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Chapter 24 Aladdin rubs his lamp

  • "Your esteemed contribution entitled Wareham Wildflowers has been accepted fo_he Pilot, Miss Perkins," said Rebecca, entering the room where Emma Jane wa_arning the firm's stockings. "I stayed to tea with Miss Maxwell, but cam_ome early to tell you."
  • "You are joking, Becky!" faltered Emma Jane, looking up from her work.
  • "Not a bit; the senior editor read it and thought it highly instructive; i_ppears in the next issue."
  • "Not in the same number with your poem about the golden gates that clos_ehind us when we leave school?"—and Emma Jane held her breath as she awaite_he reply.
  • "Even so, Miss Perkins."
  • "Rebecca," said Emma Jane, with the nearest approach to tragedy that he_ature would permit, "I don't know as I shall be able to bear it, and i_nything happens to me, I ask you solemnly to bury that number of The Pilo_ith me."
  • Rebecca did not seem to think this the expression of an exaggerated state o_eeling, inasmuch as she replied, "I know; that's just the way it seemed to m_t first, and even now, whenever I'm alone and take out the Pilot back number_o read over my contributions, I almost burst with pleasure; and it's not tha_hey are good either, for they look worse to me every time I read them."
  • "If you would only live with me in some little house when we get older," muse_mma Jane, as with her darning needle poised in air she regarded the opposit_all dreamily, "I would do the housework and cooking, and copy all your poem_nd stories, and take them to the post-office, and you needn't do anything bu_rite. It would be perfectly elergant!"
  • "I'd like nothing better, if I hadn't promised to keep house for John,"
  • replied Rebecca.
  • "He won't have a house for a good many years, will he?"
  • "No," sighed Rebecca ruefully, flinging herself down by the table and restin_er head on her hand. "Not unless we can contrive to pay off that detestabl_ortgage. The day grows farther off instead of nearer now that we haven't pai_he interest this year."
  • She pulled a piece of paper towards her, and scribbling idly on it read alou_n a moment or two:—
  • > "Will you pay a little faster?" said the mortgage to the farm; >        "I confess I'm very tired of this place."
  • > "The weariness is mutual," Rebecca Randall cried; >        "I would I'd never gazed upon your face!"
  • "A note has a 'face,'" observed Emma Jane, who was gifted in arithmetic. "_idn't know that a mortgage had."
  • "Our mortgage has," said Rebecca revengefully. "I should know him if I met hi_n the dark. Wait and I'll draw him for you. It will be good for you to kno_ow he looks, and then when you have a husband and seven children, you won'_llow him to come anywhere within a mile of your farm."
  • The sketch when completed was of a sort to be shunned by a timid person on th_erge of slumber. There was a tiny house on the right, and a weeping famil_athered in front of it. The mortgage was depicted as a cross between a fien_nd an ogre, and held an axe uplifted in his red right hand. A figure wit_treaming black locks was staying the blow, and this, Rebecca explaine_omplacently, was intended as a likeness of herself, though she was rathe_ague as to the method she should use in attaining her end.
  • "He's terrible," said Emma Jane, "but awfully wizened and small."
  • "It's only a twelve hundred dollar mortgage," said Rebecca, "and that's calle_ small one. John saw a man once that was mortgaged for twelve thousand."
  • "Shall you be a writer or an editor?" asked Emma Jane presently, as if one ha_nly to choose and the thing were done.
  • "I shall have to do what turns up first, I suppose."
  • "Why not go out as a missionary to Syria, as the Burches are always coaxin_ou to? The Board would pay your expenses."
  • "I can't make up my mind to be a missionary," Rebecca answered. "I'm not goo_nough in the first place, and I don't 'feel a call,' as Mr. Burch says yo_ust. I would like to do something for somebody and make things move, somewhere, but I don't want to go thousands of miles away teaching people ho_o live when I haven't learned myself. It isn't as if the heathen reall_eeded me; I'm sure they'll come out all right in the end."
  • "I can't see how; if all the people who ought to go out to save them stay a_ome as we do," argued Emma Jane.
  • "Why, whatever God is, and wherever He is, He must always be there, ready an_aiting. He can't move about and miss people. It may take the heathen a littl_onger to find Him, but God will make allowances, of course. He knows if the_ive in such hot climates it must make them lazy and slow; and the parrots an_igers and snakes and bread-fruit trees distract their minds; and having n_ooks, they can't think as well; but they'll find God somehow, some time."
  • "What if they die first?" asked Emma Jane.
  • "Oh, well, they can't be blamed for that; they don't die on purpose," sai_ebecca, with a comfortable theology.
  • In these days Adam Ladd sometimes went to Temperance on business connecte_ith the proposed branch of the railroad familiarly known as the "York an_ank 'em," and while there he gained an inkling of Sunnybrook affairs. Th_uilding of the new road was not yet a certainty, and there was a differenc_f opinion as to the best route from Temperance to Plumville. In one event th_ay would lead directly through Sunnybrook, from corner to corner, and Mrs.
  • Randall would be compensated; in the other, her interests would not b_ffected either for good or ill, save as all land in the immediat_eighborhood might rise a little in value.
  • Coming from Temperance to Wareham one day, Adam had a long walk and talk wit_ebecca, whom he thought looking pale and thin, though she was holding bravel_o her self-imposed hours of work. She was wearing a black cashmere dress tha_ad been her aunt Jane's second best. We are familiar with the heroine o_omance whose foot is so exquisitely shaped that the coarsest shoe canno_onceal its perfections, and one always cherishes a doubt of the statement; yet it is true that Rebecca's peculiar and individual charm seemed wholl_ndependent of accessories. The lines of her figure, the rare coloring of ski_nd hair and eyes, triumphed over shabby clothing, though, had the advantag_f artistic apparel been given her, the little world of Wareham would probabl_t once have dubbed her a beauty. The long black braids were now dispose_fter a quaint fashion of her own. They were crossed behind, carried up to th_ront, and crossed again, the tapering ends finally brought down and hidden i_he thicker part at the neck. Then a purely feminine touch was given to th_air that waved back from the face,—a touch that rescued little crests an_avelets from bondage and set them free to take a new color in the sun.
  • Adam Ladd looked at her in a way that made her put her hands over her face an_augh through them shyly as she said: "I know what you are thinking, Mr.
  • Aladdin,—that my dress is an inch longer than last year, and my hai_ifferent; but I'm not nearly a young lady yet; truly I'm not. Sixteen is _onth off still, and you promised not to give me up till my dress trails. I_ou don't like me to grow old, why don't you grow young? Then we can meet i_he halfway house and have nice times. Now that I think about it," sh_ontinued, "that's just what you've been doing all along. When you bought th_oap, I thought you were grandfather Sawyer's age; when you danced with me a_he flag-raising, you seemed like my father; but when you showed me you_other's picture, I felt as if you were my John, because I was so sorry fo_ou."
  • "That will do very well," smiled Adam; "unless you go so swiftly that yo_ecome my grandmother before I really need one. You are studying too hard, Miss Rebecca Rowena!"
  • "Just a little," she confessed. "But vacation comes soon, you know."
  • "And are you going to have a good rest and try to recover your dimples? The_re really worth preserving."
  • A shadow crept over Rebecca's face and her eyes suffused. "Don't be kind, Mr.
  • Aladdin, I can't bear it;—it's—it's not one of my dimply days!" and she ran i_t the seminary gate, and disappeared with a farewell wave of her hand.
  • Adam Ladd wended his way to the principal's office in a thoughtful mood. H_ad come to Wareham to unfold a plan that he had been considering for severa_ays. This year was the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Wareha_chools, and he meant to tell Mr. Morrison that in addition to his gift of _undred volumes to the reference library, he intended to celebrate it b_ffering prizes in English composition, a subject in which he was muc_nterested. He wished the boys and girls of the two upper classes to compete; the award to be made to the writers of the two best essays. As to the natur_f the prizes he had not quite made up his mind, but they would be substantia_nes, either of money or of books.
  • This interview accomplished, he called upon Miss Maxwell, thinking as he too_he path through the woods, "Rose-Red-Snow-White needs the help, and sinc_here is no way of my giving it to her without causing remark, she must ear_t, poor little soul! I wonder if my money is always to be useless where mos_ wish to spend it!"
  • He had scarcely greeted his hostess when he said: "Miss Maxwell, doesn't i_trike you that our friend Rebecca looks wretchedly tired?"
  • "She does indeed, and I am considering whether I can take her away with me. _lways go South for the spring vacation, traveling by sea to Old Poin_omfort, and rusticating in some quiet spot near by. I should like nothin_etter than to have Rebecca for a companion."
  • "The very thing!" assented Adam heartily; "but why should you take the whol_esponsibility? Why not let me help? I am greatly interested in the child, an_ave been for some years."
  • "You needn't pretend you discovered her," interrupted Miss Maxwell warmly,
  • "for I did that myself."
  • "She was an intimate friend of mine long before you ever came to Wareham,"
  • laughed Adam, and he told Miss Maxwell the circumstances of his first meetin_ith Rebecca. "From the beginning I've tried to think of a way I could b_seful in her development, but no reasonable solution seemed to offer itself."
  • "Luckily she attends to her own development," answered Miss Maxwell. "In _ense she is independent of everything and everybody; she follows her sain_ithout being conscious of it. But she needs a hundred practical things tha_oney would buy for her, and alas! I have a slender purse."
  • "Take mine, I beg, and let me act through you," pleaded Adam. "I could no_ear to see even a young tree trying its best to grow without light o_ir,—how much less a gifted child! I interviewed her aunts a year ago, hopin_ might be permitted to give her a musical education. I assured them it was _ost ordinary occurrence, and that I was willing to be repaid later on if the_nsisted, but it was no use. The elder Miss Sawyer remarked that no member o_er family ever had lived on charity, and she guessed they wouldn't begin a_his late day."
  • "I rather like that uncompromising New England grit," exclaimed Miss Maxwell,
  • "and so far, I don't regret one burden that Rebecca has borne or one sorro_hat she has shared. Necessity has only made her brave; poverty has only mad_er daring and self-reliant. As to her present needs, there are certain thing_nly a woman ought to do for a girl, and I should not like to have you do the_or Rebecca; I should feel that I was wounding her pride and self-respect, even though she were ignorant; but there is no reason why I may not do them i_ecessary and let you pay her traveling expenses. I would accept those for he_ithout the slightest embarrassment, but I agree that the matter would bette_e kept private between us."
  • "You are a real fairy godmother!" exclaimed Adam, shaking her hand warmly.
  • "Would it be less trouble for you to invite her room-mate too,—the pink-and- white inseparable?"
  • "No, thank you, I prefer to have Rebecca all to myself," said Miss Maxwell.
  • "I can understand that," replied Adam absent-mindedly; "I mean, of course, that one child is less trouble than two. There she is now."
  • Here Rebecca appeared in sight, walking down the quiet street with a lad o_ixteen. They were in animated conversation, and were apparently readin_omething aloud to each other, for the black head and the curly brown one wer_oth bent over a sheet of letter paper. Rebecca kept glancing up at he_ompanion, her eyes sparkling with appreciation.
  • "Miss Maxwell," said Adam, "I am a trustee of this institution, but upon m_ord I don't believe in coeducation!"
  • "I have my own occasional hours of doubt," she answered, "but surely it_isadvantages are reduced to a minimum with—children! That is a ver_mpressive sight which you are privileged to witness, Mr. Ladd. The folk i_ambridge often gloated on the spectacle of Longfellow and Lowell arm in arm.
  • The little school world of Wareham palpitates with excitement when it sees th_enior and the junior editors of The Pilot walking together!"