Rebecca Mary - Part 4

Part 4

quavered Rebecca Mary. She was not afraid of the Caller and she had never been afraid of Aunt Olivia, but the horror that was settling round her heart made her clear little voice unsteady. Her eyes were still following Thomas Jefferson on his mincing travels about the yard. The sunshine was on his splendid white coat, but Rebecca Mary felt no pride in him.

"Ain't that the han'somest rooster! You ought to show him at the fair, I declare! See how his feathers glisten in the sun!"

"Thomas Jefferson belongs to Rebecca Mary," Aunt Olivia said, briefly.

"She raised him."

"My! Well, he's han'some enough. Ain't it amusing how a nice-feeling rooster like that will go stepping round as if he felt about too toppy to live! He'd ought to wear diamonds."

"Oh, oh, dear, please don't!" breathed Rebecca Mary, softly, but neither of the women heard her.

"Well, well, I must be going. I've made a regular visit. But I tell John when I get away from home, it feels so good I STAY! 'I don't get away any too often,' I says, 'and I guess I've earnt the right.' Well, I must be going if I'm ever going to! Good-bye, Miss Plummer--good-bye, Rebecca Mary. All is, I hope Mis' Avery's boarder'll find her diamond, don't you? But I don't calculate she will. Well, good afternoon. She hadn't ought to have wore the ring, when she knew it was loose in the setting like that. Some folks are just that careless! Well--"

But Rebecca Mary did not hear the rest of the Caller's leave-taking. She had slipped away to Thomas Jefferson out in the sun.

"Oh, come here--come here with me!" she cried, intensely. "Come out behind the barn where we can talk. I've got to say something to you that's awful! I've GOT to, you've got to listen, Thomas Jefferson."

It was still and terribly hot in the treeless glare behind the barn, but it was all in the day's work to Thomas Jefferson. Behind the barn was a beautiful place for bugs.

"Listen! Oh, you poor dear, you've got to listen!" Rebecca Mary cried.

"You've got to stop hunting for bugs--and don't you dare to crow! If you crow, Thomas Jefferson, it will break my heart. I don't s'pose you know what you've done--I don't know as you've done it--but there's something awful happened. Oh, Thomas Jefferson, it glittered--I saw it glitter!"

Suddenly Rebecca Mary stooped and gathered Thomas Jefferson into her arms. She held him with a pa.s.sionate clasp against her flat little calico breast. He was HERS. He was all the intimate friend she had ever had. He had been her little downy baby and slept in her hand. She had fed him and watched him grow and been proud of him. He was her all.

"Oh, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson, what was it that glittered in the gra.s.s? Tell me and I'll believe you. Say it was a little piece o'

gla.s.s and I'll put you down and go get you some corn, and we'll never speak of it again. But don't look at me like that--don't look at me like that! You look--GUILTY!"

She rocked him in her arms. In her soul she knew what it was that had glittered. But in Thomas Jefferson's soul--oh, they could not blame Thomas Jefferson!

"You haven't got any soul, poor dear; poor dear, you haven't got any soul, and you can't be guilty without a soul. They couldn't--hang--you."

Her voice sank to the merest whisper. She tightened her clasp on the great, soft body and smoothed the soft feathers with a tender, tremulous little hand.

"The Lord didn't put anything in you but a stomach and a--a gizzard. He left your soul out and you're not to blame for that. I don't blame you, Thomas Jefferson, and of course the Lord don't. But Mrs. Avery's boarder--oh, oh, dear, I'm afraid Mrs. Avery's boarder will! You mustn't tell--I mean I mustn't. n.o.body must know what it was that glittered in the gra.s.s. Do you want to be--searched?

"You know 'xactly where she sat over to this house yesterday morning, when she went by--and how she said you were too sweet for anything--and how she flew her hand round with--with IT on it. You know as well as I do. And it was loose, the di'mond-stone was loose. We didn't either of us know that. We're not to blame if things are loose, and you're not to blame for not having any soul. But oh, oh, dear, how dreadfully it makes us both feel! You'd better give up crowing, Thomas Jefferson; I feel just as if you'd let it out if you crew."

At tea Rebecca Mary played with her spoon, while her berries swam, untasted, in their yellow sea of cream. Aunt Olivia remonstrated.

"Why don't you eat your supper, child?" she asked, sharply. Rebecca Mary was always glad when she said child instead of Rebecca Mary, for then the sharpness did not cut. She was feeling now for the up in her thin gray hair. Aunt Olivia could see everything through those and it made Rebecca Mary tremble to think--oh, oh, dear, suppose she should see the secret hidden in Rebecca Mary's soul! It seemed as if Aunt Olivia trained the directly upon the corner where the secret glittered in the gra--was hidden in Rebecca Mary's troubled little soul. But this is what Aunt Olivia said:

"It's your stomach. What you need is a good dose of camomile tea to tone you up. I didn't give you any this spring, for a wonder. Now you go right up to bed and I'll set some to steeping. Does it hurt you any?"

"Oh yes'm," murmured Rebecca Mary, sadly, but she meant her soul and Aunt Olivia meant her stomach. She mounted the steep stairs to her little eavesdropping room and slipped her small spare body out of her clothes into her scant little nightgown. It was rather a relief to go to bed. If she could have been sure that Thomas Jefferson--but, no, Thomas Jefferson was not in bed. As Rebecca Mary lay and waited for her camomile tea she was certain she could hear him stepping about under the window. Once he came directly under and "crew," and then Rebecca Mary hid her head in the pillow for he was letting it out.

"c.o.c.k-a-doodle-do--ooo, did-you-see-me-swoo-oo-OOP-it-up?" crowed Thomas Jefferson, under the window. Rebecca Mary with her eyes pillow-deep could see him stretching his neck and letting it out. It seemed to her everybody could hear him--Aunt Olivia downstairs, steeping camomile 'blows, and Mrs. Avery's boarder across the fields.

"Aunt Olivia," whispered Rebecca Mary, while she sipped her bitter tea a little later, "how much--I suppose precious things cost a great deal, don't they?"

"My grief!" Aunt Olivia set down the bowl and felt of Rebecca Mary's temples, then of her wrists. The child was out of her head.

"Di'mond-stones like--like that boarder's--I suppose those cost a great deal? As much as--how much as, Aunt Olivia?"

"My grief, don't you worry about any di'mond-stones! YOU haven't lost any. What you'll lose will be your health, if you don't swallow down the rest o' this tea and go right to sleep like a good girl! No, no, I'm not going to answer any questions. Drink this; swallow it down."

Rebecca Mary swallowed it down, but she did not go right to sleep like a good girl. She lay on the hard little bed and thought of many things, or of one thing many times. Over and over, wearily, drearily, until the sin of Thomas Jefferson became her sin. She adopted it.

When at last she dropped to sleep it was to dream a Bible dream. Usually Rebecca Mary liked to dream Bible dreams, but not this one. This one was different. This one was of Abraham and Isaac. She thought she was right there and saw Abraham build the little altar and offer up--no, it wasn't Isaac! It was Thomas Jefferson. And the Abraham in her dream was turning into HER. The flowing white robes were dwindling to a little scant white nightgown. She stood a little way off and saw herself offering up Thomas Jefferson. It was a dreadful dream.

The night was a perfectly black one, the kind that Rebecca Mary was afraid of. It was the only thing in the world she had ever been afraid of--a black night. But after the dream she got up stealthily and slipped through the blackness, out to Thomas Jefferson. It was only out to the little lean-to shed, but it seemed a very long way to Rebecca Mary.

The blackness pressed up against her, she put out her little, trembling hands and pushed through it.

"Thomas Jefferson! Thomas Jefferson!" she called softly. But he was a sound sleeper, she remembered; she would have to find him and wake him.

In the darkness she felt about on Thomas Jefferson's perch for Thomas Jefferson. When the little groping hand came upon something very soft and warm, the other hand went up to join it, and together they lifted Thomas Jefferson down. He gave a protesting croak, and then, because he was acquainted with the clasp of the two small hands, and night or day liked it, he went back to his interrupted dreams and said not another word. Thomas Jefferson had never dreamed a Bible dream--never heard of Abraham or Isaac, had no soul to be disquieted.

With her burden against her breast Rebecca Mary pushed back through the darkness, up to the black little room under the eaves. She felt about for her little carpet-covered shoe box and gently crowded the great white bulk into it. Then she crept back into bed and lay on the outer edge with her loving, light little hand on Thomas Jefferson's feathers.

The trouble in her burdened soul poured itself out.

"Oh, Thomas Jefferson," she whispered down to the heap of soft feathers, "I'm going to smooth you this way all night for tomorrow you die!" Her voice even in a whisper had a solemn, inspired note. "There's no other way; you'll have to make up your mind to be willing. It's going to break my heart, and, oh, I'm afraid it will break yours! I'm afraid it will kill us both!"

Thomas Jefferson uttered a mournful little croaky sound that might have been "ET TU, BRUTE?" It pierced Rebecca Mary's breast. "There, hush, poor dear, poor dear, and rest. You'll need all your sleep," she crooned softly and brokenly. "Tomorrow morning I'll give you some beautiful corn, and then--and then I'm going to take you to Mrs. Avery's boarder and tell her the worst. I'm going to give you up, Thomas Jefferson; and I'm the best friend you've got in the world! But I've got to, I've got to--I've got to! It's been revealed to me in a dream. There was a man once in the Bible, named Abraham, and there was his dearly beloved little boy named Isaac. And now here's me named Rebecca Mary, and dearly beloved you named Thomas Jefferson. Oh, I don't suppose you can understand; I suppose you're asleep. You'll never know how it feels to give up your dearly belovedest, but oh, oh, dear, you'll know how it feels to be given up! You'll be one o' the blessed martyrs, Thomas Jefferson--doesn't that comfort you a little speck? Oh, why don't you wake up and be comforted?

"The Lord excused Abraham, after all. But this isn't the Lord, it's Mrs.

Avery's boarder. I'm afraid she isn't the Lord's kind--I'm afraid not, Thomas Jefferson. I don't dare to let you hope; I've got to prepare you for the worst."

She caught up the big, white fellow with sudden, irresistible yearning and sat up with him and rocked him back and forth in her arms. She began a m.u.f.fled, sad little tune like a wail. The words were terrible words.

"I'll hold you in my arms. I'll rock you--rock you--rock you. For tomorrow, oh, to-MOR-row you--must--die! Aber-a-ham offered Isaac, and _I_-MUST OFFER YOU."

Over and over, then tenderly she lowered Thomas Jefferson to the shoe box again.

When Aunt Olivia came up in the morning, vaguely alarmed because it was so late and no Rebecca Mary stirring, she had news to tell. Someone going by had told her something.

"Well, that woman's found her 'di'mond-stone,'--how are you feeling this morning, child? It was in her pocket where she'd put her hand in and felt round! So all that fuss for noth--"

Suddenly Aunt Olivia stopped, for without warning, out of a box at the bedside stalked a great white rooster and flew to the foot board and "crew":


It was gla.s.s that glittered in the gra.s.s, And all the time I knew-oo-ooo!"

"My grief?" Aunt Olivia gasped.

The Cookbook Diary

Rebecca Mary decided to keep a diary. It was not an inspiration, though it was rather like one in its suddenness. Of course she had always known that Aunt Olivia kept a diary. When she was very small she had stretched a-tiptoe and with little pointing forefinger counted rows and rows of little black books that Aunt Olivia had "kept." Each little black book had its year-label pasted neatly on the back. Rebecca Mary breathed deep breaths of awe, there were so many of them. There must be so much weather in those little black books--so many pleasant days, rainy days, storms, and snows!