New Chronicles of Rebecca
Kate Douglas Wiggin
Part 1 out of 4
This etext was typed by Theresa Armao of Albany, NY.
NEW CHRONICLES OF REBECCA
by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Daughters of Zion
Rebecca's Thought Book
A Tragedy in Millinery
The Saving of the Colors
The State of Maine Girl
The Little Prophet
Abner Simpson's New Leaf
The Green Isle
Abijah the Brave and the Fair Emma Jane
Miss Miranda Sawyer's old-fashioned garden was the pleasantest
spot in Riverboro on a sunny July morning. The rich color of the
brick house gleamed and glowed through the shade of the elms and
maples. Luxuriant hop-vines clambered up the lightning rods and
water spouts, hanging their delicate clusters here and there in
graceful profusion. Woodbine transformed the old shed and tool
house to things of beauty, and the flower beds themselves were
the prettiest and most fragrant in all the countryside. A row of
dahlias ran directly around the garden spot,--dahlias scarlet,
gold, and variegated. In the very centre was a round plot where
the upturned faces of a thousand pansies smiled amid their
leaves, and in the four corners were triangular blocks of sweet
phlox over which the butterflies fluttered unceasingly. In the
spaces between ran a riot of portulaca and nasturtiums, while in
the more regular, shell-bordered beds grew spirea and
gillyflowers, mignonette, marigolds, and clove pinks.
Back of the barn and encroaching on the edge of the hay field was
a grove of sweet clover whose white feathery tips fairly bent
under the assaults of the bees, while banks of aromatic mint and
thyme drank in the sunshine and sent it out again into the summer
air, warm, and deliciously odorous.
The hollyhocks were Miss Sawyer's pride, and they grew in a
stately line beneath the four kitchen windows, their tapering
tips set thickly with gay satin circlets of pink or lavender or
"They grow something like steeples," thought little Rebecca
Randall, who was weeding the bed, "and the flat, round flowers
are like rosettes; but steeples wouldn't be studded with
rosettes, so if you were writing about them in a composition
you'd have to give up one or the other, and I think I'll give up
Gay little hollyhock
Lifting your head,
Out from your bed.
It's a pity the hollyhock isn't really little, instead of
steepling up to the window top, but I can't say, 'Gay TALL
hollyhock.' . . . I might have it 'Lines to a Hollyhock in May,'
for then it would be small; but oh, no! I forgot; in May it
wouldn't be blooming, and it's so pretty to say that its head is
'sweetly rosetted' . . . I wish the teacher wasn't away; she
would like 'sweetly rosetted,' and she would like to hear me
recite 'Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean, roll!' that I
learned out of Aunt Jane's Byron; the rolls come booming out of
it just like the waves at the beach. . . . I could make nice
compositions now, everything is blooming so, and it's so warm and
sunny and happy outdoors. Miss Dearborn told me to write
something in my thought book every single day, and I'll begin
this very night when I go to bed."
Rebecca Rowena Randall, the little niece of the brick-house
ladies, and at present sojourning there for purposes of board,
lodging, education, and incidentally such discipline and
chastening as might ultimately produce moral excellence,--Rebecca
Randall had a passion for the rhyme and rhythm of poetry. From
her earliest childhood words had always been to her what dolls
and toys are to other children, and now at twelve she amused
herself with phrases and sentences and images as her schoolmates
played with the pieces of their dissected puzzles. If the heroine
of a story took a "cursory glance" about her "apartment," Rebecca
would shortly ask her Aunt Jane to take a "cursory glance" at her
oversewing or hemming; if the villain "aided and abetted" someone
in committing a crime, she would before long request the pleasure
of "aiding and abetting" in dishwashing or bedmaking. Sometimes
she used the borrowed phrases unconsciously; sometimes she
brought them into the conversation with an intense sense of
pleasure in their harmony or appropriateness; for a beautiful
word or sentence had the same effect upon her imagination as a
fragrant nosegay, a strain of music, or a brilliant sunset.
"How are you gettin' on, Rebecca Rowena?" called a peremptory
voice from within.
"Pretty good, Aunt Miranda; only I wish flowers would ever come
up as thick as this pigweed and plantain and sorrel. What MAKES
weeds be thick and flowers be thin?--I just happened to be
stopping to think a minute when you looked out."
"You think considerable more than you weed, I guess, by
appearances. How many times have you peeked into that humming
bird's nest? Why don't you work all to once and play all to once,
like other folks?"
"I don't know," the child answered, confounded by the question,
and still more by the apparent logic back of it. "I don't know,
Aunt Miranda, but when I'm working outdoors such a Saturday
morning as this, the whole creation just screams to me to stop it
and come and play."
"Well, you needn't go if it does!" responded her aunt sharply.
"It don't scream to me when I'm rollin' out these doughnuts, and
it wouldn't to you if your mind was on your duty."
Rebecca's little brown hands flew in and out among the weeds as
she thought rebelliously: "Creation WOULDN'T scream to Aunt
Miranda; it would know she wouldn't come.
Scream on, thou bright and gay creation, scream!
'Tis not Miranda that will hear thy cry!
Oh, such funny, nice things come into my head out here by myself,
I do wish I could run up and put them down in my thought book
before I forget them, but Aunt Miranda wouldn't like me to leave
Rebecca was weeding the hollyhock bed
When wonderful thoughts came into her head.
Her aunt was occupied with the rolling pin
And the thoughts of her mind were common and thin.
That wouldn't do because it's mean to Aunt Miranda, and anyway it
isn't good. I MUST crawl under the syringa shade a minute, it's
so hot, and anybody has to stop working once in a while, just to
get their breath, even if they weren't making poetry.
Rebecca was weeding the hollyhock bed When marvelous thoughts
came into her head. Miranda was wielding the rolling pin And
thoughts at such times seemed to her as a sin.
How pretty the hollyhock rosettes look from down here on the
sweet, smelly ground!
"Let me see what would go with rosetting. AIDING AND ABETTING,
PETTING, HEN-SETTING, FRETTING,--there's nothing very nice, but I
can make fretting' do.
Cheered by Rowena's petting,
The flowers are rosetting,
But Aunt Miranda's fretting
Doth somewhat cloud the day."
Suddenly the sound of wagon wheels broke the silence and then a
voice called out--a voice that could not wait until the feet that
belonged to it reached the spot: "Miss Saw-YER! Father's got to
drive over to North Riverboro on an errand, and please can
Rebecca go, too, as it's Saturday morning and vacation besides?"
Rebecca sprang out from under the syringa bush, eyes flashing
with delight as only Rebecca's eyes COULD flash, her face one
luminous circle of joyous anticipation. She clapped her grubby
hands, and dancing up and down, cried: "May I, Aunt Miranda--can
I, Aunt Jane--can I, Aunt Miranda-Jane? I'm more than half
through the bed."
"If you finish your weeding tonight before sundown I s'pose you
can go, so long as Mr. Perkins has been good enough to ask you,"
responded Miss Sawyer reluctantly. "Take off that gingham apron
and wash your hands clean at the pump. You ain't be'n out o' bed
but two hours an' your head looks as rough as if you'd slep' in
it. That comes from layin' on the ground same as a caterpillar.
Smooth your hair down with your hands an' p'r'aps Emma Jane can
braid it as you go along the road. Run up and get your
second-best hair ribbon out o' your upper drawer and put on your
shade hat. No, you can't wear your coral chain--jewelry ain't
appropriate in the morning. How long do you cal'late to be gone,
"I don't know. Father's just been sent for to see about a sick
woman over to North Riverboro. She's got to go to the poor
This fragment of news speedily brought Miss Sawyer, and her
sister Jane as well, to the door, which commanded a view of Mr.
Perkins and his wagon. Mr. Perkins, the father of Rebecca's bosom
friend, was primarily a blacksmith, and secondarily a selectman
and an overseer of the poor, a man therefore possessed of wide
and varied information.
"Who is it that's sick?" inquired Miranda.
"A woman over to North Riverboro."
"What's the trouble?"
"Yes, and no; she's that wild daughter of old Nate Perry that
used to live up towards Moderation. You remember she ran away to
work in the factory at Milltown and married a do--nothin' fellow
by the name o' John Winslow?"
"Yes; well, where is he? Why don't he take care of her?"
"They ain't worked well in double harness. They've been rovin'
round the country, livin' a month here and a month there wherever
they could get work and house-room. They quarreled a couple o'
weeks ago and he left her. She and the little boy kind o' camped
out in an old loggin' cabin back in the woods and she took in
washin' for a spell; then she got terrible sick and ain't
expected to live."
"Who's been nursing her?" inquired Miss Jane.
"Lizy Ann Dennett, that lives nearest neighbor to the cabin; but
I guess she's tired out bein' good Samaritan. Anyways, she sent
word this mornin' that nobody can't seem to find John Winslow;
that there ain't no relations, and the town's got to be
responsible, so I'm goin' over to see how the land lays. Climb
in, Rebecca. You an' Emmy Jane crowd back on the cushion an' I'll
set forrard. That's the trick! Now we're off!"
"Dear, dear!" sighed Jane Sawyer as the sisters walked back into
the brick house. "I remember once seeing Sally Perry at meeting.
She was a handsome girl, and I'm sorry she's come to grief."
"If she'd kep' on goin' to meetin' an' hadn't looked at the men
folks she might a' be'n earnin' an honest livin' this minute,"
said Miranda. "Men folks are at the bottom of everything wrong in
this world," she continued, unconsciously reversing the verdict
"Then we ought to be a happy and contented community here in
Riverboro," replied Jane, "as there's six women to one man."
"If 't was sixteen to one we'd be all the safer," responded
Miranda grimly, putting the doughnuts in a brown crock in the
cellar-way and slamming the door.
The Perkins horse and wagon rumbled along over the dusty country
road, and after a discreet silence, maintained as long as human
flesh could endure, Rebecca remarked sedately:
"It's a sad errand for such a shiny morning, isn't it, Mr.
"Plenty o' trouble in the world, Rebecky, shiny mornin's an'
all," that good man replied. "If you want a bed to lay on, a roof
over your head, an' food to eat, you've got to work for em. If I
hadn't a' labored early an' late, learned my trade, an' denied
myself when I was young, I might a' be'n a pauper layin' sick in
a loggin' cabin, stead o' bein' an overseer o' the poor an'
selectman drivin' along to take the pauper to the poor farm."
"People that are mortgaged don't have to go to the poor farm, do
they, Mr. Perkins?" asked Rebecca, with a shiver of fear as she
remembered her home farm at Sunnybrook and the debt upon it; a
debt which had lain like a shadow over her childhood.
"Bless your soul, no; not unless they fail to pay up; but Sal
Perry an' her husband hadn't got fur enough along in life to BE
mortgaged. You have to own something before you can mortgage it."
Rebecca's heart bounded as she learned that a mortgage
represented a certain stage in worldly prosperity.
"Well," she said, sniffing in the fragrance of the new-mown hay
and growing hopeful as she did so; "maybe the sick woman will be
better such a beautiful day, and maybe the husband will come back
to make it up and say he's sorry, and sweet content will reign in
the humble habitation that was once the scene of poverty, grief,
and despair. That's how it came out in a story I'm reading."
"I hain't noticed that life comes out like stories very much,"
responded the pessimistic blacksmith, who, as Rebecca privately
thought, had read less than half a dozen books in his long and
A drive of three or four miles brought the party to a patch of
woodland where many of the tall pines had been hewn the previous
winter. The roof of a ramshackle hut was outlined against a
background of young birches, and a rough path made in hauling the
logs to the main road led directly to its door.
As they drew near the figure of a woman approached--Mrs. Lizy Ann
Dennett, in a gingham dress, with a calico apron over her head.
"Good morning, Mr. Perkins," said the woman, who looked tired and
irritable. "I'm real glad you come right over, for she took worse
after I sent you word, and she's dead."
Dead! The word struck heavily and mysteriously on the children's
ears. Dead! And their young lives, just begun, stretched on and
on, all decked, like hope, in living green. Dead! And all the
rest of the world reveling in strength. Dead! With all the
daisies and buttercups waving in the fields and the men heaping
the mown grass into fragrant cocks or tossing it into heavily
laden carts. Dead! With the brooks tinkling after the summer
showers, with the potatoes and corn blossoming, the birds singing
for joy, and every little insect humming and chirping, adding its
note to the blithe chorus of warm, throbbing life.
"I was all alone with her. She passed away suddenly jest about
break o' day," said Lizy Ann Dennett.
"Her soul passed upward to its God Just at the break of day."
These words came suddenly into Rebecca's mind from a tiny chamber
where such things were wont to lie quietly until something
brought them to the surface. She could not remember whether she
had heard them at a funeral or read them in the hymn book or made
them up "out of her own head," but she was so thrilled with the
idea of dying just as the dawn was breaking that she scarcely
heard Mrs. Dennett's conversation.
"I sent for Aunt Beulah Day, an' she's be'n here an' laid her
out," continued the long suffering Lizy Ann. "She ain't got any
folks, an' John Winslow ain't never had any as far back as I can
remember. She belongs to your town and you'll have to bury her
and take care of Jacky--that's the boy. He's seventeen months
old, a bright little feller, the image o' John, but I can't keep
him another day. I'm all wore out; my own baby's sick, mother's
rheumatiz is extry bad, and my husband's comin' home tonight from
his week's work. If he finds a child o' John Winslow's under his
roof I can't say what would happen; you'll have to take him back
with you to the poor farm."
"I can't take him up there this afternoon," objected Mr. Perkins.
"Well, then, keep him over Sunday yourself; he's good as a
kitten. John Winslow'll hear o' Sal's death sooner or later,
unless he's gone out of the state altogether, an' when he knows
the boy's at the poor farm, I kind o' think he'll come and claim
him. Could you drive me over to the village to see about the
coffin, and would you children be afraid to stay here alone for a
spell?" she asked, turning to the girls.
"Afraid?" they both echoed uncomprehendingly.
Lizy Ann and Mr. Perkins, perceiving that the fear of a dead
presence had not entered the minds of Rebecca or Emma Jane, said
nothing, but drove off together, counseling them not to stray far
away from the cabin and promising to be back in an hour.
There was not a house within sight, either looking up or down the
shady road, and the two girls stood hand in hand, watching the
wagon out of sight; then they sat down quietly under a tree,
feeling all at once a nameless depression hanging over their gay
It was very still in the woods; just the chirp of a grasshopper
now and then, or the note of a bird, or the click of a
far-distant mowing machine.
"We're WATCHING!" whispered Emma Jane. "They watched with Gran'pa
Perkins, and there was a great funeral and two ministers. He left
two thousand dollars in the bank and a store full of goods, and a
paper thing you could cut tickets off of twice a year, and they
were just like money."
"They watched with my little sister Mira, too," said Rebecca.
"You remember when she died, and I went home to Sunnybrook Farm?
It was winter time, but she was covered with evergreen and white
pinks, and there was singing."
"There won't be any funeral or ministers or singing here, will
there? Isn't that awful?"
"I s'pose not; and oh, Emma Jane, no flowers either. We might get
those for her if there's nobody else to do it."
"Would you dare put them on to her?" asked Emma Jane, in a hushed
"I don't know; I can't tell; it makes me shiver, but, of course,
we COULD do it if we were the only friends she had. Let's look
into the cabin first and be perfectly sure that there aren't any.
Are you afraid?"
"N-no; I guess not. I looked at Gran'pa Perkins, and he was just
the same as ever."
At the door of the hut Emma Jane's courage suddenly departed. She
held back shuddering and refused either to enter or look in.
Rebecca shuddered too, but kept on, drawn by an insatiable
curiosity about life and death, an overmastering desire to know
and feel and understand the mysteries of existence, a hunger for
knowledge and experience at all hazards and at any cost.
Emma Jane hurried softly away from the felt terrors of the cabin,
and after two or three minutes of utter silence Rebecca issued
from the open door, her sensitive face pale and woe-begone, the
ever-ready tears raining down her cheeks. She ran toward the edge
of the wood, sinking down by Emma Jane's side, and covering her
eyes, sobbed with excitement:
"Oh, Emma Jane, she hasn't got a flower, and she's so tired and
sad-looking, as if she'd been hurt and hurt and never had any
good times, and there's a weeny, weeny baby side of her. Oh, I
wish I hadn't gone in!"
Emma Jane blenched for an instant. "Mrs. Dennett never said THERE
WAS TWO DEAD ONES! ISN'T THAT DREADFUL? But," she continued, her
practical common sense coming to the rescue, "you've been in once
and it's all over; it won't be so bad when you take in the
flowers because you'll be used to it. The goldenrod hasn't begun
to bud, so there's nothing to pick but daisies. Shall I make a
long rope of them, as I did for the schoolroom?"
"Yes," said Rebecca, wiping her eyes and still sobbing. "Yes,
that's the prettiest, and if we put it all round her like a
frame, the undertaker couldn't be so cruel as to throw it away,
even if she is a pauper, because it will look so beautiful. From
what the Sunday school lessons say, she's only asleep now, and
when she wakes up she'll be in heaven."
"THERE'S ANOTHER PLACE," said Emma Jane, in an orthodox and
sepulchral whisper, as she took her ever-present ball of crochet
cotton from her pocket and began to twine the whiteweed blossoms
into a rope.
"Oh, well!" Rebecca replied with the easy theology that belonged
to her temperament. "They simply couldn't send her DOWN THERE
with that little weeny baby. Who'd take care of it? You know
page six of the catechism says the only companions of the wicked
after death are their father the devil and all the other evil
angels; it wouldn't be any place to bring up a baby."
"Whenever and wherever she wakes up, I hope she won't know that
the big baby is going to the poor farm. I wonder where he is?"
"Perhaps over to Mrs. Dennett's house. She didn't seem sorry a
bit, did she?"
"No, but I suppose she's tired sitting up and nursing a stranger.
Mother wasn't sorry when Gran'pa Perkins died; she couldn't be,
for he was cross all the time and had to be fed like a child.
Why ARE you crying again, Rebecca?"
"Oh, I don't know, I can't tell, Emma Jane! Only I don't want to
die and have no funeral or singing and nobody sorry for me! I
just couldn't bear it!"
"Neither could I," Emma Jane responded sympathetically; "but
p'r'aps if we're real good and die young before we have to be
fed, they will be sorry. I do wish you could write some poetry
for her as you did for Alice Robinson's canary bird, only still
better, of course, like that you read me out of your thought
"I could, easy enough," exclaimed Rebecca, somewhat consoled by
the idea that her rhyming faculty could be of any use in such an
emergency. "Though I don't know but it would be kind of bold to
do it. I'm all puzzled about how people get to heaven after
they're buried. I can't understand it a bit; but if the poetry is
on her, what if that should go, too? And how could I write
anything good enough to be read out loud in heaven?"
"A little piece of paper couldn't get to heaven; it just
couldn't," asserted Emma Jane decisively. "It would be all blown
to pieces and dried up. And nobody knows that the angels can read
"They must be as educated as we are, and more so, too," agreed
Rebecca. "They must be more than just dead people, or else why
should they have wings? But I'll go off and write something while
you finish the rope; it's lucky you brought your crochet cotton
and I my lead pencil."
In fifteen or twenty minutes she returned with some lines written
on a scrap of brown wrapping paper. Standing soberly by Emma
Jane, she said, preparing to read them aloud: "They're not good;
I was afraid your father'd come back before I finished, and the
first verse sounds exactly like the funeral hymns in the church
book. I couldn't call her Sally Winslow; it didn't seem nice when
I didn't know her and she is dead, so I thought if I said friend'
it would show she had somebody to be sorry.
"This friend of ours has died and gone
From us to heaven to live.
If she has sinned against Thee, Lord,
We pray Thee, Lord, forgive.
"Her husband runneth far away
And knoweth not she's dead.
Oh, bring him back--ere tis too late--
To mourn beside her bed.
"And if perchance it can't be so,
Be to the children kind;
The weeny one that goes with her,
The other left behind."
"I think that's perfectly elegant!" exclaimed Emma Jane, kissing
Rebecca fervently. "You are the smartest girl in the whole State
of Maine, and it sounds like a minister's prayer. I wish we could
save up and buy a printing machine. Then I could learn to print
what you write and we'd be partners like father and Bill Moses.
Shall you sign it with your name like we do our school
"No," said Rebecca soberly. "I certainly shan't sign it, not
knowing where it's going or who'll read it. I shall just hide it
in the flowers, and whoever finds it will guess that there wasn't
any minister or singing, or gravestone, or anything, so somebody
just did the best they could."
The tired mother with the "weeny baby" on her arm lay on a long
carpenter's bench, her earthly journey over, and when Rebecca
stole in and placed the flowery garland all along the edge of the
rude bier, death suddenly took on a more gracious and benign
aspect. It was only a child's sympathy and intuition that
softened the rigors of the sad moment, but poor, wild Sal
Winslow, in her frame of daisies, looked as if she were missed a
little by an unfriendly world; while the weeny baby, whose heart
had fallen asleep almost as soon as it had learned to beat, the
weeny baby, with Emma Jane's nosegay of buttercups in its tiny
wrinkled hand, smiled as if it might have been loved and longed
for and mourned.
"We've done all we can now without a minister," whispered
Rebecca. "We could sing, God is ever good' out of the Sunday
school song book, but I'm afraid somebody would hear us and think
we were gay and happy. What's that?"
A strange sound broke the stillness; a gurgle, a yawn, a merry
little call. The two girls ran in the direction from which it
came, and there, on an old coat, in a clump of goldenrod bushes,
lay a child just waking from a refreshing nap.
"It's the other baby that Lizy Ann Dennett told about!" cried
"Isn't he beautiful!" exclaimed Rebecca. "Come straight to me!"
and she stretched out her arms.
The child struggled to its feet, and tottered, wavering, toward
the warm welcome of the voice and eyes. Rebecca was all mother,
and her maternal instincts had been well developed in the large
family in which she was next to the eldest. She had always
confessed that there were perhaps a trifle too many babies at
Sunnybrook Farm, but, nevertheless, had she ever heard it, she
would have stood loyally by the Japanese proverb: "Whether
brought forth upon the mountain or in the field, it matters
nothing; more than a treasure of one thousand ryo a baby precious
"You darling thing!" she crooned, as she caught and lifted the
child. "You look just like a Jack-o'-lantern."
The boy was clad in a yellow cotton dress, very full and stiff.
His hair was of such a bright gold, and so sleek and shiny, that
he looked like a fair, smooth little pumpkin. He had wide blue
eyes full of laughter, a neat little vertical nose, a neat little
horizontal mouth with his few neat little teeth showing very
plainly, and on the whole Rebecca's figure of speech was not so
wide of the mark.
"Oh, Emma Jane! Isn't he too lovely to go to the poor farm? If
only we were married we could keep him and say nothing and nobody
would know the difference! Now that the Simpsons have gone away
there isn't a single baby in Riverboro, and only one in Edgewood.
It's a perfect shame, but I can't do anything; you remember Aunt
Miranda wouldn't let me have the Simpson baby when I wanted to
borrow her just for one rainy Sunday."
"My mother won't keep him, so it's no use to ask her; she says
most every day she's glad we're grown up, and she thanks the Lord
there wasn't but two of us."
"And Mrs. Peter Meserve is too nervous," Rebecca went on, taking
the village houses in turn; "and Mrs. Robinson is too neat."
"People don't seem to like any but their own babies," observed
"Well, I can't understand it," Rebecca answered. "A baby's a
baby, I should think, whose ever it is! Miss Dearborn is coming
back Monday; I wonder if she'd like it? She has nothing to do out
of school, and we could borrow it all the time!"
"I don't think it would seem very genteel for a young lady like
Miss Dearborn, who 'boards round,' to take a baby from place to
place," objected Emma Jane.
"Perhaps not," agreed Rebecca despondently, "but I think if we
haven't got any--any--PRIVATE babies in Riverboro we ought to
have one for the town, and all have a share in it. We've got a
town hall and a town lamp post and a town watering trough. Things
are so uneven! One house like mine at Sunnybrook, brimful of
children, and the very next one empty! The only way to fix them
right would be to let all the babies that ever are belong to all
the grown-up people that ever are,--just divide them up, you
know, if they'd go round. Oh, I have a thought! Don't you believe
Aunt Sarah Cobb would keep him? She carries flowers to the
graveyard every little while, and once she took me with her.
There's a marble cross, and it says: SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF
SARAH ELLEN, BELOVED CHILD OF SARAH AND JEREMIAH COBB, AGED 17
MONTHS. Why, that's another reason; Mrs. Dennett says this one is
seventeen months. There's five of us left at the farm without me,
but if we were only nearer to Riverboro, how quick mother would
let in one more!"
"We might see what father thinks, and that would settle it," said
Emma Jane. "Father doesn't think very sudden, but he thinks awful
strong. If we don't bother him, and find a place ourselves for
the baby, perhaps he'll be willing. He's coming now; I hear the
Lizy Ann Dennett volunteered to stay and perform the last rites
with the undertaker, and Jack-o'-lantern, with his slender
wardrobe tied in a bandanna handkerchief, was lifted into the
wagon by the reluctant Mr. Perkins, and jubilantly held by
Rebecca in her lap. Mr. Perkins drove off as speedily as
possible, being heartily sick of the whole affair, and thinking
wisely that the little girls had already seen and heard more than
enough of the seamy side of life that morning.
Discussion concerning Jack-o'-lantern's future was prudently
deferred for a quarter of an hour, and then Mr. Perkins was
mercilessly pelted with arguments against the choice of the poor
farm as a place of residence for a baby.
"His father is sure to come back some time, Mr. Perkins," urged
Rebecca. "He couldn't leave this beautiful thing forever; and if
Emma Jane and I can persuade Mrs. Cobb to keep him a little
while, would you care?"
No; on reflection Mr. Perkins did not care. He merely wanted a
quiet life and enough time left over from the public service to
attend to his blacksmith's shop; so instead of going home over
the same road by which they came he crossed the bridge into
Edgewood and dropped the children at the long lane which led to
the Cobb house.
Mrs. Cobb, "Aunt Sarah" to the whole village, sat by the window
looking for Uncle Jerry, who would soon be seen driving the noon
stage to the post office over the hill. She always had an eye out
for Rebecca, too, for ever since the child had been a passenger
on Mr. Cobb's stagecoach, making the eventful trip from her home
farm to the brick house in Riverboro in his company, she had been
a constant visitor and the joy of the quiet household. Emma Jane,
too, was a well-known figure in the lane, but the strange baby
was in the nature of a surprise--a surprise somewhat modified by
the fact that Rebecca was a dramatic personage and more liable to
appear in conjunction with curious outriders, comrades, and
retainers than the ordinary Riverboro child. She had run away
from the too stern discipline of the brick house on one occasion,
and had been persuaded to return by Uncle Jerry. She had escorted
a wandering organ grinder to their door and begged a lodging for
him on a rainy night; so on the whole there was nothing amazing
about the coming procession.
The little party toiled up to the hospitable door, and Mrs. Cobb
came out to meet them.
Rebecca was spokesman. Emma Jane's talent did not lie in eloquent
speech, but it would have been a valiant and a fluent child
indeed who could have usurped Rebecca's privileges and tendencies
in this direction, language being her native element, and words
of assorted sizes springing spontaneously to her lips.
"Aunt Sarah, dear," she said, plumping Jack-o'-lantern down on
the grass as she pulled his dress over his feet and smoothed his
hair becomingly, "will you please not say a word till I get
through-- as it's very important you should know everything
before you answer yes or no? This is a baby named Jacky Winslow,
and I think he looks like a Jack-o'-lantern. His mother has just
died over to North Riverboro, all alone, excepting for Mrs. Lizy
Ann Dennett, and there was another little weeny baby that died
with her, and Emma Jane and I put flowers around them and did the
best we could. The father--that's John Winslow--quarreled with
the mother--that was Sal Perry on the Moderation Road--and ran
away and left her. So he doesn't know his wife and the weeny baby
are dead. And the town has got to bury them because they can't
find the father right off quick, and Jacky has got to go to the
poor farm this afternoon. And it seems an awful shame to take him
up to that lonesome place with those old people that can't amuse
him, and if Emma Jane and Alice Robinson and I take most all the
care of him we thought perhaps you and Uncle Jerry would keep him
just for a little while. You've got a cow and a turn-up bedstead,
you know," she hurried on insinuatingly, "and there's hardly any
pleasure as cheap as more babies where there's ever been any
before, for baby carriages and trundle beds and cradles don't
wear out, and there's always clothes left over from the old baby
to begin the new one on. Of course, we can collect enough things
to start Jacky, so he won't be much trouble or expense; and
anyway, he's past the most troublesome age and you won't have to
be up nights with him, and he isn't afraid of anybody or
anything, as you can see by his just sitting there laughing and
sucking his thumb, though he doesn't know what's going to become
of him. And he's just seventeen months old like dear little Sarah
Ellen in the graveyard, and we thought we ought to give you the
refusal of him before he goes to the poor farm, and what do you
think about it? Because it's near my dinner time and Aunt Miranda
will keep me in the whole afternoon if I'm late, and I've got to
finish weeding the hollyhock bed before sundown."
Mrs. Cobb had enjoyed a considerable period of reflection during
this monologue, and Jacky had not used the time unwisely,
offering several unconscious arguments and suggestions to the
matter under discussion; lurching over on the greensward and
righting himself with a chuckle, kicking his bare feet about in
delight at the sunshine and groping for his toes with arms too
short to reach them, the movement involving an entire upsetting
of equilibrium followed by more chuckles.
Coming down the last of the stone steps, Sarah Ellen's mother
regarded the baby with interest and sympathy.
"Poor little mite!" she said; "that doesn't know what he's lost
and what's going to happen to him. Seems to me we might keep him
a spell till we're sure his father's deserted him for good. Want
to come to Aunt Sarah, baby?"
Jack-o'-lantern turned from Rebecca and Emma Jane and regarded
the kind face gravely; then he held out both his hands and Mrs.
Cobb, stooping, gathered him like a harvest. Being lifted into
her arms, he at once tore her spectacles from her nose and
laughed aloud. Taking them from him gently, she put them on
again, and set him in the cushioned rocking chair under the lilac
bushes beside the steps. Then she took one of his soft hands in
hers and patted it, and fluttered her fingers like birds before
his eyes, and snapped them like castanets, remembering all the
arts she had lavished upon "Sarah Ellen, aged seventeen months,"
years and years ago.
Motherless baby and babyless mother,
Bring them together to love one another.
Rebecca knew nothing of this couplet, but she saw clearly enough
that her case was won.
"The boy must be hungry; when was he fed last?" asked Mrs. Cobb.
"Just stay a second longer while I get him some morning's milk;
then you run home to your dinners and I'll speak to Mr. Cobb this
afternoon. Of course, we can keep the baby for a week or two till
we see what happens. Land! He ain't goin' to be any more trouble
than a wax doll! I guess he ain't been used to much attention,
and that kind's always the easiest to take care of."
At six o'clock that evening Rebecca and Emma Jane flew up the
hill and down the lane again, waving their hands to the dear old
couple who were waiting for them in the usual place, the back
piazza where they had sat so many summers in a blessed
companionship never marred by an unloving word.
"Where's Jacky?" called Rebecca breathlessly, her voice always
outrunning her feet.
"Go up to my chamber, both of you, if you want to see," smiled
Mrs. Cobb, "only don't wake him up."
The girls went softly up the stairs into Aunt Sarah's room.
There, in the turn-up bedstead that had been so long empty, slept
Jack-o'-lantern, in blissful unconsciousness of the doom he had
so lately escaped. His nightgown and pillow case were clean and
fragrant with lavender, but they were both as yellow as saffron,
for they had belonged to Sarah Ellen.
"I wish his mother could see him!" whispered Emma Jane.
"You can't tell; it's all puzzly about heaven, and perhaps she
does," said Rebecca, as they turned reluctantly from the
fascinating scene and stole down to the piazza.
It was a beautiful and a happy summer that year, and every day it
was filled with blissful plays and still more blissful duties. On
the Monday after Jack-o'-lantern's arrival in Edgewood Rebecca
founded the Riverboro Aunts Association. The Aunts were Rebecca,
Emma Jane, Alice Robinson, and Minnie Smellie, and each of the
first three promised to labor for and amuse the visiting baby for
two days a week, Minnie Smellie, who lived at some distance from
the Cobbs, making herself responsible for Saturday afternoons.
Minnie Smellie was not a general favorite among the Riverboro
girls, and it was only in an unprecedented burst of magnanimity
that they admitted her into the rites of fellowship, Rebecca
hugging herself secretly at the thought, that as Minnie gave only
the leisure time of one day a week, she could not be called a
"full" Aunt. There had been long and bitter feuds between the two
children during Rebecca's first summer in Riverboro, but since
Mrs. Smellie had told her daughter that one more quarrel would
invite a punishment so terrible that it could only be hinted at
vaguely, and Miss Miranda Sawyer had remarked that any niece of
hers who couldn't get along peaceable with the neighbors had
better go back to the seclusion of a farm where there weren't
any, hostilities had been veiled, and a suave and diplomatic
relationship had replaced the former one, which had been wholly
primitive, direct, and barbaric. Still, whenever Minnie Smellie,
flaxen-haired, pink-nosed, and ferret-eyed, indulged in fluent
conversation, Rebecca, remembering the old fairy story, could
always see toads hopping out of her mouth. It was really very
unpleasant, because Minnie could never see them herself; and what
was more amazing, Emma Jane perceived nothing of the sort, being
almost as blind, too, to the diamonds that fell continually from
Rebecca's lips; but Emma Jane's strong point was not her
A shaky perambulator was found in Mrs. Perkins's wonderful attic;
shoes and stockings were furnished by Mrs. Robinson; Miss Jane
Sawyer knitted a blanket and some shirts; Thirza Meserve, though
too young for an aunt, coaxed from her mother some dresses and
nightgowns, and was presented with a green paper certificate
allowing her to wheel Jacky up and down the road for an hour
under the superintendence of a full Aunt. Each girl, under the
constitution of the association, could call Jacky "hers" for two
days in the week, and great, though friendly, was the rivalry
between them, as they washed, ironed, and sewed for their adored
If Mrs. Cobb had not been the most amiable woman in the world she
might have had difficulty in managing the aunts, but she always
had Jacky to herself the earlier part of the day and after dusk
Meanwhile Jack-o'-lantern grew healthier and heartier and jollier
as the weeks slipped away. Uncle Jerry joined the little company
of worshipers and slaves, and one fear alone stirred in all their
hearts; not, as a sensible and practical person might imagine,
the fear that the recreant father might never return to claim his
child, but, on the contrary, that he MIGHT do so!
October came at length with its cheery days and frosty nights,
its glory of crimson leaves and its golden harvest of pumpkins
and ripened corn. Rebecca had been down by the Edgewood side of
the river and had come up across the pastures for a good-night
play with Jacky. Her literary labors had been somewhat
interrupted by the joys and responsibilities of vice-motherhood,
and the thought book was less frequently drawn from its hiding
place under the old haymow in the barn chamber.
Mrs. Cobb stood behind the screen door with her face pressed
against the wire netting, and Rebecca could see that she was
wiping her eyes.
All at once the child's heart gave one prophetic throb and then
stood still. She was like a harp that vibrated with every wind of
emotion, whether from another's grief or her own.
She looked down the lane, around the curve of the stone wall, red
with woodbine, the lane that would meet the stage road to the
station. There, just mounting the crown of the hill and about to
disappear on the other side, strode a stranger man, big and tall,
with a crop of reddish curly hair showing from under his straw
hat. A woman walked by his side, and perched on his shoulder,
wearing his most radiant and triumphant mien, as joyous in
leaving Edgewood as he had been during every hour of his sojourn
Rebecca gave a cry in which maternal longing and helpless,
hopeless jealousy strove for supremacy. Then, with an impetuous
movement she started to run after the disappearing trio.
Mrs. Cobb opened the door hastily, calling after her, "Rebecca,
Rebecca, come back here! You mustn't follow where you haven't any
right to go. If there'd been anything to say or do, I'd a' done
"He's mine! He's mine!" stormed Rebecca. "At least he's yours and
"He's his father's first of all," faltered Mrs. Cobb; "don't
let's forget that; and we'd ought to be glad and grateful that
John Winslow's come to his senses an' remembers he's brought a
child into the world and ought to take care of it. Our loss is
his gain and it may make a man of him. Come in, and we'll put
things away all neat before your Uncle Jerry gets home."
Rebecca sank in a pitiful little heap on Mrs. Cobb's bedroom
floor and sobbed her heart out. "Oh, Aunt Sarah, where shall we
get another Jack-o'-lantern, and how shall I break it to Emma
Jane? What if his father doesn't love him, and what if he
forgets to strain the milk or lets him go without his nap? That's
the worst of babies that aren't private--you have to part with
them sooner or later!"
"Sometimes you have to part with your own, too," said Mrs. Cobb
sadly; and though there were lines of sadness in her face there
was neither rebellion nor repining, as she folded up the sides of
the turn-up bedstead preparatory to banishing it a second time to
the attic. "I shall miss Sarah Ellen now more'n ever. Still,
Rebecca, we mustn't feel to complain. It's the Lord that giveth
and the Lord that taketh away: Blessed be the name of the Lord."
DAUGHTERS OF ZION
Abijah Flagg was driving over to Wareham on an errand for old
Squire Winship, whose general chore-boy and farmer's assistant he
had been for some years.
He passed Emma Jane Perkins's house slowly, as he always did. She
was only a little girl of thirteen and he a boy of fifteen or
sixteen, but somehow, for no particular reason, he liked to see
the sun shine on her thick braids of reddish-brown hair. He
admired her china-blue eyes too, and her amiable, friendly
expression. He was quite alone in the world, and he always
thought that if he had anybody belonging to him he would rather
have a sister like Emma Jane Perkins than anything else within
the power of Providence to bestow. When she herself suggested
this relationship a few years later he cast it aside with scorn,
having changed his mind in the interval--but that story belongs
to another time and place.
Emma Jane was not to be seen in garden, field, or at the window,
and Abijah turned his gaze to the large brick house that came
next on the other side of the quiet village street. It might have
been closed for a funeral. Neither Miss Miranda nor Miss Jane
Sawyer sat at their respective windows knitting, nor was Rebecca
Randall's gypsy face to be discerned. Ordinarily that will-o'-the
wispish little person could be seen, heard, or felt wherever she
"The village must be abed, I guess," mused Abijah, as he neared
the Robinsons' yellow cottage, where all the blinds were closed
and no sign of life showed on porch or in shed. "No, 't aint,
neither," he thought again, as his horse crept cautiously down
the hill, for from the direction of the Robinsons' barn chamber
there floated out into the air certain burning sentiments set to
the tune of "Antioch." The words, to a lad brought up in the
orthodox faith, were quite distinguishable:
"Daughter of Zion, from the dust,
Exalt thy fallen head!"
Even the most religious youth is stronger on first lines than
others, but Abijah pulled up his horse and waited till he caught
another familiar verse, beginning:
"Rebuild thy walls, thy bounds enlarge,
And send thy heralds forth."
"That's Rebecca carrying the air, and I can hear Emma Jane's
"Say to the North,
Give up thy charge,
And hold not back, O South,
And hold not back, O South," etc.
"Land! ain't they smart, seesawin' up and down in that part they
learnt in singin' school! I wonder what they're actin' out,
singin' hymn-tunes up in the barn chamber? Some o' Rebecca's
doins, I'll be bound! Git dap, Aleck!"
Aleck pursued his serene and steady trot up the hills on the
Edgewood side of the river, till at length he approached the
green Common where the old Tory Hill meeting-house stood, its
white paint and green blinds showing fair and pleasant in the
afternoon sun. Both doors were open, and as Abijah turned into
the Wareham road the church melodeon pealed out the opening bars
of the Missionary Hymn, and presently a score of voices sent the
good old tune from the choir-loft out to the dusty road:
"Shall we whose souls are lighted
With Wisdom from on high,
Shall we to men benighted
The lamp of life deny?"
"Land!" exclaimed Abijah under his breath. "They're at it up
here, too! That explains it all. There's a missionary meeting at
the church, and the girls wa'n't allowed to come so they held one
of their own, and I bate ye it's the liveliest of the two."
Abijah Flagg's shrewd Yankee guesses were not far from the truth,
though he was not in possession of all the facts. It will be
remembered by those who have been in the way of hearing Rebecca's
experiences in Riverboro, that the Rev. and Mrs. Burch, returned
missionaries from the Far East, together with some of their
children, "all born under Syrian skies," as they always explained
to interested inquirers, spent a day or two at the brick house,
and gave parlor meetings in native costume.
These visitors, coming straight from foreign lands to the little
Maine village, brought with them a nameless enchantment to the
children, and especially to Rebecca, whose imagination always
kindled easily. The romance of that visit had never died in her
heart, and among the many careers that dazzled her youthful
vision was that of converting such Syrian heathen as might
continue in idol worship after the Burches' efforts in their
behalf had ceased. She thought at the age of eighteen she might
be suitably equipped for storming some minor citadel of
Mohammedanism; and Mrs. Burch had encouraged her in the idea,
not, it is to be feared, because Rebecca showed any surplus of
virtue or Christian grace, but because her gift of language, her
tact and sympathy, and her musical talent seemed to fit her for
It chanced that the quarterly meeting of the Maine Missionary
Society had been appointed just at the time when a letter from
Mrs. Burch to Miss Jane Sawyer suggested that Rebecca should form
a children's branch in Riverboro. Mrs. Burch's real idea was that
the young people should save their pennies and divert a gentle
stream of financial aid into the parent fund, thus learning early
in life to be useful in such work, either at home or abroad.
The girls themselves, however, read into her letter no such
modest participation in the conversion of the world, and wishing
to effect an organization without delay, they chose an afternoon
when every house in the village was vacant, and seized upon the
Robinsons' barn chamber as the place of meeting.
Rebecca, Alice Robinson, Emma Jane Perkins, Candace Milliken, and
Persis Watson, each with her hymn book, had climbed the ladder
leading to the haymow a half hour before Abijah Flagg had heard
the strains of "Daughters of Zion" floating out to the road.
Rebecca, being an executive person, had carried, besides her hymn
book, a silver call-bell and pencil and paper. An animated
discussion regarding one of two names for the society, The Junior
Heralds or The Daughters of Zion, had resulted in a unanimous
vote for the latter, and Rebecca had been elected president at an
early stage of the meeting. She had modestly suggested that Alice
Robinson, as the granddaughter of a missionary to China, would be
much more eligible.
"No," said Alice, with entire good nature, "whoever is ELECTED
president, you WILL be, Rebecca--you're that kind--so you might
as well have the honor; I'd just as lieves be secretary, anyway."
"If you should want me to be treasurer, I could be, as well as
not," said Persis Watson suggestively; "for you know my father
keeps china banks at his store--ones that will hold as much as
two dollars if you will let them. I think he'd give us one if I
happen to be treasurer."
The three principal officers were thus elected at one fell swoop
and with an entire absence of that red tape which commonly
renders organization so tiresome, Candace Milliken suggesting
that perhaps she'd better be vice-president, as Emma Jane Perkins
was always so bashful.
"We ought to have more members," she reminded the other girls,
"but if we had invited them the first day they'd have all wanted
to be officers, especially Minnie Smellie, so it's just as well
not to ask them till another time. Is Thirza Meserve too little
"I can't think why anybody named Meserve should have called a
baby Thirza," said Rebecca, somewhat out of order, though the
meeting was carried on with small recognition of parliamentary
laws. "It always makes me want to say:
Heaven preserve her!
Do we deserve her?
She's little, but she's sweet, and absolutely without guile. I
think we ought to have her."
"Is 'guile' the same as 'guilt?" inquired Emma Jane Perkins.
"Yes," the president answered; "exactly the same, except one is
written and the other spoken language." (Rebecca was rather good
at imbibing information, and a master hand at imparting it!)
"Written language is for poems and graduations and occasions like
this--kind of like a best Sunday-go-to-meeting dress that you
wouldn't like to go blueberrying in for fear of getting it
"I'd just as 'lieves get 'guile' spotted as not," affirmed the
unimaginative Emma Jane. "I think it's an awful foolish word; but
now we're all named and our officers elected, what do we do
first? It's easy enough for Mary and Martha Burch; they just play
at missionarying because their folks work at it, same as Living
and I used to make believe be blacksmiths when we were little."
"It must be nicer missionarying in those foreign places," said
Persis, "because on 'Afric's shores and India's plains and other
spots where Satan reigns' (that's father's favorite hymn) there's
always a heathen bowing down to wood and stone. You can take away
his idols if he'll let you and give him a bible and the
beginning's all made. But who'll we begin on? Jethro Small?"
"Oh, he's entirely too dirty, and foolish besides!" exclaimed
Candace. "Why not Ethan Hunt? He swears dreadfully."
"He lives on nuts and is a hermit, and it's a mile to his camp
through the thick woods; my mother'll never let me go there,"
objected Alice. "There's Uncle Tut Judson."
"He's too old; he's most a hundred and deaf as a post,"
complained Emma Jane. "Besides, his married daughter is a
Sabbath-school teacher--why doesn't she teach him to behave? I
can't think of anybody just right to start on!"
"Don't talk like that, Emma Jane," and Rebecca's tone had a tinge
of reproof in it. "We are a copperated body named the Daughters
of Zion, and, of course, we've got to find something to do.
Foreigners are the easiest; there's a Scotch family at North
Riverboro, an English one in Edgewood, and one Cuban man at
"Haven't foreigners got any religion of their own?" inquired
"Ye-es, I s'pose so; kind of a one; but foreigners' religions are
never right--ours is the only good one." This was from Candace,
the deacon's daughter.
"I do think it must be dreadful, being born with a religion and
growing up with it, and then finding out it's no use and all your
time wasted!" Here Rebecca sighed, chewed a straw, and looked
"Well, that's your punishment for being a heathen," retorted
Candace, who had been brought up strictly.
"But I can't for the life of me see how you can help being a
heathen if you're born in Africa," persisted Persis, who was well
"You can't." Rebecca was clear on this point. "I had that all out
with Mrs. Burch when she was visiting Aunt Miranda. She says they
can't help being heathen, but if there's a single mission station
in the whole of Africa, they're accountable if they don't go
there and get saved."
"Are there plenty of stages and railroads?" asked Alice; "because
there must be dreadfully long distances, and what if they
couldn't pay the fare?"
"That part of it is so dreadfully puzzly we mustn't talk about
it, please," said Rebecca, her sensitive face quivering with the
force of the problem. Poor little soul! She did not realize that
her superiors in age and intellect had spent many a sleepless
night over that same "accountability of the heathen."
"It's too bad the Simpsons have moved away," said Candace. "It's
so seldom you can find a real big wicked family like that to
save, with only Clara Belle and Susan good in it."
"And numbers count for so much," continued Alice. "My grandmother
says if missionaries can't convert about so many in a year the
Board advises them to come back to America and take up some other
"I know," Rebecca corroborated; "and it's the same with
revivalists. At the Centennial picnic at North Riverboro, a
revivalist sat opposite to Mr. Ladd and Aunt Jane and me, and he
was telling about his wonderful success in Bangor last winter.
He'd converted a hundred and thirty in a month, he said, or about
four and a third a day. I had just finished fractions, so I asked
Mr. Ladd how the third of a man could be converted. He laughed
and said it was just the other way; that the man was a third
converted. Then he explained that if you were trying to convince
a person of his sin on a Monday, and couldn't quite finish by
sundown, perhaps you wouldn't want to sit up all night with him,
and perhaps he wouldn't want you to; so you'd begin again on
Tuesday, and you couldn't say just which day he was converted,
because it would be two thirds on Monday and one third on
"Mr. Ladd is always making fun, and the Board couldn't expect any
great things of us girls, new beginners," suggested Emma Jane,
who was being constantly warned against tautology by her teacher.
"I think it's awful rude, anyway, to go right out and try to
convert your neighbors; but if you borrow a horse and go to
Edgewood Lower Corner, or Milliken's Mills, I s'pose that makes
it Foreign Missions."
"Would we each go alone or wait upon them with a committee, as
they did when they asked Deacon Tuttle for a contribution for the
new hearse?" asked Persis.
"Oh! We must go alone," decided Rebecca; "it would be much more
refined and delicate. Aunt Miranda says that one man alone could
never get a subscription from Deacon Tuttle, and that's the
reason they sent a committee. But it seems to me Mrs. Burch
couldn't mean for us to try and convert people when we're none of
us even church members, except Candace. I think all we can do is
to persuade them to go to meeting and Sabbath school, or give
money for the hearse, or the new horse sheds. Now let's all think
quietly for a minute or two who's the very most heathenish and
reperrehensiblest person in Riverboro."
After a very brief period of silence the words "Jacob Moody" fell
from all lips with entire accord.
"You are right," said the president tersely; "and after singing
hymn number two hundred seventy four, to be found on the
sixty-sixth page, we will take up the question of persuading Mr.
Moody to attend divine service or the minister's Bible class, he
not having been in the meeting-house for lo! these many years.
'Daughter of Zion, the power that hath saved thee
Extolled with the harp and the timbrel should be.'
"Sing without reading, if you please, omitting the second stanza.
Hymn two seventy four, to be found on the sixty-sixth page of the
new hymn book or on page thirty two of Emma Jane Perkins's old
It is doubtful if the Rev. Mr. Burch had ever found in Syria a
person more difficult to persuade than the already
"gospel-hardened" Jacob Moody of Riverboro.
Tall, gaunt, swarthy, black-bearded--his masses of grizzled,
uncombed hair and the red scar across his nose and cheek added to
his sinister appearance. His tumble-down house stood on a rocky
bit of land back of the Sawyer pasture, and the acres of his farm
stretched out on all sides of it. He lived alone, ate alone,
plowed, planted, sowed, harvested alone, and was more than
willing to die alone, "unwept, unhonored, and unsung." The road
that bordered upon his fields was comparatively little used by
any one, and notwithstanding the fact that it was thickly set
with chokecherry trees and blackberry bushes it had been for
years practically deserted by the children. Jacob's Red
Astrakhan and Granny Garland trees hung thick with apples, but no
Riverboro or Edgewood boy stole them; for terrifying accounts of
the fate that had overtaken one urchin in times agone had been
handed along from boy to boy, protecting the Moody fruit far
better than any police patrol.
Perhaps no circumstances could have extenuated the old man's
surly manners or his lack of all citizenly graces and virtues;
but his neighbors commonly rebuked his present way of living and
forgot the troubled past that had brought it about: the
sharp-tongued wife, the unloving and disloyal sons, the
daughter's hapless fate, and all the other sorry tricks that
fortune had played upon him--at least that was the way in which
he had always regarded his disappointments and griefs.
This, then, was the personage whose moral rehabilitation was to
be accomplished by the Daughters of Zion. But how?
"Who will volunteer to visit Mr. Moody?" blandly asked the
VISIT MR. MOODY! It was a wonder the roof of the barn chamber did
not fall; it did, indeed echo the words and in some way make them
sound more grim and satirical.
"Nobody'll volunteer, Rebecca Rowena Randall, and you know it,"
said Emma Jane.
"Why don't we draw lots, when none of us wants to speak to him
and yet one of us must?"
This suggestion fell from Persis Watson, who had been pale and
thoughtful ever since the first mention of Jacob Moody. (She was
fond of Granny Garlands; she had once met Jacob; and, as to what
befell, well, we all have our secret tragedies!)
"Wouldn't it be wicked to settle it that way?"
"It's gamblers that draw lots."
"People did it in the Bible ever so often."
"It doesn't seem nice for a missionary meeting."
These remarks fell all together upon the president's bewildered
ear the while (as she always said in compositions)--"the while"
she was trying to adjust the ethics of this unexpected and
"It is a very puzzly question," she said thoughtfully. "I could
ask Aunt Jane if we had time, but I suppose we haven't. It
doesn't seem nice to draw lots, and yet how can we settle it
without? We know we mean right, and perhaps it will be. Alice,
take this paper and tear off five narrow pieces, all different
At this moment a voice from a distance floated up to the
haymow--a voice saying plaintively: "Will you let me play with
you, girls? Huldah has gone to ride, and I'm all alone."
It was the voice of the absolutely-without-guile Thirza Meserve,
and it came at an opportune moment.
"If she is going to be a member," said Persis, "why not let her
come up and hold the lots? She'd be real honest and not favor
It seemed an excellent idea, and was followed up so quickly that
scarcely three minutes ensued before the guileless one was
holding the five scraps in her hot little palm, laboriously
changing their places again and again until they looked exactly
alike and all rather soiled and wilted.
"Come, girls, draw!" commanded the president. "Thirza, you
mustn't chew gum at a missionary meeting, it isn't polite nor
holy. Take it out and stick it somewhere till the exercises are
The five Daughters of Zion approached the spot so charged with
fate, and extended their trembling hands one by one. Then after a
moment's silent clutch of their papers they drew nearer to one
another and compared them.
Emma Jane Perkins had drawn the short one, becoming thus the
destined instrument for Jacob Moody's conversion to a more seemly
manner of life!
She looked about her despairingly, as if to seek some painless
and respectable method of self-destruction.
"Do let's draw over again," she pleaded. "I'm the worst of all of
us. I'm sure to make a mess of it till I kind o' get trained in."
Rebecca's heart sank at this frank confession, which only
corroborated her own fears.
"I'm sorry, Emmy, dear," she said, "but our only excuse for
drawing lots at all would be to have it sacred. We must think of
it as a kind of a sign, almost like God speaking to Moses in the
"Oh, I WISH there was a burning bush right here!" cried the
distracted and recalcitrant missionary. "How quick I'd step into
it without even stopping to take off my garnet ring!"
"Don't be such a scare-cat, Emma Jane!" exclaimed Candace
bracingly. "Jacob Moody can't kill you, even if he has an awful
temper. Trot right along now before you get more frightened.
Shall we go cross lots with her, Rebecca, and wait at the pasture
gate? Then whatever happens Alice can put it down in the minutes
of the meeting."
In these terrible crises of life time gallops with such
incredible velocity that it seemed to Emma Jane only a breath
before she was being dragged through the fields by the other
Daughters of Zion, the guileless little Thirza panting in the
At the entrance to the pasture Rebecca gave her an impassioned
embrace, and whispering, "WHATEVER YOU DO, BE CAREFUL HOW YOU
LEAD UP," lifted off the top rail and pushed her through the
bars. Then the girls turned their backs reluctantly on the
pathetic figure, and each sought a tree under whose friendly
shade she could watch, and perhaps pray, until the missionary
should return from her field of labor.
Alice Robinson, whose compositions were always marked 96 or
97,--100 symbolizing such perfection as could be attained in the
mortal world of Riverboro,--Alice, not only Daughter, but Scribe
of Zion, sharpened her pencil and wrote a few well-chosen words
of introduction, to be used when the records of the afternoon had
been made by Emma Jane Perkins and Jacob Moody.
Rebecca's heart beat tumultuously under her gingham dress. She
felt that a drama was being enacted, and though unfortunately she
was not the central figure, she had at least a modest part in it.
The short lot had not fallen to the properest Daughter, that she
quite realized; yet would any one of them succeed in winning
Jacob Moody's attention, in engaging him in pleasant
conversation, and finally in bringing him to a realization of his
mistaken way of life? She doubted, but at the same moment her
spirits rose at the thought of the difficulties involved in the
Difficulties always spurred Rebecca on, but they daunted poor
Emma Jane, who had no little thrills of excitement and wonder and
fear and longing to sustain her lagging soul. That her interview
was to be entered as "minutes" by a secretary seemed to her the
last straw. Her blue eyes looked lighter than usual and had the
glaze of china saucers; her usually pink cheeks were pale, but
she pressed on, determined to be a faithful Daughter of Zion, and
above all to be worthy of Rebecca's admiration and respect.
"Rebecca can do anything," she thought, with enthusiastic
loyalty, "and I mustn't be any stupider than I can help, or
she'll choose one of the other girls for her most intimate
friend." So, mustering all her courage, she turned into Jacob
Moody's dooryard, where he was chopping wood.
"It's a pleasant afternoon, Mr. Moody," she said in a polite but
hoarse whisper, Rebecca's words, "LEAD UP! LEAD UP! ringing in
clarion tones through her brain.
Jacob Moody looked at her curiously. "Good enough, I guess," he
growled; "but I don't never have time to look at afternoons."
Emma Jane seated herself timorously on the end of a large log
near the chopping block, supposing that Jacob, like other hosts,
would pause in his tasks and chat.
"The block is kind of like an idol," she thought; "I wish I could
take it away from him, and then perhaps he'd talk."
At this moment Jacob raised his axe and came down on the block
with such a stunning blow that Emma Jane fairly leaped into the
"You'd better look out, Sissy, or you'll git chips in the eye!"
said Moody, grimly going on with his work.
The Daughter of Zion sent up a silent prayer for inspiration, but
none came, and she sat silent, giving nervous jumps in spite of
herself whenever the axe fell upon the log Jacob was cutting.
Finally, the host became tired of his dumb visitor, and leaning
on his axe he said, "Look here, Sis, what have you come for?
What's your errant? Do you want apples? Or cider? Or what? Speak
out, or GIT out, one or t'other."
Emma Jane, who had wrung her handkerchief into a clammy ball,
gave it a last despairing wrench, and faltered: "Wouldn't you
like--hadn't you better--don't you think you'd ought to be more
constant at meeting and Sabbath school?"
Jacob's axe almost dropped from his nerveless hand, and he
regarded the Daughter of Zion with unspeakable rage and disdain.
Then, the blood mounting in his face, he gathered himself
together, and shouted: "You take yourself off that log and out o'
this dooryard double-quick, you imperdent sanct'omus young one!
You just let me ketch Bill Perkins' child trying to teach me
where I shall go, at my age! Scuttle, I tell ye! And if I see
your pious cantin' little mug inside my fence ag'in on sech a
business I'll chase ye down the hill or set the dog on ye! SCOOT,
I TELL YE!"
Emma Jane obeyed orders summarily, taking herself off the log,
out the dooryard, and otherwise scuttling and scooting down the
hill at a pace never contemplated even by Jacob Moody, who stood
regarding her flying heels with a sardonic grin.
Down she stumbled, the tears coursing over her cheeks and
mingling with the dust of her flight; blighted hope, shame, fear,
rage, all tearing her bosom in turn, till with a hysterical
shriek she fell over the bars and into Rebecca's arms
outstretched to receive her. The other Daughters wiped her eyes
and supported her almost fainting form, while Thirza, thoroughly
frightened, burst into sympathetic tears, and refused to be
No questions were asked, for it was felt by all parties that Emma
Jane's demeanor was answering them before they could be framed.
"He threatened to set the dog on me!" she wailed presently, when,
as they neared the Sawyer pasture, she was able to control her
voice. "He called me a pious, cantin' young one, and said he'd
chase me out o' the dooryard if I ever came again! And he'll tell
my father--I know he will, for he hates him like poison."
All at once the adult point of view dawned upon Rebecca. She
never saw it until it was too obvious to be ignored. Had they
done wrong in interviewing Jacob Moody? Would Aunt Miranda be
angry, as well as Mr. Perkins?
"Why was he so dreadful, Emmy?" she questioned tenderly. "What
did you say first? How did you lead up to it?"
Emma Jane sobbed more convulsively, and wiped her nose and eyes
impartially as she tried to think.
"I guess I never led up at all; not a mite. I didn't know what
you meant. I was sent on an errant, and I went and done it the
best I could! (Emma Jane's grammar always lapsed in moments of
excitement.) And then Jake roared at me like Squire Winship's
bull. . . . And he called my face a mug. . . . You shut up that
secretary book, Alice Robinson! If you write down a single word
I'll never speak to you again. . . . And I don't want to be a
member' another minute for fear of drawing another short lot.
I've got enough of the Daughters or Zion to last me the rest o'
my life! I don't care who goes to meetin' and who don't."
The girls were at the Perkins's gate by this time, and Emma Jane
went sadly into the empty house to remove all traces of the
tragedy from her person before her mother should come home from
The others wended their way slowly down the street, feeling that
their promising missionary branch had died almost as soon as it
"Goodby," said Rebecca, swallowing lumps of disappointment and
chagrin as she saw the whole inspiring plan break and vanish into
thin air like an iridescent bubble. "It's all over and we won't
ever try it again. I'm going in to do overcasting as hard as I
can, because I hate that the worst. Aunt Jane must write to Mrs.
Burch that we don't want to be home missionaries. Perhaps we're
not big enough, anyway. I'm perfectly certain it's nicer to
convert people when they're yellow or brown or any color but
white; and I believe it must be easier to save their souls than
it is to make them go to meeting."
REBECCA'S THOUGHT BOOK
The "Sawyer girls'" barn still had its haymow in Rebecca's time,
although the hay was a dozen years old or more, and, in the
opinion of the occasional visiting horse, sadly juiceless and
wanting in flavor. It still sheltered, too, old Deacon Israel
Sawyer's carryall and mowing-machine, with his pung, his sleigh,
and a dozen other survivals of an earlier era, when the broad
acres of the brick house went to make one of the finest farms in
There were no horses or cows in the stalls nowadays; no pig
grunting comfortably of future spare ribs in the sty; no hens to
peck the plants in the cherished garden patch. The Sawyer girls
were getting on in years, and, mindful that care once killed a
cat, they ordered their lives with the view of escaping that
particular doom, at least, and succeeded fairly well until
Rebecca's advent made existence a trifle more sensational.
Once a month for years upon years, Miss Miranda and Miss Jane had
put towels over their heads and made a solemn visit to the barn,
taking off the enameled cloth coverings (occasionally called
"emmanuel covers" in Riverboro), dusting the ancient implements,
and sometimes sweeping the heaviest of the cobwebs from the
corners, or giving a brush to the floor.
Deacon Israel's tottering ladder still stood in its accustomed
place, propped against the haymow, and the heavenly stairway
leading to eternal glory scarcely looked fairer to Jacob of old
than this to Rebecca. By means of its dusty rounds she mounted,
mounted, mounted far away from time and care and maiden aunts,
far away from childish tasks and childish troubles, to the barn
chamber, a place so full of golden dreams, happy reveries, and
vague longings, that, as her little brown hands clung to the
sides of the ladder and her feet trod the rounds cautiously in
her ascent, her heart almost stopped beating in the sheer joy of
Once having gained the heights, the next thing was to unlatch the
heavy doors and give them a gentle swing outward. Then, oh, ever
new Paradise! Then, oh, ever lovely green and growing world! For
Rebecca had that something in her soul that
"Gives to seas and sunset skies The unspent beauty of surprise."
At the top of Guide Board hill she could see Alice Robinson's
barn with its shining weather vane, a huge burnished fish that
swam with the wind and foretold the day to all Riverboro. The
meadow, with its sunny slopes stretching up to the pine woods,
was sometimes a flowing sheet of shimmering grass,
sometimes--when daisies and buttercups were blooming--a vision of
white and gold. Sometimes the shorn stubble would be dotted with
"the happy hills of hay," and a little later the rock maple on
the edge of the pines would stand out like a golden ball against
the green; its neighbor, the sugar maple, glowing beside it,
brave in scarlet.
It was on one of these autumn days with a wintry nip in the air
that Adam Ladd (Rebecca's favorite "Mr. Aladdin"), after
searching for her in field and garden, suddenly noticed the open
doors of the barn chamber, and called to her. At the sound of his
vice she dropped her precious diary, and flew to the edge of the
haymow. He never forgot the vision of the startled little
poetess, book in one mittened hand, pencil in the other, dark
hair all ruffled, with the picturesque addition of an occasional
glade of straw, her cheeks crimson, her eyes shining.
"A Sappho in mittens!" he cried laughingly, and at her eager
question told her to look up the unknown lady in the school
encyclopedia, when she was admitted to the Female Seminary at
Now, all being ready, Rebecca went to a corner of the haymow, and
withdrew a thick blank-book with mottled covers. Out of her
gingham apron pocket came a pencil, a bit of rubber, and some
pieces of brown paper; then she seated herself gravely on the
floor, and drew an inverted soapbox nearer to her for a table.
The book was reverently opened, and there was a serious reading
of the extracts already carefully copied therein. Most of them
were apparently to the writer's liking, for dimples of pleasure
showed themselves now and then, and smiles of obvious delight
played about her face; but once in a while there was a knitting
of the brows and a sigh of discouragement, showing that the
artist in the child was not wholly satisfied.
Then came the crucial moment when the budding author was
supposedly to be racked with the throes of composition; but
seemingly there were no throes. Other girls could wield the
darning or crochet or knitting needle, and send the tatting
shuttle through loops of the finest cotton; hemstitch, oversew,
braid hair in thirteen strands, but the pencil was never obedient
in their fingers, and the pen and ink-pot were a horror from
early childhood to the end of time.
Not so with Rebecca; her pencil moved as easily as her tongue,
and no more striking simile could possibly be used. Her
handwriting was not Spencerian; she had neither time, nor
patience, it is to be feared, for copybook methods, and her
unformed characters were frequently the despair of her teachers;
but write she could, write she would, write she must and did, in
season and out; from the time she made pothooks at six, till now,
writing was the easiest of all possible tasks; to be indulged in
as solace and balm when the terrors of examples in least common
multiple threatened to dethrone the reason, or the rules of
grammar loomed huge and unconquerable in the near horizon.
As to spelling, it came to her in the main by free grace, and not
by training, and though she slipped at times from the beaten
path, her extraordinary ear and good visual memory kept her from
many or flagrant mistakes. It was her intention, especially when
saying her prayers at night, to look up all doubtful words in her
small dictionary, before copying her Thoughts into the sacred
book for the inspiration of posterity; but when genius burned
with a brilliant flame, and particularly when she was in the barn
and the dictionary in the house, impulse as usual carried the
There sits Rebecca, then, in the open door of the Sawyers barn
chamber--the sunset door. How many a time had her grandfather,
the good deacon, sat just underneath in his tipped-back chair,
when Mrs. Israel's temper was uncertain, and the serenity of the
barn was in comforting contrast to his own fireside!
The open doors swinging out to the peaceful landscape, the solace
of the pipe, not allowed in the "settin'-room"--how beautifully
these simple agents have ministered to the family peace in days
agone! "If I hadn't had my barn and my store BOTH, I couldn't
never have lived in holy matrimony with Maryliza!" once said Mr.
But the deacon, looking on his waving grass fields, his tasseling
corn and his timber lands, bright and honest as were his eyes,
never saw such visions as Rebecca. The child, transplanted from
her home farm at Sunnybrook, from the care of the overworked but
easy-going mother, and the companionship of the scantily fed,
scantily clothed, happy-go-lucky brothers and sisters--she had
indeed fallen on shady days in Riverboro. The blinds were closed
in every room of the house but two, and the same might have been
said of Miss Miranda's mind and heart, though Miss Jane had a few
windows opening to the sun, and Rebecca already had her
unconscious hand on several others. Brickhouse rules were rigid
and many for a little creature so full of life, but Rebecca's gay
spirit could not be pinioned in a strait jacket for long at a
time; it escaped somehow and winged its merry way into the
sunshine and free air; if she were not allowed to sing in the
orchard, like the wild bird she was, she could still sing in the
cage, like the canary.
If you had opened the carefully guarded volume with the mottled
covers, you would first have seen a wonderful title page,
constructed apparently on the same lines as an obituary, or the
inscription on a tombstone, save for the quantity and variety of
information contained in it. Much of the matter would seem to the
captious critic better adapted to the body of the book than to
the title page, but Rebecca was apparently anxious that the
principal personages in her chronicle should be well described at
She seems to have had a conviction that heredity plays its part
in the evolution of genius, and her belief that the world will be
inspired by the possession of her Thoughts is too artless to be
offensive. She evidently has respect for rich material confided
to her teacher, and one can imagine Miss Dearborn's woe had she
been confronted by Rebecca's chosen literary executor and bidden
to deliver certain "Valuable Poetry and Thoughts," the property
of posterity "unless carelessly destroyed."
THOUGHT BOOK of Rebecca Rowena Randall
Really of Sunnybrook Farm
But temporily of The Brick House Riverboro.
Own niece of Miss Miranda and Jane Sawyer
Second of seven children of her father, Mr. L. D. M. Randall
(Now at rest in Temperance cemmetary and there will be a monument
as soon as we pay off the mortgage on the farm)
Also of her mother Mrs. Aurelia Randall
In case of Death the best of these Thoughts
May be printed in my Remerniscences
For the Sunday School Library at Temperance, Maine
Which needs more books fearfully
And I hereby
Will and Testament them to Mr. Adam Ladd
Who bought 300 cakes of soap from me
And thus secured a premium
A Greatly Needed Banquet Lamp
For my friends the Simpsons.
He is the only one that incourages
My writing Remerniscences and
My teacher Miss Dearborn will
Have much valuable Poetry and Thoughts
To give him unless carelessly destroyed.
The pictures are by the same hand that
Wrote the Thoughts.
IT IS NOT NOW DECIDED WHETHER REBECCA ROWENA RANDALL WILL BE A
PAINTER OR AN AUTHOR, BUT AFTER HER DEATH IT WILL BE KNOWN WHICH
SHE HAS BEEN, IF ANY.
From the title page, with its wealth of detail, and its
unnecessary and irrelevant information, the book ripples on like
a brook, and to the weary reader of problem novels it may have
something of the brook's refreshing quality.
OUR DIARIES May, 187--
All the girls are keeping a diary because Miss Dearborn was very
much ashamed when the school trustees told her that most of the
girls' and all of the boys' compositions were disgraceful, and
must be improved upon next term. She asked the boys to write
letters to her once a week instead of keeping a diary, which they
thought was girlish like playing with dolls. The boys thought it
was dreadful to have to write letters every seven days, but she
told them it was not half as bad for them as it was for her who
had to read them.
To make my diary a little different I am going to call it a
THOUGHT Book (written just like that, with capitals). I have
thoughts that I never can use unless I write them down, for Aunt
Miranda always says, Keep your thoughts to yourself. Aunt Jane
lets me tell her some, but does not like my queer ones and my
true thoughts are mostly queer. Emma Jane does not mind hearing
them now and then, and that is my only chance.
If Miss Dearborn does not like the name Thought Book I will call
it Remerniscences (written just like that with a capital R).
Remerniscences are things you remember about yourself and write
down in case you should die. Aunt Jane doesn't like to read any
other kind of books but just lives of interesting dead people and
she says that is what Longfellow (who was born in the state of
Maine and we should be very proud of it and try to write like
him) meant in his poem:
"Lives of great men all remind us
We should make our lives sublime,
And departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time."
I know what this means because when Emma Jane and I went to the
beach with Uncle Jerry Cobb we ran along the wet sand and looked
at the shapes our boots made, just as if they were stamped in
wax. Emma Jane turns in her left foot (splayfoot the boys call
it, which is not polite) and Seth Strout had just patched one of
my shoes and it all came out in the sand pictures. When I learned
The Psalm of Life for Friday afternoon speaking I thought I
shouldn't like to leave a patched footprint, nor have Emma Jane's
look crooked on the sands of time, and right away I thought Oh!
What a splendid thought for my Thought Book when Aunt Jane buys
me a fifteen-cent one over to Watson's store.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I told Aunt Jane I was going to begin my Remerniscences, and she
says I am full young, but I reminded her that Candace Milliken's
sister died when she was ten, leaving no footprints whatever, and
if I should die suddenly who would write down my Remerniscences?
Aunt Miranda says the sun and moon would rise and set just the
same, and it was no matter if they didn't get written down, and
to go up attic and find her piece-bag; but I said it would, as
there was only one of everybody in the world, and nobody else
could do their remerniscensing for them. If I should die tonight
I know now who would describe me right. Miss Dearborn would say
one thing and brother John another. Emma Jane would try to do me
justice, but has no words; and I am glad Aunt Miranda never takes
the pen in hand.
My dictionary is so small it has not many genteel words in it,
and I cannot find how to spell Remerniscences, but I remember
from the cover of Aunt Jane's book that there was an "s" and a
"c" close together in the middle of it, which I thought foolish
and not needful.
All the girls like their dairies very much, but Minnie Smellie
got Alice Robinson's where she had hid it under the school wood
pile and read it all through. She said it was no worse than
reading anybody's composition, but we told her it was just like
peeking through a keyhole, or listening at a window, or opening a
bureau drawer. She said she didn't look at it that way, and I
told her that unless her eyes got unscealed she would never leave
any kind of a sublime footprint on the sands of time. I told her
a diary was very sacred as you generally poured your deepest
feelings into it expecting nobody to look at it but yourself and
your indulgent heavenly Father who seeeth all things.
Of course it would not hurt Persis Watson to show her diary
because she has not a sacred plan and this is the way it goes,
for she reads it out loud to us:
"Arose at six this morning--(you always arise in a diary but you
say get up when you talk about it). Ate breakfast at half past
six. Had soda biscuits, coffee, fish hash and doughnuts. Wiped
the dishes, fed the hens and made my bed before school. Had a
good arithmetic lesson, but went down two in spelling. At half
past four played hide and coop in the Sawyer pasture. Fed hens
and went to bed at eight."
She says she can't put in what doesn't happen, but as I don't
think her diary is interesting she will ask her mother to have
meat hash instead of fish, with pie when the doughnuts give out,
and she will feed the hens before breakfast to make a change. We
are all going now to try and make something happen every single
day so the diaries won't be so dull and the footprints so common.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT
We dug up our rosecakes today, and that gave me a good
Remerniscence. The way you make rose cakes is, you take the
leaves of full blown roses and mix them with a little cinnamon
and as much brown sugar as they will give you, which is never
half enough except Persis Watson, whose affectionate parents let
her go to the barrel in their store. Then you do up little bits
like sedlitz powders, first in soft paper and then in brown, and
bury them in the ground and let them stay as long as you possibly
can hold out; then dig them up and eat them. Emma Jane and I
stick up little signs over the holes in the ground with the date
we buried them and when they'll be done enough to dig up, but we
can never wait. When Aunt Jane saw us she said it was the first
thing for children to learn,--not to be impatient,--so when I
went to the barn chamber I made a poem.
We dug our rose cakes up oh! all too soon.
Twas in the orchard just at noon.
Twas in a bright July forenoon.
Twas in the sunny afternoon.
Twas underneath the harvest moon.
It was not that way at all; it was a foggy morning before school,
and I should think poets could never possibly get to heaven, for
it is so hard to stick to the truth when you are writing poetry.
Emma Jane thinks it is nobody's business when we dug the
rosecakes up. I like the line about the harvest moon best, but it
would give a wrong idea of our lives and characters to the people
that read my Thoughts, for they would think we were up late
nights, so I have fixed it like this:
We dug our rose cakes up oh! all too soon,
We thought their sweetness would be such a boon.
We ne'er suspicioned they would not be done
After three days of autumn wind and sun.
Why did we from the earth our treasures draw?
Twas not for fear that rat or mole might naw,
An aged aunt doth say impatience was the reason,
She says that youth is ever out of season.
That is just as Aunt Jane said it, and it gave me the thought for
the poem which is rather uncommon.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
A DREADFUL QUESTION
WHICH HAS BEEN THE MOST BENEFERCENT INFLUENCE ON CHARACTER--
PUNISHMENT OR REWARD?
This truly dreadful question was given us by Dr. Moses when he
visited school today. He is a School Committee; not a whole one
but I do not know the singular number of him. He told us we could
ask our families what they thought, though he would rather we
wouldn't, but we must write our own words and he would hear them
After he went out and shut the door the scholars were all plunged
in gloom and you could have heard a pin drop. Alice Robinson
cried and borrowed my handkerchief, and the boys looked as if the
schoolhouse had been struck by lightning. The worst of all was
poor Miss Dearborn, who will lose her place if she does not make
us better scholars soon, for Dr. Moses has a daughter all ready
to put right in to the school and she can board at home and save
all her wages. Libby Moses is her name.
Miss Dearborn stared out the window, and her mouth and chin shook
like Alice Robinson's, for she knew, ah! all to well, what the
coming week would bring forth.
Then I raised my hand for permission to speak, and stood up and
said: "Miss Dearborn, don't you mind! Just explain to us what
benefercent' means and we'll write something real interesting;
for all of us know what punishment is, and have seen others get
rewards, and it is not so bad a subject as some." And Dick Carter
whispered, "GOOD ON YOUR HEAD, REBECCA!" which mean he was sorry
for her too, and would try his best, but has no words.
Then teacher smiled and said benefercent meant good or healthy
for anybody, and would all rise who thought punishment made the
best scholars and men and women; and everybody sat stock still.
And then she asked all to stand who believed that rewards
produced the finest results, and there was a mighty sound like
unto the rushing of waters, but really was our feet scraping the
floor, and the scholars stood up, and it looked like an army,
though it was only nineteen, because of the strong belief that
was in them. Then Miss Dearborn laughed and said she was thankful
for every whipping she had when she was a child, and Living
Perkins said perhaps we hadn't got to the thankful age, or
perhaps her father hadn't used a strap, and she said oh! no, it
was her mother with the open hand; and Dick Carter said he
wouldn't call that punishment, and Sam Simpson said so too.
I am going to write about the subject in my Thought Book first,
and when I make it into a composition, I can leave out anything
about the family or not genteel, as there is much to relate about
punishment not pleasant or nice and hardly polite.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Punishment is a very puzzly thing, but I believe in it when
really deserved, only when I punish myself it does not always
turn out well. When I leaned over the new bridge, and got my
dress all paint, and Aunt Sarah Cobb couldn't get it out, I had
to wear it spotted for six months which hurt my pride, but was
right. I stayed at home from Alice Robinson's birthday party for
a punishment, and went to the circus next day instead, but
Alice's parties are very cold and stiff, as Mrs. Robinson makes
the boys stand on newspapers if they come inside the door, and
the blinds are always shut, and Mrs. Robinson tells me how bad
her liver complaint is this year. So I thought, to pay for the
circus and a few other things, I ought to get more punishment,
and I threw my pink parasol down the well, as the mothers in the
missionary books throw their infants to the crocodiles in the
Ganges river. But it got stuck in the chain that holds the
bucket, and Aunt Miranda had to get Abijah Flagg to take out all
the broken bits before we could ring up water.
I punished myself this way because Aunt Miranda said that unless
I improved I would be nothing but a Burden and a Blight.
There was an old man used to go by our farm carrying a lot of
broken chairs to bottom, and mother used to say--"Poor man! His
back is too weak for such a burden!" and I used to take him out a
doughnut, and this is the part I want to go into the
Remerniscences. Once I told him we were sorry the chairs were so
heavy, and he said THEY DIDN'T SEEM SO HEAVY WHEN HE HAD ET THE
DOUGHNUT. This does not mean that the doughnut was heavier than
the chairs which is what brother John said, but it is a beautiful
thought and shows how the human race should have sympathy, and
help bear burdens.
I know about a Blight, for there was a dreadful east wind over at
our farm that destroyed all the little young crops just out of
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