The doll’s name was Olivicia.
Rebecca Mary had evolved the name
from her inner consciousness and her intense gratitude
to Aunt Olivia and the minister’s wife.
She had put Aunt Olivia first with instinctive loyalty,
though in the secret little closet of her soul she
had longed to call the beautiful being Felicia, intact
and sweet. She did not know the meaning of Felicia,
but she knew that the doll, as it lay in the loving
cradle of her arms, gazing upward with changeless
placidity and graciousness, looked as one should look
whose name was Felicia. Greater compliment than
this Rebecca Mary could not have paid the minister’s
“Olivicia,” she had placed
the being on the sill of the attic window, stood confronting,
addressing it: “Olivicia, it’s coming-it
is very near to! Sit there and listen and smile-oh
yes, smile, smile. I don’t wonder!
I would too, only I’m too glad. When you’re
too glad you can’t smile. I’ve
been waiting for it to come. Olivicia, seems as
if I’d been waiting a thousan’ years.
You’re so young, you’ve only lived such
little while, of course I don’t expect you understand
the deep-downness inside o’ me when I think-
The address fluttered and came to
a standstill here. Rebecca Mary was suddenly
minded that Olivicia was in the dark; must be enlightened
before she could smile understandingly.
“Why, you poor dear!-why,
you don’t know what it is that’s coming
and that’s near to! It’s the-city,
Olivicia,” enlightened Rebecca Mary, gently,
to insure against shock. “Aunt Olivia’s
In Rebecca Mary’s dreamings
it had always been the city. It did not need
local habitation and a name; enough that it had streets
upon streets, houses upon houses upon houses, a dazzling
swirl of men, women, and little children-noise,
glitter, glory. In her dreamings the city was
something so wondrous and grand that Heaven might have
been its name. The streets upon streets were
not paved with gold, of course-of course
she knew they were not paved with gold! But in
spite of herself she knew that she would be disappointed
if they did not shine.
Aunt Olivia had said it that morning.
At breakfast-quite matter-of-factly.
Think of saying it matter-of-factly!
“I’m going to the city
soon, Rebecca Mary,” she had said, between sips
of her tea. “Perhaps by Friday week, but
I haven’t set the day, really. There’s
a good deal to do.”
Rebecca Mary had been helping do it
all day. Now it was nearly time for the pageant
of red and gold in the west that Rebecca Mary loved,
and she had come up here with the beautiful being
to watch it through the tiny panes of the attic window,
but more to ease the aching rapture in her soul by
speech. She must say it out loud. The city-the
city-to the city of streets and houses
and men and wonders upon wonders!
Olivicia had come in the capacity
of calm listener; for nothing excited Olivicia.
“I,” Aunt Olivia had said,
but Aunt Olivia usually said “I.”
There was no discouragement in that to Rebecca Mary.
It did not for a moment occur to her that “I”
did not mean “we.”
The valise they had got down from
its cobwebby niche was roomy; it would hold enough
for two. Rebecca Mary knew that, because she had
packed it so many times in her dreamings. She
wished Aunt Olivia would let her pack it now.
She knew just where she would put everything-her
best dress and Aunt Olivia’s (for of course they
would wear their second-bests), their best hats and
shoes and gloves. Their nightgowns she would
roll tightly and put in one end, for it doesn’t
hurt nightgowns to be rolled tightly. Of course
she would not put anything heavy, like hair brushes
and shoes and things, on top of anything-unless it was the nightgowns, for it
Olivicia, how I hope she’ll say, ’Rebecca
Mary, you may pack the valise’! I could
do it with my eyes shut, I’ve done it so many,
But Aunt Olivia did not say it.
One day and then another went by without her saying
it, and then one morning Rebecca Mary knew by the plump,
well-fed aspect of the valise that it was packed.
Aunt Olivia had packed it in the night.
There was no one else in the room
when Rebecca Mary made her disappointing little discovery.
She went over to the plump valise and prodded it gently
with her finger. But it is so difficult to tell
in that way whether your own best dress, your own
best hat, best shoes, best gloves, are in there.
Rebecca Mary hurried upstairs and looked in her closet
and in her “best” bureau drawer.
They were not there! In her relief
she caught up the beautiful being and strained her
hard, lifeless little body to her own warm breast.
If she had not been Rebecca Mary, she would have danced
about the room.
“Oh, I’m so relieved,
Olivicia!” she laughed, softly. “If
they’re not up here, they’re down
there. They’ve got to be somewhere.
They’re in that valise-valise-valí-i-ise!”
Rebecca Mary had never been to a city,
and within her remembrance Aunt Olivia had never been.
Curiosity was not a Plummer trait, hence Rebecca Mary
had never asked many questions about the remote period
before her own advent into Aunt Olivia’s life.
The same Plummer restraint kept her now from asking
questions. There was nothing to do but wait, but
the waiting was illumined by her joyous anticipations.
Oddly enough, Aunt Olivia seemed to
have no anticipations-at least joyous ones.
Her, thin, grave face may even have looked a little
thinner and graver, if Rebecca Mary had thought
The night the lean old valise took
on plumpness, Aunt Olivia went often into Mary’s
little room. Many of the times she came out very
shortly with the child’s “best”
things trailing from her arms, but once or twice she
stayed rather long-long enough to stand
beside a little white bed and look down on a flushed
little face. A pair of wide-open eyes watched
her smilingly from the pillows, but they were not Rebecca
Mary’s eyes, and Olivicia was altogether trustworthy.
An odd thing happened-but
Olivicia never told. Why should she publish abroad
that she had lain there and seen Aunt Olivia bend once-bend
twice-over Rebecca Mary and kiss her?
Softly, patiently, very wearily, Aunt
Olivia went in and out. The things she brought
out in her arms she folded carefully and packed, but
not in the lank old valise. She put them all
with tender painstaking into a quaint little carpetbag.
When the work was done she set the bag away out of
sight, and went about packing her own things in the
The day before, she had been to see
the minister and the minister’s wife. She
called for them both, and sat down gravely and made
her proposition. It was startling only because
of the few words it took to make it. Otherwise
it was very pleasant, and the minister and the minister’s
wife received it with nods and smiles.
“Of course, Miss Olivia-why,
certainly!” smiled and nodded the minister.
“Why, it will be delightful-and
Rhoda will be so pleased!” nodded and smiled
the minister’s wife. But after their caller
had gone she faced the minister with indignant eyes.
“Why did you let her?”
she demanded. “Why did you spoil it all
“Because she was Miss Olivia,” he answered,
“Yes-yes, I suppose
so,” reluctantly; “but, anyway, you needn’t
have let her do it in advance. Actually it made
me blush, Robert!”
The minister rubbed his cheeks tentatively.
“Made me, too,” he admitted, “but
I respect Miss Olivia so much-
The minister’s wife tacked abruptly
to her other source of indignation.
“Why doesn’t she take
Rebecca Mary? Robert, wait! You know it isn’t
because-You know better!”
“It isn’t because, dear-I
know better,” he hurried, assuringly. The
minister was used to her little indignations and
loved them for being hers. They were harmless,
too, and wont to have a good excuse for being.
This one, now-the minister in his heart
wondered that Miss Olivia did not take Rebecca Mary.
“It would be such a treat.
Robert, you think what a treat it would be to Rebecca
“I don’t want to be still!
I want Rebecca Mary to have that treat!” But
she kissed him in token of being willing to drop it
there-it was her usual token-and
ran away to get a little room ready. There was
not a device known to the minister’s wife that
she did not use to make that room pleasant.
“Shall I take your pincushion,
Rhoda?” Rhoda had come up to help.
“Yes,” eagerly, “and I’ll
write Welcome with the pins.”
“And the little fan to put on the wall-the
“Yes, yes; let me spread it out, mamma!”
“That’s grand. Now if we only had
a pink quilt-
“I ‘only have’ one!” laughed
Rhoda, hurrying after it.
The whole little room when they left,
like the pins in the pincushion, spelled “Welcome.”
Aunt Olivia got up earlier than usual
one day and went about the house for a survey.
The valise and the little carpetbag she carried downstairs
and out on to the front steps. Her face was whitened
as if by a long night’s vigil. When she
called Rebecca Mary it was with a voice strained hoarse.
The beautiful being Olivicia watched her with intent,
unwinking gaze. Could it be Olivicia understood?
“Hurry and dress, Rebecca Mary;
there’s a good deal to do,” Aunt Olivia
said at the door. She did not go in. “Yes,
in your second-best-don’t you see
I’ve put it out. You can wear that every
day now, till-for a while.”
Something in the voice startled Rebecca Mary out of
her subdued ecstasy and sent her down to breakfast
with a nameless fear tugging at her heart.
“You’re going to stay
at the minister’s-I’ve paid
your board in advance,” Aunt Olivia said, monotonously,
as if it were her lesson. She did not look at
Rebecca Mary. “I’ve put in your long-sleeve
aprons so you can help do up the dishes. There’s
plenty of handkerchiefs to last. You mustn’t
forget your rubbers when it’s wet, or to make
up your bed yourself. I don’t want you
to make the minister’s wife any more trouble
than you can help.”
The lesson went monotonously on, but
Rebecca Mary scarcely heard. She had heard the
first sentence-her sentence, poor child!
“You’re going to stay at the minister’s-stay
at the minister’s-stay at the minister’s.”
It said itself over and over again in her ears.
In her need for somebody to lean on, her startled
gaze sought the beautiful being across the room in
But Olivicia was staring smilingly
at Aunt Olivia. Et Tu, Olivicia!
If Rebecca Mary had noticed, there
was an appealing, wistful look in Aunt Olivia’s
eyes too, in odd contrast to the firm lips that moved
steadily on with their lesson:
“You can walk to school with
Rhoda, you’ll enjoy that. You’ve never
had folks to walk with. And you can stay with
her, only you mustn’t forget your stents.
I’ve put in some towels to hem. Maybe the
minister’s wife has got something; if so, hem
hers first. You’ll be like one o’
the family, and they’re nice folks, but I want
you to keep right on being a Plummer.”
Years afterwards Rebecca Mary remembered
the dizzy dance of the bottles in the caster-they
seemed to join hands and sway and swing about their
silver circlet and how Aunt Olivia’s buttons
marched and countermarched up and down Aunt Olivia’s
alpaca dress. She did not look above the buttons-she
did not dare to. If she was to keep right on being
a Plummer, she must not cry.
“That’s all,” she
heard through the daze and dizziness, “except
that I can’t tell when I’ll be back.
It-ain’t decided. Likely I shan’t
be able-there won’t be much chance
to write, and you needn’t expect me to.
No need to write me either. That’s all,
The stage that came for Aunt Olivia
dropped the little carpetbag and Rebecca Mary at the
minister’s. In the brief interval between
the start and the dropping, Rebecca Mary sat, stiff
and numb, on the edge of the high seat and gazed out
unfamiliarly at the familiar landmarks they lurched
past. At any other time the knowledge that she
was going to the minister’s to stay-to
live-would have filled her with staid joy.
At any other time-but this time only
a dull ache filled her little dreary world. Everything
seemed to ache-the munching cows in the
Trumbull pasture, the cats on the doorsteps, the dog
loping along beside the stage, the stage driver’s
stooping old back. Aunt Olivia was going to the
city-Rebecca Mary wasn’t going to
the city. There was no room in the world for
anything but that and the ache.
Rebecca Mary’s indignation was
not born till night. Then, lying in the dainty
bed under Rhoda’s pink quilt, her mood changed.
Until then she had only been disappointed. But
then she sat up suddenly and said bitter things about
“She’s gone to have a
good time all to herself-and she might have
taken me. She didn’t, she didn’t,
and she might’ve. She wanted all the good
time herself! She didn’t want me to have
you speak, dear?” It was the gentle voice of
the minister’s wife outside the door. Rebecca
Mary’s red little hands unwrung and dropped
on the pink quilt.
“No’m, I did-I mean yes’m,
I didn’t-I mean-
“You don’t feel sick? There isn’t
anything the matter, dear?”
yes’m!” for there was something the matter.
It was Aunt Olivia. But she must not say it-must
not cry-must keep right on being a Plummer.
“Robert, I didn’t go in-I
couldn’t,” the minister’s wife said,
back in the cheery sitting room. “I suppose
you think I’d have gone in and comforted her,
taken her right in my arms and comforted her the Rhoda
way, but I didn’t.”
“No?” The minister’s
voice was a little vague on account of the sermon
on his knees.
“I seemed to know-something
told me right through that door-that she’d
rather I wouldn’t. Robert, if the child
is homesick, it’s a different kind of homesickness.”
“The Plummer kind,” he
suggested. The minister was coming to.
“Yes, the Plummer kind, I suppose,
Plummers are such-such PLUMMERY persons,
Upstairs under the pink quilt the
rigid little figure relaxed just enough to admit of
getting out of bed and fumbling in the little carpetbag.
With her diary in her hand-for Aunt Olivia
had remembered her diary-Rebecca Mary went
to the window and sat down. She had to hold the
cookbook up at a painful angle and peer at it sharply,
for the moonlight that filtered into the little room
through the vines was dim and soft.
“Aunt Olivia has gone to the
city and I haven’t,” painfully traced
Rebecca Mary. “She wanted the good time
all to herself. I shall never forgive Aunt Olivia
the Lord have mercy on her.” Then Rebecca
Mary went back to bed. She dreamed that the cars
ran off the track and they brought Aunt Olivia’s
pieces home to her. In the dreadful dream she
forgave Aunt Olivia.
It was very pleasant at the minister’s
and the minister’s wife’s. Rebecca
Mary felt the warmth and pleasantness of it in every
fibre of her body and soul. But she was not happy
nor warm. She thought it was indignation against
Aunt Olivia-she did not know she was homesick.
She did not know why she went to the old home every
day after school and wandered through Aunt Olivia’s
flower garden, and sat with little brown chin palm-deep
on the doorsteps. Gradually the indignation melted
out of existence and only the homesickness was left.
It sat on her small, lean face like a little spectre.
It troubled the minister’s wife.
“What can we do, Robert?” she asked.
“What?” he echoed; for the minister, too,
“She wanders about like a little
lost soul. When she plays with the children it’s
only the outside of her that plays.”
“Only the outside,” he nodded.
“Last night I went in, Robert,
and-and tried the Rhoda way. I think
she liked it, but it didn’t comfort her.
I am sure now that it is homesickness, Robert.”
They were both sure, but the grim little spectre sat
on, undaunted by all their kindnesses.
“When thy father and thy mother
forsake the,” wrote Rebecca Mary in the cookbook
diary, “and thy Aunt Olivia for I know it means
and thy Aunt Olivia then the Lord will take the up,
but I dont feal as if anyboddy had taken me up.
The ministers wife did once but of course she had to
put me down again rite away. She is a beutiful
person and I love her but she is differunt from thy
father and thy mother and thy Aunt Olivia. Ide
rather have Aunt Olivia take me up than to have the
It was when she shut the battered
little book this time that Rebecca Mary remembered
one or two things that had happened the morning Aunt
Olivia went away. It was queer how she hadn’t
remembered them before.
She remembered that Aunt Olivia had
taken her sharp little face between her own hands
and looked down wistfully at it-wistfully,
Rebecca Mary remembered now, though she did not call
it by that name. She remembered Aunt Olivia had
said, “You needn’t hem anything unless
it’s for the minister’s wife-never
mind the towels I put in.” That was almost
the last thing she had said. She had put her
head out of the stage door to say it. Rebecca
Mary had hemmed a towel each day. There were but
two left, and she resolved to hem both of those tomorrow.
A sudden little longing was born within her for more
towels to hem for Aunt Olivia.
It was nearly three weeks after Rebecca
Mary’s entrance into the minister’s family
when the letter came. It was directed to Rebecca
Mary, and lay on her plate when she came home from
“Oh, look, you’ve got
a letter, Rebecca Mary!” heralded Rhoda, joyfully.
Then her face fell, for maybe the letter would say
Aunt Olivia was coming home.
“Is it from your aunt Olivia?” she asked,
“No,” Rebecca Mary said,
in slow surprise. “The writing isn’t,
anyway, and the name is another one-
“Oh! Oh! Maybe she’s got mar-
“Rhoda!” cautioned the minister.
This is the letter Rebecca Mary read:
“Dear Rebecca Mary,-You
see I know your name from your aunt. She talked
about you all the time, but I am writing you of my
own accord. She does not know it. I think
you will like to know that at last we are feeling
very hopeful about your aunt. We have been very
anxious since the operation, she had so little strength
to rally with. But now if she keeps on as well
as this you will have her home again in a little while.
The doctors say three weeks. She is the patientest
patient in the ward. Yours very truly, Sara Ellen
Nesbitt, Nurse” Ward A, Emmons Hospital
That was the letter. Rebecca
Mary’s face grew a little whiter at every line
of it. At every line understanding grew clearer,
till at the end she knew it all. She gave a little
cry, and ran out of the room. Love and remorse
and sympathy fought for first place in her laboring
little breast. In the next few minutes she lived
so long a time and thought so many thoughts!
But above everything else towered joy that Aunt Olivia
was coming home.
Rebecca Mary’s eyes blazed with
pride at being a Plummer. This kind of courage
was the Plummer kind. The child’s lank little
figure seemed to grow taller and straighter.
She held up her head splendidly and exulted.
She felt like going up on the minister’s housetop
and proclaiming: “She’s my aunt Olivia!
She’s mine! She’s mine-I’m
a Plummer, too! All o’ you listen, she’s
my aunt Olivia, and she’s coming home!”
Suddenly the child flung out her arms
towards the south where Aunt Olivia was. And
though she stood quite still, something within her
seemed to spring away and go hurrying through the clear
“I shouldn’t suppose Aunt
Olivia would ever forgive me, but she’s Aunt
Olivia and she will,” wrote Rebecca Mary that
night, her small, dark face full of a solemn peace-it
seemed so long since she had been full of peace before.
She wrote on eagerly:
“When she gets home Ime going
to hug her I can’t help it if it wont be keeping