Part 4 out of 6
worldly wisdom, and he, concluding that she must
be a youthful pillar of the church, called upon her
with the utmost simplicity.
Rebecca's plight was pathetic. How could she
refuse; how could she explain she was not a
"member;" how could she pray before all those elderly
women! John Rogers at the stake hardly suffered
more than this poor child for the moment as she
rose to her feet, forgetting that ladies prayed
sitting, while deacons stood in prayer. Her mind was
a maze of pictures that the Rev. Mr. Burch had
flung on the screen. She knew the conventional
phraseology, of course; what New England child,
accustomed to Wednesday evening meetings, does
not? But her own secret prayers were different.
However, she began slowly and tremulously:--
"Our Father who art in Heaven, . . . Thou art
God in Syria just the same as in Maine; . . . over
there to-day are blue skies and yellow stars and
burning suns . . . the great trees are waving in the
warm air, while here the snow lies thick under our
feet, . . . but no distance is too far for God to travel
and so He is with us here as He is with them
there, . . . and our thoughts rise to Him `as doves
that to their windows fly.'. . .
"We cannot all be missionaries, teaching people
to be good, . . . some of us have not learned yet
how to be good ourselves, but if thy kingdom is
to come and thy will is to be done on earth as it
is in heaven, everybody must try and everybody
must help, . . . those who are old and tired and
those who are young and strong. . . . The little
children of whom we have heard, those born under
Syrian skies, have strange and interesting work to
do for Thee, and some of us would like to travel
in far lands and do wonderful brave things for the
heathen and gently take away their idols of wood
and stone. But perhaps we have to stay at home
and do what is given us to do . . . sometimes even
things we dislike, . . . but that must be what it
means in the hymn we sang, when it talked about
the sweet perfume that rises with every morning
sacrifice. . . . This is the way that God teaches us
to be meek and patient, and the thought that He
has willed it so should rob us of our fears and help
us bear the years. Amen."
Poor little ignorant, fantastic child! Her petition
was simply a succession of lines from the various
hymns, and images the minister had used in his
sermon, but she had her own way of recombining
and applying these things, even of using them in a
new connection, so that they had a curious effect
of belonging to her. The words of some people
might generally be written with a minus sign after
them, the minus meaning that the personality of
the speaker subtracted from, rather than added to,
their weight; but Rebecca's words might always
have borne the plus sign.
The "Amen" said, she sat down, or presumed
she sat down, on what she believed to be a bench,
and there was a benediction. In a moment or two,
when the room ceased spinning, she went up to
Mrs. Burch, who kissed her affectionately and said,
"My dear, how glad I am that we are going to stay
with you. Will half past five be too late for us to
come? It is three now, and we have to go to the
station for our valise and for our children. We left
them there, being uncertain whether we should go
back or stop here."
Rebecca said that half past five was their supper
hour, and then accepted an invitation to drive home
with Mrs. Cobb. Her face was flushed and her lip
quivered in a way that aunt Sarah had learned to
know, so the homeward drive was taken almost in
silence. The bleak wind and aunt Sarah's quieting
presence brought her back to herself, however, and
she entered the brick house cheerily. Being too
full of news to wait in the side entry to take off her
rubber boots, she carefully lifted a braided rug into
the sitting-room and stood on that while she opened
"There are your shoes warming by the fire,"
said aunt Jane. "Slip them right on while you talk."
DEACON ISRAEL'S SUCCESSOR
It was a very small meeting, aunt Miranda,"
began Rebecca, "and the missionary and his
wife are lovely people, and they are coming
here to stay all night and to-morrow with you. I
hope you won't mind."
"Coming here!" exclaimed Miranda, letting her
knitting fall in her lap, and taking her spectacles
off, as she always did in moments of extreme
excitement. "Did they invite themselves?"
"No," Rebecca answered. "I had to invite them
for you; but I thought you'd like to have such
interesting company. It was this way"--
"Stop your explainin', and tell me first when
they'll be here. Right away?"
"No, not for two hours--about half past five."
"Then you can explain, if you can, who gave you
any authority to invite a passel of strangers to stop
here over night, when you know we ain't had any
company for twenty years, and don't intend to have
any for another twenty,--or at any rate while I'm
the head of the house."
"Don't blame her, Miranda, till you've heard
her story," said Jane. "It was in my mind right
along, if we went to the meeting, some such thing
might happen, on account of Mr. Burch knowing
"The meeting was a small one," began Rebecca
"I gave all your messages, and everybody was
disappointed you couldn't come, for the president
wasn't there, and Mrs. Matthews took the chair, which
was a pity, for the seat wasn't nearly big enough for
her, and she reminded me of a line in a hymn we
sang, `Wide as the heathen nations are,' and she
wore that kind of a beaver garden-hat that always
gets on one side. And Mr. Burch talked beautifully
about the Syrian heathen, and the singing went
real well, and there looked to be about forty cents
in the basket that was passed on our side. And
that wouldn't save even a heathen baby, would it?
Then Mr. Burch said, if any sister would offer
entertainment, they would pass the night, and have
a parlor meeting in Riverboro to-morrow, with Mrs.
Burch in Syrian costume, and lovely foreign things
to show. Then he waited and waited, and nobody
said a word. I was so mortified I didn't know what
to do. And then he repeated what he said, an
explained why he wanted to stay, and you could see
he thought it was his duty. Just then Mrs.
Robinson whispered to me and said the missionaries
always used to go to the brick house when
grandfather was alive, and that he never would let them
sleep anywhere else. I didn't know you had stopped
having them. because no traveling ministers have
been here, except just for a Sunday morning, since
I came to Riverboro. So I thought I ought to
invite them, as you weren't there to do it for yourself,
and you told me to represent the family."
"What did you do--go up and introduce
yourself as folks was goin' out?"
"No; I stood right up in meeting. I had to, for
Mr. Burch's feelings were getting hurt at nobody's
speaking. So I said, `My aunts, Miss Miranda and
Miss Jane Sawyer would be happy to have you
visit at the brick house, just as the missionaries
always did when their father was alive, and they
sent their respects by me.' Then I sat down; and
Mr. Burch prayed for grandfather, and called him a
man of God, and thanked our Heavenly Father that
his spirit was still alive in his descendants (that was
you), and that the good old house where so many
of the brethren had been cheered and helped, and
from which so many had gone out strengthened for
the fight, was still hospitably open for the stranger
Sometimes, when the heavenly bodies are in
just the right conjunction, nature seems to be the
most perfect art. The word or the deed coming
straight from the heart, without any thought of
effect, seems inspired.
A certain gateway in Miranda Sawyer's soul had
been closed for years; not all at once had it been
done, but gradually, and without her full knowledge.
If Rebecca had plotted for days, and with the utmost
cunning, she could not have effected an entrance
into that forbidden country, and now, unknown to
both of them, the gate swung on its stiff and rusty
hinges, and the favoring wind of opportunity opened
it wider and wider as time went on. All things had
worked together amazingly for good. The memory
of old days had been evoked, and the daily life
of a pious and venerated father called to mind;
the Sawyer name had been publicly dignified and
praised; Rebecca had comported herself as the
granddaughter of Deacon Israel Sawyer should, and
showed conclusively that she was not "all Randall,"
as had been supposed. Miranda was rather
mollified by and pleased with the turn of events,
although she did not intend to show it, or give anybody
any reason to expect that this expression of
hospitality was to serve for a precedent on any
"Well, I see you did only what you was obliged
to do, Rebecca," she said, "and you worded your
invitation as nice as anybody could have done. I
wish your aunt Jane and me wasn't both so worthless
with these colds; but it only shows the good
of havin' a clean house, with every room in order,
whether open or shut, and enough victuals cooked
so 't you can't be surprised and belittled by
anybody, whatever happens. There was half a dozen
there that might have entertained the Burches as
easy as not, if they hadn't 'a' been too mean
or lazy. Why didn't your missionaries come right
along with you?"
"They had to go to the station for their valise
and their children."
"Are there children?" groaned Miranda.
"Yes, aunt Miranda, all born under Syrian
"Syrian grandmother!" ejaculated Miranda (and
it was not a fact). "How many?"
"I didn't think to ask; but I will get two rooms
ready, and if there are any over I'll take 'em into
my bed," said Rebecca, secretly hoping that this
would be the case. "Now, as you're both half sick,
couldn't you trust me just once to get ready for the
company? You can come up when I call. Will
"I believe I will," sighed Miranda reluctantly.
"I'll lay down side o' Jane in our bedroom and see
if I can get strength to cook supper. It's half past
three--don't you let me lay a minute past five. I
kep' a good fire in the kitchen stove. I don't know,
I'm sure, why I should have baked a pot o' beans
in the middle of the week, but they'll come in
handy. Father used to say there was nothing that
went right to the spot with returned missionaries
like pork 'n' beans 'n' brown bread. Fix up the two
south chambers, Rebecca."
Rebecca, given a free hand for the only time in her
life, dashed upstairs like a whirlwind. Every room
in the brick house was as neat as wax, and she had
only to pull up the shades, go over the floors with
a whisk broom, and dust the furniture. The aunts
could hear her scurrying to and fro, beating up
pillows and feather beds, flapping towels, jingling
crockery, singing meanwhile in her clear voice:--
"In vain with lavish kindness
The gifts of God are strown;
The heathen in his blindness
Bows down to wood and stone."
She had grown to be a handy little creature, and
tasks she was capable of doing at all she did like
a flash, so that when she called her aunts at five
o'clock to pass judgment, she had accomplished
wonders. There were fresh towels on bureaus and
washstands, the beds were fair and smooth, the
pitchers were filled, and soap and matches were
laid out; newspaper, kindling, and wood were in the
boxes, and a large stick burned slowly in each air-
tight stove. "I thought I'd better just take the
chill off," she explained, "as they're right from
Syria; and that reminds me, I must look it up in
the geography before they get here."
There was nothing to disapprove, so the two
sisters went downstairs to make some slight changes
in their dress. As they passed the parlor door
Miranda thought she heard a crackle and looked in.
The shades were up, there was a cheerful blaze in
the open stove in the front parlor, and a fire laid
on the hearth in the back room. Rebecca's own
lamp, her second Christmas present from Mr. Aladdin,
stood on a marble-topped table in the corner,
the light that came softly through its rose-colored
shade transforming the stiff and gloomy ugliness of
the room into a place where one could sit and love
"For massy's sake, Rebecca," called Miss
Miranda up the stairs, "did you think we'd better
open the parlor?"
Rebecca came out on the landing braiding her
"We did on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I
thought this was about as great an occasion," she
said. "I moved the wax flowers off the mantelpiece
so they wouldn't melt, and put the shells, the coral,
and the green stuffed bird on top of the what-not,
so the children wouldn't ask to play with them.
Brother Milliken's coming over to see Mr. Burch
about business, and I shouldn't wonder if Brother
and Sister Cobb happened in. Don't go down
cellar, I'll be there in a minute to do the running."
Miranda and Jane exchanged glances.
"Ain't she the beatin'est creetur that ever was
born int' the world!" exclaimed Miranda; "but she
can turn off work when she's got a mind to!"
At quarter past five everything was ready, and
the neighbors, those at least who were within sight
of the brick house (a prominent object in the
landscape when there were no leaves on the trees),
were curious almost to desperation. Shades up in
both parlors! Shades up in the two south bedrooms!
And fires--if human vision was to be relied
on--fires in about every room. If it had not
been for the kind offices of a lady who had been at
the meeting, and who charitably called in at one or
two houses and explained the reason of all this
preparation, there would have been no sleep in many
The missionary party arrived promptly, and there
were but two children, seven or eight having been
left with the brethren in Portland, to diminish
traveling expenses. Jane escorted them all upstairs,
while Miranda watched the cooking of the supper;
but Rebecca promptly took the two little girls away
from their mother, divested them of their wraps,
smoothed their hair, and brought them down to the
kitchen to smell the beans.
There was a bountiful supper, and the presence
of the young people robbed it of all possible stiffness.
Aunt Jane helped clear the table and put
away the food, while Miranda entertained in the
parlor; but Rebecca and the infant Burches washed
the dishes and held high carnival in the kitchen,
doing only trifling damage--breaking a cup and
plate that had been cracked before, emptying a silver
spoon with some dishwater out of the back door
(an act never permitted at the brick house), and
putting coffee grounds in the sink. All evidences
of crime having been removed by Rebecca, and damages
repaired in all possible cases, the three entered
the parlor, where Mr. and Mrs. Cobb and Deacon
and Mrs. Milliken had already appeared.
It was such a pleasant evening! Occasionally
they left the heathen in his blindness bowing down
to wood and stone, not for long, but just to give
themselves (and him) time enough to breathe, and
then the Burches told strange, beautiful, marvelous
things. The two smaller children sang together,
and Rebecca, at the urgent request of Mrs. Burch,
seated herself at the tinkling old piano and gave
"Wild roved an Indian girl, bright Alfarata" with
considerable spirit and style.
At eight o'clock she crossed the room, handed a
palm-leaf fan to her aunt Miranda, ostensibly that
she might shade her eyes from the lamplight; but
it was a piece of strategy that gave her an opportunity
to whisper, "How about cookies?"
"Do you think it's worth while?" sibilated Miss
Miranda in answer.
"The Perkinses always do."
"All right. You know where they be."
Rebecca moved quietly towards the door, and the
young Burches cataracted after her as if they could
not bear a second's separation. In five minutes
they returned, the little ones bearing plates of thin
caraway wafers,--hearts, diamonds, and circles
daintily sugared, and flecked with caraway seed
raised in the garden behind the house. These were
a specialty of Miss Jane's, and Rebecca carried a
tray with six tiny crystal glasses filled with dandelion
wine, for which Miss Miranda had been famous in
years gone by. Old Deacon Israel had always had
it passed, and he had bought the glasses himself
in Boston. Miranda admired them greatly, not only
for their beauty but because they held so little.
Before their advent the dandelion wine had been served
in sherry glasses.
As soon as these refreshments--commonly
called a "colation" in Riverboro--had been genteelly
partaken of, Rebecca looked at the clock, rose
from her chair in the children's corner, and said
cheerfully, "Come! time for little missionaries to
be in bed!"
Everybody laughed at this, the big missionaries
most of all, as the young people shook hands and
disappeared with Rebecca.
A CHANGE OF HEART
That niece of yours is the most remarkable
girl I have seen in years," said Mr.
Burch when the door closed.
"She seems to be turnin' out smart enough lately,
but she's consid'able heedless," answered Miranda,
"an' most too lively."
"We must remember that it is deficient, not
excessive vitality, that makes the greatest trouble in
this world," returned Mr. Burch.
"She'd make a wonderful missionary," said Mrs.
Burch; "with her voice, and her magnetism, and her
gift of language."
"If I was to say which of the two she was best
adapted for, I'd say she'd make a better heathen,"
remarked Miranda curtly.
"My sister don't believe in flattering children,"
hastily interpolated Jane, glancing toward Mrs.
Burch, who seemed somewhat shocked, and was
about to open her lips to ask if Rebecca was not
Mrs. Cobb had been looking for this question all
the evening and dreading some allusion to her
favorite as gifted in prayer. She had taken an
instantaneous and illogical dislike to the Rev. Mr. Burch
in the afternoon because he called upon Rebecca
to "lead." She had seen the pallor creep into the
girl's face, the hunted look in her eyes, and the
trembling of the lashes on her cheeks, and realized
the ordeal through which she was passing. Her
prejudice against the minister had relaxed under his
genial talk and presence, but feeling that Mrs.
Burch was about to tread on dangerous ground, she
hastily asked her if one had to change cars many
times going from Riverboro to Syria. She felt that
it was not a particularly appropriate question, but it
served her turn.
Deacon Milliken, meantime, said to Miss Sawyer,
"Mirandy, do you know who Rebecky reminds me
"I can guess pretty well," she replied.
"Then you've noticed it too! I thought at first,
seein' she favored her father so on the outside, that
she was the same all through; but she ain't, she's
like your father, Israel Sawyer."
"I don't see how you make that out," said
Miranda, thoroughly astonished.
"It struck me this afternoon when she got up
to give your invitation in meetin'. It was kind o'
cur'ous, but she set in the same seat he used to
when he was leader o' the Sabbath-school. You
know his old way of holdin' his chin up and throwin'
his head back a leetle when he got up to say
anything? Well, she done the very same thing; there
was more'n one spoke of it."
The callers left before nine, and at that hour (an
impossibly dissipated one for the brick house) the
family retired for the night. As Rebecca carried
Mrs. Burch's candle upstairs and found herself
thus alone with her for a minute, she said shyly,
"Will you please tell Mr. Burch that I'm not a
member of the church? I didn't know what to do
when he asked me to pray this afternoon. I hadn't
the courage to say I had never done it out loud
and didn't know how. I couldn't think; and I was
so frightened I wanted to sink into the floor. It
seemed bold and wicked for me to pray before all
those old church members and make believe I was
better than I really was; but then again, wouldn't
God think I was wicked not to be willing to pray
when a minister asked me to?"
The candle light fell on Rebecca's flushed, sensitive
face. Mrs. Burch bent and kissed her good-
night. "Don't be troubled," she said. "I'll tell
Mr. Burch, and I guess God will understand."
Rebecca waked before six the next morning, so
full of household cares that sleep was impossible.
She went to the window and looked out; it was
still dark, and a blustering, boisterous day.
"Aunt Jane told me she should get up at half
past six and have breakfast at half past seven," she
thought; "but I daresay they are both sick with
their colds, and aunt Miranda will be fidgety with
so many in the house. I believe I'll creep down
and start things for a surprise."
She put on a wadded wrapper and slippers and
stole quietly down the tabooed front stairs,
carefully closed the kitchen door behind her so that no
noise should waken the rest of the household, busied
herself for a half hour with the early morning routine
she knew so well, and then went back to her room
to dress before calling the children.
Contrary to expectation, Miss Jane, who the
evening before felt better than Miranda, grew worse
in the night, and was wholly unable to leave her bed
in the morning. Miranda grumbled without ceasing
during the progress of her hasty toilet, blaming
everybody in the universe for the afflictions she had
borne and was to bear during the day; she even
castigated the Missionary Board that had sent the
Burches to Syria, and gave it as her unbiased opinion
that those who went to foreign lands for the purpose
of saving heathen should stay there and save
'em, and not go gallivantin' all over the earth with
a passel o' children, visitin' folks that didn't want
'em and never asked 'em.
Jane lay anxiously and restlessly in bed with a
feverish headache, wondering how her sister could
manage without her.
Miranda walked stiffly through the dining-room,
tying a shawl over her head to keep the draughts
away, intending to start the breakfast fire and then
call Rebecca down, set her to work, and tell her,
meanwhile, a few plain facts concerning the proper
way of representing the family at a missionary
She opened the kitchen door and stared vaguely
about her, wondering whether she had strayed into
the wrong house by mistake.
The shades were up, and there was a roaring fire
in the stove; the teakettle was singing and bubbling
as it sent out a cloud of steam, and pushed
over its capacious nose was a half sheet of note
paper with "Compliments of Rebecca" scrawled
on it. The coffee pot was scalding, the coffee was
measured out in a bowl, and broken eggshells for
the settling process were standing near. The cold
potatoes and corned beef were in the wooden tray,
and "Regards of Rebecca" stuck on the chopping
knife. The brown loaf was out, the white loaf was
out, the toast rack was out, the doughnuts were out,
the milk was skimmed, the butter had been brought
from the dairy.
Miranda removed the shawl from her head and
sank into the kitchen rocker, ejaculating under her
breath, "She is the beatin'est child! I declare she's
The day and the evening passed off with credit
and honor to everybody concerned, even to Jane,
who had the discretion to recover instead of growing
worse and acting as a damper to the general
enjoyment. The Burches left with lively regrets,
and the little missionaries, bathed in tears, swore
eternal friendship with Rebecca, who pressed into
their hands at parting a poem composed before
TO MARY AND MARTHA BURCH
Born under Syrian skies,
'Neath hotter suns than ours;
The children grew and bloomed,
Like little tropic flowers.
When they first saw the light,
'T was in a heathen land.
Not Greenland's icy mountains,
Nor India's coral strand,
But some mysterious country
Where men are nearly black
And where of true religion,
There is a painful lack.
Then let us haste in helping
The Missionary Board,
Seek dark-skinned unbelievers,
And teach them of their Lord.
Rebecca Rowena Randall.
It can readily be seen that this visit of the
returned missionaries to Riverboro was not without
somewhat far-reaching results. Mr. and Mrs. Burch
themselves looked back upon it as one of the rarest
pleasures of their half year at home. The neighborhood
extracted considerable eager conversation
from it; argument, rebuttal, suspicion, certainty,
retrospect, and prophecy. Deacon Milliken gave ten
dollars towards the conversion of Syria to
Congregationalism, and Mrs. Milliken had a spell of
sickness over her husband's rash generosity.
It would be pleasant to state that Miranda
Sawyer was an entirely changed woman afterwards, but
that is not the fact. The tree that has been getting
a twist for twenty years cannot be straightened
in the twinkling of an eye. It is certain, however,
that although the difference to the outward eye
was very small, it nevertheless existed, and she was
less censorious in her treatment of Rebecca, less
harsh in her judgments, more hopeful of final
salvation for her. This had come about largely from
her sudden vision that Rebecca, after all, inherited
something from the Sawyer side of the house instead
of belonging, mind, body, and soul, to the despised
Randall stock. Everything that was interesting in
Rebecca, and every evidence of power, capability,
or talent afterwards displayed by her, Miranda
ascribed to the brick house training, and this gave
her a feeling of honest pride, the pride of a master
workman who has built success out of the most
unpromising material; but never, to the very end,
even when the waning of her bodily strength relaxed
her iron grip and weakened her power of repression,
never once did she show that pride or make a
single demonstration of affection.
Poor misplaced, belittled Lorenzo de Medici Ran-
dall, thought ridiculous and good-for-naught by his
associates, because he resembled them in nothing!
If Riverboro could have been suddenly emptied into
a larger community, with different and more flexible
opinions, he was, perhaps, the only personage in
the entire population who would have attracted the
smallest attention. It was fortunate for his daughter
that she had been dowered with a little practical
ability from her mother's family, but if Lorenzo
had never done anything else in the world, he might
have glorified himself that he had prevented Rebecca
from being all Sawyer. Failure as he was, complete
and entire, he had generously handed down to her
all that was best in himself, and prudently retained
all that was unworthy. Few fathers are capable of
such delicate discrimination.
The brick house did not speedily become a sort
of wayside inn, a place of innocent revelry and
joyous welcome; but the missionary company was an
entering wedge, and Miranda allowed one spare bed
to be made up "in case anything should happen,"
while the crystal glasses were kept on the second
from the top, instead of the top shelf, in the china
closet. Rebecca had had to stand on a chair to reach
them; now she could do it by stretching; and this
is symbolic of the way in which she unconsciously
scaled the walls of Miss Miranda's dogmatism and
Miranda went so far as to say that she wouldn't
mind if the Burches came every once in a while, but
she was afraid he'd spread abroad the fact of his
visit, and missionaries' families would be underfoot
the whole continual time. As a case in point, she
gracefully cited the fact that if a tramp got a good
meal at anybody's back door, 't was said that he'd
leave some kind of a sign so that all other tramps
would know where they were likely to receive the
It is to be feared that there is some truth in this
homely illustration, and Miss Miranda's dread as
to her future responsibilities had some foundation,
though not of the precise sort she had in mind.
The soul grows into lovely habits as easily as into
ugly ones, and the moment a life begins to blossom
into beautiful words and deeds, that moment a new
standard of conduct is established, and your eager
neighbors look to you for a continuous manifestation
of the good cheer, the sympathy, the ready wit, the
comradeship, or the inspiration, you once showed
yourself capable of. Bear figs for a season or two,
and the world outside the orchard is very unwilling
you should bear thistles.
The effect of the Burches' visit on Rebecca is not
easily described. Nevertheless, as she looked back
upon it from the vantage ground of after years, she
felt that the moment when Mr. Burch asked her to
"lead in prayer" marked an epoch in her life.
If you have ever observed how courteous and
gracious and mannerly you feel when you don a
beautiful new frock; if you have ever noticed the
feeling of reverence stealing over you when you
close your eyes, clasp your hands, and bow your
head; if you have ever watched your sense of
repulsion toward a fellow creature melt a little under
the exercise of daily politeness, you may understand
how the adoption of the outward and visible sign
has some strange influence in developing the inward
and spiritual state of which it is the expression.
It is only when one has grown old and dull that
the soul is heavy and refuses to rise. The young
soul is ever winged; a breath stirs it to an upward
flight. Rebecca was asked to bear witness to a
state of mind or feeling of whose existence she had
only the vaguest consciousness. She obeyed, and as
she uttered words they became true in the uttering;
as she voiced aspirations they settled into realities.
As "dove that to its window flies," her spirit
soared towards a great light, dimly discovered at
first, but brighter as she came closer to it. To
become sensible of oneness with the Divine heart
before any sense of separation has been felt, this is
surely the most beautiful way for the child to find
THE SKY LINE WIDENS
The time so long and eagerly waited for
had come, and Rebecca was a student at
Wareham. Persons who had enjoyed the
social bewilderments and advantages of foreign
courts, or had mingled freely in the intellectual
circles of great universities, might not have looked
upon Wareham as an extraordinary experience;
but it was as much of an advance upon Riverboro
as that village had been upon Sunnybrook Farm.
Rebecca's intention was to complete the four
years' course in three, as it was felt by all the
parties concerned that when she had attained the ripe
age of seventeen she must be ready to earn her
own living and help in the education of the younger
children. While she was wondering how this could
be successfully accomplished, some of the other
girls were cogitating as to how they could meander
through the four years and come out at the end
knowing no more than at the beginning. This
would seem a difficult, well-nigh an impossible task,
but it can be achieved, and has been, at other seats
of learning than modest little Wareham.
Rebecca was to go to and fro on the cars daily
from September to Christmas, and then board in
Wareham during the three coldest months. Emma
Jane's parents had always thought that a year or
two in the Edgewood high school (three miles from
Riverboro) would serve every purpose for their
daughter and send her into the world with as fine
an intellectual polish as she could well sustain.
Emma Jane had hitherto heartily concurred in
this opinion, for if there was any one thing that
she detested it was the learning of lessons. One
book was as bad as another in her eyes, and she
could have seen the libraries of the world sinking
into ocean depths and have eaten her dinner cheerfully
the while; but matters assumed a different
complexion when she was sent to Edgewood and
Rebecca to Wareham. She bore it for a week--
seven endless days of absence from the beloved
object, whom she could see only in the evenings
when both were busy with their lessons. Sunday
offered an opportunity to put the matter before
her father, who proved obdurate. He didn't
believe in education and thought she had full enough
already. He never intended to keep up "blacksmithing"
for good when he leased his farm and
came into Riverboro, but proposed to go back to
it presently, and by that time Emma Jane would
have finished school and would be ready to help
her mother with the dairy work.
Another week passed. Emma Jane pined visibly
and audibly. Her color faded, and her appetite
(at table) dwindled almost to nothing.
Her mother alluded plaintively to the fact that
the Perkinses had a habit of going into declines;
that she'd always feared that Emma Jane's
complexion was too beautiful to be healthy; that some
men would be proud of having an ambitious daughter,
and be glad to give her the best advantages;
that she feared the daily journeys to Edgewood
were going to be too much for her own health,
and Mr. Perkins would have to hire a boy to drive
Emma Jane; and finally that when a girl had such
a passion for learning as Emma Jane, it seemed
almost like wickedness to cross her will.
Mr. Perkins bore this for several days until his
temper, digestion, and appetite were all sensibly
affected; then he bowed his head to the inevitable,
and Emma Jane flew, like a captive set free, to the
loved one's bower. Neither did her courage flag,
although it was put to terrific tests when she entered
the academic groves of Wareham. She passed in
only two subjects, but went cheerfully into the
preparatory department with her five "conditions,"
intending to let the stream of education play gently
over her mental surfaces and not get any wetter than
she could help. It is not possible to blink the truth
that Emma Jane was dull; but a dogged, unswerving
loyalty, and the gift of devoted, unselfish loving,
these, after all, are talents of a sort, and may
possibly be of as much value in the world as a sense
of numbers or a faculty for languages.
Wareham was a pretty village with a broad main
street shaded by great maples and elms. It had an
apothecary, a blacksmith, a plumber, several shops
of one sort and another, two churches, and many
boarding-houses; but all its interests gathered about
its seminary and its academy. These seats of learning
were neither better nor worse than others of
their kind, but differed much in efficiency, according
as the principal who chanced to be at the head was
a man of power and inspiration or the reverse.
There were boys and girls gathered from all parts
of the county and state, and they were of every
kind and degree as to birth, position in the world,
wealth or poverty. There was an opportunity for a
deal of foolish and imprudent behavior, but on the
whole surprisingly little advantage was taken of it.
Among the third and fourth year students there
was a certain amount of going to and from the
trains in couples; some carrying of heavy books
up the hill by the sterner sex for their feminine
schoolmates, and occasional bursts of silliness on
the part of heedless and precocious girls, among
whom was Huldah Meserve. She was friendly
enough with Emma Jane and Rebecca, but grew
less and less intimate as time went on. She was
extremely pretty, with a profusion of auburn hair,
and a few very tiny freckles, to which she
constantly alluded, as no one could possibly detect
them without noting her porcelain skin and her
curling lashes. She had merry eyes, a somewhat
too plump figure for her years, and was popularly
supposed to have a fascinating way with her.
Riverboro being poorly furnished with beaux, she
intended to have as good a time during her four
years at Wareham as circumstances would permit.
Her idea of pleasure was an ever-changing circle
of admirers to fetch and carry for her, the more
publicly the better; incessant chaff and laughter
and vivacious conversation, made eloquent and
effective by arch looks and telling glances. She
had a habit of confiding her conquests to less
fortunate girls and bewailing the incessant havoc and
damage she was doing; a damage she avowed
herself as innocent of, in intention, as any new-born
lamb. It does not take much of this sort of thing
to wreck an ordinary friendship, so before long
Rebecca and Emma Jane sat in one end of the
railway train in going to and from Riverboro, and
Huldah occupied the other with her court.
Sometimes this was brilliant beyond words, including
a certain youthful Monte Cristo, who on Fridays
expended thirty cents on a round trip ticket and
traveled from Wareham to Riverboro merely to be
near Huldah; sometimes, too, the circle was reduced
to the popcorn-and-peanut boy of the train, who
seemed to serve every purpose in default of better
Rebecca was in the normally unconscious state
that belonged to her years; boys were good comrades,
but no more; she liked reciting in the same
class with them, everything seemed to move better;
but from vulgar and precocious flirtations she was
protected by her ideals. There was little in the
lads she had met thus far to awaken her fancy, for
it habitually fed on better meat. Huldah's school-
girl romances, with their wealth of commonplace
detail, were not the stuff her dreams were made of,
when dreams did flutter across the sensitive plate of
Among the teachers at Wareham was one who
influenced Rebecca profoundly, Miss Emily Maxwell,
with whom she studied English literature and
composition. Miss Maxwell, as the niece of one
of Maine's ex-governors and the daughter of one of
Bowdoin's professors, was the most remarkable
personality in Wareham, and that her few years of
teaching happened to be in Rebecca's time was the
happiest of all chances. There was no indecision or
delay in the establishment of their relations;
Rebecca's heart flew like an arrow to its mark, and
her mind, meeting its superior, settled at once into
an abiding attitude of respectful homage.
It was rumored that Miss Maxwell "wrote,"
which word, when uttered in a certain tone, was
understood to mean not that a person had command
of penmanship, Spencerian or otherwise, but that
she had appeared in print.
"You'll like her; she writes," whispered Huldah
to Rebecca the first morning at prayers, where the
faculty sat in an imposing row on the front seats.
"She writes; and I call her stuck up."
Nobody seemed possessed of exact information
with which to satisfy the hungry mind, but there was
believed to be at least one person in existence who
had seen, with his own eyes, an essay by Miss
Maxwell in a magazine. This height of achievement
made Rebecca somewhat shy of her, but she looked
her admiration; something that most of the class
could never do with the unsatisfactory organs of
vision given them by Mother Nature. Miss
Maxwell's glance was always meeting a pair of eager
dark eyes; when she said anything particularly
good, she looked for approval to the corner of the
second bench, where every shade of feeling she
wished to evoke was reflected on a certain sensitive
One day, when the first essay of the class was
under discussion, she asked each new pupil to bring
her some composition written during the year before,
that she might judge the work, and know precisely
with what material she had to deal. Rebecca
lingered after the others, and approached the desk
"I haven't any compositions here, Miss Maxwell,
but I can find one when I go home on Friday.
They are packed away in a box in the attic."
"Carefully tied with pink and blue ribbons?"
asked Miss Maxwell, with a whimsical smile.
"No," answered Rebecca, shaking her head
decidedly; "I wanted to use ribbons, because all the
other girls did, and they looked so pretty, but I
used to tie my essays with twine strings on
purpose; and the one on solitude I fastened with an
old shoelacing just to show it what I thought of
"Solitude!" laughed Miss Maxwell, raising her
eyebrows. "Did you choose your own subject?"
"No; Miss Dearborn thought we were not old
enough to find good ones."
"What were some of the others?"
"Fireside Reveries, Grant as a Soldier, Reflections
on the Life of P. T. Barnum, Buried Cities;
I can't remember any more now. They were all bad,
and I can't bear to show them; I can write poetry
easier and better, Miss Maxwell."
"Poetry!" she exclaimed. "Did Miss Dearborn
require you to do it?"
"Oh, no; I always did it even at the farm. Shall
I bring all I have? It isn't much."
Rebecca took the blank-book in which she kept
copies of her effusions and left it at Miss Maxwell's
door, hoping that she might be asked in and thus
obtain a private interview; but a servant answered
her ring, and she could only walk away, disappointed.
A few days afterward she saw the black-covered
book on Miss Maxwell's desk and knew that the
dreaded moment of criticism had come, so she was
not surprised to be asked to remain after class.
The room was quiet; the red leaves rustled in
the breeze and flew in at the open window, bearing
the first compliments of the season. Miss Maxwell
came and sat by Rebecca's side on the bench.
"Did you think these were good?" she asked,
giving her the verses.
"Not so very," confessed Rebecca; "but it's
hard to tell all by yourself. The Perkinses and the
Cobbs always said they were wonderful, but when
Mrs. Cobb told me she thought they were better
than Mr. Longfellow's I was worried, because I
knew that couldn't be true."
This ingenuous remark confirmed Miss Maxwell's
opinion of Rebecca as a girl who could hear the
truth and profit by it.
"Well, my child," she said smilingly, "your
friends were wrong and you were right; judged by
the proper tests, they are pretty bad."
"Then I must give up all hope of ever being a
writer!" sighed Rebecca, who was tasting the
bitterness of hemlock and wondering if she could
keep the tears back until the interview was over.
"Don't go so fast," interrupted Miss Maxwell.
"Though they don't amount to anything as poetry,
they show a good deal of promise in certain direc-
tions. You almost never make a mistake in rhyme
or metre, and this shows you have a natural sense
of what is right; a `sense of form,' poets would
call it. When you grow older, have a little more
experience,--in fact, when you have something
to say, I think you may write very good verses.
Poetry needs knowledge and vision, experience and
imagination, Rebecca. You have not the first three
yet, but I rather think you have a touch of the last."
"Must I never try any more poetry, not even
to amuse myself?"
"Certainly you may; it will only help you to
write better prose. Now for the first composition.
I am going to ask all the new students to write a
letter giving some description of the town and a
hint of the school life."
"Shall I have to be myself?" asked Rebecca.
"What do you mean?"
"A letter from Rebecca Randall to her sister
Hannah at Sunnybrook Farm, or to her aunt Jane
at the brick house, Riverboro, is so dull and stupid,
if it is a real letter; but if I could make believe I was
a different girl altogether, and write to somebody
who would be sure to understand everything I said,
I could make it nicer."
"Very well; I think that's a delightful plan,"
said Miss Maxwell; "and whom will you suppose
yourself to be?"
"I like heiresses very much," replied Rebecca
contemplatively. "Of course I never saw one, but
interesting things are always happening to
heiresses, especially to the golden-haired kind. My
heiress wouldn't be vain and haughty like the
wicked sisters in Cinderella; she would be noble
and generous. She would give up a grand school
in Boston because she wanted to come here where
her father lived when he was a boy, long before he
made his fortune. The father is dead now, and she
has a guardian, the best and kindest man in the
world; he is rather old of course, and sometimes
very quiet and grave, but sometimes when he is
happy, he is full of fun, and then Evelyn is not afraid
of him. Yes, the girl shall be called Evelyn
Abercrombie, and her guardian's name shall be Mr. Adam
"Do you know Mr. Ladd?" asked Miss Maxwell
"Yes, he's my very best friend," cried Rebecca
delightedly. "Do you know him too?"
"Oh, yes; he is a trustee of these schools, you
know, and often comes here. But if I let you
`suppose' any more, you will tell me your whole letter
and then I shall lose a pleasant surprise."
What Rebecca thought of Miss Maxwell we
already know; how the teacher regarded the pupil
may be gathered from the following letter written
two or three months later.
Wareham, December 1st
My Dear Father,--As you well know, I have
not always been an enthusiast on the subject of
teaching. The task of cramming knowledge into
these self-sufficient, inefficient youngsters of both
sexes discourages me at times. The more stupid they
are, the less they are aware of it. If my department
were geography or mathematics, I believe I should
feel that I was accomplishing something, for in those
branches application and industry work wonders;
but in English literature and composition one yearns
for brains, for appreciation, for imagination! Month
after month I toil on, opening oyster after oyster,
but seldom finding a pearl. Fancy my joy this term
when, without any violent effort at shell-splitting,
I came upon a rare pearl; a black one, but of satin
skin and beautiful lustre! Her name is Rebecca,
and she looks not unlike Rebekah at the Well in our
family Bible; her hair and eyes being so dark as
to suggest a strain of Italian or Spanish blood. She
is nobody in particular. Man has done nothing for
her; she has no family to speak of, no money, no
education worthy the name, has had no advantages
of any sort; but Dame Nature flung herself into
the breach and said:--
"This child I to myself will take;
She shall be mine and I will make
A Lady of my own."
Blessed Wordsworth! How he makes us understand!
And the pearl never heard of him until now!
Think of reading Lucy to a class, and when you
finish, seeing a fourteen-year-old pair of lips
quivering with delight, and a pair of eyes brimming with
You poor darling! You, too, know the
discouragement of sowing lovely seed in rocky earth,
in sand, in water, and (it almost seems sometimes)
in mud; knowing that if anything comes up at all
it will be some poor starveling plant. Fancy the joy
of finding a real mind; of dropping seed in a soil
so warm, so fertile, that one knows there are sure
to be foliage, blossoms, and fruit all in good time!
I wish I were not so impatient and so greedy of
results! I am not fit to be a teacher; no one is
who is so scornful of stupidity as I am. . . . The
pearl writes quaint countrified little verses,
doggerel they are; but somehow or other she always
contrives to put in one line, one thought, one image,
that shows you she is, quite unconsciously to herself,
in possession of the secret. . . . Good-by; I'll bring
Rebecca home with me some Friday, and let you
and mother see her for yourselves.
Your affectionate daughter,
CLOVER BLOSSOMS AND SUNFLOWERS
How d' ye do, girls?" said Huldah Meserve,
peeping in at the door. "Can you
stop studying a minute and show me your
room? Say, I've just been down to the store
and bought me these gloves, for I was bound I
wouldn't wear mittens this winter; they're
simply too countrified. It's your first year here, and
you're younger than I am, so I s'pose you don't
mind, but I simply suffer if I don't keep up some
kind of style. Say, your room is simply too cute for
words! I don't believe any of the others can begin
to compare with it! I don't know what gives it that
simply gorgeous look, whether it's the full curtains,
or that elegant screen, or Rebecca's lamp; but you
certainly do have a faculty for fixing up. I like a
pretty room too, but I never have a minute to
attend to mine; I'm always so busy on my clothes that
half the time I don't get my bed made up till noon;
and after all, having no callers but the girls, it don't
make much difference. When I graduate, I'm going
to fix up our parlor at home so it'll be simply regal.
I've learned decalcomania, and after I take up lustre
painting I shall have it simply stiff with drapes and
tidies and placques and sofa pillows, and make mo-
ther let me have a fire, and receive my friends there
evenings. May I dry my feet at your register? I
can't bear to wear rubbers unless the mud or the
slush is simply knee-deep, they make your feet look
so awfully big. I had such a fuss getting this pair
of French-heeled boots that I don't intend to spoil
the looks of them with rubbers any oftener than I
can help. I believe boys notice feet quicker than
anything. Elmer Webster stepped on one of mine
yesterday when I accidentally had it out in the
aisle, and when he apologized after class, he said he
wasn't so much to blame, for the foot was so little
he really couldn't see it! Isn't he perfectly great?
Of course that's only his way of talking, for after
all I only wear a number two, but these French
heels and pointed toes do certainly make your foot
look smaller, and it's always said a high instep helps,
too. I used to think mine was almost a deformity,
but they say it's a great beauty. Just put your feet
beside mine, girls, and look at the difference; not
that I care much, but just for fun."
"My feet are very comfortable where they are,"
responded Rebecca dryly. "I can't stop to measure
insteps on algebra days; I've noticed your habit
of keeping a foot in the aisle ever since you had
those new shoes, so I don't wonder it was stepped
"Perhaps I am a little mite conscious of them,
because they're not so very comfortable at first, till
you get them broken in. Say, haven't you got a
lot of new things?"
"Our Christmas presents, you mean," said Emma
Jane. "The pillow-cases are from Mrs. Cobb, the
rug from cousin Mary in North Riverboro, the
scrap-basket from Living and Dick. We gave each
other the bureau and cushion covers, and the screen
is mine from Mr. Ladd."
"Well, you were lucky when you met him!
Gracious! I wish I could meet somebody like that.
The way he keeps it up, too! It just hides your
bed, doesn't it, and I always say that a bed takes
the style off any room--specially when it's not
made up; though you have an alcove, and it's the
only one in the whole building. I don't see how
you managed to get this good room when you're
such new scholars," she finished discontentedly.
"We shouldn't have, except that Ruth Berry
had to go away suddenly on account of her father's
death. This room was empty, and Miss Maxwell
asked if we might have it," returned Emma Jane.
"The great and only Max is more stiff and
standoffish than ever this year," said Huldah. "I've
simply given up trying to please her, for there's
no justice in her; she is good to her favorites, but
she doesn't pay the least attention to anybody else,
except to make sarcastic speeches about things
that are none of her business. I wanted to tell her
yesterday it was her place to teach me Latin, not
"I wish you wouldn't talk against Miss Maxwell
to me," said Rebecca hotly. "You know how I
"I know; but I can't understand how you can
"I not only abide, I love her!" exclaimed
Rebecca. "I wouldn't let the sun shine too hot on
her, or the wind blow too cold. I'd like to put a
marble platform in her class-room and have her sit
in a velvet chair behind a golden table!"
"Well, don't have a fit!--because she can sit
where she likes for all of me; I've got something
better to think of," and Huldah tossed her head.
"Isn't this your study hour?" asked Emma
Jane, to stop possible discussion.
"Yes, but I lost my Latin grammar yesterday;
I left it in the hall half an hour while I was having
a regular scene with Herbert Dunn. I haven't
spoken to him for a week and gave him back his
class pin. He was simply furious. Then when I
came back to the hall, the book was gone. I had
to go down town for my gloves and to the principal's
office to see if the grammar had been handed
in, and that's the reason I'm so fine."
Huldah was wearing a woolen dress that had
once been gray, but had been dyed a brilliant blue.
She had added three rows of white braid and large
white pearl buttons to her gray jacket, in order to
make it a little more "dressy." Her gray felt hat
had a white feather on it, and a white tissue veil
with large black dots made her delicate skin look
brilliant. Rebecca thought how lovely the knot of
red hair looked under the hat behind, and how the
color of the front had been dulled by incessant
frizzing with curling irons. Her open jacket
disclosed a galaxy of souvenirs pinned to the
background of bright blue,--a small American flag, a
button of the Wareham Rowing Club, and one or
two society pins. These decorations proved her
popularity in very much the same way as do the
cotillion favors hanging on the bedroom walls of
the fashionable belle. She had been pinning and
unpinning, arranging and disarranging her veil
ever since she entered the room, in the hope that
the girls would ask her whose ring she was wearing
this week; but although both had noticed the new
ornament instantly, wild horses could not have
drawn the question from them; her desire to be
asked was too obvious. With her gay plumage,
her "nods and becks and wreathed smiles," and her
cheerful cackle, Huldah closely resembled the
parrot in Wordsworth's poem:--
"Arch, volatile, a sportive bird,
By social glee inspired;
Ambitious to be seen or heard,
And pleased to be admired!"
"Mr. Morrison thinks the grammar will be
returned, and lent me another," Huldah continued.
"He was rather snippy about my leaving a book in
the hall. There was a perfectly elegant gentleman
in the office, a stranger to me. I wish he was a new
teacher, but there's no such luck. He was too
young to be the father of any of the girls, and too
old to be a brother, but he was handsome as a
picture and had on an awful stylish suit of clothes.
He looked at me about every minute I was in the
room. It made me so embarrassed I couldn't hardly
answer Mr. Morrison's questions straight."
"You'll have to wear a mask pretty soon, if
you're going to have any comfort, Huldah," said
Rebecca. "Did he offer to lend you his class pin,
or has it been so long since he graduated that he's
left off wearing it? And tell us now whether the
principal asked for a lock of your hair to put in his
This was all said merrily and laughingly, but
there were times when Huldah could scarcely make
up her mind whether Rebecca was trying to be
witty, or whether she was jealous; but she
generally decided it was merely the latter feeling,
rather natural in a girl who had little attention.
"He wore no jewelry but a cameo scarf pin and
a perfectly gorgeous ring,--a queer kind of one
that wound round and round his finger. Oh dear,
I must run! Where has the hour gone? There's
the study bell!"
Rebecca had pricked up her ears at Huldah's
speech. She remembered a certain strange ring,
and it belonged to the only person in the world (save
Miss Maxwell) who appealed to her imagination,--
Mr. Aladdin. Her feeling for him, and that of Emma
Jane, was a mixture of romantic and reverent admiration
for the man himself and the liveliest gratitude
for his beautiful gifts. Since they first met him
not a Christmas had gone by without some remembrance
for them both; remembrances chosen with
the rarest taste and forethought. Emma Jane had
seen him only twice, but he had called several times
at the brick house, and Rebecca had learned to
know him better. It was she, too, who always wrote
the notes of acknowledgment and thanks, taking
infinite pains to make Emma Jane's quite different
from her own. Sometimes he had written from
Boston and asked her the news of Riverboro, and
she had sent him pages of quaint and childlike gossip,
interspersed, on two occasions, with poetry,
which he read and reread with infinite relish. If
Huldah's stranger should be Mr. Aladdin, would he
come to see her, and could she and Emma Jane
show him their beautiful room with so many of his
gifts in evidence?
When the girls had established themselves in
Wareham as real boarding pupils, it seemed to
them existence was as full of joy as it well could
hold. This first winter was, in fact, the most
tranquilly happy of Rebecca's school life,--a winter
long to be looked back upon. She and Emma
Jane were room-mates, and had put their modest
possessions together to make their surroundings
pretty and homelike. The room had, to begin with,
a cheerful red ingrain carpet and a set of maple
furniture. As to the rest, Rebecca had furnished
the ideas and Emma Jane the materials and labor,
a method of dividing responsibilities that seemed
to suit the circumstances admirably. Mrs. Perkins's
father had been a storekeeper, and on his death
had left the goods of which he was possessed to
his married daughter. The molasses, vinegar, and
kerosene had lasted the family for five years, and
the Perkins attic was still a treasure-house of
ginghams, cottons, and "Yankee notions." So at
Rebecca's instigation Mrs. Perkins had made full
curtains and lambrequins of unbleached muslin,
which she had trimmed and looped back with
bands of Turkey red cotton. There were two table
covers to match, and each of the girls had her
study corner. Rebecca, after much coaxing, had
been allowed to bring over her precious lamp,
which would have given a luxurious air to any
apartment, and when Mr. Aladdin's last Christmas
presents were added,--the Japanese screen for
Emma Jane and the little shelf of English Poets
for Rebecca,--they declared that it was all quite
as much fun as being married and going to housekeeping.
The day of Huldah's call was Friday, and on
Fridays from three to half past four Rebecca was
free to take a pleasure to which she looked forward
the entire week. She always ran down the snowy
path through the pine woods at the back of the
seminary, and coming out on a quiet village street,
went directly to the large white house where Miss
Maxwell lived. The maid-of-all-work answered her
knock; she took off her hat and cape and hung
them in the hall, put her rubber shoes and
umbrella carefully in the corner, and then opened the
door of paradise. Miss Maxwell's sitting-room was
lined on two sides with bookshelves, and Rebecca
was allowed to sit before the fire and browse
among the books to her heart's delight for an hour
or more. Then Miss Maxwell would come back
from her class, and there would be a precious half
hour of chat before Rebecca had to meet Emma
Jane at the station and take the train for Riverboro,
where her Saturdays and Sundays were
spent, and where she was washed, ironed, mended,
and examined, approved and reproved, warned and
advised in quite sufficient quantity to last her the
On this Friday she buried her face in the blooming
geraniums on Miss Maxwell's plant-stand, selected
Romola from one of the bookcases, and sank
into a seat by the window with a sigh of infinite
content, She glanced at the clock now and then,
remembering the day on which she had been so
immersed in David Copperfield that the Riverboro
train had no place in her mind. The distracted
Emma Jane had refused to leave without her, and
had run from the station to look for her at Miss
Maxwell's. There was but one later train, and that
went only to a place three miles the other side
of Riverboro, so that the two girls appeared at their
respective homes long after dark, having had a
weary walk in the snow.
When she had read for half an hour she glanced
out of the window and saw two figures issuing from
the path through the woods. The knot of bright
hair and the coquettish hat could belong to but
one person; and her companion, as the couple
approached, proved to be none other than Mr. Aladdin.
Huldah was lifting her skirts daintily and
picking safe stepping-places for the high-heeled
shoes, her cheeks glowing, her eyes sparkling under
the black and white veil.
Rebecca slipped from her post by the window to
the rug before the bright fire and leaned her head
on the seat of the great easy-chair. She was frightened
at the storm in her heart; at the suddenness
with which it had come on, as well as at the strangeness
of an entirely new sensation. She felt all at
once as if she could not bear to give up her share
of Mr. Aladdin's friendship to Huldah: Huldah so
bright, saucy, and pretty; so gay and ready, and
such good company! She had always joyfully
admitted Emma Jane into the precious partnership,
but perhaps unconsciously to herself she had
realized that Emma Jane had never held anything but
a secondary place in Mr. Aladdin's regard; yet who
was she herself, after all, that she could hope to be
Suddenly the door opened softly and somebody
looked in, somebody who said: "Miss Maxwell
told me I should find Miss Rebecca Randall here."
Rebecca started at the sound and sprang to her
feet, saying joyfully, "Mr. Aladdin! Oh! I knew
you were in Wareham, and I was afraid you
wouldn't have time to come and see us."
"Who is `us'? The aunts are not here, are
they? Oh, you mean the rich blacksmith's daughter,
whose name I can never remember. Is she
"Yes, and my room-mate," answered Rebecca,
who thought her own knell of doom had sounded,
if he had forgotten Emma Jane's name.
The light in the room grew softer, the fire
crackled cheerily, and they talked of many things,
until the old sweet sense of friendliness and
familiarity crept back into Rebecca's heart. Adam
had not seen her for several months, and there was
much to be learned about school matters as viewed
from her own standpoint; he had already inquired
concerning her progress from Mr. Morrison.
"Well, little Miss Rebecca," he said, rousing
himself at length, "I must be thinking of my drive
to Portland. There is a meeting of railway
directors there to-morrow, and I always take this
opportunity of visiting the school and giving my
valuable advice concerning its affairs, educational
"It seems funny for you to be a school trustee,"
said Rebecca contemplatively. "I can't seem to
make it fit."
"You are a remarkably wise young person and
I quite agree with you," he answered; "the fact
is," he added soberly, "I accepted the trusteeship
in memory of my poor little mother, whose last
happy years were spent here."
"That was a long time ago!"
"Let me see, I am thirty-two; only thirty-two,
despite an occasional gray hair. My mother was
married a month after she graduated, and she lived
only until I was ten; yes, it is a long way back to
my mother's time here, though the school was fifteen
or twenty years old then, I believe. Would
you like to see my mother, Miss Rebecca?"
The girl took the leather case gently and opened
it to find an innocent, pink-and-white daisy of a
face, so confiding, so sensitive, that it went straight
to the heart. It made Rebecca feel old, experienced,
and maternal. She longed on the instant to comfort
and strengthen such a tender young thing.
"Oh, what a sweet, sweet, flowery face!" she
"The flower had to bear all sorts of storms," said
Adam gravely. "The bitter weather of the world
bent its slender stalk, bowed its head, and dragged
it to the earth. I was only a child and could do
nothing to protect and nourish it, and there was no
one else to stand between it and trouble. Now I
have success and money and power, all that would
have kept her alive and happy, and it is too late.
She died for lack of love and care, nursing and
cherishing, and I can never forget it. All that has
come to me seems now and then so useless, since I
cannot share it with her!"
This was a new Mr. Aladdin, and Rebecca's heart
gave a throb of sympathy and comprehension. This
explained the tired look in his eyes, the look that
peeped out now and then, under all his gay speech
"I'm so glad I know," she said, "and so glad I
could see her just as she was when she tied that
white muslin hat under her chin and saw her yellow
curls and her sky-blue eyes in the glass. Mustn't
she have been happy! I wish she could have been
kept so, and had lived to see you grow up strong
and good. My mother is always sad and busy, but
once when she looked at John I heard her say, `He
makes up for everything.' That's what your mother
would have thought about you if she had lived,
and perhaps she does as it is."
"You are a comforting little person, Rebecca,"
said Adam, rising from his chair.
As Rebecca rose, the tears still trembling on her
lashes, he looked at her suddenly as with new vision.
"Good-by!" he said, taking her slim brown
hands in his, adding, as if he saw her for the first
time, "Why, little Rose-Red-Snow-White is making
way for a new girl! Burning the midnight oil and
doing four years' work in three is supposed to dull
the eye and blanch the cheek, yet Rebecca's eyes
are bright and she has a rosy color! Her long braids
are looped one on the other so that they make a
black letter U behind, and they are tied with grand
bows at the top! She is so tall that she reaches
almost to my shoulder. This will never do in the
world! How will Mr. Aladdin get on without his
comforting little friend! He doesn't like grown-up
young ladies in long trains and wonderful fine
clothes; they frighten and bore him!"
"Oh, Mr. Aladdin!" cried Rebecca eagerly,
taking his jest quite seriously; "I am not fifteen
yet, and it will be three years before I'm a young
lady; please don't give me up until you have to!"
"I won't; I promise you that," said Adam.
"Rebecca," he continued, after a moment's pause,
"who is that young girl with a lot of pretty red
hair and very citified manners? She escorted me
down the hill; do you know whom I mean?"
"It must be Huldah Meserve; she is from Riverboro."
Adam put a finger under Rebecca's chin and
looked into her eyes; eyes as soft, as clear, as
unconscious, and childlike as they had been when she
was ten. He remembered the other pair of challenging
blue ones that had darted coquettish glances
through half-dropped lids, shot arrowy beams from
under archly lifted brows, and said gravely, "Don't
form yourself on her, Rebecca; clover blossoms
that grow in the fields beside Sunnybrook mustn't
be tied in the same bouquet with gaudy sunflowers;
they are too sweet and fragrant and wholesome."
THE HILL DIFFICULTY
The first happy year at Wareham, with
its widened sky-line, its larger vision, its
greater opportunity, was over and gone.
Rebecca had studied during the summer vacation,
and had passed, on her return in the autumn,
certain examinations which would enable her, if she
carried out the same programme the next season,
to complete the course in three instead of four
years. She came off with no flying colors,--that
would have been impossible in consideration of her
inadequate training; but she did wonderfully well
in some of the required subjects, and so brilliantly
in others that the average was respectable. She
would never have been a remarkable scholar under
any circumstances, perhaps, and she was easily out-
stripped in mathematics and the natural sciences
by a dozen girls, but in some inexplicable way she
became, as the months went on, the foremost figure
in the school. When she had entirely forgotten the
facts which would enable her to answer a question
fully and conclusively, she commonly had some
original theory to expound; it was not always
correct, but it was generally unique and sometimes
amusing. She was only fair in Latin or French
grammar, but when it came to translation, her freedom,
her choice of words, and her sympathetic
understanding of the spirit of the text made her the
delight of her teachers and the despair of her rivals.
"She can be perfectly ignorant of a subject,'
said Miss Maxwell to Adam Ladd, "but entirely
intelligent the moment she has a clue. Most of the
other girls are full of information and as stupid as
Rebecca's gifts had not been discovered save by
the few, during the first year, when she was adjusting
herself quietly to the situation. She was distinctly
one of the poorer girls; she had no fine
dresses to attract attention, no visitors, no friends
in the town. She had more study hours, and less
time, therefore, for the companionship of other girls,
gladly as she would have welcomed the gayety of
that side of school life. Still, water will find its own
level in some way, and by the spring of the second
year she had naturally settled into the same sort of
leadership which had been hers in the smaller
community of Riverboro. She was unanimously elected
assistant editor of the Wareham School Pilot, being
the first girl to assume that enviable, though somewhat
arduous and thankless position, and when her
maiden number went to the Cobbs, uncle Jerry and
aunt Sarah could hardly eat or sleep for pride.
"She'll always get votes," said Huldah Meserve,
when discussing the election, "for whether she
knows anything or not, she looks as if she did, and
whether she's capable of filling an office or not, she
looks as if she was. I only wish I was tall and dark
and had the gift of making people believe I was
great things, like Rebecca Randall. There's one
thing: though the boys call her handsome, you
notice they don't trouble her with much attention."
It was a fact that Rebecca's attitude towards the
opposite sex was still somewhat indifferent and
oblivious, even for fifteen and a half! No one could
look at her and doubt that she had potentialities of
attraction latent within her somewhere, but that side
of her nature was happily biding its time. A human
being is capable only of a certain amount of activity
at a given moment, and it will inevitably satisfy
first its most pressing needs, its most ardent desires,
its chief ambitions. Rebecca was full of small
anxieties and fears, for matters were not going well
at the brick house and were anything but hopeful
at the home farm. She was overbusy and overtaxed,
and her thoughts were naturally drawn towards the
difficult problems of daily living.
It had seemed to her during the autumn and
winter of that year as if her aunt Miranda had
never been, save at the very first, so censorious and
so fault-finding. One Saturday Rebecca ran upstairs
and, bursting into a flood of tears, exclaimed,
"Aunt Jane, it seems as if I never could stand her
continual scoldings. Nothing I can do suits aunt
Miranda; she's just said it will take me my whole
life to get the Randall out of me, and I'm not
convinced that I want it all out, so there we are!"
Aunt Jane, never demonstrative, cried with
Rebecca as she attempted to soothe her.
"You must be patient," she said, wiping first her
own eyes and then Rebecca's. "I haven't told you,
for it isn't fair you should be troubled when you're
studying so hard, but your aunt Miranda isn't well.
One Monday morning about a month ago, she had
a kind of faint spell; it wasn't bad, but the doctor
is afraid it was a shock, and if so, it's the beginning
of the end. Seems to me she's failing right along,
and that's what makes her so fretful and easy vexed.
She has other troubles too, that you don't know
anything about, and if you're not kind to your aunt
Miranda now, child, you'll be dreadful sorry some
All the temper faded from Rebecca's face, and
she stopped crying to say penitently, "Oh! the poor
dear thing! I won't mind a bit what she says now.
She's just asked me for some milk toast and I
was dreading to take it to her, but this will make
everything different. Don't worry yet, aunt Jane,
for perhaps it won't be as bad as you think."
So when she carried the toast to her aunt a little
later, it was in the best gilt-edged china bowl, with
a fringed napkin on the tray and a sprig of geranium
lying across the salt cellar.
"Now, aunt Miranda," she said cheerily, "I expect
you to smack your lips and say this is good; it's not
Randall, but Sawyer milk toast."
"You've tried all kinds on me, one time an'
another," Miranda answered. "This tastes real
kind o' good; but I wish you hadn't wasted that
"You can't tell what's wasted," said Rebecca
philosophically; "perhaps that geranium has been
hoping this long time it could brighten somebody's
supper, so don't disappoint it by making believe you
don't like it. I've seen geraniums cry,--in the very
The mysterious trouble to which Jane had alluded
was a very real one, but it was held in profound
secrecy. Twenty-five hundred dollars of the small
Sawyer property had been invested in the business
of a friend of their father's, and had returned them
a regular annual income of a hundred dollars. The
family friend had been dead for some five years,
but his son had succeeded to his interests and all
went on as formerly. Suddenly there came a letter
saying that the firm had gone into bankruptcy,
that the business had been completely wrecked, and
that the Sawyer money had been swept away with
The loss of one hundred dollars a year is a very
trifling matter, but it made all the difference between
comfort and self-denial to the two old spinsters
Their manner of life had been so rigid and careful
that it was difficult to economize any further, and the
blow had fallen just when it was most inconvenient,
for Rebecca's school and boarding expenses, small
as they were, had to be paid promptly and in cash.
"Can we possibly go on doing it? Shan't we
have to give up and tell her why?" asked Jane
tearfully of the elder sister.
"We have put our hand to the plough, and we
can't turn back," answered Miranda in her grimmest
tone; "we've taken her away from her mother
and offered her an education, and we've got to keep
our word. She's Aurelia's only hope for years to
come, to my way o' thinkin'. Hannah's beau takes
all her time 'n' thought, and when she gits a
husband her mother'll be out o' sight and out o' mind.
John, instead of farmin', thinks he must be a doctor,--
as if folks wasn't gettin' unhealthy enough
these days, without turnin' out more young doctors
to help 'em into their graves. No, Jane; we'll skimp
'n' do without, 'n' plan to git along on our interest
money somehow, but we won't break into our principal,
"Breaking into the principal" was, in the minds
of most thrifty New England women, a sin only
second to arson, theft, or murder; and, though the
rule was occasionally carried too far for common
sense,--as in this case, where two elderly women
of sixty might reasonably have drawn something
from their little hoard in time of special need,--it
doubtless wrought more of good than evil in the
Rebecca, who knew nothing of their business
affairs, merely saw her aunts grow more and more
saving, pinching here and there, cutting off this
and that relentlessly. Less meat and fish were
bought; the woman who had lately been coming
two days a week for washing, ironing, and scrubbing
was dismissed; the old bonnets of the season
before were brushed up and retrimmed; there were
no drives to Moderation or trips to Portland. Economy
was carried to its very extreme; but though
Miranda was well-nigh as gloomy and uncompromising
in her manner and conversation as a woman could
well be, she at least never twitted her niece of being
a burden; so Rebecca's share of the Sawyers'
misfortunes consisted only in wearing her old dresses,
hats, and jackets, without any apparent hope of a
There was, however, no concealing the state of
things at Sunnybrook, where chapters of accidents
had unfolded themselves in a sort of serial story that
had run through the year. The potato crop had
failed; there were no apples to speak of; the hay
had been poor; Aurelia had turns of dizziness in
her head; Mark had broken his ankle. As this was
his fourth offense, Miranda inquired how many
bones there were in the human body, "so 't they'd
know when Mark got through breakin' 'em." The
time for paying the interest on the mortgage, that
incubus that had crushed all the joy out of the
Randall household, had come and gone, and there
was no possibility, for the first time in fourteen
years, of paying the required forty-eight dollars.
The only bright spot in the horizon was Hannah's
engagement to Will Melville,--a young farmer
whose land joined Sunnybrook, who had a good
house, was alone in the world, and his own master.
Hannah was so satisfied with her own unexpectedly
radiant prospects that she hardly realized her mother's
anxieties; for there are natures which flourish,
in adversity, and deteriorate when exposed to sudden
prosperity. She had made a visit of a week at
the brick house; and Miranda's impression, conveyed
in privacy to Jane, was that Hannah was close
as the bark of a tree, and consid'able selfish too;
that when she'd clim' as fur as she could in the
world, she'd kick the ladder out from under her,
everlastin' quick; that, on being sounded as to her
ability to be of use to the younger children in the
future, she said she guessed she'd done her share
a'ready, and she wan't goin' to burden Will with
her poor relations. "She's Susan Randall through
and through!" ejaculated Miranda. "I was glad to
see her face turned towards Temperance. If that
mortgage is ever cleared from the farm, 't won't be
Hannah that'll do it; it'll be Rebecca or me!"
ALADDIN RUBS HIS LAMP
Your esteemed contribution entitled Wareham
Wildflowers has been accepted for
The Pilot, Miss Perkins," said Rebecca,
entering the room where Emma Jane was darning
the firm's stockings. "I stayed to tea with Miss
Maxwell, but came home early to tell you."
"You are joking, Becky!" faltered Emma Jane,
looking up from her work.
"Not a bit; the senior editor read it and thought
it highly instructive; it appears in the next issue."
"Not in the same number with your poem about
the golden gates that close behind us when we leave
school?"--and Emma Jane held her breath as she
awaited the reply.
"Even so, Miss Perkins."
"Rebecca," said Emma Jane, with the nearest
approach to tragedy that her nature would permit,
"I don't know as I shall be able to bear it, and if
anything happens to me, I ask you solemnly to bury
that number of The Pilot with me."
Rebecca did not seem to think this the expression
of an exaggerated state of feeling, inasmuch as
she replied, "I know; that's just the way it seemed
to me at first, and even now, whenever I'm alone
and take out the Pilot back numbers to read over
my contributions, I almost burst with pleasure; and
it's not that they are good either, for they look
worse to me every time I read them."
"If you would only live with me in some little
house when we get older," mused Emma Jane, as
with her darning needle poised in air she regarded
the opposite wall dreamily, "I would do the housework
and cooking, and copy all your poems and
stories, and take them to the post-office, and you
needn't do anything but write. It would be
"I'd like nothing better, if I hadn't promised to
keep house for John," replied Rebecca.
"He won't have a house for a good many years,
"No," sighed Rebecca ruefully, flinging herself
down by the table and resting her head on her hand.
"Not unless we can contrive to pay off that detestable
mortgage. The day grows farther off instead
of nearer now that we haven't paid the interest
She pulled a piece of paper towards her, and
scribbling idly on it read aloud in a moment or two:--
"Will you pay a little faster?" said the mortgage to the farm;
"I confess I'm very tired of this place."
"The weariness is mutual," Rebecca Randall cried;
"I would I'd never gazed upon your face!"
"A note has a `face,'" observed Emma Jane, who
was gifted in arithmetic. "I didn't know that a
"Our mortgage has," said Rebecca revengefully.
"I should know him if I met him in the dark. Wait
and I'll draw him for you. It will be good for you
to know how he looks, and then when you have a
husband and seven children, you won't allow him to
come anywhere within a mile of your farm."
The sketch when completed was of a sort to be
shunned by a timid person on the verge of slumber.
There was a tiny house on the right, and a weeping
family gathered in front of it. The mortgage was
depicted as a cross between a fiend and an ogre,
and held an axe uplifted in his red right hand. A
figure with streaming black locks was staying the
blow, and this, Rebecca explained complacently, was
intended as a likeness of herself, though she was
rather vague as to the method she should use in
attaining her end.
"He's terrible," said Emma Jane, "but awfully
wizened and small."
"It's only a twelve hundred dollar mortgage,"
said Rebecca, "and that's called a small one. John
saw a man once that was mortgaged for twelve
"Shall you be a writer or an editor?" asked
Emma Jane presently, as if one had only to choose
and the thing were done.
"I shall have to do what turns up first, I suppose."
"Why not go out as a missionary to Syria, as the
Burches are always coaxing you to? The Board
would pay your expenses."
"I can't make up my mind to be a missionary,"