Part 3 out of 6
the colors had run in the rubbing, the pattern was
blurred, and there were muddy streaks here and
there. As a last resort, it was carefully smoothed
with a warm iron, and Rebecca was urged to attire
herself, that they might see if the spots showed as
much when it was on.
They did, most uncompromisingly, and to the
dullest eye. Rebecca gave one searching look, and
then said, as she took her hat from a nail in the
entry, "I think I'll be going. Good-night! If I've
got to have a scolding, I want it quick, and get it
"Poor little onlucky misfortunate thing!" sighed
uncle Jerry, as his eyes followed her down the hill.
"I wish she could pay some attention to the ground
under her feet; but I vow, if she was ourn I'd let
her slop paint all over the house before I could
scold her. Here's her poetry she's left behind.
Read it out ag'in, mother. Land!" he continued,
chuckling, as he lighted his cob pipe; "I can just
see the last flap o' that boy-editor's shirt tail as he
legs it for the woods, while Rebecky settles down in
his revolvin' cheer! I'm puzzled as to what kind of
a job editin' is, exactly; but she'll find out, Rebecky
will. An' she'll just edit for all she's worth!
"`The thought that God has planned it so
Should help us bear the years.'
Land, mother! that takes right holt, kind o' like
the gospel. How do you suppose she thought that out?"
"She couldn't have thought it out at her age,"
said Mrs. Cobb; "she must have just guessed it
was that way. We know some things without bein'
Rebecca took her scolding (which she richly
deserved) like a soldier. There was considerable of it,
and Miss Miranda remarked, among other things,
that so absent-minded a child was sure to grow up
into a driveling idiot. She was bidden to stay away
from Alice Robinson's birthday party, and doomed to
wear her dress, stained and streaked as it was, until
it was worn out. Aunt Jane six months later mitigated
this martyrdom by making her a ruffled dimity
pinafore, artfully shaped to conceal all the spots.
She was blessedly ready with these mediations
between the poor little sinner and the full consequences
of her sin.
When Rebecca had heard her sentence and gone
to the north chamber she began to think. If there
was anything she did not wish to grow into, it was
an idiot of any sort, particularly a driveling one;
and she resolved to punish herself every time she
incurred what she considered to be the righteous
displeasure of her virtuous relative. She didn't
mind staying away from Alice Robinson's. She
had told Emma Jane it would be like a picnic in
a graveyard, the Robinson house being as near an
approach to a tomb as a house can manage to be.
Children were commonly brought in at the back
door, and requested to stand on newspapers while
making their call, so that Alice was begged by her
friends to "receive" in the shed or barn whenever
possible. Mrs. Robinson was not only "turrible
neat," but "turrible close," so that the refreshments
were likely to be peppermint lozenges and glasses
of well water.
After considering the relative values, as penances,
of a piece of haircloth worn next the skin, and a
pebble in the shoe, she dismissed them both. The
haircloth could not be found, and the pebble would
attract the notice of the Argus-eyed aunt, besides
being a foolish bar to the activity of a person who
had to do housework and walk a mile and a half to
Her first experimental attempt at martyrdom had
not been a distinguished success. She had stayed
at home from the Sunday-school concert, a func-
tion of which, in ignorance of more alluring ones,
she was extremely fond. As a result of her desertion,
two infants who relied upon her to prompt
them (she knew the verses of all the children better
than they did themselves) broke down ignominiously.
The class to which she belonged had to read
a difficult chapter of Scripture in rotation, and the
various members spent an arduous Sabbath afternoon
counting out verses according to their seats
in the pew, and practicing the ones that would
inevitably fall to them. They were too ignorant to
realize, when they were called upon, that Rebecca's
absence would make everything come wrong, and
the blow descended with crushing force when the
Jebusites and Amorites, the Girgashites, Hivites,
and Perizzites had to be pronounced by the persons
of all others least capable of grappling with them.
Self-punishment, then, to be adequate and proper,
must begin, like charity, at home, and unlike charity
should end there too. Rebecca looked about the
room vaguely as she sat by the window. She must
give up something, and truth to tell she possessed
little to give, hardly anything but--yes, that would
do, the beloved pink parasol. She could not hide it
in the attic, for in some moment of weakness she
would be sure to take it out again. She feared she
had not the moral energy to break it into bits. Her
eyes moved from the parasol to the apple-trees in
the side yard, and then fell to the well curb. That
would do; she would fling her dearest possession into
the depths of the water. Action followed quickly
upon decision, as usual. She slipped down in the
darkness, stole out the front door, approached the
place of sacrifice, lifted the cover of the well, gave one
unresigned shudder, and flung the parasol downward
with all her force. At the crucial instant of
renunciation she was greatly helped by the reflection that
she closely resembled the heathen mothers who cast
their babes to the crocodiles in the Ganges.
She slept well and arose refreshed, as a
consecrated spirit always should and sometimes does.
But there was great difficulty in drawing water after
breakfast. Rebecca, chastened and uplifted, had
gone to school. Abijah Flagg was summoned, lifted
the well cover, explored, found the inciting cause of
trouble, and with the help of Yankee wit succeeded
in removing it. The fact was that the ivory hook of
the parasol had caught in the chain gear, and when
the first attempt at drawing water was made, the
little offering of a contrite heart was jerked up, bent,
its strong ribs jammed into the well side, and
entangled with a twig root. It is needless to say that
no sleight-of-hand performer, however expert, unless
aided by the powers of darkness, could have accomplished
this feat; but a luckless child in the pursuit
of virtue had done it with a turn of the wrist.
We will draw a veil over the scene that occurred
after Rebecca's return from school. You who read
may be well advanced in years, you may be gifted in
rhetoric, ingenious in argument; but even you might
quail at the thought of explaining the tortuous mental
processes that led you into throwing your beloved
pink parasol into Miranda Sawyer's well. Perhaps
you feel equal to discussing the efficacy of spiritual
self-chastisement with a person who closes her lips
into a thin line and looks at you out of blank,
uncomprehending eyes! Common sense, right, and logic
were all arrayed on Miranda's side. When poor Rebecca,
driven to the wall, had to avow the reasons
lying behind the sacrifice of the sunshade, her aunt
said, "Now see here, Rebecca, you're too big to be
whipped, and I shall never whip you; but when you
think you ain't punished enough, just tell me, and
I'll make out to invent a little something more. I
ain't so smart as some folks, but I can do that much;
and whatever it is, it'll be something that won't
punish the whole family, and make 'em drink ivory
dust, wood chips, and pink silk rags with their
Just before Thanksgiving the affairs of the
Simpsons reached what might have been called
a crisis, even in their family, which had been
born and reared in a state of adventurous poverty and
Riverboro was doing its best to return the entire
tribe of Simpsons to the land of its fathers, so to
speak, thinking rightly that the town which had
given them birth, rather than the town of their
adoption, should feed them and keep a roof over their
heads until the children were of an age for self-
support. There was little to eat in the household and
less to wear, though Mrs. Simpson did, as always,
her poor best. The children managed to satisfy their
appetites by sitting modestly outside their neighbors'
kitchen doors when meals were about to be
served. They were not exactly popular favorites, but
they did receive certain undesirable morsels from the
more charitable housewives.
Life was rather dull and dreary, however, and in
the chill and gloom of November weather, with the
vision of other people's turkeys bursting with fat,
and other people's golden pumpkins and squashes
and corn being garnered into barns, the young
Simpsons groped about for some inexpensive form
of excitement, and settled upon the selling of soap
for a premium. They had sold enough to their
immediate neighbors during the earlier autumn to
secure a child's handcart, which, though very weak
on its pins, could be trundled over the country roads.
With large business sagacity and an executive capacity
which must have been inherited from their father,
they now proposed to extend their operations
to a larger area and distribute soap to contiguous
villages, if these villages could be induced to buy. The
Excelsior Soap Company paid a very small return of
any kind to its infantile agents, who were scattered
through the state, but it inflamed their imaginations
by the issue of circulars with highly colored pictures
of the premiums to be awarded for the sale of a certain
number of cakes. It was at this juncture that
Clara Belle and Susan Simpson consulted Rebecca,
who threw herself solidly and wholeheartedly into the
enterprise, promising her help and that of Emma
Jane Perkins. The premiums within their possible
grasp were three: a bookcase, a plush reclining chair,
and a banquet lamp. Of course the Simpsons had
no books, and casting aside, without thought or pang,
the plush chair, which might have been of some
use in a family of seven persons (not counting Mr.
Simpson, who ordinarily sat elsewhere at the town's
expense), they warmed themselves rapturously in
the vision of the banquet lamp, which speedily be-
came to them more desirable than food, drink, or
clothing. Neither Emma Jane nor Rebecca perceived
anything incongruous in the idea of the
Simpsons striving for a banquet lamp. They looked
at the picture daily and knew that if they themselves
were free agents they would toil, suffer, ay sweat,
for the happy privilege of occupying the same room
with that lamp through the coming winter evenings.
It looked to be about eight feet tall in the catalogue,
and Emma Jane advised Clara Belle to measure the
height of the Simpson ceilings; but a note in the
margin of the circular informed them that it stood
two and a half feet high when set up in all its dignity
and splendor on a proper table, three dollars extra.
It was only of polished brass, continued the circular,
though it was invariably mistaken for solid gold, and
the shade that accompanied it (at least it accompanied
it if the agent sold a hundred extra cakes)
was of crinkled crepe paper printed in a dozen
delicious hues, from which the joy-dazzled agent might
take his choice.
Seesaw Simpson was not in the syndicate. Clara
Belle was rather a successful agent, but Susan, who
could only say "thoap," never made large returns,
and the twins, who were somewhat young to be thoroughly
trustworthy, could be given only a half dozen
cakes at a time, and were obliged to carry with them
on their business trips a brief document stating the
price per cake, dozen, and box. Rebecca and Emma
Jane offered to go two or three miles in some one
direction and see what they could do in the way of
stirring up a popular demand for the Snow-White and
Rose-Red brands, the former being devoted to laundry
purposes and the latter being intended for the toilet.
There was a great amount of hilarity in the
preparation for this event, and a long council in Emma
Jane's attic. They had the soap company's circular
from which to arrange a proper speech, and they
had, what was still better, the remembrance of a
certain patent-medicine vender's discourse at the
Milltown Fair. His method, when once observed,
could never be forgotten; nor his manner, nor his
vocabulary. Emma Jane practiced it on Rebecca,
and Rebecca on Emma Jane.
"Can I sell you a little soap this afternoon? It
is called the Snow-White and Rose-Red Soap, six
cakes in an ornamental box, only twenty cents for
the white, twenty-five cents for the red. It is made
from the purest ingredients, and if desired could be
eaten by an invalid with relish and profit."
"Oh, Rebecca, don't let's say that!" interposed
Emma Jane hysterically. "It makes me feel like a
"It takes so little to make you feel like a fool,
Emma Jane," rebuked Rebecca, "that sometimes I
think that you must BE one I don't get to feeling
like a fool so awfully easy; now leave out that eating
part if you don't like it, and go on."
"The Snow-White is probably the most remarkable
laundry soap ever manufactured. Immerse the
garments in a tub, lightly rubbing the more soiled
portions with the soap; leave them submerged in
water from sunset to sunrise, and then the youngest
baby can wash them without the slightest effort."
"BABE, not baby," corrected Rebecca from the circular.
"It's just the same thing," argued Emma Jane.
"Of course it's just the same THING; but a baby
has got to be called babe or infant in a circular,
the same as it is in poetry! Would you rather say infant?"
"No," grumbled Emma Jane; "infant is worse
even than babe. Rebecca, do you think we'd better
do as the circular says, and let Elijah or Elisha try
the soap before we begin selling?"
"I can't imagine a babe doing a family wash with
ANY soap," answered Rebecca; "but it must be true
or they would never dare to print it, so don't let's
bother. Oh! won't it be the greatest fun, Emma
Jane? At some of the houses--where they can't
possibly know me--I shan't be frightened, and I
shall reel off the whole rigmarole, invalid, babe, and
all. Perhaps I shall say even the last sentence, if I
can remember it: `We sound every chord in the
great mac-ro-cosm of satisfaction."
This conversation took place on a Friday afternoon
at Emma Jane's house, where Rebecca, to her
unbounded joy, was to stay over Sunday, her aunts
having gone to Portland to the funeral of an old
friend. Saturday being a holiday, they were going
to have the old white horse, drive to North Riverboro
three miles away, eat a twelve o'clock dinner
with Emma Jane's cousins, and be back at four
When the children asked Mrs. Perkins if they
could call at just a few houses coming and going,
and sell a little soap for the Simpsons, she at first
replied decidedly in the negative. She was an
indulgent parent, however, and really had little
objection to Emma Jane amusing herself in this unusual
way; it was only for Rebecca, as the niece of the
difficult Miranda Sawyer, that she raised scruples;
but when fully persuaded that the enterprise was a
charitable one, she acquiesced.
The girls called at Mr. Watson's store, and
arranged for several large boxes of soap to be charged
to Clara Belle Simpson's account. These were
lifted into the back of the wagon, and a happier
couple never drove along the country road than
Rebecca and her companion. It was a glorious
Indian summer day, which suggested nothing of
Thanksgiving, near at hand as it was. It was a
rustly day, a scarlet and buff, yellow and carmine,
bronze and crimson day. There were still many
leaves on the oaks and maples, making a goodly
show of red and brown and gold. The air was like
sparkling cider, and every field had its heaps of
yellow and russet good things to eat, all ready for the
barns, the mills, and the markets. The horse forgot
his twenty years, sniffed the sweet bright air, and
trotted like a colt; Nokomis Mountain looked blue
and clear in the distance; Rebecca stood in the
wagon, and apostrophized the landscape with sudden
joy of living:--
"Great, wide, beautiful, wonderful World,
With the wonderful water round you curled,
And the wonderful grass upon your breast,
World, you are beautifully drest!"
Dull Emma Jane had never seemed to Rebecca
so near, so dear, so tried and true; and Rebecca,
to Emma Jane's faithful heart, had never been so
brilliant, so bewildering, so fascinating, as in this
visit together, with its intimacy, its freedom, and
the added delights of an exciting business enterprise.
A gorgeous leaf blew into the wagon.
"Does color make you sort of dizzy?" asked Rebecca.
"No," answered Emma Jane after a long pause;
"no, it don't; not a mite."
"Perhaps dizzy isn't just the right word, but it's
nearest. I'd like to eat color, and drink it, and
sleep in it. If you could be a tree, which one
would you choose?"
Emma Jane had enjoyed considerable experience
of this kind, and Rebecca had succeeded in unstopping
her ears, ungluing her eyes, and loosening her
tongue, so that she could "play the game" after
"I'd rather be an apple-tree in blossom,--that
one that blooms pink, by our pig-pen."
Rebecca laughed. There was always something
unexpected in Emma Jane's replies. "I'd choose
to be that scarlet maple just on the edge of the
pond there,"--and she pointed with the whip.
"Then I could see so much more than your pink
apple-tree by the pig-pen. I could look at all the
rest of the woods, see my scarlet dress in my beautiful
looking-glass, and watch all the yellow and brown
trees growing upside down in the water. When
I'm old enough to earn money, I'm going to have
a dress like this leaf, all ruby color--thin, you
know, with a sweeping train and ruffly, curly edges;
then I think I'll have a brown sash like the trunk
of the tree, and where could I be green? Do they
have green petticoats, I wonder? I'd like a green
petticoat coming out now and then underneath to
show what my leaves were like before I was a scarlet maple."
"I think it would be awful homely," said Emma
Jane. "I'm going to have a white satin with a pink
sash, pink stockings, bronze slippers, and a spangled
A single hour's experience of the vicissitudes
incident to a business career clouded
the children's spirits just the least bit.
They did not accompany each other to the doors
of their chosen victims, feeling sure that together
they could not approach the subject seriously;
but they parted at the gate of each house, the
one holding the horse while the other took the
soap samples and interviewed any one who seemed
of a coming-on disposition. Emma Jane had disposed
of three single cakes, Rebecca of three small
boxes; for a difference in their ability to persuade
the public was clearly defined at the start, though
neither of them ascribed either success or defeat to
anything but the imperious force of circumstances.
Housewives looked at Emma Jane and desired no
soap; listened to her description of its merits, and
still desired none. Other stars in their courses
governed Rebecca's doings. The people whom she
interviewed either remembered their present need
of soap, or reminded themselves that they would
need it in the future; the notable point in the case
being that lucky Rebecca accomplished, with almost
no effort, results that poor little Emma Jane failed
to attain by hard and conscientious labor.
"It's your turn, Rebecca, and I'm glad, too,"
said Emma Jane, drawing up to a gateway and
indicating a house that was set a considerable
distance from the road. "I haven't got over
trembling from the last place yet." (A lady had put her
head out of an upstairs window and called, "Go
away, little girl; whatever you have in your box we
don't want any.") "I don't know who lives here,
and the blinds are all shut in front. If there's
nobody at home you mustn't count it, but take the
next house as yours."
Rebecca walked up the lane and went to the
side door. There was a porch there, and seated in
a rocking-chair, husking corn, was a good-looking
young man, or was he middle aged? Rebecca
could not make up her mind. At all events he had
an air of the city about him,--well-shaven face,
well-trimmed mustache, well-fitting clothes.
Rebecca was a trifle shy at this unexpected encounter,
but there was nothing to be done but explain her
presence, so she asked, "Is the lady of the house
"I am the lady of the house at present," said
the stranger, with a whimsical smile. "What can I
do for you?"
"Have you ever heard of the--would you like, or
I mean--do you need any soap?" queried Rebecca
"Do I look as if I did?" he responded
Rebecca dimpled. "I didn't mean THAT; I have
some soap to sell; I mean I would like to introduce
to you a very remarkable soap, the best now
on the market. It is called the"--
"Oh! I must know that soap," said the gentleman
genially. "Made out of pure vegetable fats,
"The very purest," corroborated Rebecca.
"No acid in it?"
"Not a trace."
"And yet a child could do the Monday washing
with it and use no force."
"A babe," corrected Rebecca
"Oh! a babe, eh? That child grows younger
every year, instead of older--wise child!"
This was great good fortune, to find a customer
who knew all the virtues of the article in advance.
Rebecca dimpled more and more, and at her new
friend's invitation sat down on a stool at his side
near the edge of the porch. The beauties of the
ornamental box which held the Rose-Red were
disclosed, and the prices of both that and the Snow-
White were unfolded. Presently she forgot all
about her silent partner at the gate and was talking
as if she had known this grand personage all her
"I'm keeping house to-day, but I don't live here,"
explained the delightful gentleman. "I'm just on
a visit to my aunt, who has gone to Portland.
I used to be here as a boy. and I am very fond of
"I don't think anything takes the place of the
farm where one lived when one was a child,"
observed Rebecca, nearly bursting with pride at having
at last successfully used the indefinite pronoun in
The man darted a look at her and put down his
ear of corn. "So you consider your childhood a
thing of the past, do you, young lady?"
"I can still remember it," answered Rebecca
gravely, "though it seems a long time ago."
"I can remember mine well enough, and a
particularly unpleasant one it was," said the stranger.
"So was mine," sighed Rebecca. "What was
your worst trouble?"
"Lack of food and clothes principally."
"Oh!" exclaimed Rebecca sympathetically,--
"mine was no shoes and too many babies and not
enough books. But you're all right and happy
now, aren't you?" she asked doubtfully, for though
he looked handsome, well-fed, and prosperous, any
child could see that his eyes were tired and his
mouth was sad when he was not speaking.
"I'm doing pretty well, thank you," said the
man, with a delightful smile. "Now tell me, how
much soap ought I to buy to-day?"
"How much has your aunt on hand now?"
suggested the very modest and inexperienced agent;
"and how much would she need?"
"Oh, I don't know about that; soap keeps,
"I'm not certain," said Rebecca conscientiously,
"but I'll look in the circular--it's sure to tell;"
and she drew the document from her pocket.
"What are you going to do with the magnificent
profits you get from this business?"
"We are not selling for our own benefit," said
Rebecca confidentially. "My friend who is holding
the horse at the gate is the daughter of a very
rich blacksmith, and doesn't need any money. I
am poor, but I live with my aunts in a brick house,
and of course they wouldn't like me to be a
peddler. We are trying to get a premium for some
friends of ours."
Rebecca had never thought of alluding to the
circumstances with her previous customers, but
unexpectedly she found herself describing Mr. Simpson,
Mrs. Simpson, and the Simpson family; their poverty,
their joyless life, and their abject need of a
banquet lamp to brighten their existence.
"You needn't argue that point," laughed the
man, as he stood up to get a glimpse of the "rich
blacksmith's daughter" at the gate. "I can see that
they ought to have it if they want it, and especially
if you want them to have it. I've known what it was
myself to do without a banquet lamp. Now give me
the circular, and let's do some figuring. How much
do the Simpsons lack at this moment?"
"If they sell two hundred more cakes this month
and next, they can have the lamp by Christmas,"
Rebecca answered, "and they can get a shade by
summer time; but I'm afraid I can't help very much
after to-day, because my aunt Miranda may not like
to have me."
"I see. Well, that's all right. I'll take three
hundred cakes, and that will give them shade and
Rebecca had been seated on a stool very near to
the edge of the porch, and at this remark she made
a sudden movement, tipped over, and disappeared
into a clump of lilac bushes. It was a very short
distance, fortunately, and the amused capitalist picked
her up, set her on her feet, and brushed her off.
"You should never seem surprised when you have
taken a large order," said he; "you ought to have
replied `Can't you make it three hundred and fifty?'
instead of capsizing in that unbusinesslike way."
"Oh, I could never say anything like that!"
exclaimed Rebecca, who was blushing crimson at her
awkward fall. "But it doesn't seem right for you
to buy so much. Are you sure you can afford it?"
"If I can't, I'll save on something else," returned
the jocose philanthropist.
"What if your aunt shouldn't like the kind of
soap?" queried Rebecca nervously.
"My aunt always likes what I like," he returned
"Mine doesn't!" exclaimed Rebecca
"Then there's something wrong with your aunt!"
"Or with me," laughed Rebecca.
"What is your name, young lady?"
"Rebecca Rowena Randall, sir."
"What?" with an amused smile. "BOTH? Your
mother was generous."
"She couldn't bear to give up either of the
names she says."
"Do you want to hear my name?"
"I think I know already," answered Rebecca, with
a bright glance. "I'm sure you must be Mr. Aladdin
in the Arabian Nights. Oh, please, can I run
down and tell Emma Jane? She must be so tired
waiting, and she will be so glad!"
At the man's nod of assent Rebecca sped down
the lane, crying irrepressibly as she neared the
wagon, "Oh, Emma Jane! Emma Jane! we are sold
Mr. Aladdin followed smilingly to corroborate
this astonishing, unbelievable statement; lifted all
their boxes from the back of the wagon, and taking
the circular, promised to write to the Excelsior
Company that night concerning the premium.
"If you could contrive to keep a secret,--you
two little girls,--it would be rather a nice surprise
to have the lamp arrive at the Simpsons' on Thanksgiving
Day, wouldn't it?" he asked, as he tucked
the old lap robe cosily over their feet.
They gladly assented, and broke into a chorus of
excited thanks during which tears of joy stood in
"Oh, don't mention it!" laughed Mr. Aladdin,
lifting his hat. "I was a sort of commercial traveler
myself once,--years ago,--and I like to see
the thing well done. Good-by Miss Rebecca Rowena!
Just let me know whenever you have anything
to sell, for I'm certain beforehand I shall want it."
"Good-by, Mr. Aladdin! I surely will!" cried
Rebecca, tossing back her dark braids delightedly
and waving her hand.
"Oh, Rebecca!" said Emma Jane in an awe-
struck whisper. "He raised his hat to us, and we
not thirteen! It'll be five years before we're
"Never mind," answered Rebecca; "we are the
BEGINNINGS of ladies, even now."
"He tucked the lap robe round us, too,"
continued Emma Jane, in an ecstasy of reminiscence.
"Oh! isn't he perfectly elergant? And wasn't it
lovely of him to buy us out? And just think of
having both the lamp and the shade for one day's
work! Aren't you glad you wore your pink gingham
now, even if mother did make you put on
flannel underneath? You do look so pretty in pink
and red, Rebecca, and so homely in drab and
"I know it," sighed Rebecca "I wish I was
like you--pretty in all colors!" And Rebecca
looked longingly at Emma Jane's fat, rosy cheeks;
at her blue eyes, which said nothing; at her neat
nose, which had no character; at her red lips, from
between which no word worth listening to had ever
"Never mind!" said Emma Jane comfortingly.
"Everybody says you're awful bright and smart, and
mother thinks you'll be better looking all the time
as you grow older. You wouldn't believe it, but I
was a dreadful homely baby, and homely right along
till just a year or two ago, when my red hair began
to grow dark. What was the nice man's name?"
"I never thought to ask!" ejaculated Rebecca.
"Aunt Miranda would say that was just like me,
and it is. But I called him Mr. Aladdin because he
gave us a lamp. You know the story of Aladdin and
the wonderful lamp?"
"Oh, Rebecca! how could you call him a nickname
the very first time you ever saw him?"
"Aladdin isn't a nickname exactly; anyway, he
laughed and seemed to like it."
By dint of superhuman effort, and putting such
a seal upon their lips as never mortals put before,
the two girls succeeded in keeping their wonderful
news to themselves; although it was obvious to all
beholders that they were in an extraordinary and
abnormal state of mind.
On Thanksgiving the lamp arrived in a large
packing box, and was taken out and set up by See-
saw Simpson, who suddenly began to admire and
respect the business ability of his sisters. Rebecca
had heard the news of its arrival, but waited until
nearly dark before asking permission to go to the
Simpsons', so that she might see the gorgeous
trophy lighted and sending a blaze of crimson
glory through its red crepe paper shade.
THE BANQUET LAMP
There had been company at the brick
house to the bountiful Thanksgiving
dinner which had been provided at one
o'clock,--the Burnham sisters, who lived between
North Riverboro and Shaker Village, and who for
more than a quarter of a century had come to pass
the holiday with the Sawyers every year. Rebecca
sat silent with a book after the dinner dishes were
washed, and when it was nearly five asked if she
might go to the Simpsons'.
"What do you want to run after those Simpson
children for on a Thanksgiving Day?" queried Miss
Miranda. "Can't you set still for once and listen
to the improvin' conversation of your elders? You
never can let well enough alone, but want to be forever
on the move."
"The Simpsons have a new lamp, and Emma
Jane and I promised to go up and see it lighted,
and make it a kind of a party."
"What under the canopy did they want of a
lamp, and where did they get the money to pay for
it? If Abner was at home, I should think he'd been
swappin' again," said Miss Miranda.
"The children got it as a prize for selling soap,"
replied Rebecca; "they've been working for a year,
and you know I told you that Emma Jane and I
helped them the Saturday afternoon you were in
"I didn't take notice, I s'pose, for it's the first
time I ever heard the lamp mentioned. Well, you
can go for an hour, and no more. Remember it's
as dark at six as it is at midnight Would you like
to take along some Baldwin apples? What have
you got in the pocket of that new dress that makes
it sag down so?"
"It's my nuts and raisins from dinner," replied
Rebecca, who never succeeded in keeping the most
innocent action a secret from her aunt Miranda;
"they're just what you gave me on my plate."
"Why didn't you eat them?"
"Because I'd had enough dinner, and I thought
if I saved these, it would make the Simpsons'
party better," stammered Rebecca, who hated to
be scolded and examined before company.
"They were your own, Rebecca," interposed
aunt Jane, "and if you chose to save them to give
away, it is all right. We ought never to let this day
pass without giving our neighbors something to be
thankful for, instead of taking all the time to think
of our own mercies."
The Burnham sisters nodded approvingly as
Rebecca went out, and remarked that they had never
seen a child grow and improve so fast in so short a
"There's plenty of room left for more improvement,
as you'd know if she lived in the same house
with you," answered Miranda. "She's into every
namable thing in the neighborhood, an' not only
into it, but generally at the head an' front of it,
especially when it's mischief. Of all the foolishness
I ever heard of, that lamp beats everything; it's
just like those Simpsons, but I didn't suppose the
children had brains enough to sell anything."
"One of them must have," said Miss Ellen
Burnham, "for the girl that was selling soap at the
Ladds' in North Riverboro was described by Adam
Ladd as the most remarkable and winning child he
"It must have been Clara Belle, and I should
never call her remarkable," answered Miss Miranda.
"Has Adam been home again?"
"Yes, he's been staying a few days with his aunt.
There's no limit to the money he's making, they
say; and he always brings presents for all the
neighbors. This time it was a full set of furs for
Mrs. Ladd; and to think we can remember the
time he was a barefoot boy without two shirts to his
back! It is strange he hasn't married, with all his
money, and him so fond of children that he always
has a pack of them at his heels."
"There's hope for him still, though," said Miss
Jane smilingly; "for I don't s'pose he's more than
"He could get a wife in Riverboro if he was a
hundred and thirty," remarked Miss Miranda.
"Adam's aunt says he was so taken with the little
girl that sold the soap (Clara Belle, did you say her
name was?), that he declared he was going to bring
her a Christmas present," continued Miss Ellen.
"Well, there's no accountin' for tastes," exclaimed
Miss Miranda. "Clara Belle's got cross-eyes and
red hair, but I'd be the last one to grudge her a
Christmas present; the more Adam Ladd gives to
her the less the town'll have to."
"Isn't there another Simpson girl?" asked Miss
Lydia Burnham; "for this one couldn't have been
cross-eyed; I remember Mrs. Ladd saying Adam
remarked about this child's handsome eyes. He said
it was her eyes that made him buy the three hundred
cakes. Mrs. Ladd has it stacked up in the shed
"Three hundred cakes!" ejaculated Miranda.
"Well, there's one crop that never fails in Riverboro!"
"What's that?" asked Miss Lydia politely.
"The fool crop," responded Miranda tersely, and
changed the subject, much to Jane's gratitude, for
she had been nervous and ill at ease for the last fifteen
minutes. What child in Riverboro could be
described as remarkable and winning, save Rebecca?
What child had wonderful eyes, except the same
Rebecca? and finally, was there ever a child in the
world who could make a man buy soap by the hundred
cakes, save Rebecca?
Meantime the "remarkable" child had flown up
the road in the deepening dusk, but she had not
gone far before she heard the sound of hurrying
footsteps, and saw a well-known figure coming in
her direction. In a moment she and Emma Jane
met and exchanged a breathless embrace.
"Something awful has happened," panted Emma
"Don't tell me it's broken," exclaimed Rebecca.
"No! oh, no! not that! It was packed in straw,
and every piece came out all right; and I was there,
and I never said a single thing about your selling
the three hundred cakes that got the lamp, so that
we could be together when you told."
"OUR selling the three hundred cakes," corrected
Rebecca; "you did as much as I."
"No, I didn't, Rebecca Randall. I just sat at the
gate and held the horse."
"Yes, but WHOSE horse was it that took us to
North Riverboro? And besides, it just happened
to be my turn. If you had gone in and found Mr.
Aladdin you would have had the wonderful lamp
given to you; but what's the trouble?"
"The Simpsons have no kerosene and no wicks.
I guess they thought a banquet lamp was something
that lighted itself, and burned without any
help. Seesaw has gone to the doctor's to try if he
can borrow a wick, and mother let me have a pint
of oil, but she says she won't give me any more.
We never thought of the expense of keeping up
the lamp, Rebecca."
"No, we didn't, but let's not worry about that
till after the party. I have a handful of nuts and
raisins and some apples."
"I have peppermints and maple sugar," said
Emma Jane. "They had a real Thanksgiving dinner;
the doctor gave them sweet potatoes and cranberries
and turnips; father sent a spare-rib, and Mrs.
Cobb a chicken and a jar of mince-meat."
At half past five one might have looked in at
the Simpsons' windows, and seen the party at its
height. Mrs. Simpson had let the kitchen fire die
out, and had brought the baby to grace the festal
scene. The lamp seemed to be having the party,
and receiving the guests. The children had taken
the one small table in the house, and it was placed
in the far corner of the room to serve as a pedestal.
On it stood the sacred, the adored, the long-desired
object; almost as beautiful, and nearly half as large
as the advertisement. The brass glistened like gold,
and the crimson paper shade glowed like a giant
ruby. In the wide splash of light that it flung upon
the floor sat the Simpsons, in reverent and solemn
silence, Emma Jane standing behind them, hand in
hand with Rebecca. There seemed to be no desire
for conversation; the occasion was too thrilling and
serious for that. The lamp, it was tacitly felt by
everybody, was dignifying the party, and providing
sufficient entertainment simply by its presence;
being fully as satisfactory in its way as a pianola or
a string band.
"I wish father could see it," said Clara Belle
"If he onth thaw it he'd want to thwap it,"
murmured Susan sagaciously.
At the appointed hour Rebecca dragged herself
reluctantly away from the enchanting scene.
"I'll turn the lamp out the minute I think you
and Emma Jane are home," said Clara Belle.
"And, oh! I'm so glad you both live where you
can see it shine from our windows. I wonder how
long it will burn without bein' filled if I only keep
it lit one hour every night?"
"You needn't put it out for want o' karosene,"
said Seesaw, coming in from the shed, "for there's
a great kag of it settin' out there. Mr. Tubbs
brought it over from North Riverboro and said
somebody sent an order by mail for it."
Rebecca squeezed Emma Jane's arm, and Emma
Jane gave a rapturous return squeeze. "It was Mr.
Aladdin," whispered Rebecca, as they ran down
the path to the gate. Seesaw followed them and
handsomely offered to see them "apiece" down
the road, but Rebecca declined his escort with
such decision that he did not press the matter, but
went to bed to dream of her instead. In his dreams
flashes of lightning proceeded from both her eyes,
and she held a flaming sword in either hand.
Rebecca entered the home dining-room joyously.
The Burnham sisters had gone and the two aunts
"It was a heavenly party," she cried, taking off
her hat and cape.
"Go back and see if you have shut the door
tight, and then lock it," said Miss Miranda, in her
usual austere manner.
"It was a heavenly party," reiterated Rebecca,
coming in again, much too excited to be easily
crushed, "and oh! aunt Jane, aunt Miranda, if
you'll only come into the kitchen and look out of
the sink window, you can see the banquet lamp
shining all red, just as if the Simpsons' house was
"And probably it will be before long," observed
Miranda. "I've got no patience with such foolish
Jane accompanied Rebecca into the kitchen.
Although the feeble glimmer which she was able
to see from that distance did not seem to her a
dazzling exhibition, she tried to be as enthusiastic
"Rebecca, who was it that sold the three
hundred cakes of soap to Mr. Ladd in North Riverboro?"
"Mr. WHO?" exclaimed Rebecca
"Mr. Ladd, in North Riverboro."
"Is that his real name?" queried Rebecca in
astonishment. "I didn't make a bad guess;" and
she laughed softly to herself.
"I asked you who sold the soap to Adam
Ladd?" resumed Miss Jane.
"Adam Ladd! then he's A. Ladd, too; what fun!"
"Answer me, Rebecca."
"Oh! excuse me, aunt Jane, I was so busy
thinking. Emma Jane and I sold the soap to Mr.
"Did you tease him, or make him buy it?"
"Now, aunt Jane, how could I make a big
grown-up man buy anything if he didn't want to?
He needed the soap dreadfully as a present for his
Miss Jane still looked a little unconvinced,
though she only said, "I hope your aunt Miranda
won't mind, but you know how particular she is,
Rebecca, and I really wish you wouldn't do
anything out of the ordinary without asking her first,
for your actions are very queer."
"There can't be anything wrong this time,"
Rebecca answered confidently. "Emma Jane sold
her cakes to her own relations and to uncle Jerry
Cobb, and I went first to those new tenements near
the lumber mill, and then to the Ladds'. Mr. Ladd
bought all we had and made us promise to keep
the secret until the premium came, and I've been
going about ever since as if the banquet lamp was
inside of me all lighted up and burning, for everybody
Rebecca's hair was loosened and falling over her
forehead in ruffled waves; her eyes were brilliant,
her cheeks crimson; there was a hint of everything
in the girl's face,--of sensitiveness and delicacy
as well as of ardor; there was the sweetness
of the mayflower and the strength of the young
oak, but one could easily divine that she was one of
"The souls by nature pitched too high,
By suffering plunged too low."
"That's just the way you look, for all the world
as if you did have a lamp burning inside of you,"
sighed aunt Jane. "Rebecca! Rebecca! I wish
you could take things easier, child; I am fearful
for you sometimes."
SEASONS OF GROWTH
The days flew by; as summer had melted
into autumn so autumn had given place to
winter. Life in the brick house had gone
on more placidly of late, for Rebecca was honestly
trying to be more careful in the performance of her
tasks and duties as well as more quiet in her plays,
and she was slowly learning the power of the soft
answer in turning away wrath.
Miranda had not had, perhaps, quite as many
opportunities in which to lose her temper, but it is
only just to say that she had not fully availed herself
of all that had offered themselves.
There had been one outburst of righteous wrath
occasioned by Rebecca's over-hospitable habits,
which were later shown in a still more dramatic and
On a certain Friday afternoon she asked her aunt
Miranda if she might take half her bread and milk
upstairs to a friend.
"What friend have you got up there, for pity's
sake?" demanded aunt Miranda.
"The Simpson baby, come to stay over Sunday;
that is, if you're willing, Mrs. Simpson says she is.
Shall I bring her down and show her? She's dressed
in an old dress of Emma Jane's and she looks sweet."
"You can bring her down, but you can't show
her to me! You can smuggle her out the way you
smuggled her in and take her back to her mother.
Where on earth do you get your notions, borrowing
a baby for Sunday!"
"You're so used to a house without a baby you
don't know how dull it is," sighed Rebecca resignedly,
as she moved towards the door; "but at the
farm there was always a nice fresh one to play with
and cuddle. There were too many, but that's not
half as bad as none at all. Well, I'll take her back.
She'll be dreadfully disappointed and so will Mrs.
Simpson. She was planning to go to Milltown."
"She can un-plan then," observed Miss Miranda.
"Perhaps I can go up there and take care of the
baby?" suggested Rebecca. "I brought her home
so 't I could do my Saturday work just the same."
"You've got enough to do right here, without
any borrowed babies to make more steps. Now, no
answering back, just give the child some supper and
carry it home where it belongs."
"You don't want me to go down the front way,
hadn't I better just come through this room and
let you look at her? She has yellow hair and big
blue eyes! Mrs. Simpson says she takes after her
Miss Miranda smiled acidly as she said she
couldn't take after her father, for he'd take any
thing there was before she got there!
Aunt Jane was in the linen closet upstairs, sorting
out the clean sheets and pillow cases for Saturday,
and Rebecca sought comfort from her.
"I brought the Simpson baby home, aunt Jane,
thinking it would help us over a dull Sunday, but
aunt Miranda won't let her stay. Emma Jane has
the promise of her next Sunday and Alice Robinson
the next. Mrs. Simpson wanted I should have her
first because I've had so much experience in babies.
Come in and look at her sitting up in my bed, aunt
Jane! Isn't she lovely? She's the fat, gurgly
kind, not thin and fussy like some babies, and I
thought I was going to have her to undress and
dress twice each day. Oh dear! I wish I could
have a printed book with everything set down in it
that I COULD do, and then I wouldn't get disappointed
"No book could be printed that would fit you,
Rebecca," answered aunt Jane, "for nobody could
imagine beforehand the things you'd want to do.
Are you going to carry that heavy child home in
"No, I'm going to drag her in the little
soap-wagon. Come, baby! Take your thumb out of
your mouth and come to ride with Becky in your
go-cart." She stretched out her strong young arms
to the crowing baby, sat down in a chair with the
child, turned her upside down unceremoniously,
took from her waistband and scornfully flung away
a crooked pin, walked with her (still in a highly
reversed position) to the bureau, selected a large
safety pin, and proceeded to attach her brief red
flannel petticoat to a sort of shirt that she wore.
Whether flat on her stomach, or head down, heels
in the air, the Simpson baby knew she was in the
hands of an expert, and continued gurgling placidly
while aunt Jane regarded the pantomime with a
kind of dazed awe.
"Bless my soul, Rebecca," she ejaculated, "it
beats all how handy you are with babies!"
"I ought to be; I've brought up three and a
half of 'em," Rebecca responded cheerfully, pulling
up the infant Simpson's stockings.
"I should think you'd be fonder of dolls than
you are," said Jane.
"I do like them, but there's never any change
in a doll; it's always the same everlasting old doll,
and you have to make believe it's cross or sick, or
it loves you, or can't bear you. Babies are more
trouble, but nicer."
Miss Jane stretched out a thin hand with a slender,
worn band of gold on the finger, and the baby
curled her dimpled fingers round it and held it fast.
"You wear a ring on your engagement finger,
don't you, aunt Jane? Did you ever think about
"Yes, dear, long ago."
"What happened, aunt Jane?"
"He died--just before."
"Oh!" And Rebecca's eyes grew misty.
"He was a soldier and he died of a gunshot
wound, in a hospital, down South."
"Oh! aunt Jane!" softly. "Away from you?"
"No, I was with him."
"Was he young?"
"Yes; young and brave and handsome, Rebecca;
he was Mr. Carter's brother Tom."
"Oh! I'm so glad you were with him! Wasn't
he glad, aunt Jane?"
Jane looked back across the half-forgotten years,
and the vision of Tom's gladness flashed upon her:
his haggard smile, the tears in his tired eyes, his
outstretched arms, his weak voice saying, "Oh, Jenny!
Dear Jenny! I've wanted you so, Jenny!" It was
too much! She had never breathed a word of it
before to a human creature, for there was no one who
would have understood. Now, in a shamefaced way,
to hide her brimming eyes, she put her head down
on the young shoulder beside her, saying, "It was
The Simpson baby had cuddled down sleepily in
Rebecca's lap, leaning her head back and sucking
her thumb contentedly. Rebecca put her cheek
down until it touched her aunt's gray hair and softly
patted her, as she said, "I'm sorry, aunt Jane!"
The girl's eyes were soft and tender and the
heart within her stretched a little and grew; grew
in sweetness and intuition and depth of feeling. It
had looked into another heart, felt it beat, and
heard it sigh; and that is how all hearts grow.
Episodes like these enlivened the quiet course of
every-day existence, made more quiet by the departure
of Dick Carter, Living Perkins, and Huldah
Meserve for Wareham, and the small attendance at
the winter school, from which the younger children
of the place stayed away during the cold weather.
Life, however, could never be thoroughly dull
or lacking in adventure to a child of Rebecca's
temperament. Her nature was full of adaptability,
fluidity, receptivity. She made friends everywhere
she went, and snatched up acquaintances in every
It was she who ran to the shed door to take the
dish to the "meat man" or "fish man;" she who
knew the family histories of the itinerant fruit
venders and tin peddlers; she who was asked to take
supper or pass the night with children in neighboring
villages--children of whose parents her aunts
had never so much as heard. As to the nature of
these friendships, which seemed so many to the
eye of the superficial observer, they were of various
kinds, and while the girl pursued them with
enthusiasm and ardor, they left her unsatisfied and
heart-hungry; they were never intimacies such as
are so readily made by shallow natures. She loved
Emma Jane, but it was a friendship born of propinquity
and circumstance, not of true affinity. It was
her neighbor's amiability, constancy, and devotion
that she loved, and although she rated these qualities
at their true value, she was always searching
beyond them for intellectual treasures; searching
and never finding, for although Emma Jane had
the advantage in years she was still immature.
Huldah Meserve had an instinctive love of fun
which appealed to Rebecca; she also had a fascinating
knowledge of the world, from having visited
her married sisters in Milltown and Portland; but
on the other hand there was a certain sharpness
and lack of sympathy in Huldah which repelled
rather than attracted. With Dick Carter she could
at least talk intelligently about lessons. He was a
very ambitious boy, full of plans for his future, which
he discussed quite freely with Rebecca, but when
she broached the subject of her future his interest
sensibly lessened. Into the world of the ideal Emma
Jane, Huldah, and Dick alike never seemed to have
peeped, and the consciousness of this was always a
fixed gulf between them and Rebecca.
"Uncle Jerry" and "aunt Sarah" Cobb were
dear friends of quite another sort, a very satisfying
and perhaps a somewhat dangerous one. A visit
from Rebecca always sent them into a twitter of
delight. Her merry conversation and quaint come-
ments on life in general fairly dazzled the old couple,
who hung on her lightest word as if it had been
a prophet's utterance; and Rebecca, though she
had had no previous experience, owned to herself a
perilous pleasure in being dazzling, even to a couple
of dear humdrum old people like Mr. and Mrs. Cobb.
Aunt Sarah flew to the pantry or cellar whenever
Rebecca's slim little shape first appeared on the crest
of the hill, and a jelly tart or a frosted cake was sure
to be forthcoming. The sight of old uncle Jerry's
spare figure in its clean white shirt sleeves, whatever
the weather, always made Rebecca's heart warm
when she saw him peer longingly from the kitchen
window. Before the snow came, many was the time
he had come out to sit on a pile of boards at the
gate, to see if by any chance she was mounting the
hill that led to their house. In the autumn Rebecca
was often the old man's companion while he was
digging potatoes or shelling beans, and now in the
winter, when a younger man was driving the stage,
she sometimes stayed with him while he did his
evening milking. It is safe to say that he was the
only creature in Riverboro who possessed Rebecca's
entire confidence; the only being to whom she
poured out her whole heart, with its wealth of hopes,
and dreams, and vague ambitions. At the brick
house she practiced scales and exercises, but at the
Cobbs' cabinet organ she sang like a bird, improvising
simple accompaniments that seemed to her
ignorant auditors nothing short of marvelous. Here
she was happy, here she was loved, here she was
drawn out of herself and admired and made much
of. But, she thought, if there were somebody who
not only loved but understood; who spoke her language,
comprehended her desires, and responded to
her mysterious longings! Perhaps in the big world
of Wareham there would be people who thought
and dreamed and wondered as she did.
In reality Jane did not understand her niece very
much better than Miranda; the difference between
the sisters was, that while Jane was puzzled, she
was also attracted, and when she was quite in the
dark for an explanation of some quaint or unusual
action she was sympathetic as to its possible motive
and believed the best. A greater change had come
over Jane than over any other person in the brick
house, but it had been wrought so secretly, and
concealed so religiously, that it scarcely appeared to the
ordinary observer. Life had now a motive utterly
lacking before. Breakfast was not eaten in the
kitchen, because it seemed worth while, now that
there were three persons, to lay the cloth in the dining-
room; it was also a more bountiful meal than of
yore, when there was no child to consider. The
morning was made cheerful by Rebecca's start for
school, the packing of the luncheon basket, the final
word about umbrella, waterproof, or rubbers; the
parting admonition and the unconscious waiting at
the window for the last wave of the hand. She found
herself taking pride in Rebecca's improved appearance,
her rounder throat and cheeks, and her better
color; she was wont to mention the length of
Rebecca's hair and add a word as to its remarkable
evenness and lustre, at times when Mrs. Perkins
grew too diffuse about Emma Jane's complexion.
She threw herself wholeheartedly on her niece's side
when it became a question between a crimson or
a brown linsey-woolsey dress, and went through a
memorable struggle with her sister concerning the
purchase of a red bird for Rebecca's black felt hat.
No one guessed the quiet pleasure that lay hidden in
her heart when she watched the girl's dark head bent
over her lessons at night, nor dreamed of her joy it,
certain quiet evenings when Miranda went to prayer
meeting; evenings when Rebecca would read aloud
Hiawatha or Barbara Frietchie, The Bugle Song,
or The Brook. Her narrow, humdrum existence
bloomed under the dews that fell from this fresh
spirit; her dullness brightened under the kindling
touch of the younger mind, took fire from the "vital
spark of heavenly flame" that seemed always to
radiate from Rebecca's presence.
Rebecca's idea of being a painter like her friend
Miss Ross was gradually receding, owing to the
apparently insuperable difficulties in securing any
instruction. Her aunt Miranda saw no wisdom in
cultivating such a talent, and could not conceive that
any money could ever be earned by its exercise,
"Hand painted pictures" were held in little esteem
in Riverboro, where the cheerful chromo or the
dignified steel engraving were respected and valued.
There was a slight, a very slight hope, that Rebecca
might be allowed a few music lessons from Miss
Morton, who played the church cabinet organ, but
this depended entirely upon whether Mrs. Morton
would decide to accept a hayrack in return for a
year's instruction from her daughter. She had the
matter under advisement, but a doubt as to whether
or not she would sell or rent her hayfields kept her
from coming to a conclusion. Music, in common
with all other accomplishments, was viewed by Miss
Miranda as a trivial, useless, and foolish amusement,
but she allowed Rebecca an hour a day for practice
on the old piano, and a little extra time for
lessons, if Jane could secure them without payment of
The news from Sunnybrook Farm was hopeful
rather than otherwise. Cousin Ann's husband had
died, and John, Rebecca's favorite brother, had gone
to be the man of the house to the widowed cousin.
He was to have good schooling in return for his care
of the horse and cow and barn, and what was still
more dazzling, the use of the old doctor's medical
library of two or three dozen volumes. John's whole
heart was set on becoming a country doctor, with
Rebecca to keep house for him, and the vision
seemed now so true, so near, that he could almost
imagine his horse ploughing through snowdrifts on
errands of mercy, or, less dramatic but none the
less attractive, could see a physician's neat turncut
trundling along the shady country roads, a medicine
case between his, Dr. Randall's, feet, and Miss
Rebecca Randall sitting in a black silk dress by his
Hannah now wore her hair in a coil and her
dresses a trifle below her ankles, these concessions
being due to her extreme height. Mark had broken
his collar bone, but it was healing well. Little Mira
was growing very pretty. There was even a rumor
that the projected railroad from Temperance to
Plumville might go near the Randall farm, in which
case land would rise in value from nothing-at-all an
acre to something at least resembling a price. Mrs.
Randall refused to consider any improvement in
their financial condition as a possibility. Content to
work from sunrise to sunset to gain a mere
subsistence for her children, she lived in their future,
not in her own present, as a mother is wont to do
when her own lot seems hard and cheerless.
GRAY DAYS AND GOLD
When Rebecca looked back upon the
year or two that followed the Simpsons'
Thanksgiving party, she could see only
certain milestones rising in the quiet pathway of
The first milestone was Christmas Day. It was
a fresh, crystal morning, with icicles hanging like
dazzling pendants from the trees and a glaze of
pale blue on the surface of the snow. The Simpsons'
red barn stood out, a glowing mass of color in
the white landscape. Rebecca had been busy for
weeks before, trying to make a present for each of
the seven persons at Sunnybrook Farm, a somewhat
difficult proceeding on an expenditure of fifty
cents, hoarded by incredible exertion. Success had
been achieved, however, and the precious packet
had been sent by post two days previous. Miss
Sawyer had bought her niece a nice gray squirrel
muff and tippet, which was even more unbecoming
if possible, than Rebecca's other articles of wearing
apparel; but aunt Jane had made her the loveliest
dress of green cashmere, a soft, soft green like
that of a young leaf. It was very simply made, but
the color delighted the eye. Then there was a
beautiful "tatting" collar from her mother, some
scarlet mittens from Mrs. Cobb, and a handkerchief
from Emma Jane.
Rebecca herself had fashioned an elaborate tea-
cosy with a letter "M" in outline stitch, and a
pretty frilled pincushion marked with a "J," for her
two aunts, so that taken all together the day would
have been an unequivocal success had nothing else
happened; but something else did.
There was a knock at the door at breakfast time,
and Rebecca, answering it, was asked by a boy if
Miss Rebecca Randall lived there. On being told
that she did, he handed her a parcel bearing her
name, a parcel which she took like one in a dream
and bore into the dining-room.
"It's a present; it must be," she said, looking
at it in a dazed sort of way; "but I can't think
who it could be from."
"A good way to find out would be to open it,"
remarked Miss Miranda.
The parcel being untied proved to have two
smaller packages within, and Rebecca opened with
trembling fingers the one addressed to her. Anybody's
fingers would have trembled. There was a
case which, when the cover was lifted, disclosed a
long chain of delicate pink coral beads,--a chain
ending in a cross made of coral rosebuds. A card
with "Merry Christmas from Mr. Aladdin" lay
under the cross.
"Of all things!" exclaimed the two old ladies,
rising in their seats. "Who sent it?"
"Mr. Ladd," said Rebecca under her breath.
"Adam Ladd! Well I never! Don't you remember
Ellen Burnham said he was going to send
Rebecca a Christmas present? But I never supposed
he'd think of it again," said Jane. "What's
the other package?"
It proved to be a silver chain with a blue enamel
locket on it, marked for Emma Jane. That added
the last touch--to have him remember them both!
There was a letter also, which ran:--
Dear Miss Rebecca Rowena,--My idea of a
Christmas present is something entirely unnecessary
and useless. I have always noticed when I
give this sort of thing that people love it, so I
hope I have not chosen wrong for you and your
friend. You must wear your chain this afternoon,
please, and let me see it on your neck, for I am
coming over in my new sleigh to take you both to
drive. My aunt is delighted with the soap.
Sincerely your friend,
"Well, well!" cried Miss Jane, "isn't that kind
of him? He's very fond of children, Lyddy Burnham
says. Now eat your breakfast, Rebecca, and
after we've done the dishes you can run over to
Emma's and give her her chain-- What's the matter,
Rebecca's emotions seemed always to be stored,
as it were, in adjoining compartments, and to be
continually getting mixed. At this moment, though
her joy was too deep for words, her bread and butter
almost choked her, and at intervals a tear stole
furtively down her cheek.
Mr. Ladd called as he promised, and made the
acquaintance of the aunts, understanding them both
in five minutes as well as if he had known them
for years. On a footstool near the open fire sat
Rebecca, silent and shy, so conscious of her fine
apparel and the presence of aunt Miranda that she
could not utter a word. It was one of her "beauty
days." Happiness, excitement, the color of the
green dress, and the touch of lovely pink in the
coral necklace had transformed the little brown
wren for the time into a bird of plumage, and Adam
Ladd watched her with evident satisfaction. Then
there was the sleigh ride, during which she found
her tongue and chattered like any magpie, and so
ended that glorious Christmas Day; and many and
many a night thereafter did Rebecca go to sleep
with the precious coral chain under her pillow, one
hand always upon it to be certain that it was safe.
Another milestone was the departure of the
Simpsons from Riverboro, bag and baggage, the
banquet lamp being their most conspicuous posses-
sion. It was delightful to be rid of Seesaw's hateful
presence; but otherwise the loss of several
playmates at one fell swoop made rather a gap
in Riverboro's "younger set," and Rebecca was
obliged to make friends with the Robinson baby,
he being the only long-clothes child in the village
that winter. The faithful Seesaw had called at the
side door of the brick house on the evening before
his departure, and when Rebecca answered his
knock, stammered solemnly, "Can I k-keep comp'ny
with you when you g-g-row up?" "Certainly NOT,"
replied Rebecca, closing the door somewhat
too speedily upon her precocious swain.
Mr. Simpson had come home in time to move
his wife and children back to the town that had
given them birth, a town by no means waiting with
open arms to receive them. The Simpsons' moving
was presided over by the village authorities and
somewhat anxiously watched by the entire
neighborhood, but in spite of all precautions a pulpit
chair, several kerosene lamps, and a small stove
disappeared from the church and were successfully
swapped in the course of Mr. Simpson's
driving tour from the old home to the new. It gave
Rebecca and Emma Jane some hours of sorrow to
learn that a certain village in the wake of Abner
Simpson's line of progress had acquired, through
the medium of an ambitious young minister, a
magnificent lamp for its new church parlors. No money
changed hands in the operation; for the minister
succeeded in getting the lamp in return for an old
bicycle. The only pleasant feature of the whole
affair was that Mr. Simpson, wholly unable to console
his offspring for the loss of the beloved object,
mounted the bicycle and rode away on it, not to
be seen or heard of again for many a long day.
The year was notable also as being the one in
which Rebecca shot up like a young tree. She had
seemingly never grown an inch since she was ten
years old, but once started she attended to growing
precisely as she did other things,--with such
energy, that Miss Jane did nothing for months but
lengthen skirts, sleeves, and waists. In spite of all
the arts known to a thrifty New England woman,
the limit of letting down and piecing down was
reached at last, and the dresses were sent to Sunnybrook
Farm to be made over for Jenny.
There was another milestone, a sad one, marking
a little grave under a willow tree at Sunnybrook
Farm. Mira, the baby of the Randall family,
died, and Rebecca went home for a fortnight's
visit. The sight of the small still shape that had
been Mira, the baby who had been her special
charge ever since her birth, woke into being a host
of new thoughts and wonderments; for it is sometimes
the mystery of death that brings one to a
consciousness of the still greater mystery of life.
It was a sorrowful home-coming for Rebecca. The
death of Mira, the absence of John, who had been
her special comrade, the sadness of her mother, the
isolation of the little house, and the pinching
economies that went on within it, all conspired to
depress a child who was so sensitive to beauty and
harmony as Rebecca.
Hannah seemed to have grown into a woman
during Rebecca's absence. There had always been
a strange unchildlike air about Hannah, but in
certain ways she now appeared older than aunt Jane
--soberer, and more settled. She was pretty,
though in a colorless fashion; pretty and capable.
Rebecca walked through all the old playgrounds
and favorite haunts of her early childhood; all her
familiar, her secret places; some of them known to
John, some to herself alone. There was the spot
where the Indian pipes grew; the particular bit of
marshy ground where the fringed gentians used to
be largest and bluest; the rock maple where she
found the oriole's nest; the hedge where the field
mice lived; the moss-covered stump where the
white toadstools were wont to spring up as if by
magic; the hole at the root of the old pine where an
ancient and honorable toad made his home; these
were the landmarks of her childhood, and she looked
at them as across an immeasurable distance. The
dear little sunny brook, her chief companion after
John, was sorry company at this season. There
was no laughing water sparkling in the sunshine.
In summer the merry stream had danced over white
pebbles on its way to deep pools where it could be
still and think. Now, like Mira, it was cold and
quiet, wrapped in its shroud of snow; but Rebecca
knelt by the brink, and putting her ear to the glaze
of ice, fancied, where it used to be deepest, she could
hear a faint, tinkling sound. It was all right! Sunnybrook
would sing again in the spring; perhaps Mira
too would have her singing time somewhere--she
wondered where and how. In the course of these
lonely rambles she was ever thinking, thinking,
of one subject. Hannah had never had a chance;
never been freed from the daily care and work of
the farm. She, Rebecca, had enjoyed all the privileges
thus far. Life at the brick house had not been
by any means a path of roses, but there had been
comfort and the companionship of other children, as
well as chances for study and reading. Riverboro
had not been the world itself, but it had been a
glimpse of it through a tiny peephole that was
infinitely better than nothing. Rebecca shed more
than one quiet tear before she could trust herself to
offer up as a sacrifice that which she so much desired
for herself. Then one morning as her visit neared
its end she plunged into the subject boldly and
said, "Hannah, after this term I'm going to stay
at home and let you go away. Aunt Miranda has
always wanted you, and it's only fair you should
have your turn."
Hannah was darning stockings, and she threaded
her needle and snipped off the yarn before she
answered, "No, thank you, Becky. Mother couldn't
do without me, and I hate going to school. I can
read and write and cipher as well as anybody now,
and that's enough for me. I'd die rather than teach
school for a living. The winter'll go fast, for Will
Melville is going to lend me his mother's sewing
machine, and I'm going to make white petticoats
out of the piece of muslin aunt Jane sent, and have
'em just solid with tucks. Then there's going to
be a singing-school and a social circle in Temperance
after New Year's, and I shall have a real good
time now I'm grown up. I'm not one to be lonesome,
Becky," Hannah ended with a blush; "I love
Rebecca saw that she was speaking the truth, but
she did not understand the blush till a year or two
REBECCA REPRESENTS THE FAMILY
There was another milestone; it was more
than that, it was an "event;" an event
that made a deep impression in several
quarters and left a wake of smaller events in its
train. This was the coming to Riverboro of the
Reverend Amos Burch and wife, returned missionaries
The Aid Society had called its meeting for a
certain Wednesday in March of the year in which
Rebecca ended her Riverboro school days and
began her studies at Wareham. It was a raw,
blustering day, snow on the ground and a look in
the sky of more to follow. Both Miranda and Jane
had taken cold and decided that they could not
leave the house in such weather, and this deflection
from the path of duty worried Miranda, since she
was an officer of the society. After making the
breakfast table sufficiently uncomfortable and wishing
plaintively that Jane wouldn't always insist on
being sick at the same time she was, she decided
that Rebecca must go to the meeting in their
stead. "You'll be better than nobody, Rebecca,"
she said flatteringly; "your aunt Jane shall write
an excuse from afternoon school for you; you can
wear your rubber boots and come home by the
way of the meetin' house. This Mr. Burch, if I
remember right, used to know your grandfather
Sawyer, and stayed here once when he was
candidatin'. He'll mebbe look for us there, and you
must just go and represent the family, an' give him
our respects. Be careful how you behave. Bow
your head in prayer; sing all the hymns, but not
too loud and bold; ask after Mis' Strout's boy;
tell everybody what awful colds we've got; if you
see a good chance, take your pocket handkerchief
and wipe the dust off the melodeon before the
meetin' begins, and get twenty-five cents out of the
sittin' room match-box in case there should be a
Rebecca willingly assented. Anything interested
her, even a village missionary meeting, and the idea
of representing the family was rather intoxicating.
The service was held in the Sunday-school room,
and although the Rev. Mr. Burch was on the platform
when Rebecca entered, there were only a
dozen persons present. Feeling a little shy and
considerably too young for this assemblage, Rebecca
sought the shelter of a friendly face, and seeing
Mrs. Robinson in one of the side seats near the
front, she walked up the aisle and sat beside her.
"Both my aunts had bad colds," she said softly,
"and sent me to represent the family."
"That's Mrs. Burch on the platform with her
husband," whispered Mrs. Robinson. "She's awful
tanned up, ain't she? If you're goin' to save souls
seems like you hev' to part with your complexion.
Eudoxy Morton ain't come yet; I hope to the land
she will, or Mis' Deacon Milliken'll pitch the tunes
where we can't reach 'em with a ladder; can't
you pitch, afore she gits her breath and clears her
Mrs. Burch was a slim, frail little woman with
dark hair, a broad low forehead, and patient mouth.
She was dressed in a well-worn black silk, and
looked so tired that Rebecca's heart went out to
"They're poor as Job's turkey," whispered Mrs.
Robinson; "but if you give 'em anything they'd
turn right round and give it to the heathen. His
congregation up to Parsonsfield clubbed together
and give him that gold watch he carries; I s'pose
he'd 'a' handed that over too, only heathens always
tell time by the sun 'n' don't need watches. Eudoxy
ain't comin'; now for massy's sake, Rebecca, do
git ahead of Mis' Deacon Milliken and pitch real
The meeting began with prayer and then the
Rev. Mr. Burch announced, to the tune of Mendon:--
"Church of our God I arise and shine,
Bright with the beams of truth divine:
Then shall thy radiance stream afar,
Wide as the heathen nations are.
"Gentiles and kings thy light shall view,
And shall admire and love thee too;
They come, like clouds across the sky,
As doves that to their windows fly."
"Is there any one present who will assist us at
the instrument?" he asked unexpectedly.
Everybody looked at everybody else, and nobody
moved; then there came a voice out of a far corner
saying informally, "Rebecca, why don't you?" It
was Mrs. Cobb. Rebecca could have played Mendon
in the dark, so she went to the melodeon and
did so without any ado, no member of her family
being present to give her self-consciousness.
The talk that ensued was much the usual sort of
thing. Mr. Burch made impassioned appeals for the
spreading of the gospel, and added his entreaties
that all who were prevented from visiting in
person the peoples who sat in darkness should
contribute liberally to the support of others who could.
But he did more than this. He was a pleasant,
earnest speaker, and he interwove his discourse with
stories of life in a foreign land,--of the manners,
the customs, the speech, the point of view; even
giving glimpses of the daily round, the common
task, of his own household, the work of his
devoted helpmate and their little group of children,
all born under Syrian skies.
Rebecca sat entranced, having been given the
key of another world. Riverboro had faded; the
Sunday-school room, with Mrs. Robinson's red plaid
shawl, and Deacon Milliken's wig, on crooked, the
bare benches and torn hymn-books, the hanging
texts and maps, were no longer visible, and she
saw blue skies and burning stars, white turbans
and gay colors; Mr. Burch had not said so, but
perhaps there were mosques and temples and minarets
and date-palms. What stories they must know,
those children born under Syrian skies! Then
she was called upon to play "Jesus shall reign
where'er the sun."
The contribution box was passed and Mr. Burch
prayed. As he opened his eyes and gave out the
last hymn he looked at the handful of people, at the
scattered pennies and dimes in the contribution box,
and reflected that his mission was not only to gather
funds for the building of his church, but to keep
alive, in all these remote and lonely neighborhoods,
that love for the cause which was its only hope in
the years to come.
"If any of the sisters will provide entertainment,"
he said, "Mrs. Burch and I will remain among you
to-night and to-morrow. In that event we could
hold a parlor meeting. My wife and one of my
children would wear the native costume, we would
display some specimens of Syrian handiwork, and
give an account of our educational methods with the
children. These informal parlor meetings, admitting
of questions or conversation, are often the means
of interesting those not commonly found at church
services so I repeat, if any member of the congregation
desires it and offers her hospitality, we will
gladly stay and tell you more of the Lord's work."
A pall of silence settled over the little assembly.
There was some cogent reason why every "sister"
there was disinclined for company. Some had no
spare room, some had a larder less well stocked than
usual, some had sickness in the family, some were
"unequally yoked together with unbelievers" who
disliked strange ministers. Mrs. Burch's thin hands
fingered her black silk nervously. "Would no one
speak!" thought Rebecca, her heart fluttering with
sympathy. Mrs. Robinson leaned over and whispered
significantly, "The missionaries always used
to be entertained at the brick house; your grand-
father never would let 'em sleep anywheres else
when he was alive." She meant this for a stab at
Miss Miranda's parsimony, remembering the four
spare chambers, closed from January to December;
but Rebecca thought it was intended as a suggestion.
If it had been a former custom, perhaps her
aunts would want her to do the right thing; for
what else was she representing the family? So,
delighted that duty lay in so pleasant a direction,
she rose from her seat and said in the pretty voice
and with the quaint manner that so separated her
from all the other young people in the village, "My
aunts, Miss Miranda and Miss Jane Sawyer, would
be very happy to have you visit them at the brick
house, as the ministers always used to do when their
father was alive. They sent their respects by me."
The "respects" might have been the freedom of
the city, or an equestrian statue, when presented in
this way, and the aunts would have shuddered could
they have foreseen the manner of delivery; but it
was vastly impressive to the audience, who concluded
that Mirandy Sawyer must be making her
way uncommonly fast to mansions in the skies, else
what meant this abrupt change of heart?
Mr. Burch bowed courteously, accepted the
invitation "in the same spirit in which it was offered,"
and asked Brother Milliken to lead in prayer.
If the Eternal Ear could ever tire it would have
ceased long ere this to listen to Deacon Milliken,
who had wafted to the throne of grace the same
prayer, with very slight variations, for forty years.
Mrs. Perkins followed; she had several petitions
at her command, good sincere ones too, but a little
cut and dried, made of scripture texts laboriously
woven together. Rebecca wondered why she always
ended, at the most peaceful seasons, with the form,
"Do Thou be with us, God of Battles, while we
strive onward like Christian soldiers marching as
to war;" but everything sounded real to her to-day,
she was in a devout mood, and many things Mr.
Burch had said had moved her strangely. As she
lifted her head the minister looked directly at her
and said, "Will our young sister close the service
by leading us in prayer?"
Every drop of blood in Rebecca's body seemed to
stand still, and her heart almost stopped beating.
Mrs. Cobb's excited breathing could be heard distinctly
in the silence. There was nothing extraordinary
in Mr. Burch's request. In his journeyings
among country congregations he was constantly
in the habit of meeting young members who had
"experienced religion" and joined the church when
nine or ten years old. Rebecca was now thirteen;
she had played the melodeon, led the singing,
delivered her aunts' invitation with an air of great