The day before Rebecca started for theSouth with Miss Maxwell she was in thelibrary with Emma Jane and Huldah,consulting dictionaries and encyclopaedias. As theywere leaving they passed the locked cases containingthe library of fiction, open to the teachers andtownspeople, but forbidden to the students.
They looked longingly through the glass, gettingsome little comfort from the titles of the volumes,as hungry children imbibe emotional nourishmentfrom the pies and tarts inside a confectioner's window.
Rebecca's eyes fell upon a new book in thecorner, and she read the name aloud with delight:
"_The Rose of Joy_. Listen, girls; isn't that lovely?
_The Rose of Joy_. It looks beautiful, and it soundsbeautiful. What does it mean, I wonder?""I guess everybody has a different rose," saidHuldah shrewdly. "I know what mine would be,and I'm not ashamed to own it. I'd like a yearin a city, with just as much money as I wantedto spend, horses and splendid clothes and amusementsevery minute of the day; and I'd like aboveeverything to live with people that wear lownecks." (Poor Huldah never took off her dress with-out bewailing the fact that her lot was cast inRiverboro, where her pretty white shoulders couldnever be seen.)"That would be fun, for a while anyway," EmmaJane remarked. "But wouldn't that be pleasuremore than joy? Oh, I've got an idea!""Don't shriek so!" said the startled Huldah.
"I thought it was a mouse.""I don't have them very often," apologized EmmaJane,--"ideas, I mean; this one shook me likea stroke of lightning. Rebecca, couldn't it be success?""That's good," mused Rebecca; "I can see thatsuccess would be a joy, but it doesn't seem to melike a rose, somehow. I was wondering if it couldbe love?""I wish we could have a peep at the book! Itmust be perfectly elergant!" said Emma Jane.
"But now you say it is love, I think that's the bestguess yet."All day long the four words haunted and possessedRebecca; she said them over to herself continually.
Even the prosaic Emma Jane was affectedby them, for in the evening she said, "I don'texpect you to believe it, but I have another idea,--that's two in one day; I had it while I was puttingcologne on your head. The rose of joy might behelpfulness.""If it is, then it is always blooming in your dearlittle heart, you darlingest, kind Emmie, takingsuch good care of your troublesome Becky!""Don't dare to call yourself troublesome! You're--you're--you're my rose of joy, that's what youare!" And the two girls hugged each other affectionately.
In the middle of the night Rebecca touchedEmma Jane on the shoulder softly. "Are you veryfast asleep, Emmie?" she whispered.
"Not so very," answered Emma Jane drowsily.
"I've thought of something new. If you sang orpainted or wrote,--not a little, but beautifully, youknow,--wouldn't the doing of it, just as much asyou wanted, give you the rose of joy?""It might if it was a real talent," answered EmmaJane, "though I don't like it so well as love. If youhave another thought, Becky, keep it till morning.""I did have one more inspiration," said Rebeccawhen they were dressing next morning, "but Ididn't wake you. I wondered if the rose of joycould be sacrifice? But I think sacrifice would bea lily, not a rose; don't you?"The journey southward, the first glimpse of theocean, the strange new scenes, the ease and deliciousfreedom, the intimacy with Miss Maxwell,almost intoxicated Rebecca. In three days she wasnot only herself again, she was another self, thrillingwith delight, anticipation, and realization. Shehad always had such eager hunger for knowledge,such thirst for love, such passionate longing for themusic, the beauty, the poetry of existence! Shehad always been straining to make the outwardworld conform to her inward dreams, and now lifehad grown all at once rich and sweet, wide and full.