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Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin

Part 6 out of 6

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be fears in my heart, but there aren't; something
stronger sweeps them out, something like a wind.
Oh, see! There is Will driving up the lane,
mother, and he ought to have a letter from the
brick house."



Will Melville drove up to the window
and, tossing a letter into Rebecca's
lap, went off to the barn on an errand.

"Sister 's no worse, then," sighed Aurelia
gratefully, "or Jane would have telegraphed. See what
she says."

Rebecca opened the envelope and read in one
flash of an eye the whole brief page:--

Your aunt Miranda passed away an hour ago.
Come at once, if your mother is out of danger. I
shall not have the funeral till you are here. She
died very suddenly and without any pain. Oh,
Rebecca! I long for you so!

Aunt Jane.

The force of habit was too strong, and even
in the hour of death Jane had remembered that
a telegram was twenty-five cents, and that Aurelia
would have to pay half a dollar for its delivery.

Rebecca burst into a passion of tears as she
cried, "Poor, poor aunt Miranda! She is gone
without taking a bit of comfort in life, and I
couldn't say good-by to her! Poor lonely aunt
Jane! What can I do, mother? I feel torn in two,
between you and the brick house."

"You must go this very instant," said Aurelia;
starting from her pillows. "If I was to die while
you were away, I would say the very same thing.
Your aunts have done everything in the world for
you,--more than I've ever been able to do,--and
it is your turn to pay back some o' their kindness
and show your gratitude. The doctor says I've
turned the corner and I feel I have. Jenny can
make out somehow, if Hannah'll come over once
a day."

"But, mother, I CAN'T go! Who'll turn you in
bed?" exclaimed Rebecca, walking the floor and
wringing her hands distractedly.

"It don't make any difference if I don't get
turned," replied Aurelia stoically. "If a woman
of my age and the mother of a family hasn't got
sense enough not to slip off haymows, she'd ought
to suffer. Go put on your black dress and pack your
bag. I'd give a good deal if I was able to go to
my sister's funeral and prove that I've forgotten
and forgiven all she said when I was married. Her
acts were softer 'n her words, Mirandy's were, and
she's made up to you for all she ever sinned
against me 'n' your father! And oh, Rebecca," she
continued with quivering voice, "I remember so
well when we were little girls together and she took
such pride in curling my hair; and another time,
when we were grown up, she lent me her best blue
muslin: it was when your father had asked me to
lead the grand march with him at the Christmas
dance, and I found out afterwards she thought he'd
intended to ask her!"

Here Aurelia broke down and wept bitterly; for
the recollection of the past had softened her heart
and brought the comforting tears even more effectually
than the news of her sister's death.

There was only an hour for preparation. Will
would drive Rebecca to Temperance and send
Jenny back from school. He volunteered also to
engage a woman to sleep at the farm in case Mrs.
Randall should be worse at any time in the night.

Rebecca flew down over the hill to get a last pail
of spring water, and as she lifted the bucket from
the crystal depths and looked out over the glowing
beauty of the autumn landscape, she saw a company
of surveyors with their instruments making
calculations and laying lines that apparently crossed
Sunnybrook at the favorite spot where Mirror Pool
lay clear and placid, the yellow leaves on its surface
no yellower than its sparkling sands.

She caught her breath. "The time has come!"
she thought. "I am saying good-by to Sunnybrook,
and the golden gates that almost swung together
that last day in Wareham will close forever
now. Good-by, dear brook and hills and meadows;
you are going to see life too, so we must be hopeful
and say to one another:--

"`Grow old along with me,
The best is yet to be.'"

Will Melville had seen the surveyors too, and
had heard in the Temperance post-office that morning
the probable sum that Mrs. Randall would receive
from the railway company. He was in good
spirits at his own improved prospects, for his farm
was so placed that its value could be only increased
by the new road; he was also relieved in mind
that his wife's family would no longer be in dire
poverty directly at his doorstep, so to speak. John
could now be hurried forward and forced into the
position of head of the family several years sooner
than had been anticipated, so Hannah's husband
was obliged to exercise great self-control or he
would have whistled while he was driving Rebecca
to the Temperance station. He could not understand
her sad face or the tears that rolled silently
down her cheeks from time to time; for Hannah
had always represented her aunt Miranda as an
irascible, parsimonious old woman, who would be
no loss to the world whenever she should elect to
disappear from it.

"Cheer up, Becky!" he said, as he left her at the
depot. "You'll find your mother sitting up when
you come back, and the next thing you know the
whole family'll be moving to some nice little house
wherever your work is. Things will never be so
bad again as they have been this last year; that's
what Hannah and I think;" and he drove away to
tell his wife the news.

Adam Ladd was in the station and came up to
Rebecca instantly, as she entered the door looking
very unlike her bright self.

"The Princess is sad this morning," he said,
taking her hand. "Aladdin must rub the magic
lamp; then the slave will appear, and these tears
be dried in a trice."

He spoke lightly, for he thought her trouble
was something connected with affairs at Sunnybrook,
and that he could soon bring the smiles by
telling her that the farm was sold and that her
mother was to receive a handsome price in return.
He meant to remind her, too, that though she must
leave the home of her youth, it was too remote a
place to be a proper dwelling either for herself or
for her lonely mother and the three younger
children. He could hear her say as plainly as if it were
yesterday, "I don't think one ever forgets the spot
where one lived as a child." He could see the quaint
little figure sitting on the piazza at North Riverboro
and watch it disappear in the lilac bushes when he
gave the memorable order for three hundred cakes
of Rose-Red and Snow-White soap.

A word or two soon told him that her grief was
of another sort, and her mood was so absent, so
sensitive and tearful, that he could only assure her
of his sympathy and beg that he might come soon
to the brick house to see with his own eyes how
she was faring.

Adam thought, when he had put her on the train
and taken his leave, that Rebecca was, in her sad
dignity and gravity, more beautiful than he had ever
seen her,--all-beautiful and all-womanly. But in that
moment's speech with her he had looked into her
eyes and they were still those of a child; there was
no knowledge of the world in their shining depths,
no experience of men or women, no passion, nor
comprehension of it. He turned from the little country
station to walk in the woods by the wayside until
his own train should be leaving, and from time to
time he threw himself under a tree to think and
dream and look at the glory of the foliage. He
had brought a new copy of The Arabian Nights for
Rebecca, wishing to replace the well-worn old one
that had been the delight of her girlhood; but
meeting her at such an inauspicious time, he had
absently carried it away with him. He turned the
pages idly until he came to the story of Aladdin
and the Wonderful Lamp, and presently, in spite
of his thirty-four years, the old tale held him
spellbound as it did in the days when he first read it as
a boy. But there were certain paragraphs that
especially caught his eye and arrested his attention,--
paragraphs that he read and reread, finding in them
he knew not what secret delight and significance.
These were the quaintly turned phrases describing
the effect on the once poor Aladdin of his
wonderful riches, and those descanting upon the beauty
and charm of the Sultan's daughter, the Princess

_Not only those who knew Aladdin when he
played in the streets like a vagabond did not know
him again; those who had seen him but a little
while before hardly knew him, so much were his
features altered; such were the effects of the lamp,
as to procure by degrees to those who possessed it,
perfections agreeable to the rank the right use of it
advanced them to._

_The Princess was the most beautiful brunette in
the world; her eyes were large, lively, and sparkling;
her looks sweet and modest; her nose was of
a just proportion and without a fault; her mouth
small, her lips of a vermilion red, and charmingly
agreeable symmetry; in a word, all the features of
her face were perfectly regular. It is not therefore
surprising that Aladdin, who had never seen, and
was a stranger to, so many charms, was dazzled.
With all these perfections the Princess had so delicate
a shape, so majestic an air, that the sight of her
was sufficient to inspire respect._

_"Adorable Princess," said Aladdin to her, accosting
her, and saluting her respectfully, "if I have the
misfortune to have displeased you by my boldness in
aspiring to the possession of so lovely a creature, I
must tell you that you ought to blame your bright
eyes and charms, not me."

"Prince," answered the Princess, "it is enough
for me to have seen you, to tell you that I obey without



When Rebecca alighted from the train
at Maplewood and hurried to the post-
office where the stage was standing,
what was her joy to see uncle Jerry Cobb holding
the horses' heads.

"The reg'lar driver 's sick," he explained, "and
when they sent for me, thinks I to myself, my
drivin' days is over, but Rebecky won't let the grass
grow under her feet when she gits her aunt Jane's
letter, and like as not I'll ketch her to-day; or, if
she gits delayed, to-morrow for certain. So here I
be jest as I was more 'n six year ago. Will you be
a real lady passenger, or will ye sit up in front
with me?"

Emotions of various sorts were all struggling
together in the old man's face, and the two or
three bystanders were astounded when they saw
the handsome, stately girl fling herself on Mr.
Cobb's dusty shoulder crying like a child. "Oh,
uncle Jerry!" she sobbed; "dear uncle Jerry! It's
all so long ago, and so much has happened, and
we've grown so old, and so much is going to happen
that I'm fairly frightened."

"There, there, lovey," the old man whispered
comfortingly, "we'll be all alone on the stage, and
we'll talk things over 's we go along the road an'
mebbe they won't look so bad."

Every mile of the way was as familiar to Rebecca
as to uncle Jerry; every watering-trough, grindstone,
red barn, weather-vane, duck-pond, and sandy
brook. And all the time she was looking backward
to the day, seemingly so long ago, when she sat on
the box seat for the first time, her legs dangling in
the air, too short to reach the footboard. She could
smell the big bouquet of lilacs, see the pink-flounced
parasol, feel the stiffness of the starched buff calico
and the hated prick of the black and yellow porcupine
quills. The drive was taken almost in silence,
but it was a sweet, comforting silence both to
uncle Jerry and the girl.

Then came the sight of Abijah Flagg shelling
beans in the barn, and then the Perkins attic windows
with a white cloth fluttering from them. She
could spell Emma Jane's loving thought and welcome
in that little waving flag; a word and a message
sent to her just at the first moment when
Riverboro chimneys rose into view; something to
warm her heart till they could meet.

The brick house came next, looking just as of
yore; though it seemed to Rebecca as if death
should have cast some mysterious spell over it.
There were the rolling meadows, the stately elms,
all yellow and brown now; the glowing maples,
the garden-beds bright with asters, and the hollyhocks,
rising tall against the parlor windows; only
in place of the cheerful pinks and reds of the
nodding stalks, with their gay rosettes of bloom,
was a crape scarf holding the blinds together, and
another on the sitting-room side, and another on
the brass knocker of the brown-painted door.

"Stop, uncle Jerry! Don't turn in at the side;
hand me my satchel, please; drop me in the road
and let me run up the path by myself. Then drive
away quickly."

At the noise and rumble of the approaching
stage the house door opened from within, just as
Rebecca closed the gate behind her. Aunt Jane
came down the stone steps, a changed woman,
frail and broken and white. Rebecca held out her
arms and the old aunt crept into them feebly, as
she did on that day when she opened the grave of
her buried love and showed the dead face, just for
an instant, to a child. Warmth and strength and
life flowed into the aged frame from the young one.

"Rebecca," she said, raising her head, "before
you go in to look at her, do you feel any bitterness
over anything she ever said to you?"

Rebecca's eyes blazed reproach, almost anger, as
she said chokingly: "Oh, aunt Jane! Could you
believe it of me? I am going in with a heart brimful
of gratitude!"

"She was a good woman, Rebecca; she had a
quick temper and a sharp tongue, but she wanted
to do right, and she did it as near as she could.
She never said so, but I'm sure she was sorry for
every hard word she spoke to you; she didn't take
'em back in life, but she acted so 't you'd know her
feeling when she was gone."

"I told her before I left that she'd been the making
of me, just as mother says," sobbed Rebecca

"She wasn't that," said Jane. "God made you
in the first place, and you've done considerable yourself
to help Him along; but she gave you the wherewithal
to work with, and that ain't to be despised;
specially when anybody gives up her own luxuries
and pleasures to do it. Now let me tell you something,
Rebecca. Your aunt Mirandy 's willed all this
to you,--the brick house and buildings and furniture,
and the land all round the house, as far 's you
can see."

Rebecca threw off her hat and put her hand to
her heart, as she always did in moments of intense
excitement. After a moment's silence she said:
"Let me go in alone; I want to talk to her; I want
to thank her; I feel as if I could make her hear and
feel and understand!"

Jane went back into the kitchen to the inexorable
tasks that death has no power, even for a day, to
blot from existence. He can stalk through dwelling
after dwelling, leaving despair and desolation behind
him, but the table must be laid, the dishes washed,
the beds made, by somebody.

Ten minutes later Rebecca came out from the
Great Presence looking white and spent, but chastened
and glorified. She sat in the quiet doorway,
shaded from the little Riverboro world by the
overhanging elms. A wide sense of thankfulness and
peace possessed her, as she looked at the autumn
landscape, listened to the rumble of a wagon on the
bridge, and heard the call of the river as it dashed
to the sea. She put up her hand softly and touched
first the shining brass knocker and then the red
bricks, glowing in the October sun.

It was home; her roof, her garden, her green
acres, her dear trees; it was shelter for the little
family at Sunnybrook; her mother would have once
more the companionship of her sister and the friends
of her girlhood; the children would have teachers
and playmates.

And she? Her own future was close-folded still;
folded and hidden in beautiful mists; but she leaned
her head against the sun-warmed door, and closing
her eyes, whispered, just as if she had been a
child saying her prayers: "God bless aunt Miranda;
God bless the brick house that was; God bless the
brick house that is to be!"

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