New Chronicles of Rebecca
Third Chronicle : Rebecca's Thought Book
The "Sawyer girls'" barn still had its haymow in Rebecca's time, although the hay was a
dozen years old or more, and, in the opinion of the occasional visiting horse, sadly
juiceless and wanting in flavor. It still sheltered, too, old Deacon Israel Sawyer's carryall
and mowing-machine, with his pung, his sleigh, and a dozen other survivals of an earlier
era, when the broad acres of the brick house went to make one of the finest farms in
There were no horses or cows in the stalls nowadays; no pig grunting comfortably of
future spare ribs in the sty; no hens to peck the plants in the cherished garden patch. The
Sawyer girls were getting on in years, and, mindful that care once killed a cat, they
ordered their lives with the view of escaping that particular doom, at least, and succeeded
fairly well until Rebecca's advent made existence a trifle more sensational.
Once a month for years upon years, Miss Miranda and Miss Jane had put towels over
their heads and made a solemn visit to the barn, taking off the enameled cloth coverings
(occasionally called "emmanuel covers" in Riverboro), dusting the ancient implements,
and sometimes sweeping the heaviest of the cobwebs from the corners, or giving a brush
to the floor.
Deacon Israel's tottering ladder still stood in its accustomed place, propped against the
haymow, and the heavenly stairway leading to eternal glory scarcely looked fairer to
Jacob of old than this to Rebecca. By means of its dusty rounds she mounted, mounted,
mounted far away from time and care and maiden aunts, far away from childish tasks and
childish troubles, to the barn chamber, a place so full of golden dreams, happy reveries,
and vague longings, that, as her little brown hands clung to the sides of the ladder and her
feet trod the rounds cautiously in her ascent, her heart almost stopped beating in the sheer
joy of anticipation.
Once having gained the heights, the next thing was to unlatch the heavy doors and give
them a gentle swing outward. Then, oh, ever new Paradise! Then, oh, ever lovely green
and growing world! For Rebecca had that something in her soul that
"Gives to seas and sunset skies The unspent beauty of surprise."
At the top of Guide Board hill she could see Alice Robinson's barn with its shining
weather vane, a huge burnished fish that swam with the wind and foretold the day to all
Riverboro. The meadow, with its sunny slopes stretching up to the pine woods, was
sometimes a flowing sheet of shimmering grass, sometimes--when daisies and buttercups
were blooming--a vision of white and gold. Sometimes the shorn stubble would be dotted
with "the happy hills of hay," and a little later the rock maple on the edge of the pines
would stand out like a golden ball against the green; its neighbor, the sugar maple,
glowing beside it, brave in scarlet.