Part 2 out of 6
to keep her interested and occupied, or life would
have gone heavily with her that first summer in
Riverboro. She tried to like her aunt Miranda (the
idea of loving her had been given up at the moment
of meeting), but failed ignominiously in the attempt.
She was a very faulty and passionately human child,
with no aspirations towards being an angel of the
house, but she had a sense of duty and a desire to
be good,--respectably, decently good. Whenever
she fell below this self-imposed standard she was
miserable. She did not like to be under her aunt's
roof, eating bread, wearing clothes, and studying
books provided by her, and dislike her so heartily
all the time. She felt instinctively that this was
wrong and mean, and whenever the feeling of remorse
was strong within her she made a desperate
effort to please her grim and difficult relative. But
how could she succeed when she was never herself in
her aunt Miranda's presence? The searching look
of the eyes, the sharp voice, the hard knotty fingers,
the thin straight lips, the long silences, the "front-
piece" that didn't match her hair, the very obvious
"parting" that seemed sewed in with linen thread on
black net,--there was not a single item that appealed
to Rebecca. There are certain narrow, unimaginative,
and autocratic old people who seem to call out
the most mischievous, and sometimes the worst
traits in children. Miss Miranda, had she lived in a
populous neighborhood, would have had her doorbell
pulled, her gate tied up, or "dirt traps" set in her
garden paths. The Simpson twins stood in such
awe of her that they could not be persuaded to come
to the side door even when Miss Jane held gingerbread
cookies in her outstretched hands.
It is needless to say that Rebecca irritated her
aunt with every breath she drew. She continually
forgot and started up the front stairs because it was
the shortest route to her bedroom; she left the
dipper on the kitchen shelf instead of hanging it up
over the pail; she sat in the chair the cat liked best;
she was willing to go on errands, but often forgot
what she was sent for; she left the screen doors
ajar, so that flies came in; her tongue was ever in
motion; she sang or whistled when she was picking
up chips; she was always messing with flowers,
putting them in vases, pinning them on her dress,
and sticking them in her hat; finally she was an
everlasting reminder of her foolish, worthless father,
whose handsome face and engaging manner had
so deceived Aurelia, and perhaps, if the facts were
known, others besides Aurelia. The Randalls were
aliens. They had not been born in Riverboro nor
even in York County. Miranda would have allowed,
on compulsion, that in the nature of things a large
number of persons must necessarily be born outside
this sacred precinct; but she had her opinion of
them, and it was not a flattering one. Now if Hannah
had come--Hannah took after the other side of the
house; she was "all Sawyer." (Poor Hannah! that
was true!) Hannah spoke only when spoken to,
instead of first, last, and all the time; Hannah at
fourteen was a member of the church; Hannah liked to
knit; Hannah was, probably, or would have been, a
pattern of all the smaller virtues; instead of which
here was this black-haired gypsy, with eyes as big
as cartwheels, installed as a member of the household.
What sunshine in a shady place was aunt Jane
to Rebecca! Aunt Jane with her quiet voice, her
understanding eyes, her ready excuses, in these first
difficult weeks, when the impulsive little stranger
was trying to settle down into the "brick house
ways." She did learn them, in part, and by degrees,
and the constant fitting of herself to these new and
difficult standards of conduct seemed to make her
older than ever for her years.
The child took her sewing and sat beside aunt
Jane in the kitchen while aunt Miranda had the post
of observation at the sitting-room window. Sometimes
they would work on the side porch where the
clematis and woodbine shaded them from the hot
sun. To Rebecca the lengths of brown gingham
were interminable. She made hard work of sewing,
broke the thread, dropped her thimble into the
syringa bushes, pricked her finger, wiped the
perspiration from her forehead, could not match the
checks, puckered the seams. She polished her needles
to nothing, pushing them in and out of the emery
strawberry, but they always squeaked. Still aunt
Jane's patience held good, and some small measure
of skill was creeping into Rebecca's fingers, fingers
that held pencil, paint brush, and pen so cleverly and
were so clumsy with the dainty little needle.
When the first brown gingham frock was
completed, the child seized what she thought an
opportune moment and asked her aunt Miranda if she
might have another color for the next one.
"I bought a whole piece of the brown," said
Miranda laconically. "That'll give you two more
dresses, with plenty for new sleeves, and to patch
and let down with, an' be more economical."
"I know. But Mr. Watson says he'll take back
part of it, and let us have pink and blue for the
"Did you ask him?"
"It was none o' your business."
"I was helping Emma Jane choose aprons, and
didn't think you'd mind which color I had. Pink
keeps clean just as nice as brown, and Mr. Watson
says it'll boil without fading."
"Mr. Watson 's a splendid judge of washing, I
guess. I don't approve of children being rigged
out in fancy colors, but I'll see what your aunt
"I think it would be all right to let Rebecca
have one pink and one blue gingham," said Jane.
"A child gets tired of sewing on one color. It's
only natural she should long for a change; besides
she'd look like a charity child always wearing the
same brown with a white apron. And it's dreadful
unbecoming to her!"
"`Handsome is as handsome does,' say I.
Rebecca never'll come to grief along of her beauty,
that's certain, and there's no use in humoring her
to think about her looks. I believe she's vain as a
peacock now, without anything to be vain of."
"She's young and attracted to bright things--
that's all. I remember well enough how I felt at her
"You was considerable of a fool at her age,
"Yes, I was, thank the Lord! I only wish I'd
known how to take a little of my foolishness along
with me, as some folks do, to brighten my declining
There finally was a pink gingham, and when it was
nicely finished, aunt Jane gave Rebecca a delightful
surprise. She showed her how to make a pretty
trimming of narrow white linen tape, by folding it
in pointed shapes and sewing it down very flat with
neat little stitches.
"It'll be good fancy work for you, Rebecca; for
your aunt Miranda won't like to see you always
reading in the long winter evenings. Now if you
think you can baste two rows of white tape round
the bottom of your pink skirt and keep it straight
by the checks, I'll stitch them on for you and trim
the waist and sleeves with pointed tape-trimming,
so the dress'll be real pretty for second best."
Rebecca's joy knew no bounds. "I'll baste
like a house afire!" she exclaimed. "It's a thousand
yards round that skirt, as well I know, having
hemmed it; but I could sew pretty trimming on if
it was from here to Milltown. Oh! do you think
aunt Mirandy'll ever let me go to Milltown with
Mr. Cobb? He's asked me again, you know; but
one Saturday I had to pick strawberries, and another
it rained, and I don't think she really approves of
my going. It's TWENTY-NINE minutes past four, aunt
Jane, and Alice Robinson has been sitting under
the currant bushes for a long time waiting for me.
Can I go and play?"
"Yes, you may go, and you'd better run as far as
you can out behind the barn, so 't your noise won't
distract your aunt Mirandy. I see Susan Simpson
and the twins and Emma Jane Perkins hiding behind
Rebecca leaped off the porch, snatched Alice
Robinson from under the currant bushes, and,
what was much more difficult, succeeded, by means
of a complicated system of signals, in getting Emma
Jane away from the Simpson party and giving them
the slip altogether. They were much too small for
certain pleasurable activities planned for that
afternoon; but they were not to be despised, for they
had the most fascinating dooryard in the village. In
it, in bewildering confusion, were old sleighs, pungs,
horse rakes, hogsheads, settees without backs, bed-
steads without heads, in all stages of disability, and
never the same on two consecutive days. Mrs.
Simpson was seldom at home, and even when she
was, had little concern as to what happened on the
premises. A favorite diversion was to make the
house into a fort, gallantly held by a handful of
American soldiers against a besieging force of the
British army. Great care was used in apportioning
the parts, for there was no disposition to let
anybody win but the Americans. Seesaw Simpson
was usually made commander-in-chief of the British
army, and a limp and uncertain one he was, capable,
with his contradictory orders and his fondness
for the extreme rear, of leading any regiment to
an inglorious death. Sometimes the long-suffering
house was a log hut, and the brave settlers defeated
a band of hostile Indians, or occasionally were
massacred by them; but in either case the Simpson
house looked, to quote a Riverboro expression, "as
if the devil had been having an auction in it."
Next to this uncommonly interesting playground,
as a field of action, came, in the children's opinion,
the "secret spot." There was a velvety stretch
of ground in the Sawyer pasture which was full of
fascinating hollows and hillocks, as well as verdant
levels, on which to build houses. A group of trees
concealed it somewhat from view and flung a grateful
shade over the dwellings erected there. It had
been hard though sweet labor to take armfuls of
"stickins" and "cutrounds" from the mill to this
secluded spot, and that it had been done mostly
after supper in the dusk of the evenings gave it
a still greater flavor. Here in soap boxes hidden
among the trees were stored all their treasures:
wee baskets and plates and cups made of burdock
balls, bits of broken china for parties, dolls, soon
to be outgrown, but serving well as characters in
all sorts of romances enacted there,--deaths,
funerals, weddings, christenings. A tall, square house
of stickins was to be built round Rebecca this
afternoon, and she was to be Charlotte Corday
leaning against the bars of her prison.
It was a wonderful experience standing inside the
building with Emma Jane's apron wound about her
hair; wonderful to feel that when she leaned her
head against the bars they seemed to turn to cold
iron; that her eyes were no longer Rebecca Randall's
but mirrored something of Charlotte Corday's
"Ain't it lovely?" sighed the humble twain, who
had done most of the labor, but who generously
admired the result.
"I hate to have to take it down," said Alice,
"it's been such a sight of work."
"If you think you could move up some stones
and just take off the top rows, I could step out
over," suggested Charlotte Corday. "Then leave
the stones, and you two can step down into the
prison to-morrow and be the two little princes in
the Tower, and I can murder you."
"What princes? What tower?" asked Alice and
Emma Jane in one breath. "Tell us about them."
"Not now, it's my supper time." (Rebecca was
a somewhat firm disciplinarian.)
"It would be elergant being murdered by you,"
said Emma Jane loyally, "though you are awful
real when you murder; or we could have Elijah and
Elisha for the princes."
"They'd yell when they was murdered," objected
Alice; "you know how silly they are at plays, all
except Clara Belle. Besides if we once show them
this secret place, they'll play in it all the time, and
perhaps they'd steal things, like their father."
"They needn't steal just because their father
does," argued Rebecca; "and don't you ever talk
about it before them if you want to be my secret,
partic'lar friends. My mother tells me never to say
hard things about people's own folks to their face.
She says nobody can bear it, and it's wicked to shame
them for what isn't their fault. Remember Minnie
Well, they had no difficulty in recalling that
dramatic episode, for it had occurred only a few days
before; and a version of it that would have melted
the stoniest heart had been presented to every girl
in the village by Minnie Smellie herself, who,
though it was Rebecca and not she who came off
victorious in the bloody battle of words, nursed her
resentment and intended to have revenge.
Mr. Simpson spent little time with his
family, owing to certain awkward methods
of horse-trading, or the "swapping"
of farm implements and vehicles of various kinds,--
operations in which his customers were never long
suited. After every successful trade he generally
passed a longer or shorter term in jail; for when a
poor man without goods or chattels has the inveterate
habit of swapping, it follows naturally that he
must have something to swap; and having nothing
of his own, it follows still more naturally that he
must swap something belonging to his neighbors.
Mr. Simpson was absent from the home circle
for the moment because he had exchanged the
Widow Rideout's sleigh for Joseph Goodwin's
plough. Goodwin had lately moved to North
Edgewood and had never before met the urbane
and persuasive Mr. Simpson. The Goodwin plough
Mr. Simpson speedily bartered with a man "over
Wareham way," and got in exchange for it an old
horse which his owner did not need, as he was
leaving town to visit his daughter for a year,
Simpson fattened the aged animal, keeping him for
several weeks (at early morning or after nightfall) in
one neighbor's pasture after another, and then
exchanged him with a Milltown man for a top buggy.
It was at this juncture that the Widow Rideout
missed her sleigh from the old carriage house.
She had not used it for fifteen years and might
not sit in it for another fifteen, but it was
property, and she did not intend to part with it
without a struggle. Such is the suspicious nature of
the village mind that the moment she discovered
her loss her thought at once reverted to Abner
Simpson. So complicated, however, was the nature
of this particular business transaction, and so
tortuous the paths of its progress (partly owing to the
complete disappearance of the owner of the horse,
who had gone to the West and left no address),
that it took the sheriff many weeks to prove Mr.
Simpson's guilt to the town's and to the Widow
Rideout's satisfaction. Abner himself avowed his
complete innocence, and told the neighbors how
a red-haired man with a hare lip and a pepper-and-
salt suit of clothes had called him up one morning
about daylight and offered to swap him a good
sleigh for an old cider press he had layin' out in
the dooryard. The bargain was struck, and he,
Abner, had paid the hare-lipped stranger four dollars
and seventy-five cents to boot; whereupon the
mysterious one set down the sleigh, took the press
on his cart, and vanished up the road, never to be
seen or heard from afterwards.
"If I could once ketch that consarned old thief,"
exclaimed Abner righteously, "I'd make him
dance,--workin' off a stolen sleigh on me an'
takin' away my good money an' cider press, to say
nothin' o' my character!"
"You'll never ketch him, Ab," responded the
sheriff. "He's cut off the same piece o' goods as
that there cider press and that there character and
that there four-seventy-five o' yourn; nobody ever
see any of 'em but you, and you'll never see 'em
Mrs. Simpson, who was decidedly Abner's better
half, took in washing and went out to do days'
cleaning, and the town helped in the feeding and
clothing of the children. George, a lanky boy of
fourteen, did chores on neighboring farms, and
the others, Samuel, Clara Belle, Susan, Elijah, and
Elisha, went to school, when sufficiently clothed
and not otherwise more pleasantly engaged.
There were no secrets in the villages that lay
along the banks of Pleasant River. There were
many hard-working people among the inhabitants,
but life wore away so quietly and slowly that there
was a good deal of spare time for conversation,--
under the trees at noon in the hayfield; hanging
over the bridge at nightfall; seated about the
stove in the village store of an evening. These
meeting-places furnished ample ground for the
discussion of current events as viewed by the mas-
culine eye, while choir rehearsals, sewing societies,
reading circles, church picnics, and the like, gave
opportunity for the expression of feminine opinion.
All this was taken very much for granted, as a
rule, but now and then some supersensitive person
made violent objections to it, as a theory of life.
Delia Weeks, for example, was a maiden lady
who did dressmaking in a small way; she fell ill,
and although attended by all the physicians in
the neighborhood, was sinking slowly into a
decline when her cousin Cyrus asked her to come and
keep house for him in Lewiston. She went, and in
a year grew into a robust, hearty, cheerful woman.
Returning to Riverboro on a brief visit, she was
asked if she meant to end her days away from
"I do most certainly, if I can get any other
place to stay," she responded candidly. "I was
bein' worn to a shadder here, tryin' to keep my
little secrets to myself, an' never succeedin'. First
they had it I wanted to marry the minister, and
when he took a wife in Standish I was known to
be disappointed. Then for five or six years they
suspicioned I was tryin' for a place to teach school,
and when I gave up hope, an' took to dressmakin',
they pitied me and sympathized with me for that.
When father died I was bound I'd never let anybody
know how I was left, for that spites 'em
worse than anything else; but there's ways o'
findin' out, an' they found out, hard as I fought
'em! Then there was my brother James that went
to Arizona when he was sixteen. I gave good news
of him for thirty years runnin', but aunt Achsy
Tarbox had a ferretin' cousin that went out to
Tombstone for her health, and she wrote to a
postmaster, or to some kind of a town authority, and
found Jim and wrote back aunt Achsy all about
him and just how unfortunate he'd been. They
knew when I had my teeth out and a new set
made; they knew when I put on a false front-
piece; they knew when the fruit peddler asked
me to be his third wife--I never told 'em, an' you
can be sure HE never did, but they don't NEED to be
told in this village; they have nothin' to do but
guess, an' they'll guess right every time. I was
all tuckered out tryin' to mislead 'em and deceive
'em and sidetrack 'em; but the minute I got where
I wa'n't put under a microscope by day an' a
telescope by night and had myself TO myself without
sayin' `By your leave,' I begun to pick up. Cousin
Cyrus is an old man an' consid'able trouble, but he
thinks my teeth are handsome an' says I've got
a splendid suit of hair. There ain't a person in
Lewiston that knows about the minister, or father's
will, or Jim's doin's, or the fruit peddler; an' if
they should find out, they wouldn't care, an' they
couldn't remember; for Lewiston 's a busy place,
Miss Delia Weeks may have exaggerated matters
somewhat, but it is easy to imagine that Rebecca
as well as all the other Riverboro children
had heard the particulars of the Widow Rideout's
missing sleigh and Abner Simpson's supposed
connection with it.
There is not an excess of delicacy or chivalry in
the ordinary country school, and several choice
conundrums and bits of verse dealing with the Simpson
affair were bandied about among the scholars,
uttered always, be it said to their credit, in
undertones, and when the Simpson children were not in
Rebecca Randall was of precisely the same stock,
and had had much the same associations as her
schoolmates, so one can hardly say why she so hated
mean gossip and so instinctively held herself aloof
Among the Riverboro girls of her own age was a
certain excellently named Minnie Smellie, who was
anything but a general favorite. She was a ferret-
eyed, blond-haired, spindle-legged little creature
whose mind was a cross between that of a parrot
and a sheep. She was suspected of copying answers
from other girls' slates, although she had
never been caught in the act. Rebecca and Emma
Jane always knew when she had brought a tart or
a triangle of layer cake with her school luncheon,
because on those days she forsook the cheerful
society of her mates and sought a safe solitude in
the woods, returning after a time with a jocund
smile on her smug face.
After one of these private luncheons Rebecca
had been tempted beyond her strength, and when
Minnie took her seat among them asked, "Is your
headache better, Minnie? Let me wipe off that
strawberry jam over your mouth."
There was no jam there as a matter of fact,
but the guilty Minnie's handkerchief went to her
crimson face in a flash.
Rebecca confessed to Emma Jane that same
afternoon that she felt ashamed of her prank. "I
do hate her ways," she exclaimed, "but I'm sorry
I let her know we 'spected her; and so to make
up, I gave her that little piece of broken coral I
keep in my bead purse; you know the one?"
"It don't hardly seem as if she deserved that,
and her so greedy," remarked Emma Jane.
"I know it, but it makes me feel better," said
Rebecca largely; "and then I've had it two years,
and it's broken so it wouldn't ever be any real
good, beautiful as it is to look at."
The coral had partly served its purpose as a
reconciling bond, when one afternoon Rebecca,
who had stayed after school for her grammar lesson
as usual, was returning home by way of the
short cut. Far ahead, beyond the bars, she espied
the Simpson children just entering the woodsy
bit. Seesaw was not with them, so she hastened
her steps in order to secure company on her homeward
walk. They were speedily lost to view, but
when she had almost overtaken them she heard,
in the trees beyond, Minnie Smellie's voice lifted
high in song, and the sound of a child's sobbing.
Clara Belle, Susan, and the twins were running
along the path, and Minnie was dancing up and
"`What made the sleigh love Simpson so?'
The eager children cried;
`Why Simpson loved the sleigh, you know,'
The teacher quick replied."
The last glimpse of the routed Simpson tribe,
and the last Rutter of their tattered garments,
disappeared in the dim distance. The fall of one small
stone cast by the valiant Elijah, known as "the fighting
twin," did break the stillness of the woods for
a moment, but it did not come within a hundred
yards of Minnie, who shouted "Jail Birds" at the
top of her lungs and then turned, with an agreeable
feeling of excitement, to meet Rebecca, standing
perfectly still in the path, with a day of reckoning
plainly set forth in her blazing eyes.
Minnie's face was not pleasant to see, for a coward
detected at the moment of wrongdoing is not
an object of delight.
"Minnie Smellie, if ever--I--catch--you--
singing--that--to the Simpsons again--do you
know what I'll do?" asked Rebecca in a tone of
"I don't know and I don't care," said Minnie
jauntily, though her looks belied her.
"I'll take that piece of coral away from you, and
I THINK I shall slap you besides!"
"You wouldn't darst," retorted Minnie. "If
you do, I'll tell my mother and the teacher, so
"I don't care if you tell your mother, my mother,
and all your relations, and the president," said
Rebecca, gaining courage as the noble words fell from
her lips. "I don't care if you tell the town, the
whole of York county, the state of Maine and--
and the nation!" she finished grandiloquently.
"Now you run home and remember what I say.
If you do it again, and especially if you say `Jail
Birds,' if I think it's right and my duty, I shall
punish you somehow."
The next morning at recess Rebecca observed
Minnie telling the tale with variations to Huldah
Meserve. "She THREATENED me," whispered Minnie,
"but I never believe a word she says."
The latter remark was spoken with the direct
intention of being overheard, for Minnie had spasms
of bravery, when well surrounded by the machinery
of law and order.
As Rebecca went back to her seat she asked
Miss Dearborn if she might pass a note to Minnie
Smellie and received permission. This was the note:--
Of all the girls that are so mean
There's none like Minnie Smellie.
I'll take away the gift I gave
And pound her into jelly.
_P. S. Now do you believe me?_
The effect of this piece of doggerel was entirely
convincing, and for days afterwards whenever Minnie
met the Simpsons even a mile from the brick
house she shuddered and held her peace.
COLOR OF ROSE
On the very next Friday after this
"dreadfullest fight that ever was seen," as
Bunyan says in Pilgrim's Progress, there were
great doings in the little schoolhouse on the hill.
Friday afternoon was always the time chosen for
dialogues, songs, and recitations, but it cannot be
stated that it was a gala day in any true sense of
the word. Most of the children hated "speaking
pieces;" hated the burden of learning them,
dreaded the danger of breaking down in them.
Miss Dearborn commonly went home with a headache,
and never left her bed during the rest of the
afternoon or evening; and the casual female parent
who attended the exercises sat on a front bench
with beads of cold sweat on her forehead, listening
to the all-too-familiar halts and stammers. Sometimes
a bellowing infant who had clean forgotten his
verse would cast himself bodily on the maternal
bosom and be borne out into the open air, where he
was sometimes kissed and occasionally spanked;
but in any case the failure added an extra dash
of gloom and dread to the occasion. The advent
of Rebecca had somehow infused a new spirit
into these hitherto terrible afternoons. She had
taught Elijah and Elisha Simpson so that they
recited three verses of something with such comical
effect that they delighted themselves, the teacher,
and the school; while Susan, who lisped, had been
provided with a humorous poem in which she
impersonated a lisping child. Emma Jane and
Rebecca had a dialogue, and the sense of companionship
buoyed up Emma Jane and gave her self-
reliance. In fact, Miss Dearborn announced on
this particular Friday morning that the exercises
promised to be so interesting that she had invited
the doctor's wife, the minister's wife, two members
of the school committee, and a few mothers. Living
Perkins was asked to decorate one of the black-
boards and Rebecca the other. Living, who was
the star artist of the school, chose the map of North
America. Rebecca liked better to draw things
less realistic, and speedily, before the eyes of the
enchanted multitude, there grew under her skillful
fingers an American flag done in red, white,
and blue chalk, every star in its right place, every
stripe fluttering in the breeze. Beside this
appeared a figure of Columbia, copied from the top
of the cigar box that held the crayons.
Miss Dearborn was delighted. "I propose we
give Rebecca a good hand-clapping for such a
beautiful picture--one that the whole school may
well be proud of!"
The scholars clapped heartily, and Dick Carter,
waving his hand, gave a rousing cheer.
Rebecca's heart leaped for joy, and to her
confusion she felt the tears rising in her eyes. She
could hardly see the way back to her seat, for in
her ignorant lonely little life she had never been
singled out for applause, never lauded, nor crowned,
as in this wonderful, dazzling moment. If "nobleness
enkindleth nobleness," so does enthusiasm
beget enthusiasm, and so do wit and talent enkindle
wit and talent. Alice Robinson proposed that
the school should sing Three Cheers for the Red,
White, and Blue! and when they came to the
chorus, all point to Rebecca's flag. Dick Carter
suggested that Living Perkins and Rebecca Randall
should sign their names to their pictures, so
that the visitors would know who drew them. Huldah
Meserve asked permission to cover the largest
holes in the plastered walls with boughs and fill the
water pail with wild flowers. Rebecca's mood was
above and beyond all practical details. She sat
silent, her heart so full of grateful joy that she
could hardly remember the words of her dialogue.
At recess she bore herself modestly, notwithstanding
her great triumph, while in the general atmosphere
of good will the Smellie-Randall hatchet was
buried and Minnie gathered maple boughs and covered
the ugly stove with them, under Rebecca's
Miss Dearborn dismissed the morning session
at quarter to twelve, so that those who lived near
enough could go home for a change of dress.
Emma Jane and Rebecca ran nearly every step of
the way, from sheer excitement, only stopping to
breathe at the stiles.
"Will your aunt Mirandy let you wear your best,
or only your buff calico?" asked Emma Jane.
"I think I'll ask aunt Jane," Rebecca replied.
"Oh! if my pink was only finished! I left aunt
Jane making the buttonholes!"
"I'm going to ask my mother to let me wear
her garnet ring," said Emma Jane. "It would look
perfectly elergant flashing in the sun when I point
to the flag. Good-by; don't wait for me going
back; I may get a ride."
Rebecca found the side door locked, but she
knew that the key was under the step, and so of
course did everybody else in Riverboro, for they
all did about the same thing with it. She unlocked
the door and went into the dining-room to find her
lunch laid on the table and a note from aunt Jane
saying that they had gone to Moderation with Mrs.
Robinson in her carryall. Rebecca swallowed a
piece of bread and butter, and flew up the front
stairs to her bedroom. On the bed lay the pink
gingham dress finished by aunt Jane's kind hands.
Could she, dare she, wear it without asking? Did
the occasion justify a new costume, or would her
aunts think she ought to keep it for the concert?
"I'll wear it," thought Rebecca. "They're not
here to ask, and maybe they wouldn't mind a bit;
it's only gingham after all, and wouldn't be so
grand if it wasn't new, and hadn't tape trimming
on it, and wasn't pink."
She unbraided her two pigtails, combed out the
waves of her hair and tied them back with a ribbon,
changed her shoes, and then slipped on the
pretty frock, managing to fasten all but the three
middle buttons, which she reserved for Emma Jane.
Then her eye fell on her cherished pink sunshade,
the exact match, and the girls had never seen it.
It wasn't quite appropriate for school, but she
needn't take it into the room; she would wrap it
in a piece of paper, just show it, and carry it coming
home. She glanced in the parlor looking-glass
downstairs and was electrified at the vision. It
seemed almost as if beauty of apparel could go no
further than that heavenly pink gingham dress!
The sparkle of her eyes, glow of her cheeks, sheen
of her falling hair, passed unnoticed in the all-
conquering charm of the rose-colored garment. Goodness!
it was twenty minutes to one and she would
be late. She danced out the side door, pulled a pink
rose from a bush at the gate, and covered the mile
between the brick house and the seat of learning
in an incredibly short time, meeting Emma Jane,
also breathless and resplendent, at the entrance.
"Rebecca Randall!" exclaimed Emma Jane,
"you're handsome as a picture!"
"I?" laughed Rebecca "Nonsense! it's only
the pink gingham."
"You're not good looking every day," insisted
Emma Jane; "but you're different somehow. See
my garnet ring; mother scrubbed it in soap and
water. How on earth did your aunt Mirandy let
you put on your bran' new dress?"
"They were both away and I didn't ask,"
Rebecca responded anxiously. "Why? Do you think
they'd have said no?"
"Miss Mirandy always says no, doesn't she?"
asked Emma Jane.
"Ye--es; but this afternoon is very special--
almost like a Sunday-school concert."
"Yes," assented Emma Jane, "it is, of course;
with your name on the board, and our pointing to
your flag, and our elergant dialogue, and all that."
The afternoon was one succession of solid
triumphs for everybody concerned. There were no
real failures at all, no tears, no parents ashamed
of their offspring. Miss Dearborn heard many
admiring remarks passed upon her ability, and
wondered whether they belonged to her or partly,
at least, to Rebecca. The child had no more to
do than several others, but she was somehow in
the foreground. It transpired afterwards at various
village entertainments that Rebecca couldn't
be kept in the background; it positively refused
to hold her. Her worst enemy could not have
called her pushing. She was ready and willing
and never shy; but she sought for no chances
of display and was, indeed, remarkably lacking in
self-consciousness, as well as eager to bring others
into whatever fun or entertainment there was.
If wherever the MacGregor sat was the head of
the table, so in the same way wherever Rebecca
stood was the centre of the stage. Her clear high
treble soared above all the rest in the choruses,
and somehow everybody watched her, took note
of her gestures, her whole-souled singing, her
Finally it was all over, and it seemed to Rebecca
as if she should never be cool and calm again, as
she loitered on the homeward path. There would
be no lessons to learn to-night, and the vision of
helping with the preserves on the morrow had no
terrors for her--fears could not draw breath in
the radiance that flooded her soul. There were
thick gathering clouds in the sky, but she took no
note of them save to be glad that she could raise
her sunshade. She did not tread the solid ground
at all, or have any sense of belonging to the common
human family, until she entered the side yard
of the brick house and saw her aunt Miranda
standing in the open doorway. Then with a rush
she came back to earth.
ASHES OF ROSES
There she is, over an hour late; a little
more an' she'd 'a' been caught in a thunder
shower, but she'd never look ahead,"
said Miranda to Jane; "and added to all her other
iniquities, if she ain't rigged out in that new dress,
steppin' along with her father's dancin'-school steps,
and swingin' her parasol for all the world as if she
was play-actin'. Now I'm the oldest, Jane, an' I
intend to have my say out; if you don't like it you
can go into the kitchen till it's over. Step right
in here, Rebecca; I want to talk to you. What did
you put on that good new dress for, on a school
day, without permission?"
"I had intended to ask you at noontime, but you
weren't at home, so I couldn't," began Rebecca.
"You did no such a thing; you put it on because
you was left alone, though you knew well enough
I wouldn't have let you."
"If I'd been CERTAIN you wouldn't have let me
I'd never have done it," said Rebecca, trying to
be truthful; "but I wasn't CERTAIN, and it was worth
risking. I thought perhaps you might, if you knew
it was almost a real exhibition at school."
"Exhibition!" exclaimed Miranda scornfully;
"you are exhibition enough by yourself, I should
say. Was you exhibitin' your parasol?"
"The parasol WAS silly," confessed Rebecca,
hanging her head; "but it's the only time in my
whole life when I had anything to match it, and
it looked so beautiful with the pink dress! Emma
Jane and I spoke a dialogue about a city girl and
a country girl, and it came to me just the minute
before I started how nice it would come in for the
city girl; and it did. I haven't hurt my dress a
mite, aunt Mirandy."
"It's the craftiness and underhandedness of
your actions that's the worst," said Miranda
coldly. "And look at the other things you've
done! It seems as if Satan possessed you! You
went up the front stairs to your room, but you
didn't hide your tracks, for you dropped your
handkerchief on the way up. You left the screen
out of your bedroom window for the flies to come
in all over the house. You never cleared away
your lunch nor set away a dish, AND YOU LEFT THE
SIDE DOOR UNLOCKED from half past twelve to three
o'clock, so 't anybody could 'a' come in and stolen
what they liked!"
Rebecca sat down heavily in her chair as she
heard the list of her transgressions. How could
she have been so careless? The tears began to
flow now as she attempted to explain sins that
never could be explained or justified.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" she faltered. "I was trimming
the schoolroom, and got belated, and ran all
the way home. It was hard getting into my dress
alone, and I hadn't time to eat but a mouthful,
and just at the last minute, when I honestly--HONESTLY
--would have thought about clearing away
and locking up, I looked at the clock and knew I
could hardly get back to school in time to form in
the line; and I thought how dreadful it would be
to go in late and get my first black mark on a Friday
afternoon, with the minister's wife and the
doctor's wife and the school committee all there!"
"Don't wail and carry on now; it's no good
cryin' over spilt milk," answered Miranda. "An
ounce of good behavior is worth a pound of repentance.
Instead of tryin' to see how little trouble
you can make in a house that ain't your own home,
it seems as if you tried to see how much you could
put us out. Take that rose out o' your dress and
let me see the spot it's made on your yoke, an' the
rusty holes where the wet pin went in. No, it ain't;
but it's more by luck than forethought. I ain't got
any patience with your flowers and frizzled-out hair
and furbelows an' airs an' graces, for all the world
like your Miss-Nancy father."
Rebecca lifted her head in a flash. "Look here,
aunt Mirandy, I'll be as good as I know how to be.
I'll mind quick when I'm spoken to and never
leave the door unlocked again, but I won't have
my father called names. He was a p-perfectly
l-lovely father, that's what he was, and it's MEAN
to call him Miss Nancy!"
"Don't you dare answer me back that imperdent
way, Rebecca, tellin' me I'm mean; your father
was a vain, foolish, shiftless man, an' you might as
well hear it from me as anybody else; he spent
your mother's money and left her with seven children
to provide for."
"It's s-something to leave s-seven nice
children," sobbed Rebecca.
"Not when other folks have to help feed, clothe,
and educate 'em," responded Miranda. "Now you
step upstairs, put on your nightgown, go to bed,
and stay there till to-morrow mornin'. You'll find
a bowl o' crackers an' milk on your bureau, an' I
don't want to hear a sound from you till breakfast
time. Jane, run an' take the dish towels off the
line and shut the shed doors; we're goin' to have
a turrible shower."
"We've had it, I should think," said Jane
quietly, as she went to do her sister's bidding.
"I don't often speak my mind, Mirandy; but you
ought not to have said what you did about Lorenzo.
He was what he was, and can't be made
any different; but he was Rebecca's father, and
Aurelia always says he was a good husband."
Miranda had never heard the proverbial phrase
about the only "good Indian," but her mind worked
in the conventional manner when she said grimly,
"Yes, I've noticed that dead husbands are usually
good ones; but the truth needs an airin' now and
then, and that child will never amount to a hill o'
beans till she gets some of her father trounced out
of her. I'm glad I said just what I did."
"I daresay you are," remarked Jane, with what
might be described as one of her annual bursts of
courage; "but all the same, Mirandy, it wasn't
good manners, and it wasn't good religion!"
The clap of thunder that shook the house just at
that moment made no such peal in Miranda Sawyer's
ears as Jane's remark made when it fell with
a deafening roar on her conscience.
Perhaps after all it is just as well to speak only
once a year and then speak to the purpose.
Rebecca mounted the back stairs wearily, closed
the door of her bedroom, and took off the beloved
pink gingham with trembling fingers. Her cotton
handkerchief was rolled into a hard ball, and in the
intervals of reaching the more difficult buttons that
lay between her shoulder blades and her belt, she
dabbed her wet eyes carefully, so that they should
not rain salt water on the finery that had been
worn at such a price. She smoothed it out carefully,
pinched up the white ruffle at the neck, and
laid it away in a drawer with an extra little sob at
the roughness of life. The withered pink rose fell
on the floor. Rebecca looked at it and thought to
herself, "Just like my happy day!" Nothing could
show more clearly the kind of child she was than
the fact that she instantly perceived the symbolism
of the rose, and laid it in the drawer with the dress
as if she were burying the whole episode with all
its sad memories. It was a child's poetic instinct
with a dawning hint of woman's sentiment in it.
She braided her hair in the two accustomed pig-
tails, took off her best shoes (which had happily
escaped notice), with all the while a fixed resolve
growing in her mind, that of leaving the brick
house and going back to the farm. She would not
be received there with open arms,--there was no
hope of that,--but she would help her mother
about the house and send Hannah to Riverboro in
her place. "I hope she'll like it!" she thought in
a momentary burst of vindictiveness. She sat by
the window trying to make some sort of plan,
watching the lightning play over the hilltop and
the streams of rain chasing each other down the
lightning rod. And this was the day that had
dawned so joyfully! It had been a red sunrise,
and she had leaned on the window sill studying
her lesson and thinking what a lovely world it
was. And what a golden morning! The changing
of the bare, ugly little schoolroom into a bower of
beauty; Miss Dearborn's pleasure at her success
with the Simpson twins' recitation; the privilege
of decorating the blackboard; the happy thought
of drawing Columbia from the cigar box; the
intoxicating moment when the school clapped her!
And what an afternoon! How it went on from
glory to glory, beginning with Emma Jane's telling
her, Rebecca Randall, that she was as "handsome
as a picture."
She lived through the exercises again in
memory, especially her dialogue with Emma Jane and
her inspiration of using the bough-covered stove
as a mossy bank where the country girl could sit
and watch her flocks. This gave Emma Jane a feeling
of such ease that she never recited better;
and how generous it was of her to lend the garnet
ring to the city girl, fancying truly how it would
flash as she furled her parasol and approached the
awe-stricken shepherdess! She had thought aunt
Miranda might be pleased that the niece invited
down from the farm had succeeded so well at
school; but no, there was no hope of pleasing her
in that or in any other way. She would go to
Maplewood on the stage next day with Mr. Cobb
and get home somehow from cousin Ann's. On
second thoughts her aunts might not allow it.
Very well, she would slip away now and see if she
could stay all night with the Cobbs and be off next
morning before breakfast.
Rebecca never stopped long to think, more 's the
pity, so she put on her oldest dress and hat and
jacket, then wrapped her nightdress, comb, and
toothbrush in a bundle and dropped it softly out
of the window. Her room was in the L and her
window at no very dangerous distance from the
ground, though had it been, nothing could have
stopped her at that moment. Somebody who had
gone on the roof to clean out the gutters had left
a cleat nailed to the side of the house about halfway
between the window and the top of the back
porch. Rebecca heard the sound of the sewing
machine in the dining-room and the chopping of
meat in the kitchen; so knowing the whereabouts
of both her aunts, she scrambled out of the window,
caught hold of the lightning rod, slid down to the
helpful cleat, jumped to the porch, used the woodbine
trellis for a ladder, and was flying up the road
in the storm before she had time to arrange any
details of her future movements.
Jeremiah Cobb sat at his lonely supper at the
table by the kitchen window. "Mother," as he
with his old-fashioned habits was in the habit of
calling his wife, was nursing a sick neighbor. Mrs.
Cobb was mother only to a little headstone in the
churchyard, where reposed "Sarah Ann, beloved
daughter of Jeremiah and Sarah Cobb, aged seventeen
months;" but the name of mother was better
than nothing, and served at any rate as a reminder
of her woman's crown of blessedness.
The rain still fell, and the heavens were dark,
though it was scarcely five o'clock. Looking up
from his "dish of tea," the old man saw at the
open door a very figure of woe. Rebecca's face
was so swollen with tears and so sharp with misery
that for a moment he scarcely recognized her.
Then when he heard her voice asking, "Please
may I come in, Mr. Cobb?" he cried, "Well I
vow! It's my little lady passenger! Come to call
on old uncle Jerry and pass the time o' day, hev
ye? Why, you're wet as sops. Draw up to the
stove. I made a fire, hot as it was, thinkin' I
wanted somethin' warm for my supper, bein' kind
o' lonesome without mother. She's settin' up with
Seth Strout to-night. There, we'll hang your
soppy hat on the nail, put your jacket over the
chair rail, an' then you turn your back to the stove
an' dry yourself good."
Uncle Jerry had never before said so many
words at a time, but he had caught sight of the
child's red eyes and tear-stained cheeks, and his
big heart went out to her in her trouble, quite
regardless of any circumstances that might have
Rebecca stood still for a moment until uncle
Jerry took his seat again at the table, and then,
unable to contain herself longer, cried, "Oh, Mr.
Cobb, I've run away from the brick house, and I
want to go back to the farm. Will you keep me
to-night and take me up to Maplewood in the
stage? I haven't got any money for my fare, but
I'll earn it somehow afterwards."
"Well, I guess we won't quarrel 'bout money, you
and me," said the old man; "and we've never had
our ride together, anyway, though we allers meant
to go down river, not up."
"I shall never see Milltown now!" sobbed Rebecca.
"Come over here side o' me an' tell me all about
it," coaxed uncle Jerry. "Jest set down on that
there wooden cricket an' out with the whole story."
Rebecca leaned her aching head against Mr.
Cobb's homespun knee and recounted the history
of her trouble. Tragic as that history seemed to
her passionate and undisciplined mind, she told it
truthfully and without exaggeration.
Uncle Jerry coughed and stirred in his
chair a good deal during Rebecca's recital,
but he carefully concealed any undue
feeling of sympathy, just muttering, "Poor little soul!
We'll see what we can do for her!"
"You will take me to Maplewood, won't you, Mr.
Cobb?" begged Rebecca piteously.
"Don't you fret a mite," he answered, with a
crafty little notion at the back of his mind; "I'll
see the lady passenger through somehow. Now
take a bite o' somethin' to eat, child. Spread some
o' that tomato preserve on your bread; draw up to
the table. How'd you like to set in mother's place
an' pour me out another cup o' hot tea?"
Mr. Jeremiah Cobb's mental machinery was
simple, and did not move very smoothly save when
propelled by his affection or sympathy. In the
present case these were both employed to his
advantage, and mourning his stupidity and praying
for some flash of inspiration to light his path, he
blundered along, trusting to Providence.
Rebecca, comforted by the old man's tone, and
timidly enjoying the dignity of sitting in Mrs. Cobb's
seat and lifting the blue china teapot, smiled faintly,
smoothed her hair, and dried her eyes.
"I suppose your mother'll be turrible glad to
see you back again?" queried Mr. Cobb.
A tiny fear--just a baby thing--in the bottom
of Rebecca's heart stirred and grew larger the moment
it was touched with a question.
"She won't like it that I ran away, I s'pose, and
she'll be sorry that I couldn't please aunt Mirandy;
but I'll make her understand, just as I did you."
"I s'pose she was thinkin' o' your schoolin',
lettin' you come down here; but land! you can go to
school in Temperance, I s'pose?"
"There's only two months' school now in
Temperance, and the farm 's too far from all the other
"Oh well! there's other things in the world
beside edjercation," responded uncle Jerry, attacking
a piece of apple pie.
"Ye--es; though mother thought that was going
to be the making of me," returned Rebecca sadly,
giving a dry little sob as she tried to drink her tea.
"It'll be nice for you to be all together again
at the farm--such a house full o' children!"
remarked the dear old deceiver, who longed for
nothing so much as to cuddle and comfort the poor
"It's too full--that's the trouble. But I'll
make Hannah come to Riverboro in my place."
"S'pose Mirandy 'n' Jane'll have her? I should
be 'most afraid they wouldn't. They'll be kind o'
mad at your goin' home, you know, and you can't
hardly blame 'em."
This was quite a new thought,--that the brick
house might be closed to Hannah, since she, Rebecca,
had turned her back upon its cold hospitality.
"How is this school down here in Riverboro
--pretty good?" inquired uncle Jerry, whose brain
was working with an altogether unaccustomed
rapidity,--so much so that it almost terrified him.
"Oh, it's a splendid school! And Miss
Dearborn is a splendid teacher!"
"You like her, do you? Well, you'd better believe
she returns the compliment. Mother was down to
the store this afternoon buyin' liniment for Seth
Strout, an' she met Miss Dearborn on the bridge.
They got to talkin' 'bout school, for mother has
summer-boarded a lot o' the schoolmarms, an' likes
'em. `How does the little Temperance girl git
along?' asks mother. `Oh, she's the best scholar
I have!' says Miss Dearborn. `I could teach school
from sun-up to sun-down if scholars was all like
Rebecca Randall,' says she."
"Oh, Mr. Cobb, DID she say that?" glowed
Rebecca, her face sparkling and dimpling in an instant.
"I've tried hard all the time, but I'll study the
covers right off of the books now."
"You mean you would if you'd ben goin' to
stay here," interposed uncle Jerry. "Now ain't it
too bad you've jest got to give it all up on account
o' your aunt Mirandy? Well, I can't hardly blame
ye. She's cranky an' she's sour; I should think
she'd ben nussed on bonny-clabber an' green
apples. She needs bearin' with; an' I guess you
ain't much on patience, be ye?"
"Not very much," replied Rebecca dolefully.
"If I'd had this talk with ye yesterday," pursued
Mr. Cobb, "I believe I'd have advised ye different.
It's too late now, an' I don't feel to say you've
ben all in the wrong; but if 't was to do over again,
I'd say, well, your aunt Mirandy gives you clothes
and board and schoolin' and is goin' to send you
to Wareham at a big expense. She's turrible hard
to get along with, an' kind o' heaves benefits at
your head, same 's she would bricks; but they're
benefits jest the same, an' mebbe it's your job to
kind o' pay for 'em in good behavior. Jane's a
leetle bit more easy goin' than Mirandy, ain't she,
or is she jest as hard to please?"
"Oh, aunt Jane and I get along splendidly,"
exclaimed Rebecca; "she's just as good and kind
as she can be, and I like her better all the time.
I think she kind of likes me, too; she smoothed
my hair once. I'd let her scold me all day long,
for she understands; but she can't stand up for me
against aunt Mirandy; she's about as afraid of
her as I am."
"Jane'll be real sorry to-morrow to find you've
gone away, I guess; but never mind, it can't be
helped. If she has a kind of a dull time with Mirandy,
on account o' her bein' so sharp, why of course
she'd set great store by your comp'ny. Mother was
talkin' with her after prayer meetin' the other night.
`You wouldn't know the brick house, Sarah,' says
Jane. `I'm keepin' a sewin' school, an' my scholar
has made three dresses. What do you think o'
that,' says she, `for an old maid's child? I've
taken a class in Sunday-school,' says Jane, `an'
think o' renewin' my youth an' goin' to the picnic
with Rebecca,' says she; an' mother declares she
never see her look so young 'n' happy."
There was a silence that could be felt in the little
kitchen; a silence only broken by the ticking of
the tall clock and the beating of Rebecca's heart,
which, it seemed to her, almost drowned the voice
of the clock. The rain ceased, a sudden rosy light
filled the room, and through the window a rainbow
arch could be seen spanning the heavens like
a radiant bridge. Bridges took one across difficult
places, thought Rebecca, and uncle Jerry seemed
to have built one over her troubles and given her
strength to walk.
"The shower 's over," said the old man, filling
his pipe; "it's cleared the air, washed the face o'
the airth nice an' clean, an' everything to-morrer
will shine like a new pin--when you an' I are
drivin' up river."
Rebecca pushed her cup away, rose from the
table, and put on her hat and jacket quietly. "I'm
not going to drive up river, Mr. Cobb," she said.
"I'm going to stay here and--catch bricks; catch
'em without throwing 'em back, too. I don't know
as aunt Mirandy will take me in after I've run
away, but I'm going back now while I have the
courage. You wouldn't be so good as to go with
me, would you, Mr. Cobb?"
"You'd better b'lieve your uncle Jerry don't
propose to leave till he gits this thing fixed up,"
cried the old man delightedly. "Now you've had
all you can stan' to-night, poor little soul, without
gettin' a fit o' sickness; an' Mirandy'll be sore
an' cross an' in no condition for argyment; so my
plan is jest this: to drive you over to the brick
house in my top buggy; to have you set back in
the corner, an' I git out an' go to the side door;
an' when I git your aunt Mirandy 'n' aunt Jane
out int' the shed to plan for a load o' wood I'm
goin' to have hauled there this week, you'll slip
out o' the buggy and go upstairs to bed. The front
door won't be locked, will it?"
"Not this time of night," Rebecca answered;
"not till aunt Mirandy goes to bed; but oh! what
if it should be?"
"Well, it won't; an' if 't is, why we'll have to
face it out; though in my opinion there's things
that won't bear facin' out an' had better be settled
comfortable an' quiet. You see you ain't run away
yet; you've only come over here to consult me
'bout runnin' away, an' we've concluded it ain't
wuth the trouble. The only real sin you've
committed, as I figger it out, was in comin' here by the
winder when you'd ben sent to bed. That ain't so
very black, an' you can tell your aunt Jane 'bout
it come Sunday, when she's chock full o' religion,
an' she can advise you when you'd better tell your
aunt Mirandy. I don't believe in deceivin' folks,
but if you've hed hard thoughts you ain't obleeged
to own 'em up; take 'em to the Lord in prayer, as
the hymn says, and then don't go on hevin' 'em.
Now come on; I'm all hitched up to go over to
the post-office; don't forget your bundle; `it's
always a journey, mother, when you carry a nightgown;'
them 's the first words your uncle Jerry
ever heard you say! He didn't think you'd be
bringin' your nightgown over to his house. Step
in an' curl up in the corner; we ain't goin' to let
folks see little runaway gals, 'cause they're goin'
back to begin all over ag'in!"
When Rebecca crept upstairs, and undressing in
the dark finally found herself in her bed that night,
though she was aching and throbbing in every
nerve, she felt a kind of peace stealing over her.
She had been saved from foolishness and error;
kept from troubling her poor mother; prevented
from angering and mortifying her aunts.
Her heart was melted now, and she determined
to win aunt Miranda's approval by some desperate
means, and to try and forget the one thing that
rankled worst, the scornful mention of her father,
of whom she thought with the greatest admiration,
and whom she had not yet heard criticised; for
such sorrows and disappointments as Aurelia Randall
had suffered had never been communicated to
It would have been some comfort to the bruised,
unhappy little spirit to know that Miranda Sawyer
was passing an uncomfortable night, and that
she tacitly regretted her harshness, partly because
Jane had taken such a lofty and virtuous position
in the matter. She could not endure Jane's disapproval,
although she would never have confessed to
such a weakness.
As uncle Jerry drove homeward under the stars,
well content with his attempts at keeping the peace,
he thought wistfully of the touch of Rebecca's head
on his knee, and the rain of her tears on his hand;
of the sweet reasonableness of her mind when she
had the matter put rightly before her; of her quick
decision when she had once seen the path of duty;
of the touching hunger for love and understanding
that were so characteristic in her. "Lord
A'mighty!" he ejaculated under his breath, "Lord
A'mighty! to hector and abuse a child like that
one! 'T ain't ABUSE exactly, I know, or 't wouldn't
be to some o' your elephant-hided young ones; but
to that little tender will-o'-the-wisp a hard word 's
like a lash. Mirandy Sawyer would be a heap better
woman if she had a little gravestun to remember,
same's mother 'n' I have."
"I never see a child improve in her work as
Rebecca has to-day," remarked Miranda Sawyer to
Jane on Saturday evening. "That settin' down I
gave her was probably just what she needed, and
I daresay it'll last for a month."
"I'm glad you're pleased," returned Jane. "A
cringing worm is what you want, not a bright, smiling
child. Rebecca looks to me as if she'd been
through the Seven Years' War. When she came
downstairs this morning it seemed to me she'd
grown old in the night. If you follow my advice,
which you seldom do, you'll let me take her and
Emma Jane down beside the river to-morrow afternoon
and bring Emma Jane home to a good Sunday
supper. Then if you'll let her go to Milltown with
the Cobbs on Wednesday, that'll hearten her up
a little and coax back her appetite. Wednesday 's a
holiday on account of Miss Dearborn's going home
to her sister's wedding, and the Cobbs and Perkinses
want to go down to the Agricultural Fair."
"THE STIRRING OF THE POWERS"
Rebecca's visit to Milltown was all that her
glowing fancy had painted it, except that
recent readings about Rome and Venice
disposed her to believe that those cities might
have an advantage over Milltown in the matter
of mere pictorial beauty. So soon does the soul
outgrow its mansions that after once seeing
Milltown her fancy ran out to the future sight of
Portland; for that, having islands and a harbor
and two public monuments, must be far more
beautiful than Milltown, which would, she felt, take
its proud place among the cities of the earth, by
reason of its tremendous business activity rather
than by any irresistible appeal to the imagination.
It would be impossible for two children to see
more, do more, walk more, talk more, eat more, or
ask more questions than Rebecca and Emma Jane
did on that eventful Wednesday.
"She's the best company I ever see in all my
life," said Mrs. Cobb to her husband that evening.
"We ain't had a dull minute this day. She's well-
mannered, too; she didn't ask for anything, and
was thankful for whatever she got. Did you watch
her face when we went into that tent where they
was actin' out Uncle Tom's Cabin? And did you
take notice of the way she told us about the book
when we sat down to have our ice cream? I tell you
Harriet Beecher Stowe herself couldn't 'a' done
it better justice."
"I took it all in," responded Mr. Cobb, who was
pleased that "mother" agreed with him about
Rebecca. "I ain't sure but she's goin' to turn out
somethin' remarkable,--a singer, or a writer, or a
lady doctor like that Miss Parks up to Cornish."
"Lady doctors are always home'paths, ain't
they?" asked Mrs. Cobb, who, it is needless to say,
was distinctly of the old school in medicine.
"Land, no, mother; there ain't no home'path
'bout Miss Parks--she drives all over the country."
"I can't see Rebecca as a lady doctor, somehow,"
mused Mrs. Cobb. "Her gift o' gab is what's
goin' to be the makin' of her; mebbe she'll lecture,
or recite pieces, like that Portland elocutionist that
come out here to the harvest supper."
"I guess she'll be able to write down her own
pieces," said Mr. Cobb confidently; "she could
make 'em up faster 'n she could read 'em out of a
"It's a pity she's so plain looking," remarked
Mrs. Cobb, blowing out the candle.
"PLAIN LOOKING, mother?" exclaimed her husband
in astonishment. "Look at the eyes of her;
look at the hair of her, an' the smile, an' that
there dimple! Look at Alice Robinson, that's
called the prettiest child on the river, an' see how
Rebecca shines her ri' down out o' sight! I hope
Mirandy'll favor her comin' over to see us real
often, for she'll let off some of her steam here, an'
the brick house'll be consid'able safer for everybody
concerned. We've known what it was to hev
children, even if 't was more 'n thirty years ago,
an' we can make allowances."
Notwithstanding the encomiums of Mr. and Mrs.
Cobb, Rebecca made a poor hand at composition
writing at this time. Miss Dearborn gave her
every sort of subject that she had ever been given
herself: Cloud Pictures; Abraham Lincoln; Nature;
Philanthropy; Slavery; Intemperance; Joy
and Duty; Solitude; but with none of them did
Rebecca seem to grapple satisfactorily.
"Write as you talk, Rebecca," insisted poor Miss
Dearborn, who secretly knew that she could never
manage a good composition herself.
"But gracious me, Miss Dearborn! I don't talk
about nature and slavery. I can't write unless I
have something to say, can I?"
"That is what compositions are for," returned
Miss Dearborn doubtfully; "to make you have
things to say. Now in your last one, on solitude, you
haven't said anything very interesting, and you've
made it too common and every-day to sound well.
There are too many `yous' and `yours' in it; you
ought to say `one' now and then, to make it seem
more like good writing. `One opens a favorite
book;' `One's thoughts are a great comfort in
solitude,' and so on."
"I don't know any more about solitude this week
than I did about joy and duty last week," grumbled
"You tried to be funny about joy and duty,"
said Miss Dearborn reprovingly; "so of course you
"I didn't know you were going to make us read
the things out loud," said Rebecca with an embarrassed
smile of recollection.
"Joy and Duty" had been the inspiring subject
given to the older children for a theme to be written
in five minutes.
Rebecca had wrestled, struggled, perspired in
vain. When her turn came to read she was obliged
to confess she had written nothing.
"You have at least two lines, Rebecca," insisted
the teacher, "for I see them on your slate."
"I'd rather not read them, please; they are not
good," pleaded Rebecca.
"Read what you have, good or bad, little or
much; I am excusing nobody."
Rebecca rose, overcome with secret laughter
dread, and mortification; then in a low voice she
read the couplet:--
When Joy and Duty clash
Let Duty go to smash.
Dick Carter's head disappeared under the desk,
while Living Perkins choked with laughter.
Miss Dearborn laughed too; she was little more
than a girl, and the training of the young idea seldom
appealed to the sense of humor.
"You must stay after school and try again,
Rebecca," she said, but she said it smilingly. "Your
poetry hasn't a very nice idea in it for a good little
girl who ought to love duty."
"It wasn't MY idea," said Rebecca apologetically.
"I had only made the first line when I saw you were
going to ring the bell and say the time was up. I
had `clash' written, and I couldn't think of anything
then but `hash' or `rash' or `smash.' I'll
change it to this:--
When Joy and Duty clash,
'T is Joy must go to smash."
"That is better," Miss Dearborn answered,
"though I cannot think `going to smash' is a pretty
expression for poetry."
Having been instructed in the use of the indefinite
pronoun "one" as giving a refined and elegant touch
to literary efforts, Rebecca painstakingly rewrote
her composition on solitude, giving it all the benefit
of Miss Dearborn's suggestion. It then appeared in
the following form, which hardly satisfied either
teacher or pupil:--
It would be false to say that one could ever be
alone when one has one's lovely thoughts to comfort
one. One sits by one's self, it is true, but one thinks;
one opens one's favorite book and reads one's favorite
story; one speaks to one's aunt or one's brother,
fondles one's cat, or looks at one's photograph album.
There is one's work also: what a joy it is to one, if
one happens to like work. All one's little household
tasks keep one from being lonely. Does one ever
feel bereft when one picks up one's chips to light
one's fire for one's evening meal? Or when one
washes one's milk pail before milking one's cow?
One would fancy not.
R. R. R.
"It is perfectly dreadful," sighed Rebecca when
she read it aloud after school. "Putting in `one' all
the time doesn't make it sound any more like a
book, and it looks silly besides."
"You say such queer things," objected Miss
Dearborn. "I don't see what makes you do it.
Why did you put in anything so common as picking
"Because I was talking about `household tasks'
in the sentence before, and it IS one of my household
tasks. Don't you think calling supper `one's evening meal'
is pretty? and isn't `bereft' a nice word?"
"Yes, that part of it does very well. It is the cat,
the chips, and the milk pail that I don't like."
"All right!" sighed Rebecca. "Out they go;
Does the cow go too?"
"Yes, I don't like a cow in a composition," said
the difficult Miss Dearborn.
The Milltown trip had not been without its tragic
consequences of a small sort; for the next week
Minnie Smellie's mother told Miranda Sawyer that
she'd better look after Rebecca, for she was given
to "swearing and profane language;" that she had
been heard saying something dreadful that very
afternoon, saying it before Emma Jane and Living
Perkins, who only laughed and got down on all
fours and chased her.
Rebecca, on being confronted and charged with
the crime, denied it indignantly, and aunt Jane
"Search your memory, Rebecca, and try to think
what Minnie overheard you say," she pleaded.
"Don't be ugly and obstinate, but think real hard.
When did they chase you up the road, and what
were you doing?"
A sudden light broke upon Rebecca's darkness.
"Oh! I see it now," she exclaimed. "It had
rained hard all the morning, you know, and the
road was full of puddles. Emma Jane, Living, and
I were walking along, and I was ahead. I saw the
water streaming over the road towards the ditch, and
it reminded me of Uncle Tom's Cabin at Milltown,
when Eliza took her baby and ran across the Mississippi
on the ice blocks, pursued by the bloodhounds.
We couldn't keep from laughing after we came out
of the tent because they were acting on such a small
platform that Eliza had to run round and round, and
part of the time the one dog they had pursued her,
and part of the time she had to pursue the dog. I
knew Living would remember, too, so I took off my
waterproof and wrapped it round my books for a
baby; then I shouted, `MY GOD! THE RIVER!' just
like that--the same as Eliza did in the play; then
I leaped from puddle to puddle, and Living and
Emma Jane pursued me like the bloodhounds. It's
just like that stupid Minnie Smellie who doesn't
know a game when she sees one. And Eliza wasn't
swearing when she said `My God! the river!' It
was more like praying."
"Well, you've got no call to be prayin', any more
than swearin', in the middle of the road," said
Miranda; "but I'm thankful it's no worse. You're
born to trouble as the sparks fly upward, an' I'm
afraid you allers will be till you learn to bridle your
"I wish sometimes that I could bridle Minnie's,"
murmured Rebecca, as she went to set the table for
"I declare she IS the beatin'est child!" said
Miranda, taking off her spectacles and laying down
her mending. "You don't think she's a leetle mite
crazy, do you, Jane?"
"I don't think she's like the rest of us,"
responded Jane thoughtfully and with some anxiety
in her pleasant face; "but whether it's for the
better or the worse I can't hardly tell till she grows
up. She's got the making of 'most anything in her,
Rebecca has; but I feel sometimes as if we were
not fitted to cope with her."
"Stuff an' nonsense!" said Miranda "Speak
for yourself. I feel fitted to cope with any child
that ever was born int' the world!"
"I know you do, Mirandy; but that don't MAKE
you so," returned Jane with a smile.
The habit of speaking her mind freely was
certainly growing on Jane to an altogether terrifying
"SEE THE PALE MARTYR"
It was about this time that Rebecca, who had been
reading about the Spartan boy, conceived the
idea of some mild form of self-punishment to
be applied on occasions when she was fully convinced
in her own mind that it would be salutary.
The immediate cause of the decision was a somewhat
sadder accident than was common, even in a
career prolific in such things.
Clad in her best, Rebecca had gone to take tea
with the Cobbs; but while crossing the bridge she
was suddenly overcome by the beauty of the river
and leaned over the newly painted rail to feast her
eyes on the dashing torrent of the fall. Resting her
elbows on the topmost board, and inclining her little
figure forward in delicious ease, she stood there
The river above the dam was a glassy lake with
all the loveliness of blue heaven and green shore
reflected in its surface; the fall was a swirling wonder
of water, ever pouring itself over and over inexhaustibly
in luminous golden gushes that lost themselves
in snowy depths of foam. Sparkling in the sunshine,
gleaming under the summer moon, cold and gray
beneath a November sky, trickling over the dam
in some burning July drought, swollen with turbulent
power in some April freshet, how many young
eyes gazed into the mystery and majesty of the
falls along that river, and how many young hearts
dreamed out their futures leaning over the bridge
rail, seeing "the vision splendid" reflected there and
often, too, watching it fade into "the light of
Rebecca never went across the bridge without
bending over the rail to wonder and to ponder, and
at this special moment she was putting the finishing
touches on a poem.
Two maidens by a river strayed
Down in the state of Maine.
The one was called Rebecca,
The other Emma Jane.
"I would my life were like the stream,"
Said her named Emma Jane,
"So quiet and so very smooth,
So free from every pain."
"I'd rather be a little drop
In the great rushing fall!
I would not choose the glassy lake,
'T would not suit me at all!"
(It was the darker maiden spoke
The words I just have stated,
The maidens twain were simply friends
And not at all related.)
But O! alas I we may not have
The things we hope to gain;
The quiet life may come to me,
The rush to Emma Jane!
"I don't like `the rush to Emma Jane,' and I
can't think of anything else. Oh! what a smell of
paint! Oh! it is ON me! Oh! it's all over my best
dress! Oh I what WILL aunt Miranda say!"
With tears of self-reproach streaming from her
eyes, Rebecca flew up the hill, sure of sympathy,
and hoping against hope for help of some sort.
Mrs. Cobb took in the situation at a glance, and
professed herself able to remove almost any stain
from almost any fabric; and in this she was
corroborated by uncle Jerry, who vowed that mother
could git anything out. Sometimes she took the
cloth right along with the spot, but she had a sure
hand, mother had!
The damaged garment was removed and partially
immersed in turpentine, while Rebecca graced the
festal board clad in a blue calico wrapper of Mrs.
"Don't let it take your appetite away," crooned
Mrs. Cobb. "I've got cream biscuit and honey for
you. If the turpentine don't work, I'll try French
chalk, magneshy, and warm suds. If they fail, father
shall run over to Strout's and borry some of the
stuff Marthy got in Milltown to take the currant pie
out of her weddin' dress."
"I ain't got to understandin' this paintin' accident
yet," said uncle Jerry jocosely, as he handed
Rebecca the honey. "Bein' as how there's `Fresh
Paint' signs hung all over the breedge, so 't a blind
asylum couldn't miss 'em, I can't hardly account
for your gettin' int' the pesky stuff."
"I didn't notice the signs," Rebecca said
dolefully. "I suppose I was looking at the falls."
"The falls has been there sence the beginnin'
o' time, an' I cal'late they'll be there till the end
on 't; so you needn't 'a' been in sech a brash to git
a sight of 'em. Children comes turrible high, mother,
but I s'pose we must have 'em!" he said, winking
at Mrs. Cobb.
When supper was cleared away Rebecca insisted
on washing and wiping the dishes, while Mrs. Cobb
worked on the dress with an energy that plainly
showed the gravity of the task. Rebecca kept leaving
her post at the sink to bend anxiously over
the basin and watch her progress, while uncle Jerry
offered advice from time to time.
"You must 'a' laid all over the breedge, deary,"
said Mrs. Cobb; "for the paint 's not only on your
elbows and yoke and waist, but it about covers
your front breadth."
As the garment began to look a little better
Rebecca's spirits took an upward turn, and at length
she left it to dry in the fresh air, and went into the
"Have you a piece of paper, please?" asked
Rebecca. "I'll copy out the poetry I was making
while I was lying in the paint."
Mrs. Cobb sat by her mending basket, and uncle
Jerry took down a gingham bag of strings and occupied
himself in taking the snarls out of them,--a
favorite evening amusement with him.
Rebecca soon had the lines copied in her round
schoolgirl hand, making such improvements as
occurred to her on sober second thought.
THE TWO WISHES by REBECCA RANDALL
Two maidens by a river strayed,
'T was in the state of Maine.
Rebecca was the darker one,
The fairer, Emma Jane.
The fairer maiden said, "I would
My life were as the stream;
So peaceful, and so smooth and still,
So pleasant and serene."
"I'd rather be a little drop
In the great rushing fall;
I'd never choose the quiet lake;
'T would not please me at all."
(It was the darker maiden spoke
The words we just have stated;
The maidens twain were simply friends,
Not sisters, or related.)
But O! alas! we may not have
The things we hope to gain.
The quiet life may come to me,
The rush to Emma Jane!
She read it aloud, and the Cobbs thought it not only
surpassingly beautiful, but a marvelous production
"I guess if that writer that lived on Congress
Street in Portland could 'a' heard your poetry he'd
'a' been astonished," said Mrs. Cobb. "If you ask
me, I say this piece is as good as that one o' his,
`Tell me not in mournful numbers;' and consid'able
"I never could fairly make out what `mournful
numbers' was," remarked Mr. Cobb critically.
"Then I guess you never studied fractions!"
flashed Rebecca. "See here, uncle Jerry and aunt
Sarah, would you write another verse, especially for
a last one, as they usually do--one with `thoughts'
in it--to make a better ending?"
"If you can grind 'em out jest by turnin' the
crank, why I should say the more the merrier; but
I don't hardly see how you could have a better
endin'," observed Mr. Cobb.
"It is horrid!" grumbled Rebecca. "I ought not
to have put that `me' in. I'm writing the poetry.
Nobody ought to know it IS me standing by the
river; it ought to be `Rebecca,' or `the darker
maiden;' and `the rush to Emma Jane' is simply
dreadful. Sometimes I think I never will try poetry,
it's so hard to make it come right; and other times
it just says itself. I wonder if this would be better?
But O! alas! we may not gain
The good for which we pray
The quiet life may come to one
Who likes it rather gay,
I don't know whether that is worse or not. Now for
a new last verse!"
In a few minutes the poetess looked up, flushed
and triumphant. "It was as easy as nothing. Just
hear!" And she read slowly, with her pretty,
Then if our lot be bright or sad,
Be full of smiles, or tears,
The thought that God has planned it so
Should help us bear the years.
Mr. and Mrs. Cobb exchanged dumb glances of
admiration; indeed uncle Jerry was obliged to turn
his face to the window and wipe his eyes furtively
with the string-bag.
"How in the world did you do it?" Mrs. Cobb
"Oh, it's easy," answered Rebecca; "the hymns
at meeting are all like that. You see there's a
school newspaper printed at Wareham Academy
once a month. Dick Carter says the editor is always
a boy, of course; but he allows girls to try and write
for it, and then chooses the best. Dick thinks I can
be in it."
"IN it!" exclaimed uncle Jerry. "I shouldn't
be a bit surprised if you had to write the whole
paper; an' as for any boy editor, you could lick
him writin', I bate ye, with one hand tied behind ye."
"Can we have a copy of the poetry to keep in
the family Bible?" inquired Mrs. Cobb respectfully.
"Oh! would you like it?" asked Rebecca. "Yes
indeed! I'll do a clean, nice one with violet ink
and a fine pen. But I must go and look at my poor
The old couple followed Rebecca into the kitchen.
The frock was quite dry, and in truth it had been
helped a little by aunt Sarah's ministrations; but