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Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm
by Kate Douglas Wiggin

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Just before Thanksgiving the affairs of the
Simpsons reached what might have been called
a crisis, even in their family, which had been
born and reared in a state of adventurous poverty and
perilous uncertainty.

Riverboro was doing its best to return the entire
tribe of Simpsons to the land of its fathers, so to
speak, thinking rightly that the town which had
given them birth, rather than the town of their
adoption, should feed them and keep a roof over their
heads until the children were of an age for self-
support. There was little to eat in the household and
less to wear, though Mrs. Simpson did, as always,
her poor best. The children managed to satisfy their
appetites by sitting modestly outside their neighbors'
kitchen doors when meals were about to be
served. They were not exactly popular favorites, but
they did receive certain undesirable morsels from the
more charitable housewives.

Life was rather dull and dreary, however, and in
the chill and gloom of November weather, with the
vision of other people's turkeys bursting with fat,
and other people's golden pumpkins and squashes
and corn being garnered into barns, the young
Simpsons groped about for some inexpensive form
of excitement, and settled upon the selling of soap
for a premium. They had sold enough to their
immediate neighbors during the earlier autumn to
secure a child's handcart, which, though very weak
on its pins, could be trundled over the country roads.
With large business sagacity and an executive capacity
which must have been inherited from their father,
they now proposed to extend their operations
to a larger area and distribute soap to contiguous
villages, if these villages could be induced to buy. The
Excelsior Soap Company paid a very small return of
any kind to its infantile agents, who were scattered
through the state, but it inflamed their imaginations
by the issue of circulars with highly colored pictures
of the premiums to be awarded for the sale of a certain
number of cakes. It was at this juncture that
Clara Belle and Susan Simpson consulted Rebecca,
who threw herself solidly and wholeheartedly into the
enterprise, promising her help and that of Emma
Jane Perkins. The premiums within their possible
grasp were three: a bookcase, a plush reclining chair,
and a banquet lamp. Of course the Simpsons had
no books, and casting aside, without thought or pang,
the plush chair, which might have been of some
use in a family of seven persons (not counting Mr.
Simpson, who ordinarily sat elsewhere at the town's
expense), they warmed themselves rapturously in
the vision of the banquet lamp, which speedily be-
came to them more desirable than food, drink, or
clothing. Neither Emma Jane nor Rebecca perceived
anything incongruous in the idea of the
Simpsons striving for a banquet lamp. They looked
at the picture daily and knew that if they themselves
were free agents they would toil, suffer, ay sweat,
for the happy privilege of occupying the same room
with that lamp through the coming winter evenings.
It looked to be about eight feet tall in the catalogue,
and Emma Jane advised Clara Belle to measure the
height of the Simpson ceilings; but a note in the
margin of the circular informed them that it stood
two and a half feet high when set up in all its dignity
and splendor on a proper table, three dollars extra.
It was only of polished brass, continued the circular,
though it was invariably mistaken for solid gold, and
the shade that accompanied it (at least it accompanied
it if the agent sold a hundred extra cakes)
was of crinkled crepe paper printed in a dozen
delicious hues, from which the joy-dazzled agent might
take his choice.

Seesaw Simpson was not in the syndicate. Clara
Belle was rather a successful agent, but Susan, who
could only say "thoap," never made large returns,
and the twins, who were somewhat young to be thoroughly
trustworthy, could be given only a half dozen
cakes at a time, and were obliged to carry with them
on their business trips a brief document stating the
price per cake, dozen, and box. Rebecca and Emma
Jane offered to go two or three miles in some one
direction and see what they could do in the way of
stirring up a popular demand for the Snow-White and
Rose-Red brands, the former being devoted to laundry
purposes and the latter being intended for the toilet.

There was a great amount of hilarity in the
preparation for this event, and a long council in Emma
Jane's attic. They had the soap company's circular
from which to arrange a proper speech, and they
had, what was still better, the remembrance of a
certain patent-medicine vender's discourse at the
Milltown Fair. His method, when once observed,
could never be forgotten; nor his manner, nor his
vocabulary. Emma Jane practiced it on Rebecca,
and Rebecca on Emma Jane.

"Can I sell you a little soap this afternoon? It
is called the Snow-White and Rose-Red Soap, six
cakes in an ornamental box, only twenty cents for
the white, twenty-five cents for the red. It is made
from the purest ingredients, and if desired could be
eaten by an invalid with relish and profit."

"Oh, Rebecca, don't let's say that!" interposed
Emma Jane hysterically. "It makes me feel like a fool."

"It takes so little to make you feel like a fool,
Emma Jane," rebuked Rebecca, "that sometimes I
think that you must BE one I don't get to feeling
like a fool so awfully easy; now leave out that eating
part if you don't like it, and go on."

"The Snow-White is probably the most remarkable
laundry soap ever manufactured. Immerse the
garments in a tub, lightly rubbing the more soiled
portions with the soap; leave them submerged in
water from sunset to sunrise, and then the youngest
baby can wash them without the slightest effort."

"BABE, not baby," corrected Rebecca from the circular.

"It's just the same thing," argued Emma Jane.

"Of course it's just the same THING; but a baby
has got to be called babe or infant in a circular,
the same as it is in poetry! Would you rather say infant?"

"No," grumbled Emma Jane; "infant is worse
even than babe. Rebecca, do you think we'd better
do as the circular says, and let Elijah or Elisha try
the soap before we begin selling?"

"I can't imagine a babe doing a family wash with
ANY soap," answered Rebecca; "but it must be true
or they would never dare to print it, so don't let's
bother. Oh! won't it be the greatest fun, Emma
Jane? At some of the houses--where they can't
possibly know me--I shan't be frightened, and I
shall reel off the whole rigmarole, invalid, babe, and
all. Perhaps I shall say even the last sentence, if I
can remember it: `We sound every chord in the
great mac-ro-cosm of satisfaction."

This conversation took place on a Friday afternoon
at Emma Jane's house, where Rebecca, to her
unbounded joy, was to stay over Sunday, her aunts
having gone to Portland to the funeral of an old
friend. Saturday being a holiday, they were going
to have the old white horse, drive to North Riverboro
three miles away, eat a twelve o'clock dinner
with Emma Jane's cousins, and be back at four
o'clock punctually.

When the children asked Mrs. Perkins if they
could call at just a few houses coming and going,
and sell a little soap for the Simpsons, she at first
replied decidedly in the negative. She was an
indulgent parent, however, and really had little
objection to Emma Jane amusing herself in this unusual
way; it was only for Rebecca, as the niece of the
difficult Miranda Sawyer, that she raised scruples;
but when fully persuaded that the enterprise was a
charitable one, she acquiesced.

The girls called at Mr. Watson's store, and
arranged for several large boxes of soap to be charged
to Clara Belle Simpson's account. These were
lifted into the back of the wagon, and a happier
couple never drove along the country road than
Rebecca and her companion. It was a glorious
Indian summer day, which suggested nothing of
Thanksgiving, near at hand as it was. It was a
rustly day, a scarlet and buff, yellow and carmine,
bronze and crimson day. There were still many
leaves on the oaks and maples, making a goodly
show of red and brown and gold. The air was like
sparkling cider, and every field had its heaps of
yellow and russet good things to eat, all ready for the
barns, the mills, and the markets. The horse forgot
his twenty years, sniffed the sweet bright air, and
trotted like a colt; Nokomis Mountain looked blue
and clear in the distance; Rebecca stood in the
wagon, and apostrophized the landscape with sudden
joy of living:--

"Great, wide, beautiful, wonderful World,
With the wonderful water round you curled,
And the wonderful grass upon your breast,
World, you are beautifully drest!"

Dull Emma Jane had never seemed to Rebecca
so near, so dear, so tried and true; and Rebecca,
to Emma Jane's faithful heart, had never been so
brilliant, so bewildering, so fascinating, as in this
visit together, with its intimacy, its freedom, and
the added delights of an exciting business enterprise.

A gorgeous leaf blew into the wagon.

"Does color make you sort of dizzy?" asked Rebecca.

"No," answered Emma Jane after a long pause;
"no, it don't; not a mite."

"Perhaps dizzy isn't just the right word, but it's
nearest. I'd like to eat color, and drink it, and
sleep in it. If you could be a tree, which one
would you choose?"

Emma Jane had enjoyed considerable experience
of this kind, and Rebecca had succeeded in unstopping
her ears, ungluing her eyes, and loosening her tongue,
so that she could "play the game" after a fashion.

"I'd rather be an apple-tree in blossom,--that
one that blooms pink, by our pig-pen."

Rebecca laughed. There was always something
unexpected in Emma Jane's replies. "I'd choose
to be that scarlet maple just on the edge of the
pond there,"--and she pointed with the whip.
"Then I could see so much more than your pink
apple-tree by the pig-pen. I could look at all the
rest of the woods, see my scarlet dress in my beautiful
looking-glass, and watch all the yellow and brown
trees growing upside down in the water. When
I'm old enough to earn money, I'm going to have
a dress like this leaf, all ruby color--thin, you
know, with a sweeping train and ruffly, curly edges;
then I think I'll have a brown sash like the trunk
of the tree, and where could I be green? Do they
have green petticoats, I wonder? I'd like a green
petticoat coming out now and then underneath to
show what my leaves were like before I was a scarlet maple."

"I think it would be awful homely," said Emma
Jane. "I'm going to have a white satin with a pink
sash, pink stockings, bronze slippers, and a spangled fan."



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