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Chapter 2 Rebecca's relations

  • They had been called the Sawyer girls when Miranda at eighteen, Jane a_welve, and Aurelia at eight participated in the various activities of villag_ife; and when Riverboro fell into a habit of thought or speech, it saw n_eason for falling out of it, at any rate in the same century. So althoug_iranda and Jane were between fifty and sixty at the time this story opens,
  • Riverboro still called them the Sawyer girls. They were spinsters; bu_urelia, the youngest, had made what she called a romantic marriage and wha_er sisters termed a mighty poor speculation. "There's worse things than bein'
  • old maids," they said; whether they thought so is quite another matter.
  • The element of romance in Aurelia's marriage existed chiefly in the fact tha_r. L. D. M. Randall had a soul above farming or trading and was a votary o_he Muses. He taught the weekly singing-school (then a feature of villag_ife) in half a dozen neighboring towns, he played the violin and "called off"
  • at dances, or evoked rich harmonies from church melodeons on Sundays. H_aught certain uncouth lads, when they were of an age to enter society, th_ntricacies of contra dances, or the steps of the schottische and mazurka, an_e was a marked figure in all social assemblies, though conspicuously absen_rom town-meetings and the purely masculine gatherings at the store or taver_r bridge.
  • His hair was a little longer, his hands a little whiter, his shoes a littl_hinner, his manner a trifle more polished, than that of his soberer mates;
  • indeed the only department of life in which he failed to shine was the makin_f sufficient money to live upon. Luckily he had no responsibilities; hi_ather and his twin brother had died when he was yet a boy, and his mother,
  • whose only noteworthy achievement had been the naming of her twin sons Marqui_e Lafayette and Lorenzo de Medici Randall, had supported herself and educate_er child by making coats up to the very day of her death. She was wont to sa_laintively, "I'm afraid the faculties was too much divided up between m_wins. L. D. M. is awful talented, but I guess M. D. L. would 'a' ben th_ractical one if he'd 'a' lived."
  • "L. D. M. was practical enough to get the richest girl in the village,"
  • replied Mrs. Robinson.
  • "Yes," sighed his mother, "there it is again; if the twins could 'a' marrie_urelia Sawyer, 't would 'a' been all right. L. D. M. was talented 'nough t_ET Reely's money, but M. D. L. would 'a' ben practical 'nough to have KEP'
  • it."
  • Aurelia's share of the modest Sawyer property had been put into one thin_fter another by the handsome and luckless Lorenzo de Medici. He had _raceful and poetic way of making an investment for each new son and daughte_hat blessed their union. "A birthday present for our child, Aurelia," h_ould say,—"a little nest-egg for the future;" but Aurelia once remarked in _oment of bitterness that the hen never lived that could sit on those eggs an_atch anything out of them.
  • Miranda and Jane had virtually washed their hands of Aurelia when she marrie_orenzo de Medici Randall. Having exhausted the resources of Riverboro and it_mmediate vicinity, the unfortunate couple had moved on and on in a steadil_ecreasing scale of prosperity until they had reached Temperance, where the_ad settled down and invited fate to do its worst, an invitation which wa_romptly accepted. The maiden sisters at home wrote to Aurelia two or thre_imes a year, and sent modest but serviceable presents to the children a_hristmas, but refused to assist L. D. M. with the regular expenses of hi_apidly growing family. His last investment, made shortly before the birth o_iranda (named in a lively hope of favors which never came), was a small far_wo miles from Temperance. Aurelia managed this herself, and so it proved _ome at least, and a place for the unsuccessful Lorenzo to die and to b_uried from, a duty somewhat too long deferred, many thought, which h_erformed on the day of Mira's birth.
  • It was in this happy-go-lucky household that Rebecca had grown up. It was jus_n ordinary family; two or three of the children were handsome and the res_lain, three of them rather clever, two industrious, and two commonplace an_ull. Rebecca had her father's facility and had been his aptest pupil. She
  • "carried" the alto by ear, danced without being taught, played the melodeo_ithout knowing the notes. Her love of books she inherited chiefly from he_other, who found it hard to sweep or cook or sew when there was a novel i_he house. Fortunately books were scarce, or the children might sometimes hav_one ragged and hungry.
  • But other forces had been at work in Rebecca, and the traits of unknow_orbears had been wrought into her fibre. Lorenzo de Medici was flabby an_oneless; Rebecca was a thing of fire and spirit: he lacked energy an_ourage; Rebecca was plucky at two and dauntless at five. Mrs. Randall an_annah had no sense of humor; Rebecca possessed and showed it as soon as sh_ould walk and talk.
  • She had not been able, however, to borrow her parents' virtues and those o_ther generous ancestors and escape all the weaknesses in the calendar. Sh_ad not her sister Hannah's patience or her brother John's sturdy stayin_ower. Her will was sometimes willfulness, and the ease with which she di_ost things led her to be impatient of hard tasks or long ones. But whateve_lse there was or was not, there was freedom at Randall's farm. The childre_rew, worked, fought, ate what and slept where they could; loved one anothe_nd their parents pretty well, but with no tropical passion; and educate_hemselves for nine months of the year, each one in his own way.
  • As a result of this method Hannah, who could only have been developed b_orces applied from without, was painstaking, humdrum, and limited; whil_ebecca, who apparently needed nothing but space to develop in, and _nowledge of terms in which to express herself, grew and grew and grew, alway_rom within outward. Her forces of one sort and another had seemingly been se_n motion when she was born; they needed no daily spur, but moved of their ow_ccord—towards what no one knew, least of all Rebecca herself. The field fo_he exhibition of her creative instinct was painfully small, and the only us_he had made of it as yet was to leave eggs out of the corn bread one day an_ilk another, to see how it would turn out; to part Fanny's hair sometimes i_he middle, sometimes on the right, and sometimes on the left side; and t_lay all sorts of fantastic pranks with the children, occasionally bringin_hem to the table as fictitious or historical characters found in her favorit_ooks. Rebecca amused her mother and her family generally, but she never wa_ounted of serious importance, and though considered "smart" and old for he_ge, she was never thought superior in any way. Aurelia's experience o_enius, as exemplified in the deceased Lorenzo de Medici led her into _reater admiration of plain, every-day common sense, a quality in whic_ebecca, it must be confessed, seemed sometimes painfully deficient.
  • Hannah was her mother's favorite, so far as Aurelia could indulge herself i_uch recreations as partiality. The parent who is obliged to feed and cloth_even children on an income of fifteen dollars a month seldom has time t_iscriminate carefully between the various members of her brood, but Hannah a_ourteen was at once companion and partner in all her mother's problems. Sh_t was who kept the house while Aurelia busied herself in barn and field.
  • Rebecca was capable of certain set tasks, such as keeping the small childre_rom killing themselves and one another, feeding the poultry, picking u_hips, hulling strawberries, wiping dishes; but she was thought irresponsible,
  • and Aurelia, needing somebody to lean on (having never enjoyed that luxur_ith the gifted Lorenzo), leaned on Hannah. Hannah showed the result of thi_ttitude somewhat, being a trifle careworn in face and sharp in manner; bu_he was a self-contained, well-behaved, dependable child, and that is th_eason her aunts had invited her to Riverboro to be a member of their famil_nd participate in all the advantages of their loftier position in the world.
  • It was several years since Miranda and Jane had seen the children, but the_emembered with pleasure that Hannah had not spoken a word during th_nterview, and it was for this reason that they had asked for the pleasure o_er company. Rebecca, on the other hand, had dressed up the dog in John'_lothes, and being requested to get the three younger children ready fo_inner, she had held them under the pump and then proceeded to "smack" thei_air flat to their heads by vigorous brushing, bringing them to the table i_uch a moist and hideous state of shininess that their mother was ashamed o_heir appearance. Rebecca's own black locks were commonly pushed smoothly of_er forehead, but on this occasion she formed what I must perforce call by it_nly name, a spit-curl, directly in the centre of her brow, an ornament whic_he was allowed to wear a very short time, only in fact till Hannah was abl_o call her mother's attention to it, when she was sent into the next room t_emove it and to come back looking like a Christian. This command sh_nterpreted somewhat too literally perhaps, because she contrived in a spac_f two minutes an extremely pious style of hairdressing, fully as effective i_ot as startling as the first. These antics were solely the result of nervou_rritation, a mood born of Miss Miranda Sawyer's stiff, grim, and martia_ttitude. The remembrance of Rebecca was so vivid that their sister Aurelia'_etter was something of a shock to the quiet, elderly spinsters of the bric_ouse; for it said that Hannah could not possibly be spared for a few year_et, but that Rebecca would come as soon as she could be made ready; that th_ffer was most thankfully appreciated, and that the regular schooling an_hurch privileges, as well as the influence of the Sawyer home, woul_oubtless be "the making of Rebecca."