"THE STIRRING OF THE POWERS"
Rebecca's visit to Milltown was all that her
glowing fancy had painted it, except that
recent readings about Rome and Venice
disposed her to believe that those cities might
have an advantage over Milltown in the matter
of mere pictorial beauty. So soon does the soul
outgrow its mansions that after once seeing
Milltown her fancy ran out to the future sight of
Portland; for that, having islands and a harbor
and two public monuments, must be far more
beautiful than Milltown, which would, she felt, take
its proud place among the cities of the earth, by
reason of its tremendous business activity rather
than by any irresistible appeal to the imagination.
It would be impossible for two children to see
more, do more, walk more, talk more, eat more, or
ask more questions than Rebecca and Emma Jane
did on that eventful Wednesday.
"She's the best company I ever see in all my
life," said Mrs. Cobb to her husband that evening.
"We ain't had a dull minute this day. She's well-
mannered, too; she didn't ask for anything, and
was thankful for whatever she got. Did you watch
her face when we went into that tent where they
was actin' out Uncle Tom's Cabin? And did you
take notice of the way she told us about the book
when we sat down to have our ice cream? I tell you
Harriet Beecher Stowe herself couldn't 'a' done
it better justice."
"I took it all in," responded Mr. Cobb, who was
pleased that "mother" agreed with him about
Rebecca. "I ain't sure but she's goin' to turn out
somethin' remarkable,--a singer, or a writer, or a
lady doctor like that Miss Parks up to Cornish."
"Lady doctors are always home'paths, ain't
they?" asked Mrs. Cobb, who, it is needless to say,
was distinctly of the old school in medicine.
"Land, no, mother; there ain't no home'path
'bout Miss Parks--she drives all over the country."
"I can't see Rebecca as a lady doctor, somehow,"
mused Mrs. Cobb. "Her gift o' gab is what's
goin' to be the makin' of her; mebbe she'll lecture,
or recite pieces, like that Portland elocutionist that
come out here to the harvest supper."
"I guess she'll be able to write down her own
pieces," said Mr. Cobb confidently; "she could
make 'em up faster 'n she could read 'em out of a book."
"It's a pity she's so plain looking," remarked
Mrs. Cobb, blowing out the candle.
"PLAIN LOOKING, mother?" exclaimed her husband
in astonishment. "Look at the eyes of her;
look at the hair of her, an' the smile, an' that
there dimple! Look at Alice Robinson, that's
called the prettiest child on the river, an' see how
Rebecca shines her ri' down out o' sight! I hope
Mirandy'll favor her comin' over to see us real
often, for she'll let off some of her steam here, an'
the brick house'll be consid'able safer for everybody
concerned. We've known what it was to hev
children, even if 't was more 'n thirty years ago,
an' we can make allowances."
Notwithstanding the encomiums of Mr. and Mrs.
Cobb, Rebecca made a poor hand at composition
writing at this time. Miss Dearborn gave her
every sort of subject that she had ever been given
herself: Cloud Pictures; Abraham Lincoln; Nature;
Philanthropy; Slavery; Intemperance; Joy
and Duty; Solitude; but with none of them did
Rebecca seem to grapple satisfactorily.
"Write as you talk, Rebecca," insisted poor Miss
Dearborn, who secretly knew that she could never
manage a good composition herself.
"But gracious me, Miss Dearborn! I don't talk
about nature and slavery. I can't write unless I
have something to say, can I?"
"That is what compositions are for," returned
Miss Dearborn doubtfully; "to make you have
things to say. Now in your last one, on solitude, you
haven't said anything very interesting, and you've
made it too common and every-day to sound well.
There are too many `yous' and `yours' in it; you
ought to say `one' now and then, to make it seem
more like good writing. `One opens a favorite
book;' `One's thoughts are a great comfort in
solitude,' and so on."
"I don't know any more about solitude this week
than I did about joy and duty last week," grumbled Rebecca.
"You tried to be funny about joy and duty,"
said Miss Dearborn reprovingly; "so of course you
"I didn't know you were going to make us read
the things out loud," said Rebecca with an embarrassed
smile of recollection.
"Joy and Duty" had been the inspiring subject
given to the older children for a theme to be written
in five minutes.
Rebecca had wrestled, struggled, perspired in
vain. When her turn came to read she was obliged
to confess she had written nothing.
"You have at least two lines, Rebecca," insisted
the teacher, "for I see them on your slate."
"I'd rather not read them, please; they are not
good," pleaded Rebecca.
"Read what you have, good or bad, little or
much; I am excusing nobody."
Rebecca rose, overcome with secret laughter
dread, and mortification; then in a low voice she
read the couplet:--
When Joy and Duty clash
Let Duty go to smash.
Dick Carter's head disappeared under the desk,
while Living Perkins choked with laughter.
Miss Dearborn laughed too; she was little more
than a girl, and the training of the young idea seldom
appealed to the sense of humor.
"You must stay after school and try again,
Rebecca," she said, but she said it smilingly. "Your
poetry hasn't a very nice idea in it for a good little
girl who ought to love duty."
"It wasn't MY idea," said Rebecca apologetically.
"I had only made the first line when I saw you were
going to ring the bell and say the time was up. I
had `clash' written, and I couldn't think of anything
then but `hash' or `rash' or `smash.' I'll
change it to this:--
When Joy and Duty clash,
'T is Joy must go to smash."
"That is better," Miss Dearborn answered,
"though I cannot think `going to smash' is a pretty
expression for poetry."
Having been instructed in the use of the indefinite
pronoun "one" as giving a refined and elegant touch
to literary efforts, Rebecca painstakingly rewrote
her composition on solitude, giving it all the benefit
of Miss Dearborn's suggestion. It then appeared in
the following form, which hardly satisfied either
teacher or pupil:--
It would be false to say that one could ever be
alone when one has one's lovely thoughts to comfort
one. One sits by one's self, it is true, but one thinks;
one opens one's favorite book and reads one's favorite
story; one speaks to one's aunt or one's brother,
fondles one's cat, or looks at one's photograph album.
There is one's work also: what a joy it is to one, if
one happens to like work. All one's little household
tasks keep one from being lonely. Does one ever
feel bereft when one picks up one's chips to light
one's fire for one's evening meal? Or when one
washes one's milk pail before milking one's cow?
One would fancy not.
R. R. R.
"It is perfectly dreadful," sighed Rebecca when
she read it aloud after school. "Putting in `one' all
the time doesn't make it sound any more like a
book, and it looks silly besides."
"You say such queer things," objected Miss
Dearborn. "I don't see what makes you do it.
Why did you put in anything so common as picking
"Because I was talking about `household tasks'
in the sentence before, and it IS one of my household
tasks. Don't you think calling supper `one's evening meal'
is pretty? and isn't `bereft' a nice word?"
"Yes, that part of it does very well. It is the cat,
the chips, and the milk pail that I don't like."
"All right!" sighed Rebecca. "Out they go;
Does the cow go too?"
"Yes, I don't like a cow in a composition," said
the difficult Miss Dearborn.
The Milltown trip had not been without its tragic
consequences of a small sort; for the next week
Minnie Smellie's mother told Miranda Sawyer that
she'd better look after Rebecca, for she was given
to "swearing and profane language;" that she had
been heard saying something dreadful that very
afternoon, saying it before Emma Jane and Living
Perkins, who only laughed and got down on all
fours and chased her.
Rebecca, on being confronted and charged with
the crime, denied it indignantly, and aunt Jane
"Search your memory, Rebecca, and try to think
what Minnie overheard you say," she pleaded.
"Don't be ugly and obstinate, but think real hard.
When did they chase you up the road, and what
were you doing?"
A sudden light broke upon Rebecca's darkness.
"Oh! I see it now," she exclaimed. "It had
rained hard all the morning, you know, and the
road was full of puddles. Emma Jane, Living, and
I were walking along, and I was ahead. I saw the
water streaming over the road towards the ditch, and
it reminded me of Uncle Tom's Cabin at Milltown,
when Eliza took her baby and ran across the Mississippi
on the ice blocks, pursued by the bloodhounds.
We couldn't keep from laughing after we came out
of the tent because they were acting on such a small
platform that Eliza had to run round and round, and
part of the time the one dog they had pursued her,
and part of the time she had to pursue the dog. I
knew Living would remember, too, so I took off my
waterproof and wrapped it round my books for a
baby; then I shouted, `MY GOD! THE RIVER!' just
like that--the same as Eliza did in the play; then
I leaped from puddle to puddle, and Living and
Emma Jane pursued me like the bloodhounds. It's
just like that stupid Minnie Smellie who doesn't
know a game when she sees one. And Eliza wasn't
swearing when she said `My God! the river!' It
was more like praying."
"Well, you've got no call to be prayin', any more
than swearin', in the middle of the road," said
Miranda; "but I'm thankful it's no worse. You're
born to trouble as the sparks fly upward, an' I'm
afraid you allers will be till you learn to bridle your
"I wish sometimes that I could bridle Minnie's,"
murmured Rebecca, as she went to set the table for supper.
"I declare she IS the beatin'est child!" said
Miranda, taking off her spectacles and laying down
her mending. "You don't think she's a leetle mite
crazy, do you, Jane?"
"I don't think she's like the rest of us,"
responded Jane thoughtfully and with some anxiety
in her pleasant face; "but whether it's for the
better or the worse I can't hardly tell till she grows
up. She's got the making of 'most anything in her,
Rebecca has; but I feel sometimes as if we were
not fitted to cope with her."
"Stuff an' nonsense!" said Miranda "Speak
for yourself. I feel fitted to cope with any child
that ever was born int' the world!"
"I know you do, Mirandy; but that don't MAKE
you so," returned Jane with a smile.
The habit of speaking her mind freely was certainly
growing on Jane to an altogether terrifying extent.
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