Will Melville drove up to the windowand, tossing a letter into Rebecca'slap, went off to the barn on an errand.
"Sister 's no worse, then," sighed Aureliagratefully, "or Jane would have telegraphed. See whatshe says."Rebecca opened the envelope and read in oneflash of an eye the whole brief page:--Your aunt Miranda passed away an hour ago.
Come at once, if your mother is out of danger. Ishall not have the funeral till you are here. Shedied very suddenly and without any pain. Oh,Rebecca! I long for you so!
The force of habit was too strong, and evenin the hour of death Jane had remembered thata telegram was twenty-five cents, and that Aureliawould have to pay half a dollar for its delivery.
Rebecca burst into a passion of tears as shecried, "Poor, poor aunt Miranda! She is gonewithout taking a bit of comfort in life, and Icouldn't say good-by to her! Poor lonely auntJane! What can I do, mother? I feel torn in two,between you and the brick house.""You must go this very instant," said Aurelia;starting from her pillows. "If I was to die whileyou were away, I would say the very same thing.
Your aunts have done everything in the world foryou,--more than I've ever been able to do,--andit is your turn to pay back some o' their kindnessand show your gratitude. The doctor says I'veturned the corner and I feel I have. Jenny canmake out somehow, if Hannah'll come over oncea day.""But, mother, I CAN'T go! Who'll turn you inbed?" exclaimed Rebecca, walking the floor andwringing her hands distractedly.
"It don't make any difference if I don't getturned," replied Aurelia stoically. "If a womanof my age and the mother of a family hasn't gotsense enough not to slip off haymows, she'd oughtto suffer. Go put on your black dress and pack yourbag. I'd give a good deal if I was able to go tomy sister's funeral and prove that I've forgottenand forgiven all she said when I was married. Heracts were softer 'n her words, Mirandy's were, andshe's made up to you for all she ever sinnedagainst me 'n' your father! And oh, Rebecca," shecontinued with quivering voice, "I remember sowell when we were little girls together and she tooksuch pride in curling my hair; and another time,when we were grown up, she lent me her best bluemuslin: it was when your father had asked me tolead the grand march with him at the Christmasdance, and I found out afterwards she thought he'dintended to ask her!"Here Aurelia broke down and wept bitterly; forthe recollection of the past had softened her heartand brought the comforting tears even more effectuallythan the news of her sister's death.
There was only an hour for preparation. Willwould drive Rebecca to Temperance and sendJenny back from school. He volunteered also toengage a woman to sleep at the farm in case Mrs.
Randall should be worse at any time in the night.
Rebecca flew down over the hill to get a last pailof spring water, and as she lifted the bucket fromthe crystal depths and looked out over the glowingbeauty of the autumn landscape, she saw a companyof surveyors with their instruments makingcalculations and laying lines that apparently crossedSunnybrook at the favorite spot where Mirror Poollay clear and placid, the yellow leaves on its surfaceno yellower than its sparkling sands.