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Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm
by Kate Douglas Wiggin

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When Rebecca alighted from the train
at Maplewood and hurried to the post-
office where the stage was standing,
what was her joy to see uncle Jerry Cobb holding
the horses' heads.

"The reg'lar driver 's sick," he explained, "and
when they sent for me, thinks I to myself, my
drivin' days is over, but Rebecky won't let the grass
grow under her feet when she gits her aunt Jane's
letter, and like as not I'll ketch her to-day; or, if
she gits delayed, to-morrow for certain. So here I
be jest as I was more 'n six year ago. Will you be
a real lady passenger, or will ye sit up in front with me?"

Emotions of various sorts were all struggling
together in the old man's face, and the two or
three bystanders were astounded when they saw
the handsome, stately girl fling herself on Mr.
Cobb's dusty shoulder crying like a child. "Oh,
uncle Jerry!" she sobbed; "dear uncle Jerry! It's
all so long ago, and so much has happened, and
we've grown so old, and so much is going to happen
that I'm fairly frightened."

"There, there, lovey," the old man whispered
comfortingly, "we'll be all alone on the stage, and
we'll talk things over 's we go along the road an'
mebbe they won't look so bad."

Every mile of the way was as familiar to Rebecca
as to uncle Jerry; every watering-trough, grindstone,
red barn, weather-vane, duck-pond, and sandy
brook. And all the time she was looking backward
to the day, seemingly so long ago, when she sat on
the box seat for the first time, her legs dangling in
the air, too short to reach the footboard. She could
smell the big bouquet of lilacs, see the pink-flounced
parasol, feel the stiffness of the starched buff calico
and the hated prick of the black and yellow porcupine
quills. The drive was taken almost in silence,
but it was a sweet, comforting silence both to
uncle Jerry and the girl.

Then came the sight of Abijah Flagg shelling
beans in the barn, and then the Perkins attic windows
with a white cloth fluttering from them. She
could spell Emma Jane's loving thought and welcome
in that little waving flag; a word and a message
sent to her just at the first moment when
Riverboro chimneys rose into view; something to
warm her heart till they could meet.

The brick house came next, looking just as of
yore; though it seemed to Rebecca as if death
should have cast some mysterious spell over it.
There were the rolling meadows, the stately elms,
all yellow and brown now; the glowing maples,
the garden-beds bright with asters, and the hollyhocks,
rising tall against the parlor windows; only
in place of the cheerful pinks and reds of the
nodding stalks, with their gay rosettes of bloom,
was a crape scarf holding the blinds together, and
another on the sitting-room side, and another on
the brass knocker of the brown-painted door.

"Stop, uncle Jerry! Don't turn in at the side;
hand me my satchel, please; drop me in the road
and let me run up the path by myself. Then drive
away quickly."

At the noise and rumble of the approaching
stage the house door opened from within, just as
Rebecca closed the gate behind her. Aunt Jane
came down the stone steps, a changed woman,
frail and broken and white. Rebecca held out her
arms and the old aunt crept into them feebly, as
she did on that day when she opened the grave of
her buried love and showed the dead face, just for
an instant, to a child. Warmth and strength and
life flowed into the aged frame from the young one.

"Rebecca," she said, raising her head, "before
you go in to look at her, do you feel any bitterness
over anything she ever said to you?"

Rebecca's eyes blazed reproach, almost anger, as
she said chokingly: "Oh, aunt Jane! Could you
believe it of me? I am going in with a heart brimful
of gratitude!"

"She was a good woman, Rebecca; she had a
quick temper and a sharp tongue, but she wanted
to do right, and she did it as near as she could.
She never said so, but I'm sure she was sorry for
every hard word she spoke to you; she didn't take
'em back in life, but she acted so 't you'd know her
feeling when she was gone."

"I told her before I left that she'd been the making
of me, just as mother says," sobbed Rebecca

"She wasn't that," said Jane. "God made you
in the first place, and you've done considerable yourself
to help Him along; but she gave you the wherewithal
to work with, and that ain't to be despised;
specially when anybody gives up her own luxuries
and pleasures to do it. Now let me tell you something,
Rebecca. Your aunt Mirandy 's willed all this
to you,--the brick house and buildings and furniture,
and the land all round the house, as far 's you can see."

Rebecca threw off her hat and put her hand to
her heart, as she always did in moments of intense
excitement. After a moment's silence she said:
"Let me go in alone; I want to talk to her; I want
to thank her; I feel as if I could make her hear and
feel and understand!"

Jane went back into the kitchen to the inexorable
tasks that death has no power, even for a day, to
blot from existence. He can stalk through dwelling
after dwelling, leaving despair and desolation behind
him, but the table must be laid, the dishes washed,
the beds made, by somebody.

Ten minutes later Rebecca came out from the
Great Presence looking white and spent, but chastened
and glorified. She sat in the quiet doorway,
shaded from the little Riverboro world by the
overhanging elms. A wide sense of thankfulness and
peace possessed her, as she looked at the autumn
landscape, listened to the rumble of a wagon on the
bridge, and heard the call of the river as it dashed
to the sea. She put up her hand softly and touched
first the shining brass knocker and then the red
bricks, glowing in the October sun.

It was home; her roof, her garden, her green
acres, her dear trees; it was shelter for the little
family at Sunnybrook; her mother would have once
more the companionship of her sister and the friends
of her girlhood; the children would have teachers
and playmates.

And she? Her own future was close-folded still;
folded and hidden in beautiful mists; but she leaned
her head against the sun-warmed door, and closing
her eyes, whispered, just as if she had been a
child saying her prayers: "God bless aunt Miranda;
God bless the brick house that was; God bless the
brick house that is to be!"



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