Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: A Daughter of the Land
Author: Stratton-Porter, Gene, 1863-1924
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Daughter of the Land" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



version by Al Haines.



A DAUGHTER OF THE LAND


by

Gene Stratton-Porter



CONTENTS

Chapter

      I. The Wings of Morning
     II. An Embryo Mind Reader
    III. Peregrinations
     IV. A Question of Contracts
      V. The Prodigal Daughter
     VI. Kate's Private Pupil
    VII. Helping Nancy Ellen and Robert to Establish a Home
   VIII. The History of a Leghorn Hat
     IX. A Sunbonnet Girl
      X. John Jardine's Courtship
     XI. A Business Proposition
    XII. Two Letters
   XIII. The Bride
    XIV. Starting Married Life
     XV. A New Idea
    XVI. The Work of the Sun
   XVII. The Banner Hand
  XVIII. Kate Takes the Bit in Her Teeth
    XIX. "As a Man Soweth"
     XX. "For a Good Girl"
    XXI. Life's Boomerang
   XXII. Somewhat of Polly
  XXIII. Kate's Heavenly Time
   XXIV. Polly Tries Her Wings
    XXV. One More for Kate
   XXVI. The Winged Victory
  XXVII. Blue Ribbon Corn
 XXVIII. The Eleventh Hour



To Gene Stratton II



A DAUGHTER OF THE LAND



CHAPTER I

THE WINGS OF MORNING

"TAKE the wings of Morning."

Kate Bates followed the narrow footpath rounding the corner of the
small country church, as the old minister raised his voice slowly and
impressively to repeat the command he had selected for his text.
Fearing that her head would be level with the windows, she bent and
walked swiftly past the church; but the words went with her, iterating
and reiterating themselves in her brain.  Once she paused to glance
back toward the church, wondering what the minister would say in
expounding that text.  She had a fleeting thought of slipping in,
taking the back seat and listening to the sermon.  The remembrance that
she had not dressed for church deterred her; then her face twisted
grimly as she again turned to the path, for it occurred to her that she
had nothing else to wear if she had started to attend church instead of
going to see her brother.

As usual, she had left her bed at four o'clock; for seven hours she had
cooked, washed dishes, made beds, swept, dusted, milked, churned,
following the usual routine of a big family in the country.  Then she
had gone upstairs, dressed in clean gingham and confronted her mother.

"I think I have done my share for to-day," she said.  "Suppose you call
on our lady school-mistress for help with dinner.  I'm going to Adam's."

Mrs. Bates lifted her gaunt form to very close six feet of height,
looking narrowly at her daughter.

"Well, what the nation are you going to Adam's at this time a-Sunday
for?" she demanded.

"Oh, I have a curiosity to learn if there is one of the eighteen
members of this family who gives a cent what becomes of me!" answered
Kate, her eyes meeting and looking clearly into her mother's.

"You are not letting yourself think he would 'give a cent' to send you
to that fool normal-thing, are you?"

"I am not! But it wasn't a 'fool thing' when Mary and Nancy Ellen, and
the older girls wanted to go.  You even let Mary go to college two
years."

"Mary had exceptional ability," said Mrs. Bates.

"I wonder how she convinced you of it. None of the rest of us can
discover it," said Kate.

"What you need is a good strapping, Miss."

"I know it; but considering the facts that I am larger than you, and
was eighteen in September, I shouldn't advise you to attempt it.  What
is the difference whether I was born in '62 or '42? Give me the chance
you gave Mary, and I'll prove to you that I can do anything she has
done, without having 'exceptional ability!'"

"The difference is that I am past sixty now.  I was stout as an ox when
Mary wanted to go to school.  It is your duty and your job to stay here
and do this work."

"To pay for having been born last?  Not a bit more than if I had been
born first.  Any girl in the family owes you as much for life as I do;
it is up to the others to pay back in service, after they are of age,
if it is to me.  I have done my share.  If Father were not the richest
farmer in the county, and one of the richest men, it would be
different.  He can afford to hire help for you, quite as well as he can
for himself."

"Hire help!  Who would I get to do the work here?"

"You'd have to double your assistants.  You could not hire two women
who would come here and do so much work as I do in a day. That is why I
decline to give up teaching, and stay here to slave at your option, for
gingham dresses and cowhide shoes, of your selection.  If I were a boy,
I'd work three years more and then I would be given two hundred acres
of land, have a house and barn built for me, and a start of stock given
me, as every boy in this family has had at twenty-one."

"A man is a man!  He founds a family, he runs the Government!  It is a
different matter," said Mrs. Bates.

"It surely is; in this family.  But I think, even with us, a man would
have rather a difficult proposition on his hands to found a family
without a woman; or to run the Government either."

"All right!  Go on to Adam and see what you get."

"I'll have the satisfaction of knowing that Nancy Ellen gets dinner,
anyway," said Kate as she passed through the door and followed the long
path to the gate, from there walking beside the road in the direction
of her brother's home.  There were many horses in the pasture and
single and double buggies in the barn; but it never occurred to Kate
that she might ride:  it was Sunday and the horses were resting.  So
she followed the path beside the fences, rounded the corner of the
church and went on her way with the text from which the pastor was
preaching, hammering in her brain.  She became so absorbed in thought
that she scarcely saw the footpath she followed, while June flowered,
and perfumed, and sang all around her.

She was so intent upon the words she had heard that her feet
unconsciously followed a well-defined branch from the main path leading
into the woods, from the bridge, where she sat on a log, and for the
unnumbered time, reviewed her problem.  She had worked ever since she
could remember.  Never in her life had she gotten to school before noon
on Monday, because of the large washings. After the other work was
finished she had spent nights and mornings ironing, when she longed to
study, seldom finishing before Saturday.  Summer brought an endless
round of harvesting, canning, drying; winter brought butchering, heaps
of sewing, and postponed summer work.  School began late in the fall
and closed early in spring, with teachers often inefficient; yet
because she was a close student and kept her books where she could take
a peep and memorize and think as she washed dishes and cooked, she had
thoroughly mastered all the country school near her home could teach
her.  With six weeks of a summer Normal course she would be as well
prepared to teach as any of her sisters were, with the exception of
Mary, who had been able to convince her parents that she possessed two
college years' worth of "ability."

Kate laid no claim to "ability," herself; but she knew she was as
strong as most men, had an ordinary brain that could be trained, and
while she was far from beautiful she was equally as far from being
ugly, for her skin was smooth and pink, her eyes large and blue-gray,
her teeth even and white.  She missed beauty because her cheekbones
were high, her mouth large, her nose barely escaping a pug; but she had
a real "crown of glory" in her hair, which was silken fine, long and
heavy, of sunshine-gold in colour, curling naturally around her face
and neck.  Given pure blood to paint such a skin with varying emotions,
enough wind to ravel out a few locks of such hair, the proportions of a
Venus and perfect health, any girl could rest very well assured of
being looked at twice, if not oftener.

Kate sat on a log, a most unusual occurrence for her, for she was
familiar only with bare, hot houses, furnished with meagre necessities;
reeking stables, barnyards and vegetable gardens. She knew less of the
woods than the average city girl; but there was a soothing wind, a
sweet perfume, a calming silence that quieted her tense mood and
enabled her to think clearly; so the review went on over years of work
and petty economies, amounting to one grand aggregate that gave to each
of seven sons house, stock, and land at twenty-one; and to each of nine
daughters a bolt of muslin and a fairly decent dress when she married,
as the seven older ones did speedily, for they were fine, large,
upstanding girls, some having real beauty, all  exceptionally
well-trained economists and workers.  Because her mother had the
younger daughters to help in the absence of the elder, each girl had
been allowed the time and money to prepare herself to teach a country
school; all of them had taught until they married.  Nancy Ellen, the
beauty of the family, the girl next older than Kate, had taken the home
school for the second winter.  Going to school to Nancy Ellen had been
the greatest trial of Kate's life, until the possibility of not going
to Normal had confronted her.

Nancy Ellen was almost as large as Kate, quite as pink, her features
assembled in a manner that made all the difference, her jet-black hair
as curly as Kate's, her eyes big and dark, her lips red.  As for
looking at Kate twice, no one ever looked at her at all if Nancy Ellen
happened to be walking beside her.  Kate bore that without protest; it
would have wounded her pride to rebel openly; she did Nancy Ellen's
share of the work to allow her to study and have her Normal course; she
remained at home plainly clothed to loan Nancy Ellen her best dress
when she attended Normal; but when she found that she was doomed to
finish her last year at school under Nancy Ellen, to work double so
that her sister might go to school early and remain late, coming home
tired and with lessons to prepare for the morrow, some of the
spontaneity left Kate's efforts.

She had a worse grievance when Nancy Ellen hung several new dresses and
a wrapper on her side of the closet after her first pay-day, and
furnished her end of the bureau with a white hair brush and a brass box
filled with pink powder, with a swan's-down puff for its application.
For three months Kate had waited and hoped that at least "thank you"
would be vouchsafed her; when it failed for that length of time she did
two things:  she studied so diligently that her father called her into
the barn and told her that if before the school, she asked Nancy Ellen
another question she could not answer, he would use the buggy whip on
her to within an inch of her life. The buggy whip always had been a
familiar implement to Kate, so she stopped asking slippery questions,
worked harder than ever, and spent her spare time planning what she
would hang in the closet and put on her end of the bureau when she had
finished her Normal course, and was teaching her first term of school.

Now she had learned all that Nancy Ellen could teach her, and much that
Nancy Ellen never knew:  it was time for Kate to be starting away to
school.  Because it was so self-evident that she should have what the
others had had, she said nothing about it until the time came; then she
found her father determined that she should remain at home to do the
housework, for no compensation other than her board and such clothes as
she always had worn, her mother wholly in accord with him, and marvel
of all, Nancy Ellen quite enthusiastic on the subject.

Her father always had driven himself and his family like slaves, while
her mother had ably seconded his efforts.  Money from the sale of
chickens, turkeys, butter, eggs, and garden truck that other women of
the neighbourhood used for extra clothing for themselves and their
daughters and to prettify their homes, Mrs. Bates handed to her husband
to increase the amount necessary to purchase the two hundred acres of
land for each son when he came of age.  The youngest son had farmed his
land with comfortable profit and started a bank account, while his
parents and two sisters were still saving and working to finish the
last payment. Kate thought with bitterness that if this final payment
had been made possibly there would have been money to spare for her;
but with that thought came the knowledge that her father had numerous
investments on which he could have realized and made the payments had
he not preferred that they should be a burden on his family.

"Take the wings of morning," repeated Kate, with all the emphasis the
old minister had used.  "Hummm!  I wonder what kind of wings. Those of
a peewee would scarcely do for me; I'd need the wings of an eagle to
get me anywhere, and anyway it wasn't the wings of a bird I was to
take, it was the wings of morning.  I wonder what the wings of morning
are, and how I go about taking them.  God knows where my wings come in;
by the ache in my feet I seem to have walked, mostly.  Oh, what ARE the
wings of morning?"

Kate stared straight before her, sitting absorbed and motionless. Close
in front of her a little white moth fluttered over the twigs and
grasses.  A kingbird sailed into view and perched on a brush-heap
preparatory to darting after the moth.  While the bird measured the
distance and waited for the moth to rise above the entangling grasses,
with a sweep and a snap a smaller bird, very similar in shape and
colouring, flashed down, catching the moth and flying high among the
branches of a big tree.

"Aha!  You missed your opportunity!" said Kate to the kingbird.

She sat straighter suddenly.  "Opportunity," she repeated.  "Here is
where I am threatened with missing mine.  Opportunity!  I wonder now if
that might not be another name for 'the wings of morning.'  Morning is
winging its way past me, the question is: do I sit still and let it
pass, or do I take its wings and fly away?"

Kate brooded on that awhile, then her thought formulated into words
again.

"It isn't as if Mother were sick or poor, she is perfectly well and
stronger than nine women out of ten of her age; Father can afford to
hire all the help she needs; there is nothing cruel or unkind in
leaving her; and as for Nancy Ellen, why does the fact that I am a few
years younger than she, make me her servant?  Why do I cook for her,
and make her bed, and wash her clothes, while she earns money to spend
on herself?  And she is doing everything in her power to keep me at it,
because she likes what she is doing and what it brings her, and she
doesn't give a tinker whether I like what I am doing or not; or whether
I get anything I want out of it or not; or whether I miss getting off
to Normal on time or not.  She is blame selfish, that's what she is, so
she won't like the jolt she's going to get; but it will benefit her
soul, her soul that her pretty face keeps her from developing, so I
shall give her a little valuable assistance.  Mother will be furious
and Father will have the buggy whip convenient; but I am going!  I
don't know how, or when, but I am GOING.

      "Who has a thirst for knowledge, in Helicon may slake it,
      If he has still, the Roman will, to find a way, or make it."

Kate arose tall and straight and addressed the surrounding woods. "Now
you just watch me 'find a way or make it,'" she said.  "I am 'taking
the wings of morning,' observe my flight!  See me cut curves and
circles and sail and soar around all the other Bates girls the Lord
ever made, one named Nancy Ellen in particular.  It must be far past
noon, and I've much to do to get ready.  I fly!"

Kate walked back to the highway, but instead of going on she turned
toward home.  When she reached the gate she saw Nancy Ellen, dressed
her prettiest, sitting beneath a cherry tree reading a book, in very
plain view from the road.  As Kate came up the path:  "Hello!" said
Nancy Ellen.  "Wasn't Adam at home?"

"I don't know," answered Kate.  "I was not there."

"You weren't?  Why, where were you?" asked Nancy Ellen.

"Oh, I just took a walk!" answered Kate.

"Right at dinner time on Sunday?  Well, I'll be switched!" cried Nancy
Ellen.

"Pity you weren't oftener, when you most needed it," said Kate, passing
up the walk and entering the door.  Her mother asked the same questions
so Kate answered them.

"Well, I am glad you came home," said Mrs. Bates.  "There was no use
tagging to Adam with a sorry story, when your father said flatly that
you couldn't go."

"But I must go!" urged Kate.  "I have as good a right to my chance as
the others.  If you put your foot down and say so, Mother, Father will
let me go.  Why shouldn't I have the same chance as Nancy Ellen?
Please Mother, let me go!"

"You stay right where you are.  There is an awful summer's work before
us," said Mrs. Bates.

"There always is," answered Kate.  "But now is just my chance while you
have Nancy Ellen here to help you."

"She has some special studying to do, and you very well know that she
has to attend the County Institute, and take the summer course of
training for teachers."

"So do I," said Kate, stubbornly.  "You really will not help me,
Mother?"

"I've said my say!  Your place is here!  Here you stay!" answered her
mother.

"All right," said Kate, "I'll cross you off the docket of my hopes, and
try Father."

"Well, I warn you, you had better not!  He has been nagged until his
patience is lost," said Mrs. Bates.

Kate closed her lips and started in search of her father.  She found
him leaning on the pig pen watching pigs grow into money, one of his
most favoured occupations.  He scowled at her, drawing his huge frame
to full height.

"I don't want to hear a word you have to say," he said.  "You are the
youngest, and your place is in the kitchen helping your mother.  We
have got the last installment to pay on Hiram's land this summer.
March back to the house and busy yourself with something useful!"

Kate looked at him, from his big-boned, weather-beaten face, to his
heavy shoes, then turned without a word and went back toward the house.
She went around it to the cherry tree and with no preliminaries said to
her sister:  "Nancy Ellen, I want you to lend me enough money to fix my
clothes a little and pay my way to Normal this summer.  I can pay it
all back this winter.  I'll pay every cent with interest, before I
spend any on anything else."

"Why, you must be crazy!" said Nancy Ellen.

"Would I be any crazier than you, when you wanted to go?" asked Kate.

"But you were here to help Mother," said Nancy Ellen.

"And you are here to help her now," persisted Kate.

"But I've got to fix up my clothes for the County Institute," said
Nancy Ellen, "I'll be gone most of the summer."

"I have just as much right to go as you had," said Kate.

"Father and Mother both say you shall not go," answered her sister.

"I suppose there is no use to remind you that I did all in my power to
help you to your chance."

"You did no more than you should have done," said Nancy Ellen.

"And this is no more than you should do for me, in the circumstances,"
said Kate.

"You very well know I can't!  Father and Mother would turn me out of
the house," said Nancy Ellen.

"I'd be only too glad if they would turn me out," said Kate.  "You can
let me have the money if you like.  Mother wouldn't do anything but
talk; and Father would not strike you, or make you go, he always
favours you."

"He does nothing of the sort!  I can't, and I won't, so there!" cried
Nancy Ellen.

"'Won't,' is the real answer, 'so there,'" said Kate.

She went into the cellar and ate some cold food from the cupboard and
drank a cup of milk.  Then she went to her room and looked over all of
her scanty stock of clothing, laying in a heap the pieces that needed
mending.  She took the clothes basket to the wash room, which was the
front of the woodhouse, in summer; built a fire, heated water, and
while making it appear that she was putting the clothes to soak, as
usual, she washed everything she had that was fit to use, hanging the
pieces to dry in the building.

"Watch me fly!" muttered Kate.  "I don't seem to be cutting those
curves so very fast; but I'm moving.  I believe now, having exhausted
all home resources, that Adam is my next objective.  He is the only one
in the family who ever paid the slightest attention to me, maybe he
cares a trifle what becomes of me, but Oh, how I dread Agatha!
However, watch me take wing!  If Adam fails me I have six remaining
prospects among my loving brothers, and if none of them has any feeling
for me or faith in me there yet remain my seven dear brothers-in-law,
before I appeal to the tender mercies of the neighbours; but how I
dread Agatha!  Yet I fly!"



CHAPTER II

AN EMBRYO MIND READER

KATE was far from physical flight as she pounded the indignation of her
soul into the path with her substantial feet.  Baffled and angry, she
kept reviewing the situation as she went swiftly on her way, regardless
of dust and heat.  She could see no justice in being forced into a
position that promised to end in further humiliation and defeat of her
hopes.  If she only could find Adam at the stable, as she passed, and
talk with him alone!  Secretly, she well knew that the chief source of
her dread of meeting her sister-in-law was that to her Agatha was so
funny that ridiculing her had been regarded as perfectly legitimate
pastime.  For Agatha WAS funny; but she had no idea of it, and could no
more avoid it than a bee could avoid being buzzy, so the manner in
which her sisters-in-law imitated her and laughed at her, none too
secretly, was far from kind.  While she never guessed what was going
on, she realized the antagonism in their attitude and stoutly resented
it.

Adam was his father's favourite son, a stalwart, fine-appearing, big
man, silent, honest, and forceful; the son most after the desires of
the father's heart, yet Adam was the one son of the seven who had
ignored his father's law that all of his boys were to marry strong,
healthy young women, poor women, working women. Each of the others at
coming of age had contracted this prescribed marriage as speedily as
possible, first asking father Bates, the girl afterward.  If father
Bates disapproved, the girl was never asked at all.  And the reason for
this docility on the part of these big, matured men, lay wholly in the
methods of father Bates. He gave those two hundred acres of land to
each of them on coming of age, and the same sum to each for the
building of a house and barn and the purchase of stock; gave it to them
in words, and with the fullest assurance that it was theirs to improve,
to live on, to add to.  Each of them had seen and handled his deed,
each had to admit he never had known his father to tell a lie or
deviate the least from fairness in a deal of any kind, each had been
compelled to go in the way indicated by his father for years; but not a
man of them held his own deed.  These precious bits of paper remained
locked in the big wooden chest beside the father's bed, while the land
stood on the records in his name; the taxes they paid him each year he,
himself, carried to the county clerk; so that he was the largest
landholder in the county and one of the very richest men.  It must have
been extreme unction to his soul to enter the county office and ask for
the assessment on those "little parcels of land of mine."  Men treated
him very deferentially, and so did his sons.  Those documents carefully
locked away had the effect of obtaining ever-ready help to harvest his
hay and wheat whenever he desired, to make his least wish quickly
deferred to, to give him authority and the power for which he lived and
worked earlier, later, and harder than any other man of his day and
locality.

Adam was like him as possible up to the time he married, yet Adam was
the only one of his sons who disobeyed him; but there was a redeeming
feature.  Adam married a slender tall slip of a woman, four years his
senior, who had been teaching in the Hartley schools when he began
courting her.  She was a prim, fussy woman, born of a prim father and a
fussy mother, so what was to be expected?  Her face was narrow and set,
her body and her movements almost rigid, her hair, always parted,
lifted from each side and tied on the crown, fell in stiff little
curls, the back part hanging free.  Her speech, as precise as her
movements, was formed into set habit through long study of the
dictionary.  She was born antagonistic to whatever existed, no matter
what it was.  So surely as every other woman agreed on a dress, a
recipe, a house, anything whatever, so surely Agatha thought out and
followed a different method, the disconcerting thing about her being
that she usually finished any undertaking with less exertion, ahead of
time, and having saved considerable money.

She could have written a fine book of synonyms, for as certainly as any
one said anything in her presence that she had occasion to repeat, she
changed the wording to six-syllabled mouthfuls, delivered with
ponderous circumlocution.  She subscribed to papers and magazines,
which she read and remembered.  And she danced! When other women
thought even a waltz immoral and shocking; perfectly stiff, her curls
exactly in place, Agatha could be seen, and frequently was seen,
waltzing on the front porch in the arms of, and to a tune whistled by
young Adam, whose full name was Adam Alcibiades Bates.  In his younger
days, when discipline had been required, Kate once had heard her say to
the little fellow:  "Adam Alcibiades ascend these steps and proceed
immediately to your maternal ancestor."

Kate thought of this with a dry smile as she plodded on toward Agatha's
home hoping she could see her brother at the barn, but she knew that
most probably she would "ascend the steps and proceed to the maternal
ancestor," of Adam Bates 3d.  Then she would be forced to explain her
visit and combat both Adam and his wife; for Agatha was not a nonentity
like her collection of healthful, hard-working sisters-in-law.  Agatha
worked if she chose, and she did not work if she did not choose.
Mostly she worked and worked harder than any one ever thought.  She had
a habit of keeping her house always immaculate, finishing her cleaning
very early and then reading in a conspicuous spot on the veranda when
other women were busy with their most tiresome tasks. Such was Agatha,
whom Kate dreaded meeting, with every reason, for Agatha, despite
curls, bony structure, language, and dance, was the most powerful
factor in the whole Bates family with her father-in-law; and all
because when he purchased the original two hundred acres for Adam, and
made the first allowance for buildings and stock, Agatha slipped the
money from Adam's fingers in some inexplainable way, and spent it all
for stock; because forsooth! Agatha was an only child, and her prim
father endowed her, she said so herself, with three hundred acres of
land, better in location and more fertile than that given to Adam, land
having on it a roomy and comfortable brick house, completely furnished,
a large barn and also stock; so that her place could be used to live on
and farm, while Adam's could be given over to grazing herds of cattle
which he bought cheaply, fattened and sold at the top of the market.

If each had brought such a farm into the family with her, father Bates
could have endured six more prim, angular, becurled daughters-in-law,
very well indeed, for land was his one and only God.  His respect for
Agatha was markedly very high, for in addition to her farm he secretly
admired her independence of thought and action, and was amazed by the
fact that she was about her work when several of the blooming girls he
had selected for wives for his sons were confined to the sofa with a
pain, while not one of them schemed, planned, connived with her husband
and piled up the money as Agatha did, therefore she stood at the head
of the women of the Bates family; while she was considered to have
worked miracles in the heart of Adam Bates, for with his exception no
man of the family ever had been seen to touch a woman, either publicly
or privately, to offer the slightest form of endearment, assistance or
courtesy.  "Women are to work and to bear children," said the elder
Bates.  "Put them at the first job when they are born, and at the
second at eighteen, and keep them hard at it."

At their rate of progression several of the Bates sons and daughters
would produce families that, with a couple of pairs of twins, would
equal the sixteen of the elder Bates; but not so Agatha.  She had one
son of fifteen and one daughter of ten, and she said that was all she
intended to have, certainly it was all she did have; but she further
aggravated matters by announcing that she had had them because she
wanted them; at such times as she intended to; and that she had the boy
first and five years the older, so that he could look after his sister
when they went into company.  Also she walked up and sat upon Adam's
lap whenever she chose, ruffled his hair, pulled his ears, and kissed
him squarely on the mouth, with every appearance of having help, while
the dance on the front porch with her son or daughter was of daily
occurrence.  And anything funnier than Agatha, prim and angular with
never a hair out of place, stiffly hopping "Money Musk" and "Turkey In
The Straw," or the "Blue Danube" waltz, anything funnier than that,
never happened.  But the two Adams, Jr. and 3d, watched with reverent
and adoring eyes, for she was MOTHER, and no one else on earth rested
so high in their respect as the inflexible woman they lived with.  That
she was different from all the other women of her time and location was
hard on the other women.  Had they been exactly right, they would have
been exactly like her.

So Kate, thinking all these things over, her own problem acutely
"advanced and proceeded."  She advanced past the closed barn, and stock
in the pasture, past the garden flaming June, past the dooryard, up the
steps, down the hall, into the screened back porch dining room and
"proceeded" to take a chair, while the family finished the Sunday night
supper, at which they were seated.  Kate was not hungry and she did not
wish to trouble her sister-in-law to set another place, so she took the
remaining chair, against the wall, behind Agatha, facing Adam, 3d,
across the table, and with Adam Jr., in profile at the head, and little
Susan at the foot.  Then she waited her chance.  Being tired and
aggressive she did not wait long.

"I might as well tell you why I came," she said bluntly.  "Father won't
give me money to go to Normal, as he has all the others.  He says I
have got to stay at home and help Mother."

"Well, Mother is getting so old she needs help," said Adam, Jr., as he
continued his supper.

"Of course she is," said Kate.  "We all know that.  But what is the
matter with Nancy Ellen helping her, while I take my turn at Normal?
There wasn't a thing I could do last summer to help her off that I
didn't do, even to lending her my best dress and staying at home for
six Sundays because I had nothing else fit to wear where I'd be seen."

No one said a word.  Kate continued:  "Then Father secured our home
school for her and I had to spend the winter going to school to her,
when you very well know that I always studied harder, and was ahead of
her, even after she'd been to Normal.  And I got up early and worked
late, and cooked, and washed, and waited on her, while she got her
lessons and reports ready, and fixed up her nice new clothes, and now
she won't touch the work, and she is doing all she can to help Father
keep me from going."

"I never knew Father to need much help on anything he made up his mind
to," said Adam.

Kate sat very tense.  She looked steadily at her brother, but he looked
quite as steadily at his plate.  The back of her sister-in-law was
fully as expressive as her face.  Her head was very erect, her
shoulders stiff and still, not a curl moved as she poured Adam's tea
and Susan's milk.  Only Adam, 3d, looked at Kate with companionable
eyes, as if he might feel a slight degree of interest or sympathy, so
she found herself explaining directly to him.

"Things are blame unfair in our family, anyway!" she said, bitterly.
"You have got to be born a boy to have any chance worth while; if you
are a girl it is mighty small, and if you are the youngest, by any
mischance, you have none at all.  I don't want to harp things over; but
I wish you would explain to me why having been born a few years after
Nancy Ellen makes me her slave, and cuts me out of my chance to teach,
and to have some freedom and clothes. They might as well have told
Hiram he was not to have any land and stay at home and help Father
because he was the youngest boy; it would have been quite as fair; but
nothing like that happens to the boys of this family, it is always the
girls who get left.  I have worked for years, knowing every cent I
saved and earned above barely enough to cover me, would go to help pay
for Hiram's land and house and stock; but he wouldn't turn a hand to
help me, neither will any of the rest of you."

"Then what are you here for?" asked Adam.

"Because I am going to give you, and every other brother and sister I
have, the chance to REFUSE to loan me enough to buy a few clothes and
pay my way to Normal, so I can pass the examinations, and teach this
fall.  And when you have all refused, I am going to the neighbours,
until I find someone who will loan me the money I need.  A hundred
dollars would be plenty.  I could pay it back with two months'
teaching, with any interest you say."

Kate paused, short of breath, her eyes blazing, her cheeks red. Adam
went steadily on with his supper.  Agatha appeared stiffer and more
uncompromising in the back than before, which Kate had not thought
possible.  But the same dull red on the girl's cheeks had begun to burn
on the face of young Adam. Suddenly he broke into a clear laugh.

"Oh, Ma, you're too funny!" he cried.  "I can read your face like a
book.  I bet you ten dollars I can tell you just word for word what you
are going to say.  I dare you let me!  You know I can!" Still laughing,
his eyes dancing, a picture to see, he stretched his arm across the
table toward her, and his mother adored him, however she strove to
conceal the fact from him.

"Ten dollars!" she scoffed.  "When did we become so wealthy?  I'll give
you one dollar if you tell me exactly what I was going to say."

The boy glanced at his father.  "Oh this is too easy!" he cried. "It's
like robbing the baby's bank!"  And then to his mother: "You were just
opening your lips to say:  'Give it to her!  If you don't, I will!'
And you are even a little bit more of a brick than usual to do it.
It's a darned shame the way all of them impose on Kate."

There was a complete change in Agatha's back.  Adam, Jr., laid down his
fork and stared at his wife in deep amazement.  Adam, 3d, stretched his
hand farther toward his mother.  "Give me that dollar!" he cajoled.

"Well, I am not concealing it in the sleeve of my garments," she said.
"If I have one, it is reposing in my purse, in juxtaposition to the
other articles that belong there, and if you receive it, it will be
bestowed upon you when I deem the occasion suitable."

Young Adam's fist came down with a smash.  "I get the dollar!" he
triumphed.  "I TOLD you so!  I KNEW she was going to say it! Ain't I a
dandy mind reader though?  But it is bully for you, Father, because of
course, if Mother wouldn't let Kate have it, you'd HAVE to; but if you
DID it might make trouble with your paternal land-grabber, and endanger
your precious deed that you hope to get in the sweet by-and-by.  But if
Mother loans the money, Grandfather can't say a word, because it is her
very own, and didn't cost him anything, and he always agrees with her
anyway!  Hurrah for hurrah, Kate!  Nancy Ellen may wash her own
petticoat in the morning, while I take you to the train.  You'll let
me, Father?  You did let me go to Hartley alone, once.  I'll be
careful!  I won't let a thing happen.  I'll come straight home. And oh,
my dollar, you and me; I'll put you in the bank and let you grow to
three!"

"You may go," said his father, promptly.

"You shall proceed according to your Aunt Katherine's instructions,"
said his mother, at the same time.

"Katie, get your carpet-sack!  When do we start?" demanded young Adam.

"Morning will be all right with me, you blessed youngun," said Kate,
"but I don't own a telescope or anything to put what little I have in,
and Nancy Ellen never would spare hers; she will want to go to County
Institute before I get back."

"You may have mine," said Agatha.  "You are perfectly welcome to take
it wherever your peregrinations lead you, and return it when you
please.  I shall proceed to my chamber and formulate your check
immediately.  You are also welcome to my best hat and cape, and any of
my clothing or personal adornments you can use to advantage."

"Oh, Agatha, I wish you were as big as a house, like me," said Kate,
joyfully.  "I couldn't possibly crowd into anything you wear, but it
would almost tickle me to death to have Nancy Ellen know you let me
take your things, when she won't even offer me a dud of her old stuff;
I never remotely hoped for any of the new."

"You shall have my cape and hat, anyway.  The cape is new and very
fashionable.  Come upstairs and try the hat," said Agatha.

The cape was new and fashionable as Agatha had said; it would not
fasten at the neck, but there would be no necessity that it should
during July and August, while it would improve any dress it was worn
with on a cool evening.  The hat Kate could not possibly use with her
large, broad face and mass of hair, but she was almost as pleased with
the offer as if the hat had been most becoming.  Then Agatha brought
out her telescope, in which Kate laid the cape while Agatha wrote her a
check for one hundred and twenty dollars, and told her where and how to
cash it.  The extra twenty was to buy a pair of new walking shoes, some
hose, and a hat, before she went to her train.  When they went
downstairs Adam, Jr., had a horse hitched and Adam, 3d, drove her to
her home, where, at the foot of the garden, they took one long survey
of the landscape and hid the telescope behind the privet bush.  Then
Adam drove away quietly, Kate entered the dooryard from the garden, and
soon afterward went to the wash room and hastily ironed her clothing.

Nancy Ellen had gone to visit a neighbour girl, so Kate risked her
remaining until after church in the evening.  She hurried to their room
and mended all her own clothing she had laid out.  Then she
deliberately went over Nancy Ellen's and helped herself to a pair of
pretty nightdresses, such as she had never owned, a white embroidered
petticoat, the second best white dress, and a most becoming sailor hat.
These she made into a parcel and carried to the wash room, brought in
the telescope and packed it, hiding it under a workbench and covering
it with shavings.  After that she went to her room and wrote a note,
and then slept deeply until the morning call.  She arose at once and
went to the wash room but instead of washing the family clothing, she
took a bath in the largest tub, and washed her hair to a state
resembling spun gold. During breakfast she kept sharp watch down the
road.  When she saw Adam, 3d, coming she stuck her note under the hook
on which she had seen her father hang his hat all her life, and
carrying the telescope in the clothes basket covered with a rumpled
sheet, she passed across the yard and handed it over the fence to Adam,
climbed that same fence, and they started toward Hartley.

Kate put the sailor hat on her head, and sat very straight, an anxious
line crossing her forehead.  She was running away, and if discovered,
there was the barest chance that her father might follow, and make a
most disagreeable scene, before the train pulled out.  He had gone to a
far field to plow corn and Kate fervently hoped he would plow until
noon, which he did.  Nancy Ellen washed the dishes, and went into the
front room to study, while Mrs. Bates put on her sunbonnet and began
hoeing the potatoes.  Not one of the family noticed that Monday's wash
was not on the clothes line as usual.  Kate and Adam drove as fast as
they dared, and on reaching town, cashed the check, decided that Nancy
Ellen's hat would serve, thus saving the price of a new one for
emergencies that might arise, bought the shoes, and went to the depot,
where they had an anxious hour to wait.

"I expect Grandpa will be pretty mad," said Adam.

"I am sure there is not the slightest chance but that he will be," said
Kate.

"Dare you go back home when school is over?" he asked.

"Probably not," she answered.

"What will you do?" he questioned.

"When I investigated sister Nancy Ellen's bureau I found a list of the
School Supervisors of the county, so I am going to put in my spare time
writing them about my qualifications to teach their schools this
winter.  All the other girls did well and taught first-class schools, I
shall also.  I am not a bit afraid but that I may take my choice of
several.  When I finish it will be only a few days until school begins,
so I can go hunt my boarding place and stay there."

"Mother would let you stay at our house," said Adam.

"Yes, I think she would, after yesterday; but I don't want to make
trouble that might extend to Father and your father.  I had better keep
away."

"Yes, I guess you had," said Adam. "If Grandfather rows, he raises a
racket.  But maybe he won't!"

"Maybe!  Wouldn't you like to see what happens when Mother come in from
the potatoes and Nancy Ellen comes out from the living room, and Father
comes to dinner, all about the same time?"

Adam laughed appreciatively.

"Wouldn't I just!" he cried.  "Kate, you like my mother, don't you?"

"I certainly do!  She has been splendid.  I never dreamed of such a
thing as getting the money from her."

"I didn't either," said Adam, "until--I became a mind reader."

Kate looked straight into his eyes.

"How about that, Adam?" she asked.

Adam chuckled.  "She didn't intend to say a word.  She was going to let
the Bateses fight it out among themselves.  Her mouth was shut so tight
it didn't look as if she could open it if she wanted to.  I thought it
would be better for you to borrow the money from her, so Father
wouldn't get into a mess, and I knew how fine she was, so I just
SUGGESTED it to her.  That's all!"

"Adam, you're a dandy!" cried Kate.

"I am having a whole buggy load of fun, and you ought to go," said he.
"It's all right!  Don't you worry!  I'll take care of you."

"Why, thank you, Adam!" said Kate.  "That is the first time any one
ever offered to take care of me in my life.  With me it always has been
pretty much of a 'go-it-alone' proposition."

"What of Nancy Ellen's did you take?" he asked.  "Why didn't you get
some gloves?  Your hands are so red and work-worn.  Mother's never look
that way."

"Your mother never has done the rough field work I do, and I haven't
taken time to be careful.  They do look badly.  I wish I had taken a
pair of the lady's gloves; but I doubt if she would have survived that.
I understand that one of the unpardonable sins is putting on gloves
belonging to any one else."

Then the train came and Kate climbed aboard with Adam's parting
injunction in her ears:  "Sit beside an open window on this side!"

So she looked for and found the window and as she seated herself she
saw Adam on the outside and leaned to speak to him again. Just as the
train started he thrust his hand inside, dropped his dollar on her lap,
and in a tense whisper commanded her:  "Get yourself some gloves!"
Then he ran.

Kate picked up the dollar, while her eyes dimmed with tears.

"Why, the fine youngster!" she said.  "The Jim-dandy fine youngster!"

Adam could not remember when he ever had been so happy as he was
driving home.  He found his mother singing, his father in a genial
mood, so he concluded that the greatest thing in the world to make a
whole family happy was to do something kind for someone else. But he
reflected that there would be far from a happy family at his
grandfather's; and he was right.  Grandmother Bates came in from her
hoeing at eleven o'clock tired and hungry, expecting to find the wash
dry and dinner almost ready.  There was no wash and no odour of food.
She went to the wood-shed and stared unbelievingly at the cold stove,
the tubs of soaking clothes.

She turned and went into the kitchen, where she saw no signs of Kate or
of dinner, then she lifted up her voice and shouted: "Nancy Ellen!"

Nancy Ellen came in a hurry.  "Why, Mother, what is the matter?" she
cried.

"Matter, yourself!" exclaimed Mrs. Bates.  "Look in the wash room! Why
aren't the clothes on the line?  Where is that good-for-nothing Kate?"

Nancy Ellen went to the wash room and looked.  She came back pale and
amazed.  "Maybe she is sick," she ventured. "She never has been; but
she might be!  Maybe she has lain down."

"On Monday morning!  And the wash not out!  You simpleton!" cried Mrs.
Bates.

Nancy Ellen hurried upstairs and came back with bulging eyes.

"Every scrap of her clothing is gone, and half of mine!"

"She's gone to that fool Normal-thing!  Where did she get the money?"
cried Mrs. Bates.

"I don't know!" said Nancy Ellen.  "She asked me yesterday, but of
course I told her that so long as you and Father decided she was not to
go, I couldn't possibly lend her the money."

"Did you look if she had taken it?"

Nancy Ellen straightened.  "Mother!  I didn't need do that!"

"You said she took your clothes," said Mrs. Bates.

"I had hers this time last year.  She'll bring back clothes."

"Not here, she won't!  Father will see that she never darkens these
doors again.  This is the first time in his life that a child of his
has disobeyed him."

"Except Adam, when he married Agatha; and he strutted like a fighting
cock about that."

"Well, he won't 'strut' about this, and you won't either, even if you
are showing signs of standing up for her.  Go at that wash, while I get
dinner."

Dinner was on the table when Adam Bates hung his hat on its hook and
saw the note for him.  He took it down and read:


FATHER:  I have gone to Normal.  I borrowed the money of a woman who
was willing to trust me to pay it back as soon as I earned it. Not
Nancy Ellen, of course.  She would not even loan me a pocket
handkerchief, though you remember I stayed at home six weeks last
summer to let her take what she wanted of mine.  Mother:  I think you
can get Sally Whistler to help you as cheaply as any one and that she
will do very well.  Nancy Ellen:  I have taken your second best hat and
a few of your things, but not half so many as I loaned you.  I hope it
makes you mad enough to burst.  I hope you get as mad and stay as mad
as I have been most of this year while you taught me things you didn't
know yourself; and I cooked and washed for you so you could wear fine
clothes and play the lady.  KATE


Adam Bates read that note to himself, stretching every inch of his six
feet six, his face a dull red, his eyes glaring.  Then he turned to his
wife and daughter.

"Is Kate gone?  Without proper clothing and on borrowed money," he
demanded.

"I don't know," said Mrs. Bates.  "I was hoeing potatoes all forenoon."

"Listen to this," he thundered.  Then he slowly read the note aloud.
But someway the spoken words did not have the same effect as when he
read them mentally in the first shock of anger.  When he heard his own
voice read off the line, "I hope it makes you mad enough to burst,"
there was a catch and a queer gurgle in his throat.  Mrs. Bates gazed
at him anxiously.  Was he so surprised and angry he was choking?  Might
it be a stroke?  It was!  It was a master stroke.  He got no farther
than "taught me things you didn't know yourself," when he lowered the
sheet, threw back his head and laughed as none of his family ever had
seen him laugh in his life; laughed and laughed until his frame was
shaken and the tears rolled.  Finally he looked at the dazed Nancy
Ellen.  "Get Sally Whistler, nothing!" he said.  "You hustle your
stumps and do for your mother what Kate did while you were away last
summer. And if you have any common decency send your sister as many of
your best things as you had of hers, at least.  Do you hear me?"



CHAPTER III

PEREGRINATIONS

"PEREGRINATIONS," laughed Kate, turning to the window to hide her face.
"Oh, Agatha, you are a dear, but you are too funny!  Even a Fourth of
July orator would not have used that word.  I never heard it before in
all of my life outside spelling-school."

Then she looked at the dollar she was gripping and ceased to laugh.

"The dear lad," she whispered.  "He did the whole thing.  She was going
to let us 'fight it out'; I could tell by her back, and Adam wouldn't
have helped me a cent, quite as much because he didn't want to as
because Father wouldn't have liked it.  Fancy the little chap knowing
he can wheedle his mother into anything, and exactly how to go about
it!  I won't spend a penny on myself until she is paid, and then I'll
make her a present of something nice, just to let her and Nancy Ellen
see that I appreciate being helped to my chance, for I had reached that
point where I would have walked to school and worked in somebody's
kitchen, before I'd have missed my opportunity.  I could have done it;
but this will be far pleasanter and give me a much better showing."

Then Kate began watching the people in the car with eager curiosity,
for she had been on a train only twice before in her life.  She decided
that she was in a company of young people and some even of middle age,
going to Normal.  She also noticed that most of them were looking at
her with probably the same interest she found in them.  Then at one of
the stations a girl asked to sit with her and explained that she was
going to Normal, so Kate said she was also.  The girl seemed to have
several acquaintances on the car, for she left her seat to speak with
them and when the train stopped at a very pleasant city and the car
began to empty itself, on the platform Kate was introduced by this girl
to several young women and men near her age.  A party of four, going to
board close the school, with a woman they knew about, invited Kate to
go with them and because she was strange and shaken by her experiences
she agreed.  All of them piled their luggage on a wagon to be
delivered, so Kate let hers go also.  Then they walked down a long
shady street, and entered a dainty and comfortable residence, a place
that seemed to Kate to be the home of people of wealth.  She was
assigned a room with another girl, such a pleasant girl; but a vague
uneasiness had begun to make itself felt, so before she unpacked she
went back to the sitting room and learned that the price of board was
eight dollars a week.  Forty-eight dollars for six weeks!  She would
not have enough for books and tuition.   Besides, Nancy Ellen had
boarded with a family on Butler Street whose charge was only
five-fifty.  Kate was eager to stay where these very agreeable young
people did, she imagined herself going to classes with them and having
association that to her would be a great treat, but she never would
dare ask for more money.  She thought swiftly a minute, and then made
her first mistake.

Instead of going to the other girls and frankly confessing that she
could not afford the prices they were paying, she watched her chance,
picked up her telescope and hurried down the street, walking swiftly
until she was out of sight of the house.  Then she began inquiring her
way to Butler Street and after a long, hot walk, found the place.  The
rooms and board were very poor, but Kate felt that she could endure
whatever Nancy Ellen had, so she unpacked, and went to the Normal
School to register and learn what she would need.  On coming from the
building she saw that she would be forced to pass close by the group of
girls she had deserted and this was made doubly difficult because she
could see that they were talking about her.  Then she understood how
foolish she had been and as she was struggling to summon courage to
explain to them she caught these words plainly:

"Who is going to ask her for it?"

"I am," said the girl who had sat beside Kate on the train.  "I don't
propose to pay it myself!"

Then she came directly to Kate and said briefly:  "Fifty cents, please!"

"For what?" stammered Kate.

"Your luggage.  You changed your boarding place in such a hurry you
forgot to settle, and as I made the arrangement, I had to pay it."

"Do please excuse me," said Kate.  "I was so bewildered, I forgot."

"Certainly!" said the girl and Kate dropped the money into the extended
hand and hurried past, her face scorched red with shame, for one of
them had said:  "That's a good one!  I wouldn't have thought it of her."

Kate went back to her hot, stuffy room and tried to study, but she
succeeded only in being miserable, for she realized that she had lost
her second chance to have either companions or friends, by not saying
the few words of explanation that would have righted her in the opinion
of those she would meet each day for six weeks. It was not a good
beginning, while the end was what might have been expected.  A young
man from her neighbourhood spoke to her and the girls seeing, asked him
about Kate, learning thereby that her father was worth more money than
all of theirs put together. Some of them had accepted the explanation
that Kate was "bewildered" and had acted hastily; but when the young
man finished Bates history, they merely thought her mean, and left her
severely to herself, so her only recourse was to study so diligently,
and recite so perfectly that none of them could equal her, and this she
did.

In acute discomfort and with a sore heart, Kate passed her first six
weeks away from home.  She wrote to each man on the list of school
directors she had taken from Nancy Ellen's desk.  Some answered that
they had their teachers already engaged, others made no reply.  One
bright spot was the receipt of a letter from Nancy Ellen saying she was
sending her best dress, to be very careful of it, and if Kate would let
her know the day she would be home she would meet her at the station.
Kate sent her thanks, wore the dress to two lectures, and wrote the
letter telling when she would return.

As the time drew nearer she became sickeningly anxious about a school.
What if she failed in securing one?  What if she could not pay back
Agatha's money?  What if she had taken "the wings of morning," and
fallen in her flight?  In desperation she went to the Superintendent of
the Normal and told him her trouble.  He wrote her a fine letter of
recommendation and she sent it to one of the men from whom she had not
heard, the director of a school in the village of Walden, seven miles
east of Hartley, being seventeen miles from her home, thus seeming to
Kate a desirable location, also she knew the village to be pretty and
the school one that paid well.  Then she finished her work the best she
could, and disappointed and anxious, entered the train for home.

When the engine whistled at the bridge outside Hartley Kate arose,
lifted her telescope from the rack overhead, and made her way to the
door, so that she was the first person to leave the car when it
stopped.  As she stepped to the platform she had a distinct shock, for
her father reached for the telescope, while his greeting and his face
were decidedly friendly, for him.  As they walked down the street Kate
was trying wildly to think of the best thing to say when he asked if
she had a school.  But he did not ask.  Then she saw in the pocket of
his light summer coat a packet of letters folded inside a newspaper,
and there was one long, official-looking envelope that stood above the
others far enough that she could see "Miss K--" of the address.
Instantly she decided that it was her answer from the School Director
of Walden and she was tremblingly eager to see it.  She thought an
instant and then asked:  "Have you been to the post office?"

"Yes, I got the mail," he answered.

"Will you please see if there are any letters for me?" she asked.

"When we get home," he said.  "I am in a hurry now.  Here's a list of
things Ma wants, and don't be all day about getting them."

Kate's lips closed to a thin line and her eyes began to grow steel
coloured and big.  She dragged back a step and looked at the loosely
swaying pocket again.  She thought intently a second.  As they passed
several people on the walk she stepped back of her father and gently
raised the letter enough to see that the address was to her.  Instantly
she lifted it from the others, slipped it up her dress sleeve, and
again took her place beside her father until they reached the store
where her mother did her shopping. Then he waited outside while Kate
hurried in, and ripping open the letter, found a contract ready for her
to sign for the Walden school.  The salary was twenty dollars a month
more than Nancy Ellen had received for their country school the
previous winter and the term four months longer.

Kate was so delighted she could have shouted.  Instead she went with
all speed to the stationery counter and bought an envelope to fit the
contract, which she signed, and writing a hasty note of thanks she
mailed the letter in the store mail box, then began her mother's
purchases.  This took so much time that her father came into the store
before she had finished, demanding that she hurry, so in feverish haste
she bought what was wanted and followed to the buggy.  On the road home
she began to study her father; she could see that he was well pleased
over something but she had no idea what could have happened; she had
expected anything from verbal wrath to the buggy whip, so she was
surprised, but so happy over having secured such a good school, at
higher wages than Nancy Ellen's, that she spent most of her time
thinking of herself and planning as to when she would go to Walden,
where she would stay, how she would teach, and Oh, bliss unspeakable,
what she would do with so much money; for two month's pay would more
than wipe out her indebtedness to Agatha, and by getting the very
cheapest board she could endure, after that she would have over three
fourths of her money to spend each month for books and clothes.  She
was intently engaged with her side of the closet and her end of the
bureau, when she had her first glimpse of home; even preoccupied as she
was, she saw a difference.  Several loose pickets in the fence had been
nailed in place.  The lilac beside the door and the cabbage roses had
been trimmed, so that they did not drag over the walk, while the yard
had been gone over with a lawn-mower.

Kate turned to her father.  "Well, for land's sake!" she said.  "I
wanted a lawn-mower all last summer, and you wouldn't buy it for me.  I
wonder why you got it the minute I was gone."

"I got it because Nancy Ellen especially wanted it, and she has been a
mighty good girl all summer," he said.

"If that is the case, then she should be rewarded with the privilege of
running a lawn-mower," said Kate.

Her father looked at her sharply; but her face was so pleasant he
decided she did not intend to be saucy, so he said:  "No doubt she will
be willing to let you help her all you want to."

"Not the ghost of a doubt about that," laughed Kate, "and I always
wanted to try running one, too.  They look so nice in pictures, and how
one improves a place!  I hardly know this is home.  Now if we only had
a fresh coat of white paint we could line up with the neighbours."

"I have been thinking about that," said Mr. Bates, and Kate glanced at
him, doubting her hearing.

He noticed her surprise and added in explanation:  "Paint every so
often saves a building.  It's good economy."

"Then let's economize immediately," said Kate.  "And on the barn, too.
It is even more weather-beaten than the house."

"I'll see about it the next time I go to town," said Mr. Bates; so Kate
entered the house prepared for anything and wondering what it all meant
for wherever she looked everything was shining the brightest that
scrubbing and scouring could make it shine, the best of everything was
out and in use; not that it was much, but it made a noticeable
difference.  Her mother greeted her pleasantly, with a new tone of
voice, while Nancy Ellen was transformed.  Kate noticed that,
immediately.  She always had been a pretty girl, now she was beautiful,
radiantly beautiful, with a new shining beauty that dazzled Kate as she
looked at her.  No one offered any explanation while Kate could see
none.  At last she asked:  "What on earth has happened?  I don't
understand."

"Of course you don't," laughed Nancy Ellen.  "You thought you ran the
whole place and did everything yourself, so I thought I'd just show you
how things look when I run them."

"You are a top-notcher," said Kate.  "Figuratively and literally, I
offer you the palm.  Let the good work go on!  I highly approve; but I
don't see how you found time to do all this and go to Institute."

"I didn't go to Institute," said Nancy Ellen.

"You didn't!  But you must!" cried Kate.

"Oh must I?  Well, since you have decided to run your affairs as you
please, in spite of all of us, just suppose you let me run mine the
same way.  Only, I rather enjoy having Father and Mother approve of
what I do."

Kate climbed the stairs with this to digest as she went; so while she
put away her clothing she thought things over, but saw no light.  She
would go to Adam's to return the telescope to-morrow, possibly he could
tell her.  As she hung her dresses in the closet and returned Nancy
Ellen's to their places she was still more amazed, for there hung three
pretty new wash dresses, one of a rosy pink that would make Nancy Ellen
appear very lovely.

What was the reason, Kate wondered.  The Bates family never did
anything unless there was some purpose in it, what was the purpose in
this?  And Nancy Ellen had not gone to Institute.  She evidently had
worked constantly and hard, yet she was in much sweeter frame of mind
than usual.  She must have spent almost all she had saved from her
school on new clothes.  Kate could not solve the problem, so she
decided to watch and wait.  She also waited for someone to say
something about her plans, but no one said a word, so after waiting all
evening Kate decided that they would ask before they learned anything
from her.  She took her place as usual, and the work went on as if she
had not been away; but she was happy, even in her bewilderment.

If her father noticed the absence of the letter she had slipped from
his pocket he said nothing about it as he drew the paper and letters
forth and laid them on the table.  Kate had a few bad minutes while
this was going on, she was sure he hesitated an instant and looked
closely at the letters he sorted; but when he said nothing, she
breathed deeply in relief and went on being joyous.  It seemed to her
that never had the family been in such a good-natured state since Adam
had married Agatha and her three hundred acres with house, furniture,
and stock.  She went on in ignorance of what had happened until after
Sunday dinner the following day.  Then she had planned to visit Agatha
and Adam.  It was very probable that it was because she was dressing
for this visit that Nancy Ellen decided on Kate's enlightenment, for
she could not have helped seeing that her sister was almost stunned at
times.

Kate gave her a fine opening.  As she stood brushing her wealth of gold
with full-length sweeps of her arm, she was at an angle that brought
her facing the mirror before which Nancy Ellen sat training waves and
pinning up loose braids.  Her hair was beautiful and she slowly smiled
at her image as she tried different effects of wave, loose curl, braids
high piled or flat. Across her bed lay a dress that was a reproduction
of one that she had worn for three years, but a glorified reproduction.
The original dress had been Nancy Ellen's first departure from the
brown and gray gingham which her mother always had purchased because it
would wear well, and when from constant washing it faded to an exact
dirt colour it had the advantage of providing a background that did not
show the dirt.  Nancy Ellen had earned the money for a new dress by
raising turkeys, so when the turkeys went to town to be sold, for the
first time in her life Nancy Ellen went along to select the dress.  No
one told her what kind of dress to get, because no one imagined that
she would dare buy any startling variation from what always had been
provided for her.

But Nancy Ellen had stood facing a narrow mirror when she reached the
gingham counter and the clerk, taking one look at her fresh, beautiful
face with its sharp contrasts of black eyes and hair, rose-tinted skin
that refused to tan, and red cheeks and lips, began shaking out
delicate blues, pale pinks, golden yellows.  He called them chambray;
insisted that they wore for ever, and were fadeless, which was
practically the truth.  On the day that dress was like to burst its
waist seams, it was the same warm rosy pink that transformed Nancy
Ellen from the disfiguration of dirt-brown to apple and peach bloom,
wild roses and swamp mallow, a girl quite as pretty as a girl ever
grows, and much prettier than any girl ever has any business to be.
The instant Nancy Ellen held the chambray under her chin and in an
oblique glance saw the face of the clerk, the material was hers no
matter what the cost, which does not refer to the price, by any means.
Knowing that the dress would be an innovation that would set her mother
storming and fill Kate with envy, which would probably culminate in the
demand that the goods be returned and exchanged for dirt-brown, when
she reached home Nancy Ellen climbed from the wagon and told her father
that she was going on to Adam's to have Agatha cut out her dress so
that she could begin to sew on it that night.  Such commendable
industry met his hearty approval, so he told her to go and he would see
that Kate did her share of the work.  Wise Nancy Ellen came home and
sat her down to sew on her gorgeous frock, while the storm she had
feared raged in all its fury; but the goods was cut, and could not be
returned.  Yet, through it, a miracle happened:  Nancy Ellen so
appreciated herself in pink that the extreme care she used with that
dress saved it from half the trips of a dirt-brown one to the wash
board and the ironing table; while, marvel of marvels, it did not
shrink, it did not fade, also it wore like buckskin.  The result was
that before the season had passed Kate was allowed to purchase a pale
blue, which improved her appearance quite as much in proportion as pink
had Nancy Ellen's; neither did the blue fade nor shrink nor require so
much washing, for the same reason.  Three years the pink dress had been
Nancy Ellen's PIECE DE RESISTANCE; now she had a new one, much the
same, yet conspicuously different.  This was a daring rose colour, full
and wide, peeping white embroidery trimming, and big pearl buttons,
really a beautiful dress, made in a becoming manner. Kate looked at it
in cheerful envy.  Never mind!  The coming summer she would have a blue
that would make that pink look silly. From the dress she turned to
Nancy Ellen, barely in time to see her bend her head and smirk,
broadly, smilingly, approvingly, at her reflection in the glass.

"For mercy sake, what IS the matter with you?" demanded Kate, ripping a
strand of hair in sudden irritation.

"Oh, something lovely!" answered her sister, knowing that this was her
chance to impart the glad tidings herself; if she lost it, Agatha would
get the thrill of Kate's surprise.  So Nancy Ellen opened her drawer
and slowly produced and set upon her bureau a cabinet photograph of a
remarkably strong-featured, handsome young man.  Then she turned to
Kate and smiled a slow, challenging smile.  Kate walked over and picked
up the picture, studying it intently but in growing amazement.

"Who is he?" she asked finally.

"My man!" answered Nancy Ellen, possessively, triumphantly.

Kate stared at her.  "Honest to God?" she cried in wonderment.

"Honest!" said Nancy Ellen.

"Where on earth did you find him?" demanded Kate.

"Picked him out of the blackberry patch," said Nancy Ellen.

"Those darn blackberries are always late," said Kate, throwing the
picture back on the bureau.  "Ain't that just my luck!  You wouldn't
touch the raspberries.  I had to pick them every one myself.  But the
minute I turn my back, you go pick a man like that, out of the
blackberry patch.  I bet a cow you wore your pink chambray, and carried
grandmother's old blue bowl."

"Certainly," said Nancy Ellen, "and my pink sun-bonnet.  I think maybe
the bonnet started it."

Kate sat down limply on the first chair and studied the toes of her
shoes.  At last she roused and looked at Nancy Ellen, waiting in
smiling complaisance as she returned the picture to her end of the
bureau.

"Well, why don't you go ahead?" cried Kate in a thick, rasping voice.
"Empty yourself!  Who is he?  Where did he come from?  WHY was he IN
our blackberry patch?  Has he really been to see you, and is he
courting you in earnest?--But of COURSE he is! There's the lilac bush,
the lawn-mower, the house to be painted, and a humdinger dress.  Is he
a millionaire?  For Heaven's sake tell me--"

"Give me some chance!  I did meet him in the blackberry patch. He's a
nephew of Henry Lang and his name is Robert Gray.  He has just finished
a medical course and he came here to rest and look at Hartley for a
location, because Lang thinks it would be such a good one.  And since
we met he has decided to take an office in Hartley, and he has money to
furnish it, and to buy and furnish a nice house."

"Great Jehoshaphat!" cried Kate.  "And I bet he's got wings, too! I do
have the rottenest luck!"

"You act for all the world as if it were a foregone conclusion that if
you had been here, you'd have won him!"

Nancy Ellen glanced in the mirror and smiled, while Kate saw the smile.
She picked up her comb and drew herself to full height.

"If anything ever was a 'foregone conclusion,'" she said, "it is a
'foregone conclusion' that if I HAD been here, I'd have picked the
blackberries, and so I'd have had the first chance at him, at least."

"Much good it would have done you!" cried Nancy Ellen.  "Wait until he
comes, and you see him!"

"You may do your mushing in private," said Kate.  "I don't need a
demonstration to convince me.  He looks from the picture like a man who
would be as soft as a frosted pawpaw."

Nancy Ellen's face flamed crimson.  "You hateful spite-cat!" she cried.

Then she picked up the picture and laid it face down in her drawer,
while two big tears ran down her cheeks.  Kate saw those also.
Instantly she relented.

"You big silly goose!" she said.  "Can't you tell when any one is
teasing?  I think I never saw a finer face than the one in that
picture.  I'm jealous because I never left home a day before in all my
life, and the minute I do, here you go and have such luck. Are you
really sure of him, Nancy Ellen?"

"Well, he asked Father and Mother, and I've been to visit his folks,
and he told them; and I've been with him to Hartley hunting a house;
and I'm not to teach this winter, so I can have all my time to make my
clothes and bedding.  Father likes him fine, so he is going to give me
money to get all I need.  He offered to, himself."

Kate finished her braid, pulled the combings from the comb and slowly
wrapped the end of her hair as she digested these convincing facts.
She swung the heavy braid around her head, placed a few pins, then
crossed to her sister and laid a shaking hand on her shoulder.  Her
face was working strongly.

"Nancy Ellen, I didn't mean one ugly word I said.  You gave me an awful
surprise, and that was just my bald, ugly Bates way of taking it.  I
think you are one of the most beautiful women I ever have seen, alive
or pictured.  I have always thought you would make a fine marriage, and
I am sure you will.  I haven't a doubt that Robert Gray is all you
think him, and I am as glad for you as I can be.  You can keep house in
Hartley for two with scarcely any work at all, and you can have all the
pretty clothes you want, and time to wear them.  Doctors always get
rich if they are good ones, and he is sure to be a good one, once he
gets a start.  If only we weren't so beastly healthy there are enough
Bates and Langs to support you for the first year.  And I'll help you
sew, and do all I can for you.  Now wipe up and look your handsomest!"

Nancy Ellen arose and put her arms around Kate's neck, a stunningly
unusual proceeding.  "Thank you," she said.  "That is big and fine of
you.  But I always have shirked and put my work on you; I guess now
I'll quit, and do my sewing myself."

Then she slipped the pink dress over her head and stood slowly
fastening it as Kate started to leave the room.  Seeing her go: "I wish
you would wait and meet Robert," she said. "I have told him about what
a nice sister I have."

"I think I'll go on to Adam's now," said Kate.  "I don't want to wait
until they go some place, and I miss them.  I'll do better to meet your
man after I become more accustomed to bare facts, anyway.  By the way,
is he as tall as you?"

"Yes," said Nancy Ellen, laughing.  "He is an inch and a half taller.
Why?"

"Oh, I hate seeing a woman taller than her husband and I've always
wondered where we'd find men to reach our shoulders.  But if they can
be picked at random from the berry patch--"

So Kate went on her way laughing, lifting her white skirts high from
the late August dust.  She took a short cut through the woods and at a
small stream, with sure foot, crossed the log to within a few steps of
the opposite bank.  There she stopped, for a young man rounded the
bushes and set a foot on the same log; then he and Kate looked straight
into each other's eyes.  Kate saw a clean-shaven, forceful young face,
with strong lines and good colouring, clear gray eyes, sandy brown
hair, even, hard, white teeth, and broad shoulders a little above her
own.  The man saw Kate, dressed in her best and looking her best.
Slowly she extended her hand.

"I bet a picayune you are my new brother, Robert," she said.

The young man gripped her hand firmly, held it, and kept on looking in
rather a stunned manner at Kate.

"Well, aren't you?" she asked, trying to withdraw the hand.

"I never, never would have believed it," he said.

"Believed what?" asked Kate, leaving the hand where it was.

"That there could be two in the same family," said he.

"But I'm as different from Nancy Ellen as night from day," said Kate,
"besides, woe is me, I didn't wear a pink dress and pick you from the
berry patch in a blue bowl."

Then the man released her hand and laughed.  "You wouldn't have had the
slightest trouble, if you had been there," he said.

"Except that I should have inverted my bowl," said Kate, calmly. "I am
looking for a millionaire, riding a milk-white steed, and he must be
much taller than you and have black hair and eyes.  Good-bye, brother!
I will see you this evening."

Then Kate went down the path to deliver the telescope, render her
thanks, make her promise of speedy payment, and for the first time tell
her good news about her school.  She found that she was very happy as
she went and quite convinced that her first flight would prove entirely
successful.



CHAPTER IV

A QUESTION OF CONTRACTS

"HELLO, Folks!" cried Kate, waving her hand to the occupants of the
veranda as she went up the walk.  "Glad to find you at home."

"That is where you will always find me unless I am forced away on
business," said her brother as they shook hands.

Agatha was pleased with this, and stiff as steel, she bent the length
of her body toward Kate and gave her a tight-lipped little peck on the
cheek.

"I came over, as soon as I could," said Kate as she took the chair her
brother offered, "to thank you for the big thing you did for me,
Agatha, when you lent me that money.  If I had known where I was going,
or the help it would be to me, I should have gone if I'd had to walk
and work for my board.  Why, I feel so sure of myself!  I've learned so
much that I'm like the girl fresh from boarding school:  'The only
wonder is that one small head can contain it all.'  Thank you over and
over and I've got a good school, so I can pay you back the very first
month, I think.  If there are things I must have, I can pay part the
first month and the remainder the second.  I am eager for pay-day.  I
can't even picture the bliss of having that much money in my fingers,
all my own, to do with as I please.  Won't it be grand?"

In the same breath said Agatha:  "Procure yourself some clothes!" Said
Adam:  "Start a bank account!"

Said Kate:  "Right you are!  I shall do both."

"Even our little Susan has a bank account," said Adam, Jr., proudly.

"Which is no reflection whatever on me," laughed Kate.  "Susan did not
have the same father and mother I had.  I'd like to see a girl of my
branch of the Bates family start a bank account at ten."

"No, I guess she wouldn't," admitted Adam, dryly.

"But have you heard that Nancy Ellen has started?" cried Kate. "Only
think!  A lawn-mower!  The house and barn to be painted! All the dinge
possible to remove scoured away, inside!  She must have worn her
fingers almost to the bone!  And really, Agatha, have you seen the man?
He's as big as Adam, and just fine looking.  I'm simply consumed with
envy."

"Miss Medira, Dora, Ann, cast her net, and catched a man!" recited
Susan from the top step, at which they all laughed.

"No, I have not had the pleasure of casting my optics upon the
individual of Nancy Ellen's choice," said Agatha primly, "but Miss
Amelia Lang tells me he is a very distinguished person, of quite
superior education in a medical way.  I shall call him if I ever have
the misfortune to fall ill again.  I hope you will tell Nancy Ellen
that we shall be very pleased to have her bring him to see us some
evening, and if she will let me know a short time ahead I shall take
great pleasure in compounding a cake and freezing custard."

"Of course I shall tell her, and she will feel a trifle more stuck up
than she does now, if that is possible," laughed Kate in deep amusement.

She surely was feeling fine.  Everything had come out so splendidly.
That was what came of having a little spirit and standing up for your
rights.  Also she was bubbling inside while Agatha talked.  Kate
wondered how Adam survived it every day.  She glanced at him to see if
she could detect any marks of shattered nerves, then laughed outright.

Adam was the finest physical specimen of a man she knew.  He was good
looking also, and spoke as well as the average, better in fact, for
from the day of their marriage, Agatha sat on his lap each night and
said these words:  "My beloved, to-day I noted an error in your speech.
It would put a former teacher to much embarrassment to have this occur
in public.  In the future will you not try to remember that you should
say, 'have gone,' instead of 'have went?'"  As she talked Agatha
rumpled Adam's hair, pulled off his string tie, upon which she
insisted, even when he was plowing; laid her hard little face against
his, and held him tight with her frail arms, so that Adam being part
human as well as part Bates, held her closely also and said these
words:  "You bet your sweet life I will!"  And what is more he did.  He
followed a furrow the next day, softly muttering over to himself:
"Langs have gone to town.  I have gone to work.  The birds have gone to
building nests."  So Adam seldom said:  "have went," or made any other
error in speech that Agatha had once corrected.

As Kate watched him leaning back in his chair, vital, a study in
well-being, the supremest kind of satisfaction on his face, she noted
the flash that lighted his eye when Agatha offered to "freeze a
custard."  How like Agatha! Any other woman Kate knew would have said,
"make ice cream."  Agatha explained to them that when they beat up
eggs, added milk, sugar, and corn-starch it was custard.  When they
used pure cream, sweetened and frozen, it was iced cream.  Personally,
she preferred the custard, but she did not propose to call it custard
cream.  It was not correct.  Why persist in misstatements and
inaccuracies when one knew better? So Agatha said iced cream when she
meant it, and frozen custard, when custard it was, but every other
woman in the neighbourhood, had she acted as she felt, would have
slapped Agatha's face when she said it:  this both Adam and Kate well
knew, so it made Kate laugh despite the fact that she would not have
offended Agatha purposely.

"I think--I think," said Agatha, "that Nancy Ellen has much upon which
to congratulate herself.  More education would not injure her, but she
has enough that if she will allow her ambition to rule her and study in
private and spend her spare time communing with the best writers, she
can make an exceedingly fair intellectual showing, while she surely is
a handsome woman.  With a good home and such a fine young professional
man as she has had the good fortune to attract, she should immediately
put herself at the head of society in Hartley and become its leader to
a much higher moral and intellectual plane than it now occupies."

"Bet she has a good time," said young Adam.  "He's awful nice."

"Son," said Agatha, "'awful,' means full of awe.  A cyclone, a
cloudburst, a great conflagration are awful things.  By no stretch of
the imagination could they be called nice."

"But, Ma, if a cyclone blew away your worst enemy wouldn't it be nice?"

Adam, Jr., and Kate laughed.  Not the trace of a smile crossed Agatha's
pale face.

"The words do not belong in contiguity," she said.  "They are
diametrically opposite in meaning.  Please do not allow my ears to be
offended by hearing you place them in propinquity again."

"I'll try not to, Ma," said young Adam; then Agatha smiled on him
approvingly.  "When did you meet Mr. Gray, Katherine?" she asked.

"On the foot-log crossing the creek beside Lang's line fence. Near the
spot Nancy Ellen first met him I imagine."

"How did you recognize him?"

"Nancy Ellen had just been showing me his picture and telling me about
him.  Great Day, but she's in love with him!"

"And so he is with her, if Lang's conclusions from his behaviour can be
depended upon.  They inform me that he can be induced to converse on no
other subject.  The whole arrangement appeals to me as distinctly
admirable."

"And you should see the lilac bush and the cabbage roses," said Kate.
"And the strangest thing is Father.  He is peaceable as a lamb.  She is
not to teach, but to spend the winter sewing on her clothes and
bedding, and Father told her he would give her the necessary money.
She said so.  And I suspect he will.  He always favoured her because
she was so pretty, and she can come closer to wheedling him than any of
the rest of us excepting you, Agatha."

"It is an innovation, surely!"

"Mother is nearly as bad.  Father furnishing money for clothes and
painting the barn is no more remarkable than Mother letting her turn
the house inside out.  If it had been I, Father would have told me to
teach my school this winter, buy my own clothes and linen with the
money I had earned, and do my sewing next summer. But I am not jealous.
It is because she is handsome, and the man fine-looking and with such
good prospects."

"There you have it!" said Adam emphatically.  "If it were you, marrying
Jim Lang, to live on Lang's west forty, you WOULD pay your own way.
But if it were you marrying a fine-looking young doctor, who will soon
be a power in Hartley, no doubt, it would tickle Father's vanity until
he would do the same for you."

"I doubt it!" said Kate.  "I can't see the vanity in Father."

"You can't?" said Adam, Jr., bitterly.  "Maybe not!  You have not been
with him in the Treasurer's office when he calls for 'the tax on those
little parcels of land of mine.'  He looks every inch of six feet six
then, and swells like a toad.  To hear him you would think sixteen
hundred and fifty acres of the cream of this county could be tied in a
bandanna and carried on a walking stick, he is so casual about it.  And
those men fly around like buttons on a barn door to wait on him and
it's 'Mister Bates this' and 'Mister Bates that,' until it turns my
stomach.  Vanity!  He rolls in it! He eats it!  He risks losing our
land for us that some of us have slaved over for twenty years, to feed
that especial vein of his vanity.  Where should we be if he let
anything happen to those deeds?"

"How refreshing!" cried Kate.  "I love to hear you grouching!  I hear
nothing else from the women of the Bates family, but I didn't even know
the men had a grouch.  Are Peter, and John, and Hiram, and the other
boys sore, too?"

"I should say they are!  But they are too diplomatic to say so. They
are afraid to cheep.  I just open my head and say right out loud in
meeting that since I've turned in the taxes and insurance for all these
years and improved my land more than fifty per cent., I'd like to own
it, and pay my taxes myself, like a man."

"I'd like to have some land under any conditions," said Kate, "but
probably I never shall.  And I bet you never get a flipper on that deed
until Father has crossed over Jordan, which with his health and
strength won't be for twenty-five years yet at least.  He's performing
a miracle that will make the other girls rave, when he gives Nancy
Ellen money to buy her outfit; but they won't dare let him hear a
whisper of it.  They'll take it all out on Mother, and she'll be afraid
to tell him."

"Afraid?  Mother afraid of him?  Not on your life.  She is hand in
glove with him.  She thinks as he does, and helps him in everything he
undertakes."

"That's so, too.  Come to think of it, she isn't a particle afraid of
him.  She agrees with him perfectly.  It would be interesting to hear
them having a private conversation.  They never talk a word before us.
But they always agree, and they heartily agree on Nancy Ellen's man,
that is plainly to be seen."

"It will make a very difficult winter for you, Katherine," said Agatha.
"When Nancy Ellen becomes interested in dresses and table linen and
bedding she will want to sew all the time, and leave the cooking and
dishes for you as well as your schoolwork."

Kate turned toward Agatha in surprise.  "But I won't be there!  I told
you I had taken a school."

"You taken a school!" shouted Adam.  "Why, didn't they tell you that
Father has signed up for the home school for you?"

"Good Heavens!" said Kate.  "What will be to pay now?"

"Did you contract for another school?" cried Adam.

"I surely did," said Kate slowly.  "I signed an agreement to teach the
village school in Walden.  It's a brick building with a janitor to
sweep and watch fires, only a few blocks to walk, and it pays twenty
dollars a month more than the home school where you can wade snow three
miles, build your own fires, and freeze all day in a little frame
building at that.  I teach the school I have taken."

"And throw our school out of a teacher?  Father could be sued, and
probably will be," said Adam.  "And throw the housework Nancy Ellen
expected you to do on her," said Agatha, at the same time.

"I see," said Kate.  "Well, if he is sued, he will have to settle. He
wouldn't help me a penny to go to school, I am of age, the debt is my
own, and I don't owe it to him.  He's had all my work has been worth
all my life, and I've surely paid my way.  I shall teach the school I
have signed for."

"You will get into a pretty kettle of fish!" said Adam.

"Agatha, will you sell me your telescope for what you paid for it, and
get yourself a new one the next time you go to Hartley?  It is only a
few days until time to go to my school, it opens sooner than in the
country, and closes later.  The term is four months longer, so I earn
that much more.  I haven't gotten a telescope yet.  You can add it to
my first payment."

"You may take it," said Agatha, "but hadn't you better reconsider,
Katherine?  Things are progressing so nicely, and this will upset
everything for Nancy Ellen."

"That taking the home school will upset everything for me, doesn't seem
to count.  It is late, late to find teachers, and I can be held
responsible if I break the contract I have made.  Father can stand the
racket better than I can.  When he wouldn't consent to my going, he had
no business to make plans for me.  I had to make my own plans and go in
spite of him; he might have known I'd do all in my power to get a
school.  Besides, I don't want the home school, or the home work piled
on me.  My hands look like a human being's for the first time in my
life; then I need all my time outside of school to study and map out
lessons.  I am going to try for a room in the Hartley schools next
year, or the next after that, surely.  They sha'n't change my plans and
boss me, I am going to be free to work, and study, and help myself,
like other teachers."

"A grand row this will be," commented young Adam.  "And as usual Kate
will be right, while all of them will be trying to use her to their
advantage.  Ma has done her share.  Now it is your turn, Pa. Ain't you
going to go over and help her?"

"What could I do?" demanded his father.  "The mischief is done now."

"Well, if you can't do anything to help, you can let me have the buggy
to drive her to Walden, if they turn her out."

"'Forcibly invite her to proceed to her destination,' you mean, son,"
said Agatha.

"Yes, Ma, that is exactly what I mean," said young Adam.  "Do I get the
buggy?"

"Yes, you may take my private conveyance.  But do nothing to publish
the fact.  There is no need to incur antagonism if it can be avoided."

"Kate, I'll be driving past the privet bush about nine in the morning.
If you need me, hang a white rag on it, and I'll stop at the corner of
the orchard."

"I shall probably be standing in the road waiting for you," said Kate.

"Oh, I hope not," said Agatha.

"Looks remarkably like it to me," said Kate.

Then she picked up the telescope, said good-bye to each of them, and in
acute misery started back to her home.  This time she followed the
footpath beside the highway.  She was so busy with her indignant
thought that she forgot to protect her skirts from the dust of wayside
weeds, while in her excitement she walked so fast her face was red and
perspiring when she approached the church.

"Oh, dear, I don't know about it," said Kate to the small, silent
building.  "I am trying to follow your advice, but it seems to me that
life is very difficult, any way you go at it.  If it isn't one thing,
it is another.  An hour ago I was the happiest I have ever been in my
life; only look at me now!  Any one who wants 'the wings of morning'
may have them for all of me.  It seems definitely settled that I walk,
carry a load, and fight for the chance to do even that."

A big tear rolled down either side of Kate's nose and her face twisted
in self-pity for an instant.  But when she came in sight of home her
shoulders squared, the blue-gray of her eyes deepened to steel, and her
lips set in a line that was an exact counterpart of her father's when
he had made up his mind and was ready to drive his family, with their
consent or without it.  As she passed the vegetable garden--there was
no time or room for flowers in a Bates garden--Kate, looking ahead,
could see Nancy Ellen and Robert Gray beneath the cherry trees.  She
hoped Nancy Ellen would see that she was tired and dusty, and should
have time to brush and make herself more presentable to meet a
stranger, and so Nancy Ellen did; for which reason she immediately
arose and came to the gate, followed by her suitor whom she at once
introduced.  Kate was in no mood for words; one glance at her proved to
Robert Gray that she was tired and dusty, that there were tear marks
dried on her face.  They hastily shook hands, but neither mentioned the
previous meeting.  Excusing herself Kate went into the house saying she
would soon return.

Nancy Ellen glanced at Robert, and saw the look of concern on his face.

"I believe she has been crying," she said.  "And if she has, it's
something new, for I never saw a tear on her face before in my life."

"Truly?" he questioned in amazement.

"Why, of course!  The Bates family are not weepers."

"So I have heard," said the man, rather dryly.

Nancy Ellen resented his tone.

"Would you like us better if we were?"

"I couldn't like you better than I do, but because of what I have heard
and seen, it naturally makes me wonder what could have happened that
has made her cry."

"We are rather outspoken, and not at all secretive," said Nancy Ellen,
carelessly, "you will soon know."

Kate followed the walk around the house and entered at the side door,
finding her father and mother in the dining room reading the weekly
papers.  Her mother glanced up as she entered.

"What did you bring Agatha's telescope back with you for?" she
instantly demanded.

For a second Kate hesitated.  It had to come, she might as well get it
over.  Possibly it would be easier with them alone than if Nancy Ellen
were present.

"It is mine," she said.  "It represents my first purchase on my own
hook and line."

"You are not very choicy to begin on second-hand stuff.  Nancy Ellen
would have had a new one."

"No doubt!" said Kate.  "But this will do for me."

Her father lowered his paper and asked harshly:  "What did you buy that
thing for?"

Kate gripped the handle and braced herself.

"To pack my clothes in when I go to my school next week," she said
simply.

"What?" he shouted.  "What?" cried her mother.

"I don't know why you seem surprised," said Kate.  "Surely you knew I
went to Normal to prepare myself to teach.  Did you think I couldn't
find a school?"

"Now look here, young woman," shouted Adam Bates, "you are done taking
the bit in your teeth.  Nancy Ellen is not going to teach this winter.
I have taken the home school for you; you will teach it.  That is
settled.  I have signed the contract.  It must be fulfilled."

"Then Nancy Ellen will have to fulfill it," said Kate.  "I also have
signed a contract that must be fulfilled.  I am of age, and you had no
authority from me to sign a contract for me."

For an instant Kate thought there was danger that the purple rush of
blood to her father's head might kill him.  He opened his mouth, but no
distinct words came.  Her face paled with fright, but she was of his
blood, so she faced him quietly.  Her mother was quicker of wit, and
sharper of tongue.

"Where did you get a school?  Why didn't you wait until you got home?"
she demanded.

"I am going to teach the village school in Walden," said Kate. "It is a
brick building, has a janitor, I can board reasonably, near my work,
and I get twenty dollars more a month than our school pays, while the
term is four months longer."

"Well, it is a pity about that; but it makes no difference," said her
mother.  "Our home school has got to be taught as Pa contracted, and
Nancy Ellen has got to have her chance."

"What about my chance?" asked Kate evenly.  "Not one of the girls, even
Exceptional Ability, ever had as good a school or as high wages to
start on.  If I do well there this winter, I am sure I can get in the
Hartley graded schools next fall."

"Don't you dare nickname your sister," cried Mrs. Bates, shrilly. "You
stop your impudence and mind your father."

"Ma, you leave this to me," said Adam Bates, thickly.  Then he glared
at Kate as he arose, stretching himself to full height. "You've signed
a contract for a school?" he demanded.

"I have," said Kate.

"Why didn't you wait until you got home and talked it over with us?" he
questioned.

"I went to you to talk over the subject to going," said Kate. "You
would not even allow me to speak.  How was I to know that you would
have the slightest interest in what school I took, or where."

"When did you sign this contract?" he continued.

"Yesterday afternoon, in Hartley," said Kate.

"Aha!  Then I did miss a letter from my pocket.  When did you get to be
a thief?" he demanded.

"Oh, Father!" cried Kate.  "It was my letter.  I could see my name on
the envelope.  I ASKED you for it, before I took it."

"From behind my back, like the sneak-thief you are.  You are not fit to
teach in a school where half the scholars are the children of your
brothers and sisters, and you are not fit to live with honest people.
Pack your things and be off!"

"Now?  This afternoon?" asked Kate.

"This minute!" he cried.

"All right.  You will be surprised at how quickly I can go," said Kate.

She set down the telescope and gathered a straw sunshade and an apron
from the hooks at the end of the room, opened the dish cupboard, and
took out a mug decorated with the pinkest of wild roses and the reddest
and fattest of robins, bearing the inscription in gold, "For a Good
Girl" on a banner in its beak. Kate smiled at it grimly as she took the
telescope and ran upstairs.  It was the work of only a few minutes to
gather her books and clothing and pack the big telescope, then she went
down the front stairs and left the house by the front door carrying in
her hand everything she possessed on earth.  As she went down the walk
Nancy Ellen sprang up and ran to her while Robert Gray followed.

"You'll have to talk to me on the road," said Kate.  "I am forbidden
the house which also means the grounds, I suppose."

She walked across the road, set the telescope on the grass under a big
elm tree, and sat down beside it.

"I find I am rather tired," she said.  "Will you share the sofa with
me?"

Nancy Ellen lifted her pink skirt and sat beside Kate.  Robert Gray
stood looking down at them.

"What in the world is the matter?" asked Nancy Ellen.

"You know, of course, that Father signed a contract for me to teach the
home school this winter," explained Kate.  "Well, I am of age, and he
had no authority from me, so his contract isn't legal.  None of you
would lift a finger to help me get away to Normal, how was I to know
that you would take any interest in finding me a school while I was
gone?  I thought it was all up to me, so I applied for the school in
Walden, got it, and signed the contract to teach it.  It is a better
school, at higher wages.  I thought you would teach here--I can't break
my contract.  Father is furious and has ordered me out of the house.
So there you are, or rather here I am."

"Well, it isn't much of a joke," said Nancy Ellen, thinking intently.

What she might have said had they been alone, Kate always wondered.
What she did say while her betrothed looked at her with indignant eyes
was possibly another matter.  It proved to be merely:  "Oh, Kate, I am
so sorry!"

"So am I," said Kate.  "If I had known what your plans were, of course
I should gladly have helped you out.  If only you had written me and
told me."

"I wanted to surprise you," said Nancy Ellen.

"You have," said Kate.  "Enough to last a lifetime.  I don't see how
you figured.  You knew how late it was.  You knew it would be nip and
tuck if I got a school at all."

"Of course we did!  We thought you couldn't possibly get one, this
late, so we fixed up the scheme to let you have my school, and let me
sew on my linen this winter.  We thought you would be as pleased as we
were."

"I am too sorry for words," said Kate.  "If I had known your plan, I
would have followed it, even though I gave up a better school at a
higher salary.  But I didn't know.  I thought I had to paddle my own
canoe, so I made my own plans.  Now I must live up to them, because my
contract is legal, while Father's is not.  I would have taught the
school for you, in the circumstances, but since I can't, so far as I am
concerned, the arrangement I have made is much better.  The thing that
really hurts the worst, aside from disappointing you, is that Father
says I was not honest in what I did."

"But what DID you do?" cried Nancy Ellen.

So Kate told them exactly what she had done.

"Of course you had a right to your own letter, when you could see the
address on it, and it was where you could pick it up," said Robert Gray.

Kate lifted dull eyes to his face.

"Thank you for so much grace, at any rate," she said.

"I don't blame you a bit," said Nancy Ellen.  "In the same place I'd
have taken it myself."

"You wouldn't have had to," said Kate.  "I'm too abrupt--too much like
the gentleman himself.  You would have asked him in a way that would
have secured you the letter with no trouble."

Nancy Ellen highly appreciated these words of praise before her lover.
She arose immediately.

"Maybe I could do something with him now," she said.  "I'll go and see."

"You shall do nothing of the kind," said Kate.  "I am as much Bates as
he is.  I won't be taunted afterward that he turned me out and that I
sent you to him to plead for me."

"I'll tell him you didn't want me to come, that I came of my own
accord," offered Nancy Ellen.

"And he won't believe you," said Kate.

"Would you consent for me to go?" asked Robert Gray.

"Certainly not!  I can look out for myself."

"What shall you do?" asked Nancy Ellen anxiously.

"That is getting slightly ahead of me," said Kate.  "If I had been
diplomatic I could have evaded this until morning.  Adam, 3d, is to be
over then, prepared to take me anywhere I want to go.  What I have to
face now is a way to spend the night without letting the neighbours
know that I am turned out.  How can I manage that?"

Nancy Ellen and Robert each began making suggestions, but Kate
preferred to solve her own problems.

"I think," she said, "that I shall hide the telescope under the privet
bush, there isn't going to be rain to-night; and then I will go down to
Hiram's and stay all night and watch for Adam when he passes in the
morning.  Hiram always grumbles because we don't come oftener."

"Then we will go with you," said Nancy Ellen.  "It will be a pleasant
evening walk, and we can keep you company and pacify my twin brother at
the same time."

So they all walked to the adjoining farm on the south and when Nancy
Ellen and Robert were ready to start back, Kate said she was tired and
she believed she would stay until morning, which was agreeable to Hiram
and his wife, a girlhood friend of Kate's.  As Nancy Ellen and Robert
walked back toward home:  "How is this going to come out?" he asked,
anxiously.

"It will come out all right," said Nancy Ellen, serenely.  "Kate hasn't
a particle of tact.  She is Father himself, all over again. It will
come out this way:  he will tell me that Kate has gone back on him and
I shall have to teach the school, and I will say that is the ONLY
solution and the BEST thing to do.  Then I shall talk all evening about
how provoking it is, and how I hate to change my plans, and say I am
afraid I shall lose you if I have to put off our wedding to teach the
school, and things like that," Nancy Ellen turned a flushed sparkling
face to Robert, smiling quizzically, "and to-morrow I shall go early to
see Serena Woodruff, who is a fine scholar and a good teacher, but
missed her school in the spring by being so sick she was afraid to
contract for it.  She is all right now, and she will be delighted to
have the school, and when I know she will take it then I shall just
happen to think of her in a day or two and I'll suggest her, after I've
wailed a lot more; and Father will go to see her of his own accord, and
it will all be settled as easy as falling off a chunk, only I shall not
get on so fast with my sewing, because of having to help Mother; but I
shall do my best, and everything will be all right."

The spot was secluded.  Robert Gray stopped to tell Nancy Ellen what a
wonderful girl she was.  He said he was rather afraid of such
diplomacy.  He foresaw clearly that he was going to be a managed man.
Nancy Ellen told him of course he was, all men were, the thing was not
to let them know it.  Then they laughed and listened to a wood robin
singing out his little heart in an evening song that was almost as
melodious as his spring performances had been.



CHAPTER V

THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER

EARLY in the morning Kate set her young nephew on the gate-post to
watch for his cousin, and he was to have a penny for calling at his
approach.  When his lusty shout came, Kate said good-bye to her
sister-in-law, paid the penny, kissed the baby, and was standing in the
road when Adam stopped.  He looked at her inquiringly.

"Well, it happened," she said.  "He turned me out instanter, with no
remarks about when I might return, if ever, while Mother cordially
seconded the motion.  It's a good thing, Adam, that you offered to take
care of me, because I see clearly that you are going to have it to do."

"Of course I will," said Adam promptly.  "And of course I can.  Do you
want to go to Hartley for anything?  Because if you don't, we can cut
across from the next road and get to Walden in about fifteen miles,
while it's seventeen by Hartley; but if you want to go we can, for I
needn't hurry.  I've got a box of lunch and a feed for my horse in the
back of the buggy.  Mother said I was to stay with you until I saw you
settled in your room, if you had to go; and if you do, she is angry
with Grandpa, and she is going to give him a portion of her mentality
the very first time she comes in contact with him.  She said so."

"Yes, I can almost hear her," said Kate, struggling to choke down a
rising laugh. "She will never know how I appreciate what she has done
for me, but I think talking to Father will not do any good. Home hasn't
been so overly pleasant.  It's been a small, dark, cramped house, dingy
and hot, when it might have been big, airy, and comfortable, well
furnished and pretty as Father's means would allow, and as all the
neighbours always criticize him for not having it; it's meant hard work
and plenty of it ever since I was set to scouring the tinware with
rushes at the mature age of four, but it's been home, all the home I
have had, and it hurts more than I can tell you to be ordered out of it
as I was, but if I do well and make a big success, maybe he will let me
come back for Christmas, or next summer's vacation."

"If he won't, Ma said you could come to our house," said Adam.

"That's kind of her, but I couldn't do it," said Kate.

"She SAID you could," persisted the boy.

"But if I did it, and Father got as mad as he was last night and tore
up your father's deed, then where would I be?" asked Kate.

"You'd be a sixteenth of two hundred acres better off than you are
now," said Adam.

"Possibly," laughed Kate, "but I wouldn't want to become a land shark
that way.  Look down the road."

"Who is it?" asked Adam.

"Nancy Ellen, with my telescope," answered Kate.  "I am to go, all
right."

"All right, then we will go," said the boy, angrily.  "But it is a
blame shame and there is no sense to it, as good a girl as you have
been, and the way you have worked.  Mother said at breakfast there was
neither sense nor justice in the way Grandpa always has acted and she
said she would wager all she was worth that he would live to regret it.
She said it wasn't natural, and when people undertook to
controvert--ain't that a peach?  Bet there isn't a woman in ten miles
using that word except Ma--nature they always hurt themselves worse
than they hurt their victims.  And I bet he does, too, and I, for one,
don't care.  I hope he does get a good jolt, just to pay him up for
being so mean."

"Don't, Adam, don't!" cautioned Kate.

"I mean it!" cried the boy.

"I know you do.  That's the awful thing about it," said Kate.  "I am
afraid every girl he has feels the same way, and from what your father
said yesterday, even the sons he favours don't feel any too good toward
him."

"You just bet they don't!  They are every one as sore as boiled owls.
Pa said so, and he knows, for they all talk it over every time they
meet.  He said they didn't feel like men, they felt like a lot of
'spanked school-boys.'"

"They needn't worry," said Kate.  "Every deed is made out.  Father
reads them over whenever it rains.  They'll all get their land when he
dies.  It is only his way."

"Yes, and THIS is only his way, too, and it's a dern poor way," said
Adam.  "Pa isn't going to do this way at all.  Mother said he could go
and live on his land, and she'd stay home with Susan and me, if he
tried it.  And when I am a man I am going to do just like Pa and Ma
because they are the rightest people I know, only I am not going to
save QUITE so close as Pa, and if I died for it, I never could converse
or dance like Ma."

"I should hope not!" said Kate, and then added hastily, "it's all right
for a lady, but it would seem rather sissy for a man, I believe."

"Yes, I guess it would, but it is language let me tell you, when Ma
cuts loose," said Adam.

"Hello, Nancy Ellen," said Kate as Adam stopped the buggy.  "Put my
telescope in the back with the horse feed.  Since you have it, I don't
need ask whether I am the Prodigal Daughter or not.  I see clearly I
am."

Nancy Ellen was worried, until she was pale.

"Kate," she said, "I never have seen Father so angry in all my life.  I
thought last night that in a day or two I could switch the school over
to Serena Woodruff, and go on with my plans, but Father said at
breakfast if the Bates name was to stand for anything approaching
honour, a Bates would teach that school this winter or he'd know the
reason why.  And you know how easy it is to change him.  Oh, Kate,
won't you see if that Walden trustee can't possibly find another
teacher, and let you off?  I know Robert will be disappointed, for he's
rented his office and bought a house and he said last night to get
ready as soon after Christmas as I could.  Oh, Kate, won't you see if
you can't possibly get that man to hire another teacher?"

"Why, Nancy Ellen--" said Kate.

Nancy Ellen, with a twitching face, looked at Kate.

"If Robert has to wait months, there in Hartley, handsome as he is, and
he has to be nice to everybody to get practice, and you know how those
Hartley girls are--"

"Yes, Nancy Ellen, I know," said Kate.  "I'll see what I can do. Is it
understood that if I give up the school and come back and take ours,
Father will let me come home?"

"Yes, oh, yes!" cried Nancy Ellen.

"Well, nothing goes on guess-work.  I'll hear him say it, myself," said
Kate.

She climbed from the buggy.  Nancy Ellen caught her arm.

"Don't go in there!  Don't you go there," she cried.  "He'll throw the
first thing he can pick up at you.  Mother says he hasn't been asleep
all night."

"Pooh!" said Kate.  "How childish!  I want to hear him say that, and
he'll scarcely kill me."

She walked swiftly to the side door.

"Father," she said, "Nancy Ellen is afraid she will lose Robert Gray if
she has to put off her marriage for months--"

Kate stepped back quickly as a chair crashed against the door facing.
She again came into view and continued--"so she asked me if I would get
out of my school and come back if I could"--Kate dodged another chair;
when she appeared again--"To save the furniture, of which we have none
too much, I'll just step inside," she said.  When her father started
toward her, she started around the dining table, talking as fast as she
could, he lunging after her like a furious bull.  "She asked me to come
back and teach the school--to keep her from putting off her
wedding--because she is afraid to--  If I can break my contract
there--may I come back and help her out here?"

The pace was going more swiftly each round, it was punctuated at that
instant by a heavy meat platter aimed at Kate's head.  She saw it
picked up and swayed so it missed.

"I guess that is answer enough for me," she panted, racing on.  "A
lovely father you are--no wonder your daughters are dishonest through
fear of you--no wonder your wife has no mind of her own--no wonder your
sons hate you and wish you would die--so they could have their deeds
and be like men--instead of 'spanked school-boys' as they feel now--no
wonder the whole posse of us hate you."

Directly opposite the door Kate caught the table and drew it with her
to bar the opening.  As it crashed against the casing half the dishes
flew to the floor in a heap.  When Adam Bates pulled it from his path
he stepped in a dish of fried potatoes and fell heavily.  Kate reached
the road, climbed in the buggy, and said the Nancy Ellen:  "You'd
better hide!  Cut a bundle of stuff and send it to me by Adam and I'll
sew my fingers to the bone for you every night.  Now drive like sin,
Adam!"

As Adam Bates came lurching down the walk in fury the buggy dashed past
and Kate had not even time to turn her head to see what happened.

"Take the first turn," she said to Adam.  "I've done an awful thing."

"What did you do?" cried the boy.

"Asked him as nicely as I could; but he threw a chair at me. Something
funny happened to me, and I wasn't afraid of him at all. I dodged it,
and finished what I was saying, and another chair came, so the two
Bates went at it."

"Oh, Kate, what did you do?" cried Adam.

"Went inside and ran around the dining table while I told him what all
his sons and daughters think of him. 'Spanked school-boys' and all--"

"Did you tell him my father said that?" he demanded.

"No.  I had more sense left than that," said Kate.  "I only said all
his boys FELT like that.  Then I pulled the table after me to block the
door, and smashed half the dishes and he slipped in the fried potatoes
and went down with a crash--"

"Bloody Murder!" cried young Adam, aghast.

"Me, too!" said Kate.  "I'll never step in that house again while he
lives.  I've spilled the beans, now."

"That you have," said Adam, slacking his horse to glance back. "He is
standing in the middle of the road shaking his fist after you."

"Can you see Nancy Ellen?" asked Kate.

"No.  She must have climbed the garden fence and hidden behind the
privet bush."

"Well, she better make it a good long hide, until he has had plenty of
time to cool off.  He'd have killed me if he had caught me, after he
fell--and wasted all those potatoes already cooked----"

Kate laughed a dry hysterical laugh, but the boy sat white-faced and
awed.

"Never mind," said Kate, seeing how frightened he was.  "When he has
had plenty of time he'll cool off; but he'll never get over it.  I hope
he doesn't beat Mother, because I was born."

"Oh, drat such a man!" said young Adam.  "I hope something worse that
this happens to him.  If ever I see Father begin to be the least bit
like him as he grows older I shall----"

"Well, what shall you do?" asked Kate, as he paused.

"Tell Ma!" cried young Adam, emphatically.

Kate leaned her face in her hands and laughed.  When she could speak
she said:  "Do you know, Adam, I think that would be the very best
thing you could do."

"Why, of course!" said Adam.

They drove swiftly and reached Walden before ten o'clock.  There they
inquired their way to the home of the Trustee, but Kate said nothing
about giving up the school.  She merely made a few inquiries, asked for
the key of the schoolhouse, and about boarding places.  She was
directed to four among which she might choose.

"Where would you advise me to go?" she asked the Trustee.

"Well, now, folks differ," said he.  "All those folks is neighbours of
mine and some might like one, and some might like another, best.  I
COULD say this:  I think Means would be the cheapest, Knowls the
dearest, but the last teacher was a good one, an' she seemed well
satisfied with the Widder Holt."

"I see," said Kate, smiling.

Then she and young Adam investigated the schoolhouse and found it far
better than any either of them had ever been inside.  It promised every
comfort and convenience, compared with schools to which they had been
accustomed, so they returned the keys, inquired about the cleaning of
the building, and started out to find a boarding place.  First they
went to the cheapest, but it could be seen at a glance that it was too
cheap, so they eliminated that.  Then they went to the most expensive,
but it was obvious from the house and grounds that board there would be
more than Kate would want to pay.

"I'd like to save my digestion, and have a place in which to study,
where I won't freeze," said Kate, "but I want to board as cheaply as I
can.  This morning changes my plans materially.  I shall want to go to
school next summer part of the time, but the part I do not, I shall
have to pay my way, so I mustn't spend money as I thought I would.  Not
one of you will dare be caught doing a thing for me.  To make you safe
I'll stay away, but it will cost me money that I'd hoped to have for
clothes like other girls."

"It's too bad," said Adam, "but I'll stick to you, and so will Ma."

"Of course you will, you dear boy," said Kate.  "Now let's try our
third place; it is not far from here."

Soon they found the house, but Kate stopped short on sight of it.

"Adam, there has been little in life to make me particular," she said,
"but I draw the line at that house.  I would go crazy in a house
painted bright red with brown and blue decoration.  It should be
prohibited by law.  Let us hunt up the Widder Holt and see how her
taste in colour runs."

"The joke is on you," said Adam, when they had found the house.

It was near the school, on a wide shady street across which big maples
locked branches.  There was a large lot filled with old fruit trees and
long grass, with a garden at the back.  The house was old and low,
having a small porch in front, but if it ever had seen paint, it did
not show it at that time.  It was a warm linty gray, the shingles of
the old roof almost moss-covered.

"The joke IS on me," said Kate.  "I shall have no quarrel with the
paint here, and will you look at that?"

Adam looked where Kate pointed across the street, and nodded.

"That ought to be put in a gold frame," he said.

"I think so, too," said Kate.  "I shouldn't be a bit surprised if I
stay where I can see it."

They were talking of a deep gully facing the house and running to a
levee where the street crossed.  A stream ran down it, dipped under a
culvert, turned sharply, and ran away to a distant river, spanning
which they could see the bridge.  Tall old forest trees lined the
banks, shrubs and bushes grew in a thicket.  There were swaying,
clambering vines and a babel of bird notes over the seed and berry
bearing bushes.

"Let's go inside, and if we agree, then we will get some water and feed
the horse and eat our lunch over there," said Kate.

"Just the thing!" said young Adam.  "Come and we will proceed to the
residence of Mrs. Holt and investigate her possibilities.  How do you
like that?"

"That is fine," said Kate gravely.

"It is," said Adam, promptly, "because it is Ma. And whatever is Ma, is
right."

"Good for you!" cried Kate.  "I am going to break a Bates record and
kiss you good-bye, when you go.  I probably shan't have another in
years.  Come on."

They walked up the grassy wooden walk, stepped on the tiny,
vine-covered porch, and lifted and dropped a rusty old iron knocker.
Almost at once the door opened, to reveal a woman of respectable
appearance, a trifle past middle age.  She made Kate think of dried
sage because she had a dried-out look and her complexion, hair, and
eyes were all that colour.  She was neat and clean while the hall into
which she invited them was clean and had a wholesome odour.  Kate
explained her errand.  Mrs. Holt breathed a sigh of relief.

"Well, thank goodness I was before-handed," she said.  "The teacher
stayed here last year and she was satisfied, so I ast the Trustee to
mention me to the new teacher.  Nobody was expecting you until the last
of the week, but I says to myself, 'always take time by the fetlock,
Samantha, always be ready'; so last week I put in scouring my spare
room to beat the nation, and it's all ready so's you can walk right in."

"Thank you," said Kate, rather resenting the assumption that she was to
have no option in the matter.  "I have four places on my list where
they want the teacher, so I thought I would look at each of them and
then decide."

"My, ain't we choicey!" said Mrs. Holt in sneering tones.  Then she
changed instantly, and in suave commendation went on:  "That's exactly
right.  That's the very thing fer you to do.  After you have seen what
Walden has to offer, then a pretty young thing like you can make up
your mind where you will have the most quiet fer your work, the best
room, and be best fed.  One of the greatest advantages here fer a
teacher is that she can be quiet, an' not have her room rummaged.
Every place else that takes boarders there's a lot of children; here
there is only me and my son, and he is grown, and will be off to his
medical work next week fer the year, so all your working time here,
you'd be alone with me.  This is the room."

"That surely would be a great advantage, because I have much studying
to do," said Kate as they entered the room.

With one glance, she liked it.  It was a large room with low ceiling,
quaintly papered in very old creamy paper, scattered with delicately
cut green leaves, but so carefully had the room been kept, that it was
still clean.  There were four large windows to let in light and air,
freshly washed white curtains hanging over the deep green shades.  The
floor was carpeted with a freshly washed rag carpet stretched over
straw, the bed was invitingly clean and looked comfortable, there was a
wash stand with bowl and pitcher, soap and towels, a small table with a
lamp, a straight-backed chair and a rocking chair.  Mrs. Holt opened a
large closet having hooks for dresses at one end and shelves at the
other.  On the top of these there were a comfort and a pair of heavy
blankets.

"Your winter covers," said Mrs. Holt, indicating these, "and there is a
good stove I take out in summer to make more room, and set up as soon
as it gets cold, and that is a wood box."

She pointed out a shoe box covered with paper similar to that on the
walls.

Kate examined the room carefully, the bed, the closet, and tried the
chairs.  Behind the girl, Mrs. Holt, with compressed lips, forgetting
Adam's presence, watched in evident disapproval.

"I want to see the stove," said Kate.

"It is out in the woodhouse.  It hasn't been cleaned up for the winter
yet."

"Then it won't be far away.  Let's look at it."

Almost wholly lacking experience, Kate was proceeding by instinct in
exactly the same way her father would have taken through experience.
Mrs. Holt hesitated, then turned:  "Oh, very well," she said, leading
the way down the hall, through the dining room, which was older in
furnishing and much more worn, but still clean and wholesome, as were
the small kitchen and back porch.  From it there was only a step to the
woodhouse, where on a little platform across one end sat two small
stoves for burning wood, one so small as to be tiny.  Kate walked to
the larger, lifted the top, looked inside, tried the dampers and drafts
and turning said:  "That is very small. It will require more wood than
a larger one."

Mrs. Holt indicated dry wood corded to the roof.

"We git all our wood from the thicket across the way.  That little
strip an' this lot is all we have left of father's farm.  We kept this
to live on, and sold the rest for town lots, all except that gully,
which we couldn't give away.  But I must say I like the trees and birds
better than mebby I'd like people who might live there; we always git
our wood from it, and the shade an' running water make it the coolest
place in town."

"Yes, I suppose they do," said Kate.

She took one long look at everything as they returned to the hall.

"The Trustee told me your terms are four dollars and fifty cents a
week, furnishing food and wood," she said, "and that you allowed the
last teacher to do her own washing on Saturday, for nothing. Is that
right?"

The thin lips drew more tightly.  Mrs. Holt looked at Kate from head to
foot in close scrutiny.

"I couldn't make enough to pay the extra work at that," she said. "I
ought to have a dollar more, to really come out even.  I'll have to say
five-fifty this fall."

"If that is the case, good-bye," said Kate.  "Thank you very much for
showing me.  Five-fifty is what I paid at Normal, it is more than I can
afford in a village like this."

She turned away, followed by Adam.  They crossed the street, watered
the horse at the stream, placed his food conveniently for him, and
taking their lunch box, seated themselves on a grassy place on the bank
and began eating.

"Wasn't that a pretty nice room?" asked Adam.  "Didn't you kind of hate
to give it up?"

"I haven't the slightest intention of giving it up," answered Kate.
"That woman is a skin-flint and I don't propose to let her beat me.  No
doubt she was glad to get four-fifty last fall. She's only trying to
see if she can wring me for a dollar more. If I have to board all next
summer, I shall have to watch every penny, or I'll not come out even,
let alone saving anything.  I'll wager you a nickel that before we
leave, she comes over here and offers me the room at the same price she
got last winter."

"I hope you are right," said Adam.  "How do you like her?"

"Got a grouch, nasty temper, mean disposition; clean house, good room,
good cook--maybe; lives just on the edge of comfort by daily skimping,"
summarized Kate.

"If she comes, are you going to try it?" asked Adam.

"Yes, I think I shall.  It is nearest my purse and requirements and if
the former teacher stayed there, it will seem all right for me; but she
isn't going to put that little stove in my room.  It wouldn't heat the
closet.  How did you like her?"

"Not much!" said Adam, promptly.  "If glaring at your back could have
killed you, you would have fallen dead when you examined the closet,
and bedding, and stove.  She honeyed up when she had to, but she was
mad as hops.  I nearly bursted right out when she talked about 'taking
time by the fetlock.'  I wanted to tell her she looked like she had,
and almost got the life kicked out of her doing it, but I thought I'd
better not."

Kate laughed.  "Yes, I noticed," she said, "but I dared not look at
you.  I was afraid you'd laugh. Isn't this a fine lunch?"

"Bet your life it is," said Adam.  "Ma never puts up any other kind."

"I wish someone admired me as much as you do your mother, Adam," said
Kate.

"Well, you be as nice as Ma, and somebody is sure to," said he.

"But I never could," said Kate.

"Oh, yes, you could," said Adam, "if you would only set yourself to do
it and try with all your might to be like her.  Look, quick! That must
be her 'Medical Course' man!"

Kate glanced across the way and saw a man she thought to be about
thirty years of age.  He did not resemble his mother in any particular,
if he was the son of Mrs. Holt.  He was above the average man in
height, having broad, rather stooping shoulders, dark hair and eyes.
He stopped at the gate and stood a few seconds looking at them, so they
could not very well study him closely, then he went up the walk with
loose, easy stride and entered the house.

"Yes, that is her son," said Kate.  "That is exactly the way a man
enters a house that belongs to him."

"That isn't the way I am going to enter my house," said Adam. "Now what
shall we do?"

"Rest half an hour while they talk it over, and then get ready to go
very deliberately.  If she doesn't come across, literally and
figuratively, we hunt another boarding place."

"I half believe she will come," said Adam.  "She is watching us; I can
see her pull back the blind of her room to peep."

"Keep looking ahead.  Don't let her think you see her.  Let's go up the
creek and investigate this ravine.  Isn't it a lovely place?"

"Yes.  I'm glad you got it," said Adam, "that is, if she come across.
I will think of you as having it to look at in summer; and this
winter--my, what rabbit hunting there will be, and how pretty it will
look!"

So they went wandering up the ravine, sometimes on one bank, sometimes
crossing stepping-stones or logs to the other, looking, talking, until
a full hour had passed when they returned to the buggy.  Adam began
changing the halter for the bridle while Kate shook out the lap robe.

"Nickel, please," whispered Kate.

Adam glanced across the street to see Mrs. Holt coming.  She approached
them and with no preliminaries said:  "I have been telling my son about
you an' he hates so bad to go away and leave me alone for the winter,
that he says to take you at the same as the last teacher, even if I do
lose money on it."

"Oh, you wouldn't do that, Mrs. Holt," said Kate, carelessly.  "Of
course it is for you to decide.  I like the room, and if the board was
right for the other teacher it will be for me.  If you want me to stay,
I'll bring my things over and take the room at once.  If not, I'll look
farther."

"Come right over," said Mrs. Holt, cordially.  "I am anxious to git on
the job of mothering such a sweet young lady.  What will you have for
your supper?"

"Whatever you are having," said Kate.  "I am not accustomed to ordering
my meals.  Adam, come and help me unpack."

In half an hour Kate had her dresses on the hooks, her underclothing on
the shelves, her books on the table, her pencils and pen in the robin
cup, and was saying goodbye to Adam, and telling him what to tell his
father, mother, and Nancy Ellen--if he could get a stolen interview
with her on the way home.  He also promised to write Kate what happened
about the home school and everything in which she would be interested.
Then she went back to her room, sat in the comfortable rocking chair,
and with nothing in the world she was obliged to do immediately, she
stared at the opposite wall and day by day reviewed the summer.  She
sat so long and stared at the wall so intently that gradually it
dissolved and shaped into the deep green ravine across the way, which
sank into soothing darkness and the slowly lightened until a peep of
gold came over the tree tops; and then, a red sun crept up having a big
wonderful widespread wing on each side of it.  Kate's head fell with a
jerk which awakened her, so she arose, removed her dress, washed and
brushed her hair, put on a fresh dress and taking a book, she crossed
the street and sat on the bank of the stream again, which she watched
instead of reading, as she had intended.



CHAPTER VI

KATE'S PRIVATE PUPIL

AT FIRST Kate merely sat in a pleasant place and allowed her nerves to
settle, after the short nap she had enjoyed in the rocking chair.  It
was such a novel experience for her to sit idle, that despite the
attractions of growing things, running water, and singing birds, she
soon veered to thoughts of what she would be doing if she were at home,
and that brought her to the fact that she was forbidden her father's
house; so if she might not go there, she was homeless.  As she had
known her father for nearly nineteen years, for she had a birth
anniversary coming in a few days, she felt positive that he never would
voluntarily see her again, while with his constitution, he would live
for years. She might as well face the fact that she was homeless; and
prepare to pay her way all the year round.  She wondered why she felt
so forlorn and what made the dull ache in her throat.

She remembered telling Nancy Ellen before going away to Normal that she
wished her father would drive her from home.  Now that was
accomplished.  She was away from home, in a place where there was not
one familiar face, object, or plan of life, but she did not wish for it
at all.  She devoutly wished that she were back at home even if she
were preparing supper, in order that Nancy Ellen might hem towels.  She
wondered what they were saying:  her mind was crystal clear as to what
they were doing.  She wondered if Nancy Ellen would send Adam, 3d, with
a parcel of cut-out sewing for her to work on.  She resolved to sew
quickly and with stitches of machine-like evenness, if it came.  She
wondered if Nancy Ellen would be compelled to put off her wedding and
teach the home school in order that it might be taught by a Bates, as
her father had demanded.  She wondered if Nancy Ellen was forced to
this uncongenial task, whether it would sour the wonderful sweetness
developed by her courtship, and make her so provoked that she would not
write or have anything to do with her.  They were nearly the same age;
they had shared rooms, and, until recently, beds, and whatever life
brought them; now Kate lifted her head and ran her hand against her
throat to ease the ache gathering there more intensely every minute.
With eyes that did not see, she sat staring at the sheer walls of the
ravine as it ran toward the east, where the water came tumbling and
leaping down over stones and shale bed.  When at last she arose she had
learned one lesson, not in the History she carried.  No matter what its
disadvantages are, having a home of any kind is vastly preferable to
having none.  And the casualness of people so driven by the demands of
living and money making that they do not take time even to be slightly
courteous and kind, no matter how objectionable it may be, still that,
even that, is better than their active displeasure.  So she sat
brooding and going over and over the summer, arguing her side of the
case, honestly trying to see theirs, until she was mentally exhausted
and still had accomplished nothing further than arriving at the
conclusion that if Nancy Ellen was forced to postpone her wedding she
would turn against her and influence Robert Gray in the same feeling.

Then Kate thought of Him.  She capitalized him in her thought, for
after nineteen years of Bates men Robert Gray would seem a deified
creature to their women.  She reviewed the scene at the crossing log,
while her face flushed with pleasure.  If she had remained at home and
had gone after the blackberries, as it was sure as fate that she would
have done, then she would have met him first, and he would have courted
her instead of Nancy Ellen.  Suddenly Kate shook herself savagely and
sat straight.  "Why, you big fool!" she said.  "Nancy Ellen went to the
berry patch in a pink dress, wearing a sunbonnet to match, and carrying
a blue bowl.  Think of the picture she made!  But if I had gone, I'd
have been in a ragged old dirt-coloured gingham, Father's boots, and
his old straw hat jammed down to my ears; I'd have been hot and in a
surly temper, rebelling because I had the berries to pick.  He would
have taken one look at me, jumped the fence, and run to Lang's for dear
life.  Better cut that idea right out!"

So Kate "cut that idea out" at once, but the operation was painful,
because when one turns mental surgeon and operates on the ugly spots in
one's disposition, there is no anaesthetic, nor is the work done with
skilful hands, so the wounds are numerous and leave ugly scars; but
Kate was ruthless.  She resolved never to think of that brook scene
again.  In life, as she had lived it, she would not have profited by
having been first at the berry patch.  Yet she had a right to think of
Robert Gray's face, grave in concern for her, his offers to help, the
influence he would have in her favour with Nancy Ellen.  Of course if
he was forced to postpone his wedding he would not be pleased; but it
was impossible that the fears which were tormenting Nancy Ellen would
materialize into action on his part.  No sane man loved a woman as
beautiful as her sister and cast her aside because of a few months'
enforced waiting, the cause of which he so very well knew; but it would
make both of them unhappy and change their beautiful plans, after he
even had found and purchased the house.  Still Nancy Ellen said that
her father was making it a point of honour that a Bates should teach
the school, because he had signed the contract for Kate to take the
place Nancy Ellen had intended to fill, and then changed her plans.  He
had sworn that a Bates should teach the school.  Well, Hiram had taken
the county examination, as all pupils of the past ten years had when
they finished the country schools.  It was a test required to prove
whether they had done their work well.  Hiram held a certificate for a
year, given him by the County Superintendent, when he passed the
examinations.  He had never used it.  He could teach; he was Nancy
Ellen's twin.  School did not begin until the first of November.  He
could hire help with his corn if he could not finish alone.  He could
arise earlier than usual and do his feeding and milking; he could clean
the stables, haul wood on Saturday and Sunday, if he must, for the
Bates family looked on Sunday more as a day of rest for the horses and
physical man than as one of religious observances.  They always worked
if there was anything to be gained by it.  Six months being the term,
he would be free by the first of May; surely the money would be an
attraction, while Nancy Ellen could coach him on any new methods she
had learned at Normal.  Kate sprang to her feet, ran across the street,
and entering the hall, hurried to her room.  She found Mrs. Holt there
in the act of closing her closet door.  Kate looked at her with
astonished eyes.

"I was just telling my son," Mrs. Holt said rather breathlessly, "that
I would take a peep and see if I had forgot to put your extra covers on
the shelf."

Kate threw her book on the bed and walked to the table.  She had
experienced her share of battle for the day.  "No children to rummage,"
passed through her brain.  It was the final week of hot, dry August
weather, while a point had been made of calling her attention to the
extra cover when the room had been shown her. She might have said these
things, but why say them?  The shamed face of the woman convicted her
of "rummaging," as she had termed it.  Without a word Kate sat down
beside the table, drew her writing material before her, and began
addressing an envelope to her brother Hiram.  Mrs. Holt left the room,
disliking Kate more than if she had said what the woman knew she
thought.

Kate wrote briefly, convincingly, covering every objection and every
advantage she could conceive, and then she added the strongest plea she
could make.  What Hiram would do, she had no idea.  As with all Bates
men, land was his God, but it required money to improve it.  He would
feel timid about making a first attempt to teach after he was married
and a father of a child, but Nancy Ellen's marriage would furnish
plausible excuse; all of the family had done their school work as
perfectly as all work they undertook; he could teach if he wanted to;
would he want to?  If he did, at least, she would be sure of the
continued friendship of her sister and Robert Gray.  Suddenly Kate
understood what that meant to her as she had not realized before.  She
was making long strides toward understanding herself, which is the most
important feature of any life.

She sent a line of pleading to her sister-in-law, a word of love to the
baby, and finishing her letter, started to post it, as she remembered
the office was only a few steps down the street.  In the hall it
occurred to her that she was the "Teacher" now, and so should be an
example.  Possibly the women of Walden did not run bareheaded down the
street on errands.  She laid the letter on a small shelf of an old
hatrack, and stepped back to her room to put on her hat.  Her return
was so immediate that Mrs. Holt had the letter in her fingers when Kate
came back, and was reading the address so intently, that with extended
hand, the girl said in cold tones:  "My letter, please!" before the
woman realized she was there.  Their eyes met in a level look.  Mrs.
Holt's mouth opened in ready excuse, but this time Kate's temper
overcame her better judgment.

"Can you read it clearly, without your glasses?" she asked politely.
"I wouldn't for the world have you make a mistake as to whom my letter
is addressed.  It goes to my brother Hiram Bates, youngest son of Adam
Bates, Bates Corners, Hartley, Indiana."

"I was going to give it to my son, so that he could take it to the
office," said Mrs. Holt.

"And I am going to take it myself, as I know your son is down town and
I want it to go over on the evening hack, so it will be sure to go out
early in the morning."

Surprise overcame Mrs. Holt's discomfiture.

"Land sakes!" she cried.  "Bates is such a common name it didn't mean a
thing to me.  Be you a daughter of Adam Bates, the Land King, of Bates
Corners?"

"I be," said Kate tersely.

"Well, I never!  All them hundreds of acres of land an' money in the
bank an' mortgages on half his neighbours.  Whut the nation! An' no
more of better clo's an' you got! An' teachin' school! I never heard of
the like in all my days!"

"If you have Bates history down so fine, you should know that every
girl of the entire Bates family has taught from the time she finished
school until she married.  Also we never buy more clothing than we
need, or of the kind not suitable for our work. This may explain why we
own some land and have a few cents in the Bank.  My letter, please."

Kate turned and went down the street, a dull red tingeing her face.  "I
could hate that woman cordially without half trying," she said.

The house was filled with the odour of cooking food when she returned
and soon she was called to supper.  As she went to the chair indicated
for her, a step was heard in the hall.  Kate remained standing and when
a young man entered the room Mrs. Holt at once introduced her son,
George.  He did not take the trouble to step around the table and shake
hands, but muttered a gruff "howdy do?" and seating himself, at once
picked up the nearest dish and began filling his plate.

His mother would have had matters otherwise.  "Why, George," she
chided.  "What's your hurry?  Why don't you brush up and wait on Miss
Bates first?"

"Oh, if she is going to be one of the family," he said, "she will have
to learn to get on without much polly-foxing.  Grub is to eat.  We can
all reach at a table of this size."

Kate looked at George Holt with a searching glance.  Surely he was
almost thirty, of average height, appeared strong, and as if he might
have a forceful brain; but he was loosely jointed and there was a trace
of domineering selfishness on his face that was repulsive to her.  "I
could hate that MAN cordially, without half trying," she thought to
herself, smiling faintly at the thought.

The sharp eyes of Mrs. Holt detected the smile.  She probably would
have noticed it, if Kate had merely thought of smiling.

"Why do you smile, my dear?" she asked in melting tone.

"Oh, I was feeling so at home," answered Kate, suavely. "Father and the
boys hold exactly those opinions and practise them in precisely the
same way; only if I were to think about it at all, I should think that
a man within a year of finishing a medical course would begin
exercising politeness with every woman he meets.  I believe a doctor
depends on women to be most of his patients, and women don't like a
rude doctor."

"Rot!" said George Holt.

"Miss Bates is exactly right," said his mother.  "Ain't I been tellin'
you the whole endurin' time that you'd never get a call unless you
practised manners as well as medicine?  Ain't I, now?"

"Yes, you have," he said, angrily.  "But if you think all of a sudden
that manners are so essential, why didn't you hammer some into me when
you had the whip hand and could do what you pleased? You didn't find
any fault with my manners, then."

"How of all the world was I to know that you'd grow up and go in for
doctorin'?  I s'pos'd then you'd take the farm an' run it like your pa
did, stead of forcin' me to sell it off by inches to live, an' then you
wastin' half the money."

"Go it, Mother," said George Holt, rudely.  "Tell all you know, and
then piece out with anything you can think of that you don't."

Mrs. Holt's face flushed crimson.  She looked at Kate and said
vindictively:  "If you want any comfort in life, never marry and bring
a son inter the world.  You kin humour him, and cook for him, an work
your hands to the bone fur him, and sell your land, and spend all you
can raise educatin' him for half a dozen things, an' him never stickin
to none or payin' back a cent, but sass in your old age--"

"Go it, Mother, you're doing fine!" said George.  "If you keep on Miss
Bates will want to change her boarding place before morning."

"It will not be wholly your mother's fault, if I do," said Kate. "I
would suggest that if we can't speak civilly, we eat our supper in
silence.  This is very good food; I could enjoy it, if I had a chance."

She helped herself to another soda biscuit and a second piece of fried
chicken and calmly began eating them.

"That's a good idy!" said Mrs. Holt.

"Then why don't you practice it?" said her son.

Thereupon began a childish battle for the last word.  Kate calmly
arose, picked up her plate, walked from the room, down the hall, and
entering her own room, closed the door quietly.

"You fool!  You great big dunderheaded fool!" cried Mrs. Holt. "Now you
have done it, for the thousandth time.  She will start out in less than
no time to find some place else to stay, an' who could blame her?
Don't you know who she is?  Ain't you sense in your head?  If there was
ever a girl you ort to go after, and go quick an' hard, there she is!"

"What?  That big beef!  What for?" asked George.

"You idjit!  You idjit!  Don't you sense that she's a daughter of Adam
Bates?  Him they call the Land King.  Ain't you sense ner reason?
Drive her from the house, will you?  An' me relyin' on sendin' you half
her board money to help you out?  You fool!"

"Why under the Heavens didn't you tell me?  How could I know?  No
danger but the bowl is upset, and it's all your fault.  She should be
worth ten thousand, maybe twenty!"

"I never knew till jist before supper.  I got it frum a letter she
wrote to her brother.  I'd no chanct to tell you.  Course I meant to,
first chanct I had; but you go to work an upset everything before I get
a chanct.  You never did amount to anything, an' you never will."

"Oh, well, now stop that.  I didn't know.  I thought she was just
common truck.  I'll fix it up with her right after supper.  Now shut
up."

"You can't do it!  It's gone too far.  She'll leave the house inside
fifteen minutes," said Mrs. Holt.

"Well, I'll just show you," he boasted.

George Holt pushed back his plate, wiped his mouth, brushed his teeth
at the washing place on the back porch, and sauntered around the house
to seat himself on the front porch steps.  Kate saw him there and
remained in her room.  When he had waited an hour he arose and tapped
on her door.  Kate opened it.

"Miss Bates," he said.  "I have been doing penance an hour.  I am very
sorry I was such a boor.  I was in earnest when I said I didn't get the
gad when I needed it.  I had a big disappointment to-day, and I came in
sore and cross.  I am ashamed of myself, but you will never see me that
way again.  I know I will make a failure of my profession if I don't be
more polite than Mother ever taught me to be.  Won't you let me be your
scholar, too? Please do come over to the ravine where it is cool and
give me my first lesson.  I need you dreadfully."

Kate was desperately in need of human companionship in that instant,
herself, someone who could speak, and sin, and suffer, and repent.  As
she looked straight in the face of the man before her she saw, not him
being rude and quarrelling pettily with his mother, but herself racing
around the dining table pursued by her father raving like an insane
man.  Who was she to judge or to refuse help when it was asked?  She
went with him; and Mrs. Holt, listening and peering from the side of
the window blind of her room across the hall, watched them cross the
road and sit beside each other on the bank of the ravine in what seemed
polite and amicable conversation.  So she heaved a deep sigh of relief
and went to wash the dishes and plan breakfast.  "Better feed her up
pretty well 'til she gits the habit of staying here and mebby the rest
who take boarders will be full," she said to herself.  "Time enough to
go at skimpin' when she's settled, and busy, an' I get the whip hand."

But in planning to get the "whip hand" Mrs. Holt reckoned without Kate.
She had been under the whip hand all her life.  Her dash to freedom had
not been accomplished without both mental and physical hurt.  She was
doing nothing but going over her past life minutely, and as she
realized more fully with each review how barren and unlovely it had
been, all the strength and fresh young pride in her arose in imperative
demand for something better in the future.  She listened with interest
to what George Holt said to her.  All her life she had been driven by a
man of inflexible will, his very soul inoculated with greed for
possessions which would give him power; his body endowed with unfailing
strength to meet the demands he made on it, and his heart wholly
lacking in sentiment; but she did not propose to start her new life by
speaking of her family to strangers.  George Holt's experiences had
been those of a son spoiled by a weak woman, one day petted, the next
bribed, the next nagged, again left to his own devices for days, with
strong inherited tendencies to be fought, tendencies to what he did not
say.  Looking at his heavy jaw and swarthy face, Kate supplied "temper"
and "not much inclination to work."  He had asked her to teach him, she
would begin by setting him an example in the dignity of self-control;
then she would make him work.  How she would make that big, strong man
work!  As she sat there on the bank of the ravine, with a background of
delicately leafed bushes and the light of the setting sun on her face
and her hair, George Holt studied her closely, mentally and physically,
and would have given all he possessed if he had not been so hasty.  He
saw that she had a good brain and courage to follow her convictions,
while on closer study he decided that she was moulded on the finest
physical lines of any woman he ever had seen, also his study of
medicine taught him to recognize glowing health, and to set a right
estimate on it.  Truly he was sorry, to the bottom of his soul, but he
did not believe in being too humble.  He said as much in apology as he
felt forced, and then set himself the task of calling out and parading
the level best he could think up concerning himself, or life in
general.  He had tried farming, teaching, merchandise, and law before
he had decided his vocation was medicine.

On account of Robert Gray, Kate was much interested in this, but when
she asked what college he was attending, he said he was going to a
school in Chicago that was preparing to revolutionize the world of
medicine.  Then he started on a hobby that he had ridden for months,
paying for the privilege, so Kate learned with surprise and no small
dismay that in a few months a man could take a course in medicine that
would enable him "to cure any ill to which the human flesh is heir," as
he expressed it, without knowing anything of surgery, or drugs, or
using either.  Kate was amazed and said so at once.  She
disconcertingly inquired what he would do with patients who had
sustained fractured skulls, developed cancers, or been exposed to
smallpox.  But the man before her proposed to deal with none of those
disagreeable things, or their like.  He was going to make fame and
fortune in the world by treating mental and muscular troubles.  He was
going to be a Zonoletic Doctor.  He turned teacher and spelled it for
her, because she never had heard the word.  Kate looked at George Holt
long and with intense interest, while her mind was busy with new
thoughts.  On her pillow that night she decided that if she were a man,
driven by a desire to heal the suffering of the world, she would be the
man who took the long exhaustive course of training that enabled him to
deal with accidents, contagions, and germ developments.

He looked at her with keen appreciation of her physical freshness and
mental strength, and manoeuvred patiently toward the point where he
would dare ask blankly how many there were in her family, and on
exactly how many acres her father paid tax.  He decided it would not do
for at least a week yet; possibly he could raise the subject casually
with someone down town who would know, so that he need never ask her at
all.  Whatever the answer might be, it was definitely settled in his
own mind that Kate was the best chance he had ever had, or probably
ever would have.  He mapped out his campaign.  This week, before he
must go, he would be her pupil and her slave.  The holiday week he
would be her lover.  In the spring he would propose, and in the fall he
would marry her, and live on the income from her land ever afterward.
It was a glowing prospect; so glowing that he seriously considered
stopping school at once so that her could be at the courting part of
his campaign three times a day and every evening.  He was afraid to
leave for fear people of the village would tell the truth about him.
He again studied Kate carefully and decided that during the week that
was coming, by deft and energetic work he could so win her approval
that he could make her think that she knew him better than outsiders
did.  So the siege began.

Kate had decided to try making him work, to see if he would, or was
accustomed to it.  He was sufficiently accustomed to it that he could
do whatever she suggested with facility that indicated practice, and
there was no question of his willingness.  He urged her to make
suggestions as to what else he could do, after he had made all the
needed repairs about the house and premises.  Kate was enjoying herself
immensely, before the week was over.  She had another row of wood
corded to the shed roof, in case the winter should be severe.  She had
the stove she thought would warm her room polished and set up while he
was there to do it.  She had the back porch mended and the loose board
in the front walk replaced. She borrowed buckets and cloths and
impressed George Holt for the cleaning of the school building which she
superintended.  Before the week was over she had every child of school
age who came to the building to see what was going on, scouring out
desks, blacking stoves, raking the yard, even cleaning the street
before the building.

Across the street from his home George sawed the dead wood from the
trees and then, with three days to spare, Kate turned her attention to
the ravine. She thought that probably she could teach better there in
the spring than in the school building.  She and George talked it over.
He raised all the objections he could think of that the townspeople
would, while entirely agreeing with her himself, but it was of no use.
She over-ruled the proxy objections he so kindly offered her, so he was
obliged to drag his tired body up the trees on both banks for several
hundred yards and drop the dead wood.  Kate marshalled a corps of boys
who would be her older pupils and they dragged out the dry branches,
saved all that were suitable for firewood, and made bonfires from the
remainder.  They raked the tin cans and town refuse of years from the
water and banks and induced the village delivery man to haul the stuff
to the river bridge and dump it in the deepest place in the stream.
They cleaned the creek bank to the water's edge and built rustic seats
down the sides.  They even rolled boulders to the bed and set them
where the water would show their markings and beat itself to foam
against them.  Mrs. Holt looked on in breathless amazement and
privately expressed to her son her opinion of him in terse and vigorous
language.  He answered laconically:  "Has a fish got much to say about
what happens to it after you get it out of the water?"

"No!" snapped Mrs. Holt, "and neither have you, if you kill yourself to
get it."

"Do I look killed?" inquired her son.

"No. You look the most like a real man I ever saw you," she conceded.

"And Kate Bates won't need glasses for forty years yet," he said as he
went back to his work in the ravine.

Kate was in the middle of the creek helping plant a big stone.  He
stood a second watching her as she told the boys surrounding her how
best to help her, then he turned away, a dull red burning his cheek.
"I'll have her if I die for it," he muttered, "but I hope to Heaven she
doesn't think I am going to work like this for her every day of my
life."

As the villagers sauntered past and watched the work of the new
teacher, many of them thought of things at home they could do that
would improve their premises greatly, and a few went home and began
work of like nature.  That made their neighbours' places look so
unkempt that they were forced to trim, and rake, and mend in turn, so
by the time the school began, the whole village was busy in a crusade
that extended to streets and alleys, while the new teacher was the most
popular person who had ever been there. Without having heard of such a
thing, Kate had started Civic Improvement.

George Holt leaned against a tree trunk and looked down at her as he
rested.

"Do you suppose there is such a thing as ever making anything out of
this?" he asked.

"A perfectly lovely public park for the village, yes; money, selling it
for anything, no!  It's too narrow a strip, cut too deeply with the
water, the banks too steep.  Commercially, I can't see that it is worth
ten cents."

"Cheering!  It is the only thing on earth that truly and wholly belongs
to me. The road divided the land.  Father willed everything on the
south side to Mother, so she would have the house, and the land on this
side was mine. I sold off all I could to Jasper Linn to add to his
farm, but he would only buy to within about twenty rods of the ravine.
The land was too rocky and poor. So about half a mile of this comprises
my earthly possessions."

"Do you keep up the taxes?" she asked.

"No. I've never paid them," he said carelessly.

"Then don't be too sure it is yours," she said.  "Someone may have paid
them and taken the land.  You had better look it up."

"What for?" he demanded.

"It is beautiful.  It is the shadiest, coolest place in town. Having it
here doubles the value of your mother's house across the street.  In
some way, some day, it might turn out to be worth something."

"I can't see how," he said.

"Some of the trees may become valuable when lumber gets scarcer, as it
will when the land grows older. Maybe a stone quarry could be opened
up, if the stone runs back as far as you say.  A lot of things might
make it valuable.  If I were you I would go to Hartley, quietly,
to-morrow, and examine the records, and if there are back taxes I'd pay
them."

"I'll look it up, anyway," he agreed.  "You surely have made another
place of it.  It will be wonderful by spring."

"I can think of many uses for it," said Kate.  "Here comes your mother
to see how we are getting along."

Instead, she came to hand Kate a letter she had brought from the post
office while doing her marketing.  Kate took the letter, saw at a
glance that it was from Nancy Ellen, and excusing herself, she went to
one of the seats they had made, and turning her face so that it could
not be seen, she read:


DEAR KATE:  You can prepare yourself for the surprise of your life.
Two Bates men have done something for one of their women. I hope you
will survive the shock; it almost finished me and Mother is still
speechless.  I won't try to prepare you. I could not.  Here it is.
Father raged for three days and we got out of his way like scared
rabbits.  I saw I had to teach, so I said I would, but I had not told
Robert, because I couldn't bear to. Then up came Hiram and offered to
take the school for me.  Father said no, I couldn't get out of it that
way.  Hiram said I had not seen him or sent him any word, and I could
prove by mother I hadn't been away from the house, so Father believed
him.  He said he wanted the money to add two acres to his land from the
Simms place; that would let his stock down to water on the far side of
his land where it would be a great convenience and give him a better
arrangement of fields so he could make more money.  You know Father.
He shut up like a clam and only said:  "Do what you please.  If a Bates
teaches the school it makes my word good."  So Hiram is going to teach
for me.  He is brushing up a little nights and I am helping him on
"theory," and I am wild with joy, and so is Robert.  I shall have
plenty of time to do all my sewing and we shall be married at, or
after, Christmas.  Robert says to tell you to come to see him if you
ever come to Hartley.  He is there in his office now and it is
lonesome, but I am busy and the time will soon pass.  I might as well
tell you that Father said right after you left that you should never
enter his house again, and Mother and I should not speak your name
before him.  I do hope he gets over it before the wedding.  Write me
how you like your school, and where you board.  Maybe Robert and I can
slip off and drive over to see you some day. But that would make Father
so mad if he found out that he would not give me the money he promised;
so we had better not, but you come to see us as soon as we get in our
home.  Love from both, NANCY ELLEN.


Kate read the joyful letter slowly.  It contained all she hoped for.
She had not postponed Nancy Ellen's wedding.  That was all she asked.
She had known she would not be forgiven so soon, there was slight hope
she ever would.  Her only chance, thought Kate, lay in marrying a
farmer having about a thousand acres of land. If she could do that, her
father would let her come home again sometime.  She read the letter
slowly over, then tearing it in long strips she cross tore them and
sifted the handful of small bits on the water, where they started a
dashing journey toward the river.  Mrs. Holt, narrowly watching her,
turned with snaky gleaming eyes to her son and whispered:  "A-ha! Miss
Smart Alec has a secret!"



CHAPTER VII

HELPING NANCY ELLEN AND ROBERT TO ESTABLISH A HOME

THE remainder of the time before leaving, George Holt spent in the very
strongest mental and physical effort to show Kate how much of a man he
was. He succeeded in what he hoped he might do.  He so influenced her
in his favour that during the coming year whenever any one showed signs
of criticising him, Kate stopped them by commendation, based upon what
she supposed to be knowledge of him.

With the schoolhouse and grounds cleaned as they never had been before,
the parents and pupils naturally expected new methods. During the week
spent in becoming acquainted with the teacher, the parents heartily
endorsed her, while the pupils liked her cordially.  It could be seen
at a glance that she could pick up the brawniest of them, and drop him
from the window, if she chose. The days at the stream had taught them
her physical strength, while at the same time they had glimpses of her
mental processes. The boys learned many things:  that they must not lie
or take anything which did not belong to them; that they must be
considerate and manly, if they were to be her friends; yet not one word
had been said on any of these subjects.  As she spoke to them, they
answered her, and soon spoke in the same way to each other.  She was
very careful about each statement she made, often adducing convenient
proof, so they saw that she was always right, and never exaggerated.
The first hour of this made the boys think, the second they imitated,
the third they instantly obeyed. She started in to interest and educate
these children; she sent them home to investigate more subjects the
first day than they had ever carried home in any previous month.  Boys
suddenly began asking their fathers about business; girls questioned
their mothers about marketing and housekeeping.

The week of Christmas vacation was going to be the hardest; everyone
expected the teacher to go home for the Holidays.  Many of them knew
that her sister was marrying the new doctor of Hartley.  When Kate was
wondering how she could possibly conceal the rupture with her family,
Robert Gray drove into Walden and found her at the schoolhouse.  She
was so delighted to see him that she made no attempt to conceal her
joy.  He had driven her way for exercise and to pay her a call.  When
he realized from her greeting how she had felt the separation from her
family, he had an idea that he at once propounded:  "Kate, I have come
to ask a favour of you," he said.

"Granted!" laughed Kate.  "Whatever can it be?"

"Just this! I want you to pack a few clothes, drive to Hartley with me
and do what you can to straighten out the house, so there won't be such
confusion when Nancy Ellen gets there."

Kate stared at him in a happy daze.  "Oh, you blessed Robert Gray! What
a Heavenly idea!" she cried.  "Of course it wouldn't be possible for me
to fix Nancy Ellen's house the way she would, but I could put
everything where it belonged, I could arrange well enough, and I could
have a supper ready, so that you could come straight home."

"Then you will do it?" he asked.

"Do it?" cried Kate. "Do it!  Why, I would be willing to pay you for
the chance to do it.  How do you think I'm to explain my not going home
for the Holidays, and to my sister's wedding, and retain my
self-respect before my patrons?"

"I didn't think of it in that way," he said.

"I'm crazy," said Kate.  "Take me quickly!  How far along are you?"

"House cleaned, blinds up, stoves all in, coal and wood, cellar
stocked, carpets down, and furniture all there, but not unwrapped or in
place.  Dishes delivered but not washed; cooking utensils there, but
not cleaned."

"Enough said," laughed Kate.  "You go marry Nancy Ellen.  I shall have
the house warm, arranged so you can live in it, and the first meal
ready when you come.  Does Nancy Ellen know you are here?"

"No.  I have enough country practice that I need a horse; I'm trying
this one. I think of you often so I thought I'd drive out. How are you
making it, Kate?"

"Just fine, so far as the school goes.  I don't particularly like the
woman I board with.  Her son is some better, yes, he is much better.
And Robert, what is a Zonoletic Doctor?"

"A poor fool, too lazy to be a real doctor, with no conscience about
taking people's money for nothing," he said.

"As bad as THAT?" asked Kate.

"Worse! Why?" he said.

"Oh, I only wondered," said Kate.  "Now I am ready, here; but I must
run to the house where I board a minute.  It's only a step. You watch
where I go, and drive down."

She entered the house quietly and going back to the kitchen she said:
"The folks have come for me, Mrs. Holt.  I don't know exactly when I
shall be back, but in plenty of time to start school.  If George goes
before I return, tell him 'Merry Christmas,' for me."

"He'll be most disappointed to death," said Mrs. Holt.

"I don't see why he should," said Kate, calmly.  "You never have had
the teacher here at Christmas."

"We never had a teacher that I wanted before," said Mrs. Holt; while
Kate turned to avoid seeing the woman's face as she perjured herself.
"You're like one of the family, George is crazy about you.  He wrote me
to be sure to keep you.  Couldn't you possibly stay over Sunday?"

"No, I couldn't," said Kate.

"Who came after you?" asked Mrs. Holt.

"Dr. Gray," answered Kate.

"That new doctor at Hartley? Why, be you an' him friends?"

Mrs. Holt had followed down the hall, eagerly waiting in the doorway.
Kate glanced at her and felt sudden pity.  The woman was warped.
Everything in her life had gone wrong.  Possibly she could not avoid
being the disagreeable person she was.  Kate smiled at her.

"Worse than that," she said.  "We be relations in a few days. He's
going to marry my sister Nancy Ellen next Tuesday."

Kate understood the indistinct gurgle she heard to be approving, so she
added:  "He came after me early so I could go to Hartley and help get
their new house ready for them to live in after the ceremony."

"Did your father give them the house?" asked Mrs. Holt eagerly.

"No. Dr. Gray bought his home," said Kate.

"How nice!  What did your father give them?"

Kate's patience was exhausted.  "You'll have to wait until I come
back," she said.  "I haven't the gift of telling about things before
they have happened."

Then she picked up her telescope and saying "good-bye," left the house.

As they drove toward Hartley:  "I'm anxious to see your house," said
Kate.  "Did you find one in a good neighbourhood?"

"The very best, I think," said the doctor.  "That is all one could
offer Nancy Ellen."

"I'm so glad for her!  And I'm glad for you, too!  She'll make you a
beautiful wife in every way.  She's a good cook, she knows how to
economize, and she's too pretty for words, if she IS my sister."

"I heartily agree with you," said the doctor.  "But I notice you put
the cook first and the beauty last."

"You will, too, before you get through with it," answered Kate.

"Here we are!" said he, soon after they entered Hartley. "I'll drive
around the block, so you can form an idea of the location." Kate
admired every house in the block, the streets and trees, the one house
Robert Gray had selected in every particular.  They went inside and
built fires, had lunch together at the hotel, and then Kate rolled up
her sleeves and with a few yards of cheese-cloth for a duster, began
unwrapping furniture and standing it in the room where it belonged.
Robert moved the heavy pieces, then he left to call on a patient and
spend the evening with Nancy Ellen.

So Kate spent several happy days setting Nancy Ellen's new home in
order. From basement to garret she had it immaculate and shining. No
Bates girl, not even Agatha, ever had gone into a home having so many
comforts and conveniences.

Kate felt lonely the day she knew her home was overcrowded with all
their big family; she sat very still thinking of them during the hour
of the ceremony; she began preparing supper almost immediately, because
Robert had promised her that he would not eat any more of the wedding
feast than he could help, and he would bring Nancy Ellen as soon
afterward as possible.  Kate saw them drive to the gate and come up the
walk together.  As they entered the door Nancy Ellen was saying:  "Why,
how does the house come to be all lighted up?  Seems to me I smell
things to eat.  Well, if the table isn't all set!"

There was a pause and then Nancy Ellen's clear voice called: "Kate!
Kate!  Where are you?  Nobody else would be THIS nice to me.  You dear
girl, where are you?"

"I'll get to stay until I go back to school!" was Kate's mental comment
as she ran to clasp Nancy Ellen in her arms, while they laughed and
very nearly cried together, so that the doctor felt it incumbent upon
him to hug both of them.  Shortly afterward he said:  "There is a fine
show in town to-night, and I have three tickets.  Let's all go."

"Let's eat before we go," said Nancy Ellen, "I haven't had time to eat
a square meal for a week and things smell deliciously."

They finished their supper leisurely, stacked the dishes and went to
the theatre, where they saw a fair performance of a good play, which
was to both of the girls a great treat.  When they returned home, Kate
left Nancy Ellen and Robert to gloat over the carpets they had
selected, as they appeared on their floors, to arrange the furniture
and re-examine their wedding gifts; while she slipped into the kitchen
and began washing the dishes and planning what she would have for
breakfast.  But soon they came to her and Nancy Ellen insisted on
wiping the dishes, while Robert carried them to the cupboard.
Afterward, they sat before their fireplace and talked over events since
the sisters' separation.

Nancy Ellen told about getting ready for her wedding, life at home, the
school, the news of the family; the Kate drew a perfect picture of the
Walden school, her boarding place, Mrs. Holt, the ravine, the town and
the people, with the exception of George Holt--him she never mentioned.

After Robert had gone to his office the following morning, Kate said to
Nancy Ellen:  "Now I wish you would be perfectly frank with me--"

"As if I could be anything else!" laughed the bride.

"All right, then," said Kate. "What I want is this:  that these days
shall always come back to you in memory as nearly perfect as possible.
Now if my being here helps ever so little, I like to stay, and I'll be
glad to cook and wash dishes, while you fix your house to suit you.
But if you'd rather be alone, I'll go back to Walden and be satisfied
and happy with the fine treat this has been.  I can look everyone in
the face now, talk about the wedding, and feel all right."

Nancy Ellen said slowly:  "I shan't spare you until barely time to
reach your school Monday morning.  And I'm not keeping you to work for
me, either!  We'll do everything together, and then we'll plan how to
make the house pretty, and go see Robert in his office, and go
shopping.  I'll never forgive you if you go."

"Why, Nancy Ellen--!" said Kate, then fled to the kitchen too happy to
speak further.

None of them ever forgot that week. It was such a happy time that all
of them dreaded its end; but when it came they parted cheerfully, and
each went back to work, the better for the happy reunion.  Kate did not
return to Walden until Monday; then she found Mrs. Holt in an evil
temper.  Kate could not understand it. She had no means of knowing that
for a week George had nagged his mother unceasingly because Kate was
gone on his return, and would not be back until after time for him to
go again.  The only way for him to see her during the week he had
planned to come out openly as her lover, was to try to find her at her
home, or at her sister's.  He did not feel that it would help him to go
where he never had been asked.  His only recourse was to miss a few
days of school and do extra work to make it up; but he detested nothing
in life as he detested work, so the world's happy week had been to them
one of constant sparring and unhappiness, for which Mrs. Holt blamed
Kate.  Her son had returned expecting to court Kate Bates strenuously;
his disappointment was not lightened by his mother's constant nagging.
Monday forenoon she went to market, and came in gasping.

"Land sakes!" she cried as she panted down the hall.  "I've got a good
one on that impident huzzy now!"

"You better keep your mouth shut, and not gossip about her," he said.
"Everyone likes her!"

"No, they don't, for I hate her worse 'n snakes!  If it wa'n't for her
money I'd fix her so's 'at she'd never marry you in kingdom come."

George Holt clenched his big fist.

"Just you try it!" he threatened.  "Just you try that!"

"You'll live to see the day you'd thank me if I did.  She ain't been
home.  Mind you, she ain't been HOME!  She never seen her sister
married at all!  Tilly Nepple has a sister, living near the Bates, who
worked in the kitchen.  She's visitin' at Tilly's now. Miss
High-and-Mighty never seen her sister married at all!  An' it looked
mighty queer, her comin' here a week ahead of time, in the fall.  Looks
like she'd done somepin she don't DARE go home.  No wonder she tears
every scrap of mail she gets to ribbons an' burns it.  I told you she
had a secret!  If ever you'd listen to me."

"Why, you're crazy!" he exclaimed.  "I did listen to you.  What you
told me was that I should go after her with all my might.  So I did it.
Now you come with this.  Shut it up!  Don't let her get wind of it for
the world!"

"And Tilly Nepple's sister says old Land King Bates never give his
daughter a cent, an' he never gives none of his girls a cent. It's up
to the men they marry to take keer of them.  The old skin-flint!  What
you want to do is to go long to your schoolin', if you reely are going
to make somepin of yourself at last, an' let that big strap of a girl
be, do--"

"Now, stop!" shouted George Holt.  "Scenting another scandal, are you?
Don't you dare mar Kate Bates' standing, or her reputation in this
town, or we'll have a time like we never had before.  If old Bates
doesn't give his girls anything when they marry, they'll get more when
he dies.  And so far as money is concerned, this has gone PAST money
with me.  I'm going to marry Kate Bates, as soon as ever I can, and
I've got to the place where I'd marry her if she hadn't a cent.  If I
can't take care of her, she can take care of me.  I am crazy about her,
an' I'm going to have her; so you keep still, an' do all you can to
help me, or you'll regret it."

"It's you that will regret it!" she said.

"Stop your nagging, I tell you, or I'll come at you in a way you won't
like," he cried.

"You do that every day you're here," said Mrs. Holt, starting to the
kitchen to begin dinner.

Kate appeared in half an hour, fresh and rosy, also prepared; for one
of her little pupils had said:  "Tilly Nepple's sister say you wasn't
at your sister's wedding at all.  Did you cry 'cause you couldn't go?"

Instantly Kate comprehended what must be town gossip, so she gave the
child a happy solution of the question bothering her, and went to her
boarding house forewarned.  She greeted both Mrs. Holt and her son
cordially, then sat down to dinner, in the best of spirits.  The
instant her chance came, Mrs. Holt said:  "Now tell us all about the
lovely wedding."

"But I wasn't managing the wedding," said Kate cheerfully.  "I was on
the infare job.  Mother and Nancy Ellen put the wedding through.  You
know our house isn't very large, and close relatives fill it to
bursting.  I've seen the same kind of wedding about every eighteen
months all my life.  I had a NEW job this time, and one I liked better."

She turned to George:  "Of course your mother told you that Dr. Gray
came after me.  He came to ask me as an especial favour to go to his
new house in Hartley, and do what I could to arrange it, and to have a
supper ready.  I was glad.  I'd seen six weddings that I can remember,
all exactly alike--there's nothing to them; but brushing those new
carpets, unwrapping nice furniture and placing it, washing pretty new
dishes, untying the loveliest gifts and arranging them--THAT was
something new in a Bates wedding. Oh, but I had a splendid time!"

George Holt looked at his mother in too great disgust to conceal his
feelings.

"ANOTHER gilt-edged scandal gone sky high," he said.  Then he turned to
Kate.  "One of the women who worked in your mother's kitchen is
visiting here, and she started a great hullabaloo because you were not
at the wedding.  You probably haven't got a leg left to stand on.  I
suspect the old cats of Walden have chewed them both off, and all the
while you were happy, and doing the thing any girl would much rather
have done.  Lord, I hate this eternal picking!  How did you come back,
Kate?"

"Dr. Gray brought me."

"I should think it would have made talk, your staying there with him,"
commented Mrs. Holt.

"Fortunately, the people of Hartley seem reasonably busy attending
their own affairs," said Kate.  "Doctor Gray had been boarding at the
hotel all fall, so he just went on living there until after the
wedding."

George glared at his mother, but she avoided his eyes, and laughing in
a silly, half-confused manner she said:  "How much money did your
father give the bride?"

"I can't tell you, in even dollars and cents," said Kate.  "Nancy Ellen
didn't say."

Kate saw the movement of George's foot under the table, and knew that
he was trying to make his mother stop asking questions; so she began
talking to him about his work.  As soon as the meal was finished he
walked with her to school, visiting until the session began.  He
remained three days, and before he left he told Kate he loved her, and
asked her to be his wife.  She looked at him in surprise and said:
"Why, I never thought of such a thing!  How long have you been thinking
about it?"

"Since the first instant I saw you!" he declared with fervour.

"Hum!  Matter of months," said Kate.  "Well, when I have had that much
time, I will tell you what I think about it."



CHAPTER VIII

THE HISTORY OF A LEGHORN HAT

Kate finished her school in the spring, then went for a visit with
Nancy Ellen and Robert, before George Holt returned.  She was thankful
to leave Walden without having seen him, for she had decided, without
giving the matter much thought, that he was not the man she wanted to
marry.  In her heart she regretted having previously contracted for the
Walden school another winter because she felt certain that with the
influence of Dr. Gray, she could now secure a position in Hartley that
would enable her either to live with, or to be near, her sister.  With
this thought in mind, she tried to make the acquaintance of teachers in
the school who lived in Hartley and she soon became rather intimate
with one of them.

It was while visiting with this teacher that Kate spoke of attending
Normal again in an effort to prepare herself still better for the work
of the coming year.  Her new friend advised against it.  She said the
course would be only the same thing over again, with so little change
or advancement, that the trip was not worth the time and money it would
cost.  She proposed that Kate go to Lake Chautauqua and take the
teachers' course, where all spare time could be put in attending
lectures, and concerts, and studying the recently devised methods of
education.  Kate went from her to Nancy Ellen and Robert, determined at
heart to go.

She was pleased when they strongly advised her to, and offered to help
her get ready.  Aside from having paid Agatha, and for her board, Kate
had spent almost nothing on herself.  She figured the probable expenses
of the trip for a month, what it would cost her to live until school
began again, if she were forced to go to Walden, and then spent all her
remaining funds on the prettiest clothing she had ever owned.  Each of
the sisters knew how to buy carefully; then the added advantage of
being able to cut and make their own clothes, made money go twice as
far as where a dressmaker had to be employed.  When everything they had
planned was purchased, neatly made, and packed in a trunk, into which
Nancy Ellen slipped some of her prettiest belongings, Kate made a trip
to a milliner's shop to purchase her first real hat.

She had decided on a big, wide-brimmed Leghorn, far from cheap. While
she was trying the effect of flowers and ribbon on it, the wily
milliner slipped up and with the hat on Kate's golden crown, looped in
front a bow of wide black velvet ribbon and drooped over the brim a
long, exquisitely curling ostrich plume.  Kate had one good view of
herself, before she turned her back on the temptation.

"You look lovely in that," said the milliner.  "Don't you like it?"

"I certainly do," said Kate.  "I look the best in that hat, with the
black velvet and the plume, I ever did, but there's no use to look
twice, I can't afford it."

"Oh, but it is very reasonable!  We haven't a finer hat in the store,
nor a better plume," said the milliner.

She slowly waved it in all its glory before Kate's beauty-hungry eyes.
Kate turned so she could not see it.

"Please excuse one question.  Are you teaching in Walden this winter?"
asked the milliner.

"Yes," said Kate.  "I have signed the contract for that school."

"Then charge the hat and pay for it in September.  I'd rather wait for
my money than see you fail to spend the summer under that plume.  It
really is lovely against your gold hair."

"'Get thee behind me, Satan,'" quoted Kate.  "No.  I never had anything
charged, and never expect to.  Please have the black velvet put on and
let me try it with the bows set and sewed."

"All right," said the milliner, "but I'm sorry."

She was so sorry that she carried the plume to the work room, and when
she walked up behind Kate, who sat waiting before the mirror, and
carefully set the hat on her head, at exactly the right angle, the long
plume crept down one side and drooped across the girl's shoulder.

"I will reduce it a dollar more," she said, "and send the bill to you
at Walden the last week of September."

Kate moved her head from side to side, lifted and dropped her chin.
Then she turned to the milliner.

"You should be killed!" she said.

The woman reached for a hat box.

"No, I shouldn't!" she said.  "Waiting that long, I'll not make much on
the hat, but I'll make a good friend who will come again, and bring her
friends.  What is your name, please?"

Kate took one look at herself--smooth pink cheeks, gray eyes, gold
hair, the sweeping wide brim, the trailing plume.

"Miss Katherine Eleanor Bates," she said.  "Bates Corners, Hartley,
Indiana.  Please call my carriage?"

The milliner laughed heartily.  "That's the spirit of '76," she
commended.  "I'd be willing to wager something worth while that this
very hat brings you the carriage before fall, if you show yourself in
it in the right place.  It's a perfectly stunning hat. Shall I send it,
or will you wear it?"

Kate looked in the mirror again.  "You may put a fresh blue band on the
sailor I was wearing, and send that to Dr. Gray's when it is finished,"
she said.  "And put in a fancy bow, for my throat, of the same velvet
as the hat, please.  I'll surely pay you the last week of September.
And if you can think up an equally becoming hat for winter----"

"You just bet I can, young lady," said the milliner to herself as Kate
walked down the street.

From afar, Kate saw Nancy Ellen on the veranda, so she walked slowly to
let the effect sink in, but it seemed to make no impression until she
looked up at Nancy Ellen's very feet and said:  "Well, how do you like
it?"

"Good gracious!" cried Nancy Ellen.  "I thought I was having a stylish
caller.  I didn't know you!  Why, I never saw YOU walk that way before."

"You wouldn't expect me to plod along as if I were plowing, with a
thing like this on my head, would you?"

"I wouldn't expect you to have a thing like that on your head; but
since you have, I don't mind telling you that you are stunning in it,"
said Nancy Ellen.

"Better and better!" laughed Kate, sitting down on the step.  "The
milliner said it was a stunning HAT."

"The goose!" said Nancy Ellen.  "You become that hat, Kate, quite as
much as the hat becomes you."

The following day, dressed in a linen suit of natural colour, with the
black bow at her throat, the new hat in a bandbox, and the renewed
sailor on her head, Kate waved her farewells to Nancy Ellen and Robert
on the platform, then walked straight to the dressing room of the car,
and changed the hats.  Nancy Ellen had told her this was NOT the thing
to do.  She should travel in a plain untrimmed hat, and when the dust
and heat of her journey were past, she should bathe, put on fresh
clothing, and wear such a fancy hat only with her best frocks, in the
afternoon.  Kate need not have been told that.  Right instincts and
Bates economy would have taught her the same thing, but she had a
perverse streak in her nature.  She had SEEN herself in the hat.

The milliner, who knew enough of the world and human nature to know how
to sell Kate the hat, when she never intended to buy it, and knew she
should not in the way she did, had said that before fall it would bring
her a carriage, which put into bald terms meant a rich husband.  Now
Kate liked her school and she gave it her full attention; she had done,
and still intended to keep on doing, first-class work in the future;
but her school, or anything pertaining to it, was not worth mentioning
beside Nancy Ellen's HOME, and the deep understanding and strong
feeling that showed so plainly between her and Robert Gray.  Kate
expected to marry by the time she was twenty or soon after; all Bates
girls had, most of them had married very well indeed.  She frankly
envied Nancy Ellen, while it never occurred to her that any one would
criticise her for saying so.  Only one thing could happen to her that
would surpass what had come to her sister.  If only she could have a
man like Robert Gray, and have him on a piece of land of their own.
Kate was a girl, but no man of the Bates tribe ever was more deeply
bitten by the lust for land.  She was the true daughter of her father,
in more than one way.  If that very expensive hat was going to produce
the man why not let it begin to work from the very start?  If her man
was somewhere, only waiting to see her, and the hat would help him to
speedy recognition, why miss a change?

She thought over the year, and while she deplored the estrangement from
home, she knew that if she had to go back to one year ago, giving up
the present and what it had brought and promised to bring, for a
reconciliation with her father, she would not voluntarily return to the
old driving, nagging, overwork, and skimping, missing every real
comfort of life to buy land, in which she never would have any part.

"You get your knocks 'taking the wings of morning,'" thought Kate to
herself, "but after all it is the only thing to do.  Nancy Ellen says
Sally Whistler is pleasing Mother very well, why should I miss my
chance and ruin my temper to stay at home and do the work done by a
woman who can do nothing else?"

Kate moved her head slightly to feel if the big, beautiful hat that sat
her braids so lightly was still there.  "Go to work, you beauty,"
thought Kate.  "Do something better for me than George Holt.  I'll have
him to fall back on if I can't do better; but I think I can.  Yes, I'm
very sure I can!  If you do your part, you lovely plume, I KNOW I can!"

Toward noon the train ran into a violent summer storm.  The sky grew
black, the lightning flashed, the wind raved, the rain fell in gusts.
The storm was at its height when Kate quit watching it and arose,
preoccupied with her first trip to a dining car, thinking about how
little food she could order and yet avoid a hunger headache.  The
twisting whirlwind struck her face as she stepped from the day coach to
go to the dining car.  She threw back her head and sucked her lungs
full of the pure, rain-chilled air.  She was accustomed to being out in
storms, she liked them. One second she paused to watch the gale
sweeping the fields, the next a twitch at her hair caused her to throw
up her hands and clutch wildly at nothing.  She sprang to the step
railing and leaned out in time to see her wonderful hat whirl against
the corner of the car, hold there an instant with the pressure of the
wind, then slide down, draw under, and drop across the rail, where
passing wheels ground it to pulp.

Kate stood very still a second, then she reached up and tried to pat
the disordered strands of hair into place.  She turned and went back
into the day coach, opened the bandbox, and put on the sailor.  She
resumed her old occupation of thinking things over. All the joy had
vanished from the day and the trip.  Looking forward, it had seemed all
right to defy custom and Nancy Ellen's advice, and do as she pleased.
Looking backward, she saw that she had made a fool of herself in the
estimation of everyone in the car by not wearing the sailor, which was
suitable for her journey, and would have made no such mark for a
whirling wind.

She found travelling even easier than any one had told her.  Each
station was announced.  When she alighted, there were conveyances to
take her and her luggage to a hotel, patronized almost exclusively by
teachers, near the schools and lecture halls. Large front suites and
rooms were out of the question for Kate, but luckily a tiny corner room
at the back of the building was empty and when Kate specified how long
she would remain, she secured it at a less figure than she had expected
to pay.  She began by almost starving herself at supper in order to
save enough money to replace her hat with whatever she could find that
would serve passably, and be cheap enough.  That far she proceeded
stoically; but when night settled and she stood in her dressing jacket
brushing her hair, something gave way.  Kate dropped on her bed and
cried into her pillow, as she never had cried before about anything.
It was not ALL about the hat.  While she was at it, she shed a few
tears about every cruel thing that had happened to her since she could
remember that she had borne tearlessly at the time.  It was a deluge
that left her breathless and exhausted. When she finally sat up, she
found the room so close, she gently opened her door and peeped into the
hall.  There was a door opening on an outside veranda, running across
the end of the building and the length of the front.

As she looked from her door and listened intently, she heard the sound
of a woman's voice in choking, stifled sobs, in the room having a door
directly across the narrow hall from hers.

"My Lord!  THERE'S TWO OF US!" said Kate.

She leaned closer, listening again, but when she heard a short groan
mingled with the sobs, she immediately tapped on the door. Instantly
the sobs ceased and the room became still.  Kate put her lips to the
crack and said in her off-hand way:  "It's only a school-marm, rooming
next you.  If you're ill, could I get anything for you?"

"Will you please come in?" asked a muffled voice.

Kate turned the knob, and stepping inside, closed the door after her.
She could dimly see her way to the dresser, where she found matches and
lighted the gas.  On the bed lay in a tumbled heap a tiny, elderly,
Dresden-china doll-woman.  She was fully dressed, even to her wrap,
bonnet, and gloves; one hand clutched her side, the other held a
handkerchief to her lips.  Kate stood an instant under the light,
studying the situation.  The dark eyes in the narrow face looked
appealingly at her.  The woman tried to speak, but gasped for breath.
Kate saw that she had heart trouble.

"The remedy!  Where is it?" she cried.

The woman pointed to a purse on the dresser.  Kate opened it, took out
a small bottle, and read the directions.  In a second, she was holding
a glass to the woman's lips; soon she was better.  She looked at Kate
eagerly.

"Oh, please don't leave me," she gasped.

"Of course not!" said Kate instantly.  "I'll stay as long as you want
me."

She bent over the bed and gently drew the gloves from the frail hands.
She untied and slipped off the bonnet.  She hunted keys in the purse,
opened a travelling bag, and found what she required. Then slowly and
carefully, she undressed the woman, helped her into a night robe, and
stooping she lifted her into a chair until she opened the bed.  After
giving her time to rest, Kate pulled down the white wavy hair and
brushed it for the night.  As she worked, she said a word of
encouragement now and again; when she had done all she could see to do,
she asked if there was more. The woman suddenly clung to her hand and
began to sob wildly. Kate knelt beside the bed, stroked the white hair,
patted the shoulder she could reach, and talked very much as she would
have to a little girl.

"Please don't cry," she begged.  "It must be your heart; you'll surely
make it worse."

"I'm trying," said the woman, "but I've been scared sick.  I most
certainly would have died if you hadn't come to me and found the
medicine.  Oh, that dreadful Susette!  How could she?"

The clothing Kate had removed from the woman had been of finest cloth
and silk.  Her hands wore wonderful rings.  A heavy purse was in her
bag.  Everything she had was the finest that money could buy, while she
seemed as if a rough wind never had touched her.  She appeared so frail
that Kate feared to let her sleep without knowing where to locate her
friends.

"She should be punished for leaving you alone among strangers," said
Kate indignantly.

"If I only could learn to mind John," sighed the little woman. "He
never liked Susette.  But she was the very best maid I ever had.  She
was like a loving daughter, until all at once, on the train, among
strangers, she flared out at me, and simply raved. Oh, it was dreadful!"

"And knowing you were subject to these attacks, she did the thing that
would precipitate one, and then left you alone among strangers.  How
wicked!  How cruel!" said Kate in tense indignation.

"John didn't want me to come.  But I used to be a teacher, and I came
here when this place was mostly woods, with my dear husband. Then after
he died, through the long years of poverty and struggle, I would read
of the place and the wonderful meetings, but I could never afford to
come.  Then when John began to work and made good so fast I was dizzy
half the time with his successes, I didn't think about the place.  But
lately, since I've had everything else I could think of, something
possessed me to come back here, and take a suite among the women and
men who are teaching our young people so wonderfully; and to sail on
the lake, and hear the lectures, and dream my youth over again.  I
think that was it most of all, to dream my youth over again, to try to
relive the past."

"There now, you have told me all about it," said Kate, stroking the
white forehead in an effort to produce drowsiness, "close your eyes and
go to sleep."

"I haven't even BEGUN to tell you," said the woman perversely. "If I
talked all night I couldn't tell you about John.  How big he is, and
how brave he is, and how smart he is, and how he is the equal of any
business man in Chicago, and soon, if he keeps on, he will be worth as
much as some of them--more than any one of his age, who has had a lot
of help instead of having his way to make alone, and a sick old mother
to support besides.  No, I couldn't tell you in a week half about John,
and he didn't want me to come. If I would come, then he wanted me to
wait a few days until he finished a deal so he could bring me, but the
minute I thought of it I was determined to come; you know how you get."

"I know how badly you want to do a thing you have set your heart on,"
admitted Kate.

"I had gone places with Susette in perfect comfort.  I think the
trouble was that she tried from the first to attract John.  About the
time we started, he let her see plainly that all he wanted of her was
to take care of me; she was pretty and smart, so it made her furious.
She was pampered in everything, as no maid I ever had before.  John is
young yet, and I think he is very handsome, and he wouldn't pay any
attention to her.  You see when other boys were going to school and
getting acquainted with girls by association, even when he was a little
bit of a fellow in knee breeches, I had to let him sell papers, and
then he got into a shop, and he invented a little thing, and then a
bigger, and bigger yet, and then he went into stocks and things, and he
doesn't know anything about girls, only about sick old women like me.
He never saw what Susette was up to.  You do believe that I wasn't ugly
to her, don't you?"

"You COULDN'T be ugly if you tried," said Kate.

The woman suddenly began to sob again, this time slowly, as if her
forces were almost spent.  She looked to Kate for the sympathy she
craved and for the first time really saw her closely.

"Why, you dear girl," she cried.  "Your face is all tear stained.
You've been crying, yourself."

"Roaring in a pillow," admitted Kate.

"But my dear, forgive me!  I was so upset with that dreadful woman.
Forgive me for not having seen that you, too, are in trouble.  Won't
you please tell me?"

"Of course," said Kate.  "I lost my new hat."

"But, my dear!  Crying over a hat?  When it is so easy to get another?
How foolish!" said the woman.

"Yes, but you didn't see the hat," said Kate.  "And it will be far from
easy to get another, with this one not paid for yet.  I'm only one
season removed from sunbonnets, so I never should have bought it at
all."

The woman moved in bed, and taking one of Kate's long, crinkly braids,
she drew the wealth of gold through her fingers repeatedly.

"Tell me about your hat," she said.

So to humour this fragile woman, and to keep from thinking of her own
trouble, Kate told the story of her Leghorn hat and ostrich plume, and
many things besides, for she was not her usual terse self with her new
friend who had to be soothed to forgetfulness.

Kate ended:  "I was all wrong to buy such a hat in the first place.  I
couldn't afford it; it was foolish vanity.  I'm not really
good-looking; I shouldn't have flattered myself that I was. Losing it
before it was paid for was just good for me.  Never again will I be so
foolish."

"Why, my dear, don't say such things or think them," chided the little
woman.  "You had as good a right to a becoming hat as any girl.  Now
let me ask you one question, and then I'll try to sleep.  You said you
were a teacher.  Did you come here to attend the Summer School for
Teachers?"

"Yes," said Kate.

"Would it make any great difference to you if you missed a few days?"
she asked.

"Not the least," said Kate.

"Well, then, you won't be offended, will you, if I ask you to remain
with me and take care of me until John comes?  I could send him a
message to-night that I am alone, and bring him by this time to-morrow;
but I know he has business that will cause him to lose money should he
leave, and I was so wilful about coming, I dread to prove him right so
conclusively the very first day.  That door opens into a room reserved
for Susette, if only you'd take it, and leave the door unclosed
to-night, and if only you would stay with me until John comes I could
well afford to pay you enough to lengthen your stay as long as you'd
like; and it makes me so happy to be with such a fresh young creature.
Will you stay with me, my dear?"

"I certainly will," said Kate heartily.  "If you'll only tell me what I
should do; I'm not accustomed to rich ladies, you know."

"I'm not myself," said the little woman, "but I do seem to take to
being waited upon with the most remarkable facility!"



CHAPTER IX

A SUNBONNET GIRL

WITH the first faint light of morning, Kate slipped to the door to find
her charge still sleeping soundly.  It was eight o'clock when she heard
a movement in the adjoining room and went again to the door.  This time
the woman was awake and smilingly waved to Kate as she called:  "Good
morning!  Come right in.  I was wondering if you were regretting your
hasty bargain."

"Not a bit of it!" laughed Kate.  "I am here waiting to be told what to
do first.  I forgot to tell you my name last night.  It is Kate Bates.
I'm from Bates Corners, Hartley, Indiana."

The woman held out her hand.  "I'm so very glad to meet you, Miss
Bates," she said.  "My name is Mariette Jardine.  My home is in
Chicago."

They shook hands, smiling at each other, and then Kate said: "Now, Mrs.
Jardine, what shall I do for you first?"

"I will be dressed, I think, and then you may bring up the manager
until I have an understanding with him, and give him a message I want
sent, and an order for our breakfast.  I wonder if it wouldn't be nice
to have it served on the corner of the veranda in front of our rooms,
under the shade of that big tree."

"I think that would be famous," said Kate.

They ate together under the spreading branches of a giant maple tree,
where they could see into the nest of an oriole that brooded in a long
purse of gray lint and white cotton cord.  They could almost reach out
and touch it.  The breakfast was good, nicely served by a neat maid,
evidently doing something so out of the ordinary that she was rather
stunned; but she was a young person of some self-possession, for when
she removed the tray, Mrs. Jardine thanked her and gave her a coin that
brought a smiling: "Thank you very much.  If you want your dinner
served here and will ask for Jennie Weeks, I'd like to wait on you
again."

"Thank you," said Mrs. Jardine, "I shall remember that.  I don't like
changing waiters each meal.  It gives them no chance to learn what I
want or how I want it."

Then she and Kate slowly walked the length of the veranda several
times, while she pointed out parts of the grounds they could see that
remained as she had known them formerly, and what were improvements.

When Mrs. Jardine was tired, they returned to the room and she lay on
the bed while they talked of many things; talked of things with which
Kate was familiar, and some concerning which she unhesitatingly asked
questions until she felt informed.  Mrs. Jardine was so dainty, so
delicate, yet so full of life, so well informed, so keen mentally, that
as she talked she kept Kate chuckling most of the time.  She talked of
her home life, her travels, her friends, her son.  She talked of
politics, religion, and education; then she talked of her son again.
She talked of social conditions, Civic Improvement, and Woman's Rights,
then she came back to her son, until Kate saw that he was the real
interest in the world to her.  The mental picture she drew of him was
peculiar.  One minute Mrs. Jardine spoke of him as a man among men,
pushing, fighting, forcing matters to work to his will, so Kate
imagined him tall, broad, and brawny, indefatigable in his
undertakings; the next, his mother was telling of such thoughtfulness,
such kindness, such loving care that Kate's mental picture shifted to a
neat, exacting little man, purely effeminate as men ever can be; but
whatever she thought, some right instinct prevented her from making a
comment or asking a question.

Once she sat looking far across the beautiful lake with such an
expression on her face that Mrs. Jardine said to her:  "What are you
thinking of, my dear?"

Kate said smilingly:  "Oh, I was thinking of what a wonderful school I
shall teach this winter."

"Tell me what you mean," said Mrs. Jardine.

"Why, with even a month of this, I shall have riches stored for every
day of the year," said Kate.  "None of my pupils ever saw a lake, that
I know of.  I shall tell them of this with its shining water, its
rocky, shady, sandy shore lines; of the rowboats and steam-boats, and
the people from all over the country.  Before I go back, I can tell
them of wonderful lectures, concerts, educational demonstrations here.
I shall get much from the experiences of other teachers.  I shall
delight my pupils with just you."

"In what way?" asked Mrs. Jardine.

"Oh, I shall tell them of a dainty little woman who know everything.
From you I shall teach my girls to be simple, wholesome, tender, and
kind; to take the gifts of God thankfully, reverently, yet with
self-respect.  From you I can tell them what really fine fabrics are,
and about laces, and linens.  When the subjects arise, as they always
do in teaching, I shall describe each ring you wear, each comb and pin,
even the handkerchiefs you carry, and the bags you travel with.  To
teach means to educate, and it is a big task; but it is almost
painfully interesting. Each girl of my school shall go into life a
gentler, daintier woman, more careful of her person and speech because
of my having met you.  Isn't that a fine thought?"

"Why, you darling!" cried Mrs. Jardine.  "Life is always having lovely
things in store for me.  Yesterday I thought Susette's leaving me as
she did was the most cruel thing that ever happened to me.  To-day I
get from it this lovely experience.  If you are straight from
sunbonnets, as you told me last night, where did you get these advanced
ideas?"

"If sunbonnets could speak, many of them would tell of surprising heads
they have covered," laughed Kate.  "Life deals with women much the same
as with men.  If we go back to where we start, history can prove to you
that there are ten sunbonnets to one Leghorn hat, in the high places of
the world."

"Not to entertain me, but because I am interested, my dear, will you
tell me about your particular sunbonnet?" asked Mrs. Jardine.

Kate sat staring across the blue lake with wide eyes, a queer smile
twisting her lips.  At last she said slowly:  "Well, then, my sunbonnet
is in my trunk.  I'm not so far away from it but that it still travels
with me.  It's blue chambray, made from pieces left from my first
pretty dress.  It is ruffled, and has white stitching.  I made it
myself.  The head that it fits is another matter.  I didn't make that,
or its environment, or what was taught it, until it was of age, and had
worked out its legal time of service to pay for having been a head at
all.  But my head is now free, in my own possession, ready to go as
fast and far on the path of life as it develops the brains to carry it.
You'd smile if I should tell you what I'd ask of life, if I could have
what I want."

"I scarcely think so.  Please tell me."

"You'll be shocked," warned Kate.

"Just so it isn't enough to set my heart rocking again," said Mrs.
Jardine.

"We'll stop before that," laughed Kate.  "Then if you will have it, I
want of life by the time I am twenty a man of my stature, dark eyes and
hair, because I am so light.  I want him to be honest, forceful, hard
working, with a few drops of the milk of human kindness in his heart,
and the same ambitions I have."

"And what ARE your ambitions?" asked Mrs. Jardine.

"To own, and to cultivate, and to bring to the highest state of
efficiency at least two hundred acres of land, with convenient and
attractive buildings and pedigreed stock, and to mother at least twelve
perfect physical and mental boys and girls."

"Oh, my soul!" cried Mrs. Jardine, falling back in her chair, her mouth
agape.  "My dear, you don't MEAN that?  You only said that to shock me."

"But why should I wish to shock you?  I sincerely mean it," persisted
Kate.

"You amazing creature!  I never heard a girl talk like that before,"
said Mrs. Jardine.

"But you can't look straight ahead of you any direction you turn
without seeing a girl working for dear life to attract the man she
wants; if she can't secure him, some other man; and in lieu of him, any
man at all, in preference to none.  Life shows us woman on the age-old
quest every day, everywhere we go; why be so secretive about it?  Why
not say honestly what we want, and take it if we can get it?  At any
rate, that is the most important thing inside my sunbonnet.  I knew
you'd be shocked."

"But I am not shocked at what you say, I agree with you.  What I am
shocked at is your ideals.  I thought you'd want to educate yourself to
such superiority over common woman that you could take the platform,
and backed by your splendid physique, work for suffrage or lecture to
educate the masses."

"I think more could be accomplished with selected specimens, by being
steadily on the job, than by giving an hour to masses.  I'm not much
interested in masses.  They are too abstract for me; I prefer one stern
reality.  And as for Woman's Rights, if anybody gives this woman the
right to do anything more than she already has the right to do,
there'll surely be a scandal."

Mrs. Jardine lay back in her chair laughing.

"You are the most refreshing person I have met in all my travels. Then
to put it baldly, you want of life a man, a farm, and a family."

"You comprehend me beautifully," said Kate.  "All my life I've worked
like a towhead to help earn two hundred acres of land for someone else.
I think there's nothing I want so much as two hundred acres of land for
myself.  I'd undertake to do almost anything with it, if I had it.  I
know I could, if I had the shoulder-to-shoulder, real man.  You notice
it will take considerable of a man to touch shoulders with me; I'm a
head taller than most of them."

Mrs. Jardine looked at her speculatively.  "Ummm!" she murmured. Kate
laughed.

"For eighteen years I have been under marching orders," said Kate.
"Over a year ago I was advised by a minister to 'take the wings of
morning' so I took wing.  I started on one grand flight and fell
ker-smash in short order.  Life since has been a series of battering my
wings until I have almost decided to buy some especially heavy boots,
and walk the remainder of the way.  As a concrete example, I started
out yesterday morning wearing a hat that several very reliable parties
assured me would so assist me to flight that I might at least have a
carriage.  Where, oh, where are my hat and my carriage now?  The
carriage, non est!  The hat--I am humbly hoping some little country
girl, who has lived a life as barren as mine, will find the remains and
retrieve the velvet bow for a hair-ribbon.  As for the man that Leghorn
hat was supposed to symbolize, he won't even look my way when I appear
in my bobby little sailor.  He's as badly crushed out of existence as
my beautiful hat."

"You never should have been wearing such a hat to travel in, my dear,"
murmured Mrs. Jardine.

"Certainly not!" said Kate.  "I knew it.  My sister told me that.
Common sense told me that!  But what has that got to do with the fact
that I WAS wearing the hat?  I guess I have you there!"

"Far from it!" said Mrs. Jardine.  "If you're going to start out in
life, calmly ignoring the advice of those who love you, and the
dictates of common sense, the result will be that soon the wheels of
life will be grinding you, instead of a train making bag-rags of your
hat."

"Hummm!" said Kate.  "There IS food for reflection there.  But wasn't
it plain logic, that if the hat was to bring the man, it should be worn
where at any minute he might see it?"

"But my dear, my dear!  If such a man as a woman like you should have,
had seen you wearing that hat in the morning, on a railway train, he
would merely have thought you prideful and extravagant. You would have
been far more attractive to any man I know in your blue sunbonnet."

"I surely have learned that lesson," said Kate.  "Hereafter, sailors or
sunbonnets for me in the morning.  Now what may I do to add to your
comfort?"

"Leave me for an hour until I take a nap, and then we'll have lunch and
go to a lecture.  I can go to-day, perfectly well, after an hour's
rest."

So Kate went for a very interesting walk around the grounds.  When she
returned Mrs. Jardine was still sleeping so she wrote Nancy Ellen,
telling all about her adventure, but not a word about losing her hat.
Then she had a talk with Jennie Weeks whom she found lingering in the
hall near her door.  When at last that nap was over, a new woman seemed
to have developed.  Mrs. Jardine was so refreshed and interested the
remainder of the day that it was easier than before for Kate to see how
shocked and ill she had been.  As she helped dress her for lunch, Kate
said to Mrs. Jardine:  "I met the manager as I was going to post a
letter to my sister, so I asked him always to send you the same waiter.
He said he would, and I'd like you to pay particular attention to her
appearance, and the way she does her work."

"Why?" asked Mrs. Jardine.

"I met her in the hall as I came back from posting my letter, so we
'visited' a little, as the country folks say.  She has taught one
winter of country school, a small school in an out county. She's here
waiting table two hours three times a day, to pay for her room and
board.  In the meantime, she attends all the sessions and studies as
much as she can; but she's very poor material for a teacher.  I pity
her pupils.  She's a little thing, bright enough in her way, but she
has not much initiative, not strong enough for the work, and she has
not enough spunk.  She'll never lead the minds of school children
anywhere that will greatly benefit them."

"And your deduction is--"

"That she would make you a kind, careful, obedient maid, who is capable
enough to be taught to wash your hair and manicure you with deftness,
and who would serve you for respect as well as hire.  I think it would
be a fine arrangement for you and good for her."

"This surely is kind of you," said Mrs. Jardine.  "I'll keep strict
watch of Jennie Weeks.  If I could find a really capable maid here and
not have to wire John to bring one, I'd be so glad. It does so go
against the grain to prove to a man that he has a right to be more
conceited than he is naturally."

As they ate lunch Kate said to Mrs. Jardine:  "I noticed one thing this
morning that is going to be balm to my soul.  I passed many teachers
and summer resorters going to the lecture halls and coming from them,
and half of them were bareheaded, so my state will not be remarkable,
until I can get another hat."

"'God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform,'" laughingly
quoted Mrs. Jardine.  "You thought losing that precious hat was a
calamity; but if you hadn't lost it, you probably would have slept
soundly while I died across the hall.  My life is worth the price of a
whole millinery shop to me; I think you value the friendship we are
developing; I foresee I shall get a maid who will not disgrace my in
public; you will have a full summer here; now truly, isn't all this
worth many hats?"

"Of course!  It's like a fairy tale," said Kate.  "Still, you didn't
see the hat!"

"But you described it in a truly graphic manner," said Mrs. Jardine.

"When I am the snowiest of great-grandmothers, I shall still be telling
small people about the outcome of my first attempt at vanity," laughed
Kate.

The third morning dawned in great beauty, a "misty, moisty morning,"
Mrs. Jardine called it.  The sun tried to shine but could not quite
pierce the intervening clouds, so on every side could be seen exquisite
pictures painted in delicate pastel colours.  Kate, fresh and rosy,
wearing a blue chambray dress, was a picture well worth seeing.  Mrs.
Jardine kept watching her so closely that Kate asked at last:  "Have
you made up your mind, yet?"

"No, and I am afraid I never shall," answered Mrs. Jardine.  "You are
rather an astonishing creature.  You're so big, so vital; you absorb
knowledge like a sponge takes water--"

"And for the same purpose," laughed Kate.  "That it may be used for the
benefit of others.  Tell me some more about me.  I find me such an
interesting subject."

"No doubt!" admitted Mrs. Jardine.  "Not a doubt about that!  We are
all more interested in ourselves than in any one else in this world,
until love comes; then we soon learn to a love man more than life, and
when a child comes we learn another love, so clear, so high, so
purifying, that we become of no moment at all, and live only for those
we love."

"You speak for yourself, and a class of women like you," answered Kate
gravely.  "I'm very well acquainted with many women who have married
and borne children, and who are possibly more selfish than before.  The
Great Experience never touched them at all."

There was a tap at the door.  Kate opened it and delivered to Mrs.
Jardine a box so big that it almost blocked the doorway.

Mrs. Jardine lifted from the box a big Leghorn hat of weave so white
and fine it almost seemed like woven cloth instead of braid. There was
a bow in front, but the bow was nested in and tied through a web of
flowered gold lace.  One velvet end was slightly long and concealed a
wire which lifted one side of the brim a trifle, beneath which was
fastened a smashing big, pale-pink velvet rose.  There was an ostrich
plume even longer than the other, broader, blacker, as wonderful a
feather as ever dropped from the plumage of a lordly bird.  Mrs.
Jardine shook the hat in such a way as to set the feather lifting and
waving after the confinement of the box.  With slender, sure fingers
she set the bow and lace as they should be, and touched the petals of
the rose.  She inspected the hat closely, shook it again, and held it
toward Kate.

"A very small price to pay for the breath of life, which I was rapidly
losing," she said.  "Do me the favour to accept it as casually as I
offer it.  Did I understand your description anywhere near right?  Is
this your hat?"

"Thank you," said Kate.  "It is just 'the speaking image' of my hat,
but it's a glorified, sublimated, celestial image.  What I described
was merely a hat.  This is what I think I have lately heard Nancy Ellen
mention as a 'creation.'  Wheuuuuuu!"

She went to the mirror, arranged her hair, set the hat on her head, and
turned.

"Gracious Heaven!" said Mrs. Jardine.  "My dear, I understand NOW why
you wore that hat on your journey."

"I wore that hat," said Kate, "as an ascension stalk wears its crown of
white lilies, as a bobolink wears its snowy courting crest, as a bride
wears her veil; but please take this from me to-night, lest I sleep in
it!"

That night Mrs. Jardine felt tired enough to propose resting in her
room, with Jennie Weeks where she could be called; so for the first
time Kate left her, and, donning her best white dress and the hat,
attended a concert.  At its close she walked back to the hotel with
some of the other teachers stopping there, talked a few minutes in the
hall, went to the office desk for mail, and slowly ascended the stairs,
thinking intently.  What she thought was: "If I am not mistaken, my hat
did a small bit of execution to-night."  She stepped to her room to
lock the door and stopped a few minutes to arrange the clothing she had
discarded when she dressed hurriedly before going to the concert, then,
the letters in her hand, she opened Mrs. Jardine's door.

A few minutes before, there had been a tap on that same door.

"Come in," said Mrs. Jardine, expecting Kate or Jennie Weeks.  She
slowly lifted her eyes and faced a tall, slender man standing there.

"John Jardine, what in the world are you doing here?" she demanded
after the manner of mothers, "and what in this world has happened to
you?"

"Does it show on me like that?" he stammered.

"Was your train in a wreck?  Are you in trouble?" she asked. "Something
shows plainly enough, but I don't understand what it is."

"Are you all right, Mother?"  He advanced a step, looking intently at
her.

"Of course I'm all right!  You can see that for yourself.  The question
is, what's the matter with you?"

"If you will have it, there is something the matter.  Since I saw you
last I have seen a woman I want to marry, that's all; unless I add that
I want her so badly that I haven't much sense left.  Now you have it!"

"No, I don't have it, and I won't have it!  What designing creature has
been trying to intrigue you now?" she demanded.

"Not any one.  She didn't see me, even.  I saw her.  I've been
following her for nearly two hours instead of coming straight to you,
as I always have.  So you see where I am.  I expect you won't forgive
me, but since I'm here, you must know that I could only come on the
evening train."

He crossed the room, knelt beside the chair, and took it and its
contents in his arms.

"Are you going to scold me?" he asked.

"I am," she said.  "I am going to take you out and push you into the
deepest part of the lake.  I'm so disappointed.  Why, John, for the
first time in my life I've selected a girl for you, the very most
suitable girl I ever saw, and I hoped and hoped for three days that
when you came you'd like her.  Of course I wasn't so rash as to say a
word to her!  But I've thought myself into a state where I'm going to
be sick with disappointment."

"But wait, Mother, wait until I can manage to meet the girl I've seen.
Wait until I have a chance to show her to you!" he begged.

"I suppose I shall be forced," she said.  "I've always dreaded it, now
here it comes.  Oh, why couldn't it have been Kate?  Why did she go to
that silly concert?  If only I'd kept her here, and we'd walked down to
the station.  I'd half a mind to!"

Then the door opened, and Kate stepped into the room.  She stood still,
looking at them.  John Jardine stood up, looking at her. His mother sat
staring at them in turn.  Kate recovered first.

"Please excuse me," she said.

She laid the letters on a small table and turned to go.  John caught
his mother's hand closer, when he found himself holding it.

"If you know the young lady, Mother," he said, "why don't you introduce
us?"

"Oh, I was so bewildered by your coming," she said.  "Kate, dear, let
me present my son."

Kate crossed the room, and looking straight into each other's eyes they
shook hands and found chairs.

"How was your concert, my dear?" asked Mrs. Jardine.

"I don't think it was very good," said Kate.  "Not at all up to my
expectations.  How did you like it, Mr. Jardine?"

"Was that a concert?" he asked.

"It was supposed to be," said Kate.

"Thank you for the information," he said.  "I didn't see it, I didn't
hear it, I don't know where I was."

"This is most astonishing," said Kate.

Mrs. Jardine looked at her son, her eyes two big imperative question
marks.  He nodded slightly.

"My soul!" she cried, then lay back in her chair half-laughing,
half-crying, until Kate feared she might have another attack of heart
trouble.



CHAPTER X

JOHN JARDINE'S COURTSHIP

THE following morning they breakfasted together under the branches of
the big maple tree in a beautiful world.  Mrs. Jardine was so happy she
could only taste a bite now and then, when urged to. Kate was trying to
keep her head level, and be natural.  John Jardine wanted to think of
everything, and succeeded fairly well. It seemed to Kate that he could
invent more ways to spend money, and spend it with freer hand, than any
man she ever had heard of, but she had to confess that the men she had
heard about were concerned with keeping their money, not scattering it.

"Did you hear unusual sounds when John came to bid me good-night?"
asked Mrs. Jardine of Kate.

"Yes," laughed Kate, "I did.  And I'm sure I made a fairly accurate
guess as to the cause."

"What did you think?" asked Mrs. Jardine.

"I thought Mr. Jardine had missed Susette, and you'd had to tell him,"
said Kate.

"You're quite right.  It's a good thing she went on and lost herself in
New York.  I'm not at all sure that he doesn't contemplate starting out
to find her yet."

"Let Susette go!" said Kate.  "We're interested in forgetting her.
There's a little country school-teacher here, who wants to take her
place, and it will be the very thing for your mother and for her, too.
She's the one serving us; notice her in particular."

"If she's a teacher, how does she come to be serving us?" he asked.

"I'm a teacher; how do I come to be dining with you?" said Kate. "This
is such a queer world, when you go adventuring in it. Jennie had a
small school in an out county, a widowed mother and a big family to
help support; so she figured that the only way she could come here to
try to prepare herself for a better school was to work for her room and
board.  She serves the table two hours, three times a day, and studies
between times.  She tells me that almost every waiter in the dining
hall is a teacher.  Please watch her movements and manner and see if
you think her suitable. Goodness knows she isn't intended for a
teacher."

"I like her very much," said John Jardine.  "I'll engage her as soon as
we finish."

Kate smiled, but when she saw the ease and dexterity with which he
ended Jennie Weeks' work as a waiter and installed her as his mother's
maid, making the least detail all right with his mother, with Jennie,
with the manager, she realized that there had been nothing for her to
smile about.  Jennie was delighted, and began her new undertaking
earnestly, with sincere desire to please. Kate helped her all she
could, while Mrs. Jardine developed a fund of patience commensurate
with the need of it.  She would have endured more inconvenience than
resulted from Jennie's inexperienced hands because of the realization
that her son and the girl she had so quickly learned to admire were on
the lake, rambling the woods, or hearing lectures together.

When she asked him how long he could remain, he said as long as she
did.  When she explained that she was enjoying herself thoroughly and
had no idea how long she would want to stay, he said that was all
right; he had only had one vacation in his life; it was time he was
having another.  When she marvelled at this he said:  "Now, look here,
Mother, let's get this business straight, right at the start.  I told
you when I came I'd seen the woman I wanted.  If you want me to go back
to business, the way to do it is to help me win her."

"But I don't want you 'to go back to business'; I want you to have a
long vacation, and learn all you can from the educational advantages
here."

"It's too late for me to learn more than I get every day by knocking
around and meeting people.  I've tried books two or three times, and
I've given them up; I can't do it.  I've waited too long, I've no way
to get down to it, I can't remember to save my soul."

"But you can remember anything on earth about a business deal," she
urged.

"Of course I can.  I was born with a business head.  It was remember,
or starve, and see you starve.  If I'd had the books at the time they
would have helped; now it's too late, and I'll never try it again,
that's settled.  Much as I want to marry Miss Bates, she'll have to
take me or leave me as I am.  I can't make myself over for her or for
you.  I would if I could, but that's one of the things I can't do, and
I admit it.  If I'm not good enough for her as I am, she'll have the
chance to tell me so the very first minute I think it's proper to ask
her."

"John, you are good enough for the best woman on earth.  There never
was a better lad, it isn't that, and you know it.  I am so anxious that
I can scarcely wait; but you must wait.  You must give her time and go
slowly, and you must be careful, oh, so very careful!  She's a teacher
and a student; she came here to study."

"I'll fix that.  I can rush things so that there'll be no time to
study."

"You'll make a mistake if you try it.  You'd far better let her go her
own way and only appear when she has time for you," she advised.

"That's a fine idea!" he cried.  "A lot of ice I'd cut, sitting back
waiting for a signal to run after a girl, like a poodle.  The way to do
is the same as with any business deal.  See what you want, overcome
anything in your way, and get it.  I'd go crazy hanging around like
that.  You've always told me I couldn't do the things in business I
said I would; and I've always proved to you that I could, by doing
them.  Now watch me do this."

"You know I'll do anything to help you, John.  You know how proud I am
of you, how I love you!  I realize now that I've talked volumes to Kate
about you.  I've told her everything from the time you were a little
boy and I slaved for you, until now, when you slave for me."

"Including how many terms I'd gone to school?"

"Yes, I even told her that," she said.

"Well, what did she seem to think about it?" he asked.

"I don't know what she thought, she didn't say anything.  There was
nothing to say.  It was a bare-handed fight with the wolf in those
days.  I'm sure I made her understand that," she said.

"Well, I'll undertake to make her understand this," he said.  "Are you
sure that Jennie Weeks is taking good care of you?"

"Jennie is well enough and is growing better each day, now be off to
your courting, but if you love me, remember, and be careful," she said.

"Remember--one particular thing--you mean?" he asked.

She nodded, her lips closed.

"You bet I will!" he said.  "All there is of me goes into this. Isn't
she a wonder, Mother?"

Mrs. Jardine looked closely at the big man who was all the world to
her, so like her in mentality, so like his father with his dark hair
and eyes and big, well-rounded frame; looked at him with the eyes of
love, then as he left her to seek the girl she had learned to love, she
shut her eyes and frankly and earnestly asked the Lord to help her son
to marry Kate Bates.

One morning as Kate helped Mrs. Jardine into her coat and gloves,
preparing for one of their delightful morning drives, she said to her:
"Mrs. Jardine, may I ask you a REAL question?"

"Of course you may," said Mrs. Jardine, "and I shall give you a 'real'
answer if it lies in my power."

"You'll be shocked," warned Kate.

"Shock away," laughed Mrs. Jardine.  "By now I flatter myself that I am
so accustomed to you that you will have to try yourself to shock me."

"It's only this," said Kate:  "If you were a perfect stranger, standing
back and looking on, not acquainted with any of the parties, merely
seeing things as they happen each day, would it be your honest
opinion--would you say that I am being COURTED?"

Mrs. Jardine laughed until she was weak.  When she could talk, she
said:  "Yes, my dear, under the conditions, and in the circumstances
you mention, I would cheerfully go on oath and testify that you are
being courted more openly, more vigorously, and as tenderly as I ever
have seen woman courted in all my life. I always thought that John's
father was a master hand at courting, but John has him beaten in many
ways.  Yes, my dear, you certainly are being courted assiduously."

"Now, then, on that basis," said Kate, "just one more question and
we'll proceed with our drive.  From the same standpoint:  would you say
from your observation and experience that the mother of the man had any
insurmountable objection to the proceedings?"

Mrs. Jardine laughed again.  Finally she said:  "No, my dear. It's my
firm conviction that the mother of the man in the case would be so
delighted if you should love and marry her son that she would probably
have a final attack of heart trouble and pass away from sheer joy."

"Thank you," said Kate.  "I wasn't perfectly sure, having had no
experience whatever, and I didn't want to make a mistake."

That drive was wonderful, over beautiful country roads, through dells,
and across streams and hills.  They stopped where they pleased,
gathering flowers and early apples, visiting with people they met,
lunching wherever they happened to be.

"If it weren't for wishing to hear John A. Logan to-night," said Kate,
"I'd move that we drive on all day.  I certainly am having the grandest
time."

She sat with her sailor hat filled with Early Harvest apples, a big
bunch of Canadian anemones in her belt, a little stream at her feet,
July drowsy fullness all around her, congenial companions; taking the
"wings of morning" paid, after all.

"Why do you want to hear him so much?" asked John.

Kate looked up at him in wonder.

"Don't you want to see and hear him?" she asked.

He hesitated, a thoughtful expression on his face.  Finally he said:
"I can't say that I do.  Will you tell me why I should?"

"You should because he was one of the men who did much to preserve our
Union, he may tell us interesting things about the war.  Where were you
when it was the proper time for you to be studying the speech of
Logan's ancestor in McGuffey's Fourth?"

"That must have been the year I figured out the improved coupling pin
in the C. N. W. shops, wouldn't you think, Mother?"

"Somewhere near, my dear," she said.

So they drove back as happily as they had set out, made themselves
fresh, and while awaiting the lecture hour, Kate again wrote to Robert
and Nancy Ellen, telling plainly and simply all that had occurred.  She
even wrote "John Jardine's mother is of the opinion that he is courting
me.  I am so lacking in experience myself that I scarcely dare venture
an opinion, but it has at times appealed to me that if he isn't really,
he certainly must be going through the motions."

Nancy Ellen wrote:  I have read over what you say about John Jardine
several times.  Then I had Robert write Bradstreet's and look him up.
He is rated so high that if he hasn't a million right now, he soon will
have.  You be careful, and do your level best.  Are your clothes good
enough?  Shall I send more of my things?  You know I'll do anything to
help you.  Oh, yes, that George Holt from your boarding place was here
the other day hunting you.  He seemed determined to know where you were
and when you would be back, and asked for your address.  I didn't think
you had any time for him and I couldn't endure him or his foolish talk
about a new medical theory; so I said you'd no time for writing and
were going about so much I had no idea if you'd get a letter if he sent
one, and I didn't give him what he wanted.  He'll probably try general
delivery, but you can drop it in the lake.  I want you to be sure to
change your boarding place this winter, if you teach; but I haven't an
idea you will.  Hadn't you better bring matters to a close if you can,
and let the Director know? Love from us both, NANCY ELLEN.

Kate sat very still, holding this letter in her hand, when John Jardine
came up and sat beside her.  She looked at him closely. He was quite as
good looking as his mother thought him, in a brawny masculine way; but
Kate was not seeking the last word in mental or physical refinement.
She was rather brawny herself, and perfectly aware of the fact.  She
wanted intensely to learn all she could, she disliked the idea that any
woman should have more stored in her head than she, but she had no time
to study minute social graces and customs.  She wanted to be kind, to
be polite, but she told Mrs. Jardine flatly the "she didn't give a flip
about being overly nice," which was the exact truth.  That required
subtleties beyond Kate's depth, for she was at times alarmingly casual.
So she held her letter and thought about John Jardine. As she thought,
she decided that she did not know whether she was in love with him or
not; she thought she was.  She liked being with him, she liked all he
did for her, she would miss him if he went away, she would be proud to
be his wife, but she did wish that he were interested in land, instead
of inventions and stocks and bonds.  Stocks and bonds were almost as
evanescent as rainbows to Kate.  Land was something she could
understand and handle. Maybe she could interest him in land; if she
could, that would be ideal.  What a place his wealth would buy and fit
up.  She wondered as she studied John Jardine, what was in his head; if
he truly intended to ask her to be his wife, and since reading Nancy
Ellen's letter, when?  She should let the Trustee know if she were not
going to teach the school again; but someway, she rather wanted to
teach the school.  When she started anything she did not know how to
stop until she finished.  She had so much she wanted to teach her
pupils the coming winter.

Suddenly John asked:  "Kate, if you could have anything you wanted,
what would you have?"

"Two hundred acres of land," she said.

"How easy!" laughed John, rising to find a seat for his mother who was
approaching them.  "What do you think of that, Mother?  A girl who
wants two hundred acres of land more than anything else in the world."

"What is better?" asked Mrs. Jardine.

"I never heard you say anything about land before."

"Certainly not," said his mother, "and I'm not saying anything about it
now, for myself; but I can see why it means so much to Kate, why it's
her natural element."

"Well, I can't," he said.  "I meet many men in business who started on
land, and most of them were mighty glad to get away from it.  What's
the attraction?"

Kate waved her hand toward the distance.

"Oh, merely sky, and land, and water, and trees, and birds, and
flowers, and fruit, and crops, and a few other things scarcely worth
mentioning," she said, lightly.  "I'm not in the mood to talk bushels,
seed, and fertilization just now; but I understand them, they are in my
blood.  I think possibly the reason I want two hundred acres of land
for myself is because I've been hard on the job of getting them for
other people ever since I began to work, at about the age of four."

"But if you want land personally, why didn't you work to get it for
yourself?" asked John Jardine.

"Because I happened to be the omega of my father's system," answered
Kate.

Mrs. Jardine looked at her interestedly.  She had never mentioned her
home or parents before.  The older woman did not intend to ask a word,
but if Kate was going to talk, she did not want to miss one.  Kate
evidently was going to talk, for she continued:  "You see my father is
land mad, and son crazy.  He thinks a BOY of all the importance in the
world; a GIRL of none whatever.  He has the biggest family of any one
we know.  From birth each girl is worked like a man, or a slave, from
four in the morning until nine at night.  Each boy is worked exactly
the same way; the difference lies in the fact that the girls get plain
food and plainer clothes out of it; the boys each get two hundred acres
of land, buildings and stock, that the girls have been worked to the
limit to help pay for; they get nothing personally, worth mentioning.
I think I have two hundred acres of land on the brain, and I think this
is the explanation of it.  It's a pre-natal influence at our house;
while we nurse, eat, sleep, and above all, WORK it, afterward."

She paused and looked toward John Jardine calmly:  "I think," she said,
"that there's not a task ever performed on a farm that I haven't had my
share in.  I have plowed, hoed, seeded, driven reapers and bound wheat,
pitched hay and hauled manure, chopped wood and sheared sheep, and
boiled sap; if you can mention anything else, go ahead, I bet a dollar
I've done it."

"Well, what do you think of that?" he muttered, looking at her
wonderingly.

"If you ask me, and want the answer in plain words, I think it's a
shame!" said Kate.  "If it were ONE HUNDRED acres of land, and the
girls had as much, and were as willing to work it as the boys are, well
and good.  But to drive us like cattle, and turn all we earn into land
for the boys, is another matter.  I rebelled last summer, borrowed the
money and went to Normal and taught last winter.  I'm going to teach
again this winter; but last summer and this are the first of my life
that I haven't been in the harvest fields, at this time.  Women in the
harvest fields of Land King Bates are common as men, and wagons, and
horses, but not nearly so much considered.  The women always walk on
Sunday, to save the horses, and often on week days."

"Mother has it hammered into me that it isn't polite to ask questions,"
said John, "but I'd like to ask one."

"Go ahead," said Kate.  "Ask fifty!  What do I care?"

"How many boys are there in your family?"

"There are seven," said Kate, "and if you want to use them as a basis
for a land estimate add two hundred and fifty for the home place.
Sixteen hundred and fifty is what Father pays tax on, besides the
numerous mortgages and investments.  He's the richest man in the county
we live in; at least he pays the most taxes."

Mother and son looked at each other in silence.  They had been thinking
her so poor that she would be bewildered by what they had to offer.
But if two hundred acres of land were her desire, there was a
possibility that she was a women who was not asking either ease or
luxury of life, and would refuse it if it were proffered.

"I hope you will take me home with you, and let me see all that land,
and how it is handled," said John Jardine.  "I don't own an acre.  I
never even have thought of it, but there is no reason why I, or any
member of my family shouldn't have all the land they want.  Mother, do
you feel a wild desire for two hundred acres of land?  Same kind of a
desire that took you to come here?"

"No, I don't," said Mrs. Jardine.  "All I know about land is that I
know it when I see it, and I know if I think it's pretty; but I can see
why Kate feels that she would like that amount for herself, after
having helped earn all those farms for her brothers.  If it's land she
wants, I hope she speedily gets all she desires in whatever location
she wants it; and then I hope she lets me come to visit her and watch
her do as she likes with it."

"Surely," said Kate, "you are invited right now; as soon as I ever get
the land, I'll give you another invitation.  And of course you may go
home with me, Mr. Jardine, and I'll show you each of what Father calls
'those little parcels of land of mine.'  But the one he lives on we
shall have to gaze at from afar, because I'm a Prodigal Daughter.  When
I would leave home in spite of him for the gay and riotous life of a
school-marm, he ordered me to take all my possessions with me, which I
did in one small telescope.  I was not to enter his house again while
he lived.  I was glad to go, he was glad to have me, while I don't
think either of us has changed our mind since.  Teaching school isn't
exactly gay, but I'll fill my tummy with quite a lot of symbolical
husks before he'll kill the fatted calf for me.  They'll be glad to see
you at my brother Adam's, and my sister, Nancy Ellen, would greatly
enjoy meeting you.  Surely you may go home with me, if you'd like."

"I can think of only one thing I'd like better," he said.  "We've been
such good friends here and had such a good time, it would be the thing
I'd like best to take you home with us, and show you where and how we
live.  Mother, did you ever invite Kate to visit us?"

"I have, often, and she has said that she would," replied Mrs. Jardine.
"I think it would be nice for her to go from here with us; and then you
can take her home whenever she fails to find us interesting.  How would
that suit you for a plan, my dear?"

"I think that would be a perfect ending to a perfect summer," said
Kate.  "I can't see an objection in any way.  Thank you very much."

"Then we'll call that settled," said John Jardine.



CHAPTER XI

A BUSINESS PROPOSITION

MID-AUGUST saw them on their way to Chicago.  Kate had taken care of
Mrs. Jardine a few days while Jennie Weeks went home to see her mother
and arrange for her new work.  She had no intention of going back to
school teaching.  She preferred to brush Mrs. Jardine's hair, button
her shoes, write her letters, and read to her.

In a month, Jennie had grown so deft at her work and made herself so
appreciated, that she was practically indispensable to the elderly
woman, and therefore the greatest comfort to John. Immediately he saw
that his mother was properly cared for, sympathetically and even
lovingly, he made it his business to smooth Jennie's path in every way
possible.  In turn she studied him, and in many ways made herself
useful to him.  Often she looked at him with large and speculative eyes
as he sat reading letters, or papers, or smoking.

The world was all right with Kate when they crossed the sand dunes as
they neared the city.  She was sorry about the situation in her home,
but she smiled sardonically as she thought how soon her father would
forget his anger when he heard about the city home and the kind of farm
she could have, merely by consenting to take it.  She was that sure of
John Jardine; yet he had not asked her to marry him.  He had seemed on
the verge of it a dozen times, and then had paused as if better
judgment told him it would be wise to wait a little longer.  Now Kate
had concluded that there was a definite thing he might be waiting for,
since that talk about land.

She thought possibly she understood what it was.  He was a business
man; he knew nothing else; he said so frankly.  He wanted to show her
his home, his business, his city, his friends, and then he required--he
had almost put it into words--that he be shown her home and her people.
Kate not only acquiesced, she approved.  She wanted to know as much of
a man she married as Nancy Ellen had known, and Robert had taken her to
his home and told his people she was his betrothed wife before he
married her.

Kate's eyes were wide open and her brain busy, as they entered a finely
appointed carriage and she heard John say:  "Rather sultry. Home down
the lake shore, George."  She wished their driver had not been named
"George," but after all it made no difference. There could not be a
commoner name than John, and she knew of but one that she liked better.
For the ensuing three days she lived in a Lake Shore home of wealth.
She watched closely not to trip in the heavy rugs and carpets.  She
looked at wonderful paintings and long shelves of books.  She never had
touched such china, or tasted such food or seen so good service.  She
understood why John had opposed his mother's undertaking the trip
without him, for everyone in the house seemed busy serving the little
woman.

Jennie Weeks was frankly enchanted.

"My sakes!" she said to Kate.  "If I'm not grateful to you for getting
me into a place like this.  I wouldn't give it up for all the
school-teaching in the world.  I'm going to snuggle right in here, and
make myself so useful I won't have to leave until I die. I hope you
won't turn me out when to come to take charge."

"Don't you think you're presuming?" said Kate.

Jennie drew back with a swift apology, but there was a flash in the
little eyes and a spiteful look on the small face as she withdrew.

Then Kate was shown each of John's wonderful inventions.  To her they
seemed almost miracles, because they were so obvious, so simple, yet
brought such astounding returns.  She saw offices and heard the
explanation of big business; but did not comprehend, farther than that
when an invention was completed, the piling up of money began.  Before
the week's visit was over, Kate was trying to fit herself and her aims
and objects of life into the surroundings, with no success whatever.
She felt housed in, cribbed, confined, frustrated.  When she realized
that she was becoming plainly cross, she began keen self-analysis and
soon admitted to herself that she did not belong there.

Kate watched with keen eyes.  Repeatedly she tried to imagine herself
in such surroundings for life, a life sentence, she expressed it, for
soon she understood that it would be to her, a prison.  The only way
she could imagine herself enduring it at all was to think of the
promised farm, and when she began to think of that on Jardine terms,
she saw that it would mean to sit down and tell someone else what she
wanted done.  There would be no battle to fight.  Her mind kept harking
back to the day when she had said to John that she hoped there would be
a lake on the land she owned, and he had answered casually:  "If there
isn't a lake, make one!"  Kate thought that over repeatedly.  "Make
one!"   Make a lake?  It would have seemed no more magical to her if he
had said, "Make a cloud," "Make a star," or "Make a rainbow."  "What on
earth would I do with myself, with my time, with my life?" pondered
Kate.

She said "Good-bye" to Mrs. Jardine and Jennie Weeks, and started home
with John, still pondering.  When the train pulled into Hartley, Nancy
Ellen and Robert were on the platform to meet them. From that time,
Kate was on solid ground.  She was reckoning in terms she could
comprehend.  All her former assurance and energy came back to her.  She
almost wished the visit were over, and that she were on the way to
Walton to clean the school-house.  She was eager to roll her sleeves
and beat a tub of soapy clothes to foam, and boil them snowy white.
She had a desire she could scarcely control to sweep, and dust, and
cook.  She had been out of the environment she thought she disliked and
found when she returned to it after a wider change than she could have
imagined, that she did not dislike it at all.  It was her element, her
work, what she knew.  She could attempt it with sure foot, capable
hand, and certain knowledge.

Sunday morning she said to Nancy Ellen as they washed the breakfast
dishes, while the men smoked on the veranda:  "Nancy Ellen, I don't
believe I was ever cut out for a rich woman!  If I have got a chance, I
wish YOU had it, and I had THIS.  This just suits my style to a T."

"Tell me about it," said Nancy Ellen.

Kate told all she could remember.

"You don't mean to say you didn't LIKE it?" cried Nancy Ellen.

"I didn't say anything," said Kate, "but if I were saying exactly what
I feel, you'd know I despise it all."

"Why, Kate Barnes!" cried the horrified Nancy Ellen, "Whatever do you
mean?"

"I haven't thought enough to put it to you clearly," said Kate, "but
someway the city repels me.  Facilities for manufacturing something
start a city.  It begins with the men who do the work, and the men who
profit from that work, living in the same coop. It expands, and goes
on, and grows, on that basis.  It's the laborer, living on his hire,
and the manufacturer living on the laborer's productions, coming in
daily contact.  The contrast is too great, the space is too small.
Somebody is going to get the life crowded out of him at every turn, and
it isn't always the work hand in the factory.  The money kings eat each
other for breakfast every day.  As for work, we always thought we
worked. You should take a peep into the shops and factories I've seen
this week.  Work?  Why, we don't know what work is, and we waste enough
food every day to keep a workman's family, and we're dressed liked
queens, in comparison with them right now."

"Do you mean to say if he asks you--?"  It was a small explosion.

"I mean to say if he asks me, 'buy me that two hundred acres of land
where I want it, build me the house and barns I want, and guarantee
that I may live there as I please, and I'll marry you to-morrow.'  If
it's Chicago--Never!  I haven't stolen, murdered, or betrayed, who
should I be imprisoned?"

"Why, you hopeless anarchist!" said Nancy Ellen, "I am going to tell
John Jardine on you."

"Do!" urged Kate.  "Sound him on the land question.  It's our only hope
of a common foundation.  Have you send Agatha word that we will be out
this afternoon?"

"I have," said Nancy Ellen.  "And I don't doubt that now, even now, she
is in the kitchen--how would she put it?"

"'Compounding a cake,'" said Kate, "while Adam is in the cellar
'freezing a custard.'  Adam, 3d, will be raking the yard afresh and
Susan will be sweeping the walks steadily from now until they sight us
coming down the road.  What you bet Agatha asked John his intentions?
I almost wish she would," she added.  "He has some, but there is a
string to them in some way, and I can't just make out where, or why it
is."

"Not even a guess?" asked Nancy Ellen.

"Not even a guess, with any sense to it.  I've thought it was coming
repeatedly; but I've got a stubborn Bates streak, and I won't lift a
finger to help him.  He'll speak up, loud and plain, or there will be
no 'connubial bliss' for us, as Agatha says.  I think he has ideas
about other things than freight train gear. According to his programme
we must have so much time to become acquainted, I must see his home and
people, he must see mine.  If there's more after that, I'm not
informed.  Like as not there is. It may come after we get back
to-night, I can't say."

"Have you told him--?" asked Nancy Ellen.

"Not the details, but the essentials.  He knows that I can't go home.
It came up one day in talking about land.  I guess they had thought
before, that my people were poor as church mice.  I happened to mention
how much land I had helped earn for my brothers, and they seemed so
interested I finished the job.  Well, after they had heard about the
Land King, it made a noticeable difference in their treatment of me.
Not that they weren't always fine, but it made, I scarcely know how to
put it, it was so intangible--but it was a difference, an added
respect.  You bet money is a power!  I can see why Father hangs on to
those deeds, when I get out in the world.  They are his compensation
for his years of hard work, the material evidence that he has succeeded
in what he undertook.  He'd show them to John Jardine with the same
feeling John showed me improved car couplers, brakes, and air cushions.
They stand for successes that win the deference of men. Out in the
little bit of world I've seen, I notice that men fight, bleed, and die
for even a tiny fraction of deference.  Aren't they funny?  What would
I care--?"

"Well, I'D care a lot!" said Nancy Ellen.

Kate surveyed her slowly.  "Yes, I guess you would."

They finished the dishes and went to church, because Robert was
accustomed to going.  They made a remarkable group.  Then they went to
the hotel for dinner, so that the girls would not have to prepare it,
and then in a double carriage Robert had secured for the occasion, they
drove to Bates Corners and as Kate said, "Viewed the landscape o'er."
Those eight pieces of land, none under two hundred acres, some slightly
over, all in the very highest state of cultivation, with modern houses,
barns, outbuildings, and fine stock grazing in the pastures, made an
impressive picture.  It was probably the first time that any of the
Bates girls had seen it all at once, and looked on it merely as a
spectacle.  They stopped at Adam's last, and while Robert was busy with
the team and John had alighted to help him, Nancy Ellen, revealing
tight lips and unnaturally red cheeks, leaned back to Kate.

"This is about as mean a trick, and as big a shame as I've ever seen,"
she said, hotly.  "You know I was brought up with this, and I never
looked at it with the eyes of a stranger before.  If ever I get my
fingers on those deeds, I'll make short work of them!"

"And a good job, too!" assented Kate, instantly.  "Look out! There
comes Adam."

"I'd just as soon tell him so as not!" whispered Nancy Ellen.

"Which would result in the deeds being recorded to-morrow and spoiling
our trip to-day, and what good would it do you?" said Kate.

"None, of course!  Nothing ever does a Bates girl any good, unless she
gets out and does it for herself," retorted Nancy Ellen spitefully.

"There, there," said Robert as he came to help Nancy Ellen protect her
skirts in alighting.  "I was afraid this trip would breed discontent."

"What's the trouble?" asked John, as he performed the same service for
Kate.

"Oh, the girls are grouching a little because they helped earn all
this, and are to be left out of it," explained Robert in a low voice.

"Let's get each one of them a farm that will lay any of these
completely in the shade," suggested John.

"All right for you, if you can do it," said Robert, laughing, "but I've
gone my limit for the present.  Besides, if you gave each of them two
hundred acres of the Kingdom of Heaven, it wouldn't stop them from
feeling that they had been defrauded of their birthright here."

"How would you feel if you was served the same way?" asked John, and
even as she shook hands with Adam, and introduced John Jardine, Kate
found herself wishing that he had said "were."

As the girls had predicted, the place was immaculate, the yard shady
and cool from the shelter of many big trees, the house comfortable,
convenient, the best of everything in sight.  Agatha and Susan were in
new white dresses, while Adam Jr. and 3d wore tan and white striped
seersucker coats, and white duck trousers. It was not difficult to feel
a glow of pride in the place and people.  Adam made them cordially
welcome.

"You undoubtedly are blessed with good fortune," said Agatha. "Won't
you please enlighten us concerning your travels, Katherine?"

So Kate told them everything she could think of that she thought would
interest and amuse them, even outlining for Agatha speeches she had
heard made by Dr. Vincent, Chaplain McCabe, Jehu DeWitt Miller, a
number of famous politicians, teachers, and ministers. Then all of them
talked about everything.  Adam took John and Robert to look over the
farm, whereupon Kate handed over her hat for Agatha to finger and try
on.

"And how long will it be, my dear," said Agatha to Kate, "before you
enter connubial bliss?"

"My goodness!  I'm glad you asked me that while the men are at the
barn," said Kate.  "Mr. Jardine hasn't said a word about it himself, so
please be careful what you say before him."

Agatha looked at Kate in wonder.

"You amaze me," she said.  "Why, he regards you as if he would devour
you.  He hasn't proposed for your hand, you say?  Surely you're not
giving him proper encouragement!"

"She isn't giving him any, further than allowing him to be around,"
said Nancy Ellen.

"Do enlighten me!" cried the surprised Agatha.  "How astonishing! Why,
Kate, my dear, there is a just and proper amount of encouragement that
MUST be given any self-respecting youth, before he makes his
declarations.  You surely know that."

"No, I do not know it!" said Kate.  "I thought it was a man's place to
speak up loud and plain and say what he had to propose."

"Oh, dear!" wailed Agatha, wringing her thin hands, her face a mirror
of distress.  "Oh, dear, I very much fear you will lose him.  Why,
Katherine, after a man has been to see you a certain number of times,
and evidenced enough interest in you, my dear, there are a thousand
strictly womanly ways in which you can lend his enterprise a little,
only a faint amount of encouragement, just enough to allow him to
recognize that he is not--not--er--repulsive to you."

"But how many times must he come, and how much interest must he
evince?" asked Kate.

"I can scarcely name an exact number," said Agatha.  "That is personal.
You must decide for yourself what is the psychological moment at which
he is to be taken.  Have you even signified to him that you--that
you--that you could be induced, even to CONTEMPLATE marriage?"

"Oh, yes," said Kate, heartily.  "I told his mother that it was the
height of my ambition to marry by the time I'm twenty.  I told her I
wanted a man as tall as I am, two hundred acres of land, and at least
twelve babies."

Agatha collapsed suddenly.  She turned her shocked face toward Nancy
Ellen.

"Great Day of Rest!" she cried.  "No wonder the man doesn't propose!"

When the men returned from their stroll, Agatha and Susan served them
with delicious frozen custard and Angel's food cake.  Then they resumed
their drive, passing Hiram's place last.  At the corner Robert
hesitated and turned to ask:  "Shall we go ahead, Kate?"

"Certainly," said Kate.  "I want Mr. Jardine to see where I was born
and spent my time of legal servitude.  I suppose we daren't stop.  I
doubt if Mother would want to see me, and I haven't the slightest doubt
that Father would NOT; but he has no jurisdiction over the road.  It's
the shortest way--and besides, I want to see the lilac bush and the
cabbage roses."

As they approached the place Nancy Ellen turned.

"Father's standing at the gate.  What shall we do?"

"There's nothing you can do, but drive straight ahead and you and
Robert speak to him," said Kate.  "Go fast, Robert."

He touched the team and at fair speed they whirled past the white
house, at the gate of which, stiffly erect, stood a brawny man of six
feet six, his face ruddy and healthy in appearance.  He was dressed as
he prepared himself to take a trip to pay his taxes, or to go to Court.
He stood squarely erect, with stern, forbidding face, looking directly
at them.  Robert spoke to him, and Nancy Ellen leaned forward and
waved, calling "Father," that she might be sure he knew her, but he
gave not the slightest sign of recognition.  They carried away a
distinct picture of him, at his best physically and in appearance; at
his worst mentally.

"There you have it!" said Kate, bitterly.  "I'd be safe in wagering a
thousand dollars, if I had it, that Agatha or the children told, at
Hiram's or to Mother's girl, that we were coming.  They knew we would
pass about this time.  Mother was at the side door watching, and Father
was in his Sunday best, waiting to show us what would happen if we
stopped, and that he never changes his mind.  It didn't happen by
accident that he was standing there dressed that way.  What do you
think, Nancy Ellen?"

"That he was watching for us!" said Nancy Ellen.

"But why do you suppose that he did it?" asked Kate.

"He thought that if he were NOT standing guard there, we might stop in
the road and at least call Mother out.  He wanted to be seen, and seen
at his best; but as always, in command, showing his authority."

"Don't mind," said John Jardine.  "It's easy to understand the
situation."

"Thank you," said Kate.  "I hope you'll tell your mother that.  I can't
bear her to think that the trouble is wholly my fault."

"No danger of that," he said.  "Mother thinks there's nobody in all the
world like you, and so do I."

Nancy Ellen kicked Robert's shin, to let him know that she heard. Kate
was very depressed for a time, but she soon recovered and they spent a
final happy evening together.  When John had parted from Robert and
Nancy Ellen, with the arrangement that he was to come again the
following Saturday evening and spend Sunday with them, he asked Kate to
walk a short distance with him.  He seemed to be debating some
proposition in his mind, that he did not know how to approach.  Finally
he stopped abruptly and said:  "Kate, Mother told me that she told you
how I grew up.  We have been together most of every day for six weeks.
I have no idea how a man used to women goes at what I want, so I can
only do what I think is right, and best, and above all honest, and
fair.  I'd be the happiest I've ever been, to do anything on earth I've
got the money to do, for you.  There's a question I'm going to ask you
the next time I come.  You can think over all you know of me, and of
Mother, and of what we have, and are, and be ready to tell me how you
feel about everything next Sunday.  There's one question I want to ask
you before I go.  In case we can plan for a life together next Sunday,
what about my mother?"

"Whatever pleases her best, of course," said Kate.  "Any arrangement
that you feel will make her happy, will be all right with me; in the
event we agree on other things."

He laughed, shortly.

"This sounds cold-blooded and business-like," he said.  "But Mother's
been all the world to me, until I met you.  I must be sure about her,
and one other thing.  I'll write you about that this week.  If that is
all right with you, you can get ready for a deluge.  I've held in as
long as I can.  Kate, will you kiss me good-bye?"

"That's against the rules," said Kate.  "That's getting the cart before
the horse."

"I know it," he said.  "But haven't I been an example for six weeks?
Only one.  Please?"

They were back at Dr. Gray's gate, standing in the deep shelter of a
big maple.  Kate said:  "I'll make a bargain with you.  I'll kiss you
to-night, and if we come to an agreement next Sunday night, you shall
kiss me.  Is that all right?"

The reply was so indistinct Kate was not sure of it; but she took his
face between her hands and gave him exactly the same kind of kiss she
would have given Adam, 3d.  She hesitated an instant, then gave him a
second.  "You may take that to your mother," she said, and fled up the
walk.



CHAPTER XII

TWO LETTERS

NANCY ELLEN and Robert were sitting on the side porch, not seeming in
the least sleepy, when Kate entered the house.  As she stepped out to
them, she found them laughing mysteriously.

"Take this chair, Kate," said Nancy Ellen.  "Come on, Robert, let's go
stand under the maple tree and let her see whether she can see us."

"If you're going to rehearse any momentous moment of your existence,"
said Kate, "I shouldn't think of even being on the porch.  I shall keep
discreetly in the house, even going at once to bed.  Good-night!
Pleasant dreams!"

"Now we've made her angry," said Robert.

"I think there WAS 'a little touch of asperity,' as Agatha would say,
in that," said Nancy Ellen, "but Kate has a good heart. She'll get over
it before morning."

"Would Agatha use such a common word as 'little'?" asked Robert.

"Indeed, no!" said Nancy Ellen.  "She would say 'infinitesimal.' But
all the same he kissed her."

"If she didn't step up and kiss him, never again shall I trust my
eyes!" said the doctor.

"Hush!" cautioned Nancy Ellen.  "She's provoked now; if she hears that,
she'll never forgive us."

Kate did not need even a hint to start her talking in the morning. The
day was fine, a snappy tinge of autumn in the air, her head and heart
were full.  Nancy Ellen would understand and sympathize; of course Kate
told her all there was to tell.

"And even at that," said Nancy Ellen, "he hasn't just come out right
square and said 'Kate, will you marry me?' as I understand it."

"Same here," laughed Kate.  "He said he had to be sure about his
mother, and there was 'one other thing' he'd write me about this week,
and he'd come again next Sunday; then if things were all right with
me--the deluge!"

"And what is 'the other thing?'" asked Nancy Ellen.

"There he has me guessing.  We had six, long, lovely weeks of daily
association at the lake, I've seen his home, and his inventions, and as
much of his business as is visible to the eye of a woman who doesn't
know a tinker about business.  His mother has told me minutely of his
life, every day since he was born, I think.  She insists that he never
paid the slightest attention to a girl before, and he says the same, so
there can't be any hidden ugly feature to mar my joy.  He is
thoughtful, quick, kind, a self-made business man.  He looks well
enough, he acts like a gentleman, he seldom makes a mistake in speech--"

"He doesn't say enough to MAKE any mistakes.  I haven't yet heard him
talk freely, give an opinion, or discuss a question," said Nancy Ellen.

"Neither have I," said Kate.  "He's very silent, thinking out more
inventions, maybe.  The worst thing about him is a kind of hard-headed
self-assurance.  He got it fighting for his mother from boyhood.  He
knew she would freeze and starve if he didn't take care of her; he HAD
to do it.  He soon found he could.  It took money to do what he had to
do.  He got the money.  Then he began performing miracles with it.  He
lifted his mother out of poverty, he dressed her 'in purple and fine
linen,' he housed her in the same kind of home other rich men of the
Lake Shore Drive live in, and gave her the same kind of service.  As
most men do, when things begin to come their way, he lived for making
money alone. He was so keen on the chase he wouldn't stop to educate
and culture himself; he drove headlong on, and on, piling up more, far
more than any one man should be allowed to have; so you can see that it
isn't strange that he thinks there's nothing on earth that money can't
do.  You can see THAT sticking out all over him.  At the hotel, on
boats, on the trains, anywhere we went, he pushed straight for the most
conspicuous place, the most desirable thing, the most expensive.  I
almost prayed sometimes that in some way he would strike ONE SINGLE
THING that he couldn't make come his way with money; but he never did.
No.  I haven't an idea what he has in his mind yet, but he's going to
write me about it this week, and if I agree to whatever it is, he is
coming Sunday; then he has threatened me with a 'deluge,' whatever he
means by that."

"He means providing another teacher for Walden, taking you to Chicago
shopping for a wonderful trousseau, marrying you in his Lake Shore
palace, no doubt."

"Well, if that's what he means by a 'deluge,'" said Kate, "he'll find
the flood coming his way.  He'll strike the first thing he can't do
with money.  I shall teach my school this winter as I agreed to.  I
shall marry him in the clothes I buy with what I earn.  I shall marry
him quietly, here, or at Adam's, or before a Justice of the Peace, if
neither of you wants me.  He can't pick me up, and carry me away, and
dress me, and marry me, as if I were a pauper."

"You're RIGHT about it," said Nancy Ellen.  "I don't know how we came
to be so different.  I should do at once any way he suggested to get
such a fine-looking man and that much money.  That it would be a
humiliation to me all my after life, I wouldn't think about until the
humiliation began, and then I'd have no way to protect myself.  You're
right!  But I'd get out of teaching this winter if I could.  I'd love
to have you here."

"But I must teach to the earn money for my outfit.  I'll have to go
back to school in the same old sailor."

"Don't you care," laughed Nancy Ellen.  "We know a secret!"

"That we do!" agreed Kate.

Wednesday Kate noticed Nancy Ellen watching for the boy Robert had
promised to send with the mail as soon as it was distributed, because
she was, herself.  Twice Thursday, Kate hoped in vain that the suspense
would be over.  It had to end Friday, if John were coming Saturday
night.  She began to resent the length of time he was waiting.  It was
like him to wait until the last minute, and then depend on money to
carry him through.

"He is giving me a long time to think things over," Kate said to Nancy
Ellen when there was no letter in the afternoon mail Thursday.

"It may have been lost or delayed," said Nancy Ellen.  "It will come
to-morrow, surely."

Both of them saw the boy turn in at the gate Friday morning.  Each saw
that he carried more than one letter.  Nancy Ellen was on her feet and
nearer to the door; she stepped to it, and took the letters, giving
them a hasty glance as she handed them to Kate.

"Two," she said tersely.  "One, with the address written in the clear,
bold hand of a gentleman, and one, the straggle of a country
clod-hopper."

Kate smiled as she took the letters:  "I'll wager my hat, which is my
most precious possession," she said, "that the one with the beautifully
written address comes from the 'clod-hopper,' and the 'straggle' from
the 'gentleman.'"

She glanced at the stamping and addresses and smiled again:  "So it
proves," she said.  "While I'm about it, I'll see what the
'clod-hopper' has to say, and then I shall be free to give my whole
attention to the 'gentleman.'"

"Oh, Kate, how can you!" cried Nancy Ellen.

"Way I'm made, I 'spect," said Kate.  "Anyway, that's the way this is
going to be done."

She dropped the big square letter in her lap and ran her finger under
the flap of the long, thin, beautifully addressed envelope, and drew
forth several quite as perfectly written sheets.  She read them slowly
and deliberately, sometimes turning back a page and going over a part
of it again.  When she finished, she glanced at Nancy Ellen while
slowly folding the sheets.  "Just for half a cent I'd ask you to read
this," she said.

"I certainly shan't pay anything for the privilege, but I'll read it,
if you want me to," offered Nancy Ellen.

"All right, go ahead," said Kate.  "It might possibly teach you that
you can't always judge a man by appearance, or hastily; though just why
George Holt looks more like a 'clod-hopper' than Adam, or Hiram, or
Andrew, it passes me to tell."

She handed Nancy Ellen the letter and slowly ripped open the flap of
the heavy white envelope.  She drew forth the sheet and sat an instant
with it in her fingers, watching the expression of Nancy Ellen's face,
while she read the most restrained yet impassioned plea that a man of
George Holt's nature and opportunities could devise to make to a woman
after having spent several months in the construction of it.  It was a
masterly letter, perfectly composed, spelled, and written; for among
his other fields of endeavour, George Holt had taught several terms of
country school, and taught them with much success; so that he might
have become a fine instructor, had it been in his blood to stick to
anything long enough to make it succeed.  After a page as she turned
the second sheet Nancy Ellen glanced at Kate, and saw that she had not
opened the creased page in her hands.  She flamed with sudden
irritation.

"You do beat the band!" she cried.  "You've watched for two days and
been provoked because that letter didn't come.  Now you've got it,
there you sit like a mummy and let your mind be so filled with this
idiotic drivel that you're not ever reading John Jardine's letter that
is to tell you what both of us are crazy to know."

"If you were in any mood to be fair and honest, you'd admit that you
never read a finer letter than THAT," said Kate.  "As for THIS, I never
was so AFRAID in all my life.  Look at that!"

She threw the envelope in Nancy Ellen's lap.

"That is the very first line of John Jardine's writing I have ever
seen," she said.  "Do you see anything about it to ENCOURAGE me to go
farther?"

"You Goose!" cried the exasperated Nancy Ellen.  "I suppose he
transacts so much business he scarcely ever puts pen to paper. What's
the difference how he writes?  Look at what he is and what he does!  Go
on and read his letter."

Kate arose and walked to the window, turning her back to Nancy Ellen,
who sat staring at her, while she read John Jardine's letter.  Once
Nancy Ellen saw Kate throw up her head and twist her neck as if she
were choking; then she heard a great gulping sob down in her throat;
finally Kate turned and stared at her with dazed, incredulous eyes.
Slowly she dropped the letter, deliberately set her foot on it, and
leaving the room, climbed the stairs.  Nancy Ellen threw George Holt's
letter aside and snatched up John Jardine's.  She read:


MY DEREST KATE:  I am a day late with this becos as I told you I have
no schooling and in writing a letter is where I prove it, so I never
write them, but it was not fare to you for you not to know what kind of
a letter I would write if I did write one, so here it is very bad no
dout but the best I can possably do which has got nothing at all to do
with my pashion for you and the aughful time I will have till I here
from you.  If you can stand for this telagraf me and I will come first
train and we will forget this and I will never write another letter.
With derest love from Mother, and from me all the love of my hart.
Forever yours only, JOHN JARDINE.


The writing would have been a discredit to a ten-year-old schoolboy.
Nancy Ellen threw the letter back on the floor; with a stiffly extended
finger, she poked it into the position in which she thought she had
found it, and slowly stepped back.

"Great God!" she said amazedly.  "What does the man mean?  Where does
that dainty and wonderful little mother come in?  She must be a regular
parasite, to take such ease and comfort for herself out of him, and not
see that he had time and chance to do better than THAT for himself.
Kate will never endure it, never in the world! And by the luck of the
very Devil, there comes that school-proof thing in the same mail, from
that abominable George Holt, and Kate reads it FIRST.  It's too bad!  I
can't believe it!  What did his mother mean?"

Suddenly Nancy Ellen began to cry bitterly; between sobs she could hear
Kate as she walked from closet and bureau to her trunk which she was
packing.  The lid slammed heavily and a few minutes later Kate entered
the room dressed for the street.

"Why are you weeping?" she asked casually.

Her eyes were flaming, her cheeks scarlet, and her lips twitching.
Nancy Ellen sat up and looked at her.  She pointed to the letter: "I
read that," she said.

"Well, what do I care?" said Kate.  "If he has no more respect for me
than to write me such an insult as that, why should I have the respect
for him to protect him in it?  Publish it in the paper if you want to."

"Kate, what are you going to do?" demanded Nancy Ellen.

"Three things," said Kate, slowly putting on her long silk gloves.
"First, I'm going to telegraph John Jardine that I never shall see him
again, if I can possibly avoid it.  Second, I'm going to send a drayman
to get my trunk and take it to Walden.  Third, I'm going to start out
and walk miles, I don't know or care where; but in the end, I'm going
to Walden to clean the schoolhouse and get ready for my winter term of
school."

"Oh, Kate, you are such a fine teacher!  Teach him!  Don't be so
hurried!  Take more time to think.  You will break his heart," pleaded
Nancy Ellen.

Kate threw out both hands, palms down.

"P-a-s-h, a-u-g-h, h-a-r-t, d-o-u-t, d-e-r-e," she slowly spelled out
the letters.  "What about my heart and my pride?  Think I can respect
that, or ask my children to respect it?  But thank you and Robert, and
come after me as often as you can, as a mercy to me. If John persists
in coming, to try to buy me, as he thinks he can buy anything he wants,
you needn't let him come to Walden; for probably I won't be there until
I have to, and I won't see him, or his mother, so he needn't try to
bring her in.  Say good-bye to Robert for me."

She walked from the house, head erect, shoulders squared, and so down
the street from sight.  In half an hour a truckman came for her trunk,
so Nancy Ellen made everything Kate had missed into a bundle to send
with it.  When she came to the letters, she hesitated.

"I guess she didn't want them," she said.  "I'll just keep them awhile
and if she doesn't ask about them, the next time she comes, I'll burn
them.  Robert must go after her every Friday evening, and we'll keep
her until Monday, and do all we can to cheer her; and this very day he
must find out all there is to know about that George Holt.  That IS the
finest letter I ever read; she does kind of stand up for him; and in
the reaction, impulsive as she is and self-confident--of course she
wouldn't, but you never can tell what kind of fool a girl will make of
herself, in some cases."

Kate walked swiftly, finished two of the errands she set out to do,
then her feet carried her three miles from Hartley on the Walden road,
before she knew where she was, so she proceeded to the village.

Mrs. Holt was not at home, but the house was standing open.  Kate found
her room cleaned, shining, and filled with flowers.  She paid the
drayman, opened her trunk, and put away her dresses, laying out all the
things which needed washing; then she bathed, put on heavy shoes, and
old skirt and waist, and crossing the road sat in a secluded place in
the ravine and looked stupidly at the water.  She noticed that
everything was as she had left it in the spring, with many fresher
improvements, made, no doubt, to please her.  She closed her eyes,
leaned against a big tree, and slow, cold and hot shudders alternated
in shaking her frame.

She did not open her eyes when she heard a step and her name called.
She knew without taking the trouble to look that George had come home,
found her luggage in her room, and was hunting for her.  She heard him
come closer and knew when he seated himself that he was watching her,
but she did not care enough even to move.  Finally she shifted her
position to rest herself, opened her eyes, and looked at him without a
word.  He returned her gaze steadily, smiling gravely.  She had never
seen him looking so well.  He had put in the summer grooming himself,
he had kept up the house and garden, and spent all his spare time on
the ravine, and farming on the shares with his mother's sister who
lived three miles east of them.  At last she roused herself and again
looked at him.

"I had your letter this morning," she said.

"I was wondering about that," he replied.

"Yes, I got it just before I started," said Kate.  "Are you surprised
to see me?"

"No," he answered.  "After last year, we figured you might come the
last of this week or the first of next, so we got your room ready
Monday."

"Thank you," said Kate.  "It's very clean and nice."

"I hope soon to be able to offer you such a room and home as you should
have," he said.  "I haven't opened my office yet.  It was late and hot
when I got home in June and Mother was fussing about this winter--that
she had no garden and didn't do her share at Aunt Ollie's, so I have
farmed most of the summer, and lived on hope; but I'll start in and
make things fly this fall, and by spring I'll be sailing around with a
horse and carriage like the best of them.  You bet I am going to make
things hum, so I can offer you anything you want."

"You haven't opened an office yet?" she asked for the sake of saying
something, and because a practical thing would naturally suggest itself
to her.

"I haven't had a breath of time," he said in candid disclaimer.

"Why don't you ask me what's the matter?"

"Didn't figure that it was any of my business in the first place," he
said, "and I have a pretty fair idea, in the second."

"But how could you have?" she asked in surprise.

"When your sister wouldn't give me your address, she hinted that you
had all the masculine attention you cared for; then Tilly Nepple
visited town again last week and she had been sick and called Dr. Gray.
She asked him about you, and he told what I fine time you had at
Chautauqua and Chicago, with the rich new friends you'd made.  I was
watching for you about this time, and I just happened to be at the
station in Hartley last Saturday when you got off the train with your
fine gentleman, so I stayed over with some friends of mine, and I saw
you several times Sunday.  I saw that I'd practically no chance with
you at all; but I made up my mind I'd stick until I saw you marry him,
so I wrote just as I would if I hadn't known there was another man in
existence."

"That was a very fine letter," said Kate.

"It is a very fine, deep, sincere love that I am offering you," said
George Holt.  "Of course I could see prosperity sticking out all over
that city chap, but it didn't bother me much, because I knew that you,
of all women, would judge a man on his worth.  A rising young
professional man is not to be sneered at, at least until he makes his
start and proves what he can do.  I couldn't get an early start,
because I've always had to work, just as you've seen me last summer and
this, so I couldn't educate myself so fast, but I've gone as fast and
far as I could."

Kate winced.  This was getting on places that hurt and to matters she
well understood, but she was the soul of candour.  "You did very well
to educate yourself as you have, with no help at all," she said.

"I've done my best in the past, I'm going to do marvels in the future,
and whatever I do, it is all for you and yours for the taking," he said
grandiosely.

"Thank you," said Kate.  "But are you making that offer when you can't
help seeing that I'm in deep trouble?"

"A thousand times over," he said.  "All I want to know about your
trouble is whether there is anything a man of my size and strength can
do to help you."

"Not a thing," said Kate, "in the direction of slaying a gay deceiver,
if that's what you mean.  The extent of my familiarities with John
Jardine consists in voluntarily kissing him twice last Sunday night for
the first and last time, once for himself, and once for his mother,
whom I have since ceased to respect."

George Holt was watching her with eyes lynx-sharp, but Kate never saw
it.  When she mentioned her farewell of Sunday night, a queer smile
swept over his face and instantly disappeared.

"I should thing any girl might be permitted that much, in saying a
final good-bye to a man who had shown her a fine time for weeks," he
commented casually.

"But I didn't know I was saying good-bye," explained Kate.  "I expected
him back in a week, and that I would then arrange to marry him.  That
was the agreement we made then."

As she began to speak, George Holt's face flashed triumph at having led
her on; at what she said it fell perceptibly, but he instantly
controlled it and said casually:  "In any event, it was your own
business."

"It was," said Kate.  "I had given no man the slightest encouragement,
I was perfectly free.  John Jardine was courting me openly in the
presence of his mother and any one who happened to be around.  I
intended to marry him.  I liked him as much as any man need be liked.
I don't know whether it was the same feeling Nancy Ellen had for Robert
Gray or not, but it was a whole lot of feeling of some kind.  I was
satisfied with it, and he would have been.  I meant to be a good wife
to him and a good daughter to his mother, and I could have done much
good in the world and extracted untold pleasure from the money he would
have put in my power to handle.  All was going 'merry as a marriage
bell,' and then this morning came my Waterloo, in the same post with
your letter."

"Do you know what you are doing?" cried George Holt, roughly, losing
self-control with hope.  "YOU ARE PROVING TO ME, AND ADMITTING TO
YOURSELF, THAT YOU NEVER LOVED THAT MAN AT ALL.  You were flattered,
and tempted with position and riches, but your heart was not his, or
you would be mighty SURE of it, don't you forget that!"

"I am not interested in analyzing exactly what I felt for him," said
Kate.  "It made small difference then; it makes none at all now.  I
would have married him gladly, and I would have been to him all a good
wife is to any man; then in a few seconds I turned squarely against
him, and lost my respect for him.  You couldn't marry me to him if he
were the last and only man on earth; but it hurt terribly, let me tell
you that!"

George Holt suddenly arose and went to Kate.  He sat down close beside
her and leaned toward her.

"There isn't the least danger of my trying to marry you to him," he
said, "because I am going to marry you myself at the very first
opportunity.  Why not now?  Why not have a simple ceremony somewhere at
once, and go away until school begins, and forget him, having a good
time by ourselves?  Come on, Kate, let's do it! We can go stay with
Aunt Ollie, and if he comes trying to force himself on you, he'll get
what he deserves.  He'll learn that there is something on earth he
can't buy with his money."

"But I don't love you," said Kate.

"Neither did you love him," retorted George Holt.  "I can prove it by
what you say.  Neither did you love him, but you were going to marry
him, and use all his wonderful power of position and wealth, and trust
to association to BRING love.  You can try that with me. As for wealth,
who cares?  We are young and strong, and we have a fine chance in the
world.  You go on and teach this year, and I'll get such a start that
by next year you can be riding around in your carriage, proud as
Pompey."

"Of course we could make it all right, as to a living," said Kate. "Big
and strong as we are, but--"

Then the torrent broke.  At the first hint that she would consider his
proposal George Holt drew her to him and talked volumes of impassioned
love to her.  He gave her no chance to say anything; he said all there
was to say himself; he urged that Jardine would come, and she should
not be there.  He begged, he pleaded, he reasoned.  Night found Kate
sitting on the back porch at Aunt Ollie's with a confused memory of
having stood beside the little stream with her hand in George Holt's
while she assented to the questions of a Justice of the Peace, in the
presence of the School Director and Mrs. Holt.  She knew that
immediately thereafter they had walked away along a hot, dusty country
road; she had tried to eat something that tasted like salted ashes.
She could hear George's ringing laugh of exultation breaking out afresh
every few minutes; in sudden irritation at the latest guffaw she
clearly remembered one thing:  in her dazed and bewildered state she
had forgotten to tell him that she was a Prodigal Daughter.



CHAPTER XIII

THE BRIDE

ONLY one memory in the ten days that followed before her school began
ever stood out clearly and distinctly with Kate.  That was the morning
of the day after she married George Holt.  She saw Nancy Ellen and
Robert at the gate so she went out to speak with them.  Nancy Ellen was
driving, she held the lines and the whip in her hands.  Kate in dull
apathy wondered why they seemed so deeply agitated.  Both of them
stared at her as if she might be a maniac.

"Is this thing in the morning paper true?" cried Nancy Ellen in a high,
shrill voice that made Kate start in wonder.  She did not take the
trouble to evade by asking "what thing?" she merely made assent with
her head.

"You are married to that--that--" Nancy Ellen choked until she could
not say what.

"It's TIME to stop, since I am married to him," said Kate, gravely.

"You rushed in and married him without giving Robert time to find out
and tell you what everybody knows about him?" demanded Nancy Ellen.

"I married him for what I knew about him myself," said Kate.  "We shall
do very well."

"Do well!" cried Nancy.  "Do well!  You'll be hungry and in rags the
rest of your life!"

"Don't, Nancy Ellen, don't!" plead Robert.  "This is Kate's affair,
wait until you hear what she has to say before you go further."

"I don't care what she has to say!" cried Nancy Ellen.  "I'm saying my
say right now.  This is a disgrace to the whole Bates family.  We may
not be much, but there isn't a lazy, gambling, drunken loafer among us,
and there won't be so far as I'm concerned."

She glared at Kate who gazed at her in wonder.

"You really married this lout?" she demanded.

"I told you I was married," said Kate, patiently, for she saw that
Nancy Ellen was irresponsible with anger.

"You're going to live with him, you're going to stay in Walden to
live?" she cried.

"That is my plan at present," said Kate.

"Well, see that YOU STAY THERE," said Nancy Ellen.  "You can't bring
that--that creature to my house, and if you're going to be his wife,
you needn't come yourself.  That's all I've got to say to you, you
shameless, crazy--"

"Nancy Ellen, you shall not!" cried Robert Gray, deftly slipping the
lines from her fingers, and starting the horse full speed. Kate saw
Nancy Ellen's head fall forward, and her hands lifted to cover her
face.  She heard the deep, tearing sob that shook her, and then they
were gone.  She did not know what to do, so she stood still in the hot
sunshine, trying to think; but her brain refused to act at her will.
When the heat became oppressive, she turned back to the shade of a
tree, sat down, and leaned against it.  There she got two things clear
after a time.  She had married George Holt, there was nothing to do but
make the best of it.  But Nancy Ellen had said that if she lived with
him she should not come to her home.  Very well.  She had to live with
him, since she had consented to marry him, so she was cut off from
Robert and Nancy Ellen.  She was now a prodigal, indeed.  And those
things Nancy Ellen had said--she was wild with anger.  She had been
misinformed.  Those things could not be true.

"Shouldn't you be in here helping Aunt Ollie?" asked George's voice
from the front step where he seated himself with his pipe.

"Yes, in a minute," said Kate, rising.  "Did you see who came?"

"No.  I was out doing the morning work.  Who was it?" he asked.

"Nancy Ellen and Robert," she answered.

He laughed hilariously:  "Brought them in a hurry, didn't we?  Why
didn't they come in?"

"They came to tell me," said Kate, slowly, "that if I had married you
yesterday, as I did, that they felt so disgraced that I wasn't to come
to their home again."

"'Disgraced?'" he cried, his colour rising.  "Well, what's the matter
with me?"

"Not the things they said, I fervently hope."

"Well, they have some assurance to come out here and talk about me, and
you've got as much to listen, and then come and tell me about it," he
cried.

"It was over in a minute," said Kate.  "I'd no idea what they were
going to say.  They said it, and went.  Oh, I can't spare Nancy Ellen,
she's all I had!"

Kate sank down on the step and covered her face.  George took one long
look at her, arose, and walked out of hearing.  He went into the garden
and watched from behind a honeysuckle bush until he saw her finally
lift her head and wipe her eyes; then he sauntered back, and sat down
on the step beside her.

"That's right," he said.  "Cry it out, and get it over.  It was pretty
mean of them to come out here and insult you, and tell any lie they
could think up, and then drive away and leave you; but don't mind,
they'll soon get over it.  Nobody ever keeps up a fuss over a wedding
long."

"Nancy Ellen never told a lie in her life," said Kate.  "She has too
much self-respect.  What she said she THOUGHT was true.  My only chance
is that somebody has told her a lie.  You know best if they did."

"Of course they did," he broke in, glibly.  "Haven't you lived in the
same house with me long enough to know me better than any one else
does?"

"You can live in the same house with people and know less about them
than any one else, for that matter," said Kate, "but that's neither
here nor there.  We're in this together, we got to get on the job and
pull, and make a success out of it that will make all of them proud to
be our friends.  That's the only thing left for me.  As I know the
Bates, once they make up their minds, they never change.  With Nancy
Ellen and Father both down on me, I'm a prodigal for sure."

"What?" he cried, loudly.  "What?  Is your father in this, too? Did he
send you word you couldn't come home, either?  This is a hell of a
mess!  Speak up!"

Kate closed her lips, looked at him with deep scorn, and walked around
the corner of the house.  For a second he looked after her
threateningly, then he sprang to his feet, and ran to her, catching her
in his arms.

"Forgive me, dearest," he cried.  "That took the wind out of my sails
until I was a brute.  You'd no business to SAY a thing like that.  Of
course we can't have the old Land King down on us. We've got to have
our share of that land and money to buy us a fine home in Hartley, and
fix me up the kind of an office I should have.  We'll borrow a rig and
drive over to-morrow and fix things solid with the old folks.  You bet
I'm a star-spangled old persuader, look what I did with you--"

"You stop!" cried Kate, breaking from his hold.  "You will drive me
crazy!  You're talking as if you married me expecting land and money
from it.  I haven't been home in a year, and my father would
deliberately kill me if I went within his reach."

"Well, score one for little old scratchin', pickin', Mammy!" he cried.
"She SAID you had a secret!"

Kate stood very still, looking at him so intently that a sense of shame
must have stirred in his breast.

"Look here, Kate," he said, roughly.  "Mother did say you had a secret,
and she hinted at Christmas that the reason you didn't go home was
because your folks were at outs with you, and you can ask her if I
didn't tell her to shut up and leave you alone, that I was in love with
you, and I'd marry you and we'd get along all right, even if you were
barred from home, and didn't get a penny. I just dare you to ask her."

"It's no matter," said Kate, wearily.  "I'd rather take your word."

"All right, you take it, for that's the truth," he said.  "But what was
the rumpus?  How did you come to have a racket with your old man?"

"Over my wanting to teach," said Kate.  Then she explained in detail.

"Pother!  Don't you fret about that!" said George.  "I'm taking care of
you now, and I'll see that you soon get home and to Grays', too; that's
all buncombe.  As for your share of your father's estate, you watch me
get it!  You are his child, and there is law!"

"There's law that allows him to deed his land to his sons before he
dies, and that is exactly what he has done," said Kate.

"The Devil, you say!" shouted George Holt, stepping back to stare at
her.  "You tell that at the Insane Asylum or the Feeble Minded Home!
I've seen the records!  I know to the acre how much land stands in your
father's name.  Don't try to work that on me, my lady."

"I am not trying to work anything on you," said Kate, dully, wondering
to herself why she listened, why she went on with it. "I'm merely
telling you.  In Father's big chest at the head of his bed at home lies
a deed for two hundred acres of land for each of his seven sons, all
signed and ready to deliver.  He keeps the land in his name on record
to bring him distinction and feed his vanity.  He makes the boys pay
the taxes, and ko-tow, and help with his work; he keeps them under
control; but the land is theirs; none of the girls get a penny's worth
of it!"

George Holt cleared his face with an effort.

"Well, we are no worse off than the rest of them, then," he said,
trying to speak naturally and cheerfully.  "But don't you ever believe
it!  Little old Georgie will sleep with this in his night cap awhile,
and it's a problem he will solve if he works himself to death on it."

"But that is Father's affair," said Kate.  "You had best turn your
efforts, and lie awake nights thinking how to make enough money to buy
some land for us, yourself."

"Certainly!  Certainly!  I see myself doing it!" laughed George Holt.
"And now, knowing how you feel, and feeling none to good myself, we are
going to take a few days off and go upstream, fishing.  I'll take a
pack of comforts to sleep on, and the tackle and some food, and we will
forget the whole bunch and go have a good time.  There's a place, not
so far away, where I have camped beside a spring since I was a little
shaver, and it's quiet and cool.  Go get what you can't possibly exist
without, nothing more."

"But we must dig the potatoes," protested Kate.

"Let them wait until we get back; it's a trifle early, anyway," he
said.  "Stop objecting and get ready!  I'll tell Aunt Ollie. We're
chums.  Whatever I do is always all right with her.  Come on!  This is
our wedding trip.  Not much like the one you had planned, no doubt, but
one of some kind."

So they slipped beneath the tangle of vines and bushes, and, following
the stream of the ravine, they walked until mid-afternoon, when they
reached a spot that was very lovely, a clear, clean spring, grassy
bank, a sheltered cave-in floored with clean sand, warm and golden.
From the depths of the cave George brought an old frying pan and coffee
pot.  He spread a comfort on the sand of the cave for a bed, produced
coffee, steak, bread, butter, and fruit from his load, and told Kate to
make herself comfortable while he got dinner.  They each tried to make
allowances for, and to be as decent as possible with, the other, with
the result that before they knew it, they were having a good time; at
least, they were keeping the irritating things they thought to
themselves, and saying only the pleasant ones.

After a week, which George enjoyed to the fullest extent, while Kate
made the best of everything, they put away the coffee pot and frying
pan, folded the comforts, and went back to Aunt Ollie's for dinner;
then to Walden in the afternoon.  Because Mrs. Holt knew they would be
there that day she had the house clean and the best supper she could
prepare ready for them.  She was in a quandary as to how to begin with
Kate.  She heartily hated her.  She had been sure the girl had a
secret, now she knew it; for if she did not attend the wedding of her
sister, if she had not been at home all summer, if her father and
mother never mentioned her name or made any answer to any one who did,
there was a reason, and a good reason.  Of course a man as rich as Adam
Bates could do no wrong; whatever the trouble was, Kate was at fault,
she had done some terrible thing.

"Hidin' in the bushes!" spat Mrs. Holt.  "Hidin' in the bushes! Marry a
man who didn't know he was goin' to be married an hour before,
unbeknownst to her folks, an' wouldn't even come in the house, an' have
a few of the neighbours in.  Nice doin's for the school-ma'am!  Nice
prospect for George."

Mrs. Holt hissed like a copperhead, which was a harmless little
creature compared with her, as she scraped, and slashed, and
dismembered the chicken she was preparing to fry.  She had not been
able, even by running into each store in the village, and the post
office, to find one person who would say a word against Kate. The girl
had laid her foundations too well.  The one thing people could and did
say was:  "How could she marry George Holt?"  The worst of them could
not very well say it to his mother.  They said it frequently to each
other and then supplied the true answers. "Look how he spruced up after
she came!"  "Look how he worked!" "Look how he ran after and waited on
her!"  "Look how nice he has been all summer!"  Plenty was being said
in Walden, but not one word of it was for the itching ears of Mrs.
Holt.  They had told her how splendid Kate was, how they loved her, how
glad they were that she was to have the school again, how fortunate her
son was, how proud she should be, until she was almost bursting with
repressed venom.

She met them at the gate, after their week's camping.  They were
feeling in splendid health, the best spirits possible in the
circumstances, but appearing dirty and disreputable.  They were both
laughing as they approached the gate.

"Purty lookin' bride you be!" Mrs. Holt spat at Kate.

"Yes, aren't I?" laughed Kate.  "But you just give me a tub of hot
soapsuds and an hour, and you won't know me.  How are you?  Things look
as if you were expecting us."

"Hump!" said Mrs. Holt.

Kate laughed and went into the house.  George stepped in front of his
mother.

"Now you look here," he said.  "I know every nasty thing your mind has
conjured up that you'd LIKE to say, and have other folks say, about
Kate.  And I know as well as if you were honest enough to tell me, that
you haven't been able to root out one living soul who would say a
single word against her.  Swallow your secret! Swallow your suspicions!
Swallow your venom, and forget all of them.  Kate is as fine a woman as
God ever made, and anybody who has common sense knows it.  She can just
MAKE me, if she wants to, and she will; she's coming on fine, much
faster and better than I hoped for.  Now you drop this!  Stop it!  Do
you hear?"

He passed her and hurried up the walk.  In an hour, both George and
Kate had bathed and dressed in their very best.  Kate put on her
prettiest white dress and George his graduation suit.  Then together
they walked to the post office for their mail, which George had ordered
held, before they left.  Carrying the bundle, they entered several
stores on trifling errands, and then went home.  They stopped and spoke
to everyone.  Kate kissed all her little pupils she met, and told them
to come to see her, and to be ready to help clean the schoolhouse in
the morning.  Word flew over town swiftly.  The Teacher was back,
wearing the loveliest dress, and nicer than ever, and she had invited
folks to come to see her.

Kate and George had scarcely finished their supper, when the first pair
of shy little girls came for their kisses and to bring "Teacher" a
bunch of flowers and a pretty pocket handkerchief from each.  They came
in flocks, each with flowers, most with a towel or some small
remembrance; then the elders began to come, merchants with comforts,
blankets, and towels, hardware men with frying pans, flat irons, and
tinware.  By ten o'clock almost everyone in Walden had carried Kate
some small gift, wished her joy all the more earnestly, because they
felt the chances of her ever having it were so small, and had gone
their way, leaving her feeling better than she had thought possible.

She slipped into her room alone and read two letters, one a few
typewritten lines from John Jardine, saying he had been at Hartley,
also at Walden, and having found her married and gone, there was
nothing for him to do but wish that the man she married had it in his
heart to guard her life and happiness as he would have done.  He would
never cease to love her, and if at any time in her life there was
anything he could do for her, would she please let him know.  Kate
dropped the letter on her dresser, with a purpose, and let it lie
there.  The other was from Robert.  He said he was very sorry, but he
could do nothing with Nancy Ellen at present.  He hoped she would
change later.  If there was ever anything he could do, to let him know.
Kate locked that letter in her trunk.  She wondered as she did so why
both of them seemed to think she would need them in the future.  She
felt perfectly able to take care of herself.

Monday morning George carried Kate's books to school for her, saw that
she was started on her work in good shape, then went home, put on his
old clothes, and began the fall work at Aunt Ollie's. Kate, wearing her
prettiest blue dress, forgot even the dull ache in her heart, as she
threw herself into the business of educating those young people.  She
worked as she never had before.  She seemed to have developed fresh
patience, new perception, keener penetration; she made the dullest of
them see her points, and interested the most inattentive.  She went
home to dinner feeling better.  She decided to keep on teaching a few
years until George was well started in his practice; if he ever got
started.  He was very slow in action it seemed to her, compared with
his enthusiasm when he talked.



CHAPTER XIV

STARTING MARRIED LIFE

FOR two weeks Kate threw herself into the business of teaching with all
her power.  She succeeded in so interesting herself and her pupils that
she was convinced she had done a wise thing. Marriage did not interfere
with her teaching; she felt capable and independent so long as she had
her salary.  George was working and working diligently, to prepare for
winter, whenever she was present or could see results.  With her first
month's salary she would buy herself a warm coat, a wool suit, an extra
skirt for school, and some waists.  If there was enough left, she would
have another real hat.  Then for the remainder of the year she would
spend only for the barest necessities and save to help toward a home
something like Nancy Ellen's.  Whenever she thought of Nancy Ellen and
Robert there was a choking sensation in her throat, a dull ache where
she had been taught her heart was located.

For two weeks everything went as well as Kate hoped:  then Mrs. Holt
began to show the results of having been partially bottled up, for the
first time in her life.  She was careful to keep to generalities which
she could claim meant nothing, if anything she said was taken up by
either George or Kate.  George was too lazy to quarrel unless he was
personally angered; Kate thought best to ignore anything that did not
come in the nature of a direct attack.  So long as Mrs. Holt could not
understand how some folks could see their way to live off of other
folks, or why a girl who had a chance to marry a fortune would make
herself a burden to a poor man, Kate made the mistake of ignoring her.
Thus emboldened she soon became personal.  It seemed as if she spent
her spare time and mental force thinking up suggestive, sarcastic
things to say, where Kate could not help hearing them.  She paid no
attention unless the attack was too mean and premeditated; but to her
surprise she found that every ugly, malicious word the old woman said
lodged in her brain and arose to confront her at the most inopportune
times--in the middle of a recitation or when she roused enough to turn
over in her bed at night.  The more vigorously she threw herself into
her school work, the more she realized a queer lassitude, creeping over
her.  She kept squaring her shoulders, lifting her chin, and brushing
imaginary cobwebs from before her face.

The final Friday evening of the month, she stopped at the post office
and carried away with her the bill for her Leghorn hat, mailed with
nicely conceived estimate as to when her first check would be due.
Kate visited the Trustee, and smiled grimly as she slipped the amount
in an envelope and gave it to the hack driver to carry to Hartley on
his trip the following day.  She had intended all fall to go with him
and select a winter headpiece that would be no discredit to her summer
choice, but a sort of numbness was in her bones; so she decided to wait
until the coming week before going.  She declined George's pressing
invitation to go along to Aunt Ollie's and help load and bring home a
part of his share of their summer's crops, on the ground that she had
some work to prepare for the coming week.

Then Kate went to her room feeling faint and heavy.  She lay there most
of the day, becoming sorrier for herself, and heavier every passing
hour.  By morning she was violently ill; when she tried to leave her
bed, dizzy and faint.  All day she could not stand. Toward evening, she
appealed to George either to do something for her himself, or to send
for the village doctor.  He asked her a few questions and then,
laughing coarsely, told her that a doctor would do her no good, and
that it was very probable that she would feel far worse before she felt
better.  Kate stared at him in dumb wonder.

"But my school!" she cried.  "My school!  I must be able to go to
school in the morning.  Could that spring water have been infected with
typhus?  I've never been sick like this before."

"I should hope not!" said George.  And then he told her bluntly what
caused her trouble.  Kate had been white to begin with, now she slowly
turned greenish as she gazed at him with incredulous eyes.  Then she
sprang to her feet.

"But I can't be ill!" she cried.  "I can't!  There is my school! I've
got to teach!  Oh, what shall I do?"

George had a very clear conception of what she could do, but he did not
intend to suggest it to her.  She could think of it, and propose it
herself.  She could not think of anything at that minute, because she
fainted, and fell half on the bed, half in his arms as he sprang to
her.  He laid her down, and stood a second smiling triumphantly at her
unheeding face.

"Easy snap for you this winter, Georgie, my boy!" he muttered.  "I
don't see people falling over each other to get to you for professional
services, and it's hard work anyway.  Zonoletics are away above the
head of these country ignoramuses; blue mass and quinine are about
their limit."

He took his time to bathe Kate's face.  Presently she sat up, then fell
on the pillow again.

"Better not try that!" warned George.  "You'll hurt yourself, and you
can't make it.  You're out of the game; you might as well get used to
it."

"I won't be out of the game!" cried Kate.  "I can't be!  What will
become of my school?  Oh, George, could you possibly teach for me, only
for a few days, until I get my stomach settled?"

"Why, I'd like to help you," he said, "but you see how it is with me.
I've got my fall work finished up, and I'm getting ready to open my
office next week.  I'm going to rent that nice front room over the post
office."

"But, George, you must," said Kate.  "You've taught several terms.
You've a license.  You can take it until this passes.  If you have
waited from June to October to open your office, you can wait a few
more days.  Suppose you OPEN the office and patients don't come, or we
haven't the school; what would we LIVE on?  What would I buy things
with, and pay doctor bills?"

"Why didn't you think of that before you got married?  What was your
rush, anyway?  I can't figure it to save my soul," he said.

"George, the school can't go," she cried.  "If what you say is true,
and I suspect it is, I must have money to see me through."

"Then set your wits to work and fix things up with your father," he
said casually.

Kate arose tall and straight, standing unwaveringly as she looked at
him in blazing contempt.

"So?" she said.  "This is the kind of man you are?  I'm not so helpless
as you think me.  I have a refuge.  I know where to find it.  You'll
teach my school until I'm able to take it myself, if the Trustee and
patrons will allow you, or I'll sever my relations with you as quickly
as I formed them.  You have no practice; I have grave doubts if you can
get any; this is our only chance for the money we must have this
winter.  Go ask the Trustee to come here until I can make arrangements
with him."

Then she wavered and rolled on the bed again.  George stood looking at
her between narrowed eyelids.

"Tactics I use with Mother don't go with you, old girl," he said to
himself.  "Thing of fire and tow, stubborn as an ox; won't be pushed a
hair's breadth; old Bates over again--alike as two peas.  But I'll
break you, damn you, I'll break you; only, I WANT that school.  Lots
easier than kneading somebody's old stiff muscles, while the money is
sure.  Oh, I go after the Trustee, all right!"

He revived Kate, and telling her to keep quiet, and not excite herself,
he explained that it was a terrible sacrifice to him to put off opening
his office any longer; she must forgive him for losing self-control
when he thought of it; but for her dear sake he would teach until she
was better--possibly she would be all right in a few days, and then she
could take her work again. Because she so devoutly hoped it, Kate made
that arrangement with the Trustee.  Monday, she lay half starved, yet
gagging and ill, while George went to teach her school.  As she
contemplated that, she grew sicker than she had been before.  When she
suddenly marshalled all the facts she knew of him, she stoutly refused
to think of what Nancy Ellen had said; when she reviewed his character
and disposition, and thought of him taking charge of the minds of her
pupils, Kate suddenly felt she must not allow that to happen, she must
not!  Then came another thought, even more personal and terrible, a
thought so disconcerting she mercifully lost consciousness again.

She sent for the village doctor, and found no consolation from her talk
with him.  She was out of the school; that was settled.  No harpy ever
went to its meat with one half the zest Mrs. Holt found in the
situation.  With Kate so ill she could not stand on her feet half the
time, so ill she could not reply, with no spirit left to appeal to
George, what more could be asked?  Mrs. Holt could add to every
grievance she formerly had, that of a sick woman in the house for her
to wait on.  She could even make vile insinuations to Kate, prostrate
and helpless, that she would not have dared otherwise.  She could
prepare food that with a touch of salt or sugar where it was not
supposed to be, would have sickened a well person.  One day George came
in from school and saw a bowl of broth sitting on a chair beside Kate's
bed.

"Can't you drink it?" he asked.  "Do, if you possibly can," he urged.
"You'll get so weak you'll be helpless."

"I just can't," said Kate.  "Things have such a sickening, sweetish
taste, or they are bitter, or sour; not a thing is as it used to be.  I
simply can't!"

A curious look crept over George's face.  He picked up the bowl and
tasted the contents.  Instantly his face went black; he started toward
the kitchen.  Kate heard part of what happened, but she never lifted
her head.  After a while he came back with more broth and a plate of
delicate toast.

"Try this," he said.  "I made it myself."

Kate ate ravenously.

"That's good!" she cried.

"I'll tell you what I'm going to do," he said.  "I'm going to take you
out to Aunt Ollie's for a week after school to-night.  Want to go?"

"Yes!  Oh, yes!" cried Kate.

"All right," he said.  "I know where I can borrow a rig for an hour.
Get ready if you are well enough, if you are not, I'll help you after
school."

That week with Aunt Ollie remained a bright spot in Kate's memory. The
October days were beginning to be crisp and cool.  Food was different.
She could sleep, she could eat many things Aunt Ollie knew to prepare
especially; soon she could walk and be outdoors. She was so much better
she wrote George a note, asking him to walk out and bring her sewing
basket, and some goods she listed, and in the afternoons the two women
cut and sewed quaint, enticing little garments.  George found Kate so
much better when he came that he proposed she remain another week.
Then for the first time he talked to her about her theory of government
and teaching, until she realized that the School Director had told him
he was dissatisfied with him--so George was trying to learn her ways.
Appalled at what might happen if he lost the school, Kate made notes,
talked at length, begged him to do his best, and to come at once if
anything went wrong.  He did come, and brought the school books so she
went over the lessons with him, and made marginal notes of things
suggested to her mind by the text, for him to discuss and elucidate.
The next time he came, he was in such good spirits she knew his work
had been praised, so after that they went over the lessons together
each evening.  Thinking of what would help him also helped fill her day.

He took her home, greatly improved, in much better spirits, to her
room, cleaned and ready for winter, with all of her things possible to
use in place, so that it was much changed, prettier, and more
convenient.  As they drove in she said of him:  "George, what about it?
Did your mother purposely fix my food so I could not eat it?"

"Oh, I wouldn't say that," he said.  "You know neither of you is
violently attached to the other.  She'll be more careful after this,
I'm sure she will."

"Why, have you been sick?" asked Kate as soon as she saw Mrs. Holt.

She seemed so nervous and appeared so badly Kate was sorry for her; but
she could not help noticing how she kept watch on her son.  She seemed
to keep the width of the room and a piece of furniture between them,
while her cooking was so different that it was not in the least
necessary for George to fix things for Kate himself, as he had
suggested.  Everything was so improved, Kate felt better.  She began to
sew, to read, to sit for long periods in profound thought, then to take
walks that brought back her strength and colour.  So through the winter
and toward the approach of spring they lived in greater comfort.  With
Kate's help, George was doing so well with the school that he was
frequently complimented by the parents.  That he was trying to do good
work and win the approval of both pupils and parents was evident to
Kate.  Once he said to her that he wondered if it would be a good thing
for him to put in an application for the school the coming winter.
Kate stared at him in surprise:  "But your profession," she objected.
"You should be in your office and having enough practice to support us
by then."

"Yes, I should!" he said.  "But this is a new thing, and you know how
these clodhoppers are."

"If I came as near living in the country, and worked at farming as much
as you do, that's the last thing I would call any human being," said
Kate.  "I certainly do know how they are, and what I know convinces me
that you need not look to them for any patients."

"You seem to think I won't have any from any source," he said hotly.

"I confess myself dubious," said Kate.  "You certainly are, or you
wouldn't be talking of teaching."

"Well, I'll just show you!" he cried.

"I'm waiting," said Kate.  "But as we must live in the meantime, and it
will be so long before I can earn anything again, and so much expense,
possibly it would be a good idea to have the school to fall back on, if
you shouldn't have the patients you hope for this summer.  I think you
have done well with the school.  Do your level best until the term
closes, and you may have a chance."

Laughing scornfully, he repeated his old boast:  "I'll just show you!"

"Go ahead," said Kate.  "And while you are at it, be generous. Show me
plenty.  But in the meantime, save every penny you can, so you'll be
ready to pay the doctor's bills and furnish your office."

"I love you advice; it's so Batesy," he said.  "I have money saved for
both contingencies you mention, but I'll tell you what I think, and
about this I'm the one who knows.  I've told you repeatedly winter is
my best time.  I've lost the winter trying to help you out; and I've
little chance until winter comes again.  It takes cold weather to make
folks feel what ails their muscles, and my treatment is mostly
muscular.  To save so we can get a real start, wouldn't it be a good
idea for you to put part of your things in my room, take what you must
have, and fix Mother's bedroom for you, let her move her bed into her
living room, and spare me all you can of your things to fix up your
room for my office this summer.  That would save rent, it's only a few
steps from downtown, and when I wasn't busy with patients, I could be
handy to the garden, and to help you."

"If your mother is willing, I'll do my share," said Kate, "although the
room's cramped, and where I'll put the small party when he comes I
don't know, but I'll manage someway.  The big objection to it is that
it will make it look to people as if it were a makeshift, instead of
starting a real business."

"Real," was the wrong word.  It was the red rag that started George
raging, until to save her self-respect, Kate left the room. Later in
the day he announced that his mother was willing, she would clean the
living room and move in that day.  How Kate hated the tiny room with
its one exterior wall, only one small window, its scratched woodwork,
and soiled paper, she could not say.  She felt physically ill when she
thought of it, and when she thought of the heat of the coming summer,
she wondered what she would do; but all she could do was to acquiesce.
She made a trip downtown and bought a quart of white paint and a few
rolls of dainty, fresh paper.  She made herself ill with turpentine
odours in giving the woodwork three coats, and fell from a table almost
killing herself while papering the ceiling.  There was no room for her
trunk; the closet would not hold half her clothes; her only easy chair
was crowded out; she was sheared of personal comfort at a clip, just at
a time when every comfort should have been hers.  George ordered an
operating table, on which to massage his patients, a few other
necessities, and in high spirits, went about fixing up his office and
finishing his school.  He spent hours in the woodshed with the
remainder of Kate's white paint, making a sign to hang in front of the
house.

He was so pathetically anxious for a patient, after he had put his
table in place, hung up his sign, and paid for an announcement in the
county paper and the little Walden sheet, that Kate was sorry for him.

On a hot July morning Mrs. Holt was sweeping the front porch when a
forlorn specimen of humanity came shuffling up the front walk and asked
to see Dr. Holt.  Mrs. Holt took him into the office and ran to the
garden to tell George his first patient had come.  His face had been
flushed from pulling weeds, but it paled perceptibly as he started to
the back porch to wash his hands.

"Do you know who it is, Mother?" he asked.

"It's that old Peter Mines," she said, "an' he looks fit to drop."

"Peter Mines!" said George.  "He's had about fifty things the matter
with him for about fifty years."

"Then you're a made man if you can even make him think he feels enough
better so's he'll go round talking about it," said Mrs. Holt, shrewdly.

George stood with his hands dripping water an instant, thinking deeply.

"Well said for once, old lady," he agreed.  "You are just exactly
right."

He hurried to his room, and put on his coat.

"A patient that will be a big boom for me," he boasted to Kate as he
went down the hall.

Mrs. Holt stood listening at the hall door.  Kate walked around the
dining room, trying to occupy herself.  Presently cringing groans began
to come from the room, mingling with George's deep voice explaining,
and trying to encourage the man.  Then came a wild shriek and then
silence.  Kate hurried out to the back walk and began pacing up and
down in the sunshine.  She did not know it, but she was praying.

A minute later George's pallid face appeared at the back door: "You
come in here quick and help me," he demanded.

"What's the matter?" asked Kate.

"He's fainted.  His heart, I think.  He's got everything that ever
ailed a man!" he said.

"Oh, George, you shouldn't have touched him," said Kate.

"Can't you see it will make me, if I can help him!  Even Mother could
see that," he cried.

"But if his heart is bad, the risk of massaging him is awful," said
Kate as she hurried after George.

Kate looked at the man on the table, ran her hand over the heart
region, and lifted terrified eyes to George.

"Do you think--?" he stammered.

"Sure of it!" she said, "but we can try.  Bring your camphor bottle,
and some water," she cried to Mrs. Holt.

For a few minutes, they worked frantically.  Then Kate stepped back.
"I'm scared, and I don't care who knows it," she said. "I'm going after
Dr. James."

"No, you are not!" cried George.  "You just hold yourself.  I'll have
him out in a minute.  Begin at his feet and rub the blood up to his
heart."

"They are swollen to a puff, he's got no circulation," said Kate. "Oh,
George, how could you ever hope to do anything for a man in this shape,
with MUSCULAR treatment?"

"You keep still and rub, for God's sake," he cried, frantically. "Can't
you see that I am ruined if he dies on this table?"

"No, I can't," said Kate.  "Everybody would know that he was
practically dying when he came here.  Nobody will blame you, only, you
never should have touched him!  George, I AM going after Dr. James."

"Well, go then," he said wildly.

Kate started.  Mrs. Holt blocked the doorway.

"You just stop, Missy!" she cried.  "You're away too smart, trying to
get folks in here, and ruin my George's chances.  You just stay where
you are till I think what to do, to put the best face on this!"

"He may not be really gone!  The doctor might save him!" cried Kate.

Mrs. Holt looked long at the man.

"He's deader 'an a doornail," she said.  "You stay where you are!"

Kate picked her up by the shoulders, set her to one side, ran from the
room and down the street as fast as possible.  She found the doctor in
his office with two patients.  She had no time to think or temporize.

"Get your case and come to our house quick, doctor," she cried. "An old
man they call Peter Mines came to see George, and his heart has failed.
Please hurry!"

"Heart, eh?" said the doctor.  "Well, wait a minute.  No use to go
about a bad heart without digitalis."

He got up and put on his hat, told the men he would be back soon, and
went to the nearest drug store.  Kate followed.  The men who had been
in the office came also.

"Doctor, hurry!" she panted.  "I'm so frightened."

"You go to some of the neighbours, and stay away from there," he said.

"Hurry!" begged Kate.  "Oh, do hurry!"

She was beside him as they sped down the street, and at his shoulder as
they entered the room.  With one glance she lurched against the casing
and then she plunged down the hall, entered her room, closed the door
behind her, and threw herself on the bed. She had only a glance, but in
that glance she had seen Peter Mines sitting fully clothed, his hat on
his head, his stick in his hands, in her easy chair; the operating
table folded and standing against the wall; Mrs. Holt holding the
camphor bottle to Peter's nose, while George had one hand over Peter's
heart, the other steadying his head.

The doctor swung the table in place, and with George's help laid Peter
on it, then began tearing open his clothes.  As they worked the two men
followed into the house to see if they could do anything and excited
neighbours began to gather.  George and his mother explained how Peter
had exhausted himself walking two miles from the country that hot
morning, how he had entered the office, tottering with fatigue, and had
fallen in the chair in a fainting condition.  Everything was plausible
until a neighbour woman, eager to be the centre of attention for a
second, cried:  "Yes, we all see him come more'n an hour ago; and when
he begin to let out the yells we says to each other, 'THERE!  George
has got his first patient, sure!'  An' we all kind of waited to see if
he'd come out better."

The doctor looked at her sharply:  "More than an hour ago?" he said.
"You heard cries?"

"Yes, more'n a good hour ago.  Yes, we all heard him yell, jist once,
good and loud!" she said.

The doctor turned to George.  Before he could speak his mother
intervened.

"That was our Kate done the yellin'," she said.  "She was scart crazy
from the start.  He jest come in, and set in the chair and he's been
there ever since."

"You didn't give him any treatment, Holt?" asked the doctor.

Again Mrs. Holt answered:  "Never touched him!  Hadn't even got time to
get his table open.  Wa'n't nothing he could 'a' done for him anyway.
Peter was good as gone when he got here.  His fool folks never ought
'a' let him out this hot day, sick as he was."

The doctor looked at George, at his mother, long at Peter.  "He surely
was too sick to walk that far in this heat," he said.  "But to make
sure, I'll look him over.  George, you help me.  Clear the room of all
but these two men."

HE began minutely examining Peter's heart region.  Then he rolled him
over and started to compress his lungs.  Long white streaks marked the
puffy red of the swollen, dropsical flesh.  The doctor examined the
length of the body, and looked straight into George Holt's eyes.

"No use," he said.  "Bill, go to the 'phone in my office, and tell
Coroner Smith to get here from Hartley as soon as he can.  All that's
left to do here is to obey the law, and have a funeral. Better some of
the rest of you go tell his folks.  I've done all I can do.  It's up to
the Coroner now.  The rest of you go home, and keep still till he
comes."

When he and George were left alone he said tersely:  "Of course you and
your mother are lying.  You had this man stripped, he did cry out, and
he did die from the pain of the treatment you tried to give him, in his
condition.  By the way, where's your wife? This is a bad thing for her
right now.  Come, let's find her and see what state she is in."

Together they left the room and entered Kate's door.  As soon as the
doctor was busy with her, George slipped back into the closed room,
rolled Peter on his back and covered him, in the hope that the blood
would settle until it would efface the marks of his work before the
Coroner arrived.  By that time the doctor was too busy to care much
what happened to Peter Mines; he was a poor old soul better off as he
was.  Across Kate's unconscious body he said to George Holt:  "I'm
going to let the Coroner make what he pleases out of this, solely for
your wife's sake.  But two things:  take down that shingle.  Take it
down now, and never put it up again if you want me to keep still.  I'll
give you what you paid for that table.  It's a good one.  Get him out
as soon as you can.  Set him in another room.  I've got to have Mrs.
Holt where I can work. And send Sarah Nepple here to help me.  Move
fast!  This is going to be a close call.  And the other thing:  I've
heard you put in an application for our school this winter.  Withdraw
it!  Now move!"

So they set Peter in the living room, cleaned Kate's room quickly, and
moved in her bed.  By the time the Coroner arrived, the doctor was too
busy to care what happened.  On oath he said a few words that he hoped
would make life easier for Kate, and at the same time pass muster for
truth; told the Coroner what witnesses to call; and gave an opinion as
to Peter's condition.  He also added that he was sure Peter's family
would be very glad he was to suffer no more, and then he went back to
Kate who was suffering entirely too much for safety.  Then began a long
vigil that ended at midnight with Kate barely alive and Sarah Nepple,
the Walden mid-wife, trying to divide a scanty wardrobe between a pair
of lusty twins.



CHAPTER XV

A NEW IDEA

KATE slowly came back to consciousness.  She was conscious of her body,
sore from head to foot, with plenty of pain in definite spots.  Her
first clear thought was that she was such a big woman; it seemed to her
that she filled the room, when she was one bruised ache from head to
heels.  Then she became conscious of a moving bundle on the bed beside
her, and laid her hand on it to reassure herself.  The size and shape
of the bundle were not reassuring.

"Oh, Lord!" groaned Kate.  "Haven't You any mercy at all?  It was Your
advice I followed when I took wing and started out in life."

A big sob arose in her throat, while at the same time she began to
laugh weakly.  Dr. James heard her from the hall and entered hastily.
At the sight of him, Kate's eyes filled with terrified remembrance.
Her glance swept the room, and rested on her rocking chair.  "Take that
out of here!" she cried.  "Take it out, split it into kindling wood,
and burn it."

"All right," said Dr. James calmly.  "I'll guarantee that you never see
it again.  Is there anything else you want?"

"You--you didn't--?"

The doctor shook his head.  "Very sorry," he said, "but there wasn't a
thing could be done."

"Where is he?" she asked in a whisper.

"His people took him home immediately after the Coroner's inquest,
which found that he died from heart failure, brought on by his long
walk in the heat."

Kate stared at him with a face pitiful to behold.

"You let him think THAT?" she whispered again.

"I did," said the old doctor.  "I thought, and still think, that for
the sake of you and yours," he waved toward the bundle, "it was the
only course to pursue."

"Thank you," said Kate.  "You're very kind.  But don't you think that I
and mine are going to take a lot of shielding?  The next man may not be
so kindly disposed.  Besides, is it right?  Is it honest?"

"It is for you," said the doctor.  "You had nothing to do with it. If
you had, things would not have gone as they did.  As for me, I feel
perfectly comfortable about it in my conscience, which is my best
guide.  All I had to do was to let them tell their story.  I perjured
myself only to the extent of testifying that you knew nothing about it.
The Coroner could well believe that.  George and his mother could
easily manage the remainder."

Kate waved toward the bundle:  "Am I supposed to welcome and love them?"

"A poet might expect you to," said the doctor.  "In the circumstances,
I do not.  I shall feel that you have done your whole duty if you will
try to nurse them when the time comes.  You must have a long rest, and
they must grow some before you'll discover what they mean to you.
There's always as much chance that they'll resemble your people as that
they will not.  The boy will have dark hair and eyes I think, but he
looks exactly like you.  The girl is more Holt."

"Where is George?" she asked.

"He was completely upset," said the doctor.  "I suggested that he go
somewhere to rest up a few days, so he took his tackle and went
fishing, and to the farm."

"Shouldn't he have stayed and faced it?" asked Kate.

"There was nothing for him to face, except himself, Kate," said the
doctor.

Kate shook her head.  She looked ghastly ill.

"Doctor," she said, "couldn't you have let me die?"

"And left your son and your little daughter to them?" he asked. "No,
Kate, I couldn't have let you die; because you've your work in the
world under your hand right now."

He said that because when he said "left your son and your little
daughter to them," Kate had reached over and laid her hand
possessively, defensively, on the little, squirming bundle, which was
all Dr. James asked of her.  Presently she looked the doctor straight
in the face.  "Exactly what do you know?" she asked.

"Everything," said the doctor.  "And you?"

"Everything," said Kate.

There was a long silence.  Then Kate spoke slowly:  "That George didn't
know that he shouldn't have touched that man, proves him completely
incompetent," she said.  "That he did, and didn't have the courage to
face the results, proves him lacking in principle. He's not fit for
either work to which he aspires."

"You are talking too much," said the doctor.  "Nurse Nepple is in
charge here, and Aunt Ollie.  George's mother went to the farm to cook
for him.  You're in the hands of two fine women, who will make you
comfortable.  You have escaped lasting disgrace with your skirts clear,
now rest and be thankful."

"I can't rest until I know one thing," said Kate.  "You're not going to
allow George to kill any one else?"

"No," said the doctor.  "I regretted telling him very much; but I had
to tell him THAT could not happen."

"And about the school?" she asked.  "I half thought he might get it."

"He WON'T!" said the doctor.  "I'm in a position to know that. Now try
to take some rest."

Kate waved toward the babies:  "Will you please take them away until
they need me?" she asked.

"Of course," said the doctor.  "But don't you want to see them, Kate?
There isn't a mark or blemish on either of them.  The boy weighs seven
pounds and the girl six; they seem as perfect as children can be."

"You needn't worry about that," said Kate.  "Twins are a Bates habit.
My mother had three pairs, always a boy and a girl, always big and
sound as any children; mine will be all right, too."

The doctor started to turn back the blanket.  Kate turned her head
away:  "Don't you think I have had about enough at present?" she asked.
"I'd stake my life that as a little further piece of my punishment, the
girl looks exactly like Mrs. Holt."

"By Jove," said the doctor, "I couldn't just think who it was."

He carried the babies from the room, lowered the blinds, and Kate tried
to sleep, and did sleep, because she was so exhausted she could not
keep awake.

Later in the evening Aunt Ollie slipped in, and said George was in the
woodhouse, almost crying himself to death, and begging to see her.

"You tell him I'm too sick to be seen for at least a week," said Kate.

"But, my dear, he's so broken up; he feels so badly," begged Aunt Ollie.

"So do I," said Kate.  "I feel entirely too badly to be worried over
seeing him.  I must take the babies now."

"I do wish you would!" persisted Aunt Ollie.

"Well, I won't," said Kate.  "I don't care if I never see him again.
He knows WHY he is crying; ask him."

"I'll wager they ain't a word of truth in that tale they're telling,"
she said.

Kate looked straight at her:  "Well, for their sakes and my sake, and
the babies' sake, don't TALK about it."

"You poor thing!" said Aunt Ollie, "I'll do anything in the world to
help you.  If ever you need me, just call on me.  I'll go start him
back in a hurry."

He came every night, but Kate steadily refused, until she felt able to
sit up in a chair, to see him, or his mother when she came to see the
babies.  She had recovered rapidly, was over the painful part of
nursing the babies, and had a long talk with Aunt Ollie, before she
consented to see George.  At times she thought she never could see him
again; at others, she realized her helplessness.  She had her babies to
nurse for a year; there was nothing she could think of she knew to do,
that she could do, and take proper care of two children.  She was tied
"hand and foot," as Aunt Ollie said.  And yet it was Aunt Ollie who
solved her problem for her.  Sitting beside the bed one day she said to
Kate: "My dear, do you know that I'm having a mighty good time?  I
guess I was lonesomer than I thought out there all alone so much, and
the work was nigh to breaking me during the long, cold winter.  I got a
big notion to propose somepin' to you that might be a comfort to all of
us."

"Propose away," said Kate.  "I'm at my wit's end."

"Well, what would you think of you and George taking the land, working
it on the shares, and letting me have this room, an' live in Walden,
awhile?"

Kate sat straight up in bed:  "Oh, Aunt Ollie!  Would you?" she cried.
"Would you?  That would be a mercy to me; it would give George every
chance to go straight, if there is a straight impulse in him."

"Yes, I will," said Aunt Ollie, "and you needn't feel that I am getting
the little end of the bargain, either.  The only unpleasant thing about
it will be my sister, and I'll undertake to manage her.  I read a lot,
an' I can always come to see you when mortal sperrits will bear her no
more.  She'll be no such trial to me, as she is to you."

"You're an angel," said Kate.  "You've given me hope where I had not a
glimmer.  If I have George out there alone, away from his mother, I can
bring out all the good there is in him, and we can get some results out
of life, or I can assure myself that it is impossible, so that I can
quit with a clear conscience.  I do thank you."

"All right, then, I'll go out and begin packing my things, and see
about moving this afternoon.  I'll leave my stoves, and beds, and
tables, and chairs for you; you can use your wedding things, and be
downright comfortable.  I'll like living in town a spell real well."

So once more Kate saw hope a beckoning star in the distance, and
ruffled the wings of the spirit preparatory to another flight: only a
short, humble flight this time, close earth; but still as full of
promise as life seemed to hold in any direction for her. She greeted
George casually, and as if nothing had happened, when she was ready to
see him.

"You're at the place where words are not of the slightest use to me,"
she said.  "I'm giving you one, and a final chance to ACT. This seems
all that is open to us.  Go to work like a man, and we will see what we
can make of our last chance."

Kate was so glad when she sat in the carriage that was to take her from
the house and the woman she abominated that she could scarcely behave
properly.  She clasped Adam tightly in her arms, and felt truly his
mother.  She reached over and tucked the blanket closer over Polly, but
she did not carry her, because she resembled her grandmother, while
Adam was a Bates.

George drove carefully.  He was on behaviour too good to last, but
fortunately both women with him knew him well enough not to expect that
it would.  When they came in sight of the house, Kate could see that
the grass beside the road had been cut, the trees trimmed, and Oh, joy,
the house freshly painted a soft, creamy white she liked, with a green
roof.  Aunt Ollie explained that she furnished the paint and George did
the work.  He had swung oblong clothes baskets from the ceiling of a
big, cheery, old-fashioned bedroom for a cradle for each baby, and
established himself in a small back room adjoining the kitchen.  Kate
said nothing about the arrangement, because she supposed it had been
made to give her more room, and that George might sleep in peace, while
she wrestled with two tiny babies.

There was no doubt about the wrestling.  The babies seemed of nervous
temperament, sleeping in short naps and lightly.  Kate was on her feet
from the time she reached her new home, working when she should not
have worked; so that the result developed cross babies, each attacked
with the colic, which raged every night from six o'clock until twelve
and after, both frequently shrieking at the same time.  George did his
share by going to town for a bottle of soothing syrup, which Kate
promptly threw in the creek.  Once he took Adam and began walking the
floor with him, extending his activities as far as the kitchen.  In a
few minutes he had the little fellow sound asleep and he did not waken
until morning; then he seemed to droop and feel listless.  When he took
the baby the second time and made the same trip to the kitchen, Kate
laid Polly on her bed and silently followed.  She saw George lay the
baby on the table, draw a flask from his pocket, pour a spoon partly
full, filling it the remainder of the way from the teakettle.  As he
was putting the spoon to the baby's lips, Kate stepped beside him and
taking it, she tasted the contents.  Then she threw the spoon into the
dishpan standing near and picked up the baby.

"I knew it!" she said.  "Only I didn't know what.  He acted like a
drugged baby all last night and to-day.  Since when did you begin
carrying that stuff around with you, and feeding it to tiny babies?"

"It's a good thing.  Dr. James recommended it.  He said it was harmful
to let them strain themselves crying, and very hard on you.  You could
save yourself a lot," he urged.

"I need saving all right," said Kate, "but I haven't a picture of
myself saving myself by drugging a pair of tiny babies."

He slipped the bottle back in his pocket.  Kate stood looking at him so
long and so intently, he flushed and set the flask on a shelf in the
pantry.  "It may come in handy some day when some of us have a cold,"
he said.

Kate did her best, but she was so weakened by nursing both of the
babies, by loss of sleep, and overwork in the house, that she was no
help whatever to George in getting in the fall crops and preparing for
spring.  She had lost none of her ambition, but there was a limit to
her capacity.

In the spring the babies were big and lusty, eating her up, and crying
with hunger, until she was forced to resort to artificial feeding in
part, which did not agree with either of them.  As a saving of time and
trouble she decided to nurse one and feed the other.  It was without
thought on her part, almost by chance, yet the chance was that she
nursed Adam and fed Polly.  Then the babies began teething, so that she
was rushed to find time to prepare three regular meals a day, and as
for the garden and poultry she had planned, George did what he pleased
about them, which was little, if anything.

He would raise so much to keep from being hungry, he would grow so many
roots, and so much cabbage for winter, he would tend enough corn for a
team and to fatten pork; right there he stopped and went fishing, while
the flask was in evidence on the pantry shelf only two days.  Kate
talked crop rotation, new seed, fertilization, until she was weary;
George heartily agreed with her, but put nothing of it all into
practice.

"As soon as the babies are old enough to be taken out," she said,
"things will be better.  I just can't do justice to them and my work,
too.  Three pairs!  My poor mother!  And she's alive yet!  I marvel at
it."

So they lived, and had enough to eat, and were clothed, but not one
step did they advance toward Kate's ideals of progression, economy,
accumulation.  George always had a little money, more than she could
see how he got from the farming.  There were a few calves and pigs to
sell occasionally; she thought possibly he saved his share from them.

For four years, Kate struggled valiantly to keep pace with what her
mother always had done, and had required of her at home; but she
learned long before she quit struggling that farming with George was
hopeless.  So at last she became so discouraged she began to drift into
his way of doing merely what would sustain them, and then reading,
fishing, or sleeping the remainder of the time.  She began teaching her
children while very small, and daily they had their lessons after
dinner, while their father slept.

Kate thought often of what was happening to her; she hated it, she
fought it; but with George Holt for a partner she could not escape it.
She lay awake nights, planning ways to make a start toward prosperity;
she propounded her ideas at breakfast.  To save time in getting him
early to work she began feeding the horses as soon as she was up, so
that George could go to work immediately after breakfast; but she soon
found she might as well save her strength. He would not start to
harness until he had smoked, mostly three quarters of an hour.  That
his neighbours laughed at him and got ahead of him bothered him not at
all.  All they said and all Kate said, went, as he expressed it, "in at
one ear, out at the other."

One day in going around the house Kate was suddenly confronted by a
thing she might have seen for three years, but had not noticed. Leading
from the path of bare, hard-beaten earth that ran around the house
through the grass, was a small forking path not so wide and well
defined, yet a path, leading to George's window.  She stood staring at
it a long time with a thoughtful expression on her face.

That night she did not go to bed when she went to her room. Instead she
slipped out into the night and sitting under a sheltering bush she
watched that window.  It was only a short time until George crawled
from it, went stealthily to the barn, and a few minutes later she saw
him riding barebacked on one of the horses he had bridled, down the
footpath beside the stream toward town.  She got up and crossing the
barnyard shut the gate after him, and closed the barn door.  She went
back to the house and closed his window and lighting a lamp set it on
his dresser in front of his small clock.  His door was open in the
morning when she passed it on her way to the kitchen, so she got
breakfast instead of feeding the horses.  He came in slowly, furtively
watching her.  She worked as usual, saying no unpleasant word.  At
length he could endure it no longer.

"Kate," he said, "I broke a bolt in the plow yesterday, and I never
thought of it until just as I was getting into bed, so to save time I
rode in to Walden and got another last night.  Ain't I a great old
economist, though?"

"You are a great something," she said.  "'Economist' would scarcely be
my name for it.  Really, George, can't you do better than that?"

"Better than what?" he demanded.

"Better than telling such palpable lies," she said.  "Better than
crawling out windows instead of using your doors like a man; better
than being the most shiftless farmer of your neighbourhood in the
daytime, because you have spend most of your nights, God and probably
all Walden know how.  The flask and ready money I never could
understand give me an inkling."

"Anything else?" he asked, sneeringly.

"Nothing at present," said Kate placidly.  "I probably could find
plenty, if I spent even one night in Walden when you thought I was
asleep."

"Go if you like," he said.  "If you think I'm going to stay here,
working like a dog all day, year in and year out, to support a daughter
of the richest man in the county and her kids, you fool yourself.  If
you want more than you got, call on your rich folks for it.  If you
want to go to town, either night or day, go for all I care.  Do what
you damn please; that's what I am going to do in the future and I'm
glad you know it.  I'm tired climbing through windows and slinking like
a dog.  I'll come and go like other men after this."

"I don't know what other men you are referring to," said Kate. "You
have a monopoly of your kind in this neighbourhood; there is none other
like you.  You crawl and slink as 'to the manner born.'"

"Don't you go too far," he menaced with an ugly leer.

"Keep that for your mother," laughed Kate.  "You need never try a
threat with me.  I am stronger than you are, and you may depend upon it
I shall see that my strength never fails me again.  I know now that you
are all Nancy Ellen said you were."

"Well, if you married me knowing it, what are you going to do about
it?" he sneered.

"I didn't know it then.  I thought I knew you.  I thought she had been
misinformed," said Kate, in self-defence.

"Well," he said insultingly, "if you hadn't been in such a big hurry,
you could soon have found out all you wanted to know.  I took advantage
of it, but I never did understand your rush."

"You never will," said Kate.

Then she arose and went to see if the children had wakened.  All day
she was thinking so deeply she would stumble over the chairs in her
preoccupation.  George noticed it, and it frightened him. After supper
he came and sat on the porch beside her.

"Kate," he said, "as usual you are 'making mountains out of mole
hills.'  It doesn't damn a fellow forever to ride or walk, I almost
always walk, into town in the evening, to see the papers and have a
little visit with the boys.  Work all day in a field is mighty
lonesome; a man has got the have a little change.  I don't deny a glass
of beer once in awhile, or a game of cards with the boys occasionally;
but if you have lived with me over five years here, and never suspected
it before, it can't be so desperately bad, can it?  Come now, be fair!"

"It's no difference whether I am fair or unfair," Kate said, wearily.
"It explains why you simply will not brace up, and be a real man, and
do a man's work in the world, and achieve a man's success."

"Who can get anywhere, splitting everything in halves?" he demanded.

"The most successful men in this neighbourhood got their start exactly
that way," she said.

"Ah, well, farming ain't my job, anyway," he said.  "I always did hate
it.  I always will.  If I could have a little capital to start with, I
know a trick that would suit you, and make us independent in no time."

Kate said no word, and seeing she was not going to, he continued: "I've
thought about this till I've got it all down fine, and it's a great
scheme; you'll admit that, even angry as you are.  It is this:  get
enough together to build a saw mill on my strip of ravine.  A little
damming would make a free water power worth a fortune.  I could hire a
good man to run the saw and do the work, and I could take a horse and
ride, or drive around among the farmers I know, and buy up timber
cheaper than most men could get it.  I could just skin the eyes out of
them."

"Did it ever occur to you that you could do better by being honest?"
asked Kate, wearily.

"Aw, well, Smarty!  you know I didn't mean that literally!" he scoffed.
"You know I only meant I could talk, and jolly, and buy at bed-rock
prices; I know where to get the timber, and the two best mill men in
the country; we are near the railroad; it's the dandiest scheme that
ever struck Walden.  What do you think about it?"

"I think if Adam had it he'd be rich from it in ten years," she said,
quietly.

"Then you DO think it's a bully idea," he cried.  "You WOULD try it if
we had a chance?"

"I might," said Kate.

"You know," he cried, jumping up in excitement, "I've never mentioned
this to a soul, but I've got it all thought out.  Would you go to see
your brother Adam, and see if you could get him to take an interest for
young Adam?  He could manage the money himself."

"I wouldn't go to a relative of mine for a cent, even if the children
were starving," said Kate.  "Get, and keep, THAT clear in your head."

"But you think there is something in it?" he persisted.

"I know there is," said Kate with finality.  "In the hands of the right
man, and with the capital to start."

"Kate, you can be the meanest," he said.

"I didn't intend to be, in this particular instance," she said. "But
honestly, George, what have I ever seen of you in the way of financial
success in the past that would give me hope for the future?"

"I know it," he said, "but I've never struck exactly the right thing.
This is what I could make a success of, and I would make a good big
one, you bet!  Kate, I'll not go to town another night. I'll stop all
that."  He drew the flask from his pocket and smashed it against the
closest tree.  "And I'll stop all there ever was of that, even to a
glass of beer on a hot day; if you say so, if you'll stand by me this
once more, if I fail this time, I'll never ask you again; honest, I
won't."

"If I had money, I'd try it, keeping the building in my own name and
keeping the books myself; but I've none, and no way to get any, as you
know," she said.  "I can see what could be done, but I'm helpless."

"I'M NOT!" said George.  "I've got it all worked out.  You see I was
doing something useful with my head, if I wasn't always plowing as fast
as you thought I should.  If you'll back me, if you'll keep books, if
you'll handle the money until she is paid back, I know Aunt Ollie will
sell enough of this land to build the mill and buy the machinery.  She
could keep the house, and orchard, and barn, and a big enough piece,
say forty acres, to live on and keep all of us in grub.  She and Mother
could move out here--she said the other day she was tired of town and
getting homesick--and we could go to town to put the children in
school, and be on the job.  I won't ever ask you and Mother to live
together again.  Kate, will you go in with me?  Will you talk to Aunt
Ollie?  Will you let me show you, and explain, and prove to you?"

"I won't be a party to anything that would even remotely threaten to
lose Aunt Ollie's money for her," she said.

"She's got nobody on earth but me.  It's all mine in the end.  Why not
let me have this wonderful chance with it?  Kate, will you?" he begged.

"I'll think about it," she conceded.  "If I can study out a sure,
honourable way.  I'll promise to think.  Now go out there, and hunt the
last scrap of that glass; the children may cut their feet in the
morning."

Then Kate went in to bed.  If she had looked from her window, she might
have seen George scratching matches and picking pieces of glass from
the grass.  When he came to the bottom of the bottle with upstanding,
jagged edges, containing a few drops, he glanced at her room, saw that
she was undressing in the dark, and lifting it, he poured the liquid on
his tongue to the last drop that would fall.



CHAPTER XVI

THE WORK OF THE SUN

BEFORE Kate awakened the following morning George was out feeding the
horses, cattle, and chickens, doing the milking, and working like the
proverbial beaver.  By the time breakfast was ready, he had convinced
himself that he was a very exemplary man, while he expected Kate to be
convinced also.  He stood ready and willing to forgive her for every
mean deceit and secret sin he ever had committed, or had it in his
heart to commit in the future.  All the world was rosy with him, he was
flying with the wings of hope straight toward a wonderful achievement
that would bring pleasure and riches, first to George Holt, then to his
wife and children, then to the old aunt he really cared more for than
any one else.

Incidentally, his mother might have some share, while he would bring
such prosperity and activity to the village that all Walden would
forget every bad thing it had ever thought or known of him, and delight
to pay him honour.  Kate might have guessed all this when she saw the
pails full of milk on the table, and heard George whistling "Hail the
Conquering Hero Comes," as he turned the cows into the pasture; but she
had not slept well.  Most of the night she had lain staring at the
ceiling, her brain busy with calculations, computations, most of all
with personal values.

She dared not be a party to anything that would lose Aunt Ollie her
land; that was settled; but if she went into the venture herself, if
she kept the deeds in Aunt Ollie's name, the bank account in hers, drew
all the checks, kept the books, would it be safe?  Could George buy
timber as he thought; could she, herself, if he failed?  The children
were old enough to be in school now, she could have much of the day,
she could soon train Polly and Adam to do even more than sweep and run
errands; the scheme could be materialized in the Bates way, without a
doubt; but could it be done in a Bates way, hampered and impeded by
George Holt?  Was the plan feasible, after all?  She entered into the
rosy cloud enveloping the kitchen without ever catching the faintest
gleam of its hue.  George came to her the instant he saw her and tried
to put his arm around her.  Kate drew back and looked at him intently.

"Aw, come on now, Kate," he said.  "Leave out the heroics and be human.
I'll do exactly as you say about everything if you will help me wheedle
Aunt Ollie into letting me have the money."

Kate stepped back and put out her hands defensively:  "A rare bargain,"
she said, "and one eminently worthy of you.  You'll do what I say, if
I'll do what you say, without the slightest reference as to whether it
impoverishes a woman who has always helped and befriended you.  You
make me sick!"

"What's biting you now?" he demanded, sullenly.

Kate stood tall and straight before and above him

"If you have a good plan, if you can prove that it will work, what is
the necessity for 'wheedling' anybody?  Why not state what you propose
in plain, unequivocal terms, and let the dear, old soul, who has done
so much for us already, decide what she will do?"

"That's what I meant!  That's all I meant!" he cried.

"In that case, 'wheedle' is a queer word to use."

"I believe you'd throw up the whole thing; I believe you'd let the
chance to be a rich woman slip through your fingers, if it all depended
on your saying only one word you thought wasn't quite straight," he
cried, half in assertion, half in question.

"I honour you in that belief," said Kate.  "I most certainly would."

"Then you turn the whole thing down?  You won't have anything to do
with it?" he cried, plunging into stoop-shouldered, mouth-sagging
despair.

"Oh, I didn't SAY that!" said Kate.  "Give me time!  Let me think! I've
got to know that there isn't a snare in it, from the title of the land
to the grade of the creek bed.  Have you investigated that?  Is your
ravine long enough and wide enough to dam it high enough at our outlet
to get your power, and yet not back water on the road, and the farmers
above you?  Won't it freeze in winter? and can you get strong enough
power from water to run a large saw? I doubt it!"

"Oh, gee!   I never thought about that!" he cried.

"And if it would work, did you figure the cost of a dam into your
estimate of the building and machinery?"

He snapped his fingers in impatience.

"By heck!" he cried, "I forgot THAT, too!  But that wouldn't cost much.
Look what we did in that ravine just for fun.  Why, we could build that
dam ourselves!"

"Yes, strong enough for conditions in September, but what about the
January freshet?" she said.

"Croak!  Croak!  You blame old raven," cried George.

"And have you thought," continued Kate, "that there is no room on the
bank toward town to set your mill, and it wouldn't be allowed there, if
there were?"

"You bet I have!" he said defiantly.  "I'm no such slouch as you think
me.  I've even stepped off the location!"

"Then," said Kate, "will you build a bridge across the ravine to reach
it, or will you buy a strip from Linn and build a road?"

George collapsed with a groan.

"That's the trouble with you," said Kate.  "You always build your
castle with not even sand for a foundation.  The most nebulous of rosy
clouds serve you as perfectly as granite blocks.  Before you go
glimmering again, double your estimate to cover a dam and a bridge, and
a lot of incidentals that no one ever seems able to include in a
building contract.  And whatever you do, keep a still head until we get
these things figured, and have some sane idea of what the venture would
cost."

"How long will it take?" he said sullenly.

"I haven't an idea.  I'd have to go the Hartley and examine the records
and be sure that there was no flaw in the deeds to the land; but the
first thing is to get a surveyor and know for sure if you have a
water-power that will work and not infringe on your neighbours.  A
thing like this can't be done in a few minutes' persuasive
conversation.  It will take weeks."

It really seemed as if it would take months.  Kate went to Walden that
afternoon, set the children playing in the ravine while she sketched
it, made the best estimate she could of its fall, and approved the
curve on the opposite bank which George thought could be cleared for a
building site and lumber yard.  Then she added a location for a dam and
a bridge site, and went home to figure and think.  The further she went
in these processes the more hopeless the project seemed.  She soon
learned that there must be an engine with a boiler to run the saw.  The
dam could be used only to make a pond to furnish the water needed; but
at that it would be cheaper than to dig a cistern or well.  She would
not even suggest to Aunt Ollie to sell any of the home forty.  The sale
of the remainder at the most hopeful price she dared estimate would not
bring half the money needed, and it would come in long-time payments.
Lumber, bricks, machinery, could not be had on time of any length,
while wages were cash every Saturday night.

"It simply can't be done," said Kate, and stopped thinking about it, so
far as George knew.

He was at once plunged into morose moping; he became sullen and
indifferent about the work, ugly with Kate and the children, until she
was driven almost frantic, and projects nearly as vague as some of
George's began to float through her head.

One Saturday morning Kate had risen early and finished cleaning up her
house, baking, and scrubbing porches.  She had taken a bath to freshen
and cool herself and was standing before her dresser, tucking the last
pins in her hair, when she heard a heavy step on the porch and a loud
knock on the screen door.  She stood at an angle where she could peep;
she looked as she reached for her dress.  What she saw carried her to
the door forgetful of the dress.  Adam, Jr., stood there, white and
shaken, steadying himself against the casing.

"Adam!" cried Kate.  "Is Mother--?"

He shook his head.

"Father--?" she panted.

He nodded, seeming unable to speak.  Kate's eyes darkened and widened.
She gave Adam another glance and opened the door.  "Come in," she said.
"When did it happen?  How did he get hurt?"

In that moment she recalled that she had left her father in perfect
health, she had been gone more than seven years.  In that time he could
not fail to illness; how he had been hurt was her first thought.  As
she asked the question, she stepped into her room and snatched up her
second best summer dress, waiting for Adam to speak as she slipped into
it.  But speaking seemed to be a very difficult thing for Adam.  He was
slow in starting and words dragged and came singly:
"Yesterday--tired--big dinner--awful hot--sunstroke--"

"He's gone?" she cried.

Adam nodded in that queer way again.

"Why did you come?  Does Mother want me?" the questions leaped from
Kate's lips; her eyes implored him.  Adam was too stricken to heed his
sister's unspoken plea.

"Course," he said.  "All there--your place--I want you.  Only one in
the family--not stark mad!"

Kate straightened tensely and looked at him again.  "All right," she
said.  "I can throw a few things in my telescope, write the children a
note to take to their father in the field, and we can stop in Walden
and send Aunt Ollie out to cook for them; I can go as well as not, for
as long as Mother wants me."

"Hurry!" said Adam.

In her room Kate stood still a second, her eyes narrow, her underlip
sucked in, her heart almost stopped.  Then she said aloud:  "Father's
sons have wished he would die too long for his death to strike even the
most tolerant of them like that. Something dreadful has happened.  I
wonder to my soul--!"

She waited until they were past Hartley and then she asked suddenly:
"Adam, what is the matter?"

Then Adam spoke:  "I am one of a pack of seven poor fools, and every
other girl in the family has gone raving mad, so I thought I'd come
after you, and see if you had sense, or reason, or justice, left in
you."

"What do you want of me?" she asked dazedly.

"I want you to be fair, to be honest, to do as you'd be done by. You
came to me when you were in trouble," he reminded her.

Kate could not prevent the short laugh that sprang to her lips, nor
what she said: "And you would not lift a finger; young Adam MADE his
MOTHER help me.  Why don't you go to George for what you want?"

Adam lost all self-control and swore sulphurously.

"I thought you'd be different," he said, "but I see you are going to be
just like the rest of the--!"

"Stop that!" said Kate.  "You're talking about my sisters--and yours.
Stop this wild talk, and tell me exactly what is the matter."

"I'm telling nothing," said Adam.  "You can find out what is the matter
and go it with the rest of them, when you get there. Mother said this
morning she wished you were there, because you'd be the only SANE one
in the family, so I thought I'd bring you; but I wish now I hadn't done
it, for it stands to reason that you will join the pack, and run as
fast as the rest of the wolves."

"FROM a prairie fire, or TO a carcass?" asked Kate.

"I told you, you could find out when you got there.  I'm not going to
have them saying I influenced you, or bribed you," he said.


"Do you really think that they think you could, Adam?" asked Kate,
wonderingly.

"I have said all I'm going to say," said Adam, and then he began
driving his horse inhumanely fast, for the heat was deep, slow, and
burning.

"Adam, is there any such hurry?" asked Kate.  "You know you are abusing
your horse dreadfully."

Adam immediately jerked the horse with all his might, and slashed the
length of its body with two long stripes that rapidly raised in high
welts, so Kate saw that he was past reasoning with and said no other
word.  She tried to think who would be at home, how they would treat
her, the Prodigal, who had not been there in seven years; and suddenly
it occurred to Kate that, if she had known all she now knew in her
youth, and had the same decision to make again as when she knew
nothing, she would have taken wing, just as she had.  She had made
failures, she had hurt herself, mind and body, but her honour, her
self-respect were intact. Suddenly she sat straight.  She was glad that
she had taken a bath, worn a reasonably decent dress, and had a better
one in the back of the buggy.  She would cut the Gordian knot with a
vengeance.  She would not wait to see how they treated her, she would
treat them!  As for Adam's state, there was only one surmise she could
make, and that seemed so incredible, she decided to wait until her
mother told her all about whatever the trouble was.

As they came in sight of the house, queer feelings took possession of
Kate.  She struggled to think kindly of her father; she tried to feel
pangs of grief over his passing.  She was too forthright and had too
good memory to succeed.  Home had been so unbearable that she had taken
desperate measures to escape it, but as the white house with its tree
and shrub filled yard could be seen more plainly, Kate suddenly was
filled with the strongest possessive feeling she ever had known.  It
was home.  It was her home.  Her place was there, even as Adam had
said.  She felt a sudden revulsion against herself that she had stayed
away seven years; she should have taken her chances and at least gone
to see her mother.  She leaned from the buggy and watched for the first
glimpse of the tall, gaunt, dark woman, who had brought their big brood
into the world and stood squarely with her husband, against every one
of them, in each thing he proposed.

Now he was gone.  No doubt he had carried out his intentions. No doubt
she was standing by him as always.  Kate gathered her skirts, but Adam
passed the house, driving furiously as ever, and he only slackened
speed when he was forced to at the turn from the road to the lane.  He
stopped the buggy in the barnyard, got out, and began unharnessing the
horse.  Kate sat still and watched him until he led it away, then she
stepped down and started across the barnyard, down the lane leading to
the dooryard.  As she closed the yard gate and rounded a widely
spreading snowball bush, her heart was pounding wildly.  What was
coming?  How would the other boys act, if Adam, the best balanced man
of them all, was behaving as he was?  How would her mother greet her?
With the thought, Kate realized that she was so homesick for her mother
that she would do or give anything in the world to see her.  Then there
was a dragging step, a short, sharp breath, and wheeling, Kate stood
facing her mother.  She had come from the potato patch back of the
orchard, carrying a pail of potatoes in each hand.  Her face was
haggard, her eyes bloodshot, her hair falling in dark tags, her cheeks
red with exertion.  They stood facing each other.  At the first glimpse
Kate cried, "Oh, Mother," and sprang toward her. Then she stopped,
while her heart again failed her, for from the astonishment on her
mother's face, Kate saw instantly that she was surprised, and had
neither sent for nor expected her.  She was nauseatingly disappointed.
Adam had said she was wanted, had been sent for.  Kate's face was
twitching, her lips quivering, but she did not hesitate more than an
instant.

"I see you were not expecting me," she said.  "I'm sorry.  Adam came
after me.  I wouldn't have come if he hadn't said you sent for me."

Kate paused a minute hopefully.  Her mother looked at her steadily.

"I'm sorry," Kate repeated.  "I don't know why he said that."

By that time the pain in her heart was so fierce she caught her breath
sharply, and pressed her hand hard against her side.  Her mother
stooped, set down the buckets, and taking off her sunbonnet, wiped the
sweat from her lined face with the curtain.

"Well, I do," she said tersely.

"Why?" demanded Kate.

"To see if he could use you to serve his own interests, of course,"
answered her mother.  "He lied good and hard when he said I sent for
you; I didn't.  I probably wouldn't a-had the sense to do it.  But
since you are here, I don't mind telling you that I never was so glad
to see any one in all my born days."

Mrs. Bates drew herself full height, set her lips, stiffened her jaw,
and again used the bonnet skirt on her face and neck.  Kate picked up
the potatoes, to hide the big tears that gushed from her eyes, and
leading the way toward the house she said:  "Come over here in the
shade.  Why should you be out digging potatoes?"

"Oh, they's enough here, and willing enough," said Mrs. Bates. "Slipped
off to get away from them.  It was the quietest and the peacefullest
out there, Kate.  I'd most liked to stay all day, but it's getting on
to dinner time, and I'm short of potatoes."

"Never mind the potatoes," said Kate.  "Let the folks serve themselves
if they are hungry."

She went to the side of the smoke house, picked up a bench turned up
there, and carrying it to the shady side of a widely spreading privet
bush, she placed it where it would be best screened from both house and
barn.  Then setting the potatoes in the shade, she went to her mother,
put her arm around her, and drew her to the seat.  She took her
handkerchief and wiped her face, smoothed back her straggled hair, and
pulling out a pin, fastened the coil better.

"Now rest a bit," she said, "and then tell me why you are glad to see
me, and exactly what you'd like me to do here.  Mind, I've been away
seven years, and Adam told me not a word, except that Father was gone."

"Humph!  All missed the mark again," commented Mrs. Bates dryly. "They
all said he'd gone to fill you up, and get you on his side."

"Mother, what is the trouble?" asked Kate.  "Take your time and tell me
what has happened, and what YOU want, not what Adam wants."

Mrs. Bates relaxed her body a trifle, but gripped her hands tightly
together in her lap.

"Well, it was quick work," she said.  "It all came yesterday afternoon
just like being hit by lightning.  Pa hadn't failed a particle that any
one could see.  Ate a big dinner of ham an' boiled dumplings, an' him
an' Hiram was in the west field.  It was scorchin' hot an' first Hiram
saw, Pa was down.  Sam Langley was passin' an' helped get him in, an'
took our horse an' ran for Robert.  He was in the country but Sam
brought another doctor real quick, an' he seemed to fetch Pa out of it
in good shape, so we thought he'd be all right, mebby by morning,
though the doctor said he'd have to hole up a day or two.  He went
away, promisin' to send Robert back, and Hiram went home to feed.  I
set by Pa fanning him an' putting cloths on his head.  All at once he
began to chill.

"We thought it was only the way a-body was with sunstroke, and past
pilin' on blankets, we didn't pay much attention.  He SAID he was all
right, so I went to milk.  Before I left I gave him a drink, an' he
asked me to feel in his pants pocket an' get the key an' hand him the
deed box, till he'd see if everything was right. Said he guessed he'd
had a close call.  You know how he was.  I got him the box and went to
do the evening work.  I hurried fast as I could.  Coming back, clear
acrost the yard I smelt burning wool, an' I dropped the milk an' ran.
I dunno no more about just what happened 'an you do.  The house was
full of smoke.  Pa was on the floor, most to the sitting-room door, his
head and hair and hands awfully burned, his shirt burned off, laying
face down, and clear gone.  The minute I seen the way he laid, I knew
he was gone.  The bed was pourin' smoke and one little blaze about six
inches high was shootin' up to the top.  I got that out, and then I saw
most of the fire was smothered between the blankets where he'd thrown
them back to get out of the bed.  I dunno why he fooled with the lamp.
It always stood on the little table in his reach, but it was light
enough to read fine print.  All I can figure is that the light was
going out of his EYES, an' he thought IT WAS GETTIN' DARK, so he tried
to light the lamp to see the deeds.  He was fingerin' them when I left,
but he didn't say he couldn't see them.  The lamp was just on the bare
edge of the table, the wick way up an' blackened, the chimney smashed
on the floor, the bed afire."

"Those deeds are burned?" gasped Kate.  "All of them?  Are they all
gone?"

"Every last one," said Mrs. Bates.

"Well, if ONE is gone, thank God they all are," said Kate.

Her mother turned swiftly and caught her arm.

"Say that again!" she cried eagerly.

"Maybe I'm WRONG about it, but it's what I think," said Kate.  "If the
boys are crazy over all of them being gone, they'd do murder if part
had theirs, and the others had not."

Mrs. Bates doubled over on Kate's shoulder suddenly and struggled with
an inward spasm.

"You poor thing," said Kate.  "This is dreadful.  All of us know how
you loved him, how you worked together.  Can you think of anything I
can do?  Is there any special thing the matter?"

"I'm afraid!" whispered Mrs. Bates.  "Oh, Katie, I'm so afraid. You
know how SET he was, you know how he worked himself and all of us--he
had to know what he was doing, when he fought the fire till the shirt
burned off him"--her voice dropped to a harsh whisper--"what do you
s'pose he's doing now?"

Any form of religious belief was a subject that never had been touched
upon or talked of in the Bates family.  Money was their God, work their
religion; Kate looked at her mother curiously.

"You mean you believe in after life?" she asked.

"Why, I suppose there must be SOMETHING," she said.

"I think so myself," said Kate.  "I always have.  I think there is a
God, and that Father is facing Him now, and finding out for the first
time in his experience that he is very small potatoes, and what he
planned and slaved for amounted to nothing, in the scheme of the
universe.  I can't imagine Father being subdued by anything on earth,
but it appeals to me that he will cut a pathetic figure before the
throne of an Almighty God."

A slow grin twisted Mrs. Bates' lips.

"Well, wherever he went," she said, "I guess he found out pretty quick
that he was some place at last where he couldn't be boss."

"I'm very sure he has," said Kate, "and I am equally sure the
discipline will be good for him.  But his sons!  His precious sons!
What are they doing?"

"Taking it according to their bent," said Mrs. Bates.  "Adam is insane,
Hiram is crying."

"Have you had a lawyer?" asked Kate.

"What for?  We all know the law on this subject better than we know our
a, b, c's."

"Did your deed for this place go, too?" asked Kate.

"Yes," said Mrs. Bates, "but mine was recorded, none of the others
were.  I get a third, and the rest will be cut up and divided, share
and share alike, among ALL OF YOU, equally.  I think it's going to kill
Adam and ruin Andrew."

"It won't do either.  But this is awful.  I can see how the boys feel,
and really, Mother, this is no more fair to them than things always
have been for the girls.  By the way, what are they doing?"

"Same as the boys, acting out their natures.  Mary is openly rejoicing.
So is Nancy Ellen.  Hannah and Bertha at least can see the boys' side.
The others say one thing before the boys and another among themselves.
In the end the girls will have their shares and nobody can blame them.
I don't myself, but I think Pa will rise from his grave when those
farms are torn up."

"Don't worry," said Kate.  "He will have learned by now that graves are
merely incidental, and that he has no option on real estate where he
is.  Leave him to his harp, and tell me what you want done."

"I want you to see that it was all accidental.  I want you to take care
of me.  I want you should think out the FAIR thing for all of us to DO.
I want you to keep sane and cool-headed and shame the others into
behaving themselves.  And I want you to smash down hard on their
everlasting, 'why didn't you do this?' and 'why didn't you do that?'  I
reckon I've been told five hundred times a-ready that I shouldn't
a-give him the deeds.  Josie say it, an' then she sings it.  NOT GIVE
THEM TO HIM!  How could I help giving them to him?  He'd a-got up and
got them himself if I hadn't--"

"You have cut out something of a job for me," said Kate, "but I'll do
my best.  Anyway, I can take care of you.  Come on into the house now,
and let me clean you up, and then I'll talk the rest of them into
reason, if you stand back of me, and let them see I'm acting for you."

"You go ahead," said Mrs. Bates.  "I'll back whatever you say. But keep
them off of me!  Keep them off of me!"

After Kate had bathed her mother, helped her into fresh clothes, and
brushed her hair, she coaxed her to lie down, and by diplomatic talk
and stroking her head, finally soothed her to sleep.  Then she went
down and announced the fact, asked them all to be quiet, and began
making her way from group to group in an effort to restore mental
balance and sanity.  After Kate had invited all of them to go home and
stay until time for the funeral Sunday morning, and all of them had
emphatically declined, and eagerly had gone on straining the situation
to the breaking point, Kate gave up and began setting the table.  When
any of them tried to talk or argue with her she said conclusively:  "I
shall not say one word about this until Monday.  Then we will talk
things over, and find where we stand, and what Mother wants.  This
would be much easier for all of us, if you'd all go home and calm down,
and plan out what you think would be the fair and just thing to do."

Before evening Kate was back exactly where she left off, for when Mrs.
Bates came downstairs, her nerves quieted by her long sleep, she asked
Kate what would be best about each question that arose, while Kate
answered as nearly for all of them as her judgment and common sense
dictated; but she gave the answer in her own way, and she paved the way
by making a short, sharp speech when the first person said in her
hearing that "Mother never should have given him the deeds."  Not one
of them said that again, while at Kate's suggestion, mentally and on
scraps of paper, every single one of them figured that one third of
sixteen hundred and fifty was five hundred and fifty; subtracted from
sixteen hundred and fifty this left one thousand one hundred, which,
divided by sixteen, gave sixty-eight and three fourths.  This result
gave Josie the hysterics, strong and capable though she was; made Hiram
violently ill, so that he resorted to garden palings for a support;
while Agatha used her influence suddenly, and took Adam, Jr., home.

As she came to Kate to say that they were going, Agatha was white as
possible, her thin lips compressed, a red spot burning on either cheek.

"Adam and I shall take our departure now, Katherine," she said,
standing very stiffly, her head held higher than Kate ever had thought
it could be lifted.  Kate put her arm around her sister-in-law and gave
her a hearty hug:  "Tell Adam I'll do what I think is fair and just;
and use all the influence I have to get the others to do the same," she
said.

"Fruitless!" said Agatha.  "Fruitless!  Reason and justice have
departed from this abode.  I shall hasten my pace, and take Adam where
my influence is paramount.  The state of affairs here is deplorable,
perfectly deplorable!  I shall not be missed, and I shall leave my male
offspring to take the place of his poor, defrauded father."

Adam, 3d, was now a tall, handsome young man of twenty-two, quite as
fond of Kate as ever.  He wiped the dishes, and when the evening work
was finished, they talked with Mrs. Bates until they knew her every
wish.  The children had planned for a funeral from the church, because
it was large enough to seat the family and friends in comfort; but when
they mentioned this to Mrs. Bates, she delivered an ultimatum on the
instant:  "You'll do no such thing!" she cried.  "Pa never went to that
church living; I'll not sanction his being carried there feet first,
when he's helpless. And we'll not scandalize the neighbours by fighting
over money on Sunday, either.  You'll all come Monday morning, if you
want anything to say about this.  If you don't, I'll put through the
business in short order.  I'm sick to my soul of the whole thing. I'll
wash my hands of it as quick as possible."

So the families all went to their homes; Kate helped her mother to bed;
and then she and Adam, 3d, tried to plan what would be best for the
morrow; afterward they sat down and figured until almost dawn.

"There's no faintest possibility of pleasing everyone," said Kate. "The
level best we can do is to devise some scheme whereby everyone will
come as nearly being satisfied as possible."

"Can Aunt Josie and Aunt Mary keep from fighting across the grave?"
asked Adam.

"Only Heaven knows," said Kate.



CHAPTER XVII

THE BANNER HAND

SUNDAY morning Kate arose early and had the house clean and everything
ready when the first carriage load drove into the barnyard.  As she
helped her mother to dress, Mrs. Bates again evidenced a rebellious
spirit.  Nancy Ellen had slipped upstairs and sewed fine white ruching
in the neck and sleeves of her mother's best dress, her only dress, in
fact, aside from the calicoes she worked in.  Kate combed her mother's
hair and drew it in loose waves across her temples.  As she produced
the dress, Mrs. Bates drew back.

"What did you stick them gew-gaws onto my dress for?" she demanded.

"I didn't," said Kate.

"Oh, it was Nancy Ellen!  Well, I don't see why she wanted to make a
laughing stock of me," said Mrs. Bates.

"She didn't!" said Kate.  "Everyone is wearing ruching now; she wanted
her mother to have what the best of them have."

"Humph!" said Mrs. Bates.  "Well, I reckon I can stand it until noon,
but it's going to be a hot dose."

"Haven't you a thin black dress, Mother?" asked Kate.

"No," said Mrs. Bates, "I haven't; but you can make a pretty safe bet
that I will have one before I start anywhere again in such weather as
this."

"That's the proper spirit," said Kate.  "There comes Andrew.  Let me
put your bonnet on."

She set the fine black bonnet Nancy Ellen had bought on Mrs. Bates'
head at the proper angle and tied the long, wide silk ribbon beneath
her chin.  Mrs. Bates sat in martyr-like resignation.  Kate was pleased
with her mother's appearance.

"Look in the mirror," she said.  "See what a handsome lady you are."

"I ain't seen in a looking-glass since I don't know when," said Mrs.
Bates.  "Why should I begin now?  Chances are 'at you have rigged me up
until I'll set the neighbours laughing, or else to saying that I didn't
wait until the breath was out of Pa's body to begin primping."

"Nonsense, Mother," said Kate.  "Nobody will say or think anything.
Everyone will recognize Nancy Ellen's fine Spencerian hand in that
bonnet and ruching.  Now for your veil!"

Mrs. Bates arose from her chair, and stepped back.

"There, there, Katie!" she said.  "You've gone far enough.  I'll be
sweat to a lather in this dress; I'll wear the head-riggin', because
I've go to, or set the neighbours talkin' how mean Pa was not to let me
have a bonnet; and between the two I'd rather they'd take it out on me
than on him."  She steadied herself by the chair back and looked Kate
in the eyes.  "Pa was always the banner hand to boss everything," she
said.  "He was so big and strong, and so all-fired sure he was right, I
never contraried him in the start, so before I knowed it, I was waiting
for him to say what to do, and then agreeing with him, even when I
knowed he was WRONG.  So goin' we got along FINE, but it give me an
awful smothered feeling at times."

Kate stood looking at her mother intently, her brain racing, for she
was thinking to herself:  "Good Lord!  She means that to preserve the
appearance of self-respect she systematically agreed with him, whether
she thought he was right or wrong; because she was not able to hold her
own against him.  Nearly fifty years of life like that!"

Kate tossed the heavy black crepe veil back on the bed.  "Mother," she
said, "here alone, and between us, if I promise never to tell a living
soul, will you tell me the truth about that deed business?"  Mrs. Bates
seemed so agitated Kate added:  "I mean how it started.  If you thought
it was right and a fair thing to do."

"Yes, I'll tell you that," said Mrs. Bates.  "It was not fair, and I
saw it; I saw it good and plenty.  There was no use to fight him; that
would only a-drove him to record them, but I was sick of it, an' I told
him so."

Kate was pinning her hat.

"I have planned for you to walk with Adam," she said.

"Well, you can just change THAT plan, so far as I am concerned," said
Mrs. Bates with finality.  "I ain't a-goin' with Adam. Somebody had
told him about the deeds before he got here.  He came in ravin', and he
talked to me something terrible.  He was the first to say I shouldn't
a-give Pa the box.  NOT GIVE IT TO HIM! An' he went farther than that,
till I just rose up an' called him down proper; but I ain't feelin'
good at him, an' I ain't goin' with him.  I am goin' with you.  I want
somebody with me that understands me, and feels a little for me, an' I
want the neighbours to see that the minute I'm boss, such a fine girl
as you has her rightful place in her home.  I'll go with you, or I'll
sit down on this chair, and sit here."

"But you didn't send for me," said Kate.

"No, I hadn't quite got round to it yet; but I was coming.  I'd told
all of them that you were the only one in the lot who had any sense;
and I'd said I WISHED you were here, and as I see it, I'd a-sent for
you yesterday afternoon about three o'clock.  I was coming to it fast.
I didn't feel just like standing up for myself; but I'd took about all
fault-finding it was in me to bear. Just about three o'clock I'd a-sent
for you, Katie, sure as God made little apples."

"All right then," said Kate, "but if you don't tell them, they'll
always say I took the lead."

"Well, they got to say something," said Mrs. Bates.  "Most of 'em would
die if they had to keep their mouths shut awhile; but I'll tell them
fast enough."

Then she led the way downstairs.  There were enough members of the
immediate family to pack the front rooms of the house, the neighbours
filled the dining room and dooryard.  The church choir sang a hymn in
front of the house, the minister stood on the front steps and read a
chapter, and told where Mr. Bates had been born, married, the size of
his family and possessions, said he was a good father, an honest
neighbour, and very sensibly left his future with his God.  Then the
choir sang again and all started to their conveyances.  As the breaking
up began outside, Mrs. Bates arose and stepped to the foot of the
casket.  She steadied herself by it and said:  "Some time back, I
promised Pa that if he went before I did, at this time in his funeral
ceremony I would set his black tin box on the foot of his coffin and
unlock before all of you, and in the order in which they lay, beginning
with Adam, Jr., hand each of you boys the deed Pa had made you for the
land you live on.  You all know WHAT happened.  None of you know just
HOW. It wouldn't bring the deeds BACK if you did.  They're gone.  But I
want you boys to follow your father to his grave with nothing in your
hearts against HIM.  He was all for the men.  I don't ever want to hear
any of you criticize him about this, or me, either. He did his best to
make you upstanding men in your community, his one failing being that
he liked being an upstanding man himself so well that he carried it too
far; but his intentions was the best. As for me, I'd no idea how sick
he was, and nobody else did.  I minded him just like all the rest of
you always did; the BOYS especially.  From the church I want all of you
to go home until to-morrow morning, and then I want my sons and
daughters by BIRTH only, to come here, and we'll talk things over,
quietly, QUIETLY, mind you; and decide what to do.  Katie, will you
come with me?"

It was not quite a tearless funeral.  Some of the daughters-in-law wept
from nervous excitement; and some of the little children cried with
fear, but there were no tears from the wife of Adam Bates, or his sons
and daughters.  And when he was left to the mercies of time, all of
them followed Mrs. Bates' orders, except Nancy Ellen and Robert, who
stopped to help Kate with the dinner. Kate slipped into her second
dress and went to work.  Mrs. Bates untied her bonnet strings and
unfastened her dress neck as they started home.  She unbuttoned her
waist going up the back walk and pulled it off at the door.

"Well, if I ever put that thing on in July again," she said, "you can
use my head for a knock-maul.  Nancy Ellen, can't you stop at a store
as you come out in the morning and get the goods, and you girls run me
up a dress that is nice enough to go out in, and not so hot it starts
me burning before my time?"

"Of course I can," said Nancy Ellen.  "About what do you want to pay,
Mother?"

"Whatever it takes to get a decent and a cool dress; cool, mind you,"
said Mrs. Bates, "an' any colour but black."

"Why, Mother!" cried Nancy Ellen "it must be black!"

"No," said Mrs. Bates.  "Pa kept me in black all my life on the
supposition it showed the dirt the least.  There's nothing in that.  It
shows dirt worse 'an white.  I got my fill of black. You can get a nice
cool gray, if you want me to wear it."

"Well, I never!" said Nancy Ellen.  "What will the neighbours say?"

"What do I care?" asked Mrs. Bates.  "They've talked about me all my
life, I'd be kinda lonesome if they's to quit."

Dinner over, Kate proposed that her mother should lie down while they
washed the dishes.

"I would like a little rest," said Mrs. Bates.  "I guess I'll go
upstairs."

"You'll do nothing of the kind," said Kate.  "It's dreadfully hot up
there.  Go in the spare room, where it is cool; we'll keep quiet.  I am
going to stay Tuesday until I move you in there, anyway.  It's smaller,
but it's big enough for one, and you'll feel much better there."

"Oh, Katie, I'm so glad you thought of that," cried Mrs. Bates. "I been
thinking and thinking about it, and it just seems as if I can't ever
steel myself to go into that room to sleep again.  I'll never enter
that door that I don't see--"

"You'll never enter it again as your room," said Kate.  "I'll fix you
up before I go; and Sally Whistler told me last evening she would come
and make her home with you if you wanted her.  You like Sally, don't
you?"

"Yes, I like her fine," said Mrs. Bates.

Quietly as possible the girls washed the dishes, pulled down the
blinds, closed the front door, and slipped down in the orchard with
Robert to talk things over.  Nancy Ellen was stiffly reserved with
Kate, but she WOULD speak when she was spoken to, which was so much
better than silence that Kate was happy over it.  Robert was himself.
Kate thought she had never liked him so well.  He seemed to grow even
kinder and more considerate as the years passed.  Nancy Ellen was
prettier than Kate ever had seen her, but there was a line of
discontent around her mouth, and she spoke pettishly on slight
provocation, or none at all.  Now she was openly, brazenly, brutally,
frank in her rejoicing.  She thought it was the best "JOKE" that ever
happened to the boys; and she said so repeatedly.  Kate found her lips
closing more tightly and a slight feeling of revulsion growing in her
heart.  Surely in Nancy Ellen's lovely home, cared for and shielded in
every way, she had no such need of money as Kate had herself.  She was
delighted when Nancy Ellen said she was sleepy, and was going to the
living-room lounge for a nap.  Then Kate produced her sheet of figures.
She and Robert talked the situation over and carefully figured on how
an adjustment, fair to all, could be made, until they were called to
supper.

After supper Nancy Ellen and Robert went home, while Kate and her
mother sat on the back porch and talked until Kate had a clear
understanding and a definite plan in her mind, which was that much
improvement over wearing herself out in bitter revilings, or selfish
rejoicing over her brothers' misfortune.  Her mother listened to all
she had to say, asked a question occasionally, objected to some things,
and suggested others.  They arose when they had covered every
contingency they could think of and went upstairs to bed, even though
the downstairs was cooler.

As she undressed, Mrs. Bates said slowly:  "Now in the morning, I'll
speak my piece first; and I'll say it pretty plain.  I got the
whip-hand here for once in my life.  They can't rave and fight here,
and insult me again, as they did Friday night and Saturday till you got
here an' shut 'em up.  I won't stand it, that's flat! I'll tell 'em so,
and that you speak for me, because you can figure faster and express
yourself plainer; but insist that there be no fussing, an' I'll back
you.  I don't know just what life has been doing to you, Katie, but
Lord! it has made a fine woman of you."

Kate set her lips in an even line and said nothing, but her heart was
the gladdest it had been in years.

Her mother continued:  "Seems like Nancy Ellen had all the chance. Most
folks thought she was a lot the purtiest to start with, though I can't
say that I ever saw so much difference.  She's had leisure an' pettin',
and her husband has made a mint o' money; she's gone all over the
country with him, and the more chance she has, the narrower she grows,
and the more discontenteder.  One thing, she is awful disappointed
about havin' no children.  I pity her about that."

"Is it because she's a twin?" asked Kate.

"I'm afraid so," said Mrs. Bates.  "You can't tell much about those
things, they just seem to happen.  Robert and Nancy Ellen feel awful
bad about it.  Still, she might do for others what she would for her
own.  The Lord knows there are enough mighty nice children in the world
who need mothering.  I want to see your children, Katie.  Are they nice
little folks, straight and good looking?"

"The boy is," said Kate.  "The girl is good, with the exception of
being the most stubborn child I've ever seen.  She looks so much like a
woman it almost sickens me to think of that I have to drive myself to
do her justice."

"What a pity!" said Mrs. Bates, slowly.

"Oh, they are healthy, happy youngsters," said Kate.  "They get as much
as we ever did, and don't expect any more.  I have yet to see a
demonstrative Bates."

"Humph!" said Mrs. Bates.  "Well, you ought to been here Friday night,
and I thought Adam came precious near it Saturday."

"Demonstrating power, or anger, yes," said Kate.  "I meant affection.
And isn't it the queerest thing how people are made? Of all the boys,
Adam is the one who has had the most softening influences, and who has
made the most money, and yet he's acting the worst of all.  It really
seems as if failure and hardship make more of a human being of folks
than success."

"You're right," said Mrs. Bates.  "Look at Nancy Ellen and Adam.
Sometimes I think Adam has been pretty much galled with Agatha and her
money all these years; and it just drives him crazy to think of having
still less than she has.  Have you got your figures all set down, to
back you up, Katie?"

"Yes," said Kate.  "I've gone all over it with Robert, and he thinks
it's the best and only thing that can be done.  Now go to sleep."

Each knew that the other was awake most of the night, but very few
words passed between them.  They were up early, dressed, and waiting
when the first carriage stopped at the gate.  Kate told her mother to
stay where she would not be worried until she was needed, and went down
herself to meet her brothers and sisters in the big living room.  When
the last one arrived, she called her mother.  Mrs. Bates came down
looking hollow-eyed, haggard, and grim, as none of her children ever
before had seen her.  She walked directly to the little table at the
end of the room, and while still standing she said:  "Now I've got a
few words to say, and then I'll turn this over to a younger head an'
one better at figures than mine.  I've said my say as to Pa, yesterday.
Now I'll say THIS, for myself.  I got my start, minding Pa, and
agreeing with him, young; but you needn't any of you throw it in my
teeth now, that I did.  There is only ONE woman among you, and no MAN
who ever disobeyed him.  Katie stood up to him once, and got seven
years from home to punish her and me.  He wasn't RIGHT then, and I knew
it, as I'd often known it before, and pretty often since; but no woman
God ever made could have lived with Adam Bates as his wife and
contraried him.  I didn't mind him any quicker or any oftener than the
rest of you; keep that pretty clear in your heads, and don't one of you
dare open your mouth again to tell me, as you did Saturday, what I
SHOULD a-done, and what I SHOULDN'T.  I've had the law of this
explained to me; you all know it for that matter.  By the law, I get
this place and one third of all the other land and money.  I don't know
just what money there is at the bank or in notes and mortgages, but a
sixteenth of it after my third is taken out ain't going to make or
break any of you.  I've told Katie what I'm willing to do on my part
and she will explain it, and then tell you about a plan she has fixed
up.  As for me, you can take it or leave it.  If you take it, well and
good; if you don't, the law will be set in motion to-day, and it will
take its course to the end.  It all depends on YOU.

"Now two things more.  At the start, what Pa wanted to do seemed to me
right, and I agreed with him and worked with him.  But when my girls
began to grow up and I saw how they felt, and how they struggled and
worked, and how the women you boys married went ahead of my own girls,
and had finer homes, an' carriages, and easier times, I got pretty sick
of it, and I told Pa so more'n once.  He just raved whenever I did, an'
he always carried his keys in his pocket.  I never touched his chest
key in my life, till I handed him his deed box Friday afternoon.  But I
agree with my girls.  It's fair and right, since things have come out
as they have, that they should have their shares.  I would, too.

"The other thing is just this:  I'm tired to death of the whole
business.  I want peace and rest and I want it quick.  Friday and
Saturday I was so scared and so knocked out I s'pose I'd 'a' took it if
one of the sucking babies had riz up and commenced to tell me what I
should a-done, and what I shouldn't.  I'm THROUGH with that.  You will
all keep civil tongues in your heads this morning, or I'll get up and
go upstairs, an' lock myself in a room till you're gone, an' if I go,
it will mean that the law takes its course; and if it does, there will
be three hundred acres less land to divide.  You've had Pa on your
hands all your lives, now you will go civil, and you will go easy, or
you will get a taste of Ma.  I take no more talk from anybody.  Katie,
go ahead with your figures."

Kate spread her sheet on the table and glanced around the room:

"The Milton County records show sixteen hundred and fifty acres
standing in Father's name," she said.  "Of these, Mother is heir to
five hundred and fifty acres, leaving one thousand one hundred acres to
be divided among sixteen of us, which give sixty-eight and
three-fourths acres to each.  This land is the finest that proper
fertilization and careful handling can make.  Even the poorest is the
cream of the country as compared with the surrounding farms.  As a
basis of estimate I have taken one hundred dollars an acre as a fair
selling figure.  Some is worth more, some less, but that is a good
average.  This would make the share of each of us in cash that could
easily be realized, six thousand eight hundred and seventy-five
dollars.  Whatever else is in mortgages, notes, and money can be
collected as it is due, deposited in some bank, and when it is all in,
divided equally among us, after deducting Mother's third.  Now this is
the law, and those are the figures, but I shall venture to say that
none of us feel RIGHT about it, or ever will."

An emphatic murmur of approval ran among the boys, Mary and Nancy Ellen
stoutly declared that they did.

"Oh, no, you don't!" said Kate.  "If God made any woman of you so that
she feels right and clean in her conscience about this deal, he made
her WRONG, and that is a thing that has not yet been proven of God.  As
I see it, here is the boys' side:  from childhood they were told,
bribed, and urged to miss holidays, work all week, and often on Sunday,
to push and slave on the promise of this land at twenty-one.  They all
got the land and money to stock it and build homes.  They were told it
was theirs, required to pay the taxes on it, and also to labour at any
time and without wages for Father.  Not one of the boys but has done
several hundred dollars' worth of work on Father's farm for nothing, to
keep him satisfied and to insure getting his deed.  All these years,
each man has paid his taxes, put thousands in improvements, in
rebuilding homes and barns, fertilizing, and developing his land. Each
one of these farms is worth nearly twice what it was the day it was
received.  That the boys should lose all this is no cause for rejoicing
on the part of any true woman; as a fact, no true woman would allow
such a thing to happen--"

"Speak for yourself!" cried several of the girls at once.

"Now right here is where we come to a perfect understanding," said
Kate.  "I did say that for myself, but in the main what I say, I say
for MOTHER.  Now you will not one of you interrupt me again, or this
meeting closes, and each of you stands to lose more than two thousand
dollars, which is worth being civil for, for quite a while.  No more of
that!  I say any woman should be ashamed to take advantage of her
brother through an accident; and rob him of years of work and money he
was perfectly justified in thinking was his.  I, for one, refuse to do
it, and I want and need money probably more than any of you.  To tear
up these farms, to take more than half from the boys, is too much.  On
the other hand, for the girls to help earn the land, to go with no
inheritance at all, is even more unfair.  Now in order to arrive at a
compromise that will leave each boy his farm, and give each girl the
nearest possible to a fair amount, figuring in what the boys have spent
in taxes and work for Father, and what each girl has LOST by not having
her money to handle all these years, it is necessary to split the
difference between the time Adam, the eldest, has had his inheritance,
and Hiram, the youngest, came into possession, which by taking from and
adding to, gives a fair average of fifteen years.  Now Mother proposes
if we will enter into an agreement this morning with no words and no
wrangling, to settle on this basis:  she will relinquish her third of
all other land, and keep only this home farm.  She even will allow the
fifty lying across the road to be sold and the money put into a general
fund for the share of the girls.  She will turn into this fund all
money from notes and mortgages, and the sale of all stock, implements,
etc., here, except what she wants to keep for her use, and the sum of
three thousand dollars in cash, to provide against old age.  This
releases quite a sum of money, and three hundred and fifty acres of
land, which she gives to the boys to start this fund as her recompense
for their work and loss through a scheme in which she had a share in
the start.  She does this only on the understanding that the boys form
a pool, and in some way take from what they have saved, sell timber or
cattle, or borrow enough money to add to this sufficient to pay to each
girl six thousand dollars in cash, in three months.  Now get out your
pencils and figure.  Start with the original number of acres at fifty
dollars an acre which is what it cost Father on an average.  Balance
against each other what the boys have lost in tax and work, and the
girls have lost in not having their money to handle, and cross it off.
Then figure, not on a basis of what the boys have made this land worth,
but on what it cost Father's estate to buy, build on, and stock each
farm.  Strike the fifteen-year average on prices and profits.  Figure
that the girls get all their money practically immediately, to pay for
the time they have been out of it; while each boy assumes an equal
share of the indebtedness required to finish out the six thousand,
after Mother has turned in what she is willing to, if this is settled
HERE AND NOW."

"Then I understand," said Mary, "that if we take under the law, each of
us is entitled to sixty-eight and three quarter acres; and if we take
under Mother's proposition we are entitled to eighty-seven and a half
acres."

"No, no, E. A.," said Kate, the old nickname for "Exceptional Ability"
slipping out before she thought.  "No, no!  Not so!  You take
sixty-eight and three quarters under the law.  Mother's proposition is
made ONLY to the boys, and only on condition that they settle here and
now; because she feels responsible to them for her share in rearing
them and starting them out as she did. By accepting her proposition you
lose eight hundred and seventy-five dollars, approximately.  The boys
lose on the same basis, figuring at fifty dollars and acre, six
thousand five hundred and sixty-two dollars and fifty cents, plus their
work and taxes, and minus what Mother will turn in, which will be
about, let me see--It will take a pool of fifty-four thousand dollars
to pay each of us six thousand.  If Mother raises thirty-five thousand,
plus sale money and notes, it will leave about nineteen thousand for
the boys, which will divide up at nearly two thousand five hundred for
them to lose, as against less than a thousand for us.  That should be
enough to square matters with any right-minded woman, even in our
positions.  It will give us that much cash in hand, it will leave the
boys, some of the younger ones, in debt for years, if they hold their
land.  What more do you want?"

"I want the last cent that is coming to me," said Mary.

"I thought you would," said Kate.  "Yet you have the best home, and the
most money, of any of the girls living on farms.  I settle under this
proposition, because it is fair and just, and what Mother wants done.
If she feels that this is defrauding the girls any, she can arrange to
leave what she has to us at her death, which would more than square
matters in our favour--"

"You hold on there, Katie," said Mrs. Bates.  "You're going too fast!
I'll get what's coming to me, and hang on to it awhile, before I decide
which way the cat jumps.  I reckon you'll all admit that in mothering
the sixteen of you, doing my share indoors and out, and living with PA
for all these years, I've earned it. I'll not tie myself up in any way.
I'll do just what I please with mine.  Figure in all I've told you to;
for the rest--let be!"

"I beg your pardon," said Kate.  "You're right, of course.  I'll sign
this, and I shall expect every sister I have to do the same, quickly
and cheerfully, as the best way out of a bad business that has hurt all
of us for years, and then I shall expect the boys to follow like men.
It's the fairest, decentest thing we can do, let's get it over."

Kate picked up the pen, handed it to her mother, signed afterward
herself, and then carried it to each of her sisters, leaving Nancy
Ellen and Mary until last.  All of them signed up to Nancy Ellen. She
hesitated, and she whispered to Kate:  "Did Robert--?"  Kate nodded.
Nancy Ellen thought deeply a minute and then said slowly: "I guess it
is the quickest and best we can do."  So she signed. Mary hesitated
longer, but finally added her name.  Kate passed on to the boys,
beginning with Adam.  Slowly he wrote his name, and as he handed back
the paper he said:  "Thank you, Kate, I believe it's the sanest thing
we can do.  I can make it easier than the younger boys."

"Then HELP them," said Kate tersely, passing on.

Each boy signed in turn, all of them pleased with the chance.  It was
so much better than they had hoped, that it was a great relief, which
most of them admitted; so they followed Adam's example in thanking
Kate, for all of them knew that in her brain had originated the scheme,
which seemed to make the best of their troubles.

Then they sat closer and talked things over calmly and dispassionately.
It was agreed that Adam and his mother should drive to Hartley the
following afternoon and arrange for him to take out papers of
administration for her, and start the adjustment of affairs.  They all
went home thinking more of each other, and Kate especially, than ever
before.  Mrs. Bates got dinner while Kate and Nancy Ellen went to work
on the cool gray dress, so that it would be ready for the next
afternoon.  While her mother was away Kate cleaned the spare bedroom
and moved her mother's possessions into it.  She made it as convenient
and comfortable and as pretty as she could, but the house was bare to
austerity, so that her attempt at prettifying was rather a failure.
Then she opened the closed room and cleaned it, after studying it most
carefully as it stood.  The longer she worked, the stronger became a
conviction that was slowly working its way into her brain.  When she
could do no more she packed her telescope, installed Sally Whistler in
her father's room, and rode to Hartley with a neighbour.  From there
she took the Wednesday hack for Walden.



CHAPTER XVIII

KATE TAKES THE BIT IN HER TEETH

THE hackman was obliging, for after delivering the mail and some
parcels, he took Kate to her home.  While she waited for him, she
walked the ravine bank planning about the mill which was now so sure
that she might almost begin work.  Surely she might as soon as she
finished figuring, for she had visited the Court House in Hartley and
found that George's deeds were legal, and in proper shape.  Her mind
was filled with plans which this time must succeed.

As she approached the house she could see the children playing in the
yard.  It was the first time she ever had been away from them; she
wondered if they had missed her.  She was amazed to find that they were
very decidedly disappointed to see her; but a few pertinent questions
developed the reason.  Their grandmother had come with her sister; she
had spent her time teaching them that their mother was cold, and hard,
and abused them, by not treating them as other children were treated.
So far as Kate could see they had broken every rule she had ever laid
down for them:  eaten until their stomachs were out of order, and
played in their better clothing, until it never would be nice again,
while Polly shouted at her approach:  "Give ME the oranges and candy.
I want to divide them."

"Silly," said Kate.  "This is too soon.  I've no money yet, it will be
a long time before I get any; but you shall each have an orange, some
candy, and new clothing when I do.  Now run see what big fish you can
catch."

Satisfied, the children obeyed and ran to the creek.  Aunt Ollie,
worried and angered, told Adam to tell his father that Mother was home
and for him to come and take her and grandmother to Walden at once.
She had not been able to keep Mrs. Holt from one steady round of
mischief; but she argued that her sister could do less, with her on
guard, than alone, so she had stayed and done her best; but she knew
how Kate would be annoyed, so she believed the best course was to leave
as quickly as possible.  Kate walked into the house, spoke to both
women, and went to her room to change her clothing.  Before she had
finished, she heard George's voice in the house demanding:  "Where's
our millionaire lady?  I want a look at her."

Kate was very tired, slowly relaxing from intense nerve strain, she was
holding herself in check about the children.  She took a tighter grip,
and vowed she would not give Mrs. Holt the satisfaction of seeing her
disturbed and provoked, if she killed herself in the effort at
self-control.  She stepped toward the door.

"Here," she called in a clear voice, the tone of which brought George
swiftly.

"What was he worth, anyway?" he shouted.

"Oh, millions and millions," said Kate, sweetly, "at least I THINK so.
It was scarcely a time to discuss finances, in the face of that
horrible accident."

George laughed.  "Oh, you're a good one!" he cried.  "Think you can
keep a thing like that still?  The cats, and the dogs, and the chickens
of the whole county know about the deeds the old Land King had made for
his sons; and how he got left on it.  Served him right, too!  We could
here Andrew swear, and see Adam beat his horse, clear over here!
That's right!  Go ahead!  Put on airs! Tell us something we don't KNOW,
will you?  Maybe you think I wasn't hanging pretty close around that
neighbourhood, myself!"

"Spying?" cried Kate.

"Looking for timber," he sneered.  "And never in all my life have I
seen anything to beat it.  Sixteen hundred and fifty acres of the best
land in the world.  Your share of land and money together will be every
cent of twelve thousand.  Oh, I guess I know what you've got up your
sleeve, my lady.  Come on, shell out!  Let's all go celebrate.  What
did you bring the children?"

Kate was rapidly losing patience in spite of her resolves.

"Myself," she said.  "From their appearance and actions, goodness knows
they needed me.  I have been to my father's funeral, George; not to a
circus."

"Humph!" said George.  "And home for the first time in seven years.
You needn't tell me it wasn't the biggest picnic you ever had!  And
say, about those deeds burning up--wasn't that too grand?"

"Even if my father burned with them?" she asked.  "George, you make me
completely disgusted."

"Big hypocrite!" he scoffed.  "You know you're tickled silly. Why, you
will get ten times as much as you would if those deeds hadn't burned.
I know what that estate amounts to.  I know what that land is worth.
I'll see that you get your share to the last penny that can be wrung
out of it.  You bet I will!  Things are coming our way at last.  Now we
can build the mill, and do everything we planned.  I don't know as we
will build a mill. With your fifteen thousand we could start a store in
Hartley, and do bigger things."

"The thing for you to do right now is to hitch up and take Aunt Ollie
and your mother home," said Kate.  "I'll talk to you after supper and
tell you all there is to know.  I'm dusty and tired now."

"Well, you needn't try to fix up any shenanigan for me," he said. "I
know to within five hundred dollars of what your share of that estate
is worth, and I'll see that you get it."

"No one has even remotely suggested that I shouldn't have my share of
that estate," said Kate.

While he was gone, Kate thought intently as she went about her work.
She saw exactly what her position was, and what she had to do.  Their
talk would be disagreeable, but the matter had to gone into and gotten
over.  She let George talk as he would while she finished supper and
they ate.  When he went for his evening work, she helped the children
scale their fish for breakfast and as they worked she talked to them,
sanely, sensibly, explaining what she could, avoiding what she could
not.  She put them to bed, her heart almost sickened at what they had
been taught and told.  Kate was in no very propitious mood for her
interview with George.  As she sat on the front porch waiting for him,
she was wishing with all her heart that she was back home with the
children, to remain forever.  That, of course, was out of the question,
but she wished it.  She had been so glad to be with her mother again,
to be of service, to hear a word of approval now and then.  She must be
worthy of her mother's opinion, she thought, just as George stepped on
the porch, sat on the top step, leaned against a pillar, and said:
"Now go on, tell me all about it."

Kate thought intently a second.  Instead of beginning with leaving
Friday morning:  "I was at the Court House in Hartley this morning,"
she said.

"You needn't have done that," he scoffed.  "I spent most of the day
there Monday.  You bet folks shelled out the books when I told them who
I was, and what I was after.  I must say you folks have some little
reason to be high and mighty.  You sure have got the dough.  No wonder
the old man hung on to his deeds himself.  He wasn't so FAR from a
King, all right, all right."

"You mean you left your work Monday, and went to the Court House in
Hartley and told who you were, and spent the day nosing into my
father's affairs, before his SONS had done anything, or you had any
idea WHAT was to be done?" she demanded.

"Oh, you needn't get so high and mighty," he said.  "I propose to know
just where I am, about this.  I propose to have just what is coming to
me--to you, to the last penny, and no Bates man will manage the affair,
either."

Suddenly Kate leaned forward.

"I foresee that you've fixed yourself up for a big disappointment," she
said.  "My mother and her eldest son will settle my father's estate;
and when it is settled I shall have exactly what the other girls have.
Then if I still think it is wise, I shall at once go to work building
the mill.  Everything must be shaved to the last cent, must be done
with the closest economy, I MUST come out of this with enough left to
provide us a comfortable home."

"Do that from the first profits of the mill," he suggested.

"I'm no good at 'counting chickens before they're hatched,'" said Kate.
"Besides, the first profits from the mill, as you very well know, if
you would ever stop to think, must go to pay for logs to work on, and
there must always be a good balance for that purpose. No.  I reserve
enough from my money to fix the home I want; but I shall wait to do it
until the mill is working, so I can give all my attention to it, while
you are out looking up timber."

"Of course I can do all of it perfectly well," he said.  "And it's a
MAN'S business.  You'll make me look like fifty cents if you get out
among men and go to doing a thing no woman in this part of the country
ever did.  Why, it will look like you didn't TRUST me!"

"I can't help how it will look," said Kate.  "This is my last and only
dollar; if I lose it, I am out for life; I shall take no risk.  I've no
confidence in your business ability, and you know it.  It need not hurt
your pride a particle to say that we are partners; that I'm going to
build the mill, while you're going to bring in the timber.  It's the
only way I shall touch the proposition.  I will give you two hundred
dollars for the deed and abstract of the ravine.  I'll give your mother
eight hundred for the lot and house, which is two hundred more than it
is worth. I'll lay away enough to rebuild and refurnish it, and with
the remainder I'll build the dam, bridge, and mill, just as quickly as
it can be done.  As soon as I get my money, we'll buy timber for the
mill and get it sawed and dried this winter.  We can be all done and
running by next June."

"Kate, how are you going to get all that land sold, and the money in
hand to divide up that quickly?  I don't think it ever can be done.
Land is always sold on time, you know," he said.

Kate drew a deep breath.  "THIS land isn't going to be sold," she said.
"Most of the boys have owned their farms long enough to have enabled
them to buy other land, and put money in the bank. They're going to
form a pool, and put in enough money to pay the girls the share they
have agreed to take; even if they have to borrow it, as some of the
younger ones will; but the older ones will help them; so the girls are
to have their money in cash, in three months.  I was mighty glad of the
arrangement for my part, because we can begin at once on our plans for
the mill."

"And how much do the girls get?" he asked darkly.

"Can't say just yet," said Kate.  "The notes and mortgages have to be
gone over, and the thing figured out; it will take some time. Mother
and Adam began yesterday; we shall know in a few weeks."

"Sounds to me like a cold-blooded Bates steal," he cried.  "Who figured
out what WAS a fair share for the girls; who planned that arrangement?
Why didn't you insist on the thing going through court; the land belong
sold, and equal divisions of all the proceeds?"

"Now if you'll agree not to say a word until I finish, I'll show you
the figures," said Kate.  "I'll tell you what the plan is, and why it
was made, and I'll tell you further that it is already recorded, and in
action.  There are no minor heirs.  We could make an agreement and
record it.  There was no will.  Mother will administer.  It's all
settled.  Wait until I get the figures."

Then slowly and clearly she went over the situation, explaining
everything in detail.  When she finished he sat staring at her with a
snarling face.

"You signed that?" he demanded.  "You signed that!  YOU THREW AWAY AT
LEAST HALF YOU MIGHT HAVE HAD!  You let those lazy scoundrels of
brothers of yours hoodwink you, and pull the wool over your eyes like
that?  Are you mad?  Are you stark, staring mad?"

"No, I'm quite sane," said Kate.  "It is you who are mad.  You know my
figures, don't you?  Those were the only ones used yesterday.  The
whole scheme was mine, with help from Mother to the extent of her
giving up everything except the home farm."

"You crazy fool!" he cried, springing up.

"Now stop," said Kate.  "Stop right there!  I've done what I think is
right, and fair, and just, and I'm happy with the results.  Act
decently, I'll stay and build the mill.  Say one, only one more of the
nasty, insulting things in your head, and I'll go in there and wake up
the children and we will leave now and on foot."

Confronted with Kate and her ultimatum, George arose and walked down to
the road; he began pacing back and forth in the moonlight, struggling
to regain command of himself.  He had no money.  He had no prospect of
any until Aunt Ollie died and left him her farm. He was, as he
expressed it, "up against it" there.  Now he was "up against it" with
Kate.  What she decided upon and proposed to do was all he could do.
She might shave prices, and cut, and skimp, and haggle to buy material,
and put up her building at the least possible expense.  She might sit
over books and figure herself blind.  He would be driving over the
country, visiting with the farmers, booming himself for a fat county
office maybe, eating big dinners, and being a jolly good fellow
generally.  Naturally as breathing, there came to him a scheme whereby
he could buy at the very lowest figure he could extract; then he would
raise the price to Kate enough to make him a comfortable income besides
his share of the business.  He had not walked the road long until his
anger was all gone.

He began planning the kind of horse he would have to drive, the buggy
he would want, and a box in it to carry a hatchet, a square, measures,
an auger, other tools he would need, and by Jove! it would be a dandy
idea to carry a bottle of the real thing.  Many a farmer, for a good
cigar and a few swallows of the right thing, would warm up and sign
such a contract as could be got in no other manner; while he would need
it on cold days himself.  George stopped in the moonlight to slap his
leg and laugh over the happy thought.  "By George, Georgie, my boy," he
said, "most days will be cold, won't they?"

He had no word to say to Kate of his change of feeling in the matter.
He did not want to miss the chance of twitting her at every opportunity
he could invent with having thrown away half her inheritance; but he
was glad the whole thing was settled so quickly and easily.  He was now
busy planning how he would spend the money Kate agreed to pay him for
the ravine; but that was another rosy cloud she soon changed in colour,
for she told him if he was going to be a partner he could put in what
money he had, as his time was no more valuable than she could make hers
teaching school again--in other words, he could buy his horse and buggy
with the price she paid for the location, so he was forced to agree.
He was forced to do a great many things in the following months that he
hated; but he had to do them or be left out of the proposition
altogether.

Mrs. Bates and Adam administered the Bates estate promptly and
efficiently.  The girls had their money on time, the boys adjusted
themselves as their circumstances admitted.  Mrs. Bates had to make so
many trips to town, before the last paper was signed, and the last
transfer was made, that she felt she could not go any farther, so she
did not.  Nancy Ellen had reached the point where she would stop and
talk a few minutes to Kate, if she met her on the streets of Hartley,
as she frequently did now; but she would not ask her to come home with
her, because she would not bring herself in contact with George Holt.
The day Kate went to Hartley to receive and deposit her check, and
start her bank account, her mother asked her if she had any plan as to
what she would do with her money.  Kate told her in detail.  Mrs. Bates
listened with grim face:  "You better leave it in the bank," she said,
"and use the interest to help you live, or put it in good farm
mortgages, where you can easily get ten per cent."

Kate explained again and told how she was doing all the buying, how she
would pay all bills, and keep the books.  It was no use. Mrs. Bates
sternly insisted that she should do no such thing.  In some way she
would be defrauded.  In some way she would lose the money.  What she
was proposing was a man's work.  Kate had most of her contracts signed
and much material ordered, she could not stop.  Sadly she saw her
mother turn from her, declaring as she went that Kate would lose every
cent she had, and when she did she need not come hanging around her.
She had been warned.  If she lost, she could take the consequences.
For an instant Kate felt that she could not endure it then she sprang
after her mother.

"Oh, but I won't lose!" she cried.  "I'm keeping my money in my own
hands.  I'm spending it myself.  Please, Mother, come and see the
location, and let me show you everything."

"Too late now," said Mrs. Bates grimly, "the thing is done.  The time
to have told me was before you made any contracts.  You're always
taking the bit in your teeth and going ahead.  Well, go! But remember,
'as you make your bed, so you can lie.'"

"All right," said Kate, trying to force a laugh.  "Don't you worry.
Next time you get into a tight place and want to borrow a few hundreds,
come to me."

Mrs. Bates laughed derisively.  Kate turned away with a faint sickness
in her heart and when half an hour later she met Nancy Ellen, fresh
from an interview with her mother, she felt no better--far worse, in
fact--for Nancy Ellen certainly could say what was in her mind with
free and forceful directness.  With deft tongue and nimble brain, she
embroidered all Mrs. Bates had said, and prophesied more evil luck in
three minutes than her mother could have thought of in a year.  Kate
left them with no promise of seeing either of them again, except by
accident, her heart and brain filled with misgivings.  "Must I always
have 'a fly in my ointment'?" she wailed to herself.  "I thought this
morning this would be the happiest day of my life.  I felt as if I were
flying. Ye Gods, but wings were never meant for me.  Every time I take
them, down I come kerflop, mostly in a 'gulf of dark despair,' as the
hymn book says.  Anyway, I'll keep my promise and give the youngsters a
treat."

So she bought each of them an orange, some candy, and goods for a new
Sunday outfit and comfortable school clothing.  Then she took the hack
for Walden, feeling in a degree as she had the day she married George
Holt.  As she passed the ravine and again studied the location her
spirits arose.  It WAS a good scheme.  It would work.  She would work
it.  She would sell from the yards to Walden and the surrounding
country.  She would see the dealers in Hartley and talk the business
over, so she would know she was not being cheated in freight rates when
she came to shipping.  She stopped at Mrs. Holt's, laid a deed before
her for her signature, and offered her a check for eight hundred for
the Holt house and lot, which Mrs. Holt eagerly accepted.  They
arranged to move immediately, as the children were missing school.  She
had a deed with her for the ravine, which George signed in Walden, and
both documents were acknowledged; but she would not give him the money
until he had the horse and buggy he was to use, at the gate, in the
spring.

He wanted to start out buying at once, but that was going too far in
the future for Kate.  While the stream was low, and the banks firm,
Kate built her dam, so that it would be ready for spring, put in the
abutments, and built the bridge.  It was not a large dam, and not a big
bridge, but both were solid, well constructed, and would serve every
purpose.  Then Kate set men hauling stone for the corner foundations.
She hoped to work up such a trade and buy so much and so wisely in the
summer that she could run all winter, so she was building a real mill
in the Bates way, which way included letting the foundations freeze and
settle over winter.  That really was an interesting and a comfortable
winter.

Kate and George both watched the children's studies at night, worked
their plans finer in the daytime, and lived as cheaply and carefully as
they could.  Everything was going well.  George was doing his best to
promote the mill plan, to keep Kate satisfied at home, to steal out
after she slept, and keep himself satisfied in appetite, and some ready
money in his pockets, won at games of chance, at which he was an
expert, and at cards, which he handled like a master.



CHAPTER XIX

"AS A MAN SOWETH"

AT THE earliest possible moment in the spring, the building of the mill
began.  It was scarcely well under way when the work was stopped by a
week of heavy rains.  The water filled the ravine to dangerous height
and the roaring of the dam could be heard all over town.  George talked
of it incessantly.  He said it was the sweetest music his ears had ever
heard.  Kate had to confess that she like the sound herself, but she
was fearful over saying much on the subject because she was so very
anxious about the stability of the dam.  There was a day or two of fine
weather; then the rains began again.  Kate said she had all the music
she desired; she proposed to be safe; so she went and opened the
sluiceway to reduce the pressure on the dam.  The result was almost
immediate. The water gushed through, lowering the current and lessening
the fall.  George grumbled all day, threatening half a dozen times to
shut the sluice; but Kate and the carpenter were against him, so he
waited until he came slipping home after midnight, his brain in a
muddle from drink, smoke, and cards.  As he neared the dam, he decided
that the reason he felt so badly was because he had missed hearing it
all day, but he would have it to go to sleep by.  So he crossed the
bridge and shut the sluice gate.  Even as he was doing it the thunder
pealed; lightning flashed, and high Heaven gave him warning that he was
doing a dangerous thing; but all his life he had done what he pleased;
there was no probability that he would change then.  He needed the roar
of the dam to quiet his nerves.

The same roar that put him to sleep, awakened Kate.  She lay wondering
at it and fearing.  She raised her window to listen. The rain was
falling in torrents, while the roar was awful, so much worse than it
had been when she fell asleep, that she had a suspicion of what might
have caused it.  She went to George's room and shook him awake.

"Listen to the dam!" she cried.  "It will go, as sure as fate. George,
did you, Oh, did you, close the sluice-gate when you came home?"

He was half asleep, and too defiant from drink to take his usual course.

"Sure!" he said.  "Sweesish mushich ever hearsh.  Push me shleep."

He fell back on the pillow and went on sleeping.  Kate tried again to
waken him, but he struck at her savagely.  She ran to her room, hurried
into a few clothes, and getting the lantern, started toward the bridge.
At the gate she stepped into water.  As far as she could see above the
dam the street was covered.  She waded to the bridge, which was under
at each end but still bare in the middle, where it was slightly higher.
Kate crossed it and started down the yard toward the dam.  The earth
was softer there, and she mired in places almost to her knees.  At the
dam, the water was tearing around each end in a mad race, carrying
earth and everything before it.  The mill side was lower than the
street. The current was so broad and deep she could not see where the
sluice was.  She hesitated a second to try to locate it from the mill
behind her; and in that instant there was a crack and a roar, a mighty
rush that swept her from her feet and washed away the lantern.  Nothing
saved her but the trees on the bank.  She struck one, clung to it,
pulled herself higher, and in the blackness gripped the tree, while she
heard the dam going gradually after the first break.

There was no use to scream, no one could have heard her.  The storm
raved on; Kate clung to her tree, with each flash of lightning trying
to see the dam.  At last she saw that it was not all gone.  She was not
much concerned about herself.  She knew the tree would hold.  Eagerly
she strained her eyes toward the dam. She could feel the water dropping
lower, while the roar subsided to a wild rush, and with flashes of
lightning she could see what she thought was at least half of the dam
holding firm.  By that time Kate began to chill.  She wrapped her arms
around the tree, and pressing her cheek against the rough bark, she
cried as hard as she could and did not care.  God would not hear; the
neighbours could not.  She shook and cried until she was worn out.  By
that time the water was only a muddy flow around her ankles; if she had
a light she could wade back to the bridge and reach home.  But if she
missed the bridge and went into the ravine, the current would be too
strong for her.  She held with one arm and tried to wipe her face with
the other hand.  "What a fool to cry!" she said. "As if there were any
more water needed here!"

Then she saw a light in the house, and the figures of the children,
carrying it from room to room, so she knew that one of them had
awakened for a drink, or with the storm, and they had missed her.  Then
she could see them at the front door, Adam's sturdy feet planted widely
apart, bracing him, as he held up the lamp which flickered in the wind.
Then she could hear his voice shouting:  "Mother!"  Instantly Kate
answered.  Then she was sorry she had, for both of them began to scream
wildly.  There was a second of that, then even the children realized
its futility.

"She is out there in the water, WE GOT TO GET HER," said Adam. "We got
to do it!"

He started with the light held high.  The wind blew it out.  They had
to go back to relight it.  Kate knew they would burn their fingers, and
she prayed they would not set the house on fire. When the light showed
again, at the top of her lungs she screamed: "Adam, set the broom on
fire and carry it to the end of the bridge; the water isn't deep enough
to hurt you."  She tried twice, then she saw him give Polly the lamp,
and run down the hall.  He came back in an instant with the broom.
Polly held the lamp high, Adam went down the walk to the gate and
started up the sidewalk.  "He's using his head," said Kate to the tree.
"He's going to wait until he reaches the bridge to start his light, so
it will last longer.  THAT is BATES, anyway.  Thank God!"

Adam scratched several matches before he got the broom well ignited,
then he held it high, and by its light found the end of the bridge.
Kate called to him to stop and plunging and splashing through mud and
water, she reached the bridge before the broom burned out.  There she
clung to the railing she had insisted upon, and felt her way across to
the boy.  His thin cotton night shirt was plastered to his sturdy
little body.  As she touched him Kate lifted him in her arms, and
almost hugged the life from him.

"You big man!" she said.  "You could help Mother!  Good for you!"

"Is the dam gone?" he asked.

"Part of it," said Kate, sliding her feet before her, as she waded
toward Polly in the doorway.

"Did Father shut the sluice-gate, to hear the roar?"

Kate hesitated.  The shivering body in her arms felt so small to her.

"I 'spect he did," said Adam.  "All day he was fussing after you
stopped the roar."  Then he added casually:  "The old fool ought-a
known better.  I 'spect he was drunk again!"

"Oh, Adam!" cried Kate, setting him on the porch.  "Oh, Adam! What
makes you say that?"

"Oh, all of them at school say that," scoffed Adam.  "Everybody knows
it but you, don't they, Polly?"

"Sure!" said Polly.  "Most every night; but don't you mind, Mother,
Adam and I will take care of you."

Kate fell on her knees and gathered both of them in a crushing hug for
an instant; then she helped them into to dry nightgowns and to bed.  As
she covered them she stooped and kissed each of them before she went to
warm and put on dry clothes, and dry her hair. It was almost dawn when
she walked to George Holt's door and looked in at him lying stretched
in deep sleep.

"You may thank your God for your children," she said.  "If it hadn't
been for them, I know what I would have done to you."

Then she went to her room and lay down to rest until dawn.  She was up
at the usual time and had breakfast ready for the children. As they
were starting to school George came into the room.

"Mother," said Polly, "there is a lot of folks over around the dam.
What shall we tell them?"

Kate's heart stopped.  She had heard that question before.

"Tell them the truth," said Adam scornfully, before Kate could answer.
"Tell them that Mother opened the sluiceway to save the dam and Father
shut it to hear it roar, and it busted!"

"Shall I, Mother?" asked Polly.

A slow whiteness spread over George's face; he stared down the hall to
look.

"Tell them exactly what you please," said Kate, "only you watch
yourself like a hawk.  If you tell one word not the way it was, or in
any way different from what happened, I'll punish you severely."

"May I tell them I held the lamp while Adam got you out of the water?"
asked Polly.  "That would be true, you know."

George turned to listen, his face still whiter.

"Yes, that would be true," said Kate, "but if you tell them that, the
first thing they will ask will be 'where was your father?' What will
you say then?"

"Why, we'll say that he was so drunk we couldn't wake him up," said
Polly conclusively.  "We pulled him, an' we shook him, an' we yelled at
him.  Didn't we, Adam?"

"I was not drunk!" shouted George.

"Oh, yes, you were," said Adam.  "You smelled all sour, like it does at
the saloon door!"

George made a rush at Adam.  The boy spread his feet and put up his
hands, but never flinched or moved.  Kate looking on felt something in
her heart that never had been there before.  She caught George's arm,
as he reached the child.

"You go on to school, little folks," she said.  "And for Mother's sake
try not to talk at all.  If people question you, tell them to ask
Mother.  I'd be so proud of you, if you would do that."

"I WILL, if you'll hold me and kiss me again like you did last night
when you got out of the water," said Polly.

"It is a bargain," said Kate.  "How about you, Adam?"

"I will for THAT, too," said Adam, "but I'd like awful well to tell how
fast the water went, and how it poured and roared, while I held the
light, and you got across.  Gee, if was awful, Mother! So black, and so
crashy, and so deep.  I'd LIKE to tell!"

"But you WON'T if I ask you not to?" queried Kate.

"I will not," said Adam.

Kate went down on her knees again, she held out her arms and both
youngsters rushed to her.  After they were gone, she and George Holt
looked at each other an instant, then Kate turned to her work.  He
followed:  "Kate--" he began.

"No use!" said Kate.  "If you go out and look at the highest water
mark, you can easily imagine what I had to face last night when I had
to cross the bridge to open the sluice-gate, or the bridge would have
gone, too.  If the children had not wakened with the storm, and hunted
me, I'd have had to stay over there until morning, if I could have
clung to the tree that long.  First they rescued me; and then they
rescued YOU, if you only but knew it. By using part of the money I had
saved for the house, I can rebuild the dam; but I am done with you.
We're partners no longer.  Not with business, money, or in any other
way, will I ever trust you again.  Sit down there and eat your
breakfast, and then leave my sight."

Instead George put on his old clothing, crossed the bridge, and worked
all day with all his might trying to gather building material out of
the water, save debris from the dam, to clear the village street.  At
noon he came over and got a drink, and a piece of bread.  At night he
worked until he could see no longer, and then ate some food from the
cupboard and went to bed.  He was up and at work before daybreak in the
morning, and for two weeks he kept this up, until he had done much to
repair the work of the storm.  The dam he almost rebuilt himself, as
soon as the water lowered to normal again.  Kate knew what he was
trying to do, and knew also that in a month he had the village pitying
him, and blaming her because he was working himself to death, and she
was allowing it.

She doggedly went on with her work; the contracts were made; she was
forced to.  As the work neared completion, her faith in the enterprise
grew.  She studied by the hour everything she could find pertaining to
the business.  When the machinery began to arrive, George frequently
spoke about having timber ready to begin work on, but he never really
believed the thing which did happen, would happen, until the first load
of logs slowly crossed the bridge and began unloading in the yards.  A
few questions elicited from the driver the reply that he had sold the
timber to young Adam Bates of Bates Corners, who was out buying right
and left and paying cash on condition the seller did his own
delivering. George saw the scheme, and that it was good.  Also the logs
were good, while the price was less than he hoped to pay for such
timber.  His soul was filled with bitterness.  The mill was his scheme.
He had planned it all.  Those thieving Bates had stolen his plan, and
his location, and his home, and practically separated him from his wife
and children.  It was his mill, and all he was getting from it was to
work with all his might, and not a decent word from morning until
night.  That day instead of working as before, he sat in the shade most
of the time, and that night instead of going to bed he went down town.

When the mill was almost finished Kate employed two men who lived in
Walden, but had been working in the Hartley mills for years. They were
honest men of much experience.  Kate made the better of them foreman,
and consulted with him in every step of completing the mill, and
setting up the machinery.  She watched everything with sharp eyes,
often making suggestions that were useful about the placing of
different parts as a woman would arrange them. Some of these the men
laughed at, some they were more than glad to accept.  When the engine
was set up, the big saw in place, George went to Kate.

"See here!" he said roughly.  "I know I was wrong about the
sluice-gate.  I was a fool to shut it with the water that high, but
I've learned my lesson; I'll never touch it again; I've worked like a
dog for weeks to pay for it; now where do I come in? What's my job, how
much is my share of the money, and when do I get it?"

"The trouble with you, George, is that you have to learn a new lesson
about every thing you attempt.  You can't carry a lesson about one
thing in your mind, and apply it to the next thing that comes up.  I
know you have worked, and I know why.  It is fair that you should have
something, but I can't say what, just now. Having to rebuild the dam,
and with a number of incidentals that have come up, in spite of the
best figuring I could do, I have been forced to use my money saved for
rebuilding the house; and even with that, I am coming out a hundred or
two short.  I'm strapped; and until money begins to come in I have none
myself. The first must go toward paying the men's wages, the next for
timber.  If Jim Milton can find work for you, go to work at the mill,
and when we get started I'll pay you what is fair and just, you may
depend on that.  If he hasn't work for you, you'll have to find a job
at something else."

"Do you mean that?" he asked wonderingly.

"I mean it," said Kate.

"After stealing my plan, and getting my land for nothing, you'd throw
me out entirely?" he demanded.

"You entreated me to put all I had into your plan, you told me
repeatedly the ravine was worth nothing, you were not even keeping up
the taxes on it until I came and urged you to, the dam is used merely
for water, the engine furnishes the real power, and if you are thrown
out, you have thrown yourself out.  You have had every chance."

"You are going to keep your nephew on the buying job?" he asked

"I am," said Kate.  "You can have no job that will give you a chance to
involve me financially."

"Then give me Milton's place.  It's so easy a baby could do it, and the
wages you have promised him are scandalous," said George.

Kate laughed.  "Oh, George," she said, "you can't mean that!  Of all
your hare-brained ideas, that you could operate that saw, is the
wildest.  Oh course you could start the engine, and set the saw
running--I could myself; but to regulate its speed, to control it with
judgment, you could no more do it than Polly.  As for wages, Milton is
working for less than he got in Hartley, because he can be at home, and
save his hack fare, as you know."

George went over to Jim Milton, and after doing all he could see to do
and ordering Milton to do several things he thought might be done, he
said casually:  "Of course I am BOSS around this shack, but this is new
to me.  You fellows will have to tell me what to do until I get my
bearings.  As soon as we get to running, I'll be yard-master, and
manage the selling and shipping.  I'm good at figures, and that would
be the best place for me."

"You'll have to settle with Mrs. Holt about that," said Jim Milton.

"Of course," said George.  "Isn't she a wonder?  With my help, we'll
soon wipe the Hartley mills off the map, and be selling till Grand
Rapids will get her eye peeled.  With you to run the machinery, me to
manage the sales, and her to keep the books, we got a combination to
beat the world."

"In the meantime," said Jim Milton dryly, "you might take that scoop
shovel and clean the shavings and blocks off this floor. Leave me some
before the engine to start the first fire, and shovel the rest into
that bin there where it's handy.  It isn't safe to start with so much
loose, dry stuff lying around."

George went to work with the scoop shovel, but he watched every
movement Jim Milton made about the engine and machinery.  Often he
dropped the shovel and stood studying things out for himself, and
asking questions.  Not being sure of his position, Jim Milton answered
him patiently, and showed him all he wanted to know; but he constantly
cautioned him not to touch anything, or try to start the machinery
himself, as he might lose control of the gauge and break the saw, or
let the power run away with him.  George scoffed at the idea of danger
and laughed at the simplicity of the engine and machinery.  There was
little for him to do.  He hated to be seen cleaning up the debris; men
who stopped in passing kept telling what a fine fellow young Bates was,
what good timber he was sending in.  Several of them told George
frankly they thought that was to be his job.  He was so ashamed of
that, he began instant improvisation.

"That was the way we first planned things," he said boastfully, "but
when it came to working out our plans, we found I would be needed here
till I learned the business, and then I'm going on the road.  I am
going to be the salesman.  To travel, dress well, eat well, flirt with
the pretty girls, and take big lumber orders will just about suit
little old Georgie."

"Wonder you remembered to put the orders in at all," said Jim Milton
dryly.

George glared at him.  "Well, just remember whom you take orders from,"
he said, pompously.

"I take them from Mrs. Holt, and nobody else," said Milton, with equal
assurance.  "And I've yet to hear her say the first word about this
wonderful travelling proposition.  She thinks she will do well to fill
home orders and ship to a couple of factories she already has contracts
with.  Sure you didn't dream that travelling proposition, George?"

At that instant George wished he could slay Jim Milton.  All day he
brooded and grew sullen and ugly.  By noon he quit working and went
down town.  By suppertime he went home to prove to his wife that he was
all right.  She happened to be coming across from the mill, where she
had helped Milton lay the first fire under the boiler ready to touch
off, and had seen the first log on the set carriage.  It had been
agreed that she was to come over at opening time in the morning and
start the machinery.  She was a proud and eager woman when she crossed
the bridge and started down the street toward the gate.  From the
opposite direction came George, so unsteady that he was running into
tree boxes, then lifting his hat and apologizing to them for his
awkwardness.  Kate saw at a glance that he might fall any instant.  Her
only thought was to help him from the street, to where children would
not see him.

She went to him and taking his arm started down the walk with him. He
took off his hat to her also, and walked with wavering dignity, setting
his steps as if his legs were not long enough to reach the walk, so
that each step ended with a decided thump.  Kate could see the
neighbours watching at their windows, and her own children playing on
the roof of the woodshed.  When the children saw their parents, they
both stopped playing to stare at them.  Then suddenly, shrill and high,
arose Adam's childish voice:

   "Father came home the other night,
    Tried to blow out the 'lectric light,
    Blew and blew with all his might,
    And the blow almost killed Mother."

Polly joined him, and they sang and shrilled, and shrieked it; they
jumped up and down and laughed and repeated it again and again.  Kate
guided George to his room and gave him a shove that landed him on his
bed.  Then to hush the children she called them to supper.  They
stopped suddenly, as soon as they entered the kitchen door, and sat,
sorry and ashamed while she went around, her face white, her lips
closed, preparing their food.  George was asleep.  The children ate
alone, as she could take no food.  Later she cleaned the kitchen, put
the children to bed, and sat on the front porch looking at the mill,
wondering, hoping, planning, praying unconsciously.  When she went to
bed at ten o'clock George was still asleep.

He awakened shortly after, burning with heat and thirst.  He arose and
slipped to the back porch for a drink.  Water was such an aggravation,
he crossed the yard, went out the back gate, and down the alley.  When
he came back up the street, he was pompously, maliciously, dangerously
drunk.  Either less or more would have been better.  When he came in
sight of the mill, standing new and shining in the moonlight, he was a
lord of creation, ready to work creation to his will.  He would go over
and see if things were all right.  But he did not cross the bridge, he
went down the side street, and entered the yard at the back.  The doors
were closed and locked, but there was as yet no latch on the sliding
windows above the work bench.  He could push them open from the ground.
He leaned a board against the side of the mill, set his foot on it, and
pulled himself up, so that he could climb on the bench.

That much achieved, he looked around him.  After a time his eyes grew
accustomed to the darkness, so that he could see his way plainly.
Muddled half-thoughts began to filter through his brain. He remembered
he was abused.  He was out of it.  He remembered that he was not the
buyer for the mill.  He remembered how the men had laughed when he had
said that he was to be the salesman.  He remembered that Milton had
said that he was not to touch the machinery.  He at once slid from the
bench and went to the boiler. He opened the door of the fire-box and
saw the kindling laid ready to light, to get up steam.  He looked at
the big log on the set carriage.  They had planned to start with a
splurge in the morning.  Kate was to open the throttle that started the
machinery.  He decided to show them that they were not so smart. He
would give them a good surprise by sawing the log.  That would be a
joke on them to brag about the remainder of his life.  He took matches
from his pocket and started the fire.  It seemed to his fevered
imagination that it burned far too slowly.  He shoved in more kindling,
shavings, ends left from siding.  This smothered his fire, so he made
trip after trip to the tinder box, piling in armloads of dry,
inflammable stuff.

Then suddenly the flames leaped up.  He slammed shut the door and
started toward the saw.  He could not make it work.  He jammed and
pulled everything he could reach.  Soon he realized the heat was
becoming intense, and turned to the boiler to see that the fire-box was
red hot almost all over, white hot in places.

"My God!" he muttered.  "Too hot!  Got to cool that down."

Then he saw the tank and the dangling hose, and remembered that he had
not filled the boiler.  Taking down the hose, he opened the watercock,
stuck in the nozzle, and turned on the water full force.  Windows were
broken across the street.  Parts of the fire-box, boiler, and fire flew
everywhere.  The walls blew out, the roof lifted and came down, the
fire raged among the new, dry timbers of the mill.

When her windows blew in, Kate was thrown from her bed to the floor.
She lay stunned a second, then dragged herself up to look across the
street.  There was nothing where the low white expanse of roof had
spread an hour before, while a red glare was creeping everywhere over
the ground.  She ran to George's room and found it empty.  She ran to
the kitchen, calling him, and found the back door standing open.  She
rushed back to her room and began trying to put on her dress over her
nightrobe.  She could not control her shaking fingers, while at each
step she cut her feet on broken glass.  She reached the front door as
the children came screaming with fright.  In turning to warn them about
the glass, she stumbled on the top step, pitched forward headlong, then
lay still.  The neighbours carried her back to her bed, called the
doctor, and then saved all the logs in the yard they could.  The
following day, when the fire had burned itself out, the undertaker
hunted assiduously, but nothing could be found to justify a funeral.



CHAPTER XX

"FOR A GOOD GIRL"

FOR a week, Kate lay so dazed she did not care whether she lived or
died; then she slowly crept back to life, realizing that whether she
cared or not, she must live.  She was too young, too strong, to quit
because she was soul sick; she had to go on.  She had life to face for
herself and her children.  She wondered dully about her people, but as
none of the neighbours who had taken care of her said anything
concerning them, she realized that they had not been there.  At first
she was almost glad.  They were forthright people.  They would have had
something to say; they would have said it tersely and to the point.

Adam, 3d, had wound up her affairs speedily by selling the logs he had
bought for her to the Hartley mills, paying what she owed, and
depositing the remainder in the Hartley Bank to her credit; but that
remainder was less than one hundred dollars.  That winter was a long,
dreadful nightmare to Kate.  Had it not been for Aunt Ollie, they would
have been hungry some of the time; they were cold most of it.  For
weeks Kate thought of sending for her mother, or going to her; then as
not even a line came from any of her family, she realized that they
resented her losing that much Bates money so bitterly that they wished
to have nothing to do with her.  Often she sat for hours staring
straight before her, trying to straighten out the tangle she had made
of her life.  As if she had not suffered enough in the reality of
living, she now lived over in day and night dreams, hour by hour, her
time with George Holt, and gained nothing thereby.

All winter Kate brooded, barely managing to keep alive, and the
children in school.  As spring opened, she shook herself, arose, and
went to work.  It was not planned, systematic, effective, Bates work.
Piecemeal she did anything she saw needed the doing. The children
helped to make garden and clean the yard.  Then all of them went out to
Aunt Ollie's and made a contract to plant and raise potatoes and
vegetables on shares.  They passed a neglected garden on the way, and
learning that the woman of the house was ill, Kate stopped and offered
to tend it for enough cords of windfall wood to pay her a fair price,
this to be delivered in mid-summer.

With food and fire assured, Kate ripped up some of George's clothing,
washed, pressed, turned, and made Adam warm clothes for school.  She
even achieved a dress for Polly by making a front and back from a pair
of her father's trouser legs, and setting in side pieces, a yoke and
sleeves from one of her old skirts.  George's underclothing she cut
down for both of the children; then drew another check for taxes and
second-hand books.  While she was in Hartley in the fall paying taxes,
she stopped at a dry goods store for thread, and heard a customer
asking for knitted mittens, which were not in stock.  After he had
gone, she arranged with the merchant for a supply of yarn which she
carried home and began to knit into mittens such as had been called
for.  She used every minute of leisure during the day, she worked hours
into the night, and soon small sums began coming her way. When she had
a supply of teamster's heavy mittens, she began on fancy coloured ones
for babies and children, sometimes crocheting, sometimes using needles.
Soon she started both children on the rougher work with her.  They were
glad to help for they had a lively remembrance of one winter of cold
and hunger, with no Christmas.  That there were many things she might
have done that would have made more money with less exertion Kate never
seemed to realize.  She did the obvious thing.  Her brain power seemed
to be on a level with that of Adam and Polly.

When the children began to carry home Christmas talk, Kate opened her
mouth to say the things that had been said to her as a child; then
tightly closed it.  She began getting up earlier, sitting up later,
knitting feverishly.  Luckily the merchant could sell all she could
furnish.  As the time drew nearer, she gathered from the talk of the
children what was the deepest desire of their hearts. One day a heavy
wind driving ice-coated trees in the back yard broke quite a large limb
from a cherry tree.  Kate dragged it into the woodhouse to make
firewood.  She leaned it against the wall to wait until the ice melted,
and as it stood there in its silvery coat, she thought how like a small
tree the branch was shaped, and how pretty it looked.  After the
children had gone to school the next day she shaped it with the hatchet
and saw, and fastened it in a small box.  This she carried to her
bedroom and locked the door.  She had not much idea what she was going
to do, but she kept thinking.  Soon she found enough time to wrap every
branch carefully with the red tissue paper her red knitting wool came
in, and to cover the box smoothly.  Then she thought of the country
Christmas trees she had seen decorated with popcorn and cranberries.
She popped the corn at night and the following day made a trip up the
ravine, where she gathered all the bittersweet berries, swamp holly,
and wild rose seed heads she could find. She strung the corn on fine
cotton cord putting a rose seed pod between each grain, then used the
bittersweet berries to terminate the blunt ends of the branches, and
climb up the trunk.  By the time she had finished this she was really
interested.  She achieved a gold star for the top from a box lid and a
piece of gilt paper Polly had carried home from school.  With yarn ends
and mosquito netting, she whipped up a few little mittens, stockings,
and bags.  She cracked nuts from their fall store and melting a little
sugar stirred in the kernels until they were covered with a sweet,
white glaze.  Then she made some hard candy, and some fancy cookies
with a few sticks of striped candy cut in circles and dotted on the
top.  She polished red, yellow, and green apples and set them under the
tree.

When she made her final trip to Hartley before Christmas the spirit of
the day was in the air.  She breathed so much of it that she paid a
dollar and a half for a stout sled and ten cents for a dozen little red
candles, five each for two oranges, and fifteen each for two pretty
little books, then after long hesitation added a doll for Polly.  She
felt that she should not have done this, and said so, to herself; but
knew if she had it to do over, she would do the same thing again.  She
shook her shoulders and took the first step toward regaining her old
self-confidence.

"Pshaw!  Big and strong as I am, and Adam getting such a great boy, we
can make it," she said.  Then she hurried to the hack and was driven
home barely in time to rush her bundles into her room before school was
out.  She could scarcely wait until the children were in bed to open
the parcels.  The doll had to be dressed, but Kate was interested in
Christmas by that time, and so contemplated the spider-waisted image
with real affection.  She never had owned a doll herself.  She let the
knitting go that night, and cut up an old waist to make white
under-clothing with touches of lace, and a pretty dress.  Then Kate
went to her room, tied the doll in a safe place on the tree, put on the
books, and set the candles with pins.  As she worked she kept biting
her lips, but when it was all finished she thought it was lovely, and
so it was.  As she set the sled in front of the tree she said:  "There,
little folks, I wonder what you will think of that!  It's the best I
can do.  I've a nice chicken to roast; now if only, if only Mother or
Nancy Ellen would come, or write a line, or merely send one word by
Tilly Nepple."

Suddenly Kate lay down on the bed, buried her face in the pillow while
her shoulders jerked and shook in dry sobs for a long time. At last she
arose, went to the kitchen, bathed her face, and banked the fires.  "I
suppose it is the Bates way," she said, "but it's a cold, hard
proposition.  I know what's the matter with all of them.  They are
afraid to come near me, or show the slightest friendliness, for fear
I'll ask them to help support us.  They needn't worry, we can take care
of ourselves."

She set her tree on the living room table, arranged everything to the
best advantage, laid a fire in the stove, and went to sleep Christmas
eve, feeling more like herself than she had since the explosion.
Christmas morning she had the house warm and the tree ready to light
while the children dressed.  She slipped away their every-day clothing
and laid out their best instead.  She could hear them talking as they
dressed, and knew the change of clothing had filled them with hope.
She hastily lighted the tree, and was setting the table as they entered
the dining room.

"Merry Christmas, little people," she cried in a voice they had not
heard in a long time.  They both rushed to her and Kate's heart stood
still as they each hugged her tight, kissed her, and offered a tiny
packet.  From the size and feeling of these, she realized that they
were giving her the candy they had received the day before at school.
Surprises were coming thick and fast with Kate.  That one shook her to
her foundations.  They loved candy. They had so little!  They had
nothing else to give.  She held them an instant so tightly they were
surprised at her, then she told them to lay the packages on the living
room table until after breakfast.  Polly opened the door, and screamed.
Adam ran, and then both of them stood silently before the brave little
tree, flaming red, touched with white, its gold star shining.  They
looked at it, and then at each other, while Kate, watching at an angle
across the dining room, distinctly heard Polly say in an awed tone:
"Adam, hadn't we better pray?"

Kate lifted herself full height, and drew a deep breath.  "Well, I
guess I manage a little Christmas after this," she said, "and maybe a
Fourth of July, and a birthday, and a few other things.  I needn't be
such a coward.  I believe I can make it."

From that hour she began trying to think of something she could do that
would bring returns more nearly commensurate with the time and strength
she was spending.  She felt tied to Walden because she owned the house,
and could rely on working on shares with Aunt Ollie for winter food;
but there was nothing she could do there and take care of the children
that would bring more than the most meagre living.  Still they were
living, each year more comfortably; the children were growing bigger
and stronger; soon they could help at something, if only she could
think what.  The time flew, each day a repetition of yesterday's
dogged, soul-tiring grind, until some days Kate was close to despair.
Each day the house grew shabbier; things wore out and could not be
replaced; poverty showed itself more plainly.  So three more years of
life in Walden passed, setting their indelible mark on Kate. Time and
again she almost broke the spell that bound her, but she never quite
reached the place where her thought cleared, her heart regained its
courage, her soul dared take wing, and try another flight.  When she
thought of it, "I don't so much mind the falling," said Kate to
herself; "but I do seem to select the hardest spots to light on."

Kate sat on the back steps, the sun shone, her nearest neighbour was
spading an onion bed.  She knew that presently she would get out the
rake and spade and begin another year's work; but at that minute she
felt too hopeless to move.  Adam came and sat on the step beside her.
She looked at him and was surprised at his size and apparent strength.
Someway he gave her hope.  He was a good boy, he had never done a mean,
sneaking thing that she knew of. He was natural, normal, mischievous;
but he had not an underhand inclination that she could discover.  He
would make a fine-looking, big man, quite as fine as any of the Bates
men; even Adam, 3d, was no handsomer than the fourth Adam would be.
Hope arose in her with the cool air of spring on her cheek and its wine
in her nostrils.  Then out of the clear sky she said it:  "Adam, how
long are we going to stay in the beggar class?"

Adam jumped, and turned surprised eyes toward her.  Kate was forced to
justify herself.

"Of course we give Aunt Ollie half we raise," she said, "but anybody
would do that.  We work hard, and we live little if any better than
Jasons, who have the County Trustee in three times a winter.  I'm big
and strong, you're almost a man, why don't we DO something?  Why don't
we have some decent clothes, some money for out work and"--Kate spoke
at random--"a horse and carriage?"

"A horse and carriage?" repeated Adam, staring at her.

"Why not?" said Kate, casually.

"But how?" cried the amazed boy.

"Why, earn the money, and buy it!" said Kate, impatiently.  "I'm about
fed up on earning cabbage, and potatoes, and skirmishing for wood.  I'd
prefer to have a dollar in my pocket, and BUY what we need.  Can't you
use your brain and help me figure out a way to earn some MONEY?"

"I meant to pretty soon now, but I thought I had to go to school a few
years yet," he said.

"Of course you do," said Kate.  "I must earn the money, but can't you
help me think how?"

"Sure," said Adam, sitting straight and seeming thoughtful, "but give
me a little time.  What would you--could you, do?"

"I taught before I was married," said Kate; "but methods of teaching
change so I'd have to have a Normal term to qualify for even this
school.  I could put you and Polly with Aunt Ollie this summer; but I
wouldn't, not if we must freeze and starve together--"

"Because of Grandma?" asked the boy.  Kate nodded.

"I borrowed money to go once, and I could again; but I have been away
from teaching so long, and I don't know what to do with you children.
The thing I would LIKE would be to find a piece of land somewhere, with
a house, any kind of one on it, and take it to rent.  Land is about all
I really know.  Working for money would be of some interest.  I am so
dead tired working for potatoes. Sometimes I see them flying around in
the air at night."

"Do you know of any place you would like?" asked Adam.

"No, I don't," said Kate, "but I am going to begin asking and I'm going
to keep my eyes open.  I heard yesterday that Dr. James intends to
build a new house.  This house is nothing, but the lot is in the
prettiest place in town.  Let's sell it to him, and take the money, and
buy us some new furniture and a cow, and a team, and wagon, and a
buggy, and go on a piece of land, and live like other people.  Seems to
me I'll die if I have to work for potatoes any longer.  I'm heart sick
of them.  Don't say a word to anybody, but Oh, Adam, THINK!  Think
HARD!  Can't you just help me THINK?"

"You are sure you want land?" asked the boy.

"It is all I know," said Kate.  "How do you feel about it?"

"I want horses, and cows, and pigs--lots of pigs--and sheep, and lots
of white hens," said Adam, promptly.

"Get the spade and spade the onion bed until I think," said Kate. "And
that reminds me, we didn't divide the sets last fall. Somebody will
have to go after them."

"I'll go," said Adam, "but it's awful early.  It'll snow again. Let me
go after school Friday and stay over night.  I'd like to go and stay
over night with Aunt Ollie.  Grandma can't say anything to me that I'll
listen to.  You keep Polly, and let me go alone. Sure I can."

"All right," said Kate.  "Spade the bed, and let it warm a day. It will
be good for it.  But don't tell Polly you're going, or she'll want to
go along."

Until Friday night, Kate and Adam went around in such a daze of deep
thought that they stumbled, and ran against each other; then came back
to their affairs suddenly, looking at each other and smiling
understandingly.  After one of these encounters Kate said to the boy:
"You may not arrive at anything, Adam, but I certainly can't complain
that you are not thinking."

Adam grinned:  "I'm not so sure that I haven't got it," he said.

"Tell me quick and let me think, too" said Kate.

"But I can't tell you yet," said Adam.  "I have to find out something
first."

Friday evening he wanted to put off his trip until Saturday morning, so
Kate agreed.  She was surprised when he bathed and put on his clean
shirt and trousers, but said not a word.  She had made some study of
child psychology, she thought making the trip alone was of so much
importance to Adam that he was dressing for the occasion.  She foresaw
extra washing, yet she said nothing to stop the lad.  She waved
good-bye to him, thinking how sturdy and good looking he was, as he ran
out of the front door.  Kate was beginning to be worried when Adam had
not returned toward dusk Sunday evening, and Polly was cross and
fretful.  Finally they saw him coming down the ravine bank, carrying
his small bundle of sets.  Kate felt a glow of relief; Polly ran to
meet him.  Kate watched as they met and saw Adam take Polly's hand.

"If only they looked as much alike as some twins do, I'd be thankful,"
said Kate.

Adam delivered the sets, said Aunt Ollie and Grandma were all right,
that it was an awful long walk, and he was tired.  Kate noticed that
his feet were dust covered, but his clothes were so clean she said to
him:  "You didn't fish much."

"I didn't fish any," said Adam, "not like I always fish," he added.

"Had any time to THINK?" asked Kate.

"You just bet I did," said the boy.  "I didn't waste a minute."

"Neither did I," said Kate.  "I know exactly what the prettiest lot in
town can be sold for."

"Good!" cried Adam.  "Fine!"

Monday Kate wanted to get up early and stick the sets, but Adam
insisted that Aunt Ollie said the sign would not be right until
Wednesday.  If they were stuck on Monday or Tuesday, they would all
grow to top.

"My goodness!  I knew that," said Kate.  "I am thinking so hard I'm
losing what little sense I had; but anyway, mere thinking is doing me a
world of good.  I am beginning to feel a kind of rising joy inside, and
I can't imagine anything else that makes it."

Adam went to school, laughing.  Kate did the washing and ironing, and
worked in the garden getting beds ready.  Tuesday she was at the same
occupation, when about ten o'clock she dropped her spade and
straightened, a flash of perfect amazement crossing her face. She stood
immovable save for swaying forward in an attitude of tense listening.

"Hoo! hoo!"

Kate ran across the yard and as she turned the corner of the house she
saw a one-horse spring wagon standing before the gate, while a stiff,
gaunt figure sat bolt upright on the seat, holding the lines.  Kate was
at the wheel looking up with a face of delighted amazement.

"Why, Mother!" she cried.  "Why, Mother!"

"Go fetch a chair and help me down," said Mrs. Bates, "this seat is
getting tarnation hard."

Kate ran after a chair, and helped her mother to alight.  Mrs. Bates
promptly took the chair, on the sidewalk.

"Just drop the thills," she said.  "Lead him back and slip on the
halter.  It's there with his feed."

Kate followed instructions, her heart beating wildly.  Several times
she ventured a quick glance at her mother.  How she had aged!  How
lined and thin she was!  But Oh, how blessed good it was to see her!
Mrs. Bates arose and they walked into the house, where she looked
keenly around, while her sharp eyes seemed to appraise everything as
she sat down and removed her bonnet.

"Go fetch me a drink," she said, "and take the horse one and then I'll
tell you why I came."

"I don't care why you came," said Kate, "but Oh, Mother, thank God you
are here!"

"Now, now, don't get het up!" cautioned Mrs. Bates.  "Water, I said."

Kate hurried to obey orders; then she sank on a chair and looked at her
mother.  Mrs. Bates wiped her face and settled in the chair comfortably.

"They's no use to waste words," she said.  "Katie, you're the only one
in the family that has any sense, and sometimes you ain't got enough
so's you could notice it without a magnifyin' glass; but even so,
you're ahead of the rest of them.  Katie, I'm sick an' tired of the
Neppleses and the Whistlers and being bossed by the whole endurin'
Bates tribe; sick and tired of it, so I just came after you."

"Came after me?" repeated Kate stupidly.

"Yes, parrot, 'came after you,'" said Mrs. Bates.  "I told you, you'd
no great amount of sense.  I'm speakin' plain, ain't I?  I don't see
much here to hold you.  I want you should throw a few traps, whatever
you are beholden to, in the wagon--that's why I brought it--and come on
home and take care of me the rest of my time.  It won't be so long; I
won't interfere much, nor be much bother.  I've kep' the place in
order, but I'm about fashed.  I won't admit it to the rest of them; but
I don't seem to mind telling you, Katie, that I am almost winded.  Will
you come?"

"Of course I will," said Kate, a tide of effulgent joy surging up in
her heart until it almost choked her.  "Of course I will, Mother, but
my children, won't they worry you?"

"Never having had a child about, I s'pect likely they may," said Mrs.
Bates, dryly.  "Why, you little fool!  I think likely it's the children
I am pinin' for most, though I couldn't a-stood it much longer without
YOU.  Will you get ready and come with me to-day?"

"Yes," said Kate, "if I can make it.  There's very little here I care
for; I can have the second-hand man give me what he will for the rest;
and I can get a good price for the lot to-day, if I say so.  Dr. James
wants it to build on.  I'll go and do the very best I can, and when you
don't want me any longer, Adam will be bigger and we can look out for
ourselves.  Yes, I'll get ready at once if you want me to."

"Not much of a haggler, are you, Katie?" said Mrs. Bates.  "Why don't
you ask what rooms you're to have, and what I'll pay you, and how much
work you'll have to do, and if you take charge of the farm, and how we
share up?"

Kate laughed:  "Mother," she said, "I have been going to school here,
with the Master of Life for a teacher; and I've learned so many things
that really count, that I know now NONE of the things you mention are
essential.  You may keep the answers to all those questions; I don't
care a cent about any of them.  If you want me, and want the children,
all those things will settle themselves as we come to them.  I didn't
use to understand you; but we got well enough acquainted at Father's
funeral, and I do, now.  Whatever you do will be fair, just, and right.
I'll obey you, as I shall expect Adam and Polly to."

"Well, for lands sakes, Katie," said Mrs. Bates.  "Life must a-been
weltin' it to you good and proper.  I never expected to see you as meek
as Moses.  That Holt man wasn't big enough to beat you, was he?"

"The ways in which he 'beat' me no Bates would understand.  I had eight
years of them, and I don't understand them yet; but I am so cooked with
them, that I shall be wild with joy if you truly mean for me to pack up
and come home with you for awhile."

"Oh, Lordy, Katie!" said Mrs. Bates.  "This whipped out,
take-anything-anyway style ain't becomin' to a big, fine, upstanding
woman like you.  Hold up your head, child!  Hold up your head, and say
what you want, an' how you want it!"

"Honestly, Mother, I don't want a thing on earth but to go home with
you and do as you say for the next ten years," said Kate.

"Stiffen up!" cried Mrs. Bates.  "Stiffen up!"  "Don't be no broken
reed, Katie!  I don't want you dependin' on ME; I came to see if you
would let ME lean on YOU the rest of the way.  I wa'n't figuring that
there was anything on this earth that could get you down; so's I was
calculatin' you'd be the very one to hold me up. Since you seem to be
feeling unaccountably weak in the knees, let's see if we can brace them
a little.  Livin' with Pa so long must kind of given me a tendency
toward nussin' a deed.  I've got one here I had executed two years ago,
and I was a coming with it along about now, when 'a little bird tole
me' to come to-day, so here I am.  Take that, Katie."

Mrs. Bates pulled a long sealed envelope from the front of her dress
and tossed it in Kate's lap.

"Mother, what is this?" asked Kate in a hushed voice.

"Well, if you'd rather use your ears than your eyes, it's all the same
to me," said Mrs. Bates.  "The boys always had a mortal itchin' to get
their fingers on the papers in the case.  I can't say I don't like the
difference; and I've give you every chance, too, an you WOULDN'T
demand, you WOULDN'T specify.  Well, I'll just specify myself.  I'm
dead tired of the neighbours taking care of me, and all of the children
stoppin' every time they pass, each one orderin' or insinuatin'
according to their lights, as to what I should do.  I've always had a
purty clear idea of what I wanted to do myself.  Over forty years, I
sided with Pa, to keep the peace; NOW I reckon I'm free to do as I
like.  That's my side. You can tell me yours, now."

Kate shook her head:   "I have nothing to say."

"Jest as well," said Mrs. Bates.  "Re-hashing don't do any good. Come
back, and come to-day; but stiffen up.  That paper you are holding is a
warrantee deed to the home two hundred to you and your children after
you.  You take possession to-day.  There's money in the bank to paper,
an' paint, and make any little changes you'd like, such as cutting
doors or windows different places, floorin' the kitchen new, or the
like.  Take it an' welcome.  I got more 'an enough to last me all my
days; all I ask of you is my room, my food, and your company.  Take the
farm, and do what you pretty please with it."

"But, Mother!" cried Kate.  "The rest of them!  They'd tear me limb for
limb.  I don't DARE take this."

"Oh, don't you?" asked Mrs. Bates.  "Well, I still stand for quite a
bit at Bates Corners, and I say you WILL take that farm, and run it as
you like.  It is mine, I give it to you.  We all know it wasn't your
fault you lost your money, though it was a dose it took some of us a
good long time to swallow.  You are the only one out of your share; you
settled things fine for the rest of them; and they all know it, and
feel it.  You'll never know what you did for me the way you put me
through Pa's funeral; now if you'll just shut up, and stick that deed
somewhere it won't burn, and come home an' plant me as successfully as
you did Pa, you'll have earned all you'll get, an' something coming.
Now set us out a bite to eat, and let's be off."

Kate slowly arose and handed back the deed.

"I'll be flying around so lively I might lose that," she said, "you put
it where you had it, till we get to Hartley, and then I'll get a place
in the bank vault for it.  I can't quite take this in, just yet, but
you know I'll do my best for you, Mother!"

"Tain't likely I'd be here else," said Mrs. Bates, "and tea, Katie.  A
cup of good strong hot tea would fix me up about proper, right now."

Kate went to the kitchen and began setting everything she had to eat on
the table.  As she worked Polly came flying in the door crying:
"Mother, who has come?" so Kate stepped toward the living room to show
the child to her grandmother and as she advanced she saw a queer thing.
Adam was sitting on his grandmother's lap. Her arms were tight around
him, her face buried in his crisp hair, and he was patting her shoulder
and telling her he would take care of her, while her voice said
distinctly:  "Of course you will, birdie!"  Then the lad and the old
woman laid their heads together and laughed almost hysterically.

"WELL, IF THAT ISN'T QUICK WORK!" said Kate to herself.  Then she
presented Polly, who followed Adam's lead in hugging the stranger first
and looking at her afterward.  God bless all little children.  Then
Adam ran to tell the second-hand man to come at one o'clock and Dr.
James that he might have the keys at three. They ate hurriedly.  Kate
set out what she wished to save; the children carried things to the
wagon; she packed while they ran after their books, and at three
o'clock all of them climbed into the spring wagon, and started to Bates
Corners.

Kate was the last one in.  As she climbed on the seat beside her mother
and took the lines, she handed Mrs. Bates a small china mug to hold for
her.  It was decorated with a very fat robin and on a banner floating
from its beak was inscribed:  "For a Good Girl."



CHAPTER XXI

LIFE'S BOOMERANG

AS THEY drove into Hartley, Mrs. Bates drew forth the deed.

"You are right about the bank being a safe place for this," she said.
"I've had it round the house for two years, and it's a fair nervous
thing to do.  I wish I'd a-had sense to put it there and come after you
the day I made it.  But there's no use crying over spilt milk, nor
fussin' with the grease spot it makes; salt it down safely now, and
when you get it done, beings as this setting is fairly comfortable,
take time to run into Harding's and pick up some Sunday-school clothes
for the children that will tally up with the rest of their relations';
an' get yourself a cheap frock or two that will spruce you up a bit
till you have time to decide what you really want."

Kate passed the lines to her mother, and climbed from the wagon. She
returned with her confidence partly restored and a new look on her
face.  Her mother handed her two dimes.

"I can wait five minutes longer," she said.  "Now get two nice oranges
and a dime's worth of candy."

Kate took the money and obeyed orders.  She handed the packages to her
mother as she climbed into the wagon and again took the lines, heading
the horse toward the old, familiar road.  Her mother twisted around on
the seat and gave each of the children an orange and a stick of candy.

"There!" she said.  "Go on and spoil yourselves past redemption."

Kate laughed.  "But, Mother," she said, "you never did that for us."

"Which ain't saying I never WANTED to," said Mrs. Bates, sourly.
"You're a child only once in this world; it's a little too rough to
strip childhood of everything.  I ain't so certain Bates ways are
right, that for the rest of my time I'm goin' to fly in the face of all
creation to prove it.  If God lets me live a few years more, I want the
faces around me a little less discontenteder than those I've been used
to.  If God Almighty spares me long enough, I lay out to make sure that
Adam and Polly will squeeze out a tear or two for Granny when she is
laid away."

"I think you are right, Mother," said Kate.  "It didn't cost anything,
but we had a real pretty Christmas tree this year, and I believe we can
do better next time.  I want the children to love you, but don't BUY
them."

"Well, I'd hardly call an orange and a stick of candy traffickin' in
affection," said Mrs. Bates.  "They'll survive it without underminin'
their principles, I'll be bound, or yours either. Katie, let's make a
beginning to-day.  LET'S WORK WHAT IS RIGHT, AND HEALTHY, A FAIR PART
OF THE DAY, AND THEN EACH DAY, AND SUNDAY ESPECIALLY, LET'S PLAY AND
REST, JUST AS HARD AS WE WORK.  IT'S BEEN ALL WORK AND NO PLAY TILL
WE'VE BEEN MIGHTY 'DULL BOYS' AT OUR HOUSE; I'M FREE TO SAY THAT I
HANKER FOR A CHANGE BEFORE I DIE."

"Don't speak so often of dying," said Kate.  "You're all right. You've
been too much alone.  You'll feel like yourself as soon as you get
rested."

"I guess I been thinking about it too much," said Mrs. Bates.  "I ain't
been so well as I might, an' not being used to it, it worries me some.
I got to buck up.  The one thing I CAN'T do is to die; but I'm most
tired enough to do it right now.  I'll be glad when we get home."

Kate drove carefully, but as fast as she dared with her load.  As they
neared Bates Corners, the way became more familiar each mile. Kate
forgot the children, forgot her mother, forgot ten years of
disappointment and failure, and began a struggle to realize what was
happening to her now.  The lines slipped down, the horse walked slowly,
the first thing she knew, big hot tears splashed on her hand.  She
gathered up the lines, drew a deep breath, and glanced at her mother,
meeting her eye fairly.  Kate tried to smile, but her lips were
quivering.

"Glad, Katie?" asked Mrs. Bates.

Kate nodded.

"Me, too!" said Mrs. Bates.

They passed the orchard.

"There's the house, there, Polly!" cried Adam.

"Why, Adam, how did you know the place?" asked Kate, turning.

Adam hesitated a second.  "Ain't you told us times a-plenty about the
house and the lilac, and the snowball bush--"  "Yes, and the cabbage
roses," added Polly.

"So I have," said Kate.  "Mostly last winter when we were knitting.
Yes, this will be home for all the rest of our lives. Isn't it grand?
How will we ever thank Grandmother?  How will we ever be good enough to
pay her?"

Both children thought this a hint, so with one accord they arose and
fell on Mrs. Bates' back, and began to pay at once in coin of childhood.

"There, there," said Kate, drawing them away as she stopped the horse
at the gate.  "There, there, you will choke Grandmother."

Mrs. Bates pushed Kate's arm down.

"Mind your own business, will you?" she said.  "I ain't so feeble that
I can't speak for myself awhile yet."

In a daze Kate climbed down, and ran to bring a chair to help her
mother.  The children were boisterously half eating Mrs. Bates up; she
had both of them in her arms, with every outward evidence of enjoying
the performance immensely.  That was a very busy evening, for the wagon
was to be unpacked; all of them were hungry, while the stock was to be
fed, and the milking done.  Mrs. Bates and Polly attempted supper; Kate
and Adam went to the barn; but they worked very hurriedly, for Kate
could see how feeble her mother had grown.

When at last the children were bathed and in bed, Kate and her mother
sat on the little front porch to smell spring a few minutes before
going to rest.  Kate reached over and took her mother's hand.

"There's no word I know in any language big enough to thank you for
this, Mother," she said.  "The best I can do is make each day as nearly
a perfect expression of what I feel as possible."

Mrs. Bates drew away her hand and used it to wipe her eyes; but she
said with her usual terse perversity:  "My, Kate!  You're most as wordy
as Agatha.  I'm no glibtonguer, but I bet you ten dollars it will
hustle you some to be any gladder than I am."

Kate laughed and gave up the thanks question.

"To-morrow we must get some onions in," she said. "Have you made any
plans about the farm work for this year yet?"

"No," said Mrs. Bates.  "I was going to leave that till I decided
whether I'd come after you this spring or wait until next.  Since I
decided to come now, I'll just leave your farm to you.  Handle it as
you please."

"Mother, what will the other children say?" implored Kate.

"Humph!  You are about as well acquainted with them as I am.  Take a
shot at it yourself.  If it will avoid a fuss, we might just say you
had to come to stay with me, and run the farm for me, and let them get
used to your being here, and bossing things by degrees; like the man
that cut his dog's tail off an inch at a time, so it wouldn't hurt so
bad."

"But by inches, or 'at one fell swoop,' it's going to hurt," said Kate.

"Sometimes it seems to me," said Mrs. Bates, "that the more we get HURT
in this world the decenter it makes us.  All the boys were hurt enough
when Pa went, but every man of them has been a BIGGER, BETTER man
since.  Instead of competing as they always did, Adam and Andrew and
the older, beforehandeder ones, took hold and helped the younger as you
told them to, and it's done the whole family a world of good.  One
thing is funny.  To hear Mary talk now, you'd think she engineered that
plan herself.  The boys are all thankful, and so are the girls.  I
leave it to you.  Tell them or let them guess it by degrees, it's all
one to me."

"Tell me about Nancy Ellen and Robert," said Kate.

"Robert stands head in Hartley.  He gets bigger and broader every year.
He is better looking than a man has any business to be; and I hear the
Hartley ladies give him plenty of encouragement in being stuck on
himself, but I think he is true to Nancy Ellen, and his heart is all in
his work.  No children.  That's a burning shame!  Both of them feel it.
In a way, and strictly between you and me, Nancy Ellen is a
disappointment to me, an' I doubt if she ain't been a mite of a one to
him.  He had a right to expect a good deal of Nancy Ellen.  She had
such a good brain, and good body, and purty face.  I may miss my guess,
but it always strikes me that she falls SHORT of what he expected of
her.  He's coined money, but she hasn't spent it in the ways he would.
Likely I shouldn't say it, but he strikes me as being just a leetle
mite too good for her."

"Oh, Mother!" said Kate.

"Now you lookey here," said Mrs. Bates.  "Suppose you was a man of
Robert's brains, and education, and professional ability, and you made
heaps of money, and no children came, and you had to see all you
earned, and stood for, and did in a community spent on the SELFISHNESS
of one woman.  How big would you feel?  What end is that for the
ambition and life work of a real man?  How would you like it?"

"I never thought of such a thing," said Kate.

"Well, mark my word, you WILL think of it when you see their home, and
her clothes, and see them together," said Mrs. Bates.

"She still loves pretty clothing so well?" asked Kate.

"She is the best-dressed woman in the county, and the best looking,"
said Mrs. Bates, "and that's all there is to her.  I'm free to say with
her chances, I'm ashamed of what she has, and hasn't made of herself.
I'd rather stand in your shoes, than hers, this minute, Katie."

"Does she know I'm here?" asked Kate.

"Yes.  I stopped and told her on my way out, this morning," said Mrs.
Bates.  "I asked them to come out for Sunday dinner, and they are
coming."

"Did you deliver the invitation by force?" asked Kate.

"Now, none of your meddling," said Mrs. Bates.  "I got what I went
after, and that was all I wanted.  I've told her an' told her to come
to see you during the last three years, an' I know she WANTED to come;
but she just had that stubborn Bates streak in her that wouldn't let
her change, once her mind was made up.  It did give us a purty severe
jolt, Kate, havin' all that good Bates money burn up."

"I scarcely think it jolted any of you more than it did me," said Kate
dryly.

"No, I reckon it didn't," said Mrs. Bates.  "But they's no use hauling
ourselves over the coals to go into that.  It's past.  You went out to
face life bravely enough and it throwed you a boomerang that cut a
circle and brought you back where you started from.  Our arrangements
for the future are all made.  Now it's up to us to live so that we get
the most out of life for us an' the children.  Those are mighty nice
children of yours, Kate.  I take to that boy something amazin', and the
girl is the nicest little old lady I've seen in many a day.  I think we
will like knittin' and sewin' together, to the top of our bent."

"My, but I'm glad you like them, Mother," said Kate.  "They are all
I've got to show for ten years of my life."

"Not by a long shot, Katie," said Mrs. Bates.  "Life has made a real
woman of you.  I kept watchin' you to-day comin' over; an' I was
prouder 'an Jehu of you.  It's a debatable question whether you have
thrown away your time and your money.  I say you've got something to
show for it that I wish to God the rest of my children had.  I want you
should brace your back, and stiffen your neck, and make things hum
here.  Get a carpenter first.  Fix the house the way it will be most
convenient and comfortable.  Then paint and paper, and get what new
things you like, in reason--of course, in reason--and then I want you
should get all of us clothes so's there ain't a noticeable difference
between us and the others when we come together here or elsewhere.  Put
in a telephone; they're mighty handy, and if you can scrape up a
place--I washed in Nancy Ellen's tub a few weeks ago.  I never was wet
all over at once before in my life, and I'm just itching to try it
again.  I say, let's have it, if it knocks a fair-sized hole in a
five-hundred-dollar bill.  An' if we had the telephone right now, we
could call up folks an' order what we want without ever budgin' out of
our tracks.  Go up ahead, Katie, I'll back you in anything you can
think of.  It won't hurt my feelings a mite if you can think of one or
two things the rest of them haven't got yet. Can't you think of
something that will lay the rest of them clear in the shade?  I just
wish you could.  Now, I'm going to bed."

Kate went with her mother, opened her bed, pulled out the pins, and
brushed her hair, drew the thin cover over her, and blew out the light.
Then she went past the bed on her way to the door, and stooping, she
kissed her mother for the first time since she could remember.

Then she lighted a lamp, hunted a big sheet of wrapping paper, and
sitting down beside the living room table, she drew a rough sketch of
the house.  For hours she pored over it, and when at last she went to
bed, on the reverse of the sheet she had a drawing that was quite a
different affair; yet it was the same house with very few and easily
made changes that a good contractor could accomplish in a short time.
In the morning, she showed these ideas to her mother who approved all
of them, but still showed disappointment visibly.

"That's nothing but all the rest of them have," she said.  "I thought
you could think up some frills that would be new, and different."

"Well," said Kate, "would you want to go to the expense of setting up a
furnace in the cellar?  It would make the whole house toasty warm; it
would keep the bathroom from freezing in cold weather; and make a
better way to heat the water."

"Now you're shouting!" cried Mrs. Bates.  "That's it!  But keep still.
Don't you tell a soul about it, but go on and do it, Katie.  Wade right
in!  What else can you think of?"

"A brain specialist for you," said Kate.  "I think myself this is
enough for a start; but if you insist on more, there's a gas line
passing us out there on the road; we could hitch on for a very
reasonable sum, and do away with lamps and cooking with wood."

"Goody for you!  That's it!" cried Mrs. Bates.  "That's the very thing!
Now brush up your hair your prettiest, and put on your new blue dress,
and take the buggy, and you and Adam go see how much of this can be
started to-day.  Me and Polly will keep house."

In a month all of these changes had been made, and were in running
order; the painting was finished, new furniture in place, a fair start
made on the garden, while a strong, young, hired man was not far behind
Hiram with his plowing.  Kate was so tired she almost staggered; but
she was so happy she arose each morning refreshed, and accomplished
work enough for three average women before the day was over.  She
suggested to her mother that she use her money from the sale of the
Walden home to pay for what furniture she had bought, and then none of
the others could feel that they were entitled to any share in it, at
any time.  Mrs. Bates thought that a good idea, so much ill will was
saved among the children.

They all stopped in passing; some of them had sharp words to say, which
Kate instantly answered in such a way that this was seldom tried twice.
In two months the place was fresh, clean, convenient, and in good
taste.  All of them had sufficient suitable clothing, while the farm
work had not been neglected enough to hurt the value of the crops.

In the division of labour, Adam and the hired man took the barn and
field work, Mrs. Bates and Polly the house, while Kate threw all her
splendid strength wherever it was most needed.  If a horse was sick,
she went to the barn and doctored it.  If the hay was going to get wet,
she pitched hay.  If the men had not time for the garden she attended
it, and hoed the potatoes.  For a change, everything went right.  Mrs.
Bates was happier than she ever had been before, taking the greatest
interest in the children.  They had lived for three years in such a
manner that they would never forget it.  They were old enough to
appreciate what changes had come to them, and to be very keen about
their new home and life. Kate threw herself into the dream of her heart
with all the zest of her being.  Always she had loved and wanted land.
Now she had it.  She knew how to handle it.  She could make it pay as
well as any Bates man, for she had man strength, and all her life she
had heard men discuss, and helped men apply man methods.

There was a strong strain of her father's spirit of driving in Kate's
blood; but her mother was so tired of it that whenever Kate had gone
just so far the older woman had merely to caution:  "Now, now, Katie!"
to make Kate realized what she was doing and take a slower pace.  All
of them were well, happy, and working hard; but they also played at
proper times, and in convenient places.  Kate and her mother went with
the children when they fished in the meadow brook, or hunted wild
flowers in the woods for Polly's bed in the shade of the pear tree
beside the garden.  There were flowers in the garden now, as well as
vegetables.  There was no work done on Sunday.  The children always
went to Sunday-school and the full term of the District School at Bates
Corners.  They were respected, they were prosperous, they were finding
a joy in life they never before had known, while life had taught them
how to appreciate its good things as they achieved them.

The first Christmas Mrs. Bates and Kate made a Christmas tree from a
small savine in the dooryard that stood where Kate wanted to set a
flowering shrub she had found in the woods.  Guided by the former year,
and with a few dollars they decided to spend, these women made a real
Christmas tree, with gifts and ornaments, over which Mrs. Bates was
much more excited than the children.  Indeed, such is the perversity of
children that Kate's eyes widened and her mouth sagged when she heard
Adam say in a half-whisper to Polly:  "This is mighty pretty, but gee,
Polly, there'll never be another tree as pretty as ours last year!"

While Polly answered:  "I was just thinking about it, Adam. Wasn't it
the grandest thing?"

The next Christmas Mrs. Bates advanced to a tree that reached the
ceiling, with many candles, real ornaments, and an orange, a stocking
of candy and nuts, and a doll for each girl, and a knife for each boy
of her grandchildren, all of whom she invited for dinner.  Adam, 3d,
sat at the head of the table, Mrs. Bates at the foot.  The tiniest tots
that could be trusted without their parents ranged on the Dictionary
and the Bible, of which the Bates family possessed a fat edition for
birth records; no one had ever used it for any other purpose, until it
served to lift Hiram's baby, Milly, on a level with her roast turkey
and cranberry jelly. For a year before her party Mrs. Bates planned for
it.  The tree was beautiful, the gifts amazing, the dinner, as Kate
cooked and served it, a revelation, with its big centre basket of red,
yellow, and green apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, and flowers. None
of them ever had seen a table like that.  Then when dinner was over,
Kate sat before the fire and in her clear voice, with fine inflections,
she read from the Big Book the story of the guiding star and the little
child in the manger.  Then she told stories, and they played games
until four o'clock; and then Adam rolled all of the children into the
big wagon bed mounted on the sled runners, and took them home.  Then he
came back and finished the day.  Mrs. Bates could scarcely be persuaded
to go to bed. When at last Kate went to put out her mother's light, and
see that her feet were warm and her covers tucked, she found her crying.

"Why, Mother!" exclaimed Kate in frank dismay.  "Wasn't everything all
right?"

"I'm just so endurin' mad," sobbed Mrs. Bates, "that I could a-most
scream and throw things.  Here I am, closer the end of my string than
anybody knows.  Likely I'll not see another Christmas. I've lived the
most of my life, and never knowed there was a time like that on earth
to be had.  There wasn't expense to it we couldn't easy have stood,
always.  Now, at the end of my tether, I go and do this for my
grandchildren.  'Tween their little shining faces and me, there kept
coming all day the little, sad, disappointed faces of you and Nancy
Ellen, and Mary, and Hannah, and Adam, and Andrew, and Hiram and all
the others.  Ever since he went I've thought the one thing I COULDN'T
DO WAS TO DIE AND FACE ADAM BATES, but to-day I ain't felt so scared of
him.  Seems to me HE has got about as much to account for as I have."

Kate stood breathlessly still, looking at her mother.  Mrs. Bates wiped
her eyes.  "I ain't so mortal certain," she said, "that I don't open up
on him and take the first word.  I think likely I been defrauded out of
more that really counts in this world, than he has.  Ain't that little
roly-poly of Hannah's too sweet?  Seems like I'll hardly quit feeling
her little sticky hands and her little hot mouth on my face when I die;
and as she went out she whispered in my ear:  'Do it again, Grandma,
Oh, please do it again!' an it's more'n likely I'll not get the chance,
no matter how willing I am.  Kate, I am going to leave you what of my
money is left--I haven't spent so much--and while you live here, I wish
each year you would have this same kind of a party and pay for it out
of that money, and call it 'Grandmother's Party.'  Will you?"

"I surely will," said Kate.  "And hadn't I better have ALL of them, and
put some little thing from you on the tree for them? You know how Hiram
always was wild for cuff buttons, and Mary could talk by the hour about
a handkerchief with lace on it, and Andrew never yet has got that copy
of 'Aesop's Fables,' he always wanted.  Shall I?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Bates.  "Oh, yes, and when you do it, Katie, if they
don't chain me pretty close in on the other side, I think likely I'll
be sticking around as near as I can get to you."

Kate slipped a hot brick rolled in flannel to the cold old feet, and
turning out the light she sat beside the bed and stroked the tired head
until easy breathing told her that her mother was sound asleep.  Then
she went back to the fireplace and sitting in the red glow she told
Adam, 3d, PART of what her mother had said. Long after he was gone, she
sat gazing into the slowly graying coals, her mind busy with what she
had NOT told.

That spring was difficult for Kate.  Day after day she saw her mother
growing older, feebler, and frailer.  And as the body failed, up flamed
the wings of the spirit, carrying her on and on, each day keeping her
alive, when Kate did not see how it could be done.  With all the force
she could gather, each day Mrs. Bates struggled to keep going, denied
that she felt badly, drove herself to try to help about the house and
garden.  Kate warned the remainder of the family what they might expect
at any hour; but when they began coming in oftener, bringing little
gifts and being unusually kind, Mrs. Bates endured a few of the visits
in silence, then she turned to Kate and said after her latest callers:
"I wonder what in the name of all possessed ails the folks?  Are they
just itching to start my funeral?  Can't they stay away until you send
them word that the breath's out of my body?"

"Mother, you shock me," said Kate.  "They come because they LOVE you.
They try to tell you so with the little things they bring. Most people
would think they were neglected, if their children did NOT come to see
them when they were not so well."

"Not so well!" cried Mrs. Bates.  "Folly!  I am as well as I ever was.
They needn't come snooping around, trying to make me think I'm not.  If
they'd a-done it all their lives, well and good; it's no time for them
to begin being cotton-mouthed now."

"Mother," said Kate gently, "haven't YOU changed, yourself, about
things like Christmas, for example?  Maybe your children are changing,
too.  Maybe they feel that they have missed something they'd like to
have from you, and give back to you, before it's too late.  Just
maybe," said Kate.

Mrs. Bates sat bolt upright still, but her flashing eyes softened.

"I hadn't just thought of that," she said.  "I think it's more than
likely.  Well, if it's THAT way, I s'pose I've got to button up my lip
and stand it; but it's about more than I can go, when I know that the
first time I lose my grip I'll land smash up against Adam Bates and my
settlement with him."

"Mother," said Kate still more gently, "I thought we had it settled at
the time Father went that each of you would be accountable to GOD, not
to each other.  I am a wanderer in darkness myself, when it come to
talking about God, but this I know, He is SOMEWHERE and He is REDEEMING
love.  If Father has been in the light of His love all these years, he
must have changed more, far more than you have.  He'll understand now
how wrong he was to force ways on you he knew you didn't think right;
he'll have more to account to you for than you ever will to him; and
remember this only, neither of you is accountable, save to your God."

Mrs. Bates arose and walked to the door, drawn to full height, her head
very erect.  The world was at bloom-time.  The evening air was heavily
sweet with lilacs, and the widely branching, old apple trees of the
dooryard with loaded with flowers.  She stepped outside.  Kate
followed.  Her mother went down the steps and down the walk to the
gate.  Kate kept beside her, in reach, yet not touching her.  At the
gate she gripped the pickets to steady herself as she stared long and
unflinchingly at the red setting sun dropping behind a white wall of
bloom.  Then she slowly turned, life's greatest tragedy lining her
face, her breath coming in short gasps.  She spread her hands at each
side, as if to balance herself, her passing soul in her eyes, and
looked at Kate.

"Katherine Eleanor," she said slowly and distinctly, "I'm going now.  I
can't fight it off any longer.  I confess myself.  I burned those
deeds.  Every one of them.  Pa got himself afire, but he'd thrown THEM
out of it.  It was my chance.  I took it.  Are you going to tell them?"

Kate was standing as tall and straight as her mother, her hands
extended the same, but not touching her.

"No," she said.  "You were an instrument in the hands of God to right a
great wrong.  No!  I shall never tell a soul while I live. In a minute
God himself will tell you that you did what He willed you should."

"Well, we will see about that right now," said Mrs. Bates, lifting her
face to the sky.  "Into thy hands, O Lord, into thy hands!"

Then she closed her eyes and ceased to breathe.  Kate took her into her
arms and carried her to her bed.



CHAPTER XXII

SOMEWHAT OF POLLY

IF THE spirit of Mrs. Bates hovered among the bloom-whitened apple
trees as her mortal remains were carried past the lilacs and cabbage
rose bushes, through a rain of drifting petals, she must have been
convinced that time had wrought one great change in the hearts of her
children.  They had all learned to weep; while if the tears they shed
were a criterion of their feelings for her, surely her soul must have
been satisfied.  They laid her away with simple ceremony and then all
of them went to their homes, except Nancy Ellen and Robert, who stopped
in passing to learn if there was anything they could do for Kate.  She
was grieving too deeply for many words; none of them would ever
understand the deep bond of sympathy and companionship that had grown
to exist between her and her mother.  She stopped at the front porch
and sat down, feeling unable to enter the house with Nancy Ellen, who
was deeply concerned over the lack of taste displayed in Agatha's new
spring hat.  When Kate could endure it no longer she interrupted:  "Why
didn't all of them come?"

"What for?" asked Nancy Ellen.

"They had a right to know what Mother had done," said Kate in a low
voice.

"But what was the use?" asked Nancy Ellen.  "Adam had been managing the
administrator business for Mother and paying her taxes with his, of
course when she made a deed to you, and had it recorded, they told him.
All of us knew it for two years before she went after you.  And the new
furniture was bought with your money, so it's yours; what was there to
have a meeting about?"

"Mother didn't understand that you children knew," said Kate.

"Sometimes I thought there were a lot of things Mother didn't
understand," said Nancy Ellen, "and sometimes I thought she understood
so much more than any of the rest of us, that all of us would have had
a big surprise if we could have seen her brain."

"Yes, I believe we would," said Kate.  "Do you mind telling me how the
boys and girls feel about this?"

Nancy Ellen laughed shortly.  "Well, the boys feel that you negotiated
such a fine settlement of Father's affairs for them, that they owe this
to you.  The girls were pretty sore at first, and some of them are
nursing their wrath yet; but there wasn't a thing on earth they could
do.  All of them were perfectly willing that you should have
something--after the fire--of course, most of them thought Mother went
too far."

"I think so myself," said Kate.  "But she never came near me, or wrote
me, or sent me even one word, until the day she came after me.  I had
nothing to do with it--"

"All of us know that, Kate," said Nancy Ellen.  "You needn't worry.
We're all used to it, and we're all at the place where we have nothing
to say."

To escape grieving for her mother, Kate worked that summer as never
before.  Adam was growing big enough and strong enough to be a real
help.  He was interested in all they did, always after the reason, and
trying to think of a better way.  Kate secured the best agricultural
paper for him and they read it nights together. They kept an account
book, and set down all they spent, and balanced against it all they
earned, putting the difference, which was often more than they hoped
for, in the bank.

So the years ran.  As the children grew older, Polly discovered that
the nicest boy in school lived across the road half a mile north of
them; while Adam, after a real struggle in his loyal twin soul, aided
by the fact that Henry Peters usually had divided his apples with Polly
before Adam reached her, discovered that Milly York, across the road,
half a mile south, liked his apples best, and was as nice a girl as
Polly ever dared to be.  In a dazed way, Kate learned these things from
their after-school and Sunday talk, saw that they nearly reached her
shoulder, and realized that they were sixteen.  So quickly the time
goes, when people are busy, happy, and working together.  At least Kate
and Adam were happy, for they were always working together.  By tacit
agreement, they left Polly the easy housework, and went themselves to
the fields to wrestle with the rugged work of a farm.  They thought
they were shielding Polly, teaching her a woman's real work, and being
kind to her.

Polly thought they were together because they liked to be; doing the
farm work because it suited them better; while she had known from
babyhood that for some reason her mother did not care for her as she
did for Adam.  She thought at first that it was because Adam was a boy.
Later, when she noticed her mother watching her every time she started
to speak, and interrupting with the never-failing caution:  "Now be
careful!  THINK before you speak!  Are you SURE?" she wondered why this
should happen to her always, to Adam never.  She asked Adam about it,
but Adam did not know.  It never occurred to Polly to ask her mother,
while Kate was so uneasy it never occurred to her that the child would
notice or what she would think.  The first time Polly deviated slightly
from the truth, she and Kate had a very terrible time.  Kate felt fully
justified; the child astonished and abused.

Polly arrived at the solution of her problem slowly.  As she grew
older, she saw that her mother, who always was charitable to everyone
else, was repelled by her grandmother, while she loved Aunt Ollie.
Older still, Polly realized that SHE was a reproduction of her
grandmother.  She had only to look at her to see this; her mother did
not like her grandmother, maybe Mother did not like her as well as
Adam, because she resembled her grandmother.  By the time she was
sixteen, Polly had arrived at a solution that satisfied her as to why
her mother liked Adam better, and always left her alone in the house to
endless cooking, dishwashing, sweeping, dusting, washing, and ironing,
while she hoed potatoes, pitched hay, or sheared sheep.  Polly thought
the nicer way would have been to do the housework together and then go
to the fields together; but she was a good soul, so she worked alone
and brooded in silence, and watched up the road for a glimpse of Henry
Peters, who liked to hear her talk, and to whom it mattered not a mite
that her hair was lustreless, her eyes steel coloured, and her nose
like that of a woman he never had seen.  In her way, Polly admired her
mother, loved her, and worked until she was almost dropping for Kate's
scant, infrequent words of praise.

So Polly had to be content in the kitchen.  One day, having finished
her work two hours before dinnertime, she sauntered to the front gate.
How strange that Henry Peters should be at the end of the field joining
their land.  When he waved, she waved back.  When he climbed the fence
she opened the gate.  They met halfway, under the bloomful shade of a
red haw.  Henry wondered who two men he had seen leaving the Holt gate
were, and what they wanted, but he was too polite to ask.  He merely
hoped they did not annoy her.  Oh, no, they were only some men to see
Mother about some business, but it was most kind of him to let her know
he was looking out for her.  She got so lonely; Mother never would let
her go to the field with her.  Of course not!  The field was no place
for such a pretty girl; there was enough work in the house for her.
His sister should not work in the field, if he had a sister, and Polly
should not work there, if she belonged to him; No-sir-ee!  Polly looked
at Henry with shining, young girl eyes, and when he said she was
pretty, her blue-gray eyes softened, her cheeks pinked up, the sun put
light in her hair nature had failed to, and lo and behold, the marvel
was wrought--plain little Polly became a thing of beauty.  She knew it
instantly, because she saw herself in Henry Peters' eyes.  And Henry
was so amazed when this wonderful transformation took place in little
Polly, right there under the red haw tree, that his own eyes grew big
and tender, his cheeks flooded with red blood, his heart shook him, and
he drew to full height, and became possessed of an overwhelming desire
to dance before Polly, and sing to her.  He grew so splendid, Polly
caught her breath, and then she smiled on him a very wondering smile,
over the great discovery; and Henry grew so bewildered he forgot either
to dance or sing as a preliminary.  He merely, just merely, reached out
and gathered Polly in his arms, and held her against him, and stared
down at her wonderful beauty opening right out under his eyes.

"Little Beautiful!" said Henry Peters in a hushed, choking voice,
"Little Beautiful!"

Polly looked up at him.  She was every bit as beautiful as he thought
her, while he was so beautiful to Polly that she gasped for breath.
How did he happen to look as he did, right under the red haw, in broad
daylight?  He had been hers, of course, ever since, shy and fearful,
she had first entered Bates Corners school, and found courage in his
broad, encouraging smile.  Now she smiled on him, the smile of
possession that was in her heart. Henry instantly knew she always had
belonged to him, so he grasped her closer, and bent his head.

When Henry went back to the plow, and Polly ran down the road, with the
joy of the world surging in her heart and brain, she knew that she was
going to have to account to her tired, busy mother for being half an
hour late with dinner; and he knew he was going to have to explain to
an equally tired father why he was four furrows short of where he
should be.

He came to book first, and told the truth.  He had seen some men go to
the Holts'.  Polly was his little chum; and she was always alone all
summer, so he just walked that way to be sure she was safe.  His father
looked at him quizzically.

"So THAT'S the way the wind blows!" he said.  "Well, I don't know where
you could find a nicer little girl or a better worker.  I'd always
hoped you'd take to Milly York; but Polly is better; she can work three
of Milly down.  Awful plain, though!"

This sacrilege came while Henry's lips were tingling with their first
kiss, and his heart was drunken with the red wine of innocent young
love.

"Why, Dad, you're crazy!" he cried.  "There isn't another girl in the
whole world as pretty and sweet as Polly.  Milly York?  She can't hold
a candle to Polly!  Besides, she's been Adam's as long as Polly has
been mine!"

"God bless my soul!" cried Mr. Peters.  "How these youngsters to run
away with us.  And are you the most beautiful young man at Bates
Corners, Henry?"

"I'm beautiful enough that Polly will put her arms around my neck and
kiss me, anyway," blurted Henry.  "So you and Ma can get ready for a
wedding as soon as Polly says the word.  I'm ready, right now."

"So am I," said Mr. Peters, "and from the way Ma complains about the
work I and you boys make her, I don't think she will object to a little
help.  Polly is a good, steady worker."

Polly ran, but she simply could not light the fire, set the table, and
get things cooked on time, while everything she touched seemed to spill
or slip.  She could not think what, or how, to do the usual for the
very good reason that Henry Peters was a Prince, and a Knight, and a
Lover, and a Sweetheart, and her Man; she had just agreed to all this
with her soul, less than an hour ago under the red haw.  No wonder she
was late, no wonder she spilled and smeared; and red of face she
blundered and bungled, for the first time in her life.  Then in came
Kate.  She must lose no time, the corn must be finished before it
rained.  She must hurry--for the first time dinner was late, while
Polly was messing like a perfect little fool.

Kate stepped in and began to right things with practised hand. Disaster
came when she saw Polly, at the well, take an instant from bringing in
the water, to wave in the direction of the Peters farm.  As she entered
the door, Kate swept her with a glance.

"Have to upset the bowl, as usual?" she said, scathingly.  "Just as I
think you're going to make something of yourself, and be of some use,
you begin mooning in the direction of that big, gangling Hank Peters.
Don't you ever let me see you do it again.  You are too young to start
that kind of foolishness.  I bet a cow he was hanging around here, and
made you late with dinner."

"He was not!  He didn't either!" cried Polly, then stopped in dismay,
her cheeks burning.  She gulped and went on bravely: "That is, he
wasn't here, and he didn't make ME late, any more than I kept HIM from
his work.  He always watches when there are tramps and peddlers on the
road, because he knows I'm alone.  I knew he would be watching two men
who stopped to see you, so I just went as far as the haw tree to tell
him I was all right, and we got to talking--"

If only Kate had been looking at Polly then!  But she was putting the
apple butter and cream on the table.  As she did so, she thought
possibly it was a good idea to have Henry Peters seeing that tramps did
not frighten Polly, so she missed dawn on the face of her child, and
instead of what might have been, she said: "Well, I must say THAT is
neighbourly of him; but don't you dare let him get any foolish notions
in his head.  I think Aunt Nancy Ellen will let you stay at her house
after this, and go to the Hartley High School in winter, so you can
come out of that much better prepared to teach than I ever was.  I had
a surprise planned for you to-night, but now I don't know whether you
deserve it or not.  I'll have to think."

Kate did not think at all.  After the manner of parents, she SAID that,
but her head was full of something she thought vastly more important
just then; of course Polly should have her share in it. Left alone to
wash the dishes and cook supper while her mother went to town, it was
Polly, who did the thinking.  She thought entirely too much, thought
bitterly, thought disappointedly, and finally thought resentfully, and
then alas, Polly thought deceitfully.  Her mother had said:  "Never let
me see you."  Very well, she would be extremely careful that she was
NOT seen; but before she slept she rather thought she would find a way
to let Henry know how she was being abused, and about that plan to send
her away all the long winter to school.  She rather thought Henry would
have something to say about how his "Little Beautiful" was being
treated.  Here Polly looked long and searchingly in the mirror to see
if by any chance Henry was mistaken, and she discovered he was.  She
stared in amazement at the pink-cheeked, shining eyed girl she saw
mirrored.  She pulled her hair looser around the temples, and drew her
lips over her teeth.  Surely Henry was mistaken.  "Little Beautiful"
was too moderate.  She would see that he said "perfectly lovely," the
next time, and he did.



CHAPTER XXIII

KATE'S HEAVENLY TIME

ONE evening Kate and Polly went to the front porch to rest until
bedtime and found a shining big new trunk sitting there, with Kate's
initials on the end, her name on the check tag, and a key in the lock.
They unbuckled the straps, turned the key, and lifted the lid.  That
trunk contained underclothing, hose, shoes, two hats, a travelling
dress with half a dozen extra waists, and an afternoon and an evening
dress, all selected with especial reference to Kate's colouring, and
made one size larger than Nancy Ellen wore, which fitted Kate
perfectly.  There were gloves, a parasol, and a note which read:

DEAR KATE:  Here are some clothes.  I am going to go North a week after
harvest.  You can be spared then as well as not.  Come on! Let's run
away and have one good time all by ourselves.  It is my treat from
start to finish.  The children can manage the farm perfectly well.  Any
one of her cousins will stay with Polly, if she will be lonely.  Cut
loose and come on, Kate.  I am going.  Of course Robert couldn't be
pried away from his precious patients; we will have to go alone; but we
do not care.  We like it.  Shall we start about the tenth, on the night
train, which will be cooler?  NANCY ELLEN.

"We shall!" said Kate emphatically, when she finished the note. "I
haven't cut loose and had a good time since I was married; not for
eighteen years.  If the children are not big enough to take care of
themselves, they never will be.  I can go as well as not."

She handed the note to Polly, while she shook out dresses and gloated
over the contents of the trunk.

"Of course you shall go!" shouted Polly as she finished the note, but
even as she said it she glanced obliquely up the road and waved a hand
behind her mother's back.

"Sure you shall go!" cried Adam, when he finished the note, and sat
beside the trunk seeing all the pretty things over again. "You just bet
you shall go.  Polly and I can keep house, fine!  We don't need any
cousins hanging around.  I'll help Polly with her work, and then we'll
lock the house and she can come out with me. Sure you go!  We'll do all
right."  Then he glanced obliquely down the road, where a slim little
figure in white moved under the cherry trees of the York front yard,
aimlessly knocking croquet balls here and there.

It was two weeks until time to go, but Kate began taking care of
herself at once, solely because she did not want Nancy Ellen to be
ashamed of her.  She rolled her sleeves down to meet her gloves and
used a sunbonnet instead of a sunshade.  She washed and brushed her
hair with care she had not used in years.  By the time the tenth of
July came, she was in very presentable condition, while the contents of
the trunk did the remainder.  As she was getting ready to go, she said
to Polly:  "Now do your best while I'm away, and I am sure I can
arrange with Nancy Ellen about school this winter.  When I get back,
the very first thing I shall do will be to go to Hartley and buy some
stuff to begin on your clothes.  You shall have as nice dresses as the
other girls, too. Nancy Ellen will know exactly what to get you."

But she never caught a glimpse of Polly's flushed, dissatisfied face or
the tightening of her lips that would have suggested to her, had she
seen them, that Miss Polly felt perfectly capable of selecting the
clothing she was to wear herself.  Adam took his mother's trunk to the
station in the afternoon.  In the evening she held Polly on her knee,
while they drove to Dr. Gray's.  Kate thought the children would want
to wait and see them take the train, but Adam said that would make them
very late getting home, they had better leave that to Uncle Robert and
go back soon; so very soon they were duly kissed and unduly cautioned;
then started back down a side street that would not even take them
through the heart of the town.  Kate looked after them approvingly:
"Pretty good youngsters," she said.  "I told them to go and get some
ice cream; but you see they are saving the money and heading straight
home."  She turned to Robert.  "Can anything happen to them?" she
asked, in evident anxiety.

"Rest in peace, Kate," laughed the doctor.  "You surely know that those
youngsters are going to be eighteen in a few weeks.  You've reared them
carefully.  Nothing can, or will, happen to them, that would not happen
right under your nose if you were at home.  They will go from now on
according to their inclinations."

Kate looked at him sharply:  "What do you mean by that?" she demanded.

He laughed:  "Nothing serious," he said.  "Polly is half Bates, so she
will marry in a year or two, while Adam is all Bates, so he will remain
steady as the Rock of Ages, and strictly on the job. Go have your good
time, and if I possibly can, I'll come after you."

"You'll do nothing of the kind," said Nancy Ellen, with finality. "You
wouldn't leave your patients, and you couldn't leave dear Mrs. Southey."

"If you feel that way about it, why do you leave me?" he asked.

"To show the little fool I'm not afraid of her, for one thing," said
Nancy Ellen with her head high.  She was very beautiful in her smart
travelling dress, while her eyes flashed as she spoke. The doctor
looked at her approvingly.

"Good!" he cried.  "I like a plucky woman!  Go to have a good time,
Nancy Ellen; but don't go for that.  I do wish you would believe that
there isn't a thing the matter with the little woman, she's--"

"I can go even farther than that," said Nancy Ellen, dryly.  "I KNOW
'there isn't a thing the matter with the little woman,' except that she
wants you to look as if you were running after her.  I'd be safe in
wagering a thousand dollars that when she hears I'm gone, she will send
for you before to-morrow evening."

"You may also wager this," he said.  "If she does, I shall be very
sorry, but I'm on my way to the country on an emergency call. Nancy
Ellen, I wish you wouldn't!"

"Wouldn't go North, or wouldn't see what every other living soul in
Hartley sees?" she asked curtly.  Then she stepped inside to put on her
hat and gloves.

Kate looked at the doctor in dismay.  "Oh, Robert!" she said.

"I give you my word of honour, Kate," he said.  "If Nancy Ellen only
would be reasonable, the woman would see shortly that my wife is all
the world to me.  I never have been, and never shall be, untrue to her.
Does that satisfy you?"

"Of course," said Kate.  "I'll do all in my power to talk Nancy Ellen
out of that, on this trip.  Oh, if she only had children to occupy her
time!"

"That's the whole trouble in a nutshell," said the doctor; "but you
know there isn't a scarcity of children in the world.  Never a day
passes but I see half a dozen who need me, sorely.  But with Nancy
Ellen, NO CHILD will do unless she mothers it, and unfortunately, none
comes to her."

"Too bad!" said Kate.  "I'm so sorry!"

"Cheer her up, if you can," said the doctor.

An hour later they were speeding north, Nancy Ellen moody and
distraught, Kate as frankly delighted as any child.  The spring work
was over; the crops were fine; Adam would surely have the premium wheat
to take to the County Fair in September; he would work unceasingly for
his chance with corn; he and Polly would be all right; she could see
Polly waiting in the stable yard while Adam unharnessed and turned out
the horse.

Kate kept watching Nancy Ellen's discontented face.  At last she said:
"Cheer up, child!  There isn't a word of truth in it!"

"I know it," said Nancy Ellen.

"Then why take the way of all the world to start, and KEEP people
talking?" asked Kate.

"I'm not doing a thing on earth but attending strictly to my own
business," said Nancy Ellen.

"That's exactly the trouble," said Kate.  "You're not.  You let the
little heifer have things all her own way.  If it were my man, and I
loved him as you do Robert Gray, you can stake your life I should be
doing something, several things, in fact."

"This is interesting," said Nancy Ellen.  "For example--?"

Kate had not given such a matter a thought.  She looked from the window
a minute, her lips firmly compressed.  Then she spoke slowly:  "Well,
for one thing, I should become that woman's bosom companion.  About
seven times a week I should uncover her most aggravating weakness all
unintentionally before the man in the case, at the same time keeping
myself, strictly myself.  I should keep steadily on doing and being
what he first fell in love with. Lastly, since eighteen years have
brought you no fulfillment of the desire of your heart, I should give
it up, and content myself and delight him by taking into my heart and
home a couple of the most attractive tiny babies I could find.  Two are
scarcely more trouble than one; you can have all the help you will
accept; the children would never know the difference, if you took them
as babies, and soon you wouldn't either; while Robert would be
delighted.  If I were you, I'd give myself something to work for
besides myself, and I'd give him so much to think about at home, that
charming young grass widows could go to grass!"

"I believe you would," said Nancy Ellen, wonderingly.  "I believe you
would!"

"You're might right, I would," said Kate.  "If I were married to a man
like Robert Gray, I'd fight tooth and nail before I'd let him fall
below his high ideals.  It's as much your job to keep him up, as it is
his to keep himself.  If God didn't make him a father, I would, and I'd
keep him BUSY on the job, if I had to adopt sixteen."

Nancy Ellen laughed, as they went to their berths.  The next morning
they awakened in cool Michigan country and went speeding north among
evergreen forests and clear lakes mirroring the pointed forest tops and
blue sky, past slashing, splashing streams, in which they could almost
see the speckled trout darting over the beds of white sand.  By late
afternoon they had reached their destination and were in their rooms,
bathed, dressed, and ready for the dinner hour.  In the evening they
went walking, coming back to the hotel tired and happy.  After several
days they began talking to people and making friends, going out in
fishing and boating parties in the morning, driving or boating in the
afternoon, and attending concerts or dances at night.  Kate did not
dance, but she loved to see Nancy Ellen when she had a sufficiently
tall, graceful partner; while, as she watched the young people and
thought how innocent and happy they seemed, she asked her sister if
they could not possibly arrange for Adam and Polly to go to Hartley a
night or two a week that winter, and join the dancing class.  Nancy
Ellen was frankly delighted, so Kate cautiously skirted the school
question in such a manner that she soon had Nancy Ellen asking if it
could not be arranged.  When that was decided, Nancy Ellen went to
dance, while Kate stood on the veranda watching her.  The lights from
the window fell strongly on Kate.  She was wearing her evening dress of
smoky gray, soft fabric, over shining silk, with knots of dull blue
velvet and gold lace here and there.  She had dressed her hair
carefully; she appeared what she was, a splendid specimen of healthy,
vigorous, clean womanhood.

"Pardon me, Mrs. Holt," said a voice at her elbow, "but there's only
one head in this world like yours, so this, of course, must be you."

Kate's heart leaped and stood still.  She turned slowly, then held out
her hand, smiling at John Jardine, but saying not a word.  He took her
hand, and as he gripped it tightly he studied her frankly.

"Thank God for this!" he said, fervently.  "For years I've dreamed of
you and hungered for the sight of your face; but you cut me off
squarely, so I dared not intrude on you--only the Lord knows how
delighted I am to see you here, looking like this."

Kate smiled again.

"Come away," he begged.  "Come out of this.  Come walk a little way
with me, and tell me WHO you are, and HOW you are, and all the things I
think of every day of my life, and now I must know.  It's brigandage!
Come, or I shall carry you!"

"Pooh!  You couldn't!" laughed Kate.  "Of course I'll come!  And I
don't own a secret.  Ask anything you want to know.  How good it is to
see you!  Your mother--?"

"At rest, years ago," he said.  "She never forgave me for what I did,
in the way I did it.  She said it would bring disaster, and she was
right.  I thought it was not fair and honest not to let you know the
worst.  I thought I was too old, and too busy, and too flourishing, to
repair neglected years at that date, but believe me, Kate, you waked me
up.  Try the hardest one you know, and if I can't spell it, I'll pay a
thousand to your pet charity."

Kate laughed spontaneously.  "Are you in earnest?" she asked.

"I am incomprehensibly, immeasurably in earnest," he said, guiding her
down a narrow path to a shrub-enclosed, railed-in platform, built on
the steep side of a high hill, where they faced the moon-whitened
waves, rolling softly in a dancing procession across the face of the
great inland sea.  Here he found a seat.

"I've nothing to tell," he said.  "I lost Mother, so I went on without
her.  I learned to spell, and a great many other things, and I'm still
making money.  I never forget you for a day; I never have loved and
never shall love any other woman.  That's all about me, in a nutshell;
now go on and tell me a volume, tell me all night, about you.  Heavens,
woman, I wish you could see yourself, in that dress with the moon on
your hair.  Kate, you are the superbest thing!  I always shall be mad
about you.  Oh, if only you could have had a little patience with me.
I thought I COULDN'T learn, but of course I COULD.  But, proceed!  I
mustn't let myself go."

Kate leaned back and looked a long time at the shining white waves and
the deep blue sky, then she turned to John Jardine, and began to talk.
She told him simply a few of the most presentable details of her life:
how she had lost her money, then had been given her mother's farm,
about the children, and how she now lived.  He listened with deep
interest, often interrupting to ask a question, and when she ceased
talking he said half under his breath:  "And you're now free!  Oh, the
wonder of it!  You're now, free!"

Kate had that night to think about the remainder of her life.  She
always sincerely hoped that the moonlight did not bewitch her into
leading the man beside her into saying things he seemed to take delight
in saying.

She had no idea what time it was; in fact, she did not care even what
Nancy Ellen thought or whether she would worry.  The night was
wonderful; John Jardine had now made a man of himself worthy of all
consideration; being made love to by him was enchanting. She had been
occupied with the stern business of daily bread for so long that to be
again clothed as other women and frankly adored by such a man as John
Jardine was soul satisfying.  What did she care who worried or what
time it was?

"But I'm keeping you here until you will be wet with these mists," John
Jardine cried at last.  "Forgive me, Kate, I never did have any sense
where you were concerned!  I'll take you back now, but you must promise
me to meet me here in the morning, say at ten o'clock.  I'll take you
back now, if you'll agree to that."

"There's no reason why I shouldn't," said Kate.

"And you're free, free!" he repeated.

The veranda, halls, and ballroom were deserted when they returned to
the hotel.  As Kate entered her room, Nancy Ellen sat up in bed and
stared at her sleepily, but she was laughing in high good humour.  She
drew her watch from under her pillow and looked at it.

"Goodness gracious, Miss!" she cried.  "Do you know it's almost three
o'clock?"

"I don't care in the least," said Kate, "if it's four or five. I've had
a perfectly heavenly time.  Don't talk to me.  I'll put out the light
and be quiet as soon as I get my dress off.  I think likely I've ruined
it."

"What's the difference?" demanded Nancy Ellen, largely.  "You can ruin
half a dozen a day now, if you want to."

"What do you mean?" asked Kate.

"'Mean?'" laughed Nancy Ellen.  "I mean that I saw John Jardine or his
ghost come up to you on the veranda, looking as if he'd eat you alive,
and carry you away about nine o'clock, and you've been gone six hours
and come back having had a 'perfectly heavenly time.'  What should I
mean!  Go up head, Kate!  You have earned your right to a good time.
It isn't everybody who gets a second chance in this world.  Tell me one
thing, and I'll go to sleep in peace and leave you to moon the
remainder of the night, if you like.  Did he say he still loved you?"

"Still and yet," laughed Kate.  "As I remember, his exact words were
that he 'never had loved and never would love any other woman.'  Now
are you satisfied?"

Nancy Ellen sprang from the bed and ran to Kate, gathering her in her
strong arms.  She hugged and kissed her ecstatically.  "Good! Good!
Oh, you darling!" she cried.  "There'll be nothing in the world you
can't have!  I just know he had gone on making money; he was crazy
about you.  Oh, Kate, this is too good!  How did I ever think of coming
here, and why didn't I think of it seven years ago?  Kate, you must
promise me you'll marry him, before I let you go."

"I'll promise to THINK about it," said Kate, trying to free herself,
for despite the circumstances and the hour, her mind flew back to a
thousand times when only one kind word from Nancy Ellen would have
saved her endless pain.  It was endless, for it was burning in her
heart that instant.  At the prospect of wealth, position, and power,
Nancy Ellen could smother her with caresses; but poverty, pain, and
disgrace she had endured alone.

"I shan't let you go till you promise," threatened Nancy Ellen. "When
are you to see him again?"

"Ten, this morning," said Kate.  "You better let me get to bed, or I'll
look a sight."

"Then promise," said Nancy Ellen.

Kate laid firm hands on the encircling arms.  "Now, look here," she
said, shortly, "it's about time to stop this nonsense. There's nothing
I can promise you.  I must have time to think. I've got not only
myself, but the children to think for.  And I've only got till ten
o'clock, so I better get at it."

Kate's tone made Nancy Ellen step back.

"Kate, you haven't still got that letter in your mind, have you?" she
demanded.

"No!" laughed Kate, "I haven't!  He offered me a thousand dollars if I
could pronounce him a word he couldn't spell; and it's perfectly
evident he's studied until he is exactly like anybody else.  No, it's
not that!"

"Then what is it?  Simpleton, there WAS nothing else!" cried Nancy
Ellen.

"Not so much at that time; but this is nearly twenty years later, and I
have the fate of my children in my hands.  I wish you'd go to bed and
let me think!" said Kate.

"Yes, and the longer you think the crazier you will act," cried Nancy
Ellen.  "I know you!  You better promise me now, and stick to it."

For answer Kate turned off the light; but she did not go to bed. She
sat beside the window and she was still sitting there when dawn crept
across the lake and began to lighten the room.  Then she stretched
herself beside Nancy Ellen, who roused and looked at her.

"You just coming to bed?" she cried in wonder.

"At least you can't complain that I didn't think," said Kate, but Nancy
Ellen found no comfort in what she said, or the way she said it.  In
fact, she arose when Kate did, feeling distinctly sulky. As they
returned to their room from breakfast, Kate laid out her hat and gloves
and began to get ready to keep her appointment. Nancy Ellen could
endure the suspense no longer.

"Kate," she said in her gentlest tones, "if you have no mercy on
yourself, have some on your children.  You've no right, positively no
right, to take such a chance away from them."

"Chance for what?" asked Kate tersely.

"Education, travel, leisure, every opportunity in the world,"
enumerated Nancy Ellen.

Kate was handling her gloves, her forehead wrinkled, her eyes narrowed
in concentration.

"That is one side of it," she said.  "The other is that neither my
children nor I have in our blood, breeding, or mental cosmos, the
background that it takes to make one happy with money in unlimited
quantities.  So far as I'm concerned personally, I'm happier this
minute as I am, than John Jardine's money ever could make me.  I had a
fierce struggle with that question long ago; since I have had nearly
eight years of life I love, that is good for my soul, the struggle to
leave it would be greater now.  Polly would be happier and get more
from life as the wife of big gangling Henry Peters, than she would as a
millionaire's daughter.  She'd be very suitable in a farmhouse parlour;
she'd be a ridiculous little figure at a ball.  As for Adam, he'd turn
this down quick and hard."

"Just you try him!" cried Nancy Ellen.

"For one thing, he won't be here at ten o'clock," said Kate, "and for
another, since it involves my becoming the wife of John Jardine, it
isn't for Adam to decide.  This decision is strictly my own.  I merely
mention the children, because if I married him, it would have an
inevitable influence on their lives, an influence that I don't in the
least covet either for them or for myself. Nancy Ellen, can't you
remotely conceive of such a thing as one human being in the world who
is SATISFIED THAT HE HAS HIS SHARE, and who believes to the depths of
his soul that no man should be allowed to amass, and to use for his
personal indulgence, the amount of money that John Jardine does?"

"Yes, I can," cried Nancy Ellen, "when I see you, and the way you act!
You have chance after chance, but you seem to think that life requires
of you a steady job of holding your nose to the grindstone.  It was
rather stubby to begin with, go on and grind it clear off your face, if
you like."

"All right," said Kate.  "Then I'll tell you definitely that I have no
particular desire to marry anybody; I like my life immensely as I'm
living it.  I'm free, independent, and my children are in the element
to which they were born, and where they can live naturally, and spend
their lives helping in the great work of feeding, clothing, and housing
their fellow men. I've no desire to leave my job or take them from
theirs, to start a lazy, shiftless life of self-indulgence.  I don't
meddle much with the Bible, but I have a profound BELIEF in it, and a
large RESPECT for it, as the greatest book in the world, and it says:
'By the sweat of his brow shall man earn his bread,' or words to that
effect.  I was born a sweater, I shall just go on sweating until I die;
I refuse to begin perspiring at my time of life."

"You big fool!" cried Nancy Ellen.

"Look out!  You're 'in danger of Hell fire,' when you call me that!"
warned Kate.

"Fire away!" cried Nancy Ellen, with tears in her eyes and voice. "When
I think what you've gone through--"

Kate stared at her fixedly.  "What do you know about what I've gone
though?" she demanded in a cold, even voice.  "Personally, I think
you're not qualified to MENTION that subject; you better let it rest.
Whatever it has been, it's been of such a nature that I have come out
of it knowing when I have my share and when I'm well off, for me.  If
John Jardine wants to marry me, and will sell all he has, and come and
work on the farm with me, I'll consider marrying him.  To leave my life
and what I love to go to Chicago with him, I do not feel called on, or
inclined to do.  No, I'll not marry him, and in about fifteen minutes
I'll tell him so."

"And go on making a mess of your life such as you did for years," said
Nancy Ellen, drying her red eyes.

"At least it was my life," said Kate.  "I didn't mess things for any
one else."

"Except your children," said Nancy Ellen.

"As you will," said Kate, rising.  "I'll not marry John Jardine; and
the sooner I tell him so and get it over, the better.  Good-bye.  I'll
be back in half an hour."

Kate walked slowly to the observation platform, where she had been the
previous evening with John Jardine; and leaning on the railing, she
stood looking out over the water, and down the steep declivity,
thinking how best she could word what she had to say. She was so
absorbed she did not hear steps behind her or turn until a sharp voice
said:  "You needn't wait any longer.  He's not coming!"

Kate turned and glanced at the speaker, and then around to make sure
she was the person being addressed.  She could see no one else.  The
woman was small, light haired, her face enamelled, dressed beyond all
reason, and in a manner wholly out of place for morning at a summer
resort in Michigan.

"If you are speaking to me, will you kindly tell me to whom you refer,
and give me the message you bring?" said Kate.

"I refer to Mr. John Jardine, Mrs. Holt," said the little woman and
then Kate saw that she was shaking, and gripping her hands for
self-control.

"Very well," said Kate.  "It will save me an unpleasant task if he
doesn't come.  Thank you," and she turned back to the water.

"You certainly didn't find anything unpleasant about being with him
half last night," said the little woman.

Kate turned again, and looked narrowly at the speaker.  Then she
laughed heartily.  "Well done, Jennie!" she cried.  "Why, you are such
a fashionable lady, such a Dolly Varden, I never saw who you were.  How
do you do?  Won't you sit down and have a chat?  It's just dawning on
me that very possibly, from your dress and manner, I SHOULD have called
you Mrs. Jardine."

"Didn't he tell you?" cried Jennie.

"He did not," said Kate.  "Your name was not mentioned.  He said no
word about being married."

"We have been married since a few weeks after Mrs. Jardine died. I
taught him the things you turned him down for not knowing; I have
studied him, and waited on him, and borne his children, and THIS is my
reward.  What are you going to do?"

"Go back to the hotel, when I finish with this view," said Kate. "I
find it almost as attractive by day as it was by night."

"Brazen!" cried Mrs. Jardine.

"Choose your words carefully," said Kate.  "I was here first; since you
have delivered your message, suppose you go and leave me to my view."

"Not till I get ready," said Mrs. Jardine.  "Perhaps it will help you
to know that I was not twenty feet from you at any time last night; and
that I stood where I could have touched you, while my husband made love
to you for hours."

"So?" said Kate.  "I'm not at all surprised.  That's exactly what I
should have expected of you.  But doesn't it clarify the situation any,
at least for me, when I tell you that Mr. Jardine gave me no faintest
hint that he was married?  If you heard all we said, you surely
remember that you were not mentioned?"

Mrs. Jardine sat down suddenly and gripped her little hands.  Kate
studied her intently.  She wondered what she would look like when her
hair was being washed; at this thought she smiled broadly. That made
the other woman frantic.

"You can well LAUGH at me," she said.  "I made the banner fool of the
ages of myself when I schemed to marry him.  I knew he loved you.  He
told me so.  He told me, just as he told you last night, that he never
had loved any other woman and he never would.  I thought he didn't know
himself as I knew him.  He was so grand to his mother, I thought if I
taught him, and helped him back to self-respect, and gave him children,
he must, and would love me. Well, I was mistaken.  He does not, and
never will.  Every day he thinks of you; not a night but he speaks your
name.  He thinks all things can be done with money--"

"So do you, Jennie," interrupted Kate.  "Well, I'll show you that this
CAN'T!"

"Didn't you hear him exulting because you are now free?" cried Jennie.
"He thinks he will give me a home, the children, a big income; then
secure his freedom and marry you."

"Oh, don't talk such rot!" cried Kate.  "John Jardine thinks no such
thing.  He wouldn't insult me by thinking I thought such a thing.  That
thought belongs where it sprang from, right in your little cramped,
blonde brain, Jennie."

"You wouldn't?  Are you sure you wouldn't?" cried Jennie, leaning
forward with hands clutched closely.

"I should say not!" said Kate.  "The last thing on earth I want is some
other woman's husband.  Now look here, Jennie, I'll tell you the plain
truth.  I thought last night that John Jardine was as free as I was; or
I shouldn't have been here with him.  I thought he was asking me again
to marry him, and I was not asleep last night, thinking it over.  I
came here to tell him that I would not.  Does that satisfy you?"

"Satisfy?" cried Jennie.  "I hope no other woman lives in the kind of
Hell I do."

"It's always the way," said Kate, "when people will insist on getting
out of their class.  You would have gotten ten times more from life as
the wife of a village merchant, or a farmer, than you have as the wife
of a rich man.  Since you're married to him, and there are children,
there's nothing for you to do but finish your job as best you can.
Rest your head easy about me.  I wouldn't touch John Jardine married to
you; I wouldn't touch him with a ten-foot pole, divorced from you.  Get
that clear in your head, and do please go!"

Kate turned again to the water, but when she was sure Jennie was far
away she sat down suddenly and asked of the lake:  "Well, wouldn't that
freeze you?"



CHAPTER XXIV

POLLY TRIES HER WINGS

FINALLY Kate wandered back to the hotel and went to their room to learn
if Nancy Ellen was there.  She was and seemed very much perturbed.  The
first thing she did was to hand Kate a big white envelope, which she
opened and found to be a few lines from John Jardine, explaining that
he had been unexpectedly called away on some very important business.
He reiterated his delight in having seen her, and hoped for the same
pleasure at no very distant date. Kate read it and tossed it on the
dresser.  As she did so, she saw a telegram, lying opened among Nancy
Ellen's toilet articles, and thought with pleasure that Robert was
coming.  She glanced at her sister for confirmation, and saw that she
was staring from the window as if she were in doubt about something.
Kate thought probably she was still upset about John Jardine, and that
might as well be gotten over, so she said:  "That note was not
delivered promptly.  It is from John Jardine.  I should have had it
before I left.  He was called away on important business and wrote to
let me know he would not be able to keep his appointment; but without
his knowledge, he had a representative on the spot."

Nancy Ellen seemed interested so Kate proceeded:  "You couldn't guess
in a thousand years.  I'll have to tell you spang!  It was his wife."

"His wife!" cried Nancy Ellen.  "But you said--"

"So I did," said Kate.  "And so he did.  Since the wife loomed on the
horizon, I remembered that he said no word to me of marriage; he merely
said he always had loved me and always would--"

"Merely?" scoffed Nancy Ellen.  "Merely!"

"Just 'merely,'" said Kate.  "He didn't lay a finger on me; he didn't
ask me to marry him; he just merely met me after a long separation, and
told me that he still loved me."

"The brute!" said Nancy Ellen.  "He should be killed."

"I can't see it," said Kate.  "He did nothing ungentlemanly.  If we
jumped to wrong conclusions that was not his fault.  I doubt if he
remembered or thought at all of his marriage.  It wouldn't be much to
forget.  I am fresh from an interview with his wife. She's an old
acquaintance of mine.  I once secured her for his mother's maid.
You've heard me speak of her."

"Impossible!  John Jardine would not do that!" cried Nancy Ellen.

"There's a family to prove it," said Kate.  "Jennie admits that she
studied him, taught him, made herself indispensable to him, and a few
weeks after his mother's passing, married him, after he had told her he
did not love her and never could.  I feel sorry for him."

"Sure!  Poor defrauded creature!" said Nancy Ellen.  "What about her?"

"Nothing, so far as I can see," said Kate.  "By her own account she was
responsible.  She should have kept in her own class."

"All right.  That settles Jennie!" said Nancy Ellen.  "I saw you notice
the telegram from Robert--now go on and settle me!"

"Is he coming?" asked Kate.

"No, he's not coming," said Nancy Ellen.

"Has he eloped with the widder?" asked Kate flippantly.

"He merely telegraphs that he thinks it would be wise for us to come
home on the first train," said Nancy Ellen.  "For all I can make of
that, the elopement might quite as well be in your family as mine."

Kate held out her hand, Nancy Ellen laid the message in it.  Kate
studied it carefully; then she raised steady eyes to her sister's face.

"Do you know what I should do about this?" she asked.

"Catch the first train, of course," she said.

"Far be it from me," said Kate.  "I should at once telegraph him that
his message was not clear, to kindly particularize.  We've only got
settled.  We're having a fine time; especially right now. Why should we
pack up and go home?  I can't think of any possibility that could arise
that would make it necessary for him to send for us.  Can you?"

"I can think of two things," said Nancy Ellen.  "I can think of a very
pretty, confiding, little cat of a woman, who is desperately infatuated
with my husband; and I can think of two children fathered by George
Holt, who might possibly, just possibly, have enough of his blood in
their veins to be like him, given opportunity.  Alone for a week, there
is barely a FAINT possibility that YOU might be needed.  Alone for the
same week, there is the faintest possibility that ROBERT is in a
situation where I could help him."

Kate drew a deep breath.

"Isn't life the most amusing thing?" she asked.  "I had almost
forgotten my wings.  I guess we'd better take them, and fly straight
home."

She arose and called the office to learn about trains, and then began
packing her trunk.  As she folded her dresses and stuffed them in
rather carelessly she said:  "I don't know why I got it into my head
that I could go away and have a few days of a good time without
something happening at home."

"But you are not sure anything has happened at home.  This call may be
for me," said Nancy Ellen.

"It MAY, but this is July," said Kate.  "I've been thinking hard and
fast.  It's probable I can put my finger on the spot."

Nancy Ellen paused and standing erect she looked questioningly at Kate.

"The weak link in my chain at the present minute is Polly," said Kate.
"I didn't pay much attention at the time, because there wasn't enough
of it really to attract attention; but since I think, I can recall
signs of growing discontent in Polly, lately. She fussed about the
work, and resented being left in the house while I went to the fields,
and she had begun looking up the road to Peters' so much that her head
was slightly turned toward the north most of the time.  With me away--"

"What do you think?" demanded Nancy Ellen.

"Think very likely she has decided that she'll sacrifice her chance for
more schooling and to teach, for the sake of marrying a big, green
country boy named Hank Peters," said Kate.

"Thereby keeping in her own class," suggested Nancy Ellen.

Kate laughed shortly.  "Exactly!" she said.  "I didn't aspire to
anything different for her from what she has had; but I wanted her to
have more education, and wait until she was older.  Marriage is too
hard work for a girl to begin at less than eighteen.  If it is Polly,
and she has gone away with Hank Peters, they've no place to go but his
home; and if ever she thought I worked her too hard, she'll find out
she has played most of her life, when she begins taking orders from
Mrs. Amanda Peters.  You know her!  She never can keep a girl more than
a week, and she's always wanting one. If Polly has tackled THAT job,
God help her."

"Cheer up!  We're in that delightful state of uncertainty where Polly
may be blacking the cook stove, like a dutiful daughter; while Robert
has decided that he'd like a divorce," said Nancy Ellen.

"Nancy Ellen, there's nothing in that, so far as Robert is concerned.
He told me so the evening we came away," said Kate.

Nancy Ellen banged down a trunk lid and said:  "Well, I am getting to
the place where I don't much care whether there is or there is not."

"What a whopper!" laughed Kate.  "But cheer up.  This is my trouble.  I
feel it in my bones.  Wish I knew for sure.  If she's eloped, and it's
all over with, we might as well stay and finish our visit.  If she's
married, I can't unmarry her, and I wouldn't if I could."

"How are you going to apply your philosophy to yourself?" asked Nancy
Ellen.

"By letting time and Polly take their course," said Kate.  "This is a
place where parents are of no account whatever.  They stand back until
it's time to clean up the wreck, and then they get theirs--usually
theirs, and several of someone's else, in the bargain."

As the train stopped at Hartley, Kate sat where she could see Robert on
the platform.  It was only a fleeting glance, but she thought she had
never seen him look so wholesome, so vital, so much a man to be desired.

"No wonder a woman lacking in fine scruples would covet him," thought
Kate.  To Nancy Ellen she said hastily:  "The trouble's mine.  Robert's
on the platform."

"Where?" demanded Nancy Ellen, peering from the window.

Kate smiled as she walked from the car and confronted Robert.

"Get it over quickly," she said.  "It's Polly?"

He nodded.

"Did she remember to call on the Squire?" she asked.

"Oh, yes," said Robert.  "It was at Peters', and they had the whole
neighbourhood in."

Kate swayed slightly, then lifted her head, her eyes blazing.  She had
come, feeling not altogether guiltless, and quite prepared to overlook
a youthful elopement.  The insult of having her only daughter given a
wedding at the home of the groom, about which the whole neighbourhood
would be laughing at her, was a different matter.  Slowly the high
colour faded from Kate's face, as she stepped back.  "Excuse me, Nancy
Ellen," she said.  "I didn't mean to deprive you of the chance of even
speaking to Robert.  I KNEW this was for me; I was over-anxious to
learn what choice morsel life had in store for me now.  It's one that
will be bitter on my tongue to the day of my death."

"Oh, Kate, I as so sorry that if this had to happen, it happened in
just that way," said Nancy Ellen, "but don't mind.  They're only
foolish kids!"

"Who?  Mr. and Mrs. Peters, and the neighbours, who attended the
wedding!  Foolish kids?  Oh, no!" said Kate.  "Where's Adam?"

"I told him I'd bring you out," said Robert.

"Why didn't he send for you, or do something?" demanded Kate.

"I'm afraid the facts are that Polly lied to him," said Robert. "She
told him that Peters were having a party, and Mrs. Peters wanted her to
come early and help her with the supper.  They had the Magistrate out
from town and had the ceremony an hour before Adam got there.  When he
arrived, and found out what had happened, he told Polly and the Peters
family exactly his opinion of them; and then he went home and turned on
all the lights, and sat where he could be seen on the porch all
evening, as a protest in evidence of his disapproval, I take it."

Slowly the colour began to creep back into Kate's face.  "The good
boy!" she said, in commendation.

"He called me at once, and we talked it over and I sent you the
telegram; but as he said, it was done; there was no use trying to undo
it.  One thing will be a comfort to you.  All of your family, and
almost all of your friends, left as soon as Adam spoke his piece, and
they found it was a wedding and not a party to which they'd been
invited.  It was a shabby trick of Peters."

Kate assented.  "It was because I felt instinctively that Mrs. Peters
had it in her to do tricks like that, that I never would have anything
to do with her," said Kate, "more than to be passing civil.  This is
how she gets her revenge, and her hired girl, for no wages, I'll be
bound!  It's a shabby trick.  I'm glad Adam saved me the trouble of
telling her so."

Robert took Nancy Ellen home, and then drove to Bates Corners with Kate.

"In a few days now I hope we can see each other oftener," he said, on
the way.  "I got a car yesterday, and it doesn't seem so complicated.
Any intelligent person can learn to drive in a short time.  I like it
so much, and I knew I'd have such constant use for it that--now this is
a secret--I ordered another for Nancy Ellen, so she can drive about
town, and run out here as she chooses.  Will she be pleased?"

"She'll be overjoyed!  That was dear of you, Robert.  Only one thing in
world would please her more," said Kate.

"What's that?" asked Robert.

Kate looked him in the eye, and smiled.

"Oh," he said.  "But there is nothing in it!"

"Except TALK, that worries and humiliates Nancy Ellen," said Kate.

"Kate," he said suddenly, "if you were in my shoes, what would you do?"

"The next time I got a phone call, or a note from Mrs. Southey, and she
was having one of those terrible headaches, I should say: 'I'm
dreadfully sorry, Mrs. Southey, but a breath of talk that might be
unpleasant for you, and for my wife, has come to my ear, so I know
you'll think it wiser to call Dr. Mills, who can serve you better than
I.  In a great rush this afternoon.  Good-bye!' THAT is what I should
do, Robert, and I should do it quickly, and emphatically.  Then I
should interest Nancy Ellen in her car for a time, and then I should
keep my eyes open, and the first time I found in my practice a sound
baby with a clean bill of health, and no encumbrances, I should have it
dressed attractively, and bestow it on Nancy Ellen as casually as I did
the car.  And in the meantime, love her plenty, Robert.  You can never
know how she FEELS about this; and it's in no way her fault.  She
couldn't possibly have known; while you would have married her just the
same if you had known.  Isn't that so?"

"It's quite so.  Kate, I think your head is level, and I'll follow your
advice to the letter.  Now you have 'healed my lame leg,' as the dog
said in McGuffey's Third, what can I do for THIS poor dog?"

"Nothing," said Kate.  "I've got to hold still, and take it.  Life will
do the doing.  I don't want to croak, but remember my word, it will do
plenty."

"We'll come often," he said as he turned to go back.

Kate slowly walked up the path, dreading to meet Adam.  He evidently
had been watching for her, for he came around the corner of the house,
took her arm, and they walked up the steps and into the living room
together.  She looked at him; he looked at her. At last he said:  "I'm
afraid that a good deal of this is my fault, Mother."

"How so?" asked Kate, tersely.

"I guess I betrayed your trust in me," said Adam, heavily.  "Of course
I did all my work and attended to things; but in the evening after work
was over, the very first evening on the way home we stopped to talk to
Henry at the gate, and he got in and came on down.  We could see Milly
at their gate, and I wanted her, I wanted her so much, Mother; and it
was going to be lonesome, so all of us went on there, and she came up
here and we sat on the porch, and then I took her home and that left
Henry and Polly together.  The next night Henry took us to town for a
treat, and we were all together, and the next night Milly asked us all
there, and so it went.  It was all as open and innocent as it could be;
only Henry and Polly were in awful earnest and she was bound she
wouldn't be sent to town to school--"

"Why didn't she tell me so?  She never objected a word, to me," said
Kate.

"Well, Mother, you are so big, and Polly was so little, and she was
used to minding--"

"Yes, this looks like it," said Kate.  "Well, go on!"

"That's all," said Adam.  "It was only that instead of staying at home
and attending to our own affairs we were somewhere every night, or
Milly and Henry were here.  That is where I was to blame.  I'm afraid
you'll never forgive me, Mother; but I didn't take good care of Sister.
I left her to Henry Peters, while I tried to see how nice I could be to
Milly.  I didn't know what Polly and Henry were planning; honest, I
didn't, Mother.  I would have told Uncle Robert and sent for you if I
had.  I thought when I went there it was to be our little crowd like it
was at York's. I was furious when I found they were married.  I told
Mr. and Mrs. Peters what they were, right before the company, and then
I came straight home and all the family, and York's, and most of the
others, came straight away.  Only a few stayed to the supper.  I was so
angry with Polly I just pushed her away, and didn't even say good-night
to her.  The little silly fool!  Mother, if she had told you, you would
have let her stay at home this winter and got her clothing, and let her
be married here, when she was old enough, wouldn't you?"

"Certainly!" said Kate.  "All the world knows that.  Bates all marry;
and they all marry young.  Don't blame yourself, Adam.  If Polly had it
in her system to do this, and she did, or she wouldn't have done it,
the thing would have happened when I was here, and right under my nose.
It was a scheme all planned and ready before I left.  I know that now.
Let it go!  There's nothing we can do, until things begin to go WRONG,
as they always do in this kind of wedding; then we shall get our call.
In the meantime, you mustn't push your sister away.  She may need you
sooner than you'd think; and will you just please have enough
confidence in my common sense and love for you, to come to me, FIRST,
when you feel that there's a girl who is indispensable to your future,
Adam?"

"Yes, I will," said Adam.  "And it won't be long, and the girl will be
Milly York."

"All right," said Kate, gravely, "whenever the time comes, let me know
about it.  Now see if you can find me something to eat till I lay off
my hat and wash.  It was a long, hot ride, and I'm tired. Since there's
nothing I can do, I wish I had stayed where I was. No, I don't, either!
I see joy coming over the hill for Nancy Ellen."

"Why is joy coming to Nancy Ellen?" asked the boy, pausing an instant
before he started to the kitchen.

"Oh, because she's had such a very tough, uncomfortable time with
life," said Kate, "that in the very nature of things joy SHOULD come
her way."

The boy stood mystified until the expression on his face so amused Kate
that she began laughing, then he understood.

"That's WHY it's coming," said Kate; "and, here's HOW it's coming. She
is going to get rid of a bothersome worry that's troubling her
head--and she's going to have a very splendid gift, but it's a deep
secret."

"Then you'll have to whisper it," said Adam, going to her and holding a
convenient ear.  Kate rested her hands on his shoulder a minute, as she
leaned on him, her face buried in his crisp black hair.  Then she
whispered the secret.

"Crickey, isn't that grand!" cried the boy, backing away to stare at
her.

"Yes, it is so grand I'm going to try it ourselves," said Kate. "We've
a pretty snug balance in the bank, and I think it would be great fun
evenings or when we want to go to town in a hurry and the horses are
tired."

Adam was slowly moving toward the kitchen, his face more of a study
than before.

"Mother," he said as he reached the door, "I be hanged if I know how to
take you!  I thought you'd just raise Cain over what Polly has done;
but you act so sane and sensible; someway it doesn't seem so bad as it
did, and I feel more sorry for Polly than like going back on her.  And
are you truly in earnest about a car?"

"I'm going to think very seriously about it this winter, and I feel
almost sure it will come true by early spring," said Kate. "But who
said anything about 'going back on Polly?'"

"Oh, Mrs. York and all the neighbours said that you'd never forgive
her, and that she'd never darken your door again, and things like that
until I was almost crazy," answered Adam.

Kate smiled grimly.  "Adam," she said, "I had seven years of that
'darken you door' business, myself.  It's a mighty cold, hard
proposition.  It's a wonder the neighbours didn't remember that. Maybe
they did, and thought I was so much of a Bates leopard that I couldn't
change my spots.  If they are watching me, they will find that I am not
spotted; I'm sorry and humiliated over what Polly has done; but I'm not
going to gnash my teeth, and tear my hair, and wail in public, or in
private.  I'm trying to keep my real mean spot so deep it can't be
seen.  If ever I get my chance, Adam, you watch me pay back Mrs.
Peters.  THAT is the size and location of my spot; but it's far deeper
than my skin.  Now go on and find me food, man, food!"

Adam sat close while Kate ate her supper, then he helped her unpack her
trunk and hang away her dresses, and then they sat on the porch talking
for a long time.

When at last they arose to go to bed Kate said:  "Adam, about Polly:
first time you see her, if she asks, tell her she left home of her own
free will and accord, and in her own way, which, by the way, happens to
be a Holt way; but you needn't mention that.  I think by this time she
has learned or soon she will learn that; and whenever she wants to come
back and face me, to come right ahead.  I can stand it if she can.  Can
you get that straight?"

Adam said he could.  He got that straight and so much else that by the
time he finished, Polly realized that both he and her mother had left
her in the house to try to SHIELD her; that if she had told what she
wanted in a straightforward manner she might have had a wedding outfit
prepared and been married from her home at a proper time and in a
proper way, and without putting her mother to shame before the
community.  Polly was very much ashamed of herself by the time Adam
finished.  She could not find it in her heart to blame Henry; she knew
he was no more to blame than she was; but she did store up a grievance
against Mr. and Mrs. Peters. They were older and had had experience
with the world; they might have told Polly what she should do instead
of having done everything in their power to make her do what she had
done, bribing, coaxing, urging, all in the direction of her
inclinations.

At heart Polly was big enough to admit that she had followed her
inclinations without thinking at all what the result would be. Adam
never would have done what she had.  Adam would have thought of his
mother and his name and his honour.  Poor little Polly had to admit
that honour with her had always been a matter of, "Now remember," "Be
careful," and like caution on the lips of her mother.

The more Polly thought, the worse she felt.  The worse she felt, the
more the whole Peters family tried to comfort her.  She was violently
homesick in a few days; but Adam had said she was to come when she
"could face her mother," and Polly suddenly found that she would rather
undertake to run ten miles than to face her mother, so she began a
process of hiding from her.  If she sat on the porch, and saw her
mother coming, she ran in the house.  She would go to no public place
where she might meet her.  For a few weeks she lived a life of working
for Mrs. Peters from dawn to dark, under the stimulus of what a sweet
girl she was, how splendidly she did things, how fortunate Henry was,
interspersed with continual kissing, patting, and petting, all very new
and unusual to Polly.  By that time she was so very ill, she could not
lift her head from the pillow half the day, but it was to the credit of
the badly disappointed Peters family that they kept up the petting.
When Polly grew better, she had no desire to go anywhere; she worked to
make up for the trouble she had been during her illness, to sew every
spare moment, and to do her full share of the day's work in the house
of an excessively nice woman, whose work never was done, and most
hopeless thing of all, never would be.  Mrs. Peters' head was full of
things that she meant to do three years in the future.  Every night
found Polly so tired she staggered to bed early as possible; every
morning found her confronting the same round, which from the nature of
her condition every morning was more difficult for her.

Kate and Adam followed their usual routine with only the alterations
required by the absence of Polly.  Kate now prepared breakfast while
Adam did the feeding and milking; washed the dishes and made the beds
while he hitched up; then went to the field with him.  On rainy days he
swept and she dusted; always they talked over and planned everything
they did, in the house or afield; always they schemed, contrived,
economized, and worked to attain the shortest, easiest end to any
result they strove for. They were growing in physical force, they were
efficient, they attended their own affairs strictly.  Their work was
always done on time, their place in order, their deposits at the bank
frequent.  As the cold days came they missed Polly, but scarcely ever
mentioned her.  They had more books and read and studied together,
while every few evenings Adam picked up his hat and disappeared, but
soon he and Milly came in together.  Then they all read, popped corn,
made taffy, knitted, often Kate was called away by some sewing or
upstairs work she wanted to do, so that the youngsters had plenty of
time alone to revel in the wonder of life's greatest secret.

To Kate's ears came the word that Polly would be a mother in the
spring, that the Peters family were delighted and anxious for the child
to be a girl, as they found six males sufficient for one family.  Polly
was looking well, feeling fine, was a famous little worker, and seldom
sat on a chair because some member of the Peters family usually held
her.

"I should think she would get sick of all that mushing," said Adam when
he repeated these things.

"She's not like us," said Kate.  "She'll take all she can get, and call
for more.  She's a long time coming; but I'm glad she's well and happy."

"Buncombe!" said Adam.  "She isn't so very well.  She's white as putty,
and there are great big, dark hollows under her eyes, and she's always
panting for breath like she had been running.  Nearly every time I pass
there I see her out scrubbing the porches, or feeding the chickens, or
washing windows, or something.  You bet Mrs. Peters has got a fine
hired girl now, and she's smiling all over about it."

"She really has something to smile about," said Kate.

To Polly's ears went the word that Adam and her mother were having a
fine time together, always together; and that they had Milly York up
three times a week to spend the evening; and that Milly said that it
passed her to see why Polly ran away from Mrs. Holt. She was the
grandest woman alive, and if she had any running to do in her
neighbourhood, she would run TO her, and not FROM her. Whereupon Polly
closed her lips firmly and looked black, but not before she had said:
"Well, if Mother had done just one night a week of that entertaining
for Henry and me, we wouldn't have run from her, either."

Polly said nothing until April, then Kate answered the telephone one
day and a few seconds later was ringing for Adam as if she would pull
down the bell.  He came running and soon was on his way to Peters' with
the single buggy, with instructions to drive slowly and carefully and
on no account to let Polly slip getting out.  The Peters family had all
gone to bury an aunt in the neighbourhood, leaving Polly alone for the
day; and Polly at once called up her mother, and said she was dying to
see her, and if she couldn't come home for the day, she would die soon,
and be glad of it.  Kate knew the visit should not have been made at
that time and in that way; but she knew that Polly was under a
dangerous nervous strain; she herself would not go to Peters' in Mrs.
Peters' absence; she did not know what else to do.  As she waited for
Polly she thought of many things she would say; when she saw her, she
took her in her arms and almost carried her into the house, and she
said nothing at all, save how glad she was to see her, and she did
nothing at all, except to try with all her might to comfort and please
her, for to Kate, Polly did not seem like a strong, healthy girl
approaching maternity.  She appeared like a very sick woman, who sorely
needed attention, while a few questions made her so sure of it that she
at once called Robert. He gave both of them all the comfort he could,
but what he told Nancy Ellen was:  "Polly has had no attention
whatever.  She wants me, and I'll have to go; but it's a case I'd like
to side-step. I'll do all I can, but the time is short."

"Oh, Lord!" said Nancy Ellen.  "Is it one more for Kate?"

"Yes," said Robert, "I am very much afraid it's 'one more for Kate.'"



CHAPTER XXV

ONE MORE FOR KATE

POLLY and Kate had a long day together, while Adam was about the house
much of the time.  Both of them said and did everything they could
think of to cheer and comfort Polly, whose spirits seemed most
variable.  One minute she would be laughing and planning for the summer
gaily, the next she would be gloomy and depressed, and declaring she
never would live through the birth of her baby.  If she had appeared
well, this would not have worried Kate; but she looked even sicker than
she seemed to feel.  She was thin while her hands were hot and
tremulous.  As the afternoon went on and time to go came nearer, she
grew more and more despondent, until Kate proposed watching when the
Peters family came home, calling them up, and telling them that Polly
was there, would remain all night, and that Henry should come down.

Polly flatly vetoed the proposition, but she seemed to feel much better
after it had been made.  She was like herself again for a short time,
and then she turned to Kate and said suddenly: "Mother, if I don't get
over this, will you take my baby?"

Kate looked at Polly intently.  What she saw stopped the ready answer
that was on her lips.  She stood thinking deeply.  At last she said
gently:  "Why, Polly, would you want to trust a tiny baby with a woman
you ran away from yourself?"

"Mother, I haven't asked you to forgive me for the light I put you in
before the neighbours," said Polly, "because I knew you couldn't
honestly do it, and wouldn't lie to say you did.  I don't know WHAT
made me do that.  I was TIRED staying alone at the house so much, I was
WILD about Henry, I was BOUND I wouldn't leave him and go away to
school.  I just thought it would settle everything easily and quickly.
I never once thought of how it would make you look and feel.  Honestly
I didn't, Mother.  You believe me, don't you?"

"Yes, I believe you," said Kate.

"It was an awful thing for me to do," said Polly.  "I was foolish and
crazy, and I suppose I shouldn't say it, but I certainly did have a lot
of encouragement from the Peters family.  They all seemed to think it
would be a great joke, that it wouldn't make any difference, and all
that, so I just did it.  I knew I shouldn't have done it; but, Mother,
you'll never know the fight I've had all my life to keep from telling
stories and sneaking.  I hated your everlasting:  'Now be careful,' but
when I hated it most, I needed it worst; and I knew it, when I grew
older.  If only you had been here to say, 'Now be careful,' just once,
I never would have done it; but of course I couldn't have you to keep
me straight all my life.  All I can say is that I'd give my life and
never whimper, if I could be back home as I was this time last year,
and have a chance to do things your way.  But that is past, and I can't
change it.  What I came for to-day, and what I want to know now is, if
I go, will you take my baby?"

"Polly, you KNOW the Peters family wouldn't let me have it," said Kate.

"If it's a boy, they wouldn't WANT it," said Polly.  "Neither would
you, for that matter.  If it's a girl, they'll fight for it; but it
won't do them any good.  All I want to know is, WILL YOU TAKE IT?"

"Of course I would, Polly," said Kate.

"Since I have your word, I'll feel better," said Polly.  "And Mother,
you needn't be AFRAID of it.  It will be all right.  I have thought
about it so much I have it all figured out.  It's going to be a girl,
and it's going to be exactly like you, and its name is going to be
Katherine Eleanor.  I have thought about you every hour I was awake
since I have been gone; so the baby will have to be exactly like you.
There won't be the taint of Grandmother in it that there is in me.  You
needn't be afraid.  I quit sneaking forever when Adam told me what I
had done to you.  I have gone straight as a dart, Mother, every single
minute since, Mother; truly I have!"

Kate sat down suddenly, an awful sickness in her heart.

"Why, you poor child you!" she said.

"Oh, I've been all right," said Polly.  "I've been almost petted and
loved to death; but Mother, there never should be the amount of work
attached to living that there is in that house.  It's never ending,
it's intolerable.  Mrs. Peters just goes until she drops, and then
instead of sleeping, she lies awake planning some hard, foolish,
unnecessary thing to do next.  Maybe she can stand it herself, but I'm
tired out.  I'm going to sit down, and not budge to do another stroke
until after the baby comes, and then I am going to coax Henry to rent a
piece of land, and move to ourselves."

Kate took heart.  "That will be fine!" she cried.  "That will be the
very thing.  I'll ask the boys to keep their eyes open for any chance
for you."

"You needn't take any bother about it," said Polly, "because that isn't
what is going to happen.  All I want to be sure of now is that you and
Adam will take my baby.  I'll see to the rest."

"How will you see to it, Polly?" asked Kate, gently.

"Well, it's already seen to, for matter of that," said Polly
conclusively.  "I've known for quite a while that I was sick; but I
couldn't make them do anything but kiss me, and laugh at me, until I am
so ill that I know better how I feel than anybody else. I got tired
being laughed at, and put off about everything, so one day in Hartley,
while Mother Peters was shopping, I just went in to the lawyer
Grandmother always went to, and told him all about what I wanted.  He
has the papers made out all right and proper; so when I send for Uncle
Robert, I am going to send for him, too, and soon as the baby comes
I'll put in its name and sign it, and make Henry, and then if I have to
go, you won't have a bit of trouble."

Kate gazed at Polly in dumb amazement.  She was speechless for a time,
then to break the strain she said:  "My soul!  Did you really, Polly?
I guess there is more Bates in you than I had thought!"

"Oh, there's SOME Bates in me," said Polly.  "There's enough to make me
live until I sign that paper, and make Henry Peters sign it, and send
Mr. Thomlins to you with it and the baby.  I can do that, because I'm
going to!"

Ten days later she did exactly what she had said she would. Then she
turned her face to the wall and went into a convulsion out of which she
never came.  While the Peters family refused Kate's plea to lay Polly
beside her grandmother, and laid her in their family lot, Kate, moaning
dumbly, sat clasping a tiny red girl in her arms.  Adam drove to
Hartley to deposit one more paper, the most precious of all, in the
safety deposit box.

Kate and Adam mourned too deeply to talk about it.  They went about
their daily rounds silently, each busy with regrets and self
investigations.  They watched each other carefully, were kinder than
they ever had been to everyone they came in contact with; the baby they
frankly adored.  Kate had reared her own children with small
misgivings, quite casually, in fact; but her heart was torn to the
depths about this baby.  Life never would be even what it had been
before Polly left them, for into her going there entered an element of
self-reproach and continual self-condemnation.  Adam felt that if he
had been less occupied with Milly York and had taken proper care of his
sister, he would not have lost her.  Kate had less time for
recrimination, because she had the baby.

"Look for a good man to help you this summer, Adam," she said. "The
baby is full of poison which can be eliminated only slowly. If I don't
get it out before teething, I'll lose her, and then we never shall hear
the last from the Peters family."  Adam consigned the Peters family to
a location he thought suitable for them on the instant.  He spoke with
unusual bitterness, because he had heard that the Peters family were
telling that Polly had grieved herself to death, while his mother had
engineered a scheme whereby she had stolen the baby.  Occasionally a
word drifted to Kate here and there, until she realized much of what
they were saying.  At first she grieved too deeply to pay any
attention, but as the summer went on and the baby flourished and grew
fine and strong, and she had time in the garden, she began to feel
better; grief began to wear away, as it always does.

By midsummer the baby was in short clothes, sitting in a high chair,
which if Miss Baby only had known it, was a throne before which knelt
her two adoring subjects.  Polly had said the baby would be like Kate.
Its hair and colouring were like hers, but it had the brown eyes of its
father, and enough of his facial lines to tone down the too generous
Bates features.  When the baby was five months old it was too pretty
for adequate description.  One baby has no business with perfect
features, a mop of curly, yellow silk hair, and big brown eyes.  One of
the questions Kate and Adam discussed most frequently was where they
would send her to college, while one they did not discuss was how sick
her stomach teeth would make her.  They merely lived in mortal dread of
that. "Convulsion," was a word that held a terror for Kate above any
other in the medical books.

The baby had a good, formal name, but no one ever used it.  Adam, on
first lifting the blanket, had fancied the child resembled its mother
and had called her "Little Poll."  The name clung to her. Kate could
not call such a tiny morsel either Kate or Katherine; she liked "Little
Poll," better.  The baby had three regular visitors.  One was her
father.  He was not fond of Kate; Little Poll suited him.  He expressed
his feeling by bringing gifts of toys, candy, and unsuitable clothes.
Kate kept these things in evidence when she saw him coming and swept
them from sight when he went; for she had the good sense not to
antagonize him.  Nancy Ellen came almost every day, proudly driving her
new car, and with the light of a new joy on her face.  She never said
anything to Kate, but Kate knew what had happened.  Nancy Ellen came to
see the baby.  She brought it lovely and delicate little shoes,
embroidered dresses and hoods, cloaks and blankets.  One day as she sat
holding it she said to Kate:  "Isn't the baby a dreadful bother to you?
You're not getting half your usual work done."

"No, I'm doing UNUSUAL work," said Kate, lightly.  "Adam is hiring a
man who does my work very well in the fields; there isn't money that
would hire me to let any one else take my job indoors, right now."

A slow red crept into Nancy Ellen's cheeks.  She had meant to be
diplomatic, but diplomacy never worked well with Kate.  As Nancy Ellen
often said, Kate understood a sledge-hammer better.  Nancy Ellen used
the hammer.  Her face flushed, her arms closed tightly. "Give me this
baby," she demanded.

Kate looked at her in helpless amazement.

"Give it to me," repeated Nancy Ellen.

"She's a gift to me," said Kate, slowly.  "One the Peters family are
searching heaven and earth to find an excuse to take from me. I hear
they've been to a lawyer twice, already.  I wouldn't give her up to
save my soul alive, for myself; for you, if I would let you have her,
they would not leave you in possession a day."

"Are they really trying to get her?" asked Nancy Ellen, slowly
loosening her grip.

"They are," said Kate.  "They sent a lawyer to get a copy of the
papers, to see if they could pick a flaw in them."

"Can they?" cried Nancy Ellen.

"God knows!" said Kate, slowly.  "I HOPE not.  Mr. Thomlins is the best
lawyer in Hartley; he says not.  He says Henry put his neck in the
noose when he signed the papers.  The only chance I can see for him
would be to plead undue influence.  When you look at her, you can't
blame him for wanting her.  I've two hopes.  One that his mother will
not want the extra work; the other that the next girl he selects will
not want the baby.  If I can keep them going a few months more with a
teething scare, I hope they will get over wanting her."

"If they do, then may we have her?" asked Nancy Ellen.

Kate threw out her hands.  "Take my eyes, or my hands, or my feet," she
said; "but leave me my heart."

Nancy Ellen went soon after, and did not come again for several days.
Then she began coming as usual, so that the baby soon knew her and
laughed in high glee when she appeared.  Dr. Gray often stopped in
passing to see her; if he was in great haste, he hallooed at the gate
to ask if she was all right.  Kate was thankful for this, more than
thankful for the telephone and car that would bring him in fifteen
minutes day or night, if he were needed.  But he was not needed.
Little Poll throve and grew fat and rosy; for she ate measured food,
slept by the clock, in a sanitary bed, and was a bathed, splendidly
cared for baby.  When Kate's family and friends laughed, she paid not
the slightest heed.

"Laugh away," she said.  "I've got something to fight with this baby; I
don't propose for the battle to come and find the chances against me,
because I'm unprepared."

With scrupulous care Kate watched over the child, always putting her
first, the house and land afterward.  One day she looked up the road
and saw Henry Peters coming.  She had been expecting Nancy Ellen.  She
had finished bathing the baby and making her especially attractive in a
dainty lace ruffled dress with blue ribbons and blue shoes that her
sister had brought on her latest trip.  Little Poll was a wonderful
picture, for her eyes were always growing bigger, her cheeks pinker,
her skin fairer, her hair longer and more softly curling.  At first
thought Kate had been inclined to snatch off the dress and change to
one of the cheap, ready-made ginghams Henry brought, but the baby was
so lovely as she was, she had not the heart to spoil the picture, while
Nancy Ellen might come any minute.  So she began putting things in
place while Little Poll sat crowing and trying to pick up a sunbeam
that fell across her tray.  Her father came to the door and stood
looking at her.  Suddenly he dropped in a chair, covered his face with
his hands and began to cry, in deep, shuddering sobs.  Kate stood still
in wonderment.  As last she seated herself before him and said gently:
"Won't you tell me about it, Henry?"

Henry struggled for self-control.  He looked at the baby longingly.
Finally he said:  "It's pretty tough to give up a baby like that, Mrs.
Holt.  She's my little girl.  I wish God had struck my right hand with
palsy, when I went to sign those papers."

"Oh, no, you don't, Henry," said Kate, suavely.  "You wouldn't like to
live the rest of your life a cripple.  And is it any worse for me to
have your girl in spite of the real desires and dictates of your heart,
than it was for you to have mine?  And you didn't take the intelligent
care of my girl that I'm taking of yours, either.  A doctor and a
little right treatment at the proper time would have saved Polly to
rear her own baby; but there's no use to go into that.  I was waiting
for Polly to come home of her own accord, as she left it; and while I
waited, a poison crept into her system that took her.  I never shall
feel right about it; neither shall you--"

"No, I should say I won't!" said Henry emphatically.  "I never thought
of anything being the matter with Polly that wouldn't be all over when
the baby came--"

"I know you didn't, Henry," said Kate.  "I know how much you would have
done, and how gladly, if you had known.  There is no use going into
that, we are both very much to blame; we must take our punishment.  Now
what is this I hear about your having been to see lawyers and trying to
find a way to set aside the adoption papers you signed?  Let's have a
talk, and see what we can arrive at. Tell me all about it."

So Henry told Kate how he had loved Polly, how he felt guilty of her
death, how he longed for and wanted her baby, how he had signed the
paper which Polly put before him so unexpectedly, to humour her,
because she was very ill; but he had not dreamed that she could die;
how he did not feel that he should be bound by that signature now.
Kate listened with the deepest sympathy, assenting to most he said
until he was silent.  Then she sat thinking a long time.  At last she
said:  "Henry, if you and Polly had waited until I came home, and told
me what you wanted and how you felt, I should have gotten her ready,
and given you a customary wedding, and helped you to start a life that
I think would have saved her to you, and to me.  That is past, but the
fact remains.  You are hurt over giving up the baby as you have; I'm
hurt over losing my daughter as I did; we are about even on the past,
don't you think?"

"I suppose we are," he said, heavily.

"That being agreed," said Kate, "let us look to the future.  You want
the baby now, I can guess how much, by how much I want her, myself.  I
know YOUR point of view; there are two others, one is mine, and the
other is the baby's.  I feel that it is only right and just that I
should have this little girl to replace the one you took from me, in a
way far from complimentary to me.  I feel that she is mine, because
Polly told me the day she came to see me how sick she had been, how she
had begged for a doctor, and been kissed and told there was nothing the
matter with her, when she knew she was very ill.  She gave the baby to
me, and at that time she had been to see a lawyer, and had her papers
all made out except the signatures and dates.  Mr. Thomlins can tell
you that; and you know that up to that time I had not seen Polly, or
had any communication with her.  She simply was unnerved at the thought
of trusting her baby to the care she had had."

Kate was hitting hard and straight from the shoulder.  The baby, busy
with her sunbeam, jabbered unnoticed.

"When Polly died as she did," continued Kate, "I knew that her baby
would be full of the same poison that killed her; and that it must be
eliminated before it came time to cut her worst teeth, so I undertook
the work, and sleeping or waking, I have been at it ever since.  Now,
Henry, is there any one at your house who would have figured this out,
and taken the time, pains, and done work that I have?  Is there?"

"Mother raised six of us." he said defensively.

"But she didn't die of diathesis giving birth to the first of you,"
said Kate.  "You were all big, strong boys with a perfectly sound
birthright.  And your mother is now a much older, wearier woman than
she was then, and her hands are far too full every day, as it is.  If
she knew how to handle the baby as I have, and was willing to add the
work to her daily round, would you be willing to have her?  I have
three times her strength, while I consider that I've the first right.
Then there is the baby's side of the question.  I have had her through
the worst, hardest part of babyhood; she is accustomed to a fixed
routine that you surely will concede agrees with her; she would miss
me, and she would not thrive as she does with me, for her food and her
hours would not be regular, while you, and your father, and the boys
would tire her to death handling her.  That is the start.  The finish
would be that she would grow up, if she survived, to take the place
Polly took at your house, while you would marry some other girl, as you
WILL before a year from now.  I'm dreadfully sorry to say these things
to you, Henry, but you know they are the truth.  If you're going to try
to take the baby, I'm going to fight you to the last dollar I can
raise, and the last foot of land I own. That's all.  Look at the baby;
think it over; and let me know what you'll do as soon as you can.  I'm
not asking mercy at your hands, but I do feel that I have suffered
about my share."

"You needn't suffer any longer," said Henry, drying his eyes. "All you
say is true; just as what I said was true; but I might as well tell
you, and let one of us be happy.  I saw my third lawyer yesterday, and
he said the papers were unbreakable unless I could prove that the child
was neglected, and not growing right, or not having proper care.  Look
at her!  I might do some things!  I did do a thing as mean as to
persuade a girl to marry me without her mother's knowledge, and ruined
her life thereby, but God knows I couldn't go on the witness stand and
swear that that baby is not properly cared for!  Mother's job is big
enough; and while it doesn't seem possible now, very likely I shall
marry again, as other men do; and in that event, Little Poll WOULD be
happier with you.  I give her up.  I think I came this morning to say
that I was defeated; and to tell you that I'd give up if I saw that you
would fight.  Keep the baby, and be as happy as you can.  You shan't be
worried any more about her.  Polly shall have this thing as she desired
and planned it.  Good-bye."

When he had gone Kate knelt on the floor, laid her head on the chair
tray, and putting her arms around the baby she laughed and cried at the
same time, while Miss Baby pulled her hair, patted her face, and
plastered it with wet, uncertain kisses.  Then Kate tied a little
bonnet on the baby's head and taking her in her arms, she went to the
field to tell Adam.  It seemed to Kate that she could see
responsibility slipping from his shoulders, could see him grow taller
as he listened.  The breath of relief he drew was long and deep.

"Fine!" he cried.  "Fine!  I haven't told you HALF I knew.  I've been
worried until I couldn't sleep."

Kate went back to the house so glad she did not realize she was
touching earth at all.  She fed the baby and laid her down for her
morning nap, and then went out in the garden; but she was too restless
to work.  She walked bareheaded in the sun and was glad as she never
before in her life had known how to be glad.  The first thing Kate knew
she was standing at the gate looking up at the noonday sky and from the
depths of her heart she was crying aloud:  "Praise ye the Lord, Oh my
soul.  Let all that is within me praise His holy name!"

For the remainder of the day Kate was unblushingly insane.  She started
to do a hundred things and abandoned all of them to go out and look up
at the sky and to cry repeatedly:  "Praise the Lord!"

If she had been asked to explain why she did this, Kate could have
answered, and would have answered:  "Because I FEEL like it!"  She had
been taught no religion as a child, she had practised no formal mode of
worship as a woman.  She had been straight, honest, and virtuous.  She
had faced life and done with small question the work that she thought
fell to her hand.  She had accepted joy, sorrow, shame, all in the same
stoic way.  Always she had felt that there was a mighty force in the
universe that could as well be called God as any other name; it
mattered not about the name; it was a real force, and it was there.

That day Kate exulted.  She carried the baby down to the brook in the
afternoon and almost shouted; she sang until she could have been heard
a mile.  She kept straight on praising the Lord, because expression was
imperative, and that was the form of expression that seemed to come
naturally to her.  Without giving a thought as to how, or why, she
followed her impulses and praised the Lord.  The happier she grew, the
more clearly she saw how uneasy and frightened she had been.

When Nancy Ellen came, she took only one glance at Kate's glorified
face and asked:  "What in this world has happened to you?"

Kate answered in all seriousness:  "My Lord has 'shut the lions'
mouths,' and they are not going to harm me."

Nancy Ellen regarded her closely.  "I hope you aren't running a
temperature," she said.  "I'll take a shot at random.  You have found
out that the Peters family can't take Little Poll."

Kate laughed joyously.  "Better than that, sister mine!" she cried.  "I
have convinced Henry that he doesn't want her himself as much as he
wants me to have her, and he can speedily convert his family.  He will
do nothing more!  He will leave me in peace with her."

"Thank God!" said Nancy Ellen.

"There you go, too!" cried Kate.  "That's the very first thought that
came to me, only I said, 'Praise the Lord,' which is exactly the same
thing; and Nancy Ellen, since Robert has been trying to praise the Lord
for twenty years, and both of us do praise Him when our time comes,
wouldn't it be a good idea to open up our heads and say so, not only to
ourselves and to the Lord, but to the neighbours?  I'm afraid she won't
understand much of it, but I think I shall find the place and read to
Little Poll about Abraham and Isaac to-night, and probably about Hagar
and Ishmael to-morrow night, and it wouldn't surprise me a mite to hear
myself saying 'Praise the Lord,' right out loud, any time, any place.
Let's gather a great big bouquet of our loveliest flowers, and go tell
Mother and Polly about it."

Without a word Nancy Ellen turned toward the garden.  They gathered the
flowers and getting in Nancy Ellen's car drove the short distance to
the church where Nancy Ellen played with the baby in the shade of a big
tree while Kate arranged her flowers. Then she sat down and they talked
over their lives from childhood.

"Nancy Ellen, won't you stay to supper with us?" asked Kate.

"Yes," said Nancy Ellen, rising, "I haven't had such a good time in
years.  I'm as glad for you as I'd be if I had such a child assured me,
myself."

"You can't bring yourself--?" began Kate.

"Yes, I think so," said Nancy Ellen.  "Getting things for Little Poll
has broken me up so, I told Robert how I felt, and he's watching in his
practice, and he's written several letters of inquiry to friends in
Chicago.  Any day now I may have my work cut out for me."

"Praise the Lord again!" cried Kate.  "I see where you will be happier
than you ever have been.  Real life is just beginning for you."

Then they went home and prepared a good supper and had such a fine time
they were exalted in heart and spirit.  When Nancy Ellen started home,
Kate took the baby and climbed in the car with her, explaining that
they would go a short way and walk back.  She went only as far as the
Peters gate; then she bravely walked up to the porch, where Mr. Peters
and some of the boys sat, and said casually:  "I just thought I'd bring
Little Poll up to get acquainted with her folks.  Isn't she a dear?"

An hour later, as she walked back in the moonlight, Henry beside her
carrying the baby, he said to her:  "This is a mighty big thing, and a
kind thing for you to do, Mrs. Holt.  Mother has been saying scandalous
things about you."

"I know," said Kate.  "But never mind!  She won't any more."

The remainder of the week she passed in the same uplifted mental state.
She carried the baby in her arms and walked all over the farm, going
often to the cemetery with fresh flowers.  Sunday morning, when the
work was all done, the baby dressed her prettiest, Kate slipped into
one of her fresh white dresses and gathering a big bunch of flowers
started again to whisper above the graves of her mother and Polly the
story of her gladness, and to freshen the flowers, so that the people
coming from church would see that her family were remembered.  When she
had finished she arose, took up the baby, and started to return across
the cemetery, going behind the church, taking the path she had
travelled the day she followed the minister's admonition to "take the
wings of morning."  She thought of that.  She stood very still,
thinking deeply.

"I took them," she said.  "I've tried flight after flight; and I've
fallen, and risen, and fallen, and got up and tried again, but never
until now have I felt that I could really 'fly to the uttermost parts
of the earth.'  There is a rising power in me that should benefit more
than myself.  I guess I'll just join in."

She walked into the church as the last word of the song the
congregation were singing was finished, and the minister was opening
his lips to say:  "Let us pray."  Straight down the aisle came Kate,
her bare, gold head crowned with a flash of light at each window she
passed.  She paused at the altar, directly facing the minister.

"Baby and I would like the privilege of praising the Lord with you,"
she said simply, "and we would like to do our share in keeping up this
church and congregation to His honour and glory. There's some water.
Can't you baptize us now?"

The minister turned to the pitcher, which always stood on his desk,
filled his palm, and asked:  "What is the baby's name?"

"Katherine Eleanor Peters," said Kate.

"Katherine Eleanor, I baptize thee," said the minister, and he laid his
hand on the soft curls of the baby.  She scattered the flowers she was
holding over the altar as she reached to spat her hands in the water on
her head and laughed aloud.

"What is your name?" asked the minister.

"Katherine Eleanor Holt," said Kate.

Again the minister repeated the formula, and then he raised both hands
and said:  "Let us pray."



CHAPTER XXVI

THE WINGED VICTORY

KATE turned and placing the baby on the front seat, she knelt and put
her arms around the little thing, but her lips only repeated the words:
"Praise the Lord for this precious baby!"  Her heart was filled with
high resolve.  She would rear the baby with such care.  She would be
more careful with Adam.  She would make heroic effort to help him to
clean, unashamed manhood.  She would be a better sister to all her
family.  She would be friendlier, and have more patience with the
neighbours.  She would join in whatever effort the church was making to
hold and increase its membership among the young people, and to raise
funds to keep up the organization.  All the time her mind was busy
thinking out these fine resolves, her lips were thanking the Lord for
Little Poll.  Kate arose with the benediction, picked up the baby, and
started down the aisle among the people she had known all her life.  On
every side strong hands stretched out to greet and welcome her.  A
daughter of Adam Bates was something new as a church member.  They all
knew how she could work, and what she could give if she chose; while
that she had stood at the altar and been baptized, meant that something
not customary with the Bates family was taking place in her heart.  So
they welcomed her, and praised the beauty and sweetness of the baby
until Kate went out into the sunshine, her face glowing.

Slowly she walked home and as she reached the veranda, Adam took the
baby.

"Been to the cemetery?" he asked.

Kate nodded and dropped into a chair.

"That's too far to walk and carry this great big woman," he said,
snuggling his face in the baby's neck, while she patted his cheeks and
pulled his hair.  "Why didn't you tell me you wanted to go, and let me
get out the car?"

Kate looked at him speculatively.

"Adam," she said, "when I started out, I meant only to take some
flowers to Mother and Polly.  As I came around the corner of the church
to take the footpath, they were singing 'Rejoice in the Lord!'  I went
inside and joined.  I'm going to church as often as I can after this,
and I'm going to help with the work of running it."

"Well, I like that!" cried Adam, indignantly.  "Why didn't you let me
go with you?"

Kate sat staring down the road.  She was shocked speechless. Again she
had followed an impulse, without thinking of any one besides herself.
Usually she could talk, but in that instant she had nothing to say.
Then a carriage drew into the line of her vision, stopped at York's
gate, and Mr. York alighted and swung to the ground a slim girlish
figure and then helped his wife.  Kate had a sudden inspiration.  "But
you would want to wait a little and join with Milly, wouldn't you?" she
asked.  "Uncle Robert always has been a church member.  I think it's a
fine stand for a man to take."

"Maybe that would be better," he said.  "I didn't think of Milly. I
only thought I'd like to have been with you and Little Poll."

"I'm sure Milly will be joining very soon, and that she'll want you
with her," said Kate.

She was a very substantial woman, but for the remainder of that day she
felt that she was moving with winged feet.  She sang, she laughed, she
was unspeakably happy.  She kept saying over and over:  "And a little
child shall lead them."  Then she would catch Little Poll, almost
crushing her in her strong arms.  It never occurred to Kate that she
had done an unprecedented thing.  She had done as her heart dictated.
She did not know that she put the minister into a most uncomfortable
position, when he followed her request to baptize her and the child.
She had never thought of probations, and examinations, and catechisms.
She had read the Bible, as was the custom, every morning before her
school.  In that book, when a man wanted to follow Jesus, he followed;
Jesus accepted him; and that was all there was to it, with Kate.

The middle of the week Nancy Ellen came flying up the walk on winged
feet, herself.  She carried photographs of several small children, one
of them a girl so like Little Poll that she might have been the
original of the picture.

"They just came," said Nancy Ellen rather breathlessly.  "I was wild
for that little darling at once.  I had Robert telegraph them to hold
her until we could get there.  We're going to start on the evening
train and if her blood seems good, and her ancestors respectable, and
she looks like that picture, we're going to bring her back with us.
Oh, Kate, I can scarcely wait to get my fingers on her.  I'm hungry for
a baby all of my own."

Kate studied the picture.

"She's charming!" she said.  "Oh, Nancy Ellen, this world is getting
entirely too good to be true."

Nancy Ellen looked at Kate and smiled peculiarly.

"I knew you were crazy," she said, "but I never dreamed of you going
such lengths.  Mrs. Whistler told Robert, when she called him in about
her side, Tuesday.  I can't imagine a Bates joining church."

"If that is joining church, it's the easiest thing in the world," said
Kate.  "We just loved doing it, didn't we, Little Poll?  Adam and Milly
are going to come in soon, I'm almost sure.  At least he is willing.  I
don't know what it is that I am to do, but I suppose they will give me
my work soon."

"You bet they'll give you work soon, and enough," said Nancy Ellen,
laughing.  "But you won't mind.  You'll just put it through, as you do
things out here.  Kate, you are making this place look fine.  I used to
say I'd rather die than come back here to live, but lately it has been
growing so attractive, I've been here about half my time, and wished I
were the other half."

Kate slipped her arm around Nancy Ellen as they walked to the gate.

"You know," said Nancy Ellen, "the MORE I study you, the LESS I know
about you.  Usually it's sickness, and sorrow, and losing their friends
that bring people to the consolations of the church. You bore those
things like a stoic.  When they are all over, and you are comfortable
and happy, just the joy of being sure of Little Poll has transformed
you.  Kate, you make me think of the 'Winged Victory,' this afternoon.
If I get this darling little girl, will she make me big, and splendid,
and fine, like you?"

Kate suddenly drew Nancy Ellen to her and kissed her a long, hard kiss
on the lips.

"Nancy Ellen," she said, "you ARE 'big, and splendid, and fine,' or you
never would be going to Chicago after this little motherless child.
You haven't said a word, but I know from the joy of you and Robert
during the past months that Mrs. Southey isn't troubling you any more;
and I'm sure enough to put it into words that when you get your little
child, she will lead you straight where mine as led me.  Good-bye and
good luck to you, and remember me to Robert."

Nancy Ellen stood intently studying the picture she held in her hand.
Then she looked at Kate, smiling with misty eyes:  "I think, Kate, I'm
very close, if I am not really where you are this minute," she said.
Then she started her car; but she looked back, waving and smiling until
the car swerved so that Kate called after her:  "Do drive carefully,
Nancy Ellen!"

Kate went slowly up the walk.  She stopped several times to examine the
shrubs and bushes closely, to wish for rain for the flowers.  She sat
on the porch a few minutes talking to Little Poll, then she went inside
to answer the phone.

"Kate?" cried a sharp voice.

"Yes," said Kate, recognizing a neighbour, living a few miles down the
road.

"Did Nancy Ellen just leave your house?" came a breathless query.

"Yes," said Kate again.

"I just saw a car that looked like hers slip in the fresh sand at the
river levee, and it went down, and two or three times over."

"O God!" said Kate.  Then after an instant:  "Ring the dinner bell for
your men to get her out.  I'll phone Robert, and come as soon as I can
get there."

Kate called Dr. Gray's office.  She said to the girl:  "Tell the doctor
that Mrs. Howe thinks she saw Nancy Ellen's car go down the river
levee, and two or three times over.  Have him bring what he might need
to Howe's, and hurry.  Rush him!"

Then she ran to her bell and rang so frantically that Adam came
running.  Kate was at the little garage they had built, and had the
door open.  She told him what she had heard, ran to get the baby, and
met him at the gate.  On the way she said, "You take the baby when we
get there, and if I'm needed, take her back and get Milly and her
mother to come stay with you.  You know where her things are, and how
to feed her.  Don't you dare let them change any way I do.  Baby knows
Milly; she will be good for her and for you.  You'll be careful?"

"Of course, Mother," said Adam.

He called her attention to the road.

"Look at those tracks," he said.  "Was she sick?  She might have been
drunk, from them."

"No," said Kate, "she wasn't sick.  She WAS drunk, drunken with joy.
She had a picture of the most beautiful little baby girl. They were to
start to Chicago after her to-night.  I suspect she was driving with
the picture in one hand.  Oh, my God, have mercy!"

They had come to deep grooves in loose gravel, then the cut in the
embankment, then they could see the wrecked car standing on the engine
and lying against a big tree, near the water, while two men and a woman
were carrying a limp form across the meadow toward the house.  As their
car stopped, Kate kissed the baby mechanically, handed her to Adam, and
ran into the house where she dragged a couch to the middle of the first
room she entered, found a pillow, and brought a bucket of water and a
towel from the kitchen.  They carried Nancy Ellen in and laid her down.
Kate began unfastening clothing and trying to get the broken body in
shape for the doctor to work upon; but she spread the towel over what
had been a face of unusual beauty.  Robert came in a few minutes, then
all of them worked under his directions until he suddenly sank to the
floor, burying his face in Nancy Ellen's breast; then they knew.  Kate
gathered her sister's feet in her arms and hid her face beside them.
The neighbours silently began taking away things that had been used,
while Mrs. Howe chose her whitest sheet, and laid it on a chair near
Robert.

Two days later they laid Nancy Ellen beside her mother.  Then they
began trying to face the problem of life without her.  Robert said
nothing.  He seemed too stunned to think.  Kate wanted to tell him of
her final visit with Nancy Ellen, but she could not at that time.
Robert's aged mother came to him, and said she could remain as long as
he wanted her, so that was a comfort to Kate, who took time to pity
him, even in her blackest hour.  She had some very black ones.  She
could have wailed, and lamented, and relinquished all she had gained,
but she did not.  She merely went on with life, as she always had lived
it, to the best of her ability when she was so numbed with grief she
scarcely knew what she was doing. She kept herself driven about the
house, and when she could find no more to do, took Little Poll in her
arms and went out in the fields to Adam, where she found the baby a
safe place, and then cut and husked corn as usual.  Every Sabbath, and
often during the week, her feet carried her to the cemetery, where she
sat in the deep grass and looked at those three long mounds and tried
to understand life; deeper still, to fathom death.

She and her mother had agreed that there was "something."  Now Kate
tried as never before to understand what, and where, and why, that
"something" was.  Many days she would sit for an hour at a time,
thinking, and at last she arrived at fixed convictions that settled
matters forever with her.  One day after she had arranged the fall
roses she had grown, and some roadside asters she had gathered in
passing, she sat in deep thought, when a car stopped on the road.  Kate
looked up to see Robert coming across the churchyard with his arms full
of greenhouse roses.  He carried a big bunch of deep red for her
mother, white for Polly, and a large sheaf of warm pink for Nancy
Ellen.  Kate knelt up and taking her flowers, she moved them lower, and
silently helped Robert place those he had brought.  Then she sat where
she had been, and looked at him.

Finally he asked:  "Still hunting the 'why,' Kate?"

"'Why' doesn't so much matter," said Kate, "as 'where.'  I'm enough of
a fatalist to believe that Mother is here because she was old and worn
out.  Polly had a clear case of uric poison, while I'd stake my life
Nancy Ellen was gloating over the picture she carried when she ran into
that loose sand.  In each of their cases I am satisfied as to 'why,' as
well as about Father.  The thing that holds me, and fascinates me, and
that I have such a time being sure of, is 'where.'"

Robert glanced upward and asked:  "Isn't there room enough up there,
Kate?"

"Too much!" said Kate.  "And what IS the soul, and HOW can it bridge
the vortex lying between us and other worlds, that man never can,
because of the lack of air to breathe, and support him?"

"I don't know," said Robert; "and in spite of the fact that I do know
what a man CANNOT do, I still believe in the immortality of the soul."

"Oh, yes," said Kate.  "If there is any such thing in science as a
self-evident fact, that is one.  THAT is provable."

Robert looked at her eager face.  "How would you go about proving it,
Kate?" he asked.

"Why, this way," said Kate, leaning to straighten and arrange the
delicate velvet petalled roses with her sure, work-abused fingers.
"Take the history of the world from as near dawn as we have any record,
and trace it from the igloo of the northernmost Esquimo, around the
globe, and down to the ice of the southern pole again, and in blackest
Africa, farthest, wildest Borneo, you will never discover one single
tribe of creatures, upright and belonging to the race of man, who did
not come into the world with four primal instincts.  They all reproduce
themselves, they all make something intended for music, they all
express a feeling in their hearts by the exercise we call dance, they
all believe in the after life of the soul.  This belief is as much a
PART of any man, ever born in any location, as his hands and his feet.
Whether he believes his soul enters a cat and works back to man again
after long transmigration, or goes to a Happy Hunting Ground as our
Indians, makes no difference with the fact that he enters this world
with belief in after life of some kind.  We see material evidence in
increase that man is not defeated in his desire to reproduce himself;
we have advanced to something better than tom-toms and pow-wows for
music and dance; these desires are fulfilled before us, now tell me why
the very strongest of all, the most deeply rooted, the belief in after
life, should come to nothing.  Why should the others be real, and that
a dream?"

"I don't think it is," said Robert.

"It's my biggest self-evident fact," said Kate, conclusively.  "I never
heard any one else say these things, but I think them, and they are
provable.  I always believed there was something; but since I saw
Mother go, I know there is.  She stood in full evening light, I looked
straight in her face, and Robert, you know I'm no creature of fancies
and delusions, I tell you I SAW HER SOUL PASS. I saw the life go from
her and go on, and on.  I saw her body stand erect, long enough for me
to reach her, and pick her up, after its passing.  That I know."

"I shouldn't think of questioning it, Kate," said Robert.  "But don't
you think you are rather limiting man, when you narrow him to four
primal instincts?"

"Oh, I don't know," said Kate.  "Air to breathe and food to sustain are
presupposed.  Man LEARNS to fight in self-defense, and to acquire what
he covets.  He learns to covet by seeing stronger men, in better
locations, surpass his achievements, so if he is strong enough he goes
and robs them by force.  He learns the desire for the chase in food
hunting; I think four are plenty to start with."

"Probably you are right," said the doctor, rising.  "I must go now.
Shall I take you home?"

Kate glanced at the sun and shook her head.  "I can stay half an hour
longer.  I don't mind the walk.  I need exercise to keep me in
condition.  Good-bye!"

As he started his car he glanced back.  She was leaning over the
flowers absorbed in their beauty.  Kate sat looking straight before her
until time to help with the evening work, and prepare supper, then she
arose.  She stood looking down a long time; finally she picked up a
fine specimen of each of the roses and slowly dropped them on her
father's grave.

"There!  You may have that many," she said.  "You look a little too
lonely, lying here beside the others with not a single one, but if you
could speak, I wonder whether you would say, 'Thank you!' or 'Take the
damn weeds off me!'"



CHAPTER XXVII

BLUE RIBBON CORN

NEVER in her life had Kate worked harder than she did that fall; but
she retained her splendid health.  Everything was sheltered and housed,
their implements under cover, their stock in good condition, their
store-room filled, and their fruits and vegetables buried in hills and
long rows in the garden.  Adam had a first wheat premium at the County
Fair and a second on corn, concerning which he felt abused.  He thought
his corn scored the highest number of points, but that the award was
given another man because of Adam's having had first on wheat.  In her
heart Kate agreed with him; but she tried to satisfy him with the blue
ribbon on wheat and keep him interested sufficiently to try for the
first on corn the coming year.  She began making suggestions for the
possible improvement of his corn.  Adam was not easily propitiated.

"Mother," he said, "you know as well as you know you're alive, that if
I had failed on wheat, or had second, I would have been given FIRST on
my corn; my corn was the best in every way, but they thought I would
swell up and burst if I had two blue ribbons. That was what ailed the
judges.  What encouragement is that to try again?  I might grow even
finer corn in the coming year than I did this, and be given no award at
all, because I had two this year. It would amount to exactly the same
thing."

"We'll get some more books, and see if we can study up any new
wrinkles, this winter," said Kate.  "Now cheer up, and go tell Milly
about it.  Maybe she can console you, if I can't."

"Nothing but justice will console me," said Adam.  "I'm not complaining
about losing the prize; I'm fighting mad because my corn, my beautiful
corn, that grew and grew, and held its head so high, and waved its
banners of triumph to me with every breeze, didn't get its fair show.
What encouragement is there for it to try better the coming year?  The
crows might as well have had it, or the cutworms; while all my work is
for nothing."

"You're making a big mistake," said Kate.  "If your corn was the
finest, it was, and the judges knew it, and you know it, and very
likely the man who has the first prize, knows it.  You have a clean
conscience, and you know what you know.  They surely can't feel right
about it, or enjoy what they know.  You have had the experience, you
have the corn for seed; with these things to back you, clear a small
strip of new land beside the woods this winter, and try what that will
do for you."

Adam looked at her with wide eyes.  "By jing, Mother, you are a dandy!"
he said.  "You just bet I'll try that next year, but don't you tell a
soul; there are more than you who will let a strip be cleared, in an
effort to grow blue ribbon corn.  How did you come to think of it?"

"Your saying all your work had been for nothing, made me think of it,"
she answered.  "Let them give another man the prize, when they know
your corn is the best.  It's their way of keeping a larger number of
people interested and avoiding the appearance of partiality; this
contest was too close; next year, you grow such corn, that the CORN
will force the decision in spite of the judges.  Do you see?"

"I see," said Adam.  "I'll try again."

After that life went on as usual.  The annual Christmas party was the
loveliest of all, because Kate gave it loving thought, and because all
of their hearts were especially touched.  As spring came on again, Kate
and Adam studied over their work, planning many changes for the better,
but each time they talked, when everything else was arranged, they came
back to corn.  More than once, each of them dreamed corn that winter
while asleep, they frankly talked of it many times a day.  Location,
soil, fertilizers, seed, cultivation--they even studied the almanacs
for a general forecast of the weather.  These things brought them very
close together.  Also it was admitted between them, that Little Poll
"grappled them with hooks of steel."  They never lacked subjects for
conversation.  Poll always came first, corn next, and during the winter
there began to be discussion of plans for Adam and Milly.  Should Milly
come with them, or should they build a small house on the end of the
farm nearest her mother? Adam did not care, so he married Milly
speedily.  Kate could not make up her mind.  Milly had the inclination
of a bird for a personal and private nest of her own.  So spring came
to them.

August brought the anniversary of Nancy Ellen's death, which again
saddened all of them.  Then came cooler September weather, and the
usual rush of preparation for winter.  Kate was everywhere and enjoying
her work immensely.  On sturdy, tumbly legs Little Poll trotted after
her or rode in state on her shoulder, when distances were too far.  If
Kate took her to the fields, as she did every day, she carried along
the half of an old pink and white quilt, which she spread in a shaded
place and filled the baby's lap with acorns, wild flowers, small
brightly coloured stones, shells, and whatever she could pick up for
playthings.  Poll amused herself with these until the heat and air made
her sleepy, then she laid herself down and slept for an hour or two.
Once she had trouble with stomach teeth that brought Dr. Gray racing,
and left Kate white and limp with fear.  Everything else had gone
finely and among helping Adam, working in her home, caring for the
baby, doing whatever she could see that she thought would be of benefit
to the community, and what was assigned her by church committees, Kate
had a busy life.  She had earned, in a degree, the leadership she
exercised in her first days in Walden.  Everyone liked her; but no one
ever ventured to ask her for an opinion unless they truly wanted it.

Adam came from a run to Hartley for groceries one evening in late
September, with a look of concern that Kate noticed on his face. He was
very silent during supper and when they were on the porch as usual, he
still sat as if thinking deeply.  Kate knew that he would tell her what
he was thinking about when he was ready but she was not in the least
prepared for what he said.

"Mother, how do you feel about Uncle Robert marrying again?" he asked
suddenly.

Kate was too surprised to answer.  She looked at him in amazement.
Instead of answering, she asked him a question:  "What makes you ask
that?"

"You know how that Mrs. Southey pursued him one summer.  Well, she's
back in Hartley, staying at the hotel right across from his office;
she's dressed to beat the band, she's pretty as a picture; her car
stands out in front all day, and to get to ride in it, and take meals
with her, all the women are running after her.  I hear she has even had
Robert's old mother out for a drive.  What do you think of that?"

"Think she's in love with him, of course, and trying to marry him, and
that she will very probably succeed.  If she has located where she is
right under his eye, and lets him know that she wants him very much,
he'll, no doubt, marry her."

"But what do you THINK about it?" asked Adam.

"I've had no TIME to think," said Kate.  "At first blush, I'd say that
I shall hate it, as badly as I could possibly hate anything that was
none of my immediate business.  Nancy Ellen loved him so. I never shall
forget that day she first told me about him, and how loving him brought
out her beauty, and made her shine and glow as if from an inner light.
I was always with her most, and I loved her more than all the other
girls put together.  I know that Southey woman tried to take him from
her one summer not long ago, and that he gave her to understand that
she could not, so she went away.  If she's back, it means only one
thing, and I think probably she'll succeed; but you can be sure it will
make me squirm properly."

"I THOUGHT you wouldn't like it," he said emphatically.

"Now understand me, Adam," said Kate.  "I'm no fool.  I didn't expect
Robert to be more than human.  He has no children, and he'd like a
child above anything else on earth.  I've known that for years, ever
since it became apparent that none was coming to Nancy Ellen.  I hadn't
given the matter a thought, but if I had been thinking, I would have
thought that as soon as was proper, he would select a strong, healthy
young woman, and make her his wife. I know his mother is homesick, and
wants to go back to her daughters and their children, which is natural.
I haven't an objection in the world to him marrying a PROPER woman, at
a proper time and place; but Oh, dear Lord, I do dread and despise to
see that little Southey cat come back and catch him, because she knows
how."

"Did you ever see her, Mother?"

"No, I never," said Kate, "and I hope I never shall.  I know what Nancy
Ellen felt, because she told me all about it that time we were up
North.  I'm trying with all my might to have a Christian spirit.  I
swallowed Mrs. Peters, and never blinked, that anybody saw; but I
don't, I truly don't know from where I could muster grace to treat a
woman decently, who tried to do to my sister, what I KNOW Mrs. Southey
tried to do to Nancy Ellen.  She planned to break up my sister's home;
that I know.  Now that Nancy Ellen is gone, I feel to-night as if I
just couldn't endure to see Mrs. Southey marry Robert."

"Bet she does it!" said Adam.

"Did you see her?" asked Kate.

"See her!" cried Adam.  "I saw her half a dozen times in an hour. She's
in the heart of the town, nothing to do but dress and motor. Never saw
such a peach of a car.  I couldn't help looking at it. Gee, I wish I
could get you one like that!"

"What did you think of her looks?" asked Kate.

"Might pretty!" said Adam, promptly.  "Small, but not tiny; plump, but
not fat; pink, light curls, big baby blue eyes and a sort of hesitating
way about her, as if she were anxious to do the right thing, but feared
she might not, and wished somebody would take care of her."

Kate threw out her hands with a rough exclamation.  "I get the
picture!" she said.  "It's a dead centre shot.  THAT gets a man, every
time.  No man cares a picayune about a woman who can take care of
herself, and help him with his job if he has a ghost of a chance at a
little pink and white clinger, who will suck the life and talent out of
him, like the parasite she is, while she makes him believe he is on the
job, taking care of her.  You can rest assured it will be settled
before Christmas."

Kate had been right in her theories concerning the growing of blue
ribbon corn.  At the County Fair in late September Adam exhibited such
heavy ears of evenly grained white and yellow corn that the blue ribbon
he carried home was not an award of the judges; it was a concession to
the just demands of the exhibit.

Then they began husking their annual crop.  It had been one of the
country's best years for corn.  The long, even, golden ears they were
stripping the husks from and stacking in heaps over the field might
profitably have been used for seed by any farmer.  They had divided the
field in halves and Adam was husking one side, Kate the other.  She had
a big shock open and kneeling beside it she was busy stripping open the
husks, and heaping up the yellow ears. Behind her the shocks stood like
rows of stationed sentinels; above, the crisp October sunshine warmed
the air to a delightful degree; around the field, the fence rows were
filled with purple and rose coloured asters, and everywhere goldenrod,
yellower than the corn, was hanging in heavy heads of pollen-spraying
bloom.

On her old pink quilt Little Poll, sound asleep, was lifted from the
shade of one shock to another, while Kate worked across her share of
the field.  As she worked she kept looking at the child. She frankly
adored her, but she kept her reason and held to rigid rules in feeding,
bathing, and dressing.  Poll minded even a gesture or a nod.

Above, the flocking larks pierced the air with silver notes, on the
fence-rows the gathering robins called to each other; high in the air
the old black vulture that homed in a hollow log in Kate's woods,
looked down on the spots of colour made by the pink quilt, the gold
corn, the blue of Kate's dress, and her yellow head.  An artist would
have paused long, over the rich colour, the grouping and perspective of
that picture, while the hazy fall atmosphere softened and blended the
whole.  Kate, herself, never had appeared or felt better.  She worked
rapidly, often glancing across the field to see if she was even with,
or slightly in advance of Adam. She said it would never do to let the
boy get "heady," so she made a point of keeping even with him, and
caring for Little Poll, "for good measure."

She was smiling as she watched him working like a machine as he ripped
open husks, gave the ear a twist, tossed it aside, and reached for the
next.  Kate was doing the same thing, quite as automatically.  She was
beginning to find the afternoon sun almost hot on her bare head, so she
turned until it fell on her back. Her face was flushed to coral pink,
and framed in a loose border of her beautiful hair.  She was smiling at
the thought of how Adam was working to get ahead of her, smiling
because Little Poll looked such a picture of healthy loveliness,
smiling because she was so well, she felt super-abundant health rising
like a stimulating tide in her body, smiling because the corn was the
finest she ever had seen in a commonly cultivated field, smiling
because she and Adam were of one accord about everything, smiling
because the day was very beautiful, because her heart was at peace, her
conscience clear.

She heard a car stop at her gate, saw a man alight and start across the
yard toward the field, and knew that her visitor had seen her, and was
coming to her.  Kate went on husking corn and when the man swung over
the fence of the field she saw that he was Robert, and instantly
thought of Mrs. Southey, so she ceased to smile.  "I've got a big
notion to tell him what I think of him," she said to herself, even as
she looked up to greet him. Instantly she saw that he had come for
something.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Agatha," he said.  "She's been having some severe heart attacks
lately, and she just gave me a real scare."

Instantly Kate forgot everything, except Agatha, whom she cordially
liked, and Robert, who appeared older, more tired, and worried than she
ever had seen him.  She thought Agatha had "given him a real scare,"
and she decided that it scarcely would have been bad enough to put
lines in his face she never had noticed before, dark circles under his
eyes, a look of weariness in his bearing.  She doubted as she looked at
him if he were really courting Mrs. Southey.  Even as she thought of
these things she was asking:  "She's better now?"

"Yes, easier, but she suffered terribly.  Adam was upset completely.
Adam, 3d, and Susan and their families are away from home and won't be
back for a few days unless I send for them. They went to Ohio to visit
some friends.  I stopped to ask if it would be possible for you to go
down this evening and sleep there, so that if there did happen to be a
recurrence, Adam wouldn't be alone."

"Of course," said Kate, glancing at the baby.  "I'll go right away!"

"No need for that," he said, "if you'll arrange to stay with Adam
to-night, as a precaution.  You needn't go till bed-time.  I'm going
back after supper to put them in shape for the night.  I'm almost sure
she'll be all right now; but you know how frightened we can get about
those we love."

"Yes, I know," said Kate, quietly, going straight on ripping open ear
after ear of corn.  Presently she wondered why he did not go. She
looked up at him and met his eyes.  He was studying her intently.  Kate
was vividly conscious in an instant of her bare wind-teased head, her
husking gloves; she was not at all sure that her face was clean.  She
smiled at him, and picking up the sunbonnet lying beside her, she wiped
her face with the skirt.

"If this sun hits too long on the same spot, it grows warm," she told
him.

"Kate, I do wish you wouldn't!" he exclaimed abruptly.

Kate was too forthright for sparring.

"Why not?" she asked.

"For one thing, you are doing a man's work," he said.  "For another, I
hate to see you burn the loveliest hair I ever saw on the head of a
woman, and coarsen your fine skin."

Kate looked down at the ear of corn she held in her hands, and
considered an instant.

"There hasn't any man been around asking to relieve me of this work,"
she said.  "I got my start in life doing a man's work, and I'm frank to
say that I'd far rather do it any day, than what is usually considered
a woman's.  As for my looks, I never set a price on them or let them
interfere with business, Robert."

"No, I know you don't," he said.  "But it's a pity to spoil you."

"I don't know what's the matter with you," said Kate, patiently. She
bent her head toward him.  "Feel," she said, "and see if my hair isn't
soft and fine.  I always cover it in really burning sun; this autumn
haze is good for it.  My complexion is exactly as smooth and even now,
as it was the day I first met you on the footlog over twenty years ago.
There's one good thing about the Bates women.  They wear well.  None of
us yet have ever faded, and frazzled out.  Have you got many Hartley
women, doing what you call women's work, to compare with me physically,
Robert?"

"You know the answer to that," he said.

"So I do!" said Kate.  "I see some of them occasionally, when business
calls me that way.  Now, Robert, I'm so well, I feel like running a
footrace the first thing when I wake up every morning. I'm making
money, I'm starting my boy in a safe, useful life; have you many year
and a half babies in your practice that can beat Little Poll?  I'm as
happy as it's humanly possible for me to be without Mother, and Polly,
and Nancy Ellen.  Mother used always to say that when death struck a
family it seldom stopped until it took three.  That was my experience,
and saving Adam and Little Poll, it took my three dearest; but the
separation isn't going to be so very long.  If I were you I wouldn't
worry about me, Robert. There are many women in the world willing to
pay for your consideration; save it for them."

"Kate, I'm sorry I said anything," he said hastily.  "I wouldn't offend
you purposely, you know."

Kate looked at him in surprise.  "But I'm not offended," she said,
snapping an ear and reaching for another.  "I am merely telling you!
Don't give me a thought!  I'm all right!  If you'll save me an hour the
next time Little Poll has a tooth coming through, you'll have
completely earned my gratitude.  Tell Agatha I'll come as soon as I
finish my evening work."

That was clearly a dismissal, for Kate glancing across the field toward
Adam, saw that he had advanced to a new shock, so she began husking
faster than before.



CHAPTER XXVIII

THE ELEVENTH HOUR

ROBERT said good-bye and started back toward his car.  Kate looked
after him as he reached the fence.  A surge of pity for him swept up in
her heart.  He seemed far from happy, and he surely was very tired.
Impulsive as always, she lifted her clear voice and called:  "Robert!"

He paused with his foot on a rail of the fence, and turned toward her.

"Have you had any dinner?" she asked.

He seemed to be considering.  "Come to think of it, I don't believe I
have," he said.

"I thought you looked neglected," said Kate.  "Sonny across the field
is starting a shock ahead of me; I can't come, but go to the
kitchen--the door is unlocked--you'll find fried chicken and some
preserves and pickles in the pantry; the bread box is right there, and
the milk and butter are in the spring house."

He gave Kate one long look.  "Thank you," he said and leaped the fence.
He stopped on the front walk and stood a minute, then he turned and
went around the house.  She laughed aloud.  She was sending him to
chicken perfectly cooked, barely cold, melon preserves, pickled
cucumbers, and bread like that which had for years taken a County Fair
prize each fall; butter yellow as the goldenrod lining the fences, and
cream stiff enough to stand alone.  Also, he would find neither germ
nor mould in her pantry and spring house, while it would be a new
experience for him to let him wait on himself.  Kate husked away in
high good humour, but she quit an hour early to be on time to go to
Agatha.  She explained this to Adam, when she told him that he would
have to milk alone, while she bathed and dressed herself and got supper.

When she began to dress, Kate examined her hair minutely, and combed it
with unusual care.  If Robert was at Agatha's when she got there, she
would let him see that her hair was not sunburned and ruined.  To match
the hair dressing, she reached back in her closet and took down her
second best white dress.  She was hoping that Agatha would be well
enough to have a short visit.  Kate worked so steadily that she seldom
saw any of her brothers and sisters during the summer.  In winter she
spent a day with each of them, if she could possibly manage.  Anyway,
Agatha would like to see her appearing well, so she put on the plain
snowy linen, and carefully pinning a big apron over it, she went to the
kitchen. They always had a full dinner at noon and worked until dusk.
Her bath had made her later than she intended to be.  Dusk was
deepening, evening chill was beginning to creep into the air.  She
closed the door, fed Little Poll and rolled her into bed; set the
potatoes boiling, and began mixing the biscuit.  She had them just
ready to roll when steam lifted the lid of the potato pot; with the
soft dough in her hand she took a step to right it.  While it was in
her fingers, she peered into the pot.

She did not look up on the instant the door opened, because she thought
it would be Adam.  When she glanced toward the door, she saw Robert
standing looking at her.  He had stepped inside, closed the door, and
with his hand on the knob was waiting for her to see him.

"Oh!  Hello!" said Kate.   "I thought it was Adam.  Have you been to
Agatha's yet?"

"Yes.  She is very much better," he said.  "I only stopped to tell you
that her mother happened to come out for the night, and they'll not
need you."

"I'm surely glad she is better," said Kate, "but I'm rather
disappointed.  I've been swimming, and I'm all ready to go."

She set the pot lid in place accurately and gave her left hand a deft
turn to save the dough from dripping.  She glanced from it to Robert,
expecting to see him open the door and disappear.  Instead he stood
looking at her intently.  Suddenly he said:  "Kate, will you marry me?"

Kate mechanically saved the dough again, as she looked at the pot an
instant, then she said casually:  "Sure!  It would be splendid to have
a doctor right in the house when Little Poll cuts her double teeth."

"Thank you!" said Robert, tersely.  "No doubt that WOULD be a
privilege, but I decline to marry you in order to see Little Poll
safely through teething.  Good-night!"

He stepped outside and closed the door very completely, and somewhat
pronouncedly.

Kate stood straight an instant, then realized biscuit dough was slowly
creeping down her wrist.  With a quick fling, she shot the mass into
the scrap bucket and sinking on the chair she sat on to peel
vegetables, she lifted her apron, laid her head on her knees, and gave
a big gulping sob or two.  Then she began to cry silently.  A minute
later the door opened again.  That time it had to be Adam, but Kate did
not care what he saw or what he thought. She cried on in perfect
abandon.

Then steps crossed the room, someone knelt beside her, put an arm
around her and said:  "Kate, why are you crying?"

Kate lifted her head suddenly, and applied her apron skirt.  "None of
your business," she said to Robert's face, six inches from hers.

"Are you so anxious as all this about Little Poll's teeth?" he asked.

"Oh, DRAT Little Poll's teeth!" cried Kate, the tears rolling
uninterruptedly.

"Then WHY did you say that to me?" he demanded.

"Well, you said you 'only stopped to tell me that I needn't go to
Agatha's,'" she explained.  "I had to say something, to get even with
you!"

"Oh," said Robert, and took possession.  Kate put her arms around his
neck, drew his head against hers, and knew a minute of complete joy.

When Adam entered the house his mother was very busy.  She was mixing
more biscuit dough, she was laughing like a girl of sixteen, she
snatched out one of their finest tablecloths, and put on many extra
dishes for supper, while Uncle Robert, looking like a different man,
was helping her.  He was actually stirring the gravy, and getting the
water, and setting up chairs.  And he was under high tension, too.  He
was saying things of no moment, as if they were profound wisdom, and
laughing hilariously at things that were scarcely worth a smile.  Adam
looked on, and marvelled and all the while his irritation grew.  At
last he saw a glance of understanding pass between them.  He could
endure it no longer.

"Oh, you might as well SAY what you think," he burst forth.  "You
forgot to pull down the blinds."

Both the brazen creatures laughed as if that were a fine joke. They
immediately threw off all reserve.  By the time the meal was finished,
Adam was struggling to keep from saying the meanest things he could
think of.  Also, he had to go to Milly, with nothing very definite to
tell.  But when he came back, his mother was waiting for him.  She said
at once:  "Adam, I'm very sorry the blind was up to-night.  I wanted to
talk to you, and tell you myself, that the first real love for a man
that I have ever known, is in my heart to-night."

"Why, Mother!" said Adam.

"It's true," said Kate, quietly.  "You see Adam, the first time I ever
saw Robert Gray, I knew, and he knew, that he had made a mistake in
engaging himself to Nancy Ellen; but the thing was done, she was happy,
we simply realized that we would have done better together, and let it
go at that.  But all these years I have known that I could have made
him a wife who would have come closer to his ideals than my sister, and
SHE should have had the man who wanted to marry me.  They would have
had a wonderful time together."

"And where did my father come in?" asked Adam, quietly.

"He took advantage of my blackest hour," said Kate.  "I married him
when I positively didn't care what happened to me.  The man I could
have LOVED was married to my sister, the man I could have married and
lived with in comfort to both of us was out of the question; it was in
the Bates blood to marry about the time I did; I had seen only the very
best of your father, and he was an attractive lover, not bad looking,
not embarrassed with one single scruple--it's the way of the world.  I
took it.  I paid for it. Only God knows how dearly I paid; but Adam, if
you love me, stand by me now.  Let me have this eleventh hour
happiness, with no alloy.  Anything I feel for your Uncle Robert has
nothing in the world to do with my being your mother; with you being my
son. Kiss me, and tell me you're glad, Adam."

Adam rose up and put his arms around his mother.  All his resentment
was gone.  He was happy as he could be for his mother, and happier than
he ever before had been for himself.

The following afternoon, Kate took the car and went to see Agatha
instead of husking corn.  She dressed with care and arrived about three
o'clock, leading Poll in whitest white, with cheeks still rosy from her
afternoon nap.  Agatha was sitting up and delighted to see them.  She
said they were the first of the family who had come to visit her, and
she thought they had come because she was thinking of them.  Then she
told Kate about her illness.  She said it dated from father Bates
stroke, and the dreadful days immediately following, when Adam had
completely lost self-control, and she had not been able to influence
him.  "I think it broke my heart," she said simply.  Then they talked
the family over, and at last Agatha said:  "Kate, what is this I hear
about Robert?  Have you been informed that Mrs. Southey is back in
Hartley, and that she is working every possible chance and using
multifarious blandishments on him?"

Kate laughed heartily and suddenly.  She never had heard
"blandishments" used in common conversation.  As she struggled to
regain self-possession Agatha spoke again.

"It's no laughing matter," she said.  "The report has every ear-mark of
verisimilitude.  The Bates family has a way of feeling deeply.  We all
loved Nancy Ellen.  We all suffered severely and lost something that
never could be replaced when she went.  Of course all of us realized
that Robert would enter the bonds of matrimony again; none of us would
have objected, even if he remarried soon; but all of us do object to
his marrying a woman who would have broken Nancy Ellen's heart if she
could; and yesterday I took advantage of my illness, and TOLD him so.
Then I asked him why a man of his standing and ability in this
community didn't frustrate that unprincipled creature's vermiculations
toward him, by marrying you, at once."

Slowly Kate sank down in her chair.  Her face whitened and then grew
greenish.  She breathed with difficulty.

"Oh, Agatha!" was all she could say.

"I do not regret it," said Agatha.  "If he is going to ruin himself, he
is not going to do it without knowing that the Bates family highly
disapprove of his course."

"But why drag me in?" said Kate, almost too shocked to speak at all.
"Maybe he LOVES Mrs. Southey.  She has let him see how she feels about
him; possibly he feels the same about her."

"He does, if he weds her," said Agatha, conclusively.  "Anything any
one could say or do would have no effect, if he had centred his
affections upon her, of that you may be very sure."

"May I?" asked Kate, dully.

"Indeed, you may!" said Agatha.  "The male of the species, when he is a
man of Robert's attainments and calibre, can be swerved from pursuit of
the female he covets, by nothing save extinction."

"You mean," said Kate with an effort, "that if Robert asked a woman to
marry him, it would mean that he loved her."

"Indubitably!" cried Agatha.

Kate laughed until she felt a little better, but she went home in a
mood far different from that in which she started.  Then she had been
very happy, and she had intended to tell Agatha about her happiness,
the very first of all.  Now she was far from happy. Possibly--a
thousand things, the most possible, that Robert had responded to
Agatha's suggestion, and stopped and asked her that abrupt question,
from an impulse as sudden and inexplicable as had possessed her when
she married George Holt.  Kate fervently wished she had gone to the
cornfield as usual that afternoon.

"That's the way it goes," she said angrily, as she threw off her better
dress and put on her every-day gingham to prepare supper. "That's the
way it goes!  Stay in your element, and go on with your work, and
you're all right.  Leave your job and go trapesing over the country,
wasting your time, and you get a heartache to pay you.  I might as well
give up the idea that I'm ever to be happy, like anybody else.  Every
time I think happiness is coming my way, along comes something that
knocks it higher than Gilderoy's kite.  Hang the luck!"

She saw Robert pass while she was washing the dishes, and knew he was
going to Agatha's, and would stop when he came back.  She finished her
work, put Little Poll to bed, and made herself as attractive as she
knew how in her prettiest blue dress.  All the time she debated whether
she would say anything to him about what Agatha had said or not.  She
decided she would wait awhile, and watch how he acted.  She thought she
could soon tell.  So when Robert came, she was as nearly herself as
possible, but when he began to talk about being married soon, the most
she would say was that she would begin to think about it at Christmas,
and tell him by spring.  Robert was bitterly disappointed.  He was very
lonely; he needed better housekeeping than his aged mother was capable
of, to keep him up to a high mark in his work.  Neither of them was
young any longer; he could see no reason why they should not be married
at once.  Of the reason in Kate's mind, he had not a glimmering.  But
Kate had her way.  She would not even talk of a time, or express an
opinion as to whether she would remain on the farm, or live in Nancy
Ellen's house, or sell it and build whatever she wanted for herself.
Robert went away baffled, and disappointed over some intangible thing
he could not understand.

For six weeks Kate tortured herself, and kept Robert from being happy.
Then one morning Agatha stopped to visit with her, while Adam drove on
to town.  After they had exhausted farming, Little Poll's charms, and
the neighbours, Agatha looked at Kate and said: "Katherine, what is
this I hear about Robert coming here every day, now?  It appeals to me
that he must have followed my advice."

"Of course he never would have thought of coming, if you hadn't told
him so," said Kate dryly.

"Now THERE you are in error," said the literal Agatha, as she smoothed
down Little Poll's skirts and twisted her ringlets into formal
corkscrews.  "Right THERE, you are in error, my dear.  The reason I
told Robert to marry you was because he said to me, when he suggested
going after you to stay the night with me, that he had seen you in the
field when he passed, and that you were the most glorious specimen of
womanhood that he ever had seen.  He said you were the one to stay with
me, in case there should be any trouble, because your head was always
level, and your heart was big as a barrel."

"Yes, that's the reason I can't always have it with me," said Kate,
looking glorified instead of glorious.  "Agatha, it just happens to
mean very much to me.  Will you just kindly begin at the beginning, and
tell me every single word Robert said to you, and you said to him, that
day?"

"Why, I have informed you explicitly," said Agatha, using her
handkerchief on the toe of Poll's blue shoe.  "He mentioned going after
you, and said what I told you, and I told him to go.  He praised you so
highly that when I spoke to him about the Southey woman I remembered
it, so I suggested to him, as he seemed to think so well of you.  It
just that minute flashed into my mind; but HE made me think of it,
calling you 'glorious,' and 'level headed,' and 'big hearted.'
Heavens!  Katherine Eleanor, what more could you ask?"

"I guess that should be enough," said Kate.

"One certainly would presume so," said Agatha.

Then Adam came, and handed Kate her mail as she stood beside his car
talking to him a minute, while Agatha settled herself.  As Kate closed
the gate behind her, she saw a big, square white envelope among the
newspapers, advertisements, and letters.  She slipped it out and looked
at it intently.  Then she ran her finger under the flap and read the
contents.  She stood studying the few lines it contained, frowning
deeply.  "Doesn't it beat the band?" she asked of the surrounding
atmosphere.  She went up the walk, entered the living room, slipped the
letter under the lid of the big family Bible, and walking to the
telephone she called Dr. Gray's office.  He answered the call in person.

"Robert, this is Kate," she said.  "Would you have any deeply rooted
objections to marrying me at six o'clock this evening?"

"Well, I should say not!" boomed Robert's voice, the "not" coming so
forcibly Kate dodged.

"Have you got the information necessary for a license?" she asked.

"Yes," he answered.

"Then bring one, and your minister, and come at six," she said. "And
Oh, yes, Robert, will it be all right with you if I stay here and keep
house for Adam until he and Milly can be married and move in?  Then
I'll come to your house just as it is.  I don't mind coming to Nancy
Ellen's home, as I would another woman's."

"Surely!" he cried.  "Any arrangement you make will satisfy me."

"All right, I'll expect you with the document and the minister at six,
then," said Kate, and hung up the receiver.

Then she took it down again and calling Milly, asked her to bring her
best white dress, and come up right away, and help her get ready to
entertain a few people that evening.  Then she called her sister
Hannah, and asked her if she thought that in the event she, Kate,
wished that evening at six o'clock to marry a very fine man, and had no
preparations whatever made, her family would help her out to the extent
of providing the supper.  She wanted all of them, and all the children,
but the arrangement had come up suddenly, and she could not possibly
prepare a supper herself, for such a big family, in the length of time
she had.  Hannah said she was perfectly sure everyone of them would
drop everything, and be tickled to pieces to bring the supper, and to
come, and they would have a grand time.  What did Kate want?  Oh, she
wanted bread, and chicken for meat, maybe some potato chips, and
Angel's Food cake, and a big freezer or two of Agatha's best ice cream,
and she thought possibly more butter, and coffee, than she had on hand.
She had plenty of sugar, and cream, and pickles and jelly.  She would
have the tables all set as she did for Christmas.  Then Kate rang for
Adam and put a broom in his hand as he entered the back door.  She met
Milly with a pail of hot water and cloths to wash the glass.  She went
to her room and got out her best afternoon dress of dull blue with gold
lace and a pink velvet rose.  She shook it out and studied it.  She had
worn it twice on the trip North.  None of them save Adam ever had seen
it.  She put it on, and looked at it critically.  Then she called Milly
and they changed the neck and sleeves a little, took a yard of width
from the skirt, and behold! it became a "creation," in the very height
of style.  Then Kate opened her trunk, and got out the petticoat, hose,
and low shoes to match it, and laid them on her bed.

Then they set the table, laid a fire ready to strike in the cook stove,
saw that the gas was all right, set out the big coffee boiler, and
skimmed a crock full of cream.  By four o'clock, they could think of
nothing else to do.  Then Kate bathed and went to her room to dress.
Adam and Milly were busy making themselves fine.  Little Poll sat in
her prettiest dress, watching her beloved "Tate," until Adam came and
took her.  He had been instructed to send Robert and the minister to
his mother's room as soon as they came.  Kate was trying to look her
best, yet making haste, so that she would be ready on time.  She had
made no arrangements except to spread a white goatskin where she and
Robert would stand at the end of the big living room near her door.
Before she was fully dressed she began to hear young voices and knew
that her people were coming.  When she was ready Kate looked at herself
and muttered:  "I'll give Robert and all of them a good surprise.  This
is a real dress, thanks to Nancy Ellen. The poor girl!  It's scarcely
fair to her to marry her man in a dress she gave me; but I'd stake my
life she'd rather I'd have him than any other woman."

It was an evening of surprises.  At six, Adam lighted a big log,
festooned with leaves and berries so that the flames roared and
crackled up the chimney.  The early arrivals were the young people who
had hung the mantel, gas fixtures, curtain poles and draped the doors
with long sprays of bittersweet, northern holly, and great branches of
red spice berries, dogwood with its red leaves and berries, and scarlet
and yellow oak leaves.  The elders followed and piled the table with
heaps of food, then trailed red vines between dishes.  In a quandary as
to what to wear, without knowing what was expected of him further than
saying "I will," at the proper moment, Robert ended by slipping into
Kate's room, dressed in white flannel.  The ceremony was over at ten
minutes after six.  Kate was lovely, Robert was handsome, everyone was
happy, the supper was a banquet.  The Bates family went home, Adam
disappeared with Milly, while Little Poll went to sleep.

Left to themselves, Robert took Kate in his arms and tried to tell her
how much he loved her, but felt he expressed himself poorly. As she
stood before him, he said:  "And now, dear, tell me what changed you,
and why we are married to-night instead of at Christmas, or in the
spring."

"Oh, yes," said Kate, "I almost forgot!  Why, I wanted you to answer a
letter for me."

"Lucid!" said Robert.  He seated himself beside the table.  "Bring on
the ink and stationary, and let me get it over."

Kate obeyed, and with the writing material, laid down the letter she
had that morning received from John Jardine, telling her that his wife
had died suddenly, and that as soon as he had laid her away, he was
coming to exact a definite promise from her as to the future; and that
he would move Heaven and earth before he would again be disappointed.
Robert read the letter and laid it down, his face slowing flushing
scarlet.

"You called me out here, and married me expressly to answer this?" he
demanded.

"Of course!" said Kate.  "I thought if you could tell him that his
letter came the day I married you, it would stop his coming, and not be
such a disappointment to him."

Robert pushed the letter from him violently, and arose "By----!" he
checked himself and stared at her.  "Kate, you don't MEAN that!" he
cried.  "Tell me, you don't MEAN that!"

"Why, SURE I do," said Kate.  "It gave me a fine excuse.  I was so
homesick for you, and tired waiting to begin life with you. Agatha told
me about her telling you the day she was ill, to marry me; and the
reason I wouldn't was because I thought maybe you asked me so
offhandlike, because she TOLD you to, and you didn't really love me.
Then this morning she was here, and we were talking, and she got round
it again, and then she told me ALL you said, and I saw you did love me,
and that you would have asked me if she hadn't said anything, and I
wanted you so badly.  Robert, ever since that day we met on the
footlog, I've know that you were the only man I'd every really WANT to
marry.  Robert, I've never come anywhere near loving anybody else.  The
minute Agatha told me this morning, I began to think how I could take
back what I'd been saying, how I could change, and right then Adam
handed me that letter, and it gave me a fine way out, and so I called
you.  Sure, I married you to answer that, Robert; now go and do it."

"All right," he said.  "In a minute."

Then he walked to her and took her in his arms again, but Kate could
not understand why he was laughing until he shook when he kissed her.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Daughter of the Land" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home