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Tenth Chronicle : Rebecca's Reminiscences
Rebecca was sitting by the window in her room at the Wareham Female Seminary. She
was alone, as her roommate, Emma Jane Perkins, was reciting Latin down below in some
academic vault of the old brick building.
A new and most ardent passion for the classics had been born in Emma Jane's hitherto
unfertile brain, for Abijah Flagg, who was carrying off all the prizes at Limerick
Academy, had written her a letter in Latin, a letter which she had been unable to translate
for herself, even with the aid of a dictionary, and which she had been apparently
unwilling that Rebecca, her bosom friend, confidant, and roommate, should render into
An old-fashioned Female Seminary, with its allotment of one medium-sized room to two
medium sized young females, gave small opportunities for privacy by night or day, for
neither the double washstand, nor the thus far unimagined bathroom, nor even indeed the
humble and serviceable screen, had been realized, in these dark ages of which I write.
Accordingly, like the irrational ostrich, which defends itself by the simple process of not
looking at its pursuers, Emma Jane had kept her Latin letter in her closed hand, in her
pocket, or in her open book, flattering herself that no one had noticed her pleased
bewilderment at its only half-imagined contents.
All the fairies were not present at Rebecca's cradle. A goodly number of them
telegraphed that they were previously engaged or unavoidably absent from town. The
village of Temperance, Maine, where Rebecca first saw the light, was hardly a place on
its own merits to attract large throngs of fairies. But one dear old personage who keeps
her pocket full of Merry Leaves from the Laughing Tree, took a fancy to come to the
little birthday party; and seeing so few of her sister-fairies present, she dowered the
sleeping baby more richly than was her wont, because of its apparent lack of wealth in
other directions. So the child grew, and the Merry Leaves from the Laughing Tree rustled
where they hung from the hood of her cradle, and, being fairy leaves, when the cradle
was given up they festooned themselves on the cribside, and later on blew themselves up
to the ceilings at Sunnybook Farm and dangled there, making fun for everybody. They
never withered, even at the brick house in Riverboro, where the air was particularly
inimical to fairies, for Miss Miranda Sawyer would have scared any ordinary elf out of
her seventeen senses. They followed Rebecca to Wareham, and during Abijah Flagg's
Latin correspondence with Emma Jane they fluttered about that young person's head in
such a manner that Rebecca was almost afraid that she would discover them herself,
although this is something, as a matter of fact, that never does happen.
A week had gone by since the Latin missive had been taken from the post-office by
Emma Jane, and now, by means of much midnight oil-burning, by much cautious
questioning of Miss Maxwell, by such scrutiny of the moods and tenses of Latin verbs as
wellnigh destroyed her brain tissue, she had mastered its romantic message. If it was
conventional in style, Emma Jane never suspected it. If some of the similes seemed to
have been culled from the Latin poets, and some of the phrases built up from Latin