When Rebecca alighted from the trainat Maplewood and hurried to the post-office where the stage was standing,what was her joy to see uncle Jerry Cobb holdingthe horses' heads.
"The reg'lar driver 's sick," he explained, "andwhen they sent for me, thinks I to myself, mydrivin' days is over, but Rebecky won't let the grassgrow under her feet when she gits her aunt Jane'sletter, and like as not I'll ketch her to-day; or, ifshe gits delayed, to-morrow for certain. So here Ibe jest as I was more 'n six year ago. Will you bea real lady passenger, or will ye sit up in frontwith me?"Emotions of various sorts were all strugglingtogether in the old man's face, and the two orthree bystanders were astounded when they sawthe handsome, stately girl fling herself on Mr.
Cobb's dusty shoulder crying like a child. "Oh,uncle Jerry!" she sobbed; "dear uncle Jerry! It'sall so long ago, and so much has happened, andwe've grown so old, and so much is going to happenthat I'm fairly frightened.""There, there, lovey," the old man whisperedcomfortingly, "we'll be all alone on the stage, andwe'll talk things over 's we go along the road an'
mebbe they won't look so bad."Every mile of the way was as familiar to Rebeccaas to uncle Jerry; every watering-trough, grindstone,red barn, weather-vane, duck-pond, and sandybrook. And all the time she was looking backwardto the day, seemingly so long ago, when she sat onthe box seat for the first time, her legs dangling inthe air, too short to reach the footboard. She couldsmell the big bouquet of lilacs, see the pink-flouncedparasol, feel the stiffness of the starched buff calicoand the hated prick of the black and yellow porcupinequills. The drive was taken almost in silence,but it was a sweet, comforting silence both touncle Jerry and the girl.
Then came the sight of Abijah Flagg shellingbeans in the barn, and then the Perkins attic windowswith a white cloth fluttering from them. Shecould spell Emma Jane's loving thought and welcomein that little waving flag; a word and a messagesent to her just at the first moment whenRiverboro chimneys rose into view; something towarm her heart till they could meet.
The brick house came next, looking just as ofyore; though it seemed to Rebecca as if deathshould have cast some mysterious spell over it.
There were the rolling meadows, the stately elms,all yellow and brown now; the glowing maples,the garden-beds bright with asters, and the hollyhocks,rising tall against the parlor windows; onlyin place of the cheerful pinks and reds of thenodding stalks, with their gay rosettes of bloom,was a crape scarf holding the blinds together, andanother on the sitting-room side, and another onthe brass knocker of the brown-painted door.
"Stop, uncle Jerry! Don't turn in at the side;hand me my satchel, please; drop me in the roadand let me run up the path by myself. Then driveaway quickly."At the noise and rumble of the approachingstage the house door opened from within, just asRebecca closed the gate behind her. Aunt Janecame down the stone steps, a changed woman,frail and broken and white. Rebecca held out herarms and the old aunt crept into them feebly, asshe did on that day when she opened the grave ofher buried love and showed the dead face, just foran instant, to a child. Warmth and strength andlife flowed into the aged frame from the young one.