New Chronicles of Rebecca by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Eleventh Chronicle: Abijah the Brave and the Fair Emma Jane
"A warrior so bold and a maiden so bright
"Alas!' said the youth, 'since tomorrow I go
'Oh, hush these suspicions!' Fair Imogene said,
Ever since she was eight years old Rebecca had wished to be eighteen, but now that she was within a month of that awe-inspiring and long-desired age she wondered if, after all, it was destined to be a turning point in her quiet existence. Her eleventh year, for instance, had been a real turning-point, since it was then that she had left Sunnybrook Farm and come to her maiden aunts in Riverboro. Aurelia Randall may have been doubtful as to the effect upon her spinster sisters of the irrepressible child, but she was hopeful from the first that the larger opportunities of Riverboro would be the "making" of Rebecca herself.
The next turning-point was her fourteenth year, when she left the district school for the Wareham Female Seminary, then in the hey-day of its local fame. Graduation (next to marriage, perhaps, the most thrilling episode in the life of a little country girl) happened at seventeen, and not long afterward her Aunt Miranda's death, sudden and unexpected, changed not only all the outward activities and conditions of her life, but played its own part in her development.
The brick house looked very homelike and pleasant on a June morning nowadays with children's faces smiling at the windows and youthful footsteps sounding through the halls; and the brass knocker on the red-painted front door might have remembered Rebecca's prayer of a year before, when she leaned against its sun-warmed brightness and whispered: "God bless Aunt Miranda; God bless the brick house that was; God bless the brick house that's going to be!"
All the doors and blinds were open to the sun and air as they had never been in Miss Miranda Sawyer's time. The hollyhock bed that had been her chief pride was never neglected, and Rebecca liked to hear the neighbors say that there was no such row of beautiful plants and no such variety of beautiful colors in Riverboro as those that climbed up and peeped in at the kitchen windows where old Miss Miranda used to sit.
Now that the place was her very own Rebecca felt a passion of pride in its smoothly mown fields, its carefully thinned-out woods, its blooming garden spots, and its well-weeded vegetable patch; felt, too whenever she looked at any part of it, a passion of gratitude to the stern old aunt who had looked upon her as the future head of the family, as well as a passion of desire to be worthy of that trust.
It had been a very difficult year for a girl fresh from school: the death of her aunt, the nursing of Miss Jane, prematurely enfeebled by the shock, the removal of her own invalid mother and the rest of the little family from Sunnybrook Farm. But all had gone smoothly; and when once the Randall fortunes had taken an upward turn nothing seemed able to stop their intrepid ascent.
Aurelia Randall renewed her youth in the companionship of her sister Jane and the comforts by which her children were surrounded; the mortgage was no longer a daily terror, for Sunnybrook had been sold to the new railroad; Hannah, now Mrs. Will Melville, was happily situated; John, at last, was studying medicine; Mark, the boisterous and unlucky brother, had broken no bones for several months; while Jenny and Fanny were doing well at the district school under Miss Libby Moses, Miss Dearborn's successor.
"I don't feel very safe," thought Rebecca, remembering all these unaccustomed mercies as she sat on the front doorsteps, with her tatting shuttle flying in and out of the fine cotton like a hummingbird. "It's just like one of those too beautiful July days that winds up with a thundershower before night! Still, when you remember that the Randalls never had anything but thunder and lightning, rain, snow, and hail, in their family history for twelve or fifteen years, perhaps it is only natural that they should enjoy a little spell of settled weather. If it really turns out to be settled, now that Aunt Jane and mother are strong again I must be looking up one of what Mr. Aladdin calls my cast-off careers."--There comes Emma Jane Perkins through her front gate; she will be here in a minute, and I'll tease her!" and Rebecca ran in the door and seated herself at the old piano that stood between the open windows in the parlor.
Peeping from behind the muslin curtains, she waited until Emma Jane was on the very threshold and then began singing her version of an old ballad, made that morning while she was dressing. The ballad was a great favorite of hers, and she counted on doing telling execution with it in the present instance by the simple subterfuge of removing the original hero and heroine, Alonzo and Imogene, and substituting Abijah the Brave and the Fair Emmajane, leaving the circumstances in the first three verses unaltered, because in truth they seemed to require no alteration.
Her high, clear voice, quivering with merriment, floated through the windows into the still summer air:
"'A warrior so bold and a maiden so bright
"Rebecca Randall, stop! Somebody'll hear you!"
"No, they won't--they're making jelly in the kitchen, miles away."
"'Alas!' said the youth, since tomorrow I go
"Rebecca, you can't think how your voice carries! I believe mother can hear it over to my house!"
"Then, if she can, I must sing the third verse, just to clear your reputation from the cloud cast upon it in the second," laughed her tormentor, going on with the song:
"'Oh, hush these suspicions!' Fair Emmajane said,
After ending the third verse Rebecca wheeled around on the piano stool and confronted her friend, who was carefully closing the parlor windows:--
"Emma Jane Perkins, it is an ordinary Thursday afternoon at four o'clock and you have on your new blue barege, although there is not even a church sociable in prospect this evening. What does this mean? Is Abijah the Brave coming at last?"
"I don't know certainly, but it will be some time this week."
"And of course you'd rather be dressed up and not seen, than seen when not dressed up. Right, my Fair Emmajane; so would I. Not that it makes any difference to poor me, wearing my fourth best black and white calico and expecting nobody.
"Oh, well, you! There's something inside of you that does instead of pretty dresses," cried Emma Jane, whose adoration of her friend had never altered nor lessened since they met at the age of eleven. "You know you are as different from anybody else in Riverboro as a princess in a fairy story. Libby Moses says they would notice you in Lowell, Massachusetts!"
"Would they? I wonder," speculated Rebecca, rendered almost speechless by this tribute to her charms. "Well, if Lowell, Massachusetts, could see me, or if you could see me, in my new lavender muslin with the violet sash, it would die of envy, and so would you!"
"If I had been going to be envious of you, Rebecca, I should have died years ago. Come, let's go out on the steps where it's shady and cool."
"And where we can see the Perkins front gate and the road running both ways," teased Rebecca, and then, softening her tone, she said: "How is it getting on, Emmy? Tell me what's happened since I've been in Brunswick."
"Nothing much," confessed Emma Jane. "He writes to me, but I don't write to him, you know. I don't dare to, till he comes to the house."
"Are his letters still in Latin?" asked Rebecca, with a twinkling eye.
"Oh, no! Not now, because--well, because there are things you can't seem to write in Latin. I saw him at the Masonic picnic in the grove, but he won't say anything real to me till he gets more pay and dares to speak to mother and father. He is brave in all other ways, but I ain't sure he'll ever have the courage for that, he's so afraid of them and always has been. Just remember what's in his mind all the time, Rebecca, that my folks know all about what his mother was, and how he was born on the poor-farm. Not that I care; look how he's educated and worked himself up! I think he's perfectly elegant, and I shouldn't mind if he had been born in the bulrushes, like Moses."
Emma Jane's every-day vocabulary was pretty much what it had been before she went to the expensive Wareham Female Seminary. She had acquired a certain amount of information concerning the art of speech, but in moments of strong feeling she lapsed into the vernacular. She grew slowly in all directions, did Emma Jane, and, to use Rebecca's favorite nautilus figure, she had left comparatively few outgrown shells on the shores of "life's unresting sea."
"Moses wasn't born in the bulrushes, Emmy dear," corrected Rebecca laughingly. "Pharaoh's daughter found him there. It wasn't quite as romantic a scene--Squire Bean's wife taking little Abijah Flagg from the poorhouse when his girl-mother died, but, oh, I think Abijah's splendid! Mr. Ladd says Riverboro'll be proud of him yet, and I shouldn't wonder, Emmy dear, if you had a three-story house with a cupola on it, some day; and sitting down at your mahogany desk inlaid with garnets, you will write notes stating that Mrs. Abijah Flagg requests the pleasure of Miss Rebecca Randall's company to tea, and that the Hon. Abijah Flagg, M.C., will call for her on his way from the station with a span of horses and the turquoise carryall!"
Emma Jane laughed at the ridiculous prophecy, and answered: "If I ever write the invitation I shan't be addressing it to Miss Randall, I'm sure of that; it'll be to Mrs.-----"
"Don't!" cried Rebecca impetuously, changing color and putting her hand over Emma Jane's lips. "If you won't I'll stop teasing. I couldn't bear a name put to anything, I couldn't, Emmy dear! I wouldn't tease you, either, if it weren't something we've both known ever so long--something that you have always consulted me about of your own accord, and Abijah too."
"Don't get excited," replied Emma Jane, "I was only going to say you were sure to be Mrs. Somebody in course of time."
"Oh," said Rebecca with a relieved sigh, her color coming back; "if that's all you meant, just nonsense; but I thought, I thought--I don't really know just what I thought!"
"I think you thought something you didn't want me to think you thought," said Emma Jane with unusual felicity.
"No, it's not that; but somehow, today, I have been remembering things. Perhaps it was because at breakfast Aunt Jane and mother reminded me of my coming birthday and said that Squire Bean would give me the deed of the brick house. That made me feel very old and responsible; and when I came out on the steps this afternoon it was just as if pictures of the old years were moving up and down the road. Everything is so beautiful today! Doesn't the sky look as if it had been dyed blue and the fields painted pink and green and yellow this very minute?"
"It's a perfectly elegant day!" responded Emma Jane with a sigh. "If only my mind was at rest! That's the difference between being young and grown-up. We never used to think and worry."
"Indeed we didn't!" Look, Emmy, there's the very spot where Uncle Jerry Cobb stopped the stage and I stepped out with my pink parasol and my bouquet of purple lilacs, and you were watching me from your bedroom window and wondering what I had in mother's little hair trunk strapped on behind. Poor Aunt Miranda didn't love me at first sight, and oh, how cross she was the first two years! But now every hard thought I ever had comes back to me and cuts like a knife!"
"She was dreadful hard to get along with, and I used to hate her like poison," confessed Emma Jane; "but I am sorry now. She was kinder toward the last, anyway, and then, you see children know so little! We never suspected she was sick or that she was worrying over that lost interest money."
"That's the trouble. People seem hard and unreasonable and unjust, and we can't help being hurt at the time, but if they die we forget everything but our own angry speeches; somehow we never remember theirs. And oh, Emma Jane, there's another such a sweet little picture out there in the road. The next day after I came to Riverboro, do you remember, I stole out of the brick house crying, and leaned against the front gate. You pushed your little fat pink-and-white face through the pickets and said: Don't cry! I'll kiss you if you will me!'"
Lumps rose suddenly in Emma Jane's throat, and she put her arm around Rebecca's waist as they sat together side by side.
"Oh, I do remember," she said in a choking voice. "And I can see the two of us driving over to North Riverboro and selling soap to Mr. Adam Ladd; and lighting up the premium banquet lamp at the Simpson party; and laying the daisies round Jacky Winslow's mother when she was dead in the cabin; and trundling Jacky up and down the street in our old baby carriage!"
"And I remember you," continued Rebecca, "being chased down the hill by Jacob Moody, when we were being Daughters of Zion and you had been chosen to convert him!"
"And I remember you, getting the flag back from Mr. Simpson; and how you looked when you spoke your verses at the flag-raising."
"And have you forgotten the week I refused to speak to Abijah Flagg because he fished my turban with the porcupine quills out of the river when I hoped at last that I had lost it! Oh, Emma Jane, we had dear good times together in the little harbor.'"
"I always thought that was an elegant composition of yours--that farewell to the class," said Emma Jane.
"The strong tide bears us on, out of the little harbor of childhood into the unknown seas," recalled Rebecca. "It is bearing you almost out of my sight, Emmy, these last days, when you put on a new dress in the afternoon and look out of the window instead of coming across the street. Abijah Flagg never used to be in the little harbor with the rest of us; when did he first sail in, Emmy?"
Emma Jane grew a deeper pink and her button-hole of a mouth quivered with delicious excitement.
"It was last year at the seminary, when he wrote me his first Latin letter from Limerick Academy," she said in a half whisper.
"I remember," laughed Rebecca. "You suddenly began the study of the dead languages, and the Latin dictionary took the place of the crochet needle in your affections. It was cruel of you never to show me that letter, Emmy!"
"I know every word of it by heart," said the blushing Emma Jane, "and I think I really ought to say it to you, because it's the only way you will ever know how perfectly elegant Abijah is. Look the other way, Rebecca. Shall I have to translate it for you, do you think, because it seems to me I could not bear to do that!"
"It depends upon Abijah's Latin and your pronunciation," teased Rebecca. "Go on; I will turn my eyes toward the orchard."
The Fair Emmajane, looking none too old still for the "little harbor," but almost too young for the "unknown seas," gathered up her courage and recited like a tremulous parrot the boyish love letter that had so fired her youthful imagination.
"Vale, carissima, carissima puella!" repeated Rebecca in her musical voice. "Oh, how beautiful it sounds! I don't wonder it altered your feeling for Abijah! Upon my word, Emma Jane," she cried with a sudden change of tone, "if I had suspected for an instant that Abijah the Brave had that Latin letter in him I should have tried to get him to write it to me; and then it would be I who would sit down at my mahogany desk and ask Miss Perkins to come to tea with Mrs. Flagg."
Emma Jane paled and shuddered openly. "I speak as a church member, Rebecca," she said, "when I tell you I've always thanked the Lord that you never looked at Abijah Flagg and he never looked at you. If either of you ever had, there never would have been a chance for me, and I've always known it!"
The romance alluded to in the foregoing chapter had been going on, so far as Abijah Flagg's part of it was concerned, for many years, his affection dating back in his own mind to the first moment that he saw Emma Jane Perkins at the age of nine.
Emma Jane had shown no sign of reciprocating his attachment until the last three years, when the evolution of the chore-boy into the budding scholar and man of affairs had inflamed even her somewhat dull imagination.
Squire Bean's wife had taken Abijah away from the poorhouse, thinking that she could make him of some little use in her home. Abbie Flagg, the mother, was neither wise nor beautiful; it is to be feared that she was not even good, and her lack of all these desirable qualities, particularly the last one, had been impressed upon the child ever since he could remember. People seemed to blame him for being in the world at all; this world that had not expected him nor desired him, nor made any provision for him. The great battle-axe of poorhouse opinion was forever leveled at the mere little atom of innocent transgression, until he grew sad and shy, clumsy, stiff, and self-conscious. He had an indomitable craving for love in his heart and had never received a caress in his life.
He was more contented when he came to Squire Bean's house. The first year he could only pick up chips, carry pine wood into the kitchen, go to the post-office, run errands, drive the cows, and feed the hens, but every day he grew more and more useful.
His only friend was little Jim Watson, the storekeeper's son, and they were inseparable companions whenever Abijah had time for play.
One never-to-be-forgotten July day a new family moved into the white cottage between Squire Bean's house and the Sawyers'. Mr. Perkins had sold his farm beyond North Riverboro and had established a blacksmith's shop in the village, at the Edgewood end of the bridge. This fact was of no special interest to the nine-year-old Abijah, but what really was of importance, was the appearance of a pretty little girl of seven in the front yard; a pretty little fat doll of a girl, with bright fuzzy hair, pink cheeks, blue eyes, and a smile of almost bewildering continuity. Another might have criticised it as having the air of being glued on, but Abijah was already in the toils and never wished it to move.
The next day being the glorious Fourth and a holiday, Jimmy Watson came over like David, to visit his favorite Jonathan. His Jonathan met him at the top of the hill, pleaded a pressing engagement, curtly sent him home, and then went back to play with his new idol, with whom he had already scraped acquaintance, her parents being exceedingly busy settling the new house.
After the noon dinner Jimmy again yearned to resume friendly relations, and, forgetting his rebuff, again toiled up the hill and appeared unexpectedly at no great distance from the Perkins premises, wearing the broad and beaming smile of one who is confident of welcome.
His morning call had been officious and unpleasant and unsolicited, but his afternoon visit could only be regarded as impudent, audacious, and positively dangerous; for Abijah and Emma Jane were cosily playing house, the game of all others in which it is particularly desirable to have two and not three participants.
At that moment the nature of Abijah changed, at once and forever. Without a pang of conscience he flew over the intervening patch of ground between himself and his dreaded rival, and seizing small stones and larger ones, as haste and fury demanded, flung them at Jimmy Watson, and flung and flung, till the bewildered boy ran down the hill howling. Then he made a "stickin'" door to the play-house, put the awed Emma Jane inside and strode up and down in front of the edifice like an Indian brave. At such an early age does woman become a distracting and disturbing influence in man's career!
Time went on, and so did the rivalry between the poorhouse boy and the son of wealth, but Abijah's chances of friendship with Emma Jane grew fewer and fewer as they both grew older. He did not go to school, so there was no meeting-ground there, but sometimes, when he saw the knot of boys and girls returning in the afternoon, he would invite Elijah and Elisha, the Simpson twins, to visit him, and take pains to be in Squire Bean's front yard, doing something that might impress his inamorata as she passed the premises.
As Jimmy Watson was particularly small and fragile, Abijah generally chose feats of strength and skill for these prearranged performances.
Sometimes he would throw his hat up into the elm trees as far as he could and, when it came down, catch it on his head. Sometimes he would walk on his hands, with his legs wriggling in the air, or turn a double somersault, or jump incredible distances across the extended arms of the Simpson twins; and his bosom swelled with pride when the girls exclaimed, "Isn't he splendid!" although he often heard his rival murmur scornfully, "smarty aleck!"--a scathing allusion of unknown origin.
Squire Bean, although he did not send the boy to school (thinking, as he was of no possible importance in the universe, it was not worth while bothering about his education), finally became impressed with his ability, lent him books, and gave him more time to study. These were all he needed, books and time, and when there was an especially hard knot to untie, Rebecca, as the star scholar of the neighborhood, helped him to untie it.
When he was sixteen he longed to go away from Riverboro and be something better than a chore boy. Squire Bean had been giving him small wages for three or four years, and when the time of parting came presented him with a ten-dollar bill and a silver watch.
Many a time had he discussed his future with Rebecca and asked her opinion.
This was not strange, for there was nothing in human form that she could not and did not converse with, easily and delightedly. She had ideas on every conceivable subject, and would have cheerfully advised the minister if he had asked her. The fishman consulted her when he couldn't endure his mother-in-law another minute in the house; Uncle Jerry Cobb didn't part with his river field until he had talked it over with Rebecca; and as for Aunt Jane, she couldn't decide whether to wear her black merino or her gray thibet unless Rebecca cast the final vote.
Abijah wanted to go far away from Riverboro, as far as Limerick Academy, which was at least fifteen miles; but although this seemed extreme, Rebecca agreed, saying pensively: "There IS a kind of magicness about going far away and then coming back all changed."
This was precisely Abijah's unspoken thought. Limerick knew nothing of Abbie Flagg's worthlessness, birth, and training, and the awful stigma of his poorhouse birth, so that he would start fair. He could have gone to Wareham and thus remained within daily sight of the beloved Emma Jane; but no, he was not going to permit her to watch him in the process of "becoming," but after he had "become" something. He did not propose to take any risks after all these years of silence and patience. Not he! He proposed to disappear, like the moon on a dark night, and as he was, at present, something that Mr. Perkins would by no means have in the family nor Mrs. Perkins allow in the house, he would neither return to Riverboro nor ask any favors of them until he had something to offer. Yes, sir. He was going to be crammed to the eyebrows with learning for one thing,--useless kinds and all,--going to have good clothes, and a good income. Everything that was in his power should be right, because there would always be lurking in the background the things he never could help--the mother and the poorhouse.
So he went away, and, although at Squire Bean's invitation he came back the first year for two brief visits at Christmas and Easter, he was little seen in Riverboro, for Mr. Ladd finally found him a place where he could make his vacations profitable and learn bookkeeping at the same time.
The visits in Riverboro were tantalizing rather than pleasant. He was invited to two parties, but he was all the time conscious of his shirt-collar, and he was sure that his "pants" were not the proper thing, for by this time his ideals of dress had attained an almost unrealizable height. As for his shoes, he felt that he walked on carpets as if they were furrows and he were propelling a plow or a harrow before him. They played Drop the Handkerchief and Copenhagen at the parties, but he had not had the audacity to kiss Emma Jane, which was bad enough, but Jimmy had and did, which was infinitely worse! The sight of James Watson's unworthy and over-ambitious lips on Emma Jane's pink cheek almost destroyed his faith in an overruling Providence.
After the parties were over he went back to his old room in Squire Bean's shed chamber. As he lay in bed his thoughts fluttered about Emma Jane as swallows circle around the eaves. The terrible sickness of hopeless handicapped love kept him awake. Once he crawled out of bed in the night, lighted the lamp, and looked for his mustache, remembering that he had seen a suspicion of down on his rival's upper lip. He rose again half an hour later, again lighted the lamp, put a few drops of oil on his hair, and brushed it violently for several minutes. Then he went back to bed, and after making up his mind that he would buy a dulcimer and learn to play on it so that he would be more attractive at parties, and outshine his rival in society as he had aforetime in athletics, he finally sank into a troubled slumber.
Those days, so full of hope and doubt and torture, seemed mercifully unreal now, they lay so far back in the past--six or eight years, in fact, which is a lifetime to the lad of twenty--and meantime he had conquered many of the adverse circumstances that had threatened to cloud his career.
Abijah Flagg was a true child of his native State. Something of the same timber that Maine puts into her forests, something of the same strength and resisting power that she works into her rocks, goes into her sons and daughters; and at twenty Abijah was going to take his fate in his hand and ask Mr. Perkins, the rich blacksmith, if, after a suitable period of probation (during which he would further prepare himself for his exalted destiny), he might marry the fair Emma Jane, sole heiress of the Perkins house and fortunes.
This was boy and girl love, calf love, perhaps, though even that may develop into something larger, truer, and finer; but not so far away were other and very different hearts growing and budding, each in its own way. There was little Miss Dearborn, the pretty school teacher, drifting into a foolish alliance because she did not agree with her stepmother at home; there was Herbert Dunn, valedictorian of his class, dazzled by Huldah Meserve, who like a glowworm "shone afar off bright, but looked at near, had neither heat nor light."
There was sweet Emily Maxwell, less than thirty still, with most of her heart bestowed in the wrong quarter. She was toiling on at the Wareham school, living as unselfish a life as a nun in a convent; lavishing the mind and soul of her, the heart and body of her, on her chosen work. How many women give themselves thus, consciously and unconsciously; and, though they themselves miss the joys and compensations of mothering their own little twos and threes, God must be grateful to them for their mothering of the hundreds which make them so precious in His regenerating purposes.
Then there was Adam Ladd, waiting at thirty-five for a girl to grow a little older, simply because he could not find one already grown who suited his somewhat fastidious and exacting tastes.
"I'll not call Rebecca perfection," he quoted once, in a letter to Emily Maxwell,--"I'll not call her perfection, for that's a post, afraid to move. But she's a dancing sprig of the tree next it."
When first she appeared on his aunt's piazza in North Riverboro and insisted on selling him a large quantity of very inferior soap in order that her friends, the Simpsons, might possess a premium in the shape of a greatly needed banquet lamp, she had riveted his attention. He thought all the time that he enjoyed talking with her more than with any woman alive, and he had never changed his opinion. She always caught what he said as if it were a ball tossed to her, and sometimes her mind, as through it his thoughts came back to him, seemed like a prism which had dyed them with deeper colors.
Adam Ladd always called Rebecca in his heart his little Spring. His boyhood had been lonely and unhappy. That was the part of life he had missed, and although it was the full summer of success and prosperity with him now, he found his lost youth only in her.
She was to him--how shall I describe it?
Do you remember an early day in May with budding leaf, warm earth, tremulous air, and changing, willful sky--how new it seemed? How fresh and joyous beyond all explaining?
Have you lain with half-closed eyes where the flickering of sunlight through young leaves, the song of birds and brook and the fragrance of wild flowers combined to charm your senses, and you felt the sweetness and grace of nature as never before?
Rebecca was springtide to Adam's thirsty heart. She was blithe youth incarnate; she was music--an Aeolian harp that every passing breeze woke to some whispering little tune; she was a changing, iridescent joy-bubble; she was the shadow of a leaf dancing across a dusty floor. No bough of his thought could be so bare but she somehow built a nest in it and evoked life where none was before.
And Rebecca herself?
She had been quite unconscious of all this until very lately, and even now she was but half awakened; searching among her childish instincts and her girlish dreams for some Ariadne thread that should guide her safely through the labyrinth of her new sensations.
For the moment she was absorbed, or thought she was, in the little love story of Abijah and Emma Jane, but in reality, had she realized it, that love story served chiefly as a basis of comparison for a possible one of her own, later on.
She liked and respected Abijah Flagg, and loving Emma Jane was a habit contracted early in life; but everything that they did or said, or thought or wrote, or hoped or feared, seemed so inadequate, so painfully short of what might be done or said, or thought or written, or hoped or feared, under easily conceivable circumstances, that she almost felt a disposition to smile gently at the fancy of the ignorant young couple that they had caught a glimpse of the great vision.
She was sitting under the sweet apple tree at twilight. Supper was over; Mark's restless feet were quiet, Fanny and Jenny were tucked safely in bed; her aunt and her mother were stemming currants on the side porch.
A blue spot at one of the Perkins windows showed that in one vestal bosom hope was not dead yet, although it was seven o'clock.
Suddenly there was the sound of a horse's feet coming up the quiet road; plainly a steed hired from some metropolis like Milltown or Wareham, as Riverboro horses when through with their day's work never disported themselves so gayly.
A little open vehicle came in sight, and in it sat Abijah Flagg. The wagon was so freshly painted and so shiny that Rebecca thought that he must have alighted at the bridge and given it a last polish. The creases in his trousers, too, had an air of having been pressed in only a few minutes before. The whip was new and had a yellow ribbon on it; the gray suit of clothes was new, and the coat flourished a flower in its button-hole. The hat was the latest thing in hats, and the intrepid swain wore a seal-ring on the little finger of his right hand. As Rebecca remembered that she had guided it in making capital G's in his copy-book, she felt positively maternal, although she was two years younger than Abijah the Brave.
He drove up to the Perkins gate and was so long about hitching the horse that Rebecca's heart beat tumultuously at the thought of Emma Jane's heart waiting under the blue barege. Then he brushed an imaginary speck off his sleeve, then he drew on a pair of buff kid gloves, then he went up the path, rapped at the knocker, and went in.
"Not all the heroes go to the wars," thought Rebecca. "Abijah has laid the ghost of his father and redeemed the memory of his mother, for no one will dare say again that Abbie Flagg's son could never amount to anything!"
The minutes went by, and more minutes, and more. The tranquil dusk settled down over the little village street and the young moon came out just behind the top of the Perkins pine tree.
The Perkins front door opened and Abijah the Brave came out hand in hand with his Fair Emma Jane.
They walked through the orchard, the eyes of the old couple following them from the window, and just as they disappeared down the green slope that led to the riverside the gray coat sleeve encircled the blue barege waist.
Rebecca, quivering with instant sympathy and comprehension, hid her face in her hands.
"Emmy has sailed away and I am all alone in the little harbor," she thought.
It was as if childhood, like a thing real and visible, were slipping down the grassy river banks, after Abijah and Emma Jane, and disappearing like them into the moon-lit shadows of the summer night.
"I am all alone in the little harbor," she repeated; "and oh, I wonder, I wonder, shall I be afraid to leave it, if anybody ever comes to carry me out to sea!"