"WE ARE SEVEN"
The old stage coach was rumbling along
the dusty road that runs from Maplewood
to Riverboro. The day was as warm
as midsummer, though it was only the middle of
May, and Mr. Jeremiah Cobb was favoring the
horses as much as possible, yet never losing sight
of the fact that he carried the mail. The hills were
many, and the reins lay loosely in his hands as he
lolled back in his seat and extended one foot and
leg luxuriously over the dashboard. His brimmed
hat of worn felt was well pulled over his eyes, and
he revolved a quid of tobacco in his left cheek.
There was one passenger in the coach,--a small
dark-haired person in a glossy buff calico dress.
She was so slender and so stiffly starched that
she slid from space to space on the leather cushions,
though she braced herself against the middle
seat with her feet and extended her cotton-gloved
hands on each side, in order to maintain some sort
of balance. Whenever the wheels sank farther than
usual into a rut, or jolted suddenly over a stone,
she bounded involuntarily into the air, came down
again, pushed back her funny little straw hat, and
picked up or settled more firmly a small pink sun
shade, which seemed to be her chief responsibility,
--unless we except a bead purse, into which
she looked whenever the condition of the roads
would permit, finding great apparent satisfaction
in that its precious contents neither disappeared
nor grew less. Mr. Cobb guessed nothing of these
harassing details of travel, his business being to
carry people to their destinations, not, necessarily,
to make them comfortable on the way. Indeed he
had forgotten the very existence of this one
unnoteworthy little passenger.
When he was about to leave the post-office in
Maplewood that morning, a woman had alighted
from a wagon, and coming up to him, inquired
whether this were the Riverboro stage, and if he
were Mr. Cobb. Being answered in the affirmative,
she nodded to a child who was eagerly waiting
for the answer, and who ran towards her as if she
feared to be a moment too late. The child might
have been ten or eleven years old perhaps, but
whatever the number of her summers, she had an
air of being small for her age. Her mother helped
her into the stage coach, deposited a bundle and
a bouquet of lilacs beside her, superintended the
"roping on" behind of an old hair trunk, and finally
paid the fare, counting out the silver with great care.
"I want you should take her to my sisters'
in Riverboro," she said. "Do you know Mirandy
and Jane Sawyer? They live in the brick house."
Lord bless your soul, he knew 'em as well as
if he'd made 'em!
"Well, she's going there, and they're expecting
her. Will you keep an eye on her, please? If she
can get out anywhere and get with folks, or get
anybody in to keep her company, she'll do it.
Good-by, Rebecca; try not to get into any mischief,
and sit quiet, so you'll look neat an' nice when
you get there. Don't be any trouble to Mr. Cobb.
--You see, she's kind of excited.--We came on
the cars from Temperance yesterday, slept all night
at my cousin's, and drove from her house--eight
miles it is--this morning."
"Good-by, mother, don't worry; you know it
isn't as if I hadn't traveled before."
The woman gave a short sardonic laugh and said
in an explanatory way to Mr. Cobb, "She's been to
Wareham and stayed over night; that isn't much
to be journey-proud on!"
"It WAS TRAVELING, mother," said the child
eagerly and willfully. "It was leaving the farm, and
putting up lunch in a basket, and a little riding
and a little steam cars, and we carried our nightgowns."
"Don't tell the whole village about it, if we did,"
said the mother, interrupting the reminiscences of
this experienced voyager. "Haven't I told you
before," she whispered, in a last attempt at
discipline, "that you shouldn't talk about night
gowns and stockings and--things like that, in a
loud tone of voice, and especially when there's
men folks round?"
"I know, mother, I know, and I won't. All I
want to say is"--here Mr. Cobb gave a cluck,
slapped the reins, and the horses started sedately
on their daily task--"all I want to say is that it
is a journey when"--the stage was really under
way now and Rebecca had to put her head out of
the window over the door in order to finish her
sentence--"it IS a journey when you carry a nightgown!"
The objectionable word, uttered in a high treble,
floated back to the offended ears of Mrs. Randall,
who watched the stage out of sight, gathered up
her packages from the bench at the store door,
and stepped into the wagon that had been standing
at the hitching-post. As she turned the horse's
head towards home she rose to her feet for a
moment, and shading her eyes with her hand, looked
at a cloud of dust in the dim distance.
"Mirandy'll have her hands full, I guess," she
said to herself; "but I shouldn't wonder if it would
be the making of Rebecca."
All this had been half an hour ago, and the sun,
the heat, the dust, the contemplation of errands to
be done in the great metropolis of Milltown, had
lulled Mr. Cobb's never active mind into complete
oblivion as to his promise of keeping an eye on Rebecca.
Suddenly he heard a small voice above the rattle
and rumble of the wheels and the creaking of the
harness. At first he thought it was a cricket, a tree
toad, or a bird, but having determined the direction
from which it came, he turned his head over his
shoulder and saw a small shape hanging as far out
of the window as safety would allow. A long black
braid of hair swung with the motion of the coach;
the child held her hat in one hand and with the
other made ineffectual attempts to stab the driver
with her microscopic sunshade.
"Please let me speak!" she called.
Mr. Cobb drew up the horses obediently.
"Does it cost any more to ride up there with
you?" she asked. "It's so slippery and shiny down
here, and the stage is so much too big for me, that
I rattle round in it till I'm 'most black and blue.
And the windows are so small I can only see pieces
of things, and I've 'most broken my neck stretching
round to find out whether my trunk has fallen
off the back. It's my mother's trunk, and she's
very choice of it."
Mr. Cobb waited until this flow of conversation,
or more properly speaking this flood of criticism,
had ceased, and then said jocularly:--
"You can come up if you want to; there ain't
no extry charge to sit side o' me." Whereupon he
helped her out, "boosted" her up to the front seat,
and resumed his own place.
Rebecca sat down carefully, smoothing her dress
under her with painstaking precision, and putting
her sunshade under its extended folds between the
driver and herself. This done she pushed back her
hat, pulled up her darned white cotton gloves, and
"Oh! this is better! This is like traveling! I
am a real passenger now, and down there I felt like
our setting hen when we shut her up in a coop. I
hope we have a long, long ways to go?"
"Oh! we've only just started on it," Mr. Cobb
responded genially; "it's more 'n two hours."
"Only two hours," she sighed "That will be
half past one; mother will be at cousin Ann's, the
children at home will have had their dinner, and
Hannah cleared all away. I have some lunch,
because mother said it would be a bad beginning to get
to the brick house hungry and have aunt Mirandy
have to get me something to eat the first thing.--
It's a good growing day, isn't it?"
"It is, certain; too hot, most. Why don't you
put up your parasol?"
She extended her dress still farther over the
article in question as she said, "Oh dear no! I never
put it up when the sun shines; pink fades awfully,
you know, and I only carry it to meetin' cloudy
Sundays; sometimes the sun comes out all of a
sudden, and I have a dreadful time covering it up;
it's the dearest thing in life to me, but it's an awful care."
At this moment the thought gradually permeated
Mr. Jeremiah Cobb's slow-moving mind that the
bird perched by his side was a bird of very different
feather from those to which he was accustomed in
his daily drives. He put the whip back in its socket,
took his foot from the dashboard, pushed his hat
back, blew his quid of tobacco into the road, and
having thus cleared his mental decks for action, he took
his first good look at the passenger, a look which
she met with a grave, childlike stare of friendly curiosity.
The buff calico was faded, but scrupulously clean,
and starched within an inch of its life. From the
little standing ruffle at the neck the child's slender
throat rose very brown and thin, and the head looked
small to bear the weight of dark hair that hung in
a thick braid to her waist. She wore an odd little
vizored cap of white leghorn, which may either have
been the latest thing in children's hats, or some bit
of ancient finery furbished up for the occasion. It
was trimmed with a twist of buff ribbon and a cluster
of black and orange porcupine quills, which hung
or bristled stiffly over one ear, giving her the
quaintest and most unusual appearance. Her face was
without color and sharp in outline. As to features,
she must have had the usual number, though Mr.
Cobb's attention never proceeded so far as nose,
forehead, or chin, being caught on the way and held
fast by the eyes. Rebecca's eyes were like faith,--
"the substance of things hoped for, the evidence
of things not seen." Under her delicately etched
brows they glowed like two stars, their dancing
lights half hidden in lustrous darkness. Their
glance was eager and full of interest, yet never
satisfied; their steadfast gaze was brilliant and
mysterious, and had the effect of looking directly through
the obvious to something beyond, in the object, in
the landscape, in you. They had never been
accounted for, Rebecca's eyes. The school teacher
and the minister at Temperance had tried and
failed; the young artist who came for the summer
to sketch the red barn, the ruined mill, and the
bridge ended by giving up all these local beauties
and devoting herself to the face of a child,--a
small, plain face illuminated by a pair of eyes carrying
such messages, such suggestions, such hints of
sleeping power and insight, that one never tired of
looking into their shining depths, nor of fancying
that what one saw there was the reflection of one's
Mr. Cobb made none of these generalizations;
his remark to his wife that night was simply to the
effect that whenever the child looked at him she
knocked him galley-west.
"Miss Ross, a lady that paints, gave me the
sunshade," said Rebecca, when she had exchanged
looks with Mr. Cobb and learned his face by heart.
"Did you notice the pinked double ruffle and the
white tip and handle? They're ivory. The handle
is scarred, you see. That's because Fanny sucked
and chewed it in meeting when I wasn't looking.
I've never felt the same to Fanny since."
"Is Fanny your sister?"
"She's one of them."
"How many are there of you?"
"Seven. There's verses written about seven children:--
"`Quick was the little Maid's reply,
O master! we are seven!'
I learned it to speak in school, but the scholars
were hateful and laughed. Hannah is the oldest, I
come next, then John, then Jenny, then Mark, then
Fanny, then Mira."
"Well, that IS a big family!"
"Far too big, everybody says," replied Rebecca
with an unexpected and thoroughly grown-up candor
that induced Mr. Cobb to murmur, "I swan!"
and insert more tobacco in his left cheek.
"They're dear, but such a bother, and cost so
much to feed, you see," she rippled on. "Hannah
and I haven't done anything but put babies to bed
at night and take them up in the morning for years
and years. But it's finished, that's one comfort,
and we'll have a lovely time when we're all grown
up and the mortgage is paid off."
"All finished? Oh, you mean you've come away?"
"No, I mean they're all over and done with;
our family 's finished. Mother says so, and she always
keeps her promises. There hasn't been any
since Mira, and she's three. She was born the
day father died Aunt Miranda wanted Hannah
to come to Riverboro instead of me, but mother
couldn't spare her; she takes hold of housework
better than I do, Hannah does. I told mother last
night if there was likely to be any more children
while I was away I'd have to be sent for, for when
there's a baby it always takes Hannah and me
both, for mother has the cooking and the farm."
"Oh, you live on a farm, do ye? Where is it?
--near to where you got on?"
"Near? Why, it must be thousands of miles!
We came from Temperance in the cars. Then we
drove a long ways to cousin Ann's and went to bed.
Then we got up and drove ever so far to Maplewood,
where the stage was. Our farm is away off
from everywheres, but our school and meeting
house is at Temperance, and that's only two miles.
Sitting up here with you is most as good as climbing
the meeting-house steeple. I know a boy who's
been up on our steeple. He said the people and
cows looked like flies. We haven't met any people
yet, but I'm KIND of disappointed in the cows;--
they don't look so little as I hoped they would;
still (brightening) they don't look quite as big as
if we were down side of them, do they? Boys always
do the nice splendid things, and girls can only
do the nasty dull ones that get left over. They
can't climb so high, or go so far, or stay out so
late, or run so fast, or anything."
Mr. Cobb wiped his mouth on the back of his
hand and gasped. He had a feeling that he was being
hurried from peak to peak of a mountain range
without time to take a good breath in between.
"I can't seem to locate your farm," he said,
"though I've been to Temperance and used to live
up that way. What's your folks' name?"
"Randall. My mother's name is Aurelia Randall;
our names are Hannah Lucy Randall, Rebecca
Rowena Randall, John Halifax Randall, Jenny
Lind Randall, Marquis Randall, Fanny Ellsler
Randall, and Miranda Randall. Mother named half
of us and father the other half, but we didn't come
out even, so they both thought it would be nice to
name Mira after aunt Miranda in Riverboro; they
hoped it might do some good, but it didn't, and now
we call her Mira. We are all named after somebody
in particular. Hannah is Hannah at the
Window Binding Shoes, and I am taken out of
Ivanhoe; John Halifax was a gentleman in a book;
Mark is after his uncle Marquis de Lafayette that
died a twin. (Twins very often don't live to grow
up, and triplets almost never--did you know that,
Mr. Cobb?) We don't call him Marquis, only Mark.
Jenny is named for a singer and Fanny for a beautiful
dancer, but mother says they're both misfits, for
Jenny can't carry a tune and Fanny's kind of stiff-
legged. Mother would like to call them Jane and
Frances and give up their middle names, but she
says it wouldn't be fair to father. She says we
must always stand up for father, because everything
was against him, and he wouldn't have died if he
hadn't had such bad luck. I think that's all there
is to tell about us," she finished seriously.
"Land o' Liberty! I should think it was
enough," ejaculated Mr. Cobb. "There wa'n't
many names left when your mother got through
choosin'! You've got a powerful good memory!
I guess it ain't no trouble for you to learn your
lessons, is it?"
"Not much; the trouble is to get the shoes to
go and learn 'em. These are spandy new I've got
on, and they have to last six months. Mother
always says to save my shoes. There don't seem
to be any way of saving shoes but taking 'em off
and going barefoot; but I can't do that in Riverboro
without shaming aunt Mirandy. I'm going to
school right along now when I'm living with aunt
Mirandy, and in two years I'm going to the seminary
at Wareham; mother says it ought to be the
making of me! I'm going to be a painter like Miss
Ross when I get through school. At any rate, that's
what _I_ think I'm going to be. Mother thinks I'd
"Your farm ain't the old Hobbs place, is it?"
"No, it's just Randall's Farm. At least that's
what mother calls it. I call it Sunnybrook Farm."
"I guess it don't make no difference what you
call it so long as you know where it is," remarked
Mr. Cobb sententiously.
Rebecca turned the full light of her eyes upon
him reproachfully, almost severely, as she answered:--
"Oh! don't say that, and be like all the rest! It
does make a difference what you call things. When
I say Randall's Farm, do you see how it looks?"
"No, I can't say I do," responded Mr. Cobb uneasily.
"Now when I say Sunnybrook Farm, what does
it make you think of?"
Mr. Cobb felt like a fish removed from his native
element and left panting on the sand; there was
no evading the awful responsibility of a reply, for
Rebecca's eyes were searchlights, that pierced the
fiction of his brain and perceived the bald spot on
the back of his head.
"I s'pose there's a brook somewheres near it,"
he said timorously.
Rebecca looked disappointed but not quite dis-
heartened. "That's pretty good," she said
encouragingly. "You're warm but not hot; there's
a brook, but not a common brook. It has young
trees and baby bushes on each side of it, and it's a
shallow chattering little brook with a white sandy
bottom and lots of little shiny pebbles. Whenever
there's a bit of sunshine the brook catches it, and
it's always full of sparkles the livelong day.
Don't your stomach feel hollow? Mine doest I
was so 'fraid I'd miss the stage I couldn't eat any breakfast."
"You'd better have your lunch, then. I don't
eat nothin' till I get to Milltown; then I get a
piece o' pie and cup o' coffee."
"I wish I could see Milltown. I suppose it's
bigger and grander even than Wareham; more like
Paris? Miss Ross told me about Paris; she bought
my pink sunshade there and my bead purse. You
see how it opens with a snap? I've twenty cents
in it, and it's got to last three months, for stamps
and paper and ink. Mother says aunt Mirandy
won't want to buy things like those when she's
feeding and clothing me and paying for my school books."
"Paris ain't no great," said Mr. Cobb
disparagingly. "It's the dullest place in the State o'
Maine. I've druv there many a time."
Again Rebecca was obliged to reprove Mr. Cobb,
tacitly and quietly, but none the less surely, though
the reproof was dealt with one glance, quickly sent
and as quickly withdrawn.
"Paris is the capital of France, and you have to
go to it on a boat," she said instructively. "It's in
my geography, and it says: `The French are a gay
and polite people, fond of dancing and light wines.'
I asked the teacher what light wines were, and he
thought it was something like new cider, or maybe
ginger pop. I can see Paris as plain as day by just
shutting my eyes. The beautiful ladies are always
gayly dancing around with pink sunshades and
bead purses, and the grand gentlemen are politely
dancing and drinking ginger pop. But you can see
Milltown most every day with your eyes wide
open," Rebecca said wistfully.
"Milltown ain't no great, neither," replied Mr.
Cobb, with the air of having visited all the cities of
the earth and found them as naught. "Now you
watch me heave this newspaper right onto Mis'
Piff! and the packet landed exactly as it was intended,
on the corn husk mat in front of the screen door.
"Oh, how splendid that was!" cried Rebecca
with enthusiasm. "Just like the knife thrower
Mark saw at the circus. I wish there was a long,
long row of houses each with a corn husk mat and
a screen door in the middle, and a newspaper to
throw on every one!"
"I might fail on some of 'em, you know," said
Mr. Cobb, beaming with modest pride. "If your
aunt Mirandy'll let you, I'll take you down to
Milltown some day this summer when the stage ain't full."
A thrill of delicious excitement ran through
Rebecca's frame, from her new shoes up, up to the
leghorn cap and down the black braid. She pressed
Mr. Cobb's knee ardently and said in a voice choking
with tears of joy and astonishment, "Oh, it
can't be true, it can't; to think I should see
Milltown. It's like having a fairy godmother who asks
you your wish and then gives it to you! Did you
ever read Cinderella, or The Yellow Dwarf, or The
Enchanted Frog, or The Fair One with Golden Locks?"
"No," said Mr. Cobb cautiously, after a moment's
reflection. "I don't seem to think I ever did read
jest those partic'lar ones. Where'd you get a
chance at so much readin'?"
"Oh, I've read lots of books," answered
Rebecca casually. "Father's and Miss Ross's and all
the dif'rent school teachers', and all in the Sunday-
school library. I've read The Lamplighter, and
Scottish Chiefs, and Ivanhoe, and The Heir of
Redclyffe, and Cora, the Doctor's Wife, and David
Copperfield, and The Gold of Chickaree, and Plutarch's
Lives, and Thaddeus of Warsaw, and Pilgrim's Progress,
and lots more.--What have you read?"
"I've never happened to read those partic'lar
books; but land! I've read a sight in my time!
Nowadays I'm so drove I get along with the
Almanac, the Weekly Argus, and the Maine State
Agriculturist.--There's the river again; this is
the last long hill, and when we get to the top of it
we'll see the chimbleys of Riverboro in the
distance. 'T ain't fur. I live 'bout half a mile beyond
the brick house myself."
Rebecca's hand stirred nervously in her lap and
she moved in her seat. "I didn't think I was going
to be afraid," she said almost under her breath;
"but I guess I am, just a little mite--when you
say it's coming so near."
"Would you go back?" asked Mr. Cobb curiously.
She flashed him an intrepid look and then said
proudly, "I'd never go back--I might be frightened,
but I'd be ashamed to run. Going to aunt
Mirandy's is like going down cellar in the dark.
There might be ogres and giants under the stairs,
--but, as I tell Hannah, there MIGHT be elves and
fairies and enchanted frogs!--Is there a main
street to the village, like that in Wareham?"
"I s'pose you might call it a main street, an'
your aunt Sawyer lives on it, but there ain't no
stores nor mills, an' it's an awful one-horse
village! You have to go 'cross the river an' get on
to our side if you want to see anything goin' on."
"I'm almost sorry," she sighed, "because it
would be so grand to drive down a real main street,
sitting high up like this behind two splendid horses,
with my pink sunshade up, and everybody in town
wondering who the bunch of lilacs and the hair
trunk belongs to. It would be just like the beautiful
lady in the parade. Last summer the circus
came to Temperance, and they had a procession in
the morning. Mother let us all walk in and wheel
Mira in the baby carriage, because we couldn't
afford to go to the circus in the afternoon. And
there were lovely horses and animals in cages, and
clowns on horseback; and at the very end came a
little red and gold chariot drawn by two ponies, and
in it, sitting on a velvet cushion, was the snake
charmer, all dressed in satin and spangles. She was
so beautiful beyond compare, Mr. Cobb, that you
had to swallow lumps in your throat when you
looked at her, and little cold feelings crept up and
down your back. Don't you know how I mean?
Didn't you ever see anybody that made you feel like that?"
Mr. Cobb was more distinctly uncomfortable at
this moment than he had been at any one time
during the eventful morning, but he evaded the
point dexterously by saying, "There ain't no harm,
as I can see, in our makin' the grand entry in the
biggest style we can. I'll take the whip out, set
up straight, an' drive fast; you hold your bo'quet
in your lap, an' open your little red parasol, an'
we'll jest make the natives stare!"
The child's face was radiant for a moment, but
the glow faded just as quickly as she said, "I forgot--
mother put me inside, and maybe she'd want
me to be there when I got to aunt Mirandy's.
Maybe I'd be more genteel inside, and then I
wouldn't have to be jumped down and my clothes
fly up, but could open the door and step down like
a lady passenger. Would you please stop a minute,
Mr. Cobb, and let me change?"
The stage driver good-naturedly pulled up his
horses, lifted the excited little creature down, opened
the door, and helped her in, putting the lilacs and
the pink sunshade beside her.
"We've had a great trip," he said, "and we've
got real well acquainted, haven't we?--You won't
forget about Milltown?"
"Never!" she exclaimed fervently; "and you're
sure you won't, either?"
"Never! Cross my heart!" vowed Mr. Cobb
solemnly, as he remounted his perch; and as the
stage rumbled down the village street between the
green maples, those who looked from their windows
saw a little brown elf in buff calico sitting primly
on the back seat holding a great bouquet tightly in
one hand and a pink parasol in the other. Had they
been farsighted enough they might have seen, when
the stage turned into the side dooryard of the old
brick house, a calico yoke rising and falling
tempestuously over the beating heart beneath, the red
color coming and going in two pale cheeks, and a
mist of tears swimming in two brilliant dark eyes.
Rebecca's journey had ended.
"There's the stage turnin' into the Sawyer
girls' dooryard," said Mrs. Perkins to her husband.
"That must be the niece from up Temperance way.
It seems they wrote to Aurelia and invited Hannah,
the oldest, but Aurelia said she could spare Rebecca
better, if 't was all the same to Mirandy 'n' Jane;
so it's Rebecca that's come. She'll be good
comp'ny for our Emma Jane, but I don't believe
they'll keep her three months! She looks black
as an Injun what I can see of her; black and kind
of up-an-comin'. They used to say that one o' the
Randalls married a Spanish woman, somebody
that was teachin' music and languages at a boardin'
school. Lorenzo was dark complected, you remember,
and this child is, too. Well, I don't know as
Spanish blood is any real disgrace, not if it's a good
ways back and the woman was respectable."
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Room | Rebecca
Of Sunnybrook Farm