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It was the middle of December and the friendly sky was softly dropping a great white mantle of peace and good-will over the little town, making all ready within and without for the Feast o' the Babe.
The main street, that in summer was made dignified by its splendid avenue of shade trees, now ran quiet and white between rows of stalwart trunks, whose leafless branches were all hanging heavy under their dazzling burden.
The path leading straight up the hill to the Academy was broken only by the feet of the hurrying, breathless boys and girls who ran up and down, carrying piles of books under their arms; books which they remembered so long as they were within the four walls of the recitation room, and which they eagerly forgot as soon as they met one another in the living, laughing world, going up and down the hill.
"It's very becoming to the universe, snow is!" though Rebecca, looking out of the window dreamily. "Really there's little to choose between the world and heaven when a snowstorm is going on. I feel as if I ought to look at it every minute. I wish I could get over being greedy, but it still seems to me at sixteen as if there weren't waking hours enough in the day, and as if somehow I were pressed for time and continually losing something. How well I remember mother's story about me when I was four. It was at early breakfast on the farm, but I called all meals dinner' then, and when I had finished I folded up my bib and sighed: O, dear! Only two more dinners, play a while and go to bed!' This was at six in the morning--lamplight in the kitchen, snowlight outside!
Powdery, powdery, powdery snow,
Herbert made me promise to do a poem for the January 'Pilot,' but I mustn't take the snow as a subject; there has been too great competition among the older poets!" And with that she turned in her chair and began writing again in the shabby book, which was already three quarters filled with childish scribblings, sometimes in pencil, and sometimes in violet ink with carefully shaded capital letters.
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Squire Bean has had a sharp attack of rheumatism and Abijah Flagg came back from Limerick for a few days to nurse him. One morning the Burnham sisters from North Riverboro came over to spend the day with Aunt Miranda, and Abijah went down to put up their horse. ("'Commodatin' 'Bijah" was his pet name when we were all young.)
He scaled the ladder to the barn chamber--the dear old ladder that used to be my safety valve!--and pitched down the last forkful of grandfather's hay that will ever be eaten by any visiting horse. They WILL be delighted to hear that it is all gone; they have grumbled at it for years and years.
What should Abijah find at the bottom of the heap but my Thought Book, hidden there two or three years ago and forgotten!
When I think of what it was to me, the place it filled in my life, the affection I lavished on it, I wonder that I could forget it, even in all the excitement of coming to Wareham to school. And that gives me "an uncommon thought" as I used to say! It is this: that when we finish building an air castle we seldom live in it after all; we sometimes even forget that we ever longed to! Perhaps we have gone so far as to begin another castle on a higher hilltop, and this is so beautiful,-- especially while we are building, and before we live in it!--that the first one has quite vanished from sight and mind, like the outgrown shell of the nautilus that he casts off on the shore and never looks at again. (At least I suppose he doesn't; but perhaps he takes one backward glance, half-smiling, half-serious, just as I am doing at my old Thought Book, and says, "WAS THAT MY SHELL! GOODNESS GRACIOUS! HOW DID I EVER SQUEEZE MYSELF INTO IT!"
That bit about the nautilus sounds like an extract from a school theme, or a "Pilot" editorial, or a fragment of one of dear Miss Maxwell's lectures, but I think girls of sixteen are principally imitations of the people and things they love and admire; and between editing the "Pilot," writing out Virgil translations, searching for composition subjects, and studying rhetorical models, there is very little of the original Rebecca Rowena about me at the present moment; I am just a member of the graduating class in good and regular standing. We do our hair alike, dress alike as much as possible, eat and drink alike, talk alike,--I am not even sure that we do not think alike; and what will become of the poor world when we are all let loose upon it on the same day of June? Will life, real life, bring our true selves back to us? Will love and duty and sorrow and trouble and work finally wear off the "school stamp" that has been pressed upon all of us until we look like rows of shining copper cents fresh from the mint?
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New Chronicles of Rebecca -by- Kate Douglas Wiggin