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Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm
by Kate Douglas Wiggin

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Your esteemed contribution entitled Wareham
Wildflowers has been accepted for
The Pilot, Miss Perkins," said Rebecca,
entering the room where Emma Jane was darning
the firm's stockings. "I stayed to tea with Miss
Maxwell, but came home early to tell you."

"You are joking, Becky!" faltered Emma Jane,
looking up from her work.

"Not a bit; the senior editor read it and thought
it highly instructive; it appears in the next issue."

"Not in the same number with your poem about
the golden gates that close behind us when we leave
school?"--and Emma Jane held her breath as she
awaited the reply.

"Even so, Miss Perkins."

"Rebecca," said Emma Jane, with the nearest
approach to tragedy that her nature would permit,
"I don't know as I shall be able to bear it, and if
anything happens to me, I ask you solemnly to bury
that number of The Pilot with me."

Rebecca did not seem to think this the expression
of an exaggerated state of feeling, inasmuch as
she replied, "I know; that's just the way it seemed
to me at first, and even now, whenever I'm alone
and take out the Pilot back numbers to read over
my contributions, I almost burst with pleasure; and
it's not that they are good either, for they look
worse to me every time I read them."

"If you would only live with me in some little
house when we get older," mused Emma Jane, as
with her darning needle poised in air she regarded
the opposite wall dreamily, "I would do the housework
and cooking, and copy all your poems and
stories, and take them to the post-office, and you
needn't do anything but write. It would be
perfectly elergant!"

"I'd like nothing better, if I hadn't promised to
keep house for John," replied Rebecca.

"He won't have a house for a good many years, will he?"

"No," sighed Rebecca ruefully, flinging herself
down by the table and resting her head on her hand.
"Not unless we can contrive to pay off that detestable
mortgage. The day grows farther off instead
of nearer now that we haven't paid the interest this year."

She pulled a piece of paper towards her, and
scribbling idly on it read aloud in a moment or two:--

"Will you pay a little faster?" said the mortgage to the farm;
"I confess I'm very tired of this place."
"The weariness is mutual," Rebecca Randall cried;
"I would I'd never gazed upon your face!"

"A note has a `face,'" observed Emma Jane, who
was gifted in arithmetic. "I didn't know that a mortgage had."

"Our mortgage has," said Rebecca revengefully.
"I should know him if I met him in the dark. Wait
and I'll draw him for you. It will be good for you
to know how he looks, and then when you have a
husband and seven children, you won't allow him to
come anywhere within a mile of your farm."

The sketch when completed was of a sort to be
shunned by a timid person on the verge of slumber.
There was a tiny house on the right, and a weeping
family gathered in front of it. The mortgage was
depicted as a cross between a fiend and an ogre,
and held an axe uplifted in his red right hand. A
figure with streaming black locks was staying the
blow, and this, Rebecca explained complacently, was
intended as a likeness of herself, though she was
rather vague as to the method she should use in
attaining her end.

"He's terrible," said Emma Jane, "but awfully
wizened and small."

"It's only a twelve hundred dollar mortgage,"
said Rebecca, "and that's called a small one. John
saw a man once that was mortgaged for twelve thousand."

"Shall you be a writer or an editor?" asked
Emma Jane presently, as if one had only to choose
and the thing were done.

"I shall have to do what turns up first, I suppose."

"Why not go out as a missionary to Syria, as the
Burches are always coaxing you to? The Board
would pay your expenses."

"I can't make up my mind to be a missionary,"
Rebecca answered. "I'm not good enough in the
first place, and I don't `feel a call,' as Mr. Burch
says you must. I would like to do something for
somebody and make things move, somewhere, but
I don't want to go thousands of miles away teaching
people how to live when I haven't learned myself.
It isn't as if the heathen really needed me; I'm
sure they'll come out all right in the end."

"I can't see how; if all the people who ought to
go out to save them stay at home as we do," argued Emma Jane.

"Why, whatever God is, and wherever He is,
He must always be there, ready and waiting. He
can't move about and miss people. It may take
the heathen a little longer to find Him, but God
will make allowances, of course. He knows if they
live in such hot climates it must make them lazy
and slow; and the parrots and tigers and snakes
and bread-fruit trees distract their minds; and
having no books, they can't think as well; but
they'll find God somehow, some time."

"What if they die first?" asked Emma Jane.

"Oh, well, they can't be blamed for that; they
don't die on purpose," said Rebecca, with a
comfortable theology.

In these days Adam Ladd sometimes went to
Temperance on business connected with the proposed
branch of the railroad familiarly known
as the "York and Yank 'em," and while there he
gained an inkling of Sunnybrook affairs. The
building of the new road was not yet a certainty, and
there was a difference of opinion as to the best
route from Temperance to Plumville. In one event
the way would lead directly through Sunnybrook,
from corner to corner, and Mrs. Randall would be
compensated; in the other, her interests would not
be affected either for good or ill, save as all land in
the immediate neighborhood might rise a little in value.

Coming from Temperance to Wareham one day,
Adam had a long walk and talk with Rebecca,
whom he thought looking pale and thin, though
she was holding bravely to her self-imposed hours
of work. She was wearing a black cashmere dress
that had been her aunt Jane's second best. We are
familiar with the heroine of romance whose foot is
so exquisitely shaped that the coarsest shoe cannot
conceal its perfections, and one always cherishes a
doubt of the statement; yet it is true that Rebecca's
peculiar and individual charm seemed wholly
independent of accessories. The lines of her fig-
ure, the rare coloring of skin and hair and eyes,
triumphed over shabby clothing, though, had the
advantage of artistic apparel been given her, the
little world of Wareham would probably at once
have dubbed her a beauty. The long black braids
were now disposed after a quaint fashion of her
own. They were crossed behind, carried up to the
front, and crossed again, the tapering ends finally
brought down and hidden in the thicker part at the
neck. Then a purely feminine touch was given to
the hair that waved back from the face,--a touch
that rescued little crests and wavelets from bondage
and set them free to take a new color in the sun.

Adam Ladd looked at her in a way that made
her put her hands over her face and laugh through
them shyly as she said: "I know what you are
thinking, Mr. Aladdin,--that my dress is an inch
longer than last year, and my hair different; but
I'm not nearly a young lady yet; truly I'm not.
Sixteen is a month off still, and you promised not
to give me up till my dress trails. If you don't like
me to grow old, why don't you grow young? Then
we can meet in the halfway house and have nice
times. Now that I think about it," she continued,
"that's just what you've been doing all along.
When you bought the soap, I thought you were
grandfather Sawyer's age; when you danced with
me at the flag-raising, you seemed like my father;
but when you showed me your mother's picture, I
felt as if you were my John, because I was so sorry for you."

"That will do very well," smiled Adam; "unless
you go so swiftly that you become my grandmother
before I really need one. You are studying too
hard, Miss Rebecca Rowena!"

"Just a little," she confessed. "But vacation
comes soon, you know."

"And are you going to have a good rest and try
to recover your dimples? They are really worth preserving."

A shadow crept over Rebecca's face and her eyes
suffused. "Don't be kind, Mr. Aladdin, I can't bear
it;--it's--it's not one of my dimply days!" and
she ran in at the seminary gate, and disappeared
with a farewell wave of her hand.

Adam Ladd wended his way to the principal's
office in a thoughtful mood. He had come to Wareham
to unfold a plan that he had been considering
for several days. This year was the fiftieth
anniversary of the founding of the Wareham schools,
and he meant to tell Mr. Morrison that in addition
to his gift of a hundred volumes to the reference
library, he intended to celebrate it by offering prizes
in English composition, a subject in which he was
much interested. He wished the boys and girls of
the two upper classes to compete; the award to be
made to the writers of the two best essays. As to
the nature of the prizes he had not quite made up
his mind, but they would be substantial ones, either
of money or of books.

This interview accomplished, he called upon Miss
Maxwell, thinking as he took the path through the
woods, "Rose-Red-Snow-White needs the help, and
since there is no way of my giving it to her without
causing remark, she must earn it, poor little soul!
I wonder if my money is always to be useless where
most I wish to spend it!"

He had scarcely greeted his hostess when he
said: "Miss Maxwell, doesn't it strike you that
our friend Rebecca looks wretchedly tired?"

"She does indeed, and I am considering whether
I can take her away with me. I always go South
for the spring vacation, traveling by sea to Old
Point Comfort, and rusticating in some quiet spot
near by. I should like nothing better than to have
Rebecca for a companion."

"The very thing!" assented Adam heartily;
"but why should you take the whole responsibility?
Why not let me help? I am greatly interested in
the child, and have been for some years."

"You needn't pretend you discovered her,"
interrupted Miss Maxwell warmly, "for I did that myself."

"She was an intimate friend of mine long before
you ever came to Wareham," laughed Adam, and
he told Miss Maxwell the circumstances of his first
meeting with Rebecca. "From the beginning I've
tried to think of a way I could be useful in her
development, but no reasonable solution seemed to
offer itself."

"Luckily she attends to her own development,"
answered Miss Maxwell. "In a sense she is
independent of everything and everybody; she follows
her saint without being conscious of it. But she
needs a hundred practical things that money would
buy for her, and alas! I have a slender purse."

"Take mine, I beg, and let me act through you,"
pleaded Adam. "I could not bear to see even a
young tree trying its best to grow without light or
air,--how much less a gifted child! I interviewed
her aunts a year ago, hoping I might be permitted
to give her a musical education. I assured them it
was a most ordinary occurrence, and that I was willing
to be repaid later on if they insisted, but it was
no use. The elder Miss Sawyer remarked that no
member of her family ever had lived on charity,
and she guessed they wouldn't begin at this late day."

"I rather like that uncompromising New England
grit," exclaimed Miss Maxwell, "and so far, I
don't regret one burden that Rebecca has borne or
one sorrow that she has shared. Necessity has only
made her brave; poverty has only made her daring
and self-reliant. As to her present needs, there
are certain things only a woman ought to do for a
girl, and I should not like to have you do them for
Rebecca; I should feel that I was wounding her
pride and self-respect, even though she were ignorant;
but there is no reason why I may not do them
if necessary and let you pay her traveling expenses.
I would accept those for her without the slightest
embarrassment, but I agree that the matter would
better be kept private between us."

"You are a real fairy godmother!" exclaimed
Adam, shaking her hand warmly. "Would it be
less trouble for you to invite her room-mate too,--
the pink-and-white inseparable?"

"No, thank you, I prefer to have Rebecca all to
myself," said Miss Maxwell.

"I can understand that," replied Adam absent-
mindedly; "I mean, of course, that one child is less
trouble than two. There she is now."

Here Rebecca appeared in sight, walking down
the quiet street with a lad of sixteen. They were in
animated conversation, and were apparently reading
something aloud to each other, for the black head
and the curly brown one were both bent over a sheet
of letter paper. Rebecca kept glancing up at her
companion, her eyes sparkling with appreciation.

"Miss Maxwell," said Adam, "I am a trustee of
this institution, but upon my word I don't believe in

"I have my own occasional hours of doubt," she
answered, "but surely its disadvantages are reduced
to a minimum with--children! That is a very im-
pressive sight which you are privileged to witness,
Mr. Ladd. The folk in Cambridge often gloated
on the spectacle of Longfellow and Lowell arm in
arm. The little school world of Wareham palpitates
with excitement when it sees the senior and
the junior editors of The Pilot walking together!"



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