Rebecca's visit to Milltown was all that her glowing fancy had painted it, except that recent readings about Rome and Venice disposed her to believe tha_hose cities might have an advantage over Milltown in the matter of mer_ictorial beauty. So soon does the soul outgrow its mansions that after onc_eeing Milltown her fancy ran out to the future sight of Portland; for that, having islands and a harbor and two public monuments, must be far mor_eautiful than Milltown, which would, she felt, take its proud place among th_ities of the earth, by reason of its tremendous business activity rather tha_y any irresistible appeal to the imagination.
It would be impossible for two children to see more, do more, walk more, tal_ore, eat more, or ask more questions than Rebecca and Emma Jane did on tha_ventful Wednesday.
"She's the best company I ever see in all my life," said Mrs. Cobb to he_usband that evening. "We ain't had a dull minute this day. She's well- mannered, too; she didn't ask for anything, and was thankful for whatever sh_ot. Did you watch her face when we went into that tent where they was actin'
out Uncle Tom's Cabin? And did you take notice of the way she told us abou_he book when we sat down to have our ice cream? I tell you Harriet Beeche_towe herself couldn't 'a' done it better justice."
"I took it all in," responded Mr. Cobb, who was pleased that "mother" agree_ith him about Rebecca. "I ain't sure but she's goin' to turn out somethin'
remarkable,—a singer, or a writer, or a lady doctor like that Miss Parks up t_ornish."
"Lady doctors are always home'paths, ain't they?" asked Mrs. Cobb, who, it i_eedless to say, was distinctly of the old school in medicine.
"Land, no, mother; there ain't no home'path 'bout Miss Parks—she drives al_ver the country."
"I can't see Rebecca as a lady doctor, somehow," mused Mrs. Cobb. "Her gift o'
gab is what's goin' to be the makin' of her; mebbe she'll lecture, or recit_ieces, like that Portland elocutionist that come out here to the harves_upper."
"I guess she'll be able to write down her own pieces," said Mr. Cob_onfidently; "she could make 'em up faster 'n she could read 'em out of _ook."
"It's a pity she's so plain looking," remarked Mrs. Cobb, blowing out th_andle.
"PLAIN LOOKING, mother?" exclaimed her husband in astonishment. "Look at th_yes of her; look at the hair of her, an' the smile, an' that there dimple!
Look at Alice Robinson, that's called the prettiest child on the river, an'
see how Rebecca shines her ri' down out o' sight! I hope Mirandy'll favor he_omin' over to see us real often, for she'll let off some of her steam here, an' the brick house'll be consid'able safer for everybody concerned. We'v_nown what it was to hev children, even if 't was more 'n thirty years ago, an' we can make allowances."
Notwithstanding the encomiums of Mr. and Mrs. Cobb, Rebecca made a poor han_t composition writing at this time. Miss Dearborn gave her every sort o_ubject that she had ever been given herself: Cloud Pictures; Abraham Lincoln; Nature; Philanthropy; Slavery; Intemperance; Joy and Duty; Solitude; but wit_one of them did Rebecca seem to grapple satisfactorily.
"Write as you talk, Rebecca," insisted poor Miss Dearborn, who secretly kne_hat she could never manage a good composition herself.
"But gracious me, Miss Dearborn! I don't talk about nature and slavery. _an't write unless I have something to say, can I?"
"That is what compositions are for," returned Miss Dearborn doubtfully; "t_ake you have things to say. Now in your last one, on solitude, you haven'_aid anything very interesting, and you've made it too common and every-day t_ound well. There are too many 'yous' and 'yours' in it; you ought to say
'one' now and then, to make it seem more like good writing. 'One opens _avorite book;' 'One's thoughts are a great comfort in solitude,' and so on."
"I don't know any more about solitude this week than I did about joy and dut_ast week," grumbled Rebecca.
"You tried to be funny about joy and duty," said Miss Dearborn reprovingly;
"so of course you didn't succeed."
"I didn't know you were going to make us read the things out loud," sai_ebecca with an embarrassed smile of recollection.
"Joy and Duty" had been the inspiring subject given to the older children fo_ theme to be written in five minutes.
Rebecca had wrestled, struggled, perspired in vain. When her turn came to rea_he was obliged to confess she had written nothing.
"You have at least two lines, Rebecca," insisted the teacher, "for I see the_n your slate."
"I'd rather not read them, please; they are not good," pleaded Rebecca.
"Read what you have, good or bad, little or much; I am excusing nobody."
Rebecca rose, overcome with secret laughter dread, and mortification; then i_ low voice she read the couplet:—
When Joy and Duty clash Let Duty go to smash.
Dick Carter's head disappeared under the desk, while Living Perkins choke_ith laughter.
Miss Dearborn laughed too; she was little more than a girl, and the trainin_f the young idea seldom appealed to the sense of humor.
"You must stay after school and try again, Rebecca," she said, but she said i_milingly. "Your poetry hasn't a very nice idea in it for a good little gir_ho ought to love duty."
"It wasn't MY idea," said Rebecca apologetically. "I had only made the firs_ine when I saw you were going to ring the bell and say the time was up. I had
'clash' written, and I couldn't think of anything then but 'hash' or 'rash' or
'smash.' I'll change it to this:—
When Joy and Duty clash,
'T is Joy must go to smash."
"That is better," Miss Dearborn answered, "though I cannot think 'going t_mash' is a pretty expression for poetry."
Having been instructed in the use of the indefinite pronoun "one" as giving _efined and elegant touch to literary efforts, Rebecca painstakingly rewrot_er composition on solitude, giving it all the benefit of Miss Dearborn'_uggestion. It then appeared in the following form, which hardly satisfie_ither teacher or pupil:—
It would be false to say that one could ever be alone when one has one'_ovely thoughts to comfort one. One sits by one's self, it is true, but on_hinks; one opens one's favorite book and reads one's favorite story; on_peaks to one's aunt or one's brother, fondles one's cat, or looks at one'_hotograph album. There is one's work also: what a joy it is to one, if on_appens to like work. All one's little household tasks keep one from bein_onely. Does one ever feel bereft when one picks up one's chips to light one'_ire for one's evening meal? Or when one washes one's milk pail before milkin_ne's cow? One would fancy not.
R. R. R.
"It is perfectly dreadful," sighed Rebecca when she read it aloud afte_chool. "Putting in 'one' all the time doesn't make it sound any more like _ook, and it looks silly besides."
"You say such queer things," objected Miss Dearborn. "I don't see what make_ou do it. Why did you put in anything so common as picking up chips?"
"Because I was talking about 'household tasks' in the sentence before, and i_S one of my household tasks. Don't you think calling supper 'one's evenin_eal' is pretty? and isn't 'bereft' a nice word?"
"Yes, that part of it does very well. It is the cat, the chips, and the mil_ail that I don't like."
"All right!" sighed Rebecca. "Out they go; Does the cow go too?"
"Yes, I don't like a cow in a composition," said the difficult Miss Dearborn.
The Milltown trip had not been without its tragic consequences of a smal_ort; for the next week Minnie Smellie's mother told Miranda Sawyer that she'_etter look after Rebecca, for she was given to "swearing and profan_anguage;" that she had been heard saying something dreadful that ver_fternoon, saying it before Emma Jane and Living Perkins, who only laughed an_ot down on all fours and chased her.
Rebecca, on being confronted and charged with the crime, denied i_ndignantly, and aunt Jane believed her.
"Search your memory, Rebecca, and try to think what Minnie overheard you say,"
she pleaded. "Don't be ugly and obstinate, but think real hard. When did the_hase you up the road, and what were you doing?"
A sudden light broke upon Rebecca's darkness.
"Oh! I see it now," she exclaimed. "It had rained hard all the morning, yo_now, and the road was full of puddles. Emma Jane, Living, and I were walkin_long, and I was ahead. I saw the water streaming over the road towards th_itch, and it reminded me of Uncle Tom's Cabin at Milltown, when Eliza too_er baby and ran across the Mississippi on the ice blocks, pursued by th_loodhounds. We couldn't keep from laughing after we came out of the ten_ecause they were acting on such a small platform that Eliza had to run roun_nd round, and part of the time the one dog they had pursued her, and part o_he time she had to pursue the dog. I knew Living would remember, too, so _ook off my waterproof and wrapped it round my books for a baby; then _houted, 'MY GOD! THE RIVER!' just like that—the same as Eliza did in th_lay; then I leaped from puddle to puddle, and Living and Emma Jane pursued m_ike the bloodhounds. It's just like that stupid Minnie Smellie who doesn'_now a game when she sees one. And Eliza wasn't swearing when she said 'M_od! the river!' It was more like praying."
"Well, you've got no call to be prayin', any more than swearin', in the middl_f the road," said Miranda; "but I'm thankful it's no worse. You're born t_rouble as the sparks fly upward, an' I'm afraid you allers will be till yo_earn to bridle your unruly tongue."
"I wish sometimes that I could bridle Minnie's," murmured Rebecca, as she wen_o set the table for supper.
"I declare she IS the beatin'est child!" said Miranda, taking off he_pectacles and laying down her mending. "You don't think she's a leetle mit_razy, do you, Jane?"
"I don't think she's like the rest of us," responded Jane thoughtfully an_ith some anxiety in her pleasant face; "but whether it's for the better o_he worse I can't hardly tell till she grows up. She's got the making of 'mos_nything in her, Rebecca has; but I feel sometimes as if we were not fitted t_ope with her."
"Stuff an' nonsense!" said Miranda "Speak for yourself. I feel fitted to cop_ith any child that ever was born int' the world!"
"I know you do, Mirandy; but that don't MAKE you so," returned Jane with _mile.
The habit of speaking her mind freely was certainly growing on Jane to a_ltogether terrifying extent.