Rebecca Mary - Part 9

Part 9

"What good will that do?"

"I'll lock her in."

"You've locked her in before."

"I'll--I'll hide the key."

"Where you can find it! Think again."

Aunt Olivia thrust the doll back into its coffin with unsteady hands.

The red in her face had faded to a faint, abiding pink. She locked the drawer and drew out the key. She strode to the window and flung it out with a wide sweep of her arm.

The minister's wife, ignorant of the results of her kind little experiment, resolved to question Rebecca Mary the next time she came on an errand. She would do it with extreme caution.

"I'll just feel round," she said. "I want to know if her aunt's given it to her. You think she must have, don't you, Robert? By this time? Why, it was six weeks ago I carried it over! It was such a nice, friendly little doll! By this time they would be such friends--if her aunt gave it to her. Robert, you think--"

"I think it's going to rain," the minister said. But he kissed her to make it easier.

Rebecca Mary came over to bring Aunt Olivia's rule for parson-cake that the minister's wife had asked for.

"Come in, Rebecca Mary," the minister's wife said, cordially. "Don't you want to see the new dress Rhoda's doll is going to have? I suppose you could make your doll's dress yourself?" It seemed a hard thing to say.

Feeling round was not pleasant.

"P'haps I could, but she doesn't wear dresses," Rebecca Mary answered, gravely.

"No?" This was puzzling. "Her clothes don't come off, I suppose?" Then it could not be the nice, friendly doll.

"No'm. Nor they don't go on, either. She isn't a feel doll."

"A--what kind did you say, dear?" The minister's wife paused in her work interestedly. Distinctly, Miss Olivia had not given her THE doll; but this doll--"I don't think I quite understood, Rebecca Mary."

"No'm; it's a little hard. She isn't a FEEL doll, I said. I never had a feel one. Mine hasn't any body, just a soul. But she's a great comfort."

"Robert," appealed the minister's wife, helplessly. This was a case for the minister--a case of souls.

"Tell us some more about her, Rebecca Mary," the minister urged, gently.

But there was helplessness, too, in his eyes.

"Why, that's all!" returned Rebecca Mary, in surprise. "Of course I can't dress her or undress her or take her out calling. But it's a great comfort to rock her soul to sleep."

"Call Rhoda," murmured the wife to the minister; but Rhoda was already there. She volunteered prompt explanation. There was no hesitation in Rhoda's face.

"She means a make believe doll. Don't you, Rebecca Mary?"

"Yes," Rebecca Mary a.s.sented; "that's her other name, I suppose, but I never called her by it."

"What did you call her?" demanded practical Rhoda. "What's her name mean?"

"Rhoda!"--hastily, from the minister's wife. This seemed like sacrilege.

But Rhoda's clear, blue eyes were fixed upon Rebecca Mary; she had not heard her mother's warning little word.

A shy color spread thinly over the lean little face of Rebecca Mary. For the s.p.a.ce of a breath or two she hesitated.

"Her name's--Felicia," then, softly.

"Robert"--the children had gone out together; the minister's wife's eyes were unashamedly wet--"Robert, I wish you were a--a sheriff instead of a minister. Because I think I would make a better sheriff's wife. Do you know what I would make you do?"

The minister could guess.

"I'd make you ARREST that woman, Robert!"

"Felicia!" But she saw willingness to be a sheriff come into his own eyes and stop there briefly.

"Don't call me 'Felicia' while I feel as wicked as this! Oh, Robert, to think she named her little soul-doll after me!"

"It's a beautiful name."

Suddenly the wickedness was over. She laughed unsteadily.

"It wouldn't be a good name for a sheriff's wife, would it?" she said.

"So I'll stay by my own minister."

One day close upon this time Aunt Olivia came abruptly upon Rebecca Mary in the grape arbor. She was sitting in her little rocking chair, swaying back and forth slowly. She did not see Aunt Olivia. What was she was crooning half under her breath?

"Oh, hush, oh, hush, my dollie; Don't worry any more, For Rebecca Mary 'n' the angels Are watching o'er, ---O'er 'n' o'er 'n' o'er."

The same words over and over--growing perhaps a little softer and tenderer. Rebecca Mary's arm was crooked as though a little flaxen head lay in the bend of it. Rebecca Mary's brooding little face was gazing downward intently at her empty arm. Quite suddenly it came upon Aunt Olivia that she had seen the child rocking like this before--that she must have seen her often.

"Rebecca Mary 'n' the angels Are watching o'er,"

sang on the crooning little voice in Aunt Olivia's ears.

The doll in its coffin upstairs; down here Rebecca Mary rocking her empty arms. The two thoughts flashed into Aunt Olivia's mind and welded into one. All her vacillations and Duty's sharp reminders occurred to her clearly. She had thought that at last she was proof against temptation, but she had not thought of this. She was not prepared for Rebecca Mary, here in her little rocking chair, rocking her little soul-doll to sleep.

The angels were used to watching o'er, but Aunt Olivia could not bear it. She went away with a strange, unaccustomed ache in her throat. The minister's wife would not have wanted her arrested then.

Aunt Olivia tiptoed away as though Rebecca Mary had said, "'Sh!" She was remembering, as she went, the brief, sweet moment when she had sat like that and rocked, with the doll the minister's wife dressed, in her arms.

It seemed to establish a new link of kinship between her and Rebecca Mary.

She ran plump into Duty.

"Oh!" she gasped. She was a little stunned. Aunt Olivia's Duty was solid.

"I know where you've been. I tried get there in time."

"You're too late," Aunt Olivia said, firmly, "Don't stop me; there's something I must do before it gets too dark. It's six o'clock now."

"Wait!" commanded Duty. "Are you crazy? You don't mean--"