Part 5 out of 6
Rebecca answered. "I'm not good enough in the
first place, and I don't `feel a call,' as Mr. Burch
says you must. I would like to do something for
somebody and make things move, somewhere, but
I don't want to go thousands of miles away teaching
people how to live when I haven't learned myself.
It isn't as if the heathen really needed me; I'm
sure they'll come out all right in the end."
"I can't see how; if all the people who ought to
go out to save them stay at home as we do," argued
"Why, whatever God is, and wherever He is,
He must always be there, ready and waiting. He
can't move about and miss people. It may take
the heathen a little longer to find Him, but God
will make allowances, of course. He knows if they
live in such hot climates it must make them lazy
and slow; and the parrots and tigers and snakes
and bread-fruit trees distract their minds; and
having no books, they can't think as well; but
they'll find God somehow, some time."
"What if they die first?" asked Emma Jane.
"Oh, well, they can't be blamed for that; they
don't die on purpose," said Rebecca, with a
In these days Adam Ladd sometimes went to
Temperance on business connected with the proposed
branch of the railroad familiarly known
as the "York and Yank 'em," and while there he
gained an inkling of Sunnybrook affairs. The
building of the new road was not yet a certainty, and
there was a difference of opinion as to the best
route from Temperance to Plumville. In one event
the way would lead directly through Sunnybrook,
from corner to corner, and Mrs. Randall would be
compensated; in the other, her interests would not
be affected either for good or ill, save as all land in
the immediate neighborhood might rise a little in
Coming from Temperance to Wareham one day,
Adam had a long walk and talk with Rebecca,
whom he thought looking pale and thin, though
she was holding bravely to her self-imposed hours
of work. She was wearing a black cashmere dress
that had been her aunt Jane's second best. We are
familiar with the heroine of romance whose foot is
so exquisitely shaped that the coarsest shoe cannot
conceal its perfections, and one always cherishes a
doubt of the statement; yet it is true that Rebecca's
peculiar and individual charm seemed wholly
independent of accessories. The lines of her fig-
ure, the rare coloring of skin and hair and eyes,
triumphed over shabby clothing, though, had the
advantage of artistic apparel been given her, the
little world of Wareham would probably at once
have dubbed her a beauty. The long black braids
were now disposed after a quaint fashion of her
own. They were crossed behind, carried up to the
front, and crossed again, the tapering ends finally
brought down and hidden in the thicker part at the
neck. Then a purely feminine touch was given to
the hair that waved back from the face,--a touch
that rescued little crests and wavelets from bondage
and set them free to take a new color in the sun.
Adam Ladd looked at her in a way that made
her put her hands over her face and laugh through
them shyly as she said: "I know what you are
thinking, Mr. Aladdin,--that my dress is an inch
longer than last year, and my hair different; but
I'm not nearly a young lady yet; truly I'm not.
Sixteen is a month off still, and you promised not
to give me up till my dress trails. If you don't like
me to grow old, why don't you grow young? Then
we can meet in the halfway house and have nice
times. Now that I think about it," she continued,
"that's just what you've been doing all along.
When you bought the soap, I thought you were
grandfather Sawyer's age; when you danced with
me at the flag-raising, you seemed like my father;
but when you showed me your mother's picture, I
felt as if you were my John, because I was so sorry
"That will do very well," smiled Adam; "unless
you go so swiftly that you become my grandmother
before I really need one. You are studying too
hard, Miss Rebecca Rowena!"
"Just a little," she confessed. "But vacation
comes soon, you know."
"And are you going to have a good rest and try
to recover your dimples? They are really worth
A shadow crept over Rebecca's face and her eyes
suffused. "Don't be kind, Mr. Aladdin, I can't bear
it;--it's--it's not one of my dimply days!" and
she ran in at the seminary gate, and disappeared
with a farewell wave of her hand.
Adam Ladd wended his way to the principal's
office in a thoughtful mood. He had come to Wareham
to unfold a plan that he had been considering
for several days. This year was the fiftieth
anniversary of the founding of the Wareham schools,
and he meant to tell Mr. Morrison that in addition
to his gift of a hundred volumes to the reference
library, he intended to celebrate it by offering prizes
in English composition, a subject in which he was
much interested. He wished the boys and girls of
the two upper classes to compete; the award to be
made to the writers of the two best essays. As to
the nature of the prizes he had not quite made up
his mind, but they would be substantial ones, either
of money or of books.
This interview accomplished, he called upon Miss
Maxwell, thinking as he took the path through the
woods, "Rose-Red-Snow-White needs the help, and
since there is no way of my giving it to her without
causing remark, she must earn it, poor little soul!
I wonder if my money is always to be useless where
most I wish to spend it!"
He had scarcely greeted his hostess when he
said: "Miss Maxwell, doesn't it strike you that
our friend Rebecca looks wretchedly tired?"
"She does indeed, and I am considering whether
I can take her away with me. I always go South
for the spring vacation, traveling by sea to Old
Point Comfort, and rusticating in some quiet spot
near by. I should like nothing better than to have
Rebecca for a companion."
"The very thing!" assented Adam heartily;
"but why should you take the whole responsibility?
Why not let me help? I am greatly interested in
the child, and have been for some years."
"You needn't pretend you discovered her,"
interrupted Miss Maxwell warmly, "for I did that
"She was an intimate friend of mine long before
you ever came to Wareham," laughed Adam, and
he told Miss Maxwell the circumstances of his first
meeting with Rebecca. "From the beginning I've
tried to think of a way I could be useful in her
development, but no reasonable solution seemed to
"Luckily she attends to her own development,"
answered Miss Maxwell. "In a sense she is
independent of everything and everybody; she follows
her saint without being conscious of it. But she
needs a hundred practical things that money would
buy for her, and alas! I have a slender purse."
"Take mine, I beg, and let me act through you,"
pleaded Adam. "I could not bear to see even a
young tree trying its best to grow without light or
air,--how much less a gifted child! I interviewed
her aunts a year ago, hoping I might be permitted
to give her a musical education. I assured them it
was a most ordinary occurrence, and that I was willing
to be repaid later on if they insisted, but it was
no use. The elder Miss Sawyer remarked that no
member of her family ever had lived on charity,
and she guessed they wouldn't begin at this late
"I rather like that uncompromising New England
grit," exclaimed Miss Maxwell, "and so far, I
don't regret one burden that Rebecca has borne or
one sorrow that she has shared. Necessity has only
made her brave; poverty has only made her daring
and self-reliant. As to her present needs, there
are certain things only a woman ought to do for a
girl, and I should not like to have you do them for
Rebecca; I should feel that I was wounding her
pride and self-respect, even though she were ignorant;
but there is no reason why I may not do them
if necessary and let you pay her traveling expenses.
I would accept those for her without the slightest
embarrassment, but I agree that the matter would
better be kept private between us."
"You are a real fairy godmother!" exclaimed
Adam, shaking her hand warmly. "Would it be
less trouble for you to invite her room-mate too,--
the pink-and-white inseparable?"
"No, thank you, I prefer to have Rebecca all to
myself," said Miss Maxwell.
"I can understand that," replied Adam absent-
mindedly; "I mean, of course, that one child is less
trouble than two. There she is now."
Here Rebecca appeared in sight, walking down
the quiet street with a lad of sixteen. They were in
animated conversation, and were apparently reading
something aloud to each other, for the black head
and the curly brown one were both bent over a sheet
of letter paper. Rebecca kept glancing up at her
companion, her eyes sparkling with appreciation.
"Miss Maxwell," said Adam, "I am a trustee of
this institution, but upon my word I don't believe in
"I have my own occasional hours of doubt," she
answered, "but surely its disadvantages are reduced
to a minimum with--children! That is a very im-
pressive sight which you are privileged to witness,
Mr. Ladd. The folk in Cambridge often gloated
on the spectacle of Longfellow and Lowell arm in
arm. The little school world of Wareham palpitates
with excitement when it sees the senior and
the junior editors of The Pilot walking together!"
ROSES OF JOY
The day before Rebecca started for the
South with Miss Maxwell she was in the
library with Emma Jane and Huldah,
consulting dictionaries and encyclopaedias. As they
were leaving they passed the locked cases containing
the library of fiction, open to the teachers and
townspeople, but forbidden to the students.
They looked longingly through the glass, getting
some little comfort from the titles of the volumes,
as hungry children imbibe emotional nourishment
from the pies and tarts inside a confectioner's window.
Rebecca's eyes fell upon a new book in the
corner, and she read the name aloud with delight:
"_The Rose of Joy_. Listen, girls; isn't that lovely?
_The Rose of Joy_. It looks beautiful, and it sounds
beautiful. What does it mean, I wonder?"
"I guess everybody has a different rose," said
Huldah shrewdly. "I know what mine would be,
and I'm not ashamed to own it. I'd like a year
in a city, with just as much money as I wanted
to spend, horses and splendid clothes and amusements
every minute of the day; and I'd like above
everything to live with people that wear low
necks." (Poor Huldah never took off her dress with-
out bewailing the fact that her lot was cast in
Riverboro, where her pretty white shoulders could
never be seen.)
"That would be fun, for a while anyway," Emma
Jane remarked. "But wouldn't that be pleasure
more than joy? Oh, I've got an idea!"
"Don't shriek so!" said the startled Huldah.
"I thought it was a mouse."
"I don't have them very often," apologized Emma
Jane,--"ideas, I mean; this one shook me like
a stroke of lightning. Rebecca, couldn't it be success?"
"That's good," mused Rebecca; "I can see that
success would be a joy, but it doesn't seem to me
like a rose, somehow. I was wondering if it could
"I wish we could have a peep at the book! It
must be perfectly elergant!" said Emma Jane.
"But now you say it is love, I think that's the best
All day long the four words haunted and possessed
Rebecca; she said them over to herself continually.
Even the prosaic Emma Jane was affected
by them, for in the evening she said, "I don't
expect you to believe it, but I have another idea,--
that's two in one day; I had it while I was putting
cologne on your head. The rose of joy might be
"If it is, then it is always blooming in your dear
little heart, you darlingest, kind Emmie, taking
such good care of your troublesome Becky!"
"Don't dare to call yourself troublesome! You're
--you're--you're my rose of joy, that's what you
are!" And the two girls hugged each other affectionately.
In the middle of the night Rebecca touched
Emma Jane on the shoulder softly. "Are you very
fast asleep, Emmie?" she whispered.
"Not so very," answered Emma Jane drowsily.
"I've thought of something new. If you sang or
painted or wrote,--not a little, but beautifully, you
know,--wouldn't the doing of it, just as much as
you wanted, give you the rose of joy?"
"It might if it was a real talent," answered Emma
Jane, "though I don't like it so well as love. If you
have another thought, Becky, keep it till morning."
"I did have one more inspiration," said Rebecca
when they were dressing next morning, "but I
didn't wake you. I wondered if the rose of joy
could be sacrifice? But I think sacrifice would be
a lily, not a rose; don't you?"
The journey southward, the first glimpse of the
ocean, the strange new scenes, the ease and delicious
freedom, the intimacy with Miss Maxwell,
almost intoxicated Rebecca. In three days she was
not only herself again, she was another self, thrilling
with delight, anticipation, and realization. She
had always had such eager hunger for knowledge,
such thirst for love, such passionate longing for the
music, the beauty, the poetry of existence! She
had always been straining to make the outward
world conform to her inward dreams, and now life
had grown all at once rich and sweet, wide and full.
She was using all her natural, God-given outlets;
and Emily Maxwell marveled daily at the inexhaustible
way in which the girl poured out and gathered
in the treasures of thought and experience that
belonged to her. She was a lifegiver, altering the
whole scheme of any picture she made a part of,
by contributing new values. Have you never seen
the dull blues and greens of a room changed,
transfigured by a burst of sunshine? That seemed to
Miss Maxwell the effect of Rebecca on the groups of
people with whom they now and then mingled; but
they were commonly alone, reading to each other
and having quiet talks. The prize essay was very
much on Rebecca's mind. Secretly she thought
she could never be happy unless she won it. She
cared nothing for the value of it, and in this case
almost nothing for the honor; she wanted to please
Mr. Aladdin and justify his belief in her.
"If I ever succeed in choosing a subject, I must
ask if you think I can write well on it; and then
I suppose I must work in silence and secret, never
even reading the essay to you, nor talking about it."
Miss Maxwell and Rebecca were sitting by a little
brook on a sunny spring day. They had been in a
stretch of wood by the sea since breakfast, going
every now and then for a bask on the warm white
sand, and returning to their shady solitude when
tired of the sun's glare.
"The subject is very important," said Miss
Maxwell, "but I do not dare choose for you. Have you
decided on anything yet?"
"No," Rebecca answered; "I plan a new essay
every night. I've begun one on What is Failure?
and another on He and She. That would be a
dialogue between a boy and girl just as they were
leaving school, and would tell their ideals of life.
Then do you remember you said to me one day,
`Follow your Saint'? I'd love to write about that.
I didn't have a single thought in Wareham, and
now I have a new one every minute, so I must try
and write the essay here; think it out, at any rate,
while I am so happy and free and rested. Look at
the pebbles in the bottom of the pool, Miss Emily,
so round and smooth and shining."
"Yes, but where did they get that beautiful
polish, that satin skin, that lovely shape, Rebecca?
Not in the still pool lying on the sands. It was
never there that their angles were rubbed off and
their rough surfaces polished, but in the strife and
warfare of running waters. They have jostled
against other pebbles, dashed against sharp rocks,
and now we look at them and call them beautiful."
"If Fate had not made somebody a teacher,
She might have been, oh! such a splendid preacher!"
rhymed Rebecca. "Oh! if I could only think and
speak as you do!" she sighed. "I am so afraid I
shall never get education enough to make a good
"You could worry about plenty of other things
to better advantage," said Miss Maxwell, a little
scornfully. "Be afraid, for instance, that you won't
understand human nature; that you won't realize
the beauty of the outer world; that you may lack
sympathy, and thus never be able to read a heart;
that your faculty of expression may not keep pace
with your ideas,--a thousand things, every one of
them more important to the writer than the knowledge
that is found in books. AEsop was a Greek
slave who could not even write down his wonderful
fables; yet all the world reads them."
"I didn't know that," said Rebecca, with a half
sob. "I didn't know anything until I met you!"
"You will only have had a high school course, but
the most famous universities do not always succeed
in making men and women. When I long to go
abroad and study, I always remember that there
were three great schools in Athens and two in
Jerusalem, but the Teacher of all teachers came out of
Nazareth, a little village hidden away from the bigger,
"Mr. Ladd says that you are almost wasted on
Wareham." said Rebecca thoughtfully.
"He is wrong; my talent is not a great one, but
no talent is wholly wasted unless its owner chooses
to hide it in a napkin. Remember that of your own
gifts, Rebecca; they may not be praised of men, but
they may cheer, console, inspire, perhaps, when and
where you least expect. The brimming glass that
overflows its own rim moistens the earth about it."
"Did you ever hear of The Rose of Joy?" asked
Rebecca, after a long silence.
"Yes, of course; where did you see it?"
"On the outside of a book in the library."
"I saw it on the inside of a book in the library,"
smiled Miss Maxwell. "It is from Emerson, but
I'm afraid you haven't quite grown up to it,
Rebecca, and it is one of the things impossible to
"Oh, try me, dear Miss Maxwell!" pleaded
Rebecca. "Perhaps by thinking hard I can guess a
little bit what it means."
"`In the actual--this painful kingdom of time
and chance--are Care, Canker, and Sorrow; with
thought, with the Ideal, is immortal hilarity--the
rose of Joy; round it all the Muses sing,'" quoted
Rebecca repeated it over and over again until she
had learned it by heart; then she said, "I don't
want to be conceited, but I almost believe I do
understand it, Miss Maxwell. Not altogether, perhaps,
because it is puzzling and difficult; but a little,
enough to go on with. It's as if a splendid shape
galloped past you on horseback; you are so surprised
and your eyes move so slowly you cannot
half see it, but you just catch a glimpse as it whisks
by, and you know it is beautiful. It's all settled.
My essay is going to be called The Rose of Joy.
I've just decided. It hasn't any beginning, nor any
middle, but there will be a thrilling ending,
something like this: let me see; joy, boy, toy, ahoy,
Then come what will of weal or woe
(Since all gold hath alloy),
Thou 'lt bloom unwithered in this heart,
My Rose of Joy!
Now I'm going to tuck you up in the shawl and
give you the fir pillow, and while you sleep I am
going down on the shore and write a fairy story for
you. It's one of our `supposing' kind; it flies far,
far into the future, and makes beautiful things happen
that may never really all come to pass; but
some of them will,--you'll see! and then you'll
take out the little fairy story from your desk and
"I wonder why these young things always choose
subjects that would tax the powers of a great
essayist!" thought Miss Maxwell, as she tried to sleep.
"Are they dazzled, captivated, taken possession of,
by the splendor of the theme, and do they fancy
they can write up to it? Poor little innocents, hitch-
ing their toy wagons to the stars! How pretty this
particular innocent looks under her new sunshade!"
Adam Ladd had been driving through Boston
streets on a cold spring day when nature and the
fashion-mongers were holding out promises which
seemed far from performance. Suddenly his vision
was assailed by the sight of a rose-colored parasol
gayly unfurled in a shop window, signaling the
passer-by and setting him to dream of summer
sunshine. It reminded Adam of a New England apple-
tree in full bloom, the outer covering of deep pink
shining through the thin white lining, and a fluffy,
fringe-like edge of mingled rose and cream dropping
over the green handle. All at once he remembered
one of Rebecca's early confidences,--the little pink
sunshade that had given her the only peep into the
gay world of fashion that her childhood had ever
known; her adoration of the flimsy bit of finery and
its tragic and sacrificial end. He entered the shop,
bought the extravagant bauble, and expressed it to
Wareham at once, not a single doubt of its
appropriateness crossing the darkness of his masculine
mind. He thought only of the joy in Rebecca's
eyes; of the poise of her head under the apple-blossom
canopy. It was a trifle embarrassing to return
an hour later and buy a blue parasol for Emma Jane
Perkins, but it seemed increasingly difficult, as the
years went on, to remember her existence at all
the proper times and seasons.
This is Rebecca's fairy story, copied the next day
and given to Emily Maxwell just as she was going to
her room for the night. She read it with tears in her
eyes and then sent it to Adam Ladd, thinking he had
earned a share in it, and that he deserved a glimpse
of the girl's budding imagination, as well as of her
grateful young heart.
A FAIRY STORY
There was once a tired and rather poverty-
stricken Princess who dwelt in a cottage on the
great highway between two cities. She was not as
unhappy as thousands of others; indeed, she had
much to be grateful for, but the life she lived and
the work she did were full hard for one who was
Now the cottage stood by the edge of a great
green forest where the wind was always singing
in the branches and the sunshine filtering through
And one day when the Princess was sitting by the
wayside quite spent by her labor in the fields, she
saw a golden chariot rolling down the King's Highway,
and in it a person who could be none other than
somebody's Fairy Godmother on her way to the
Court. The chariot halted at her door, and though
the Princess had read of such beneficent personages,
she never dreamed for an instant that one of them
could ever alight at her cottage.
"If you are tired, poor little Princess, why do you
not go into the cool green forest and rest?" asked
the Fairy Godmother.
"Because I have no time," she answered. "I
must go back to my plough."
"Is that your plough leaning by the tree, and is
it not too heavy?"
"It is heavy," answered the Princess, "but I love
to turn the hard earth into soft furrows and know
that I am making good soil wherein my seeds may
grow. When I feel the weight too much, I try to
think of the harvest."
The golden chariot passed on, and the two talked
no more together that day; nevertheless the King's
messengers were busy, for they whispered one word
into the ear of the Fairy Godmother and another
into the ear of the Princess, though so faintly that
neither of them realized that the King had spoken.
The next morning a strong man knocked at the
cottage door, and doffing his hat to the Princess
said: "A golden chariot passed me yesterday, and
one within it flung me a purse of ducats, saying:
`Go out into the King's Highway and search until
you find a cottage and a heavy plough leaning against
a tree near by. Enter and say to the Princess whom
you will find there: "I will guide the plough and
you must go and rest, or walk in the cool green
forest; for this is the command of your Fairy
And the same thing happened every day, and
every day the tired Princess walked in the green
wood. Many times she caught the glitter of the
chariot and ran into the Highway to give thanks
to the Fairy Godmother; but she was never fleet
enough to reach the spot. She could only stand
with eager eyes and longing heart as the chariot
passed by. Yet she never failed to catch a smile,
and sometimes a word or two floated back to her,
words that sounded like: "I would not be thanked.
We are all children of the same King, and I am only
Now as the Princess walked daily in the green
forest, hearing the wind singing in the branches and
seeing the sunlight filter through the lattice-work of
green leaves, there came unto her thoughts that had
lain asleep in the stifling air of the cottage and the
weariness of guiding the plough. And by and by
she took a needle from her girdle and pricked the
thoughts on the leaves of the trees and sent them
into the air to float hither and thither. And it came
to pass that people began to pick them up, and holding
them against the sun, to read what was written
on them, and this was because the simple little
words on the leaves were only, after all, a part of
one of the King's messages, such as the Fairy Godmother
dropped continually from her golden chariot.
But the miracle of the story lies deeper than all this.
Whenever the Princess pricked the words upon
the leaves she added a thought of her Fairy Godmother,
and folding it close within, sent the leaf out
on the breeze to float hither and thither and fall
where it would. And many other little Princesses
felt the same impulse and did the same thing. And
as nothing is ever lost in the King's Dominion, so
these thoughts and wishes and hopes, being full
of love and gratitude, had no power to die, but took
unto themselves other shapes and lived on forever.
They cannot be seen, our vision is too weak; nor
heard, our hearing is too dull; but they can sometimes
be felt, and we know not what force is stirring
our hearts to nobler aims.
The end of the story is not come, but it may be
that some day when the Fairy Godmother has a message
to deliver in person straight to the King, he will
say: "Your face I know; your voice, your thoughts,
and your heart. I have heard the rumble of your
chariot wheels on the great Highway, and I knew
that you were on the King's business. Here in my
hand is a sheaf of messages from every quarter of
my kingdom. They were delivered by weary and
footsore travelers, who said that they could never
have reached the gate in safety had it not been for
your help and inspiration. Read them, that you
may know when and where and how you sped the
And when the Fairy Godmother reads them, it
may be that sweet odors will rise from the pages,
and half-forgotten memories will stir the air; but
in the gladness of the moment nothing will be half
so lovely as the voice of the King when he said:
"Read, and know how you sped the King's service."
Rebecca Rowena Randall
"OVER THE TEACUPS"
The summer term at Wareham had ended,
and Huldah Meserve, Dick Carter, and
Living Perkins had finished school, leaving
Rebecca and Emma Jane to represent Riverboro
in the year to come. Delia Weeks was at home
from Lewiston on a brief visit, and Mrs. Robinson
was celebrating the occasion by a small and select
party, the particular day having been set because
strawberries were ripe and there was a rooster that
wanted killing. Mrs. Robinson explained this to her
husband, and requested that he eat his dinner on
the carpenter's bench in the shed, as the party was
to be a ladies' affair.
"All right; it won't be any loss to me," said Mr.
Robinson. "Give me beans, that's all I ask. When
a rooster wants to be killed, I want somebody else
to eat him, not me!"
Mrs. Robinson had company only once or twice
a year, and was generally much prostrated for several
days afterward, the struggle between pride and
parsimony being quite too great a strain upon her.
It was necessary, in order to maintain her standing
in the community, to furnish a good "set out," yet
the extravagance of the proceeding goaded her from
the first moment she began to stir the marble cake
to the moment when the feast appeared upon the
The rooster had been boiling steadily over a slow
fire since morning, but such was his power of resistance
that his shape was as firm and handsome in
the pot as on the first moment when he was lowered
"He ain't goin' to give up!" said Alice, peering
nervously under the cover, "and he looks like a
"We'll see whether he gives up or not when I
take a sharp knife to him," her mother answered;
"and as to his looks, a platter full o' gravy makes
a sight o' difference with old roosters, and I'll put
dumplings round the aidge; they're turrible fillin',
though they don't belong with boiled chicken."
The rooster did indeed make an impressive showing,
lying in his border of dumplings, and the dish
was much complimented when it was borne in by
Alice. This was fortunate, as the chorus of admiration
ceased abruptly when the ladies began to eat
"I was glad you could git over to Huldy's
graduation, Delia," said Mrs. Meserve, who sat at the
foot of the table and helped the chicken while Mrs.
Robinson poured coffee at the other end. She was
a fit mother for Huldah, being much the most stylish
person in Riverboro; ill health and dress were,
indeed, her two chief enjoyments in life. It was
rumored that her elaborately curled "front piece"
had cost five dollars, and that it was sent into Portland
twice a year to be dressed and frizzed; but
it is extremely difficult to discover the precise facts
in such cases, and a conscientious historian always
prefers to warn a too credulous reader against
imbibing as gospel truth something that might be
the basest perversion of it. As to Mrs. Meserve's
appearance, have you ever, in earlier years, sought
the comforting society of the cook and hung over
the kitchen table while she rolled out sugar
gingerbread? Perhaps then, in some unaccustomed
moment of amiability, she made you a dough lady,
cutting the outline deftly with her pastry knife, and
then, at last, placing the human stamp upon it by
sticking in two black currants for eyes. Just call to
mind the face of that sugar gingerbread lady and
you will have an exact portrait of Huldah's mother,
--Mis' Peter Meserve, she was generally called,
there being several others.
"How'd you like Huldy's dress, Delia?" she
asked, snapping the elastic in her black jet bracelets
after an irritating fashion she had.
"I thought it was about the handsomest of any,"
answered Delia; "and her composition was first
rate. It was the only real amusin' one there was,
and she read it so loud and clear we didn't miss
any of it; most o' the girls spoke as if they had
hasty pudtin' in their mouths."
"That was the composition she wrote for Adam
Ladd's prize," explained Mrs. Meserve, "and they
do say she'd 'a' come out first, 'stead o' fourth,
if her subject had been dif'rent. There was three
ministers and three deacons on the committee, and
it was only natural they should choose a serious
piece; hers was too lively to suit 'em."
Huldah's inspiring theme had been Boys, and she
certainly had a fund of knowledge and experience
that fitted her to write most intelligently upon it. It
was vastly popular with the audience, who enjoyed
the rather cheap jokes and allusions with which it
coruscated; but judged from a purely literary standpoint,
it left much to be desired.
"Rebecca's piece wan't read out loud, but the
one that took the boy's prize was; why was that?"
asked Mrs. Robinson.
"Because she wan't graduatin'," explained Mrs.
Cobb, "and couldn't take part in the exercises;
it'll be printed, with Herbert Dunn's, in the school
"I'm glad o' that, for I'll never believe it was
better 'n Huldy's till I read it with my own eyes;
it seems as if the prize ought to 'a' gone to one of
"Well, no, Marthy, not if Ladd offered it to any
of the two upper classes that wanted to try for it,"
argued Mrs. Robinson. "They say they asked him
to give out the prizes, and he refused, up and down.
It seems odd, his bein' so rich and travelin' about
all over the country, that he was too modest to git
up on that platform."
"My Huldy could 'a' done it, and not winked an
eyelash," observed Mrs. Meserve complacently; a
remark which there seemed no disposition on the
part of any of the company to controvert.
"It was complete, though, the governor happening
to be there to see his niece graduate," said Delia
Weeks. "Land! he looked elegant! They say he's
only six feet, but he might 'a' been sixteen, and he
certainly did make a fine speech."
"Did you notice Rebecca, how white she was,
and how she trembled when she and Herbert Dunn
stood there while the governor was praisin' 'em?
He'd read her composition, too, for he wrote the
Sawyer girls a letter about it." This remark was
from the sympathetic Mrs. Cobb.
"I thought 't was kind o' foolish, his makin' so
much of her when it wan't her graduation,"
objected Mrs. Meserve; "layin' his hand on her head
'n' all that, as if he was a Pope pronouncin' benediction.
But there! I'm glad the prize come to Riverboro
't any rate, and a han'somer one never was
give out from the Wareham platform. I guess there
ain't no end to Adam Ladd's money. The fifty dollars
would 'a' been good enough, but he must needs
go and put it into those elegant purses."
"I set so fur back I couldn't see 'em fairly,"
complained Delia, "and now Rebecca has taken
hers home to show her mother."
"It was kind of a gold net bag with a chain," said
Mrs. Perkins, "and there was five ten-dollar gold
pieces in it. Herbert Dunn's was put in a fine
"How long is Rebecca goin' to stay at the farm?"
"Till they get over Hannah's bein' married, and
get the house to runnin' without her," answered
Mrs. Perkins. "It seems as if Hannah might 'a'
waited a little longer. Aurelia was set against her
goin' away while Rebecca was at school, but she's
obstinate as a mule, Hannah is, and she just took
her own way in spite of her mother. She's been
doin' her sewin' for a year; the awfullest coarse
cotton cloth she had, but she's nearly blinded herself
with fine stitchin' and rufflin' and tuckin'. Did
you hear about the quilt she made? It's white, and
has a big bunch o' grapes in the centre, quilted by
a thimble top. Then there's a row of circle-borderin'
round the grapes, and she done them the size
of a spool. The next border was done with a sherry
glass, and the last with a port glass, an' all outside
o' that was solid stitchin' done in straight rows;
she's goin' to exhibit it at the county fair."
"She'd better 'a' been takin' in sewin' and earnin'
money, 'stead o' blindin' her eyes on such foolishness
as quilted counterpanes," said Mrs. Cobb.
"The next thing you know that mortgage will be
foreclosed on Mis' Randall, and she and the children
won't have a roof over their heads."
"Don't they say there's a good chance of the
railroad goin' through her place?" asked Mrs.
Robinson. "If it does, she'll git as much as the farm
is worth and more. Adam Ladd 's one of the stockholders,
and everything is a success he takes holt
of. They're fightin' it in Augusty, but I'd back
Ladd agin any o' them legislaters if he thought he
was in the right."
"Rebecca'll have some new clothes now," said
Delia, "and the land knows she needs 'em. Seems
to me the Sawyer girls are gittin' turrible near!"
"Rebecca won't have any new clothes out o' the
prize money," remarked Mrs. Perkins, "for she sent
it away the next day to pay the interest on that
"Poor little girl!" exclaimed Delia Weeks.
"She might as well help along her folks as spend
it on foolishness," affirmed Mrs. Robinson. "I think
she was mighty lucky to git it to pay the interest
with, but she's probably like all the Randalls; it
was easy come, easy go, with them."
"That's more than could be said of the Sawyer
stock," retorted Mrs. Perkins; "seems like they
enjoyed savin' more'n anything in the world, and
it's gainin' on Mirandy sence her shock."
"I don't believe it was a shock; it stands to
reason she'd never 'a' got up after it and been so
smart as she is now; we had three o' the worst
shocks in our family that there ever was on this
river, and I know every symptom of 'em better'n
the doctors." And Mrs. Peter Meserve shook her
"Mirandy 's smart enough," said Mrs. Cobb,
"but you notice she stays right to home, and she's
more close-mouthed than ever she was; never took
a mite o' pride in the prize, as I could see, though
it pretty nigh drove Jeremiah out o' his senses. I
thought I should 'a' died o' shame when he cried
`Hooray!' and swung his straw hat when the governor
shook hands with Rebecca. It's lucky he
couldn't get fur into the church and had to stand
back by the door, for as it was, he made a spectacle
of himself. My suspicion is"--and here every lady
stopped eating and sat up straight--"that the
Sawyer girls have lost money. They don't know a
thing about business 'n' never did, and Mirandy's
too secretive and contrairy to ask advice."
"The most o' what they've got is in gov'ment
bonds, I always heard, and you can't lose money
on them. Jane had the timber land left her, an'
Mirandy had the brick house. She probably took
it awful hard that Rebecca's fifty dollars had to be
swallowed up in a mortgage, 'stead of goin' towards
school expenses. The more I think of it, the more
I think Adam Ladd intended Rebecca should have
that prize when he gave it." The mind of Huldah's
mother ran towards the idea that her daughter's
rights had been assailed.
"Land, Marthy, what foolishness you talk!"
exclaimed Mrs. Perkins; "you don't suppose he
could tell what composition the committee was
going to choose; and why should he offer another
fifty dollars for a boy's prize, if he wan't interested
in helpin' along the school? He's give Emma Jane
about the same present as Rebecca every Christmas
for five years; that's the way he does."
"Some time he'll forget one of 'em and give to
the other, or drop 'em both and give to some new
girl!" said Delia Weeks, with an experience born
of fifty years of spinsterhood.
"Like as not," assented Mrs. Peter Meserve,
"though it's easy to see he ain't the marryin' kind.
There's men that would marry once a year if their
wives would die fast enough, and there's men that
seems to want to live alone."
"If Ladd was a Mormon, I guess he could have
every woman in North Riverboro that's a suitable
age, accordin' to what my cousins say," remarked
"'T ain't likely he could be ketched by any North
Riverboro girl," demurred Mrs. Robinson; "not
when he prob'bly has had the pick o' Boston. I
guess Marthy hit it when she said there's men
that ain't the marryin' kind."
"I wouldn't trust any of 'em when Miss Right
comes along!" laughed Mrs. Cobb genially. "You
never can tell what 'n' who 's goin' to please 'em.
You know Jeremiah's contrairy horse, Buster? He
won't let anybody put the bit into his mouth if he
can help it. He'll fight Jerry, and fight me, till he
has to give in. Rebecca didn't know nothin' about
his tricks, and the other day she went int' the
barn to hitch up. I followed right along, knowing
she'd have trouble with the headstall, and I declare
if she wan't pattin' Buster's nose and talkin' to
him, and when she put her little fingers into his
mouth he opened it so fur I thought he'd swaller
her, for sure. He jest smacked his lips over the bit
as if 't was a lump o' sugar. `Land, Rebecca,' I
says, `how'd you persuade him to take the bit?'
`I didn't,' she says, `he seemed to want it; perhaps
he's tired of his stall and wants to get out in
the fresh air.'"
"THE VISION SPLENDID"
A year had elapsed since Adam Ladd's
prize had been discussed over the teacups
in Riverboro. The months had come and
gone, and at length the great day had dawned for
Rebecca,--the day to which she had been looking
forward for five years, as the first goal to be reached
on her little journey through the world. School-
days were ended, and the mystic function known
to the initiated as "graduation" was about to be
celebrated; it was even now heralded by the sun
dawning in the eastern sky. Rebecca stole softly
out of bed, crept to the window, threw open the
blinds, and welcomed the rosy light that meant a
cloudless morning. Even the sun looked different
somehow,--larger, redder, more important than
usual; and if it were really so, there was no member
of the graduating class who would have thought
it strange or unbecoming, in view of all the
circumstances. Emma Jane stirred on her pillow,
woke, and seeing Rebecca at the window, came and
knelt on the floor beside her. "It's going to be
pleasant!" she sighed gratefully. "If it wasn't
wicked, I could thank the Lord, I'm so relieved in
mind! Did you sleep?"
"Not much; the words of my class poem kept
running through my head, and the accompaniments
of the songs; and worse than anything, Mary
Queen of Scots' prayer in Latin; it seemed as if
Ut liberes me!'
were burned into my brain."
No one who is unfamiliar with life in rural
neighborhoods can imagine the gravity, the importance,
the solemnity of this last day of school. In
the matter of preparation, wealth of detail, and general
excitement it far surpasses a wedding; for that
is commonly a simple affair in the country, sometimes
even beginning and ending in a visit to the
parsonage. Nothing quite equals graduation in the
minds of the graduates themselves, their families,
and the younger students, unless it be the inauguration
of a governor at the State Capitol. Wareham,
then, was shaken to its very centre on this
day of days. Mothers and fathers of the scholars,
as well as relatives to the remotest generation, had
been coming on the train and driving into the town
since breakfast time; old pupils, both married and
single, with and without families, streamed back to
the dear old village. The two livery stables were
crowded with vehicles of all sorts, and lines of buggies
and wagons were drawn up along the sides of
the shady roads, the horses switching their tails in
luxurious idleness. The streets were filled with
people wearing their best clothes, and the fashions
included not only "the latest thing," but the well
preserved relic of a bygone day. There were all
sorts and conditions of men and women, for there
were sons and daughters of storekeepers, lawyers,
butchers, doctors, shoemakers, professors, ministers,
and farmers at the Wareham schools, either
as boarders or day scholars. In the seminary building
there was an excitement so deep and profound
that it expressed itself in a kind of hushed silence,
a transient suspension of life, as those most interested
approached the crucial moment. The feminine
graduates-to-be were seated in their own
bedrooms, dressed with a completeness of detail
to which all their past lives seemed to have been
but a prelude. At least, this was the case with their
bodies; but their heads, owing to the extreme heat
of the day, were one and all ornamented with leads,
or papers, or dozens of little braids, to issue later
in every sort of curl known to the girl of that
period. Rolling the hair on leads or papers was a
favorite method of attaining the desired result, and
though it often entailed a sleepless night, there
were those who gladly paid the price. Others, in
whose veins the blood of martyrs did not flow,
substituted rags for leads and pretended that they
made a more natural and less woolly curl. Heat,
however, will melt the proudest head and reduce
to fiddling strings the finest product of the waving-
pin; so anxious mothers were stationed over
their offspring, waving palm-leaf fans, it having
been decided that the supreme instant when the
town clock struck ten should be the one chosen
for releasing the prisoners from their self-imposed
Dotted or plain Swiss muslin was the favorite
garb, though there were those who were steaming
in white cashmere or alpaca, because in some cases
such frocks were thought more useful afterwards.
Blue and pink waist ribbons were lying over the
backs of chairs, and the girl who had a Roman
sash was praying that she might be kept from
vanity and pride.
The way to any graduating dress at all had not
seemed clear to Rebecca until a month before.
Then, in company with Emma Jane, she visited the
Perkins attic, found piece after piece of white butter-
muslin or cheesecloth, and decided that, at a
pinch, it would do. The "rich blacksmith's daughter"
cast the thought of dotted Swiss behind her,
and elected to follow Rebecca in cheesecloth as
she had in higher matters; straightway devising
costumes that included such drawing of threads,
such hemstitching and pin-tucking, such insertions
of fine thread tatting that, in order to be finished,
Rebecca's dress was given out in sections,--the
sash to Hannah, waist and sleeves to Mrs. Cobb,
and skirt to aunt Jane. The stitches that went
into the despised material, worth only three or
four pennies a yard, made the dresses altogether
lovely, and as for the folds and lines into which
they fell, they could have given points to satins
The two girls were waiting in their room alone,
Emma Jane in rather a tearful state of mind. She
kept thinking that it was the last day that they
would be together in this altogether sweet and
close intimacy. The beginning of the end seemed
to have dawned, for two positions had been offered
Rebecca by Mr. Morrison the day before: one in
which she would play for singing and calisthenics,
and superintend the piano practice of the younger
girls in a boarding-school; the other an assistant's
place in the Edgewood High School. Both were
very modest as to salary, but the former included
educational advantages that Miss Maxwell thought
might be valuable.
Rebecca's mood had passed from that of excitement
into a sort of exaltation, and when the first
bell rang through the corridors announcing that in
five minutes the class would proceed in a body to
the church for the exercises, she stood motionless
and speechless at the window with her hand on
"It is coming, Emmie," she said presently; "do
you remember in The Mill on the Floss, when
Maggie Tulliver closed the golden gates of childhood
behind her? I can almost see them swing;
almost hear them clang; and I can't tell whether I
am glad or sorry."
"I shouldn't care how they swung or clanged,"
said Emma Jane, "if only you and I were on the
same side of the gate; but we shan't be, I know
"Emmie, don't dare to cry, for I'm just on the
brink myself! If only you were graduating with
me; that's my only sorrow! There! I hear the
rumble of the wheels! People will be seeing our
grand surprise now! Hug me once for luck, dear
Emmie; a careful hug, remembering our butter-
Ten minutes later, Adam Ladd, who had just
arrived from Portland and was wending his way to
the church, came suddenly into the main street and
stopped short under a tree by the wayside, riveted
to the spot by a scene of picturesque loveliness
such as his eyes had seldom witnessed before. The
class of which Rebecca was president was not
likely to follow accepted customs. Instead of marching
two by two from the seminary to the church,
they had elected to proceed thither by royal chariot.
A haycart had been decked with green vines and
bunches of long-stemmed field daisies, those gay
darlings of New England meadows. Every inch of
the rail, the body, even the spokes, all were twined
with yellow and green and white. There were two
white horses, flower-trimmed reins, and in the floral
bower, seated on maple boughs, were the twelve
girls of the class, while the ten boys marched on
either side of the vehicle, wearing buttonhole
bouquets of daisies, the class flower.
Rebecca drove, seated on a green-covered bench
that looked not unlike a throne. No girl clad
in white muslin, no happy girl of seventeen, is
plain; and the twelve little country maids, from
the vantage ground of their setting, looked
beautiful, as the June sunlight filtered down on their
uncovered heads, showing their bright eyes, their
fresh cheeks, their smiles, and their dimples.
Rebecca, Adam thought, as he took off his hat
and saluted the pretty panorama,--Rebecca, with
her tall slenderness, her thoughtful brow, the fire
of young joy in her face, her fillet of dark braided
hair, might have been a young Muse or Sibyl; and
the flowery hayrack, with its freight of blooming
girlhood, might have been painted as an allegorical
picture of The Morning of Life. It all passed him,
as he stood under the elms in the old village street
where his mother had walked half a century ago,
and he was turning with the crowd towards the
church when he heard a little sob. Behind a hedge
in the garden near where he was standing was a
forlorn person in white, whose neat nose, chestnut
hair, and blue eyes he seemed to know. He stepped
inside the gate and said, "What's wrong, Miss
"Oh, is it you, Mr. Ladd? Rebecca wouldn't
let me cry for fear of spoiling my looks, but I must
have just one chance before I go in. I can be as
homely as I like, after all, for I only have to sing
with the school; I'm not graduating, I'm just
leaving! Not that I mind that; it's only being
separated from Rebecca that I never can stand!"
The two walked along together, Adam comforting
the disconsolate Emma Jane, until they reached
the old meeting-house where the Commencement
exercises were always held. The interior, with
its decorations of yellow, green, and white, was
crowded, the air hot and breathless, the essays and
songs and recitations precisely like all others that
have been since the world began. One always fears
that the platform may sink under the weight of
youthful platitudes uttered on such occasions; yet
one can never be properly critical, because the sight
of the boys and girls themselves, those young and
hopeful makers of to-morrow, disarms one's scorn.
We yawn desperately at the essays, but our hearts
go out to the essayists, all the same, for "the vision
splendid" is shining in their eyes, and there is no
fear of "th' inevitable yoke" that the years are so
surely bringing them.
Rebecca saw Hannah and her husband in the
audience; dear old John and cousin Ann also, and
felt a pang at the absence of her mother, though
she had known there was no possibility of seeing
her; for poor Aurelia was kept at Sunnybrook by
cares of children and farm, and lack of money
either for the journey or for suitable dress. The
Cobbs she saw too. No one, indeed, could fail to
see uncle Jerry; for he shed tears more than once,
and in the intervals between the essays descanted
to his neighbors concerning the marvelous gifts
of one of the graduating class whom he had known
ever since she was a child; in fact, had driven her
from Maplewood to Riverboro when she left her
home, and he had told mother that same night that
there wan't nary rung on the ladder o' fame that
that child wouldn't mount before she got through
The Cobbs, then, had come, and there were
other Riverboro faces, but where was aunt Jane,
in her black silk made over especially for this
occasion? Aunt Miranda had not intended to come,
she knew, but where, on this day of days, was her
beloved aunt Jane? However, this thought, like
all others, came and went in a flash, for the whole
morning was like a series of magic lantern
pictures, crossing and recrossing her field of vision.
She played, she sang, she recited Queen Mary's
Latin prayer, like one in a dream, only brought to
consciousness by meeting Mr. Aladdin's eyes as
she spoke the last line. Then at the end of the
programme came her class poem, Makers of To-
morrow; and there, as on many a former occasion,
her personality played so great a part that she
seemed to be uttering Miltonic sentiments instead
of school-girl verse. Her voice, her eyes, her body
breathed conviction, earnestness, emotion; and
when she left the platform the audience felt that
they had listened to a masterpiece. Most of her
hearers knew little of Carlyle or Emerson, or they
might have remembered that the one said, "We
are all poets when we read a poem well," and the
other, "'T is the good reader makes the good
It was over! The diplomas had been presented,
and each girl, after giving furtive touches to her
hair, sly tweaks to her muslin skirts, and caressing
pats to her sash, had gone forward to receive the
roll of parchment with a bow that had been the
subject of anxious thought for weeks. Rounds of
applause greeted each graduate at this thrilling
moment, and Jeremiah Cobb's behavior, when
Rebecca came forward, was the talk of Wareham and
Riverboro for days. Old Mrs. Webb avowed that
he, in the space of two hours, had worn out her
pew more--the carpet, the cushions, and woodwork--
than she had by sitting in it forty years.
Yes, it was over, and after the crowd had thinned
a little, Adam Ladd made his way to the platform.
Rebecca turned from speaking to some stran-
gers and met him in the aisle. "Oh, Mr. Aladdin,
I am so glad you could come! Tell me"--and she
looked at him half shyly, for his approval was dearer
to her, and more difficult to win, than that of the
others--"tell me, Mr. Aladdin,--were you satisfied?"
"More than satisfied!" he said; "glad I met
the child, proud I know the girl, longing to meet
"TH' INEVITABLE YOKE"
Rebecca's heart beat high at this sweet
praise from her hero's lips, but before she
had found words to thank him, Mr. and
Mrs. Cobb, who had been modestly biding their
time in a corner, approached her and she introduced
them to Mr. Ladd.
"Where, where is aunt Jane?" she cried, holding
aunt Sarah's hand on one side and uncle Jerry's
on the other.
"I'm sorry, lovey, but we've got bad news for
"Is aunt Miranda worse? She is; I can see it
by your looks;" and Rebecca's color faded.
"She had a second stroke yesterday morning
jest when she was helpin' Jane lay out her things
to come here to-day. Jane said you wan't to know
anything about it till the exercises was all over, and
we promised to keep it secret till then."
"I will go right home with you, aunt Sarah. I
must just run to tell Miss Maxwell, for after I had
packed up to-morrow I was going to Brunswick with
her. Poor aunt Miranda! And I have been so gay
and happy all day, except that I was longing for
mother and aunt Jane."
"There ain't no harm in bein' gay, lovey; that's
what Jane wanted you to be. And Miranda's got
her speech back, for your aunt has just sent a letter
sayin' she's better; and I'm goin' to set up to-night,
so you can stay here and have a good sleep, and get
your things together comfortably to-morrow."
"I'll pack your trunk for you, Becky dear, and
attend to all our room things," said Emma Jane,
who had come towards the group and heard the
sorrowful news from the brick house.
They moved into one of the quiet side pews,
where Hannah and her husband and John joined
them. From time to time some straggling acquaintance
or old schoolmate would come up to congratulate
Rebecca and ask why she had hidden herself
in a corner. Then some member of the class would
call to her excitedly, reminding her not to be late
at the picnic luncheon, or begging her to be early
at the class party in the evening. All this had an
air of unreality to Rebecca. In the midst of the
happy excitement of the last two days, when
"blushing honors" had been falling thick upon her, and
behind the delicious exaltation of the morning, had
been the feeling that the condition was a transient
one, and that the burden, the struggle, the anxiety,
would soon loom again on the horizon. She longed
to steal away into the woods with dear old John,
grown so manly and handsome, and get some comfort
Meantime Adam Ladd and Mr. Cobb had been
having an animated conversation.
"I s'pose up to Boston, girls like that one are as
thick as blackb'ries?" uncle Jerry said, jerking his
head interrogatively in Rebecca's direction.
"They may be," smiled Adam, taking in the old
man's mood; "only I don't happen to know one."
"My eyesight bein' poor 's the reason she looked
han'somest of any girl on the platform, I s'pose?"
"There's no failure in my eyes," responded Adam,
"but that was how the thing seemed to me!"
"What did you think of her voice? Anything
extry about it?"
"Made the others sound poor and thin, I
"Well, I'm glad to hear your opinion, you bein'
a traveled man, for mother says I'm foolish 'bout
Rebecky and hev been sence the fust. Mother
scolds me for spoilin' her, but I notice mother ain't
fur behind when it comes to spoilin'. Land! it
made me sick, thinkin' o' them parents travelin'
miles to see their young ones graduate, and then
when they got here hevin' to compare 'em with Rebecky.
Good-by, Mr. Ladd, drop in some day when
you come to Riverboro."
"I will," said Adam, shaking the old man's hand
cordially; "perhaps to-morrow if I drive Rebecca
home, as I shall offer to do. Do you think Miss
Sawyer's condition is serious?"
"Well, the doctor don't seem to know; but anyhow
she's paralyzed, and she'll never walk fur
again, poor soul! She ain't lost her speech; that'll
be a comfort to her."
Adam left the church, and in crossing the common
came upon Miss Maxwell doing the honors
of the institution, as she passed from group to
group of strangers and guests. Knowing that
she was deeply interested in all Rebecca's plans, he
told her, as he drew her aside, that the girl would
have to leave Wareham for Riverboro the next
"That is almost more than I can bear!" exclaimed
Miss Maxwell, sitting down on a bench and stabbing
the greensward with her parasol. "It seems to me
Rebecca never has any respite. I had so many
plans for her this next month in fitting her for her
position, and now she will settle down to housework
again, and to the nursing of that poor, sick,
cross old aunt."
"If it had not been for the cross old aunt,
Rebecca would still have been at Sunnybrook; and
from the standpoint of educational advantages, or
indeed advantages of any sort, she might as well
have been in the backwoods," returned Adam.
"That is true; I was vexed when I spoke, for I
thought an easier and happier day was dawning for
my prodigy and pearl."
"OUR prodigy and pearl," corrected Adam.
"Oh, yes!" she laughed. "I always forget that
it pleases you to pretend you discovered Rebecca."
"I believe, though, that happier days are dawning
for her," continued Adam. "It must be a secret
for the present, but Mrs. Randall's farm will be
bought by the new railroad. We must have right
of way through the land, and the station will be
built on her property. She will receive six thousand
dollars, which, though not a fortune, will yield her
three or four hundred dollars a year, if she will
allow me to invest it for her. There is a mortgage
on the land; that paid, and Rebecca self-supporting,
the mother ought to push the education of the oldest
boy, who is a fine, ambitious fellow. He should
be taken away from farm work and settled at his
"We might form ourselves into a Randall
Protective Agency, Limited," mused Miss Maxwell. "I
confess I want Rebecca to have a career."
"I don't," said Adam promptly.
"Of course you don't. Men have no interest in
the careers of women! But I know Rebecca better
"You understand her mind better, but not
necessarily her heart. You are considering her for the
moment as prodigy; I am thinking of her more as
"Well," sighed Miss Maxwell whimsically, "prodigy
or pearl, the Randall Protective Agency may
pull Rebecca in opposite directions, but nevertheless
she will follow her saint."
That will content me," said Adam gravely.
"Particularly if the saint beckons your way."
And Miss Maxwell looked up and smiled provokingly.
Rebecca did not see her aunt Miranda till she
had been at the brick house for several days.
Miranda steadily refused to have any one but Jane in
the room until her face had regained its natural
look, but her door was always ajar, and Jane fancied
she liked to hear Rebecca's quick, light step. Her
mind was perfectly clear now, and, save that she
could not move, she was most of the time quite free
from pain, and alert in every nerve to all that was
going on within or without the house. "Were the
windfall apples being picked up for sauce; were the
potatoes thick in the hills; was the corn tosselin'
out; were they cuttin' the upper field; were they
keepin' fly-paper laid out everywheres; were there
any ants in the dairy; was the kindlin' wood holdin'
out; had the bank sent the cowpons?"
Poor Miranda Sawyer! Hovering on the verge
of the great beyond,--her body "struck" and no
longer under control of her iron will,--no divine
visions floated across her tired brain; nothing but
petty cares and sordid anxieties. Not all at once
can the soul talk with God, be He ever so near. If
the heavenly language never has been learned,
quick as is the spiritual sense in seizing the facts it
needs, then the poor soul must use the words and
phrases it has lived on and grown into day by day.
Poor Miss Miranda!--held fast within the prison
walls of her own nature, blind in the presence of
revelation because she had never used the spiritual
eye, deaf to angelic voices because she had not used
the spiritual ear.
There came a morning when she asked for
Rebecca. The door was opened into the dim sick-
room, and Rebecca stood there with the sunlight
behind her, her hands full of sweet peas. Miranda's
pale, sharp face, framed in its nightcap, looked
haggard on the pillow, and her body was pitifully still
under the counterpane.
"Come in," she said; "I ain't dead yet. Don't
mess up the bed with them flowers, will ye?"
"Oh, no! They're going in a glass pitcher," said
Rebecca, turning to the washstand as she tried to
control her voice and stop the tears that sprang
to her eyes.
"Let me look at ye; come closer. What dress
are ye wearin'?" said the old aunt in her cracked,
"My blue calico."
"Is your cashmere holdin' its color?"
"Yes, aunt Miranda."
"Do you keep it in a dark closet hung on the
wrong side, as I told ye?"
"Has your mother made her jelly?"
"She hasn't said."
"She always had the knack o' writin' letters with
nothin' in 'em. What's Mark broke sence I've been
"Nothing at all, aunt Miranda."
"Why, what's the matter with him? Gittin'
lazy, ain't he? How 's John turnin' out?"
"He's going to be the best of us all."
"I hope you don't slight things in the kitchen
because I ain't there. Do you scald the coffee-pot
and turn it upside down on the winder-sill?"
"Yes, aunt Miranda."
"It's always `yes' with you, and `yes' with
Jane," groaned Miranda, trying to move her stiffened
body; "but all the time I lay here knowin'
there's things done the way I don't like 'em."
There was a long pause, during which Rebecca
sat down by the bedside and timidly touched her
aunt's hand, her heart swelling with tender pity at
the gaunt face and closed eyes.
"I was dreadful ashamed to have you graduate
in cheesecloth, Rebecca, but I couldn't help it no-
how. You'll hear the reason some time, and know
I tried to make it up to ye. I'm afraid you was a
"No," Rebecca answered. "Ever so many people
said our dresses were the very prettiest; they looked
like soft lace. You're not to be anxious about
anything. Here I am all grown up and graduated,--
number three in a class of twenty-two, aunt
Miranda,--and good positions offered me already.
Look at me, big and strong and young, all ready to
go into the world and show what you and aunt
Jane have done for me. If you want me near, I'll
take the Edgewood school, so that I can be here
nights and Sundays to help; and if you get better,
then I'll go to Augusta,--for that's a hundred
dollars more, with music lessons and other things
"You listen to me," said Miranda quaveringly.
"Take the best place, regardless o' my sickness.
I'd like to live long enough to know you'd paid off
that mortgage, but I guess I shan't."
Here she ceased abruptly, having talked more
than she had for weeks; and Rebecca stole out of
the room, to cry by herself and wonder if old age
must be so grim, so hard, so unchastened and
unsweetened, as it slipped into the valley of the
The days went on, and Miranda grew stronger
and stronger; her will seemed unassailable, and
before long she could be moved into a chair by the
window, her dominant thought being to arrive at
such a condition of improvement that the doctor
need not call more than once a week, instead of
daily; thereby diminishing the bill, that was mount-
ing to such a terrifying sum that it haunted her
thoughts by day and dreams by night.
Little by little hope stole back into Rebecca's
young heart. Aunt Jane began to "clear starch"
her handkerchiefs and collars and purple muslin
dress, so that she might be ready to go to Brunswick
at any moment when the doctor pronounced
Miranda well on the road to recovery. Everything
beautiful was to happen in Brunswick if she
could be there by August,--everything that heart
could wish or imagination conceive, for she was to
be Miss Emily's very own visitor, and sit at table
with college professors and other great men.
At length the day dawned when the few clean,
simple dresses were packed in the hair trunk,
together with her beloved coral necklace, her cheesecloth
graduating dress, her class pin, aunt Jane's
lace cape, and the one new hat, which she tried on
every night before going to bed. It was of white
chip with a wreath of cheap white roses and green
leaves, and cost between two and three dollars, an
unprecedented sum in Rebecca's experience. The
effect of its glories when worn with her nightdress
was dazzling enough, but if ever it appeared in
conjunction with the cheesecloth gown, Rebecca felt
that even reverend professors might regard it with
respect. It is probable indeed that any professorial
gaze lucky enough to meet a pair of dark eyes shining
under that white rose garland would never have
stopped at respect!
Then, when all was ready and Abijah Flagg at
the door, came a telegram from Hannah: "Come
at once. Mother has had bad accident."
In less than an hour Rebecca was started on her
way to Sunnybrook, her heart palpitating with fear
as to what might be awaiting her at her journey's
Death, at all events, was not there to meet her;
but something that looked at first only too much
like it. Her mother had been standing on the
haymow superintending some changes in the barn,
had been seized with giddiness, they thought, and
slipped. The right knee was fractured and the back
strained and hurt, but she was conscious and in no
immediate danger, so Rebecca wrote, when she had
a moment to send aunt Jane the particulars.
"I don' know how 'tis," grumbled Miranda, who
was not able to sit up that day; "but from a child
I could never lay abed without Aurelia's gettin' sick
too. I don' know 's she could help fallin', though
it ain't anyplace for a woman,--a haymow; but
if it hadn't been that, 't would 'a' been somethin'
else. Aurelia was born unfortunate. Now she'll
probably be a cripple, and Rebecca'll have to nurse
her instead of earning a good income somewheres
"Her first duty 's to her mother," said aunt Jane;
"I hope she'll always remember that."
"Nobody remembers anything they'd ought to,
--at seventeen," responded Miranda. "Now that
I'm strong again, there's things I want to consider
with you, Jane, things that are on my mind night
and day. We've talked 'em over before; now we'll
settle 'em. When I'm laid away, do you want to
take Aurelia and the children down here to the brick
house? There's an awful passel of 'em,--Aurelia,
Jenny, and Fanny; but I won't have Mark. Hannah
can take him; I won't have a great boy stompin'
out the carpets and ruinin' the furniture, though
I know when I'm dead I can't hinder ye, if you
make up your mind to do anything."
"I shouldn't like to go against your feelings,
especially in laying out your money, Miranda," said
"Don't tell Rebecca I've willed her the brick
house. She won't git it till I'm gone, and I want to
take my time 'bout dyin' and not be hurried off by
them that's goin' to profit by it; nor I don't want to
be thanked, neither. I s'pose she'll use the front
stairs as common as the back and like as not have
water brought into the kitchen, but mebbe when
I've been dead a few years I shan't mind. She sets
such store by you, she'll want you to have your home
here as long's you live, but anyway I've wrote it
down that way; though Lawyer Burns's wills don't
hold more'n half the time. He's cheaper, but I
guess it comes out jest the same in the end. I
wan't goin' to have the fust man Rebecca picks up
for a husband turnin' you ou'doors."
There was a long pause, during which Jane knit
silently, wiping the tears from her eyes from time
to time, as she looked at the pitiful figure lying
weakly on the pillows. Suddenly Miranda said slowly
"I don' know after all but you might as well
take Mark; I s'pose there's tame boys as well as
wild ones. There ain't a mite o' sense in havin'
so many children, but it's a turrible risk splittin' up
families and farmin' 'em out here 'n' there; they'd
never come to no good, an' everybody would keep
rememberin' their mother was a Sawyer. Now if
you'll draw down the curtin, I'll try to sleep."
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER
Two months had gone by,--two months of
steady, fagging work; of cooking, washing,
ironing; of mending and caring for
the three children, although Jenny was fast becoming
a notable little housewife, quick, ready, and
capable. They were months in which there had
been many a weary night of watching by Aurelia's
bedside; of soothing and bandaging and rubbing;
of reading and nursing, even of feeding and bathing.
The ceaseless care was growing less now, and
the family breathed more freely, for the mother's
sigh of pain no longer came from the stifling
bedroom, where, during a hot and humid August,
Aurelia had lain, suffering with every breath she
drew. There would be no question of walking for
many a month to come, but blessings seemed to
multiply when the blinds could be opened and the
bed drawn near the window; when mother, with
pillows behind her, could at least sit and watch the
work going on, could smile at the past agony and
forget the weary hours that had led to her present
comparative ease and comfort.
No girl of seventeen can pass through such an
ordeal and come out unchanged; no girl of Re-
becca's temperament could go through it without
some inward repining and rebellion. She was doing
tasks in which she could not be fully happy,--heavy
and trying tasks, which perhaps she could never
do with complete success or satisfaction; and like
promise of nectar to thirsty lips was the vision of
joys she had had to put aside for the performance
of dull daily duty. How brief, how fleeting,
had been those splendid visions when the universe
seemed open for her young strength to battle
and triumph in! How soon they had faded into
the light of common day! At first, sympathy and
grief were so keen she thought of nothing but
her mother's pain. No consciousness of self interposed
between her and her filial service; then, as
the weeks passed, little blighted hopes began to stir
and ache in her breast; defeated ambitions raised
their heads as if to sting her; unattainable delights
teased her by their very nearness; by the narrow
line of separation that lay between her and their
realization. It is easy, for the moment, to tread the
narrow way, looking neither to the right nor left,
upborne by the sense of right doing; but that first
joy of self-denial, the joy that is like fire in the
blood, dies away; the path seems drearier and the
footsteps falter. Such a time came to Rebecca, and
her bright spirit flagged when the letter was
received saying that her position in Augusta had been
filled. There was a mutinous leap of the heart then,
a beating of wings against the door of the cage, a
longing for the freedom of the big world outside.
It was the stirring of the powers within her, though
she called it by no such grand name. She felt as
if the wind of destiny were blowing her flame
hither and thither, burning, consuming her, but
kindling nothing. All this meant one stormy night
in her little room at Sunnybrook, but the clouds
blew over, the sun shone again, a rainbow stretched
across the sky, while "hope clad in April green"
smiled into her upturned face and beckoned her on,
"Grow old along with me,
The best is yet to be."
Threads of joy ran in and out of the gray tangled
web of daily living. There was the attempt at odd
moments to make the bare little house less bare by
bringing in out-of-doors, taking a leaf from Nature's
book and noting how she conceals ugliness wherever
she finds it. Then there was the satisfaction of being
mistress of the poor domain; of planning, governing,
deciding; of bringing order out of chaos; of
implanting gayety in the place of inert resignation to
the inevitable. Another element of comfort was the
children's love, for they turned to her as flowers to
the sun, drawing confidently on her fund of stories,
serene in the conviction that there was no limit to
Rebecca's power of make-believe. In this, and in
yet greater things, little as she realized it, the law
of compensation was working in her behalf, for in
those anxious days mother and daughter found and
knew each other as never before. A new sense was
born in Rebecca as she hung over her mother's bed
of pain and unrest,--a sense that comes only of
ministering, a sense that grows only when the strong
bend toward the weak. As for Aurelia, words could
never have expressed her dumb happiness when the
real revelation of motherhood was vouchsafed her.
In all the earlier years when her babies were young,
carking cares and anxieties darkened the fireside
with their brooding wings. Then Rebecca had gone
away, and in the long months of absence her mind
and soul had grown out of her mother's knowledge,
so that now, when Aurelia had time and strength
to study her child, she was like some enchanting
changeling. Aurelia and Hannah had gone on in
the dull round and the common task, growing duller
and duller; but now, on a certain stage of life's
journey, who should appear but this bewildering
being, who gave wings to thoughts that had only
crept before; who brought color and grace and
harmony into the dun brown texture of existence.
You might harness Rebecca to the heaviest
plough, and while she had youth on her side, she
would always remember the green earth under her
feet and the blue sky over her head. Her physical
eye saw the cake she was stirring and the loaf she
was kneading; her physical ear heard the kitchen
fire crackling and the teakettle singing, but ever
and anon her fancy mounted on pinions, rested
itself, renewed its strength in the upper air. The
bare little farmhouse was a fixed fact, but she had
many a palace into which she now and then withdrew;
palaces peopled with stirring and gallant figures
belonging to the world of romance; palaces
not without their heavenly apparitions too, breathing
celestial counsel. Every time she retired to her
citadel of dreams she came forth radiant and
refreshed, as one who has seen the evening star, or
heard sweet music, or smelled the rose of joy.
Aurelia could have understood the feeling of
a narrow-minded and conventional hen who has
brought a strange, intrepid duckling into the world;
but her situation was still more wonderful, for she
could only compare her sensations to those of some
quiet brown Dorking who has brooded an ordinary
egg and hatched a bird of paradise. Such an idea
had crossed her mind more than once during the
past fortnight, and it flashed to and fro this mellow
October morning when Rebecca came into the room
with her arms full of goldenrod and flaming autumn
"Just a hint of the fall styles, mother," she said,
slipping the stem of a gorgeous red and yellow
sapling between the mattress and the foot of the bed.
"This was leaning over the pool, and I was afraid
it would be vain if I left it there too long looking
at its beautiful reflection, so I took it away from
danger; isn't it wonderful? How I wish I could
carry one to poor aunt Miranda to-day! There's
never a flower in the brick house when I'm
It was a marvelous morning. The sun had climbed
into a world that held in remembrance only a
succession of golden days and starlit nights. The air
was fragrant with ripening fruit, and there was a
mad little bird on a tree outside the door nearly
bursting his throat with joy of living. He had
forgotten that summer was over, that winter must ever
come; and who could think of cold winds, bare
boughs, or frozen streams on such a day? A painted
moth came in at the open window and settled on
the tuft of brilliant leaves. Aurelia heard the bird
and looked from the beauty of the glowing bush to
her tall, splendid daughter, standing like young
Spring with golden Autumn in her arms.
Then suddenly she covered her eyes and cried,
"I can't bear it! Here I lie chained to this bed,
interfering with everything you want to do. It's all
wasted! All my saving and doing without; all your
hard study; all Mirandy's outlay; everything that
we thought was going to be the making of you!"
"Mother, mother, don't talk so, don't think
so!" exclaimed Rebecca, sitting down impetuously
on the floor by the bed and dropping the goldenrod
by her side. "Why, mother, I'm only a little past
seventeen! This person in a purple calico apron
with flour on her nose is only the beginnings of me!
Do you remember the young tree that John transplanted?
We had a dry summer and a cold winter
and it didn't grow a bit, nor show anything of all
we did for it; then there was a good year and it
made up for lost time. This is just my little
`rooting season,' mother, but don't go and believe my
day is over, because it hasn't begun! The old
maple by the well that's in its hundredth year had
new leaves this summer, so there must be hope for
me at seventeen!"
"You can put a brave face on it," sobbed
Aurelia, "but you can't deceive me. You've lost your
place; you'll never see your friends here, and
you're nothing but a drudge!"
"I look like a drudge," said Rebecca mysteriously,
with laughing eyes, "but I really am a princess;
you mustn't tell, but this is only a disguise;
I wear it for reasons of state. The king and queen
who are at present occupying my throne are very
old and tottering, and are going to abdicate shortly
in my favor. It's rather a small kingdom, I suppose,
as kingdoms go, so there isn't much struggle
for it in royal circles, and you mustn't expect to
see a golden throne set with jewels. It will probably
be only of ivory with a nice screen of peacock
feathers for a background; but you shall have a
comfortable chair very near it, with quantities of
slaves to do what they call in novels your `lightest
Aurelia smiled in spite of herself, and though not
perhaps wholly deceived, she was comforted.
"I only hope you won't have to wait too long for
your thrones and your kingdoms, Rebecca," she
said, "and that I shall have a sight of them before
I die; but life looks very hard and rough to me,
what with your aunt Miranda a cripple at the brick
house, me another here at the farm, you tied hand
and foot, first with one and then with the other,
to say nothing of Jenny and Fanny and Mark!
You've got something of your father's happy
disposition, or it would weigh on you as it does on
"Why, mother!" cried Rebecca, clasping her
knees with her hands; "why, mother, it's enough
joy just to be here in the world on a day like this;
to have the chance of seeing, feeling, doing, becoming!
When you were seventeen, mother, wasn't it
good just to be alive? You haven't forgotten?"
"No," said Aurelia, "but I wasn't so much alive
as you are, never in the world."
"I often think," Rebecca continued, walking to
the window and looking out at the trees,--"I often
think how dreadful it would be if I were not here
at all. If Hannah had come, and then, instead of
me, John; John and Jenny and Fanny and the
others, but no Rebecca; never any Rebecca! To
be alive makes up for everything; there ought to