THE HUNDRED AND ONETH
REBECCA MARY TOOK ANOTHER STITCH. Then another. "Ninety-sevvun, ninety-eight," she counted aloud, her little pointed face gravely 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 came 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 poised, waiting 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 leaves.
"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 over."
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 for the folded sheet.
"I've got it DONE, Aunt 'Livia," answered little Rebecca Mary, steadily. Her slender figure, in its quaint, scant dress, looked braced as if to meet a shock. But Rebecca Mary was terribly afraid.
"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.