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Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm
by Kate Douglas Wiggin

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A year had elapsed since Adam Ladd's
prize had been discussed over the teacups
in Riverboro. The months had come and
gone, and at length the great day had dawned for
Rebecca,--the day to which she had been looking
forward for five years, as the first goal to be reached
on her little journey through the world. School-
days were ended, and the mystic function known
to the initiated as "graduation" was about to be
celebrated; it was even now heralded by the sun
dawning in the eastern sky. Rebecca stole softly
out of bed, crept to the window, threw open the
blinds, and welcomed the rosy light that meant a
cloudless morning. Even the sun looked different
somehow,--larger, redder, more important than
usual; and if it were really so, there was no member
of the graduating class who would have thought
it strange or unbecoming, in view of all the
circumstances. Emma Jane stirred on her pillow,
woke, and seeing Rebecca at the window, came and
knelt on the floor beside her. "It's going to be
pleasant!" she sighed gratefully. "If it wasn't
wicked, I could thank the Lord, I'm so relieved in
mind! Did you sleep?"

"Not much; the words of my class poem kept
running through my head, and the accompaniments
of the songs; and worse than anything, Mary
Queen of Scots' prayer in Latin; it seemed as if

"`Adoro, imploro,
Ut liberes me!'

were burned into my brain."

No one who is unfamiliar with life in rural
neighborhoods can imagine the gravity, the importance,
the solemnity of this last day of school. In
the matter of preparation, wealth of detail, and general
excitement it far surpasses a wedding; for that
is commonly a simple affair in the country, sometimes
even beginning and ending in a visit to the
parsonage. Nothing quite equals graduation in the
minds of the graduates themselves, their families,
and the younger students, unless it be the inauguration
of a governor at the State Capitol. Wareham,
then, was shaken to its very centre on this
day of days. Mothers and fathers of the scholars,
as well as relatives to the remotest generation, had
been coming on the train and driving into the town
since breakfast time; old pupils, both married and
single, with and without families, streamed back to
the dear old village. The two livery stables were
crowded with vehicles of all sorts, and lines of buggies
and wagons were drawn up along the sides of
the shady roads, the horses switching their tails in
luxurious idleness. The streets were filled with
people wearing their best clothes, and the fashions
included not only "the latest thing," but the well
preserved relic of a bygone day. There were all
sorts and conditions of men and women, for there
were sons and daughters of storekeepers, lawyers,
butchers, doctors, shoemakers, professors, ministers,
and farmers at the Wareham schools, either
as boarders or day scholars. In the seminary building
there was an excitement so deep and profound
that it expressed itself in a kind of hushed silence,
a transient suspension of life, as those most interested
approached the crucial moment. The feminine
graduates-to-be were seated in their own
bedrooms, dressed with a completeness of detail
to which all their past lives seemed to have been
but a prelude. At least, this was the case with their
bodies; but their heads, owing to the extreme heat
of the day, were one and all ornamented with leads,
or papers, or dozens of little braids, to issue later
in every sort of curl known to the girl of that
period. Rolling the hair on leads or papers was a
favorite method of attaining the desired result, and
though it often entailed a sleepless night, there
were those who gladly paid the price. Others, in
whose veins the blood of martyrs did not flow,
substituted rags for leads and pretended that they
made a more natural and less woolly curl. Heat,
however, will melt the proudest head and reduce
to fiddling strings the finest product of the waving-
pin; so anxious mothers were stationed over
their offspring, waving palm-leaf fans, it having
been decided that the supreme instant when the
town clock struck ten should be the one chosen
for releasing the prisoners from their self-imposed tortures.

Dotted or plain Swiss muslin was the favorite
garb, though there were those who were steaming
in white cashmere or alpaca, because in some cases
such frocks were thought more useful afterwards.
Blue and pink waist ribbons were lying over the
backs of chairs, and the girl who had a Roman
sash was praying that she might be kept from
vanity and pride.

The way to any graduating dress at all had not
seemed clear to Rebecca until a month before.
Then, in company with Emma Jane, she visited the
Perkins attic, found piece after piece of white butter-
muslin or cheesecloth, and decided that, at a
pinch, it would do. The "rich blacksmith's daughter"
cast the thought of dotted Swiss behind her,
and elected to follow Rebecca in cheesecloth as
she had in higher matters; straightway devising
costumes that included such drawing of threads,
such hemstitching and pin-tucking, such insertions
of fine thread tatting that, in order to be finished,
Rebecca's dress was given out in sections,--the
sash to Hannah, waist and sleeves to Mrs. Cobb,
and skirt to aunt Jane. The stitches that went
into the despised material, worth only three or
four pennies a yard, made the dresses altogether
lovely, and as for the folds and lines into which
they fell, they could have given points to satins
and brocades.

The two girls were waiting in their room alone,
Emma Jane in rather a tearful state of mind. She
kept thinking that it was the last day that they
would be together in this altogether sweet and
close intimacy. The beginning of the end seemed
to have dawned, for two positions had been offered
Rebecca by Mr. Morrison the day before: one in
which she would play for singing and calisthenics,
and superintend the piano practice of the younger
girls in a boarding-school; the other an assistant's
place in the Edgewood High School. Both were
very modest as to salary, but the former included
educational advantages that Miss Maxwell thought
might be valuable.

Rebecca's mood had passed from that of excitement
into a sort of exaltation, and when the first
bell rang through the corridors announcing that in
five minutes the class would proceed in a body to
the church for the exercises, she stood motionless
and speechless at the window with her hand on her heart.

"It is coming, Emmie," she said presently; "do
you remember in The Mill on the Floss, when
Maggie Tulliver closed the golden gates of childhood
behind her? I can almost see them swing;
almost hear them clang; and I can't tell whether I
am glad or sorry."

"I shouldn't care how they swung or clanged,"
said Emma Jane, "if only you and I were on the
same side of the gate; but we shan't be, I know we shan't!"

"Emmie, don't dare to cry, for I'm just on the
brink myself! If only you were graduating with
me; that's my only sorrow! There! I hear the
rumble of the wheels! People will be seeing our
grand surprise now! Hug me once for luck, dear
Emmie; a careful hug, remembering our butter-
muslin frailty!"

Ten minutes later, Adam Ladd, who had just
arrived from Portland and was wending his way to
the church, came suddenly into the main street and
stopped short under a tree by the wayside, riveted
to the spot by a scene of picturesque loveliness
such as his eyes had seldom witnessed before. The
class of which Rebecca was president was not
likely to follow accepted customs. Instead of marching
two by two from the seminary to the church,
they had elected to proceed thither by royal chariot.
A haycart had been decked with green vines and
bunches of long-stemmed field daisies, those gay
darlings of New England meadows. Every inch of
the rail, the body, even the spokes, all were twined
with yellow and green and white. There were two
white horses, flower-trimmed reins, and in the floral
bower, seated on maple boughs, were the twelve
girls of the class, while the ten boys marched on
either side of the vehicle, wearing buttonhole
bouquets of daisies, the class flower.

Rebecca drove, seated on a green-covered bench
that looked not unlike a throne. No girl clad
in white muslin, no happy girl of seventeen, is
plain; and the twelve little country maids, from
the vantage ground of their setting, looked
beautiful, as the June sunlight filtered down on their
uncovered heads, showing their bright eyes, their
fresh cheeks, their smiles, and their dimples.

Rebecca, Adam thought, as he took off his hat
and saluted the pretty panorama,--Rebecca, with
her tall slenderness, her thoughtful brow, the fire
of young joy in her face, her fillet of dark braided
hair, might have been a young Muse or Sibyl; and
the flowery hayrack, with its freight of blooming
girlhood, might have been painted as an allegorical
picture of The Morning of Life. It all passed him,
as he stood under the elms in the old village street
where his mother had walked half a century ago,
and he was turning with the crowd towards the
church when he heard a little sob. Behind a hedge
in the garden near where he was standing was a
forlorn person in white, whose neat nose, chestnut
hair, and blue eyes he seemed to know. He stepped
inside the gate and said, "What's wrong, Miss Emma?"

"Oh, is it you, Mr. Ladd? Rebecca wouldn't
let me cry for fear of spoiling my looks, but I must
have just one chance before I go in. I can be as
homely as I like, after all, for I only have to sing
with the school; I'm not graduating, I'm just
leaving! Not that I mind that; it's only being
separated from Rebecca that I never can stand!"

The two walked along together, Adam comforting
the disconsolate Emma Jane, until they reached
the old meeting-house where the Commencement
exercises were always held. The interior, with
its decorations of yellow, green, and white, was
crowded, the air hot and breathless, the essays and
songs and recitations precisely like all others that
have been since the world began. One always fears
that the platform may sink under the weight of
youthful platitudes uttered on such occasions; yet
one can never be properly critical, because the sight
of the boys and girls themselves, those young and
hopeful makers of to-morrow, disarms one's scorn.
We yawn desperately at the essays, but our hearts
go out to the essayists, all the same, for "the vision
splendid" is shining in their eyes, and there is no
fear of "th' inevitable yoke" that the years are so
surely bringing them.

Rebecca saw Hannah and her husband in the
audience; dear old John and cousin Ann also, and
felt a pang at the absence of her mother, though
she had known there was no possibility of seeing
her; for poor Aurelia was kept at Sunnybrook by
cares of children and farm, and lack of money
either for the journey or for suitable dress. The
Cobbs she saw too. No one, indeed, could fail to
see uncle Jerry; for he shed tears more than once,
and in the intervals between the essays descanted
to his neighbors concerning the marvelous gifts
of one of the graduating class whom he had known
ever since she was a child; in fact, had driven her
from Maplewood to Riverboro when she left her
home, and he had told mother that same night that
there wan't nary rung on the ladder o' fame that
that child wouldn't mount before she got through with it.

The Cobbs, then, had come, and there were
other Riverboro faces, but where was aunt Jane,
in her black silk made over especially for this
occasion? Aunt Miranda had not intended to come,
she knew, but where, on this day of days, was her
beloved aunt Jane? However, this thought, like
all others, came and went in a flash, for the whole
morning was like a series of magic lantern
pictures, crossing and recrossing her field of vision.
She played, she sang, she recited Queen Mary's
Latin prayer, like one in a dream, only brought to
consciousness by meeting Mr. Aladdin's eyes as
she spoke the last line. Then at the end of the
programme came her class poem, Makers of To-
morrow; and there, as on many a former occasion,
her personality played so great a part that she
seemed to be uttering Miltonic sentiments instead
of school-girl verse. Her voice, her eyes, her body
breathed conviction, earnestness, emotion; and
when she left the platform the audience felt that
they had listened to a masterpiece. Most of her
hearers knew little of Carlyle or Emerson, or they
might have remembered that the one said, "We
are all poets when we read a poem well," and the
other, "'T is the good reader makes the good book."

It was over! The diplomas had been presented,
and each girl, after giving furtive touches to her
hair, sly tweaks to her muslin skirts, and caressing
pats to her sash, had gone forward to receive the
roll of parchment with a bow that had been the
subject of anxious thought for weeks. Rounds of
applause greeted each graduate at this thrilling
moment, and Jeremiah Cobb's behavior, when
Rebecca came forward, was the talk of Wareham and
Riverboro for days. Old Mrs. Webb avowed that
he, in the space of two hours, had worn out her
pew more--the carpet, the cushions, and woodwork--
than she had by sitting in it forty years.
Yes, it was over, and after the crowd had thinned
a little, Adam Ladd made his way to the platform.
Rebecca turned from speaking to some stran-
gers and met him in the aisle. "Oh, Mr. Aladdin,
I am so glad you could come! Tell me"--and she
looked at him half shyly, for his approval was dearer
to her, and more difficult to win, than that of the
others--"tell me, Mr. Aladdin,--were you satisfied?"

"More than satisfied!" he said; "glad I met the child,
proud I know the girl, longing to meet the woman!"



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