TWT logo

Together We Teach
Reading Room

Take time to read.
Reading is the
fountain of wisdom.

| Home | Reading Room Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm

Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm
by Kate Douglas Wiggin

< BACK    NEXT >





The first happy year at Wareham, with
its widened sky-line, its larger vision, its
greater opportunity, was over and gone.
Rebecca had studied during the summer vacation,
and had passed, on her return in the autumn,
certain examinations which would enable her, if she
carried out the same programme the next season,
to complete the course in three instead of four
years. She came off with no flying colors,--that
would have been impossible in consideration of her
inadequate training; but she did wonderfully well
in some of the required subjects, and so brilliantly
in others that the average was respectable. She
would never have been a remarkable scholar under
any circumstances, perhaps, and she was easily out-
stripped in mathematics and the natural sciences
by a dozen girls, but in some inexplicable way she
became, as the months went on, the foremost figure
in the school. When she had entirely forgotten the
facts which would enable her to answer a question
fully and conclusively, she commonly had some
original theory to expound; it was not always
correct, but it was generally unique and sometimes
amusing. She was only fair in Latin or French
grammar, but when it came to translation, her freedom,
her choice of words, and her sympathetic
understanding of the spirit of the text made her the
delight of her teachers and the despair of her rivals.

"She can be perfectly ignorant of a subject,'
said Miss Maxwell to Adam Ladd, "but entirely
intelligent the moment she has a clue. Most of the
other girls are full of information and as stupid as sheep."

Rebecca's gifts had not been discovered save by
the few, during the first year, when she was adjusting
herself quietly to the situation. She was distinctly
one of the poorer girls; she had no fine
dresses to attract attention, no visitors, no friends
in the town. She had more study hours, and less
time, therefore, for the companionship of other girls,
gladly as she would have welcomed the gayety of
that side of school life. Still, water will find its own
level in some way, and by the spring of the second
year she had naturally settled into the same sort of
leadership which had been hers in the smaller
community of Riverboro. She was unanimously elected
assistant editor of the Wareham School Pilot, being
the first girl to assume that enviable, though somewhat
arduous and thankless position, and when her
maiden number went to the Cobbs, uncle Jerry and
aunt Sarah could hardly eat or sleep for pride.

"She'll always get votes," said Huldah Meserve,
when discussing the election, "for whether she
knows anything or not, she looks as if she did, and
whether she's capable of filling an office or not, she
looks as if she was. I only wish I was tall and dark
and had the gift of making people believe I was
great things, like Rebecca Randall. There's one
thing: though the boys call her handsome, you
notice they don't trouble her with much attention."

It was a fact that Rebecca's attitude towards the
opposite sex was still somewhat indifferent and
oblivious, even for fifteen and a half! No one could
look at her and doubt that she had potentialities of
attraction latent within her somewhere, but that side
of her nature was happily biding its time. A human
being is capable only of a certain amount of activity
at a given moment, and it will inevitably satisfy
first its most pressing needs, its most ardent desires,
its chief ambitions. Rebecca was full of small
anxieties and fears, for matters were not going well
at the brick house and were anything but hopeful
at the home farm. She was overbusy and overtaxed,
and her thoughts were naturally drawn towards the
difficult problems of daily living.

It had seemed to her during the autumn and
winter of that year as if her aunt Miranda had
never been, save at the very first, so censorious and
so fault-finding. One Saturday Rebecca ran upstairs
and, bursting into a flood of tears, exclaimed,
"Aunt Jane, it seems as if I never could stand her
continual scoldings. Nothing I can do suits aunt
Miranda; she's just said it will take me my whole
life to get the Randall out of me, and I'm not
convinced that I want it all out, so there we are!"

Aunt Jane, never demonstrative, cried with
Rebecca as she attempted to soothe her.

"You must be patient," she said, wiping first her
own eyes and then Rebecca's. "I haven't told you,
for it isn't fair you should be troubled when you're
studying so hard, but your aunt Miranda isn't well.
One Monday morning about a month ago, she had
a kind of faint spell; it wasn't bad, but the doctor
is afraid it was a shock, and if so, it's the beginning
of the end. Seems to me she's failing right along,
and that's what makes her so fretful and easy vexed.
She has other troubles too, that you don't know
anything about, and if you're not kind to your aunt
Miranda now, child, you'll be dreadful sorry some time."

All the temper faded from Rebecca's face, and
she stopped crying to say penitently, "Oh! the poor
dear thing! I won't mind a bit what she says now.
She's just asked me for some milk toast and I
was dreading to take it to her, but this will make
everything different. Don't worry yet, aunt Jane,
for perhaps it won't be as bad as you think."

So when she carried the toast to her aunt a little
later, it was in the best gilt-edged china bowl, with
a fringed napkin on the tray and a sprig of geranium
lying across the salt cellar.

"Now, aunt Miranda," she said cheerily, "I expect
you to smack your lips and say this is good; it's not
Randall, but Sawyer milk toast."

"You've tried all kinds on me, one time an'
another," Miranda answered. "This tastes real
kind o' good; but I wish you hadn't wasted that
nice geranium."

"You can't tell what's wasted," said Rebecca
philosophically; "perhaps that geranium has been
hoping this long time it could brighten somebody's
supper, so don't disappoint it by making believe you
don't like it. I've seen geraniums cry,--in the very
early morning!"

The mysterious trouble to which Jane had alluded
was a very real one, but it was held in profound
secrecy. Twenty-five hundred dollars of the small
Sawyer property had been invested in the business
of a friend of their father's, and had returned them
a regular annual income of a hundred dollars. The
family friend had been dead for some five years,
but his son had succeeded to his interests and all
went on as formerly. Suddenly there came a letter
saying that the firm had gone into bankruptcy,
that the business had been completely wrecked, and
that the Sawyer money had been swept away with
everything else.

The loss of one hundred dollars a year is a very
trifling matter, but it made all the difference between
comfort and self-denial to the two old spinsters
Their manner of life had been so rigid and careful
that it was difficult to economize any further, and the
blow had fallen just when it was most inconvenient,
for Rebecca's school and boarding expenses, small
as they were, had to be paid promptly and in cash.

"Can we possibly go on doing it? Shan't we
have to give up and tell her why?" asked Jane
tearfully of the elder sister.

"We have put our hand to the plough, and we
can't turn back," answered Miranda in her grimmest
tone; "we've taken her away from her mother
and offered her an education, and we've got to keep
our word. She's Aurelia's only hope for years to
come, to my way o' thinkin'. Hannah's beau takes
all her time 'n' thought, and when she gits a
husband her mother'll be out o' sight and out o' mind.
John, instead of farmin', thinks he must be a doctor,--
as if folks wasn't gettin' unhealthy enough
these days, without turnin' out more young doctors
to help 'em into their graves. No, Jane; we'll skimp
'n' do without, 'n' plan to git along on our interest
money somehow, but we won't break into our principal,
whatever happens."

"Breaking into the principal" was, in the minds
of most thrifty New England women, a sin only
second to arson, theft, or murder; and, though the
rule was occasionally carried too far for common
sense,--as in this case, where two elderly women
of sixty might reasonably have drawn something
from their little hoard in time of special need,--it
doubtless wrought more of good than evil in the community.

Rebecca, who knew nothing of their business
affairs, merely saw her aunts grow more and more
saving, pinching here and there, cutting off this
and that relentlessly. Less meat and fish were
bought; the woman who had lately been coming
two days a week for washing, ironing, and scrubbing
was dismissed; the old bonnets of the season
before were brushed up and retrimmed; there were
no drives to Moderation or trips to Portland. Economy
was carried to its very extreme; but though
Miranda was well-nigh as gloomy and uncompromising
in her manner and conversation as a woman could
well be, she at least never twitted her niece of being
a burden; so Rebecca's share of the Sawyers'
misfortunes consisted only in wearing her old dresses,
hats, and jackets, without any apparent hope of a change.

There was, however, no concealing the state of
things at Sunnybrook, where chapters of accidents
had unfolded themselves in a sort of serial story that
had run through the year. The potato crop had
failed; there were no apples to speak of; the hay
had been poor; Aurelia had turns of dizziness in
her head; Mark had broken his ankle. As this was
his fourth offense, Miranda inquired how many
bones there were in the human body, "so 't they'd
know when Mark got through breakin' 'em." The
time for paying the interest on the mortgage, that
incubus that had crushed all the joy out of the
Randall household, had come and gone, and there
was no possibility, for the first time in fourteen
years, of paying the required forty-eight dollars.
The only bright spot in the horizon was Hannah's
engagement to Will Melville,--a young farmer
whose land joined Sunnybrook, who had a good
house, was alone in the world, and his own master.
Hannah was so satisfied with her own unexpectedly
radiant prospects that she hardly realized her mother's
anxieties; for there are natures which flourish,
in adversity, and deteriorate when exposed to sudden
prosperity. She had made a visit of a week at
the brick house; and Miranda's impression, conveyed
in privacy to Jane, was that Hannah was close
as the bark of a tree, and consid'able selfish too;
that when she'd clim' as fur as she could in the
world, she'd kick the ladder out from under her,
everlastin' quick; that, on being sounded as to her
ability to be of use to the younger children in the
future, she said she guessed she'd done her share
a'ready, and she wan't goin' to burden Will with
her poor relations. "She's Susan Randall through
and through!" ejaculated Miranda. "I was glad to
see her face turned towards Temperance. If that
mortgage is ever cleared from the farm, 't won't be
Hannah that'll do it; it'll be Rebecca or me!"



Top of Page

< BACK    NEXT >

| Home | Reading Room Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm





Why not spread the word about Together We Teach?
Simply copy & paste our home page link below into your emails... 

Want the Together We Teach link to place on your website?
Copy & paste either home page link on your webpage...
Together We Teach 






Use these free website tools below for a more powerful experience at Together We Teach!

****Google™ search****

For a more specific search, try using quotation marks around phrases (ex. "You are what you read")


*** Google Translate™ translation service ***

 Translate text:


  Translate a web page:

****What's the Definition?****
(Simply insert the word you want to lookup)

 Search:   for   

S D Glass Enterprises

Privacy Policy

Warner Robins, GA, USA