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| Home | Reading Room Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm

Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm
by Kate Douglas Wiggin

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The day before Rebecca started for the
South with Miss Maxwell she was in the
library with Emma Jane and Huldah,
consulting dictionaries and encyclopaedias. As they
were leaving they passed the locked cases containing
the library of fiction, open to the teachers and
townspeople, but forbidden to the students.

They looked longingly through the glass, getting
some little comfort from the titles of the volumes,
as hungry children imbibe emotional nourishment
from the pies and tarts inside a confectioner's window.
Rebecca's eyes fell upon a new book in the
corner, and she read the name aloud with delight:
"_The Rose of Joy_. Listen, girls; isn't that lovely?
_The Rose of Joy_. It looks beautiful, and it sounds
beautiful. What does it mean, I wonder?"

"I guess everybody has a different rose," said
Huldah shrewdly. "I know what mine would be,
and I'm not ashamed to own it. I'd like a year
in a city, with just as much money as I wanted
to spend, horses and splendid clothes and amusements
every minute of the day; and I'd like above
everything to live with people that wear low
necks." (Poor Huldah never took off her dress with-
out bewailing the fact that her lot was cast in
Riverboro, where her pretty white shoulders could
never be seen.)

"That would be fun, for a while anyway," Emma
Jane remarked. "But wouldn't that be pleasure
more than joy? Oh, I've got an idea!"

"Don't shriek so!" said the startled Huldah.
"I thought it was a mouse."

"I don't have them very often," apologized Emma
Jane,--"ideas, I mean; this one shook me like
a stroke of lightning. Rebecca, couldn't it be success?"

"That's good," mused Rebecca; "I can see that
success would be a joy, but it doesn't seem to me
like a rose, somehow. I was wondering if it could be love?"

"I wish we could have a peep at the book! It
must be perfectly elergant!" said Emma Jane.
"But now you say it is love, I think that's the best guess yet."

All day long the four words haunted and possessed
Rebecca; she said them over to herself continually.
Even the prosaic Emma Jane was affected
by them, for in the evening she said, "I don't
expect you to believe it, but I have another idea,--
that's two in one day; I had it while I was putting
cologne on your head. The rose of joy might be

"If it is, then it is always blooming in your dear
little heart, you darlingest, kind Emmie, taking
such good care of your troublesome Becky!"

"Don't dare to call yourself troublesome! You're
--you're--you're my rose of joy, that's what you
are!" And the two girls hugged each other affectionately.

In the middle of the night Rebecca touched
Emma Jane on the shoulder softly. "Are you very
fast asleep, Emmie?" she whispered.

"Not so very," answered Emma Jane drowsily.

"I've thought of something new. If you sang or
painted or wrote,--not a little, but beautifully, you
know,--wouldn't the doing of it, just as much as
you wanted, give you the rose of joy?"

"It might if it was a real talent," answered Emma
Jane, "though I don't like it so well as love. If you
have another thought, Becky, keep it till morning."

"I did have one more inspiration," said Rebecca
when they were dressing next morning, "but I
didn't wake you. I wondered if the rose of joy
could be sacrifice? But I think sacrifice would be
a lily, not a rose; don't you?"

The journey southward, the first glimpse of the
ocean, the strange new scenes, the ease and delicious
freedom, the intimacy with Miss Maxwell,
almost intoxicated Rebecca. In three days she was
not only herself again, she was another self, thrilling
with delight, anticipation, and realization. She
had always had such eager hunger for knowledge,
such thirst for love, such passionate longing for the
music, the beauty, the poetry of existence! She
had always been straining to make the outward
world conform to her inward dreams, and now life
had grown all at once rich and sweet, wide and full.
She was using all her natural, God-given outlets;
and Emily Maxwell marveled daily at the inexhaustible
way in which the girl poured out and gathered
in the treasures of thought and experience that
belonged to her. She was a lifegiver, altering the
whole scheme of any picture she made a part of,
by contributing new values. Have you never seen
the dull blues and greens of a room changed,
transfigured by a burst of sunshine? That seemed to
Miss Maxwell the effect of Rebecca on the groups of
people with whom they now and then mingled; but
they were commonly alone, reading to each other
and having quiet talks. The prize essay was very
much on Rebecca's mind. Secretly she thought
she could never be happy unless she won it. She
cared nothing for the value of it, and in this case
almost nothing for the honor; she wanted to please
Mr. Aladdin and justify his belief in her.

"If I ever succeed in choosing a subject, I must
ask if you think I can write well on it; and then
I suppose I must work in silence and secret, never
even reading the essay to you, nor talking about it."

Miss Maxwell and Rebecca were sitting by a little
brook on a sunny spring day. They had been in a
stretch of wood by the sea since breakfast, going
every now and then for a bask on the warm white
sand, and returning to their shady solitude when
tired of the sun's glare.

"The subject is very important," said Miss
Maxwell, "but I do not dare choose for you. Have you
decided on anything yet?"

"No," Rebecca answered; "I plan a new essay
every night. I've begun one on What is Failure?
and another on He and She. That would be a
dialogue between a boy and girl just as they were
leaving school, and would tell their ideals of life.
Then do you remember you said to me one day,
`Follow your Saint'? I'd love to write about that.
I didn't have a single thought in Wareham, and
now I have a new one every minute, so I must try
and write the essay here; think it out, at any rate,
while I am so happy and free and rested. Look at
the pebbles in the bottom of the pool, Miss Emily,
so round and smooth and shining."

"Yes, but where did they get that beautiful
polish, that satin skin, that lovely shape, Rebecca?
Not in the still pool lying on the sands. It was
never there that their angles were rubbed off and
their rough surfaces polished, but in the strife and
warfare of running waters. They have jostled
against other pebbles, dashed against sharp rocks,
and now we look at them and call them beautiful."

"If Fate had not made somebody a teacher,
She might have been, oh! such a splendid preacher!"

rhymed Rebecca. "Oh! if I could only think and
speak as you do!" she sighed. "I am so afraid I
shall never get education enough to make a good writer."

"You could worry about plenty of other things
to better advantage," said Miss Maxwell, a little
scornfully. "Be afraid, for instance, that you won't
understand human nature; that you won't realize
the beauty of the outer world; that you may lack
sympathy, and thus never be able to read a heart;
that your faculty of expression may not keep pace
with your ideas,--a thousand things, every one of
them more important to the writer than the knowledge
that is found in books. AEsop was a Greek
slave who could not even write down his wonderful
fables; yet all the world reads them."

"I didn't know that," said Rebecca, with a half
sob. "I didn't know anything until I met you!"

"You will only have had a high school course, but
the most famous universities do not always succeed
in making men and women. When I long to go
abroad and study, I always remember that there
were three great schools in Athens and two in
Jerusalem, but the Teacher of all teachers came out of
Nazareth, a little village hidden away from the bigger,
busier world."

"Mr. Ladd says that you are almost wasted on
Wareham." said Rebecca thoughtfully.

"He is wrong; my talent is not a great one, but
no talent is wholly wasted unless its owner chooses
to hide it in a napkin. Remember that of your own
gifts, Rebecca; they may not be praised of men, but
they may cheer, console, inspire, perhaps, when and
where you least expect. The brimming glass that
overflows its own rim moistens the earth about it."

"Did you ever hear of The Rose of Joy?" asked
Rebecca, after a long silence.

"Yes, of course; where did you see it?"

"On the outside of a book in the library."

"I saw it on the inside of a book in the library,"
smiled Miss Maxwell. "It is from Emerson, but
I'm afraid you haven't quite grown up to it,
Rebecca, and it is one of the things impossible to explain."

"Oh, try me, dear Miss Maxwell!" pleaded
Rebecca. "Perhaps by thinking hard I can guess a
little bit what it means."

"`In the actual--this painful kingdom of time
and chance--are Care, Canker, and Sorrow; with
thought, with the Ideal, is immortal hilarity--the
rose of Joy; round it all the Muses sing,'" quoted Miss Maxwell.

Rebecca repeated it over and over again until she
had learned it by heart; then she said, "I don't
want to be conceited, but I almost believe I do
understand it, Miss Maxwell. Not altogether, perhaps,
because it is puzzling and difficult; but a little,
enough to go on with. It's as if a splendid shape
galloped past you on horseback; you are so surprised
and your eyes move so slowly you cannot
half see it, but you just catch a glimpse as it whisks
by, and you know it is beautiful. It's all settled.
My essay is going to be called The Rose of Joy.
I've just decided. It hasn't any beginning, nor any
middle, but there will be a thrilling ending,
something like this: let me see; joy, boy, toy, ahoy,
decoy, alloy:--

Then come what will of weal or woe
(Since all gold hath alloy),
Thou 'lt bloom unwithered in this heart,
My Rose of Joy!

Now I'm going to tuck you up in the shawl and
give you the fir pillow, and while you sleep I am
going down on the shore and write a fairy story for
you. It's one of our `supposing' kind; it flies far,
far into the future, and makes beautiful things happen
that may never really all come to pass; but
some of them will,--you'll see! and then you'll
take out the little fairy story from your desk and
remember Rebecca."

"I wonder why these young things always choose
subjects that would tax the powers of a great
essayist!" thought Miss Maxwell, as she tried to sleep.
"Are they dazzled, captivated, taken possession of,
by the splendor of the theme, and do they fancy
they can write up to it? Poor little innocents, hitch-
ing their toy wagons to the stars! How pretty this
particular innocent looks under her new sunshade!"

Adam Ladd had been driving through Boston
streets on a cold spring day when nature and the
fashion-mongers were holding out promises which
seemed far from performance. Suddenly his vision
was assailed by the sight of a rose-colored parasol
gayly unfurled in a shop window, signaling the
passer-by and setting him to dream of summer
sunshine. It reminded Adam of a New England apple-
tree in full bloom, the outer covering of deep pink
shining through the thin white lining, and a fluffy,
fringe-like edge of mingled rose and cream dropping
over the green handle. All at once he remembered
one of Rebecca's early confidences,--the little pink
sunshade that had given her the only peep into the
gay world of fashion that her childhood had ever
known; her adoration of the flimsy bit of finery and
its tragic and sacrificial end. He entered the shop,
bought the extravagant bauble, and expressed it to
Wareham at once, not a single doubt of its
appropriateness crossing the darkness of his masculine
mind. He thought only of the joy in Rebecca's
eyes; of the poise of her head under the apple-blossom
canopy. It was a trifle embarrassing to return
an hour later and buy a blue parasol for Emma Jane
Perkins, but it seemed increasingly difficult, as the
years went on, to remember her existence at all
the proper times and seasons.

This is Rebecca's fairy story, copied the next day
and given to Emily Maxwell just as she was going to
her room for the night. She read it with tears in her
eyes and then sent it to Adam Ladd, thinking he had
earned a share in it, and that he deserved a glimpse
of the girl's budding imagination, as well as of her
grateful young heart.


There was once a tired and rather poverty-
stricken Princess who dwelt in a cottage on the
great highway between two cities. She was not as
unhappy as thousands of others; indeed, she had
much to be grateful for, but the life she lived and
the work she did were full hard for one who was
fashioned slenderly.

Now the cottage stood by the edge of a great
green forest where the wind was always singing
in the branches and the sunshine filtering through
the leaves.

And one day when the Princess was sitting by the
wayside quite spent by her labor in the fields, she
saw a golden chariot rolling down the King's Highway,
and in it a person who could be none other than
somebody's Fairy Godmother on her way to the
Court. The chariot halted at her door, and though
the Princess had read of such beneficent personages,
she never dreamed for an instant that one of them
could ever alight at her cottage.

"If you are tired, poor little Princess, why do you
not go into the cool green forest and rest?" asked
the Fairy Godmother.

"Because I have no time," she answered. "I
must go back to my plough."

"Is that your plough leaning by the tree, and is
it not too heavy?"

"It is heavy," answered the Princess, "but I love
to turn the hard earth into soft furrows and know
that I am making good soil wherein my seeds may
grow. When I feel the weight too much, I try to
think of the harvest."

The golden chariot passed on, and the two talked
no more together that day; nevertheless the King's
messengers were busy, for they whispered one word
into the ear of the Fairy Godmother and another
into the ear of the Princess, though so faintly that
neither of them realized that the King had spoken.

The next morning a strong man knocked at the
cottage door, and doffing his hat to the Princess
said: "A golden chariot passed me yesterday, and
one within it flung me a purse of ducats, saying:
`Go out into the King's Highway and search until
you find a cottage and a heavy plough leaning against
a tree near by. Enter and say to the Princess whom
you will find there: "I will guide the plough and
you must go and rest, or walk in the cool green
forest; for this is the command of your Fairy Godmother."'"

And the same thing happened every day, and
every day the tired Princess walked in the green
wood. Many times she caught the glitter of the
chariot and ran into the Highway to give thanks
to the Fairy Godmother; but she was never fleet
enough to reach the spot. She could only stand
with eager eyes and longing heart as the chariot
passed by. Yet she never failed to catch a smile,
and sometimes a word or two floated back to her,
words that sounded like: "I would not be thanked.
We are all children of the same King, and I am only
his messenger."

Now as the Princess walked daily in the green
forest, hearing the wind singing in the branches and
seeing the sunlight filter through the lattice-work of
green leaves, there came unto her thoughts that had
lain asleep in the stifling air of the cottage and the
weariness of guiding the plough. And by and by
she took a needle from her girdle and pricked the
thoughts on the leaves of the trees and sent them
into the air to float hither and thither. And it came
to pass that people began to pick them up, and holding
them against the sun, to read what was written
on them, and this was because the simple little
words on the leaves were only, after all, a part of
one of the King's messages, such as the Fairy Godmother
dropped continually from her golden chariot.

But the miracle of the story lies deeper than all this.

Whenever the Princess pricked the words upon
the leaves she added a thought of her Fairy Godmother,
and folding it close within, sent the leaf out
on the breeze to float hither and thither and fall
where it would. And many other little Princesses
felt the same impulse and did the same thing. And
as nothing is ever lost in the King's Dominion, so
these thoughts and wishes and hopes, being full
of love and gratitude, had no power to die, but took
unto themselves other shapes and lived on forever.
They cannot be seen, our vision is too weak; nor
heard, our hearing is too dull; but they can sometimes
be felt, and we know not what force is stirring
our hearts to nobler aims.

The end of the story is not come, but it may be
that some day when the Fairy Godmother has a message
to deliver in person straight to the King, he will
say: "Your face I know; your voice, your thoughts,
and your heart. I have heard the rumble of your
chariot wheels on the great Highway, and I knew
that you were on the King's business. Here in my
hand is a sheaf of messages from every quarter of
my kingdom. They were delivered by weary and
footsore travelers, who said that they could never
have reached the gate in safety had it not been for
your help and inspiration. Read them, that you
may know when and where and how you sped the
King's service."

And when the Fairy Godmother reads them, it
may be that sweet odors will rise from the pages,
and half-forgotten memories will stir the air; but
in the gladness of the moment nothing will be half
so lovely as the voice of the King when he said:
"Read, and know how you sped the King's service."

Rebecca Rowena Randall



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