Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
The Sky Line Widens
The time so long and eagerly waited for had come, and Rebecca was a student at
Wareham. Persons who had enjoyed the social bewilderments and advantages of foreign
courts, or had mingled freely in the intellectual circles of great universities, might not
have looked upon Wareham as an extraordinary experience; but it was as much of an
advance upon Riverboro as that village had been upon Sunnybrook Farm. Rebecca's
intention was to complete the four years' course in three, as it was felt by all the parties
concerned that when she had attained the ripe age of seventeen she must be ready to earn
her own living and help in the education of the younger children. While she was
wondering how this could be successfully accomplished, some of the other girls were
cogitating as to how they could meander through the four years and come out at the end
knowing no more than at the beginning. This would seem a difficult, well-nigh an
impossible task, but it can be achieved, and has been, at other seats of learning than
modest little Wareham.
Rebecca was to go to and fro on the cars daily from September to Christmas, and then
board in Wareham during the three coldest months. Emma Jane's parents had always
thought that a year or two in the Edgewood high school (three miles from Riverboro)
would serve every purpose for their daughter and send her into the world with as fine an
intellectual polish as she could well sustain. Emma Jane had hitherto heartily concurred
in this opinion, for if there was any one thing that she detested it was the learning of
lessons. One book was as bad as another in her eyes, and she could have seen the libraries
of the world sinking into ocean depths and have eaten her dinner cheerfully the while; but
matters assumed a different complexion when she was sent to Edgewood and Rebecca to
Wareham. She bore it for a week-- seven endless days of absence from the beloved
object, whom she could see only in the evenings when both were busy with their lessons.
Sunday offered an opportunity to put the matter before her father, who proved obdurate.
He didn't believe in education and thought she had full enough already. He never
intended to keep up "blacksmithing" for good when he leased his farm and came into
Riverboro, but proposed to go back to it presently, and by that time Emma Jane would
have finished school and would be ready to help her mother with the dairy work.
Another week passed. Emma Jane pined visibly and audibly. Her color faded, and her
appetite (at table) dwindled almost to nothing.
Her mother alluded plaintively to the fact that the Perkinses had a habit of going into
declines; that she'd always feared that Emma Jane's complexion was too beautiful to be
healthy; that some men would be proud of having an ambitious daughter, and be glad to
give her the best advantages; that she feared the daily journeys to Edgewood were going
to be too much for her own health, and Mr. Perkins would have to hire a boy to drive
Emma Jane; and finally that when a girl had such a passion for learning as Emma Jane, it
seemed almost like wickedness to cross her will.