Rebecca's heart beat high at this sweetpraise from her hero's lips, but before shehad found words to thank him, Mr. andMrs. Cobb, who had been modestly biding theirtime in a corner, approached her and she introducedthem to Mr. Ladd.
"Where, where is aunt Jane?" she cried, holdingaunt Sarah's hand on one side and uncle Jerry'son the other.
"I'm sorry, lovey, but we've got bad news foryou.""Is aunt Miranda worse? She is; I can see itby your looks;" and Rebecca's color faded.
"She had a second stroke yesterday morningjest when she was helpin' Jane lay out her thingsto come here to-day. Jane said you wan't to knowanything about it till the exercises was all over, andwe promised to keep it secret till then.""I will go right home with you, aunt Sarah. Imust just run to tell Miss Maxwell, for after I hadpacked up to-morrow I was going to Brunswick withher. Poor aunt Miranda! And I have been so gayand happy all day, except that I was longing formother and aunt Jane.""There ain't no harm in bein' gay, lovey; that'swhat Jane wanted you to be. And Miranda's gother speech back, for your aunt has just sent a lettersayin' she's better; and I'm goin' to set up to-night,so you can stay here and have a good sleep, and getyour things together comfortably to-morrow.""I'll pack your trunk for you, Becky dear, andattend to all our room things," said Emma Jane,who had come towards the group and heard thesorrowful news from the brick house.
They moved into one of the quiet side pews,where Hannah and her husband and John joinedthem. From time to time some straggling acquaintanceor old schoolmate would come up to congratulateRebecca and ask why she had hidden herselfin a corner. Then some member of the class wouldcall to her excitedly, reminding her not to be lateat the picnic luncheon, or begging her to be earlyat the class party in the evening. All this had anair of unreality to Rebecca. In the midst of thehappy excitement of the last two days, when"blushing honors" had been falling thick upon her, andbehind the delicious exaltation of the morning, hadbeen the feeling that the condition was a transientone, and that the burden, the struggle, the anxiety,would soon loom again on the horizon. She longedto steal away into the woods with dear old John,grown so manly and handsome, and get some comfortfrom him.
Meantime Adam Ladd and Mr. Cobb had beenhaving an animated conversation.
"I s'pose up to Boston, girls like that one are asthick as blackb'ries?" uncle Jerry said, jerking hishead interrogatively in Rebecca's direction.
"They may be," smiled Adam, taking in the oldman's mood; "only I don't happen to know one.""My eyesight bein' poor 's the reason she lookedhan'somest of any girl on the platform, I s'pose?""There's no failure in my eyes," responded Adam,"but that was how the thing seemed to me!""What did you think of her voice? Anythingextry about it?""Made the others sound poor and thin, Ithought.""Well, I'm glad to hear your opinion, you bein'