New Chronicles of Rebecca
Fourth Chronicle : A Tragedy In Millinery
Emma Jane Perkins's new winter dress was a blue and green Scotch plaid poplin,
trimmed with narrow green velvet-ribbon and steel nail-heads. She had a gray jacket of
thick furry cloth with large steel buttons up the front, a pair of green kid gloves, and a
gray felt hat with an encircling band of bright green feathers. The band began in front
with a bird's head and ended behind with a bird's tail, and angels could have desired no
more beautiful toilette. That was her opinion, and it was shared to the full by Rebecca.
But Emma Jane, as Rebecca had once described her to Mr. Adam Ladd, was a rich
blacksmith's daughter, and she, Rebecca, was a little half-orphan from a mortgaged farm
"up Temperance way," dependent upon her spinster aunts for board, clothes, and
schooling. Scotch plaid poplins were manifestly not for her, but dark-colored woolen
stuffs were, and mittens, and last winter's coats and furs.
And how about hats? Was there hope in store for her there? she wondered, as she walked
home from the Perkins house, full of admiration for Emma Jane's winter outfit, and
loyally trying to keep that admiration free from wicked envy. Her red-winged black hat
was her second best, and although it was shabby she still liked it, but it would never do
for church, even in Aunt Miranda's strange and never-to-be-comprehended views of
There was a brown felt turban in existence, if one could call it existence when it had been
rained on, snowed on, and hailed on for two seasons; but the trimmings had at any rate
perished quite off the face of the earth, that was one comfort!
Emma Jane had said, rather indiscreetly, that at the village milliner's at Milliken's Mills
there was a perfectly elegant pink breast to be had, a breast that began in a perfectly
elegant solferino and terminated in a perfectly elegant magenta; two colors much in
vogue at that time. If the old brown hat was to be her portion yet another winter, would
Aunt Miranda conceal its deficiencies from a carping world beneath the shaded solferino
breast? WOULD she, that was the question?
Filled with these perplexing thoughts, Rebecca entered the brick house, hung up her hood
in the entry, and went into the dining-room.
Miss Jane was not there, but Aunt Miranda sat by the window with her lap full of sewing
things, and a chair piled with pasteboard boxes by her side. In one hand was the ancient,
battered, brown felt turban, and in the other were the orange and black porcupine quills
from Rebecca's last summer's hat; from the hat of the summer before that, and the
summer before that, and so on back to prehistoric ages of which her childish memory
kept no specific record, though she was sure that Temperance and Riverboro society did.
Truly a sight to chill the blood of any eager young dreamer who had been looking at