Will Melville drove up to the window and, tossing a letter into Rebecca's lap,
went off to the barn on an errand.
"Sister 's no worse, then," sighed Aurelia gratefully, "or Jane would hav_elegraphed. See what she says."
Rebecca opened the envelope and read in one flash of an eye the whole brie_age:—
> Your aunt Miranda passed away an hour ago. Come at once, if your mother i_ut of danger. I shall not have the funeral till you are here. She died ver_uddenly and without any pain. Oh, Rebecca! I long for you so!
> Aunt Jane.
The force of habit was too strong, and even in the hour of death Jane ha_emembered that a telegram was twenty-five cents, and that Aurelia would hav_o pay half a dollar for its delivery.
Rebecca burst into a passion of tears as she cried, "Poor, poor aunt Miranda!
She is gone without taking a bit of comfort in life, and I couldn't say good-
by to her! Poor lonely aunt Jane! What can I do, mother? I feel torn in two,
between you and the brick house."
"You must go this very instant," said Aurelia; starting from her pillows. "I_ was to die while you were away, I would say the very same thing. Your aunt_ave done everything in the world for you,—more than I've ever been able t_o,—and it is your turn to pay back some o' their kindness and show you_ratitude. The doctor says I've turned the corner and I feel I have. Jenny ca_ake out somehow, if Hannah'll come over once a day."
"But, mother, I CAN'T go! Who'll turn you in bed?" exclaimed Rebecca, walkin_he floor and wringing her hands distractedly.
"It don't make any difference if I don't get turned," replied Aureli_toically. "If a woman of my age and the mother of a family hasn't got sens_nough not to slip off haymows, she'd ought to suffer. Go put on your blac_ress and pack your bag. I'd give a good deal if I was able to go to m_ister's funeral and prove that I've forgotten and forgiven all she said whe_ was married. Her acts were softer 'n her words, Mirandy's were, and she'_ade up to you for all she ever sinned against me 'n' your father! And oh,
Rebecca," she continued with quivering voice, "I remember so well when we wer_ittle girls together and she took such pride in curling my hair; and anothe_ime, when we were grown up, she lent me her best blue muslin: it was whe_our father had asked me to lead the grand march with him at the Christma_ance, and I found out afterwards she thought he'd intended to ask her!"
Here Aurelia broke down and wept bitterly; for the recollection of the pas_ad softened her heart and brought the comforting tears even more effectuall_han the news of her sister's death.
There was only an hour for preparation. Will would drive Rebecca to Temperanc_nd send Jenny back from school. He volunteered also to engage a woman t_leep at the farm in case Mrs. Randall should be worse at any time in th_ight.
Rebecca flew down over the hill to get a last pail of spring water, and as sh_ifted the bucket from the crystal depths and looked out over the glowin_eauty of the autumn landscape, she saw a company of surveyors with thei_nstruments making calculations and laying lines that apparently crosse_unnybrook at the favorite spot where Mirror Pool lay clear and placid, th_ellow leaves on its surface no yellower than its sparkling sands.
She caught her breath. "The time has come!" she thought. "I am saying good-b_o Sunnybrook, and the golden gates that almost swung together that last da_n Wareham will close forever now. Good-by, dear brook and hills and meadows;
you are going to see life too, so we must be hopeful and say to one another:—
> "'Grow old along with me,
> The best is yet to be.'"
Will Melville had seen the surveyors too, and had heard in the Temperanc_ost-office that morning the probable sum that Mrs. Randall would receive fro_he railway company. He was in good spirits at his own improved prospects, fo_is farm was so placed that its value could be only increased by the new road;
he was also relieved in mind that his wife's family would no longer be in dir_overty directly at his doorstep, so to speak. John could now be hurrie_orward and forced into the position of head of the family several year_ooner than had been anticipated, so Hannah's husband was obliged to exercis_reat self-control or he would have whistled while he was driving Rebecca t_he Temperance station. He could not understand her sad face or the tears tha_olled silently down her cheeks from time to time; for Hannah had alway_epresented her aunt Miranda as an irascible, parsimonious old woman, wh_ould be no loss to the world whenever she should elect to disappear from it.
"Cheer up, Becky!" he said, as he left her at the depot. "You'll find you_other sitting up when you come back, and the next thing you know the whol_amily'll be moving to some nice little house wherever your work is. Thing_ill never be so bad again as they have been this last year; that's wha_annah and I think;" and he drove away to tell his wife the news.
Adam Ladd was in the station and came up to Rebecca instantly, as she entere_he door looking very unlike her bright self.
"The Princess is sad this morning," he said, taking her hand. "Aladdin mus_ub the magic lamp; then the slave will appear, and these tears be dried in _rice."
He spoke lightly, for he thought her trouble was something connected wit_ffairs at Sunnybrook, and that he could soon bring the smiles by telling he_hat the farm was sold and that her mother was to receive a handsome price i_eturn. He meant to remind her, too, that though she must leave the home o_er youth, it was too remote a place to be a proper dwelling either fo_erself or for her lonely mother and the three younger children. He could hea_er say as plainly as if it were yesterday, "I don't think one ever forget_he spot where one lived as a child." He could see the quaint little figur_itting on the piazza at North Riverboro and watch it disappear in the lila_ushes when he gave the memorable order for three hundred cakes of Rose-Re_nd Snow-White soap.
A word or two soon told him that her grief was of another sort, and her moo_as so absent, so sensitive and tearful, that he could only assure her of hi_ympathy and beg that he might come soon to the brick house to see with hi_wn eyes how she was faring.
Adam thought, when he had put her on the train and taken his leave, tha_ebecca was, in her sad dignity and gravity, more beautiful than he had eve_een her,—all-beautiful and all-womanly. But in that moment's speech with he_e had looked into her eyes and they were still those of a child; there was n_nowledge of the world in their shining depths, no experience of men or women,
no passion, nor comprehension of it. He turned from the little country statio_o walk in the woods by the wayside until his own train should be leaving, an_rom time to time he threw himself under a tree to think and dream and look a_he glory of the foliage. He had brought a new copy of The Arabian Nights fo_ebecca, wishing to replace the well-worn old one that had been the delight o_er girlhood; but meeting her at such an inauspicious time, he had absentl_arried it away with him. He turned the pages idly until he came to the stor_f Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, and presently, in spite of his thirty-fou_ears, the old tale held him spellbound as it did in the days when he firs_ead it as a boy. But there were certain paragraphs that especially caught hi_ye and arrested his attention,—paragraphs that he read and reread, finding i_hem he knew not what secret delight and significance. These were the quaintl_urned phrases describing the effect on the once poor Aladdin of his wonderfu_iches, and those descanting upon the beauty and charm of the Sultan'_aughter, the Princess Badroulboudour:—
_Not only those who knew Aladdin when he played in the streets like a vagabon_id not know him again; those who had seen him but a little while befor_ardly knew him, so much were his features altered; such were the effects o_he lamp, as to procure by degrees to those who possessed it, perfection_greeable to the rank the right use of it advanced them to._
_The Princess was the most beautiful brunette in the world; her eyes wer_arge, lively, and sparkling; her looks sweet and modest; her nose was of _ust proportion and without a fault; her mouth small, her lips of a vermilio_ed, and charmingly agreeable symmetry; in a word, all the features of he_ace were perfectly regular. It is not therefore surprising that Aladdin, wh_ad never seen, and was a stranger to, so many charms, was dazzled. With al_hese perfections the Princess had so delicate a shape, so majestic an air,
that the sight of her was sufficient to inspire respect._
" _Adorable Princess," said Aladdin to her, accosting her, and saluting he_espectfully, "if I have the misfortune to have displeased you by my boldnes_n aspiring to the possession of so lovely a creature, I must tell you tha_ou ought to blame your bright eyes and charms, not me._ "
_"Prince," answered the Princess, "it is enough for me to have seen you, t_ell you that I obey without reluctance."_