New Chronicles of Rebecca

Author: Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin


It was not till next morning that Rebecca’s heart really began its song of thanksgiving. Her Aunt Miranda announced at breakfast, that as Mrs. Perkins was going to Milliken’s Mills, Rebecca might go too, and buy a serviceable hat.

"You mustn’t pay over two dollars and a half, and you mustn’t get the pink bird without Mrs. Perkins says, and the milliner says, that it won’t fade nor moult. Don’t buy a light-colored felt because you’ll get sick of it in two or three years same as you did the brown one. I always liked the shape of the brown one, and you’ll never get another trimmin’ that’ll wear like them quills."

"I hope not!" thought Rebecca.

"If you had put your elastic under your chin, same as you used to, and not worn it behind because you think it’s more grown-up an’ fash’onable, the wind never’d a’ took the hat off your head, and you wouldn’t a’ lost it; but the mischief’s done and you can go right over to Mis’ Perkins now, so you won’t miss her nor keep her waitin’. The two dollars and a half is in an envelope side o’ the clock."

Rebecca swallowed the last spoonful of picked-up codfish on her plate, wiped her lips, and rose from her chair happier than the seraphs in Paradise.

The porcupine quills had disappeared from her life, and without any fault or violence on her part. She was wholly innocent and virtuous, but nevertheless she was going to have a new hat with the solferino breast, should the adored object prove, under rigorous examination, to be practically indestructible.

"Whene’er I take my walks abroad, How many hats I’ll see; But if they’re trimmed with hedgehog quills They’ll not belong to me!"

So she improvised, secretly and ecstatically, as she went towards the side entry.

"There’s ’Bijah Flagg drivin’ in," said Miss Miranda, going to the window. "Step out and see what he’s got, Jane; some passel from the Squire, I guess. It’s a paper bag and it may be a punkin, though he wouldn’t wrop up a punkin, come to think of it! Shet the dinin’ room door, Jane; it’s turrible drafty. Make haste, for the Squire’s hoss never stan’s still a minute cept when he’s goin’!"

Abijah Flagg alighted and approached the side door with a grin.

"Guess what I’ve got for ye, Rebecky?"

No throb of prophetic soul warned Rebecca of her approaching doom.

"Nodhead apples?" she sparkled, looking as bright and rosy and satin-skinned as an apple herself.

"No; guess again."

"A flowering geranium?"

"Guess again!"

"Nuts? Oh! I can’t, " Bijah; I’m just going to Milliken’s Mills on an errand, and I’m afraid of missing Mrs. Perkins. Show me quick! Is it really for me, or for Aunt Miranda?

"Reely for you, I guess!" and he opened the large brown paper bag and drew from it the remains of a water-soaked hat!

They WERE remains, but there was no doubt of their nature and substance. They had clearly been a hat in the past, and one could even suppose that, when resuscitated, they might again assume their original form in some near and happy future.

Miss Miranda, full of curiosity, joined the group in the side entry at this dramatic moment.

"Well, I never!" she exclaimed. "Where, and how under the canopy, did you ever?"

"I was working on the dam at Union Falls yesterday," chuckled Abijah, with a pleased glance at each of the trio in turn, "an’ I seen this little bunnit skippin’ over the water jest as Becky does over the road. It’s shaped kind o’ like a boat, an’ gorry, ef it wa’nt sailin’ jest like a boat! Where hev I seen that kind of a bristlin’ plume?’ thinks I."

("Where indeed!" thought Rebecca stormily.)

"Then it come to me that I’d drove that plume to school and drove it to meetin’ and drove it to the Fair an’drove it most everywheres on Becky. So I reached out a pole an’ ketched it fore it got in amongst the logs an’ come to any damage, an’ here it is! The hat’s passed in its checks, I guess; looks kind as if a wet elephant had stepped on it; but the plume’s bout’s good as new! I reely fetched the hat beck for the sake o’ the plume."

"It was real good of you, ’Bijah, an’ we’re all of us obliged to you," said Miranda, as she poised the hat on one hand and turned it slowly with the other.

"Well, I do say," she exclaimed, "and I guess I’ve said it before, that of all the wearing’ plumes that ever I see, that one’s the wearin’est! Seems though it just wouldn’t give up. Look at the way it’s held Mis’ Cobb’s dye; it’s about as brown’s when it went int’ the water."

"Dyed, but not a mite dead," grinned Abijah, who was somewhat celebrated for his puns.

"And I declare," Miranda continued, "when you think o’ the fuss they make about ostriches, killin’ em off by hundreds for the sake o’ their feathers that’ll string out and spoil in one hard rainstorm,—an’ all the time lettin’ useful porcupines run round with their quills on, why I can’t hardly understand it, without milliners have found out jest how good they do last, an’ so they won’t use em for trimmin’. ’Bijah’s right; the hat ain’t no more use, Rebecca, but you can buy you another this mornin’—any color or shape you fancy—an’ have Miss Morton sew these brown quills on to it with some kind of a buckle or a bow, jest to hide the roots. Then you’ll be fixed for another season, thanks to ’Bijah."

Uncle Jerry and Aunt Sarah Cobb were made acquainted before very long with the part that destiny, or Abijah Flagg, had played in Rebecca’s affairs, for, accompanied by the teacher, she walked to the old stage driver’s that same afternoon. Taking off her new hat with the venerable trimming, she laid it somewhat ostentatiously upside down on the kitchen table and left the room, dimpling a little more than usual.

Uncle Jerry rose from his seat, and, crossing the room, looked curiously into the hat and found that a circular paper lining was neatly pinned in the crown, and that it bore these lines, which were read aloud with great effect by Miss Dearborn, and with her approval were copied in the Thought Book for the benefit of posterity:

"It was the bristling porcupine, As he stood on his native heath, He said, I’ll pluck me some immortelles And make me up a wreath. For tho’ I may not live myself To more than a hundred and ten, My quills will last till crack of doom, And maybe after then. They can be colored blue or green Or orange, brown, or red, But often as they may be dyed They never will be dead.’ And so the bristling porcupine As he stood on his native heath, Said, I think I’ll pluck me some immmortelles And make me up a wreath.’



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Chicago: Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin, "II," New Chronicles of Rebecca, ed. Altemus, Henry and trans. Holcomb, Thomas Addis Emmett, an Holcomb, Martha A. Lyon in New Chronicles of Rebecca Original Sources, accessed March 21, 2019,

MLA: Wiggin, Kate Douglas Smith. "II." New Chronicles of Rebecca, edited by Altemus, Henry, and translated by Holcomb, Thomas Addis Emmett, an Holcomb, Martha A. Lyon, in New Chronicles of Rebecca, Original Sources. 21 Mar. 2019.

Harvard: Wiggin, KD, 'II' in New Chronicles of Rebecca, ed. and trans. . cited in , New Chronicles of Rebecca. Original Sources, retrieved 21 March 2019, from