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Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm
by Kate Douglas Wiggin

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On the very next Friday after this
"dreadfullest fight that ever was seen," as
Bunyan says in Pilgrim's Progress, there were
great doings in the little schoolhouse on the hill.
Friday afternoon was always the time chosen for
dialogues, songs, and recitations, but it cannot be
stated that it was a gala day in any true sense of
the word. Most of the children hated "speaking
pieces;" hated the burden of learning them,
dreaded the danger of breaking down in them.
Miss Dearborn commonly went home with a headache,
and never left her bed during the rest of the
afternoon or evening; and the casual female parent
who attended the exercises sat on a front bench
with beads of cold sweat on her forehead, listening
to the all-too-familiar halts and stammers. Sometimes
a bellowing infant who had clean forgotten his
verse would cast himself bodily on the maternal
bosom and be borne out into the open air, where he
was sometimes kissed and occasionally spanked;
but in any case the failure added an extra dash
of gloom and dread to the occasion. The advent
of Rebecca had somehow infused a new spirit
into these hitherto terrible afternoons. She had
taught Elijah and Elisha Simpson so that they
recited three verses of something with such comical
effect that they delighted themselves, the teacher,
and the school; while Susan, who lisped, had been
provided with a humorous poem in which she
impersonated a lisping child. Emma Jane and
Rebecca had a dialogue, and the sense of companionship
buoyed up Emma Jane and gave her self-
reliance. In fact, Miss Dearborn announced on
this particular Friday morning that the exercises
promised to be so interesting that she had invited
the doctor's wife, the minister's wife, two members
of the school committee, and a few mothers. Living
Perkins was asked to decorate one of the black-
boards and Rebecca the other. Living, who was
the star artist of the school, chose the map of North
America. Rebecca liked better to draw things
less realistic, and speedily, before the eyes of the
enchanted multitude, there grew under her skillful
fingers an American flag done in red, white,
and blue chalk, every star in its right place, every
stripe fluttering in the breeze. Beside this
appeared a figure of Columbia, copied from the top
of the cigar box that held the crayons.

Miss Dearborn was delighted. "I propose we
give Rebecca a good hand-clapping for such a
beautiful picture--one that the whole school may
well be proud of!"

The scholars clapped heartily, and Dick Carter,
waving his hand, gave a rousing cheer.

Rebecca's heart leaped for joy, and to her
confusion she felt the tears rising in her eyes. She
could hardly see the way back to her seat, for in
her ignorant lonely little life she had never been
singled out for applause, never lauded, nor crowned,
as in this wonderful, dazzling moment. If "nobleness
enkindleth nobleness," so does enthusiasm
beget enthusiasm, and so do wit and talent enkindle
wit and talent. Alice Robinson proposed that
the school should sing Three Cheers for the Red,
White, and Blue! and when they came to the
chorus, all point to Rebecca's flag. Dick Carter
suggested that Living Perkins and Rebecca Randall
should sign their names to their pictures, so
that the visitors would know who drew them. Huldah
Meserve asked permission to cover the largest
holes in the plastered walls with boughs and fill the
water pail with wild flowers. Rebecca's mood was
above and beyond all practical details. She sat
silent, her heart so full of grateful joy that she
could hardly remember the words of her dialogue.
At recess she bore herself modestly, notwithstanding
her great triumph, while in the general atmosphere
of good will the Smellie-Randall hatchet was
buried and Minnie gathered maple boughs and covered
the ugly stove with them, under Rebecca's direction.

Miss Dearborn dismissed the morning session
at quarter to twelve, so that those who lived near
enough could go home for a change of dress.
Emma Jane and Rebecca ran nearly every step of
the way, from sheer excitement, only stopping to
breathe at the stiles.

"Will your aunt Mirandy let you wear your best,
or only your buff calico?" asked Emma Jane.

"I think I'll ask aunt Jane," Rebecca replied.
"Oh! if my pink was only finished! I left aunt
Jane making the buttonholes!"

"I'm going to ask my mother to let me wear
her garnet ring," said Emma Jane. "It would look
perfectly elergant flashing in the sun when I point
to the flag. Good-by; don't wait for me going
back; I may get a ride."

Rebecca found the side door locked, but she
knew that the key was under the step, and so of
course did everybody else in Riverboro, for they
all did about the same thing with it. She unlocked
the door and went into the dining-room to find her
lunch laid on the table and a note from aunt Jane
saying that they had gone to Moderation with Mrs.
Robinson in her carryall. Rebecca swallowed a
piece of bread and butter, and flew up the front
stairs to her bedroom. On the bed lay the pink
gingham dress finished by aunt Jane's kind hands.
Could she, dare she, wear it without asking? Did
the occasion justify a new costume, or would her
aunts think she ought to keep it for the concert?

"I'll wear it," thought Rebecca. "They're not
here to ask, and maybe they wouldn't mind a bit;
it's only gingham after all, and wouldn't be so
grand if it wasn't new, and hadn't tape trimming
on it, and wasn't pink."

She unbraided her two pigtails, combed out the
waves of her hair and tied them back with a ribbon,
changed her shoes, and then slipped on the
pretty frock, managing to fasten all but the three
middle buttons, which she reserved for Emma Jane.

Then her eye fell on her cherished pink sunshade,
the exact match, and the girls had never seen it.
It wasn't quite appropriate for school, but she
needn't take it into the room; she would wrap it
in a piece of paper, just show it, and carry it coming
home. She glanced in the parlor looking-glass
downstairs and was electrified at the vision. It
seemed almost as if beauty of apparel could go no
further than that heavenly pink gingham dress!
The sparkle of her eyes, glow of her cheeks, sheen
of her falling hair, passed unnoticed in the all-
conquering charm of the rose-colored garment. Goodness!
it was twenty minutes to one and she would
be late. She danced out the side door, pulled a pink
rose from a bush at the gate, and covered the mile
between the brick house and the seat of learning
in an incredibly short time, meeting Emma Jane,
also breathless and resplendent, at the entrance.

"Rebecca Randall!" exclaimed Emma Jane,
"you're handsome as a picture!"

"I?" laughed Rebecca "Nonsense! it's only
the pink gingham."

"You're not good looking every day," insisted
Emma Jane; "but you're different somehow. See
my garnet ring; mother scrubbed it in soap and
water. How on earth did your aunt Mirandy let
you put on your bran' new dress?"

"They were both away and I didn't ask,"
Rebecca responded anxiously. "Why? Do you think
they'd have said no?"

"Miss Mirandy always says no, doesn't she?"
asked Emma Jane.

"Ye--es; but this afternoon is very special--
almost like a Sunday-school concert."

"Yes," assented Emma Jane, "it is, of course;
with your name on the board, and our pointing to
your flag, and our elergant dialogue, and all that."

The afternoon was one succession of solid
triumphs for everybody concerned. There were no
real failures at all, no tears, no parents ashamed
of their offspring. Miss Dearborn heard many
admiring remarks passed upon her ability, and
wondered whether they belonged to her or partly,
at least, to Rebecca. The child had no more to
do than several others, but she was somehow in
the foreground. It transpired afterwards at various
village entertainments that Rebecca couldn't
be kept in the background; it positively refused
to hold her. Her worst enemy could not have
called her pushing. She was ready and willing
and never shy; but she sought for no chances
of display and was, indeed, remarkably lacking in
self-consciousness, as well as eager to bring others
into whatever fun or entertainment there was.
If wherever the MacGregor sat was the head of
the table, so in the same way wherever Rebecca
stood was the centre of the stage. Her clear high
treble soared above all the rest in the choruses,
and somehow everybody watched her, took note
of her gestures, her whole-souled singing, her
irrepressible enthusiasm.

Finally it was all over, and it seemed to Rebecca
as if she should never be cool and calm again, as
she loitered on the homeward path. There would
be no lessons to learn to-night, and the vision of
helping with the preserves on the morrow had no
terrors for her--fears could not draw breath in
the radiance that flooded her soul. There were
thick gathering clouds in the sky, but she took no
note of them save to be glad that she could raise
her sunshade. She did not tread the solid ground
at all, or have any sense of belonging to the common
human family, until she entered the side yard
of the brick house and saw her aunt Miranda
standing in the open doorway. Then with a rush
she came back to earth.



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