Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

A Daughter Of The Land by Gene Stratton-Porter

Part 1 out of 8

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.8 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

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
III. 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

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!"

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 to 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
handing 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 turn 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?"

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 stationary 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.

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.

Book of the day: