she won't pick up anything after herself; she
probably never see a duster, and she'll be as hard
to train into our ways as if she was a heathen."
"She'll make a dif'rence," acknowledged Jane,
"but she may turn out more biddable 'n we think."
"She'll mind when she's spoken to, biddable or
not," remarked Miranda with a shake of the last
Miranda Sawyer had a heart, of course, but she
had never used it for any other purpose than the
pumping and circulating of blood. She was just,
conscientious, economical, industrious; a regular
attendant at church and Sunday-school, and a member
of the State Missionary and Bible societies, but
in the presence of all these chilly virtues you longed
for one warm little fault, or lacking that, one likable
failing, something to make you sure she was
thoroughly alive. She had never had any education
other than that of the neighborhood district school,
for her desires and ambitions had all pointed to the
management of the house, the farm, and the dairy.
Jane, on the other hand, had gone to an academy,
and also to a boarding-school for young ladies; so
had Aurelia; and after all the years that had elapsed
there was still a slight difference in language and
in manner between the elder and the two younger
Jane, too, had had the inestimable advantage of a
sorrow; not the natural grief at the loss of her aged
father and mother, for she had been content to let
them go; but something far deeper. She was engaged
to marry young Tom Carter, who had nothing
to marry on, it is true, but who was sure to have,
some time or other. Then the war broke out. Tom
enlisted at the first call. Up to that time Jane had
loved him with a quiet, friendly sort of affection, and
had given her country a mild emotion of the same
sort. But the strife, the danger, the anxiety of the
time, set new currents of feeling in motion. Life became
something other than the three meals a day,
the round of cooking, washing, sewing, and church
going. Personal gossip vanished from the village
conversation. Big things took the place of trifling
ones,--sacred sorrows of wives and mothers, pangs
of fathers and husbands, self-denials, sympathies,
new desire to bear one another's burdens. Men
and women grew fast in those days of the nation's
trouble and danger, and Jane awoke from the vague
dull dream she had hitherto called life to new hopes,
new fears, new purposes. Then after a year's anxiety,
a year when one never looked in the newspaper
without dread and sickness of suspense, came
the telegram saying that Tom was wounded; and
without so much as asking Miranda's leave, she
packed her trunk and started for the South. She
was in time to hold Tom's hand through hours of
pain; to show him for once the heart of a prim New
England girl when it is ablaze with love and grief;
to put her arms about him so that he could have a
home to die in, and that was all;--all, but it served.
It carried her through weary months of nursing
--nursing of other soldiers for Tom's dear sake; it
sent her home a better woman; and though she had
never left Riverboro in all the years that lay between,
and had grown into the counterfeit presentment of
her sister and of all other thin, spare, New England
spinsters, it was something of a counterfeit, and
underneath was still the faint echo of that wild heart-
beat of her girlhood. Having learned the trick of
beating and loving and suffering, the poor faithful
heart persisted, although it lived on memories
and carried on its sentimental operations mostly in
"You're soft, Jane," said Miranda once; "you
allers was soft, and you allers will be. If 't wa'n't
for me keeping you stiffened up, I b'lieve you'd
leak out o' the house into the dooryard."
It was already past the appointed hour for Mr.
Cobb and his coach to be lumbering down the
"The stage ought to be here," said Miranda,
glancing nervously at the tall clock for the twentieth
time. "I guess everything 's done. I've
tacked up two thick towels back of her washstand
and put a mat under her slop-jar; but children are
awful hard on furniture. I expect we sha'n't know
this house a year from now."
Jane's frame of mind was naturally depressed
and timorous, having been affected by Miranda's
gloomy presages of evil to come. The only difference
between the sisters in this matter was that
while Miranda only wondered how they could endure
Rebecca, Jane had flashes of inspiration in
which she wondered how Rebecca would endure
them. It was in one of these flashes that she ran
up the back stairs to put a vase of apple blossoms
and a red tomato-pincushion on Rebecca's bureau.
The stage rumbled to the side door of the brick
house, and Mr. Cobb handed Rebecca out like a
real lady passenger. She alighted with great
circumspection, put the bunch of faded flowers in her
aunt Miranda's hand, and received her salute; it
could hardly be called a kiss without injuring the
fair name of that commodity.
"You needn't 'a' bothered to bring flowers,"
remarked that gracious and tactful lady; "the garden
's always full of 'em here when it comes time."
Jane then kissed Rebecca, giving a somewhat
better imitation of the real thing than her sister.
"Put the trunk in the entry, Jeremiah, and we'll
get it carried upstairs this afternoon," she said.
"I'll take it up for ye now, if ye say the word,
"No, no; don't leave the horses; somebody'll
be comin' past, and we can call 'em in."
"Well, good-by, Rebecca; good-day, Mirandy 'n'
Jane. You've got a lively little girl there. I guess
she'll be a first-rate company keeper."
Miss Sawyer shuddered openly at the adjective
"lively" as applied to a child; her belief being that
though children might be seen, if absolutely necessary,
they certainly should never be heard if she
could help it. "We're not much used to noise, Jane
and me," she remarked acidly.
Mr. Cobb saw that he had taken the wrong tack,
but he was too unused to argument to explain himself
readily, so he drove away, trying to think by
what safer word than "lively" he might have
described his interesting little passenger.
"I'll take you up and show you your room,
Rebecca," Miss Miranda said. "Shut the mosquito
nettin' door tight behind you, so 's to keep the flies
out; it ain't flytime yet, but I want you to start
right; take your passel along with ye and then you
won't have to come down for it; always make your
head save your heels. Rub your feet on that braided
rug; hang your hat and cape in the entry there as
you go past."
"It's my best hat," said Rebecca
"Take it upstairs then and put it in the clothes-
press; but I shouldn't 'a' thought you'd 'a' worn
your best hat on the stage."
"It's my only hat," explained Rebecca. "My
everyday hat wasn't good enough to bring. Fanny's
going to finish it."
"Lay your parasol in the entry closet."
"Do you mind if I keep it in my room, please?
It always seems safer."
"There ain't any thieves hereabouts, and if there
was, I guess they wouldn't make for your sunshade,
but come along. Remember to always go up the
back way; we don't use the front stairs on account
o' the carpet; take care o' the turn and don't ketch
your foot; look to your right and go in. When
you've washed your face and hands and brushed
your hair you can come down, and by and by
we'll unpack your trunk and get you settled before
supper. Ain't you got your dress on hind sid' foremost?"
Rebecca drew her chin down and looked at the
row of smoked pearl buttons running up and down
the middle of her flat little chest.
"Hind side foremost? Oh, I see! No, that's all
right. If you have seven children you can't keep
buttonin' and unbuttonin' 'em all the time--they
have to do themselves. We're always buttoned up
in front at our house. Mira's only three, but she's
buttoned up in front, too."
Miranda said nothing as she closed the door, but
her looks were at once equivalent to and more
eloquent than words.
Rebecca stood perfectly still in the centre of the
floor and looked about her. There was a square of
oilcloth in front of each article of furniture and a
drawn-in rug beside the single four poster, which
was covered with a fringed white dimity counterpane.
Everything was as neat as wax, but the ceilings
were much higher than Rebecca was accustomed to.
It was a north room, and the window, which was
long and narrow, looked out on the back buildings
and the barn.
It was not the room, which was far more comfortable
than Rebecca's own at the farm, nor the lack
of view, nor yet the long journey, for she was not
conscious of weariness; it was not the fear of a
strange place, for she loved new places and courted
new sensations; it was because of some curious
blending of uncomprehended emotions that Rebecca
stood her sunshade in the corner, tore off her best
hat, flung it on the bureau with the porcupine quills
on the under side, and stripping down the dimity
spread, precipitated herself into the middle of the
bed and pulled the counterpane over her head.
In a moment the door opened quietly. Knocking
was a refinement quite unknown in Riverboro, and
if it had been heard of would never have been
wasted on a child.
Miss Miranda entered, and as her eye wandered
about the vacant room, it fell upon a white and
tempestuous ocean of counterpane, an ocean breaking
into strange movements of wave and crest and billow.
The tone in which the word was voiced gave it all
the effect of having been shouted from the housetops
A dark ruffled head and two frightened eyes
appeared above the dimity spread.
"What are you layin' on your good bed in the
daytime for, messin' up the feathers, and dirtyin'
the pillers with your dusty boots?"
Rebecca rose guiltily. There seemed no excuse
to make. Her offense was beyond explanation or
"I'm sorry, aunt Mirandy--something came
over me; I don't know what."
"Well, if it comes over you very soon again we'll
have to find out what 't is. Spread your bed up
smooth this minute, for 'Bijah Flagg 's bringin' your
trunk upstairs, and I wouldn't let him see such a
cluttered-up room for anything; he'd tell it all over
When Mr. Cobb had put up his horses that night
he carried a kitchen chair to the side of his wife,
who was sitting on the back porch.
"I brought a little Randall girl down on the
stage from Maplewood to-day, mother. She's kin to
the Sawyer girls an' is goin' to live with 'em," he
said, as he sat down and began to whittle. "She's
that Aurelia's child, the one that ran away with
Susan Randall's son just before we come here to
"How old a child?"
"'Bout ten, or somewhere along there, an' small
for her age; but land! she might be a hundred to
hear her talk! She kep' me jumpin' tryin' to an-
swer her! Of all the queer children I ever come
across she's the queerest. She ain't no beauty--
her face is all eyes; but if she ever grows up to
them eyes an' fills out a little she'll make folks
stare. Land, mother! I wish 't you could 'a' heard
"I don't see what she had to talk about, a child
like that, to a stranger," replied Mrs. Cobb.
"Stranger or no stranger, 't wouldn't make no
difference to her. She'd talk to a pump or a grind-
stun; she'd talk to herself ruther 'n keep still."
"What did she talk about?"
"Blamed if I can repeat any of it. She kep' me
so surprised I didn't have my wits about me. She
had a little pink sunshade--it kind o' looked like a
doll's amberill, 'n' she clung to it like a burr to a
woolen stockin'. I advised her to open it up--the
sun was so hot; but she said no, 't would fade, an'
she tucked it under her dress. `It's the dearest
thing in life to me,' says she, `but it's a dreadful
care.' Them 's the very words, an' it's all the words
I remember. `It's the dearest thing in life to me, but
it's an awful care!' "--here Mr. Cobb laughed aloud
as he tipped his chair back against the side of the
house. "There was another thing, but I can't get
it right exactly. She was talkin' 'bout the circus
parade an' the snake charmer in a gold chariot, an'
says she, `She was so beautiful beyond compare,
Mr. Cobb, that it made you have lumps in your
throat to look at her.' She'll be comin' over to
see you, mother, an' you can size her up for
yourself. I don' know how she'll git on with Mirandy
Sawyer--poor little soul!"
This doubt was more or less openly expressed in
Riverboro, which, however, had two opinions on the
subject; one that it was a most generous thing in
the Sawyer girls to take one of Aurelia's children
to educate, the other that the education would be
bought at a price wholly out of proportion to its
Rebecca's first letters to her mother would seem
to indicate that she cordially coincided with the
latter view of the situation.
REBECCA'S POINT OF VIEW
Dear Mother,--I am safely here. My
dress was not much tumbled and Aunt
Jane helped me press it out. I like Mr.
Cobb very much. He chews but throws
newspapers straight up to the doors. I rode outside a
little while, but got inside before I got to Aunt
Miranda's house. I did not want to, but thought
you would like it better. Miranda is such a long
word that I think I will say Aunt M. and Aunt J. in
my Sunday letters. Aunt J. has given me a
dictionary to look up all the hard words in. It takes
a good deal of time and I am glad people can talk
without stoping to spell. It is much eesier to talk
than write and much more fun. The brick house
looks just the same as you have told us. The parler
is splendid and gives you creeps and chills when you
look in the door. The furnature is ellergant too, and
all the rooms but there are no good sitting-down
places exsept in the kitchen. The same cat is here
but they do not save kittens when she has them,
and the cat is too old to play with. Hannah told
me once you ran away with father and I can see it
would be nice. If Aunt M. would run away I think
I should like to live with Aunt J. She does not hate
me as bad as Aunt M. does. Tell Mark he can have
my paint box, but I should like him to keep the red
cake in case I come home again. I hope Hannah
and John do not get tired doing my chores.
Your afectionate friend
P. S. Please give the piece of poetry to John because
he likes my poetry even when it is not very good.
This piece is not very good but it is true but I hope
you won't mind what is in it as you ran away.
This house is dark and dull and dreer
No light doth shine from far or near
Its like the tomb.
And those of us who live herein
Are most as dead as serrafim
Though not as good.
My gardian angel is asleep
At leest he doth no vigil keep
Ah I woe is me!
Then give me back my lonely farm
Where none alive did wish me harm
Dear home of youth!
P. S. again. I made the poetry like a piece in a
book but could not get it right at first. You see
"tomb" and "good" do not sound well together but
I wanted to say "tomb" dreadfully and as serrafim
are always "good" I couldn't take that out. I
have made it over now. It does not say my thoughts
as well but think it is more right. Give the best one
to John as he keeps them in a box with his birds'
eggs. This is the best one.
REBECCA ROWENA RANDALL
This house is dark and dull and drear
No light doth shine from far or near
Nor ever could.
And those of us who live herein
Are most as dead as seraphim
Though not as good.
My guardian angel is asleep
At least he doth no vigil keep
But far doth roam.
Then give me back my lonely farm
Where none alive did wish me harm,
Dear childhood home!
Dear Mother,--I am thrilling with unhappyness
this morning. I got that out of Cora The
Doctor's Wife whose husband's mother was very
cross and unfealing to her like Aunt M. to me. I
wish Hannah had come instead of me for it was
Hannah that was wanted and she is better than
I am and does not answer back so quick. Are
there any peaces of my buff calico. Aunt J. wants
enough to make a new waste button behind so I
wont look so outlandish. The stiles are quite pretty
in Riverboro and those at Meeting quite ellergant
more so than in Temperance.
This town is stilish, gay and fair,
And full of wellthy riches rare,
But I would pillow on my arm
The thought of my sweet Brookside Farm.
School is pretty good. The Teacher can answer
more questions than the Temperance one but not so
many as I can ask. I am smarter than all the girls
but one but not so smart as two boys. Emma Jane
can add and subtract in her head like a streek of
lightning and knows the speling book right through
but has no thoughts of any kind. She is in the
Third Reader but does not like stories in books. I
am in the Sixth Reader but just because I cannot
say the seven multiplication Table Miss Dearborn
threttens to put me in the baby primer class with
Elijah and Elisha Simpson little twins.
Sore is my heart and bent my stubborn pride,
With Lijah and with Lisha am I tied,
My soul recoyles like Cora Doctor's Wife,
Like her I feer I cannot bare this life.
I am going to try for the speling prize but fear
I cannot get it. I would not care but wrong speling
looks dreadful in poetry. Last Sunday when I
found seraphim in the dictionary I was ashamed I
had made it serrafim but seraphim is not a word you
can guess at like another long one outlandish in this
letter which spells itself. Miss Dearborn says use
the words you CAN spell and if you cant spell seraphim
make angel do but angels are not just the same
as seraphims. Seraphims are brighter whiter and
have bigger wings and I think are older and longer
dead than angels which are just freshly dead and
after a long time in heaven around the great white
throne grow to be seraphims.
I sew on brown gingham dresses every afternoon
when Emma Jane and the Simpsons are playing
house or running on the Logs when their mothers
do not know it. Their mothers are afraid they will
drown and Aunt M. is afraid I will wet my clothes
so will not let me either. I can play from half past
four to supper and after supper a little bit and Saturday
afternoons. I am glad our cow has a calf and it
is spotted. It is going to be a good year for apples
and hay so you and John will be glad and we can
pay a little more morgage. Miss Dearborn asked us
what is the object of edducation and I said the object
of mine was to help pay off the morgage. She told
Aunt M. and I had to sew extra for punishment because
she says a morgage is disgrace like stealing
or smallpox and it will be all over town that we have
one on our farm. Emma Jane is not morgaged nor
Richard Carter nor Dr. Winship but the Simpsons
Rise my soul, strain every nerve,
Thy morgage to remove,
Gain thy mother's heartfelt thanks
Thy family's grateful love.
Pronounce family QUICK or it won't sound right
Your loving little friend
Dear John,--You remember when we tide the
new dog in the barn how he bit the rope and
howled I am just like him only the brick house is
the barn and I can not bite Aunt M. because I
must be grateful and edducation is going to be the
making of me and help you pay off the morgage
when we grow up. Your loving
The day of Rebecca's arrival had been
Friday, and on the Monday following she
began her education at the school which
was in Riverboro Centre, about a mile distant.
Miss Sawyer borrowed a neighbor's horse and
wagon and drove her to the schoolhouse, interviewing
the teacher, Miss Dearborn, arranging for books,
and generally starting the child on the path that
was to lead to boundless knowledge. Miss Dearborn,
it may be said in passing, had had no special
preparation in the art of teaching. It came to her
naturally, so her family said, and perhaps for this
reason she, like Tom Tulliver's clergyman tutor,
"set about it with that uniformity of method and
independence of circumstances which distinguish the
actions of animals understood to be under the
immediate teaching of Nature." You remember the
beaver which a naturalist tells us "busied himself
as earnestly in constructing a dam in a room up
three pair of stairs in London as if he had been laying
his foundation in a lake in Upper Canada. It
was his function to build, the absence of water or of
possible progeny was an accident for which he was
not accountable." In the same manner did Miss
Dearborn lay what she fondly imagined to be
foundations in the infant mind.
Rebecca walked to school after the first morning.
She loved this part of the day's programme. When
the dew was not too heavy and the weather was fair
there was a short cut through the woods. She turned
off the main road, crept through uncle Josh Woodman's
bars, waved away Mrs. Carter's cows, trod the
short grass of the pasture, with its well-worn path
running through gardens of buttercups and white-
weed, and groves of ivory leaves and sweet fern.
She descended a little hill, jumped from stone to
stone across a woodland brook, startling the drowsy
frogs, who were always winking and blinking in the
morning sun. Then came the "woodsy bit," with
her feet pressing the slippery carpet of brown pine
needles; the "woodsy bit" so full of dewy morning,
surprises,--fungous growths of brilliant orange and
crimson springing up around the stumps of dead
trees, beautiful things born in a single night; and
now and then the miracle of a little clump of waxen
Indian pipes, seen just quickly enough to be saved
from her careless tread. Then she climbed a stile,
went through a grassy meadow, slid under another
pair of bars, and came out into the road again. having
gained nearly half a mile.
How delicious it all was! Rebecca clasped her
Quackenbos's Grammar and Greenleaf's Arithmetic
with a joyful sense of knowing her lessons. Her
dinner pail swung from her right hand, and she
had a blissful consciousness of the two soda biscuits
spread with butter and syrup, the baked cup-custard,
the doughnut, and the square of hard gingerbread.
Sometimes she said whatever "piece" she was going
to speak on the next Friday afternoon.
"A soldier of the Legion lay dying in Algiers,
There was lack of woman's nursing, there was dearth of
How she loved the swing and the sentiment of it!
How her young voice quivered whenever she came to
"But we'll meet no more at Bingen, dear Bingen on the Rhine."
It always sounded beautiful in her ears, as she
sent her tearful little treble into the clear morning
air. Another early favorite (for we must remember
that Rebecca's only knowledge of the great world
of poetry consisted of the selections in vogue in
school readers) was:--
"Woodman, spare that tree!
Touch not a single bough!
In youth it sheltered me,
And I'll protect it now."
When Emma Jane Perkins walked through the
"short cut" with her, the two children used to render
this with appropriate dramatic action. Emma
Jane always chose to be the woodman because she
had nothing to do but raise on high an imaginary
axe. On the one occasion when she essayed the
part of the tree's romantic protector, she represented
herself as feeling "so awful foolish" that she
refused to undertake it again, much to the secret
delight of Rebecca, who found the woodman's role
much too tame for her vaulting ambition. She
reveled in the impassioned appeal of the poet, and
implored the ruthless woodman to be as brutal as
possible with the axe, so that she might properly
put greater spirit into her lines. One morning, feeling
more frisky than usual, she fell upon her knees
and wept in the woodman's petticoat. Curiously
enough, her sense of proportion rejected this as
soon as it was done.
"That wasn't right, it was silly, Emma Jane; but
I'll tell you where it might come in--in Give me
Three Grains of Corn. You be the mother, and
I'll be the famishing Irish child. For pity's sake
put the axe down; you are not the woodman any
"What'll I do with my hands, then?" asked
"Whatever you like," Rebecca answered wearily;
"you're just a mother--that's all. What does
YOUR mother do with her hands? Now here goes!
"`Give me three grains of corn, mother,
Only three grains of corn,
'T will keep the little life I have
Till the coming of the morn.'"
This sort of thing made Emma Jane nervous and
fidgety, but she was Rebecca's slave and hugged her
chains, no matter how uncomfortable they made her.
At the last pair of bars the two girls were
sometimes met by a detachment of the Simpson children,
who lived in a black house with a red door and
a red barn behind, on the Blueberry Plains road.
Rebecca felt an interest in the Simpsons from the
first, because there were so many of them and they
were so patched and darned, just like her own brood
at the home farm.
The little schoolhouse with its flagpole on top and
its two doors in front, one for boys and the other
for girls, stood on the crest of a hill, with rolling
fields and meadows on one side, a stretch of pine
woods on the other, and the river glinting and
sparkling in the distance. It boasted no attractions
within. All was as bare and ugly and uncomfortable
as it well could be, for the villages along the river
expended so much money in repairing and rebuilding
bridges that they were obliged to be very economical
in school privileges. The teacher's desk and chair
stood on a platform in one corner; there was an
uncouth stove, never blackened oftener than once
a year, a map of the United States, two blackboards,
a ten-quart tin pail of water and long-handled dipper
on a corner shelf, and wooden desks and benches
for the scholars, who only numbered twenty in
Rebecca's time. The seats were higher in the back of
the room, and the more advanced and longer-legged
pupils sat there, the position being greatly to be
envied, as they were at once nearer to the windows
and farther from the teacher.
There were classes of a sort, although nobody,
broadly speaking, studied the same book with anybody
else, or had arrived at the same degree of proficiency
in any one branch of learning. Rebecca in
particular was so difficult to classify that Miss Dearborn
at the end of a fortnight gave up the attempt
altogether. She read with Dick Carter and Living
Perkins, who were fitting for the academy; recited
arithmetic with lisping little Thuthan Thimpthon;
geography with Emma Jane Perkins, and grammar
after school hours to Miss Dearborn alone. Full to
the brim as she was of clever thoughts and quaint
fancies, she made at first but a poor hand at composition.
The labor of writing and spelling, with the
added difficulties of punctuation and capitals, interfered
sadly with the free expression of ideas. She
took history with Alice Robinson's class, which
was attacking the subject of the Revolution, while
Rebecca was bidden to begin with the discovery
of America. In a week she had mastered
the course of events up to the Revolution, and in
ten days had arrived at Yorktown, where the class
had apparently established summer quarters. Then
finding that extra effort would only result in her
reciting with the oldest Simpson boy, she delib-
erately held herself back, for wisdom's ways were
not those of pleasantness nor her paths those of
peace if one were compelled to tread them in the
company of Seesaw Simpson. Samuel Simpson was
generally called Seesaw, because of his difficulty in
making up his mind. Whether it were a question
of fact, of spelling, or of date, of going swimming
or fishing, of choosing a book in the Sunday-school
library or a stick of candy at the village store, he
had no sooner determined on one plan of action
than his wish fondly reverted to the opposite one.
Seesaw was pale, flaxen haired, blue eyed, round
shouldered, and given to stammering when nervous.
Perhaps because of his very weakness Rebecca's
decision of character had a fascination for him, and
although she snubbed him to the verge of madness,
he could never keep his eyes away from her. The
force with which she tied her shoe when the lacing
came undone, the flirt over shoulder she gave her
black braid when she was excited or warm, her
manner of studying,--book on desk, arms folded,
eyes fixed on the opposite wall,--all had an abiding
charm for Seesaw Simpson. When, having obtained
permission, she walked to the water pail in the
corner and drank from the dipper, unseen forces
dragged Seesaw from his seat to go and drink after
her. It was not only that there was something akin
to association and intimacy in drinking next, but
there was the fearful joy of meeting her in transit
and receiving a cold and disdainful look from her
On a certain warm day in summer Rebecca's
thirst exceeded the bounds of propriety. When she
asked a third time for permission to quench it at the
common fountain Miss Dearborn nodded "yes," but
lifted her eyebrows unpleasantly as Rebecca neared
the desk. As she replaced the dipper Seesaw
promptly raised his hand, and Miss Dearborn
indicated a weary affirmative.
"What is the matter with you, Rebecca?" she
"I had salt mackerel for breakfast," answered
There seemed nothing humorous about this reply,
which was merely the statement of a fact, but an
irrepressible titter ran through the school. Miss
Dearborn did not enjoy jokes neither made nor
understood by herself, and her face flushed.
"I think you had better stand by the pail for five
minutes, Rebecca; it may help you to control your
Rebecca's heart fluttered. She to stand in the
corner by the water pail and be stared at by all
the scholars! She unconsciously made a gesture
of angry dissent and moved a step nearer her seat,
but was arrested by Miss Dearborn's command in
a still firmer voice.
"Stand by the pail, Rebecca! Samuel, how many
times have you asked for water to-day?"
This is the f-f-fourth."
"Don't touch the dipper, please. The school has
done nothing but drink this afternoon; it has had
no time whatever to study. I suppose you had something
salt for breakfast, Samuel?" queried Miss
Dearborn with sarcasm.
"I had m-m-mackerel, j-just like Reb-b-becca."
(Irrepressible giggles by the school.)
"I judged so. Stand by the other side of the pail,
Rebecca's head was bowed with shame and wrath.
Life looked too black a thing to be endured. The
punishment was bad enough, but to be coupled in
correction with Seesaw Simpson was beyond human
Singing was the last exercise in the afternoon,
and Minnie Smellie chose Shall we Gather at the
River? It was a baleful choice and seemed to hold
some secret and subtle association with the situation
and general progress of events; or at any rate there
was apparently some obscure reason for the energy
and vim with which the scholars shouted the choral
invitation again and again:--
"Shall we gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river?"
Miss Dearborn stole a look at Rebecca's bent head
and was frightened. The child's face was pale save
for two red spots glowing on her cheeks. Tears
hung on her lashes; her breath came and went
quickly, and the hand that held her pocket
handkerchief trembled like a leaf.
"You may go to your seat, Rebecca," said Miss
Dearborn at the end of the first song. "Samuel,
stay where you are till the close of school. And let
me tell you, scholars, that I asked Rebecca to stand
by the pail only to break up this habit of incessant
drinking, which is nothing but empty-mindedness
and desire to walk to and fro over the floor. Every
time Rebecca has asked for a drink to-day the whole
school has gone to the pail one after another. She
is really thirsty, and I dare say I ought to have
punished you for following her example, not her for
setting it. What shall we sing now, Alice?"
"The Old Oaken Bucket, please."
"Think of something dry, Alice, and change the
subject. Yes, The Star Spangled Banner if you
like, or anything else."
Rebecca sank into her seat and pulled the singing
book from her desk. Miss Dearborn's public explanation
had shifted some of the weight from her
heart, and she felt a trifle raised in her self-esteem.
Under cover of the general relaxation of singing,
votive offerings of respectful sympathy began to
make their appearance at her shrine. Living Perkins,
who could not sing, dropped a piece of maple
sugar in her lap as he passed her on his way to the
blackboard to draw the map of Maine. Alice Rob-
inson rolled a perfectly new slate pencil over the
floor with her foot until it reached Rebecca's place,
while her seat-mate, Emma Jane, had made up a
little mound of paper balls and labeled them
"Bullets for you know who."
Altogether existence grew brighter, and when
she was left alone with the teacher for her grammar
lesson she had nearly recovered her equanimity,
which was more than Miss Dearborn had. The last
clattering foot had echoed through the hall, Seesaw's
backward glance of penitence had been met
and answered defiantly by one of cold disdain.
"Rebecca, I am afraid I punished you more than I
meant," said Miss Dearborn, who was only eighteen
herself, and in her year of teaching country schools
had never encountered a child like Rebecca.
"I hadn't missed a question this whole day, nor
whispered either," quavered the culprit; "and I don't
think I ought to be shamed just for drinking."
"You started all the others, or it seemed as if
you did. Whatever you do they all do, whether you
laugh, or miss, or write notes, or ask to leave the
room, or drink; and it must be stopped."
"Sam Simpson is a copycoat!" stormed Rebecca
"I wouldn't have minded standing in the corner
alone--that is, not so very much; but I couldn't
bear standing with him."
"I saw that you couldn't, and that's the reason
I told you to take your seat, and left him in the
corner. Remember that you are a stranger in the
place, and they take more notice of what you do,
so you must be careful. Now let's have our
conjugations. Give me the verb `to be,' potential mood,
past perfect tense."
"I might have been "We might have been
Thou mightst have been You might have been
He might have been They might have been."
"Give me an example, please."
"I might have been glad
Thou mightst have been glad
He, she, or it might have been glad."
"`He' or `she' might have been glad because
they are masculine and feminine, but could `it'
have been glad?" asked Miss Dearborn, who was
very fond of splitting hairs.
"Why not?" asked Rebecca
"Because `it' is neuter gender."
"Couldn't we say, `The kitten might have
been glad if it had known it was not going to be
"Ye--es," Miss Dearborn answered hesitatingly,
never very sure of herself under Rebecca's fire;
"but though we often speak of a baby, a chicken, or
a kitten as `it,' they are really masculine or feminine
gender, not neuter."
Rebecca reflected a long moment and then asked,
"Is a hollyhock neuter?"
"Oh yes, of course it is, Rebecca"
"Well, couldn't we say, `The hollyhock might
have been glad to see the rain, but there was a weak
little hollyhock bud growing out of its stalk and it
was afraid that that might be hurt by the storm;
so the big hollyhock was kind of afraid, instead of
being real glad'?"
Miss Dearborn looked puzzled as she answered,
"Of course, Rebecca, hollyhocks could not be
sorry, or glad, or afraid, really."
"We can't tell, I s'pose," replied the child; "but
_I_ think they are, anyway. Now what shall I say?"
"The subjunctive mood, past perfect tense of
the verb `to know.'"
"If I had known "If we had known
If thou hadst known If you had known
If he had known If they had known.
"Oh, it is the saddest tense," sighed Rebecca
with a little break in her voice; "nothing but IFS,
IFS, IFS! And it makes you feel that if they only
HAD known, things might have been better!"
Miss Dearborn had not thought of it before,
but on reflection she believed the subjunctive mood
was a "sad" one and "if" rather a sorry "part of
"Give me some more examples of the subjunctive,
Rebecca, and that will do for this afternoon," she
"If I had not loved mackerel I should not have
been thirsty;" said Rebecca with an April smile,
as she closed her grammar. "If thou hadst loved
me truly thou wouldst not have stood me up in the
corner. If Samuel had not loved wickedness he
would not have followed me to the water pail."
"And if Rebecca had loved the rules of the
school she would have controlled her thirst," finished
Miss Dearborn with a kiss, and the two parted
SUNSHINE IN A SHADY PLACE
The little schoolhouse on the hill had its
moments of triumph as well as its scenes
of tribulation, but it was fortunate that
Rebecca had her books and her new acquaintances