By Annie Hamilton Donnell
I. THE HUNDRED AND ONETH
II. THE THOUSAND QUILT
III. THE BIBLE DREAM
IV. THE COOK-BOOK DIARY
V. THE BEREAVEMENT
VI. THE FEEL DOLL
VII. THE PLUMMER KIND
VIII. ARTICLE SEVEN
The Hundred and Oneth
Rebecca Mary took another stitch. Then another. "Ninety-sevvun,
ninety-eight," she counted aloud, her little pointed
intent. She waited the briefest possible space before she took
ninety-nine. It was getting very close to the Time now. "At the hundred
an' oneth," Rebecca Mary whispered. "It's almost it." Her breath
quicker under her tight little dress. Between her thin, light eyebrows a
crease deepened anxiously.
"Ninety--n-i-n-e," she counted, "one hun-der-ed"--it was so very close
now! The next stitch
would be the hundred and oneth. Rebecca Mary's face
suddenly grew quite white.
"I'll wait a m-minute," she decided; "I'm just a little scared. When
you've been lookin' head to the hundred and oneth so LONG and you get
the very next door to it, it scares you a little. I'll wait until--oh,
until Thomas Jefferson crows, before I sew the hundred and oneth."
Thomas Jefferson was prospecting under the currant
bushes. Rebecca Mary
could see him distinctly, even with her nearsighted little eyes, for
Thomas Jefferson was snow-white. Once in a while he stalked dignifiedly
out of the bushes and crowed. He might do it again any minute now.
The great sheet billowed and floated round Rebecca Mary, scarcely whiter
than her face. She held her needle
the signal of Thomas
Jefferson. At any minute.... He was coming out now! A fleck of
snow-white was pricking the green of the currant
"He's out. Any minute he'll begin to cr--" He was already beginning! The
warning signals were out--chest expanding, neck elongating, and great
white wing aflap.
"I'm just a little scared," breathed the child in the foam of the sheet.
Then Thomas Jefferson crowed.
"Hundred and one!" Rebecca Mary cried out, clearly, courage born within
her at the crucial instant. The Time--the Time--had come. She had taken
her last stitch.
"It's over," she panted. "It always was a-coming, and it's come. I knew
it would. When it's come, you don't feel quite so scared. I'm glad it's
She folded up the great sheet carefully, making all the edges meet with
painful precision. It took time. She had left the needle
sticking in the
unfinished seam--in the hundred-and-oneth stitch--and close beside it
was a tiny dot of red to "keep the place."
"Rebecca! Rebecca Mary!" Aunt Olivia always called like that. If there
had been still another name--Rebecca Mary Something Else--she would have
called: "Rebecca! Rebecca Mary! Rebecca Mary Something Else!"
"Yes'm; I'm here."
"Where's 'here'?" sharply.
"HERE--the grape-arbor, I mean."
"Have you got your sheet?"
"Is your stent 'most done?"
Rebecca Mary rose slowly to her reluctant
little feet, and with the
heavy sheet across her arm went to meet the sharp voice. At last the
Time had come.
"Well?" Aunt Olivia was waiting
for her answer. Rebecca Mary groaned.
Aunt Olivia would not think it was "well."
"Well, Rebecca Mary Plummer, you came to fetch my answer, did you? You
got your stent 'most done?" Aunt Olivia's hands were extended
"I've got it DONE, Aunt 'Livia," answered little Rebecca Mary, steadily.
figure, in its quaint, scant dress, looked braced as if to
meet a shock. But Rebecca Mary was terribly
"Every mite o' that seam? Then I guess you can't have done it very well;
that's what I guess! If it ain't done well, you'll have to take it--"
"Wait--please, won't you wait, Aunt 'Livia? I've got to say something.
I mean, I've got all the over-'n'-overing I'm ever going to do done.
THAT'S what's done. The hundred-and-oneth stitch
was my stent, and it's
done. I'm not ever going to take the hundred and twoth. I've decided."
Understanding filtered drop by drop into Aunt Olivia's bewildered brain.
She gasped at the final drop.
"Not ever going to take another stitch?" she repeated, with a calmness
that was awfuler than storm.
"May I ask when this--this state of mind began?"
Rebecca Mary girded herself afresh. She had such need of recruiting
"It's been coming on," she said. "I've felt it. I knew all the time it
was a-coming--and then it came."
It seemed to be all there. Why must she say any more? But still Aunt
Olivia waited, and Rebecca Mary read grim displeasure
in capitals across
the gray field of her face. The little figure stiffened more and more.
"I've over-'n'-overed 'leven sheets," the steady little voice went on,
because Aunt Olivia was waiting, and it must, "and you said I did 'em
pretty well. I tried to. I was going to do the other one well, till you
said there was going to be another dozen. I couldn't BEAR another dozen,
Aunt Olivia, so I decided
to stop. When Thomas Jefferson crowed I sewed
the hundred-and-oneth stitch. That's all there's ever a-going to be."
Rebecca Mary stepped back a step or two, as if finishing a speech and
retiring from her audience. There was even the effect of a bow in the
of the stiff little body. It was Aunt Olivia's turn now
to respond--and Aunt Olivia responded:
"You've had your say; now I'll have mine. Listen to me, Rebecca Mary
Plummer! Here's this sheet, and here's this needle
in it. When you get
good and ready you can go on sewing. You won't have anything to eat till
you do. I've got through."
The grim figure swept right-about face and tramped into the house as
though to the battle-roll of drums. Rebecca Mary stayed behind, face to
face with her fate.
"She's a Plummer, so it'll be SO," Rebecca Mary thought, with the dull
little thud of a weight falling into her heart. Rebecca Mary was a
Plummer too, but she did not think of that, unless the un-swerving
determination in her stout little heart was the unconscious
"I wonder"--her gaze wandered out towards the currant-bushes and came
to rest absently
on Thomas Jefferson's big, white bulk--"I wonder if it
hurts very much." She meant, to starve. A long vista of food-less days
opened before her, and in their contemplation
the weight in her heart
grew very heavy indeed.
"We were GOING to have layer-cake for supper. I'm VERY fond of
layer-cake," Rebecca Mary sighed, "I suppose, though, after a few
weeks"--she shuddered--"I shall be glad to have ANYTHING--just common
things, like crackers and skim-milk. Perhaps I shall want to eat
a--horse. I've heard of folks--You get very unparticular when you're
It was five o'clock. They WERE going to have supper at half past. She
could hear the tea things clinking in the house. She stole up to a
window. There was Aunt Olivia setting
the layer-cake on the table. It
looked plump and rich, and it was sugared on top.
jam in between it," mused Rebecca Mary, regretfully.
"I wish it was apple jelly. I could bear it better if it was apple
jelly." But it was jam. And there was honey, too, to eat with Aunt
Olivia's little fluffy
biscuits. How very fond Rebecca Mary was of
Aunt Olivia stood in the kitchen doorway
and rang the supper bell in
long, steady clangs just as usual. But no one responded just as usual,
and by the token she knew Rebecca Mary had not taken the other stitch
that lay between her and supper.
"She's a Plummer," sighed Aunt Olivia, inwardly, unrealizing her own
Plummership, as little Rebecca Mary had unrealized hers. Each recognized
only the other's. The pity that both must be Plummers!
Rebecca Mary stayed out of doors until bedtime. She made but one
"I've done it, Thomas Jefferson," she said, sadly. "You ought to be
sorry for me, because if you hadn't crowed I shouldn't have sewed the
hundred and oneth. But you're not really to BLAME," she added, hastily,
mindful of Thomas Jefferson's feelings. "I should have done it sometime
if you hadn't crowed. I knew it was coming. I suppose now I shall have
to starve. You'd think it was pretty hard to starve, I guess, Thomas
Thomas Jefferson made certain gloomy
responses in his throat
effect that he was always starving; that any contributions on the
spot in the way of corn kernels, wheat grains, angleworms--any
little delicacies of the kind--would be welcome. And Rebecca Mary,
understanding, led the way to the corn bin. In the dark hours that
followed, the intimacy
between the great white rooster
and the little
white girl took on tenderer tones.
At breakfast next morning--at dinner time--at supper--Rebecca Mary
absented herself from the house. Aunt Olivia set on the meals regularly
and waited with tightening heartstrings. It did not seem to occur to her
to eat her own portions. She tasted no morsel
of all the dainties she
got together wistfully. At nightfall
the second day she began to feel
real alarm. She put on her bonnet
and went to the minister's. He was
rather a new minister, and the Plummers had always required a good deal
of time to make acquaintance. But in the present stress
of her need Aunt
Olivia did not stop to think of that.
"You must come over and--and do something," she said, at the conclusion
of her strange little story. "It seems to me it's time for the minister
to step in."
"What can I do, Miss Plummer?" the embarrassed young man ejaculated,
with a feeling of helplessness.
"Talk to her," groaned Aunt Olivia, in her agony. "Tell her what her
duty is. Rebecca Mary might listen to the minister. All she's got to do
is to take just one stitch
to show her submission. It won't take but an
instant. I've got supper all out on the kitchen table--I don't care if
it's ten o'clock at night!"
"It isn't a case for the minister. It's a case for the Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Children!" fumed the minister's kind little
wife inwardly. And she stole away in the twilight
to deal with little
Rebecca Mary herself. She came back to the minister
by and by, red-eyed
"You needn't go over; I've been. It won't do any good, Robert. That
poor, stiff-willed, set little thing is starving by inches!"
"I think her aunt is, too!"
"Well, perhaps--I can't help it, Robert, perhaps the--aunt--ought--to."
"I told you I couldn't help it. She is so hungry, Robert! If you had
seen her--What do you think she was doing when I got there?"
"Crying! She was laughing. _I_ cried. She sat there under some
grapevines watching a great white rooster
eat his supper. His name, I
think, is Thomas Jefferson."
"Yes, Thomas Jefferson," agreed the minister, with the assurance
acquaintance. For Thomas Jefferson was one of his parishioners.
"Well, she was laughing at him in the shakiest, hungriest little voice
you ever heard. 'Is it good?' she says. 'It LOOKS good.' He was eating
raw corn. 'If I could, I'd eat supper with you when you're VERY hungry,
you don't mind eating things raw.' Then she saw me."
"Well, I coaxed her, Robert. It didn't do any good. Tomorrow somebody
must go there and interfere."
"She must be a remarkably
strange child," the minister
mused. He was
thinking of the holding-out powers of the three children he had a
"I don't think Rebecca Mary IS a child, Robert. She must be fifty years
old, at the least. She and her aunt are about the same age. Perhaps if
her mother had lived, or she hadn't made so many sheets, or learned
knit and darn and cook--" The minister's kind little wife finished out
with a sigh. She took up a little garment
in dire straits
to be mended. It suggested things to the minister.
"Can Rhoda darn?"
"Or make sheets and bread and things?"
"Robert, don't you feel well? Where is the pain?" But the laugh in the
pleasant blue eyes died out suddenly. Little Rebecca Mary lay too heavy
on the minister's wife's heart for mirth.
Aunt Olivia went into Rebecca Mary's room in the middle of the night.
She had been in three times before.
"She looks thinner than she did last time," Aunt Olivia murmured,
distressedly. "Tomorrow night--how long do children live without eating?
It's four meals now--four meals is a great many for a little thin thing
to go without!" Aunt Olivia had been without four meals too; she would
have been able to judge how it felt--if she had remembered that part.
She stood in her scant, long nightgown, gazing down at the little
sleeper. The veil was down and her heart was in her eyes.
Rebecca Mary threw out her arm and sighed. "It LOOKS good, Thomas
Jefferson," she murmured. "When you're VERY hungry you can eat things
raw." Suddenly the child sat up in bed, wide-eyed and wild. She did not
seem to see Aunt Olivia at all.
"Once I ate a pie!" she cried. "It wasn't a whole one, but I should eat
a whole one now--I think I should eat the PLATE now." She swayed back
and forth weakly, awake and not awake.
"Once I ate a layer-cake. There was jam in it. I wouldn't care if it
was apple jelly in it now--I'd LIKE apple jelly in it now. Once I ate
and a doughnut
a-n-d--a--a--I think it was a horse. I'd eat
a horse now. Hush! Don't tell Aunt Olivia, but I'm going to
eat--to--e-at--Thom-as--Jeffer--" She swayed back on the pillows again.
Aunt Olivia shook her in an agony of fear--she was so white--she lay so
"Rebecca! Rebecca Mary! Rebecca Mary PLUMMER!" Aunt Olivia shrilled in
her ear. "You get right out o' bed this minute and come downstairs
eat your supper! It's high time you had something in your stomach--I
don't care if it's twelve o'clock. You get right out o' bed REBECCA
Aunt Olivia had the limp little figure in her arms, shaking it gently
again and again. Rebecca's startled eyes flew open. In that instant
in the brain of Aunt Olivia. She thought of an appeal
"Do you want ME to starve, too? Right here before your face and eyes? I
haven't eat a mouthful
since you did, and I shan't till you DO."