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Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm
by Kate Douglas Wiggin

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When Rebecca looked back upon the
year or two that followed the Simpsons'
Thanksgiving party, she could see only
certain milestones rising in the quiet pathway of
the months.

The first milestone was Christmas Day. It was
a fresh, crystal morning, with icicles hanging like
dazzling pendants from the trees and a glaze of
pale blue on the surface of the snow. The Simpsons'
red barn stood out, a glowing mass of color in
the white landscape. Rebecca had been busy for
weeks before, trying to make a present for each of
the seven persons at Sunnybrook Farm, a somewhat
difficult proceeding on an expenditure of fifty
cents, hoarded by incredible exertion. Success had
been achieved, however, and the precious packet
had been sent by post two days previous. Miss
Sawyer had bought her niece a nice gray squirrel
muff and tippet, which was even more unbecoming
if possible, than Rebecca's other articles of wearing
apparel; but aunt Jane had made her the loveliest
dress of green cashmere, a soft, soft green like
that of a young leaf. It was very simply made, but
the color delighted the eye. Then there was a
beautiful "tatting" collar from her mother, some
scarlet mittens from Mrs. Cobb, and a handkerchief
from Emma Jane.

Rebecca herself had fashioned an elaborate tea-
cosy with a letter "M" in outline stitch, and a
pretty frilled pincushion marked with a "J," for her
two aunts, so that taken all together the day would
have been an unequivocal success had nothing else
happened; but something else did.

There was a knock at the door at breakfast time,
and Rebecca, answering it, was asked by a boy if
Miss Rebecca Randall lived there. On being told
that she did, he handed her a parcel bearing her
name, a parcel which she took like one in a dream
and bore into the dining-room.

"It's a present; it must be," she said, looking
at it in a dazed sort of way; "but I can't think
who it could be from."

"A good way to find out would be to open it,"
remarked Miss Miranda.

The parcel being untied proved to have two
smaller packages within, and Rebecca opened with
trembling fingers the one addressed to her. Anybody's
fingers would have trembled. There was a
case which, when the cover was lifted, disclosed a
long chain of delicate pink coral beads,--a chain
ending in a cross made of coral rosebuds. A card
with "Merry Christmas from Mr. Aladdin" lay
under the cross.

"Of all things!" exclaimed the two old ladies,
rising in their seats. "Who sent it?"

"Mr. Ladd," said Rebecca under her breath.

"Adam Ladd! Well I never! Don't you remember
Ellen Burnham said he was going to send
Rebecca a Christmas present? But I never supposed
he'd think of it again," said Jane. "What's
the other package?"

It proved to be a silver chain with a blue enamel
locket on it, marked for Emma Jane. That added
the last touch--to have him remember them both!
There was a letter also, which ran:--

Dear Miss Rebecca Rowena,--My idea of a
Christmas present is something entirely unnecessary
and useless. I have always noticed when I
give this sort of thing that people love it, so I
hope I have not chosen wrong for you and your
friend. You must wear your chain this afternoon,
please, and let me see it on your neck, for I am
coming over in my new sleigh to take you both to
drive. My aunt is delighted with the soap.

Sincerely your friend,

Adam Ladd.

"Well, well!" cried Miss Jane, "isn't that kind
of him? He's very fond of children, Lyddy Burnham
says. Now eat your breakfast, Rebecca, and
after we've done the dishes you can run over to
Emma's and give her her chain-- What's the matter,

Rebecca's emotions seemed always to be stored,
as it were, in adjoining compartments, and to be
continually getting mixed. At this moment, though
her joy was too deep for words, her bread and butter
almost choked her, and at intervals a tear stole
furtively down her cheek.

Mr. Ladd called as he promised, and made the
acquaintance of the aunts, understanding them both
in five minutes as well as if he had known them
for years. On a footstool near the open fire sat
Rebecca, silent and shy, so conscious of her fine
apparel and the presence of aunt Miranda that she
could not utter a word. It was one of her "beauty
days." Happiness, excitement, the color of the
green dress, and the touch of lovely pink in the
coral necklace had transformed the little brown
wren for the time into a bird of plumage, and Adam
Ladd watched her with evident satisfaction. Then
there was the sleigh ride, during which she found
her tongue and chattered like any magpie, and so
ended that glorious Christmas Day; and many and
many a night thereafter did Rebecca go to sleep
with the precious coral chain under her pillow, one
hand always upon it to be certain that it was safe.

Another milestone was the departure of the
Simpsons from Riverboro, bag and baggage, the
banquet lamp being their most conspicuous posses-
sion. It was delightful to be rid of Seesaw's hateful
presence; but otherwise the loss of several
playmates at one fell swoop made rather a gap
in Riverboro's "younger set," and Rebecca was
obliged to make friends with the Robinson baby,
he being the only long-clothes child in the village
that winter. The faithful Seesaw had called at the
side door of the brick house on the evening before
his departure, and when Rebecca answered his
knock, stammered solemnly, "Can I k-keep comp'ny
with you when you g-g-row up?" "Certainly NOT,"
replied Rebecca, closing the door somewhat
too speedily upon her precocious swain.

Mr. Simpson had come home in time to move
his wife and children back to the town that had
given them birth, a town by no means waiting with
open arms to receive them. The Simpsons' moving
was presided over by the village authorities and
somewhat anxiously watched by the entire
neighborhood, but in spite of all precautions a pulpit
chair, several kerosene lamps, and a small stove
disappeared from the church and were successfully
swapped in the course of Mr. Simpson's
driving tour from the old home to the new. It gave
Rebecca and Emma Jane some hours of sorrow to
learn that a certain village in the wake of Abner
Simpson's line of progress had acquired, through
the medium of an ambitious young minister, a
magnificent lamp for its new church parlors. No money
changed hands in the operation; for the minister
succeeded in getting the lamp in return for an old
bicycle. The only pleasant feature of the whole
affair was that Mr. Simpson, wholly unable to console
his offspring for the loss of the beloved object,
mounted the bicycle and rode away on it, not to
be seen or heard of again for many a long day.

The year was notable also as being the one in
which Rebecca shot up like a young tree. She had
seemingly never grown an inch since she was ten
years old, but once started she attended to growing
precisely as she did other things,--with such
energy, that Miss Jane did nothing for months but
lengthen skirts, sleeves, and waists. In spite of all
the arts known to a thrifty New England woman,
the limit of letting down and piecing down was
reached at last, and the dresses were sent to Sunnybrook
Farm to be made over for Jenny.

There was another milestone, a sad one, marking
a little grave under a willow tree at Sunnybrook
Farm. Mira, the baby of the Randall family,
died, and Rebecca went home for a fortnight's
visit. The sight of the small still shape that had
been Mira, the baby who had been her special
charge ever since her birth, woke into being a host
of new thoughts and wonderments; for it is sometimes
the mystery of death that brings one to a
consciousness of the still greater mystery of life.

It was a sorrowful home-coming for Rebecca. The
death of Mira, the absence of John, who had been
her special comrade, the sadness of her mother, the
isolation of the little house, and the pinching
economies that went on within it, all conspired to
depress a child who was so sensitive to beauty and
harmony as Rebecca.

Hannah seemed to have grown into a woman
during Rebecca's absence. There had always been
a strange unchildlike air about Hannah, but in
certain ways she now appeared older than aunt Jane
--soberer, and more settled. She was pretty,
though in a colorless fashion; pretty and capable.

Rebecca walked through all the old playgrounds
and favorite haunts of her early childhood; all her
familiar, her secret places; some of them known to
John, some to herself alone. There was the spot
where the Indian pipes grew; the particular bit of
marshy ground where the fringed gentians used to
be largest and bluest; the rock maple where she
found the oriole's nest; the hedge where the field
mice lived; the moss-covered stump where the
white toadstools were wont to spring up as if by
magic; the hole at the root of the old pine where an
ancient and honorable toad made his home; these
were the landmarks of her childhood, and she looked
at them as across an immeasurable distance. The
dear little sunny brook, her chief companion after
John, was sorry company at this season. There
was no laughing water sparkling in the sunshine.
In summer the merry stream had danced over white
pebbles on its way to deep pools where it could be
still and think. Now, like Mira, it was cold and
quiet, wrapped in its shroud of snow; but Rebecca
knelt by the brink, and putting her ear to the glaze
of ice, fancied, where it used to be deepest, she could
hear a faint, tinkling sound. It was all right! Sunnybrook
would sing again in the spring; perhaps Mira
too would have her singing time somewhere--she
wondered where and how. In the course of these
lonely rambles she was ever thinking, thinking,
of one subject. Hannah had never had a chance;
never been freed from the daily care and work of
the farm. She, Rebecca, had enjoyed all the privileges
thus far. Life at the brick house had not been
by any means a path of roses, but there had been
comfort and the companionship of other children, as
well as chances for study and reading. Riverboro
had not been the world itself, but it had been a
glimpse of it through a tiny peephole that was
infinitely better than nothing. Rebecca shed more
than one quiet tear before she could trust herself to
offer up as a sacrifice that which she so much desired
for herself. Then one morning as her visit neared
its end she plunged into the subject boldly and
said, "Hannah, after this term I'm going to stay
at home and let you go away. Aunt Miranda has
always wanted you, and it's only fair you should
have your turn."

Hannah was darning stockings, and she threaded
her needle and snipped off the yarn before she
answered, "No, thank you, Becky. Mother couldn't
do without me, and I hate going to school. I can
read and write and cipher as well as anybody now,
and that's enough for me. I'd die rather than teach
school for a living. The winter'll go fast, for Will
Melville is going to lend me his mother's sewing
machine, and I'm going to make white petticoats
out of the piece of muslin aunt Jane sent, and have
'em just solid with tucks. Then there's going to
be a singing-school and a social circle in Temperance
after New Year's, and I shall have a real good
time now I'm grown up. I'm not one to be lonesome,
Becky," Hannah ended with a blush; "I love this place."

Rebecca saw that she was speaking the truth, but
she did not understand the blush till a year or two later.



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