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Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm
by Kate Douglas Wiggin

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It was a very small meeting, aunt Miranda,"
began Rebecca, "and the missionary and his
wife are lovely people, and they are coming
here to stay all night and to-morrow with you. I
hope you won't mind."

"Coming here!" exclaimed Miranda, letting her
knitting fall in her lap, and taking her spectacles
off, as she always did in moments of extreme
excitement. "Did they invite themselves?"

"No," Rebecca answered. "I had to invite them
for you; but I thought you'd like to have such
interesting company. It was this way"--

"Stop your explainin', and tell me first when
they'll be here. Right away?"

"No, not for two hours--about half past five."

"Then you can explain, if you can, who gave you
any authority to invite a passel of strangers to stop
here over night, when you know we ain't had any
company for twenty years, and don't intend to have
any for another twenty,--or at any rate while I'm
the head of the house."

"Don't blame her, Miranda, till you've heard
her story," said Jane. "It was in my mind right
along, if we went to the meeting, some such thing
might happen, on account of Mr. Burch knowing father."

"The meeting was a small one," began Rebecca
"I gave all your messages, and everybody was
disappointed you couldn't come, for the president
wasn't there, and Mrs. Matthews took the chair, which
was a pity, for the seat wasn't nearly big enough for
her, and she reminded me of a line in a hymn we
sang, `Wide as the heathen nations are,' and she
wore that kind of a beaver garden-hat that always
gets on one side. And Mr. Burch talked beautifully
about the Syrian heathen, and the singing went
real well, and there looked to be about forty cents
in the basket that was passed on our side. And
that wouldn't save even a heathen baby, would it?
Then Mr. Burch said, if any sister would offer
entertainment, they would pass the night, and have
a parlor meeting in Riverboro to-morrow, with Mrs.
Burch in Syrian costume, and lovely foreign things
to show. Then he waited and waited, and nobody
said a word. I was so mortified I didn't know what
to do. And then he repeated what he said, an
explained why he wanted to stay, and you could see
he thought it was his duty. Just then Mrs.
Robinson whispered to me and said the missionaries
always used to go to the brick house when
grandfather was alive, and that he never would let them
sleep anywhere else. I didn't know you had stopped
having them. because no traveling ministers have
been here, except just for a Sunday morning, since
I came to Riverboro. So I thought I ought to
invite them, as you weren't there to do it for yourself,
and you told me to represent the family."

"What did you do--go up and introduce
yourself as folks was goin' out?"

"No; I stood right up in meeting. I had to, for
Mr. Burch's feelings were getting hurt at nobody's
speaking. So I said, `My aunts, Miss Miranda and
Miss Jane Sawyer would be happy to have you
visit at the brick house, just as the missionaries
always did when their father was alive, and they
sent their respects by me.' Then I sat down; and
Mr. Burch prayed for grandfather, and called him a
man of God, and thanked our Heavenly Father that
his spirit was still alive in his descendants (that was
you), and that the good old house where so many
of the brethren had been cheered and helped, and
from which so many had gone out strengthened for
the fight, was still hospitably open for the stranger
and wayfarer."

Sometimes, when the heavenly bodies are in
just the right conjunction, nature seems to be the
most perfect art. The word or the deed coming
straight from the heart, without any thought of
effect, seems inspired.

A certain gateway in Miranda Sawyer's soul had
been closed for years; not all at once had it been
done, but gradually, and without her full knowledge.
If Rebecca had plotted for days, and with the utmost
cunning, she could not have effected an entrance
into that forbidden country, and now, unknown to
both of them, the gate swung on its stiff and rusty
hinges, and the favoring wind of opportunity opened
it wider and wider as time went on. All things had
worked together amazingly for good. The memory
of old days had been evoked, and the daily life
of a pious and venerated father called to mind;
the Sawyer name had been publicly dignified and
praised; Rebecca had comported herself as the
granddaughter of Deacon Israel Sawyer should, and
showed conclusively that she was not "all Randall,"
as had been supposed. Miranda was rather
mollified by and pleased with the turn of events,
although she did not intend to show it, or give anybody
any reason to expect that this expression of
hospitality was to serve for a precedent on any
subsequent occasion.

"Well, I see you did only what you was obliged
to do, Rebecca," she said, "and you worded your
invitation as nice as anybody could have done. I
wish your aunt Jane and me wasn't both so worthless
with these colds; but it only shows the good
of havin' a clean house, with every room in order,
whether open or shut, and enough victuals cooked
so 't you can't be surprised and belittled by
anybody, whatever happens. There was half a dozen
there that might have entertained the Burches as
easy as not, if they hadn't 'a' been too mean
or lazy. Why didn't your missionaries come right
along with you?"

"They had to go to the station for their valise
and their children."

"Are there children?" groaned Miranda.

"Yes, aunt Miranda, all born under Syrian skies."

"Syrian grandmother!" ejaculated Miranda (and
it was not a fact). "How many?"

"I didn't think to ask; but I will get two rooms
ready, and if there are any over I'll take 'em into
my bed," said Rebecca, secretly hoping that this
would be the case. "Now, as you're both half sick,
couldn't you trust me just once to get ready for the
company? You can come up when I call. Will you?"

"I believe I will," sighed Miranda reluctantly.
"I'll lay down side o' Jane in our bedroom and see
if I can get strength to cook supper. It's half past
three--don't you let me lay a minute past five. I
kep' a good fire in the kitchen stove. I don't know,
I'm sure, why I should have baked a pot o' beans
in the middle of the week, but they'll come in
handy. Father used to say there was nothing that
went right to the spot with returned missionaries
like pork 'n' beans 'n' brown bread. Fix up the two
south chambers, Rebecca."

Rebecca, given a free hand for the only time in her
life, dashed upstairs like a whirlwind. Every room
in the brick house was as neat as wax, and she had
only to pull up the shades, go over the floors with
a whisk broom, and dust the furniture. The aunts
could hear her scurrying to and fro, beating up
pillows and feather beds, flapping towels, jingling
crockery, singing meanwhile in her clear voice:--

"In vain with lavish kindness
The gifts of God are strown;
The heathen in his blindness
Bows down to wood and stone."

She had grown to be a handy little creature, and
tasks she was capable of doing at all she did like
a flash, so that when she called her aunts at five
o'clock to pass judgment, she had accomplished
wonders. There were fresh towels on bureaus and
washstands, the beds were fair and smooth, the
pitchers were filled, and soap and matches were
laid out; newspaper, kindling, and wood were in the
boxes, and a large stick burned slowly in each air-
tight stove. "I thought I'd better just take the
chill off," she explained, "as they're right from
Syria; and that reminds me, I must look it up in
the geography before they get here."

There was nothing to disapprove, so the two
sisters went downstairs to make some slight changes
in their dress. As they passed the parlor door
Miranda thought she heard a crackle and looked in.
The shades were up, there was a cheerful blaze in
the open stove in the front parlor, and a fire laid
on the hearth in the back room. Rebecca's own
lamp, her second Christmas present from Mr. Aladdin,
stood on a marble-topped table in the corner,
the light that came softly through its rose-colored
shade transforming the stiff and gloomy ugliness of
the room into a place where one could sit and love
one's neighbor.

"For massy's sake, Rebecca," called Miss
Miranda up the stairs, "did you think we'd better
open the parlor?"

Rebecca came out on the landing braiding her hair.

"We did on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I
thought this was about as great an occasion," she
said. "I moved the wax flowers off the mantelpiece
so they wouldn't melt, and put the shells, the coral,
and the green stuffed bird on top of the what-not,
so the children wouldn't ask to play with them.
Brother Milliken's coming over to see Mr. Burch
about business, and I shouldn't wonder if Brother
and Sister Cobb happened in. Don't go down
cellar, I'll be there in a minute to do the running."

Miranda and Jane exchanged glances.

"Ain't she the beatin'est creetur that ever was
born int' the world!" exclaimed Miranda; "but she
can turn off work when she's got a mind to!"

At quarter past five everything was ready, and
the neighbors, those at least who were within sight
of the brick house (a prominent object in the
landscape when there were no leaves on the trees),
were curious almost to desperation. Shades up in
both parlors! Shades up in the two south bedrooms!
And fires--if human vision was to be relied
on--fires in about every room. If it had not
been for the kind offices of a lady who had been at
the meeting, and who charitably called in at one or
two houses and explained the reason of all this
preparation, there would have been no sleep in many

The missionary party arrived promptly, and there
were but two children, seven or eight having been
left with the brethren in Portland, to diminish
traveling expenses. Jane escorted them all upstairs,
while Miranda watched the cooking of the supper;
but Rebecca promptly took the two little girls away
from their mother, divested them of their wraps,
smoothed their hair, and brought them down to the
kitchen to smell the beans.

There was a bountiful supper, and the presence
of the young people robbed it of all possible stiffness.
Aunt Jane helped clear the table and put
away the food, while Miranda entertained in the
parlor; but Rebecca and the infant Burches washed
the dishes and held high carnival in the kitchen,
doing only trifling damage--breaking a cup and
plate that had been cracked before, emptying a silver
spoon with some dishwater out of the back door
(an act never permitted at the brick house), and
putting coffee grounds in the sink. All evidences
of crime having been removed by Rebecca, and damages
repaired in all possible cases, the three entered
the parlor, where Mr. and Mrs. Cobb and Deacon
and Mrs. Milliken had already appeared.

It was such a pleasant evening! Occasionally
they left the heathen in his blindness bowing down
to wood and stone, not for long, but just to give
themselves (and him) time enough to breathe, and
then the Burches told strange, beautiful, marvelous
things. The two smaller children sang together,
and Rebecca, at the urgent request of Mrs. Burch,
seated herself at the tinkling old piano and gave
"Wild roved an Indian girl, bright Alfarata" with
considerable spirit and style.

At eight o'clock she crossed the room, handed a
palm-leaf fan to her aunt Miranda, ostensibly that
she might shade her eyes from the lamplight; but
it was a piece of strategy that gave her an opportunity
to whisper, "How about cookies?"

"Do you think it's worth while?" sibilated Miss
Miranda in answer.

"The Perkinses always do."

"All right. You know where they be."

Rebecca moved quietly towards the door, and the
young Burches cataracted after her as if they could
not bear a second's separation. In five minutes
they returned, the little ones bearing plates of thin
caraway wafers,--hearts, diamonds, and circles
daintily sugared, and flecked with caraway seed
raised in the garden behind the house. These were
a specialty of Miss Jane's, and Rebecca carried a
tray with six tiny crystal glasses filled with dandelion
wine, for which Miss Miranda had been famous in
years gone by. Old Deacon Israel had always had
it passed, and he had bought the glasses himself
in Boston. Miranda admired them greatly, not only
for their beauty but because they held so little.
Before their advent the dandelion wine had been served
in sherry glasses.

As soon as these refreshments--commonly
called a "colation" in Riverboro--had been genteelly
partaken of, Rebecca looked at the clock, rose
from her chair in the children's corner, and said
cheerfully, "Come! time for little missionaries to
be in bed!"

Everybody laughed at this, the big missionaries
most of all, as the young people shook hands and
disappeared with Rebecca.



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