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A Daughter Of The Land by Gene Stratton-Porter

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leaned out in time to see her wonderful hat whirl against the
corner of the car, hold there an instant with the pressure of the
wind, then slide down, draw under, and drop across the rail, where
passing wheels ground it to pulp.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Roaring in a pillow," admitted Kate.

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

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

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

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

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

"Tell me about your hat," she said.

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

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

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

"Yes," said Kate.

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

"Not the least," said Kate.

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

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

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

A SUNBONNET GIRL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"In what way?" asked Mrs. Jardine.

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

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

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

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

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

"I scarcely think so. Please tell me."

"You'll be shocked," warned Kate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Jardine lay back in her chair laughing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Why?" asked Mrs. Jardine.

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

"And your deduction is -- "

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Please excuse me," she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Was that a concert?" he asked.

"It was supposed to be," said Kate.

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

"This is most astonishing," said Kate.

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

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

JOHN JARDINE'S COURTSHIP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She nodded, her lips closed.

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

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

One morning as Kate helped Mrs. Jardine into her coat and gloves,
preparing for one of their delightful morning drives, she said to
her: "Mrs. Jardine, may I ask you a REAL question?"

"Of course you may," said Mrs. Jardine, "and I shall give you a
'real' answer if it lies in my power."

"You'll be shocked," warned Kate.

"Shock away," laughed Mrs. Jardine. "By now I flatter myself that
I am so accustomed to you that you will have to try yourself to
shock me."

"It's only this," said Kate: "If you were a perfect stranger,
standing back and looking on, not acquainted with any of the
parties, merely seeing things as they happen each day, would it be
your honest opinion -- would you say that I am being COURTED?"

Mrs. Jardine laughed until she was weak. When she could talk, she
said: "Yes, my dear, under the conditions, and in the
circumstances you mention, I would cheerfully go on oath and
testify that you are being courted more openly, more vigorously,
and as tenderly as I ever have seen woman courted in all my life.
I always thought that John's father was a master hand at courting,
but John has him beaten in many ways. Yes, my dear, you certainly
are being courted assiduously."

"Now, then, on that basis," said Kate, "just one more question and
we'll proceed with our drive. From the same standpoint: would
you say from your observation and experience that the mother of
the man had any insurmountable objection to the proceedings?"

Mrs. Jardine laughed again. Finally she said: "No, my dear.
It's my firm conviction that the mother of the man in the case
would be so delighted if you should love and marry her son that
she would probably have a final attack of heart trouble and pass
away from sheer joy."

"Thank you," said Kate. "I wasn't perfectly sure, having had no
experience whatever, and I didn't want to make a mistake."

That drive was wonderful, over beautiful country roads, through
dells, and across streams and hills. They stopped where they
pleased, gathering flowers and early apples, visiting with people
they met, lunching wherever they happened to be.

"If it weren't for wishing to hear John A. Logan to-night," said
Kate, "I'd move that we drive on all day. I certainly am having
the grandest time."

She sat with her sailor hat filled with Early Harvest apples, a
big bunch of Canadian anemones in her belt, a little stream at her
feet, July drowsy fullness all around her, congenial companions;
taking the "wings of morning" paid, after all.

"Why do you want to hear him so much?" asked John.

Kate looked up at him in wonder.

"Don't you want to see and hear him?" she asked.

He hesitated, a thoughtful expression on his face. Finally he
said: "I can't say that I do. Will you tell me why I should?"

"You should because he was one of the men who did much to preserve
our Union, he may tell us interesting things about the war. Where
were you when it was the proper time for you to be studying the
speech of Logan's ancestor in McGuffey's Fourth?"

"That must have been the year I figured out the improved coupling
pin in the C. N. W. shops, wouldn't you think, Mother?"

"Somewhere near, my dear," she said.

So they drove back as happily as they had set out, made themselves
fresh, and while awaiting the lecture hour, Kate again wrote to
Robert and Nancy Ellen, telling plainly and simply all that had
occurred. She even wrote "John Jardine's mother is of the opinion
that he is courting me. I am so lacking in experience myself that
I scarcely dare venture an opinion, but it has at times appealed
to me that if he isn't really, he certainly must be going through
the motions."

Nancy Ellen wrote: I have read over what you say about John
Jardine several times. Then I had Robert write Bradstreet's and
look him up. He is rated so high that if he hasn't a million
right now, he soon will have. You be careful, and do your level
best. Are your clothes good enough? Shall I send more of my
things? You know I'll do anything to help you. Oh, yes, that
George Holt from your boarding place was here the other day
hunting you. He seemed determined to know where you were and when
you would be back, and asked for your address. I didn't think you
had any time for him and I couldn't endure him or his foolish talk
about a new medical theory; so I said you'd no time for writing
and were going about so much I had no idea if you'd get a letter
if he sent one, and I didn't give him what he wanted. He'll
probably try general delivery, but you can drop it in the lake. I
want you to be sure to change your boarding place this winter, if
you teach; but I haven't an idea you will. Hadn't you better
bring matters to a close if you can, and let the Director know?
Love from us both, NANCY ELLEN.

Kate sat very still, holding this letter in her hand, when John
Jardine came up and sat beside her. She looked at him closely.
He was quite as good looking as his mother thought him, in a
brawny masculine way; but Kate was not seeking the last word in
mental or physical refinement. She was rather brawny herself, and
perfectly aware of the fact. She wanted intensely to learn all
she could, she disliked the idea that any woman should have more
stored in her head than she, but she had no time to study minute
social graces and customs. She wanted to be kind, to be polite,
but she told Mrs. Jardine flatly the "she didn't give a flip about
being overly nice," which was the exact truth. That required
subtleties beyond Kate's depth, for she was at times alarmingly
casual. So she held her letter and thought about John Jardine.
As she thought, she decided that she did not know whether she was
in love with him or not; she thought she was. She liked being
with him, she liked all he did for her, she would miss him if he
went away, she would be proud to be his wife, but she did wish
that he were interested in land, instead of inventions and stocks
and bonds. Stocks and bonds were almost as evanescent as rainbows
to Kate. Land was something she could understand and handle.
Maybe she could interest him in land; if she could, that would be
ideal. What a place his wealth would buy and fit up. She
wondered as she studied John Jardine, what was in his head; if he
truly intended to ask her to be his wife, and since reading Nancy
Ellen's letter, when? She should let the Trustee know if she were
not going to teach the school again; but someway, she rather
wanted to teach the school. When she started anything she did not
know how to stop until she finished. She had so much she wanted
to teacher her pupils the coming winter.

Suddenly John asked: "Kate, if you could have anything you
wanted, what would you have?"

"Two hundred acres of land," she said.

"How easy!" laughed John, rising to find a seat for his mother who
was approaching them. "What do you think of that, Mother? A girl
who wants two hundred acres of land more than anything else in the
world."

"What is better?" asked Mrs. Jardine.

"I never heard you say anything about land before."

"Certainly not," said his mother, "and I'm not saying anything
about it now, for myself; but I can see why it means so much to
Kate, why it's her natural element.

"Well, I can't," he said. "I meet many men in business who
started on land, and most of them were mighty glad to get away
from it. What's the attraction?"

Kate waved her hand toward the distance.

"Oh, merely sky, and land, and water, and trees, and birds, and
flowers, and fruit, and crops, and a few other things scarcely
worth mentioning," she said, lightly. "I'm not in the mood to
talk bushels, seed, and fertilization just now; but I understand
them, they are in my blood. I think possibly the reason I want
two hundred acres of land for myself is because I've been hard on
the job of getting them for other people ever since I began to
work, at about the age of four."

"But if you want land personally, why didn't you work to get it
for yourself?" asked John Jardine.

"Because I happened to be the omega of my father's system,"
answered Kate.

Mrs. Jardine looked at her interestedly. She had never mentioned
her home or parents before. The older woman did not intend to ask
a word, but if Kate was going to talk, she did not want to miss
one. Kate evidently was going to talk, for she continued: "You
see my father is land mad, and son crazy. He thinks a BOY of all
the importance in the world; a GIRL of none whatever. He has the
biggest family of any one we know. From birth each girl is worked
like a man, or a slave, from four in the morning until nine at
night. Each boy is worked exactly the same way; the difference
lies in the fact that the girls get plain food and plainer clothes
out of it; the boys each get two hundred acres of land, buildings
and stock, that the girls have been worked to the limit to help
pay for; they get nothing personally, worth mentioning. I think I
have two hundred acres of land on the brain, and I think this is
the explanation of it. It's a pre-natal influence at our house;
while we nurse, eat, sleep, and above all, WORK it, afterward."

She paused and looked toward John Jardine calmly: "I think," she
said, "that there's not a task ever performed on a farm that I
haven't had my share in. I have plowed, hoed, seeded, driven
reapers and bound wheat, pitched hay and hauled manure, chopped
wood and sheared sheep, and boiled sap; if you can mention
anything else, go ahead, I bet a dollar I've done it."

"Well, what do you think of that?" he muttered, looking at her
wonderingly.

"If you ask me, and want the answer in plain words, I think it's a
shame!" said Kate. "If it were ONE HUNDRED acres of land, and the
girls had as much, and were as willing to work it as the boys are,
well and good. But to drive us like cattle, and turn all we earn
into land for the boys, is another matter. I rebelled last
summer, borrowed the money and went to Normal and taught last
winter. I'm going to teach again this winter; but last summer and
this are the first of my life that I haven't been in the harvest
fields, at this time. Women in the harvest fields of Land King
Bates are common as men, and wagons, and horses, but not nearly so
much considered. The women always walk on Sunday, to save the
horses, and often on week days."

"Mother has it hammered into me that it isn't polite to ask
questions," said John, "but I'd like to ask one."

"Go ahead," said Kate. "Ask fifty! What do I care?"

"How many boys are there in your family?"

"There are seven," said Kate, "and if you want to use them as a
basis for a land estimate add two hundred and fifty for the home
place. Sixteen hundred and fifty is what Father pays tax on,
besides the numerous mortgages and investments. He's the richest
man in the county we live in; at least he pays the most taxes."

Mother and son looked at each other in silence. They had been
thinking her so poor that she would be bewildered by what they had
to offer. But if two hundred acres of land were her desire, there
was a possibility that she was a women who was not asking either
ease or luxury of life, and would refuse it if it were proffered.

"I hope you will take me home with you, and let me see all that
land, and how it is handled," said John Jardine. "I don't own an
acre. I never even have thought of it, but there is no reason why
I, or any member of my family shouldn't have all the land they
want. Mother, do you feel a wild desire for two hundred acres of
land? Same kind of a desire that took you to come here?"

"No, I don't," said Mrs. Jardine. "All I know about land is that
I know it when I see it, and I know if I think it's pretty; but I
can see why Kate feels that she would like that amount for
herself, after having helped earn all those farms for her
brothers. If it's land she wants, I hope she speedily gets all
she desires in whatever location she wants it; and then I hope she
lets me come to visit her and watch her do as she likes with it."

"Surely," said Kate, "you are invited right now; as soon as I ever
get the land, I'll give you another invitation. And of course you
may go home with me, Mr. Jardine, and I'll show you each of what
Father calls 'those little parcels of land of mine.' But the one
he lives on we shall have to gaze at from afar, because I'm a
Prodigal Daughter. When I would leave home in spite of him for
the gay and riotous life of a school-marm, he ordered me to take
all my possessions with me, which I did in one small telescope. I
was not to enter his house again while he lived. I was glad to
go, he was glad to have me, while I don't think either of us has
changed our mind since. Teaching school isn't exactly gay, but
I'll fill my tummy with quite a lot of symbolical husks before
he'll kill the fatted calf for me. They'll be glad to see you at
my brother Adam's, and my sister, Nancy Ellen, would greatly enjoy
meeting you. Surely you may go home with me, if you'd like."

"I can think of only one thing I'd like better," he said. "We've
been such good friends here and had such a good time, it would be
the thing I'd like best to take you home with us, and show you
where and how we live. Mother, did you ever invite Kate to visit
us?"

"I have, often, and she has said that she would," replied Mrs.
Jardine. "I think it would be nice for her to go from here with
us; and then you can take her home whenever she fails to find us
interesting. How would that suit you for a plan, my dear?"

"I think that would be a perfect ending to a perfect summer," said
Kate. "I can't see an objection in any way. Thank you very
much."

"Then we'll call that settled," said John Jardine.

A BUSINESS PROPOSITION

MID-AUGUST saw them on their way to Chicago. Kate had taken care
of Mrs. Jardine a few days while Jennie Weeks went home to see her
mother and arrange for her new work. She had no intention of
going back to school teaching. She preferred to brush Mrs.
Jardine's hair, button her shoes, write her letter, and read to
her.

In a month, Jennie had grown so deft at her work and made herself
so appreciated, that she was practically indispensable to the
elderly woman, and therefore the greatest comfort to John.
Immediately he saw that his mother was properly cared for,
sympathetically and even lovingly, he made it his business to
smooth Jennie's path in every way possible. In turn she studied
him, and in many ways made herself useful to him. Often she
looked at him with large and speculative eyes as he sat reading
letters, or papers, or smoking.

The world was all right with Kate when they crossed the sand dunes
as they neared the city. She was sorry about the situation in her
home, but she smiled sardonically as she thought how soon her
father would forget his anger when he heard about the city home
and the kind of farm she could have, merely by consenting to take
it. She was that sure of John Jardine; yet he had not asked her
to marry him. He had seemed on the verge of it a dozen times, and
then had paused as if better judgment told him it would be wise to
wait a little longer. Now Kate had concluded that there was a
definite thing he might be waiting for, since that talk about
land.

She thought possibly she understood what it was. He was a
business man; he knew nothing else; he said so frankly. He wanted
to show her his home, his business, his city, his friends, and
then he required -- he had almost put it into words -- that he be
shown her home and her people. Kate not only acquiesced, she
approved. She wanted to know as much of a man she married as
Nancy Ellen had known, and Robert had taken her to his home and
told his people she was his betrothed wife before he married her.

Kate's eyes were wide open and her brain busy, as they entered a
finely appointed carriage and she heard John say: "Rather sultry.
Home down the lake shore, George." She wished their driver had
not been named "George," but after all it made no difference.
There could not be a commoner name than John, and she knew of but
one that she liked better. For the ensuing three days she lived
in a Lake Shore home of wealth. She watched closely not to trip
in the heavy rugs and carpets. She looked at wonderful paintings
and long shelves of books. She never had touched such china, or
tasted such food or seen so good service. She understood why John
had opposed his mother's undertaking the trip without him, for
everyone in the house seemed busy serving the little woman.

Jennie Weeks was frankly enchanted.

"My sakes!" she said to Kate. "If I'm not grateful to you for
getting me into a place like this. I wouldn't give it up for all
the school-teaching in the world. I'm going to snuggle right in
here, and make myself so useful I won't have to leave until I die.
I hope you won't turn me out when to come to take charge."

"Don't you think you're presuming?" said Kate.

Jennie drew back with a swift apology, but there was a flash in
the little eyes and a spiteful look on the small face as she
withdrew.

Then Kate was shown each of John's wonderful inventions. To her
they seemed almost miracles, because they were so obvious, so
simple, yet brought such astounding returns. She saw offices and
heard the explanation of big business; but did not comprehend,
farther than that when an invention was completed, the piling up
of money began. Before the week's visit was over, Kate was trying
to fit herself and her aims and objects of life into the
surroundings, with no success whatever. She felt housed in,
cribbed, confined, frustrated. When she realized that she was
becoming plainly cross, she began keen self-analysis and soon
admitted to herself that she did not belong there.

Kate watched with keen eyes. Repeatedly she tried to imagine
herself in such surroundings for life, a life sentence, she
expressed it, for soon she understood that it would be to her, a
prison. The only way she could imagine herself enduring it at all
was to think of the promised farm, and when she began to think of
that on Jardine terms, she saw that it would mean to sit down and
tell someone else what she wanted done. There would be no battle
to fight. Her mind kept harking back to the day when she had said
to John that she hoped there would be a lake on the land she
owned, and he had answered casually: "If there isn't a lake, make
one!" Kate thought that over repeatedly. "Make one!" Make a
lake? It would have seemed no more magical to her if he had said,
"Make a cloud," "Make a star," or "Make a rainbow." "What on
earth would I do with myself, with my time, with my life?"
pondered Kate.

She said "Good-bye" to Mrs. Jardine and Jennie Weeks, and started
home with John, still pondering. When the train pulled into
Hartley, Nancy Ellen and Robert were on the platform to meet them.
From that time, Kate was on solid ground. She was reckoning in
terms she could comprehend. All her former assurance and energy
came back to her. She almost wished the visit were over, and that
she were on the way to Walton to clean the school-house. She was
eager to roll her sleeves and beat a tub of soapy clothes to foam,
and boil them snowy white. She had a desire she could scarcely
control to sweep, and dust, and cook. She had been out of the
environment she thought she disliked and found when she returned
to it after a wider change than she could have imagined, that she
did not dislike it at all. It was her element, her work, what she
knew. She could attempt it with sure foot, capable hand, and
certain knowledge.

Sunday morning she said to Nancy Ellen as they washed the
breakfast dishes, while the men smoked on the veranda: "Nancy
Ellen, I don't believe I was ever cut out for a rich woman! If I
have got a chance, I wish YOU had it, and I had THIS. This just
suits my style to a T."

"Tell me about it," said Nancy Ellen.

"Kate told all she could remember.

"You don't mean to say you didn't LIKE it?" cried Nancy Ellen.

"I didn't say anything," said Kate, "but if I were saying exactly
what I feel, you'd know I despise it all."

"Why, Kate Barnes!" cried the horrified Nancy Ellen, "Whatever do
you mean?"

"I haven't thought enough to put it to you clearly," said Kate,
"but someway the city repels me. Facilities for manufacturing
something start a city. It begins with the men who do the work,
and the men who profit from that work, living in the same coop.
It expands, and goes on, and grows, on that basis. It's the
laborer, living on his hire, and the manufacturer living on the
laborer's productions, coming in daily contact. The contrast is
too great, the space is too small. Somebody is going to get the
life crowded out of him at every turn, and it isn't always the
work hand in the factory. The money kings eat each other for
breakfast every day. As for work, we always thought we worked.
You should take a peep into the shops and factories I've seen this
week. Work? Why, we don't know what work is, and we waste enough
food every day to keep a workman's family, and we're dressed liked
queens, in comparison with them right now."

"Do you mean to say if he asks you --?" It was a small explosion.

"I mean to say if he asks me, 'buy me that two hundred acres of
land where I want it, build me the house and barns I want, and
guarantee that I may live there as I please, and I'll marry you
to-morrow.' If it's Chicago -- Never! I haven't stolen,
murdered, or betrayed, who should I be imprisoned?"

"Why, you hopeless anarchist!" said Nancy Ellen, "I am going to
tell John Jardine on you."

"Do!" urged Kate. "Sound him on the land question. It's our only
hope of a common foundation. Have you send Agatha word that we
will be out this afternoon?"

"I have," said Nancy Ellen. "And I don't doubt that now, even
now, she is in the kitchen -- how would she put it?"

"'Compounding a cake,'" said Kate, "while Adam is in the cellar
'freezing a custard.' Adam, 3d, will be raking the yard afresh
and Susan will be sweeping the walks steadily from now until they
sight us coming down the road. What you bet Agatha asked John his
intentions? I almost wish she would," she added. "He has some,
but there is a string to them in some way, and I can't just make
out where, or why it is."

"Not even a guess?" asked Nancy Ellen.

"Not even a guess, with any sense to it. I've thought it was
coming repeatedly; but I've got a stubborn Bates streak, and I
won't lift a finger to help him. He'll speak up, loud and plain,
or there will be no 'connubial bliss' for us, as Agatha says. I
think he has ideas about other things than freight train gear.
According to his programme we must have so much time to become
acquainted, I must see his home and people, he must see mine. If
there's more after that, I'm not informed. Like as not there is.
It may come after we get back to-night, I can't say."

"Have you told him --?" asked Nancy Ellen.

"Not the details, but the essentials. He knows that I can't go
home. It came up one day in talking about land. I guess they had
thought before, that my people were poor as church mice. I
happened to mention how much land I had helped earn for my
brothers, and they seemed so interested I finished the job. Well,
after they had heard about the Land King, it made a noticeable
difference in their treatment of me. Not that they weren't always
fine, but it made, I scarcely know how to put it, it was so
intangible -- but it was a difference, an added respect. You bet
money is a power! I can see why Father hangs on to those deeds,
when I get out in the world. They are his compensation for his
years of hard work, the material evidence that he has succeeded in
what he undertook. He'd show them to John Jardine with the same
feeling John showed me improved car couplers, brakes, and air
cushions. They stand for successes that win the deference of men.
Out in the little bit of world I've seen, I notice that men fight,
bleed, and die for even a tiny fraction of deference. Aren't they
funny? What would I care --?"

"Well, I'D care a lot!" said Nancy Ellen.

Kate surveyed her slowly. "Yes, I guess you would."

They finished the dishes and went to church, because Robert was
accustomed to going. They made a remarkable group. Then they
went to the hotel for dinner, so that the girls would not have to
prepare it, and then in a double carriage Robert had secured for
the occasion, they drove to Bates Corners and as Kate said,
"Viewed the landscape o'er." Those eight pieces of land, none
under two hundred acres, some slightly over, all in the very
highest state of cultivation, with modern houses, barns,
outbuildings, and fine stock grazing in the pastures, made an
impressive picture. It was probably the first time that any of
the Bates girls had seen it all at once, and looked on it merely
as a spectacle. They stopped at Adam's last, and while Robert was
busy with the team and John had alighted to help him, Nancy Ellen,
revealing tight lips and unnaturally red cheeks, leaned back to
Kate.

"This is about as mean a trick, and as big a shame as I've ever
seen," she said, hotly. "You know I was brought up with this, and
I never looked at it with the eyes of a stranger before. If ever
I get my fingers on those deeds, I'll make short work of them!"

"And a good job, too!" assented Kate, instantly. "Look out!
There comes Adam."

"I'd just as soon tell him so as not!" whispered Nancy Ellen.

"Which would result in the deeds being recorded to-morrow and
spoiling our trip to-day, and what good would it do you?" said
Kate.

"None, of course! Nothing ever does a Bates girl any good, unless
she gets out and does it for herself," retorted Nancy Ellen
spitefully.

"There, there," said Robert as he came to help Nancy Ellen protect
her skirts in alighting. "I was afraid this trip would breed
discontent."

"What's the trouble?" asked John, as he performed the same service
for Kate.

"Oh, the girls are grouching a little because they helped earn all
this, and are to be left out of it," explained Robert in a low
voice.

"Let's get each one of them a farm that will lay any of these
completely in the shade," suggested John.

"All right for you, if you can do it," said Robert, laughing, "but
I've gone my limit for the present. Besides, if you gave each of
them two hundred acres of the Kingdom of Heaven, it wouldn't stop
them from feeling that they had been defrauded of their birthright
here."

"How would you feel if you was served the same way?" asked John,
and even as she shook hands with Adam, and introduced John
Jardine, Kate found herself wishing that he had said "were."

As the girls had predicted, the place was immaculate, the yard
shady and cool from the shelter of many big trees, the house
comfortable, convenient, the best of everything in sight. Agatha
and Susan were in new white dresses, while Adam Jr. and 3d wore
tan and white striped seersucker coats, and white duck trousers.
It was not difficult to feel a glow of pride in the place and
people. Adam made them cordially welcome.

"You undoubtedly are blessed with good fortune," said Agatha.
"Won't you please enlighten us concerning your travels,
Katherine?"

So Kate told them everything she could think of that she thought
would interest and amuse them, even outlining for Agatha speeches
she had heard made by Dr. Vincent, Chaplain McCabe, Jehu DeWitt
Miller, a number of famous politicians, teachers, and ministers.
Then all of them talked about everything. Adam took John and
Robert to look over the farm, whereupon Kate handed over her hat
for Agatha to finger and try on.

"And how long will it be, my dear," said Agatha to Kate, "before
you enter connubial bliss?"

"My goodness! I'm glad you asked me that while the men are at the
barn," said Kate. "Mr. Jardine hasn't said a word about it
himself, so please be careful what you say before him."

Agatha looked at Kate in wonder.

"You amaze me," she said. "Why, he regards you as if he would
devour you. He hasn't proposed for your hand, you say? Surely
you're not giving him proper encouragement!"

"She isn't giving him any, further than allowing him to be
around," said Nancy Ellen.

"Do enlighten me!" cried the surprised Agatha. "How astonishing!
Why, Kate, my dear, there is a just and proper amount of
encouragement that MUST be given any self-respecting youth, before
he makes his declarations. You surely know that."

"No, I do not know it!" said Kate. "I thought it was a man's
place to speak up loud and plain and say what he had to propose."

"Oh, dear!" wailed Agatha, wringing her thin hands, her face a
mirror of distress. "Oh, dear, I very much fear you will lose
him. Why, Katherine, after a man has been to see you a certain
number of times, and evidenced enough interest in you, my dear,
there are a thousand strictly womanly ways in which you can lend
his enterprise a little, only a faint amount of encouragement,
just enough to allow him to recognize that he is not -- not -- er
-- repulsive to you."

"But how many times must he come, and how much interest must he
evince?" asked Kate.

"I can scarcely name an exact number," said Agatha. "That is
personal. You must decide for yourself what is the psychological
moment at which he is to be taken. Have you even signified to him
that you -- that you -- that you could be induced, even to
CONTEMPLATE marriage?"

"Oh, yes," said Kate, heartily. "I told his mother that it was
the height of my ambition to marry by the time I'm twenty. I told
her I wanted a man as tall as I am, two hundred acres of land, and
at least twelve babies."

Agatha collapsed suddenly. She turned her shocked face toward
Nancy Ellen.

"Great Day of Rest!" she cried. "No wonder the man doesn't
propose!"

When the men returned from their stroll, Agatha and Susan served
them with delicious frozen custard and Angel's food cake. Then
they resumed their drive, passing Hiram's place last. At the
corner Robert hesitated and turned to ask: "Shall we go ahead,
Kate?"

"Certainly," said Kate. "I want Mr. Jardine to see where I was
born and spent my time of legal servitude. I suppose we daren't
stop. I doubt if Mother would want to see me, and I haven't the
slightest doubt that Father would NOT; but he has no jurisdiction
over the road. It's the shortest way -- and besides, I want to
see the lilac bush and the cabbage roses."

As they approached the place Nancy Ellen turned.

"Father's standing at the gate. What shall we do?"

"There's nothing you can do, but drive straight ahead and you and
Robert speak to him," said Kate. "Go fast, Robert."

He touched the team and at fair speed they whirled past the white
house, at the gate of which, stiffly erect, stood a brawny man of
six feet six, his face ruddy and healthy in appearance. He was
dressed as he prepared himself to take a trip to pay his taxes, or
to go to Court. He stood squarely erect, with stern, forbidding
face, looking directly at them. Robert spoke to him, and Nancy
Ellen leaned forward and waved, calling "Father," that she might
be sure he knew her, but he gave not the slightest sign of
recognition. They carried away a distinct picture of him, at his
best physically and in appearance; at his worst mentally.

"There you have it!" said Kate, bitterly. "I'd be safe in
wagering a thousand dollars, if I had it, that Agatha or the
children told, at Hiram's or to Mother's girl, that we were
coming. They knew we would pass about this time. Mother was at
the side door watching, and Father was in his Sunday best, waiting
to show us what would happen if we stopped, and that he never
changes his mind. It didn't happen by accident that he was
standing there dressed that way. What do you think, Nancy Elen?"

"That he was watching for us!" said Nancy Ellen.

"But why do you suppose that he did it?" asked Kate.

"He thought that if he were NOT standing guard there, we might
stop in the road and at least call Mother out. He wanted to be
seen, and seen at his best; but as always, in command, showing his
authority."

"Don't mind," said John Jardine. "It's easy to understand the
situation."

"Thank you," said Kate. "I hope you'll tell your mother that. I
can't bear her to think that the trouble is wholly my fault."

"No danger of that," he said. "Mother thinks there's nobody in
all the world like you, and so do I."

Nancy Ellen kicked Robert's shin, to let him know that she heard.
Kate was very depressed for a time, but she soon recovered and
they spent a final happy evening together. When John had parted
from Robert and Nancy Ellen, with the arrangement that he was to
come again the following Saturday evening and spend Sunday with
them, he asked Kate to walk a short distance with him. He seemed
to be debating some proposition in his mind, that he did not know
how to approach. Finally he stopped abruptly and said: "Kate,
Mother told me that she told you how I grew up. We have been
together most of every day for six weeks. I have no idea how a
man used to women goes at what I want, so I can only do what I
think is right, and best, and above all honest, and fair. I'd be
the happiest I've ever been, to do anything on earth I've got the
money to do, for you. There's a question I'm going to ask you the
next time I come. You can think over all you know of me, and of
Mother, and of what we have, and are, and be ready to tell me how
you feel about everything next Sunday. There's one question I
want to ask you before I go. In case we can plan for a life
together next Sunday, what about my mother?"

"Whatever pleases her best, of course," said Kate. "Any
arrangement that you feel will make her happy, will be all right
with me; in the event we agree on other things."

He laughed, shortly.

"This sounds cold-blooded and business-like," he said. "But
Mother's been all the world to me, until I met you. I must be
sure about her, and one other thing. I'll write you about that
this week. If that is all right with you, you can get ready for a
deluge. I've held in as long as I can. Kate, will you kiss my
goody-bye?"

"That's against the rules," said Kate. "That's getting the cart
before the horse."

"I know it," he said. "But haven't I been an example for six
weeks? Only one. Please?"

They were back at Dr. Gray's gate, standing in the deep shelter of
a big maple. Kate said: "I'll make a bargain with you. I'll
kiss you to-night, and if we come to an agreement next Sunday
night, you shall kiss me. Is that all right?"

The reply was so indistinct Kate was not sure of it; but she took
his face between her hands and gave him exactly the same kind of
kiss she would have given Adam, 3d. She hesitated an instant,
then gave him a second. "You may take that to your mother," she
said, and fled up the walk.

TWO LETTERS

NANCY ELLEN and Robert were sitting on the side porch, not seeming
in the least sleepy, when Kate entered the house. As she stepped
out to them, she found them laughing mysteriously.

"Take this chair, Kate," said Nancy Ellen. "Come on, Robert,
let's go stand under the maple tree and let her see whether she
can see us."

"If you're going to rehearse any momentous moment of your
existence," said Kate, "I shouldn't think of even being on the
porch. I shall keep discreetly in the house, even going at once
to bed. Good-night! Pleasant dreams!"

"Now we've made her angry," said Robert.

"I think there WAS 'a little touch of asperity,' as Agatha would
say, in that," said Nancy Ellen, "but Kate has a good heart.
She'll get over it before morning."

"Would Agatha use such a common word as 'little'?" asked Robert.

"Indeed, no!" said Nancy Ellen. "She would say 'infinitesimal.'
But all the same he kissed her."

"If she didn't step up and kiss him, never again shall I trust my
eyes!" said the doctor.

"Hush!" cautioned Nancy Ellen. "She's provoked now; if she hears
that, she'll never forgive us."

Kate did not need even a hint to start her talking in the morning.
The day was fine, a snappy tinge of autumn in the air, her head
and heart were full. Nancy Ellen would understand and sympathize;
of course Kate told her all there was to tell.

"And even at that," said Nancy Ellen, "he hasn't just come out
right square and said 'Kate, will you marry me?' as I understand
it."

"Same here," laughed Kate. "He said he had to be sure about his
mother, and there was 'one other thing' he'd write me about this
week, and he'd come again next Sunday; then if things were all
right with me -- the deluge!"

"And what is 'the other thing?'" asked Nancy Ellen.

"There he has me guessing. We had six, long, lovely weeks of
daily association at the lake, I've seen his home, and his
inventions, and as much of his business as is visible to the eye
of a woman who doesn't know a tinker about business. His mother
has told me minutely of his life, every day since he was born, I
think. She insists that he never paid the slightest attention to
a girl before, and he says the same, so there can't be any hidden
ugly feature to mar my joy. He is thoughtful, quick, kind, a
self-made business man. He looks well enough, he acts like a
gentleman, he seldom makes a mistake in speech --"

"He doesn't say enough to MAKE any mistakes. I haven't yet heard
him talk freely, give an opinion, or discuss a question," said
Nancy Ellen.

"Neither have I," said Kate. "He's very silent, thinking out more
inventions, maybe. The worst thing about him is a kind of hard-
headed self-assurance. He got it fighting for his mother from
boyhood. He knew she would freeze and starve if he didn't take
care of her; he HAD to do it. He soon found he could. It took
money to do what he had to do. He got the money. Then he began
performing miracles with it. He lifted his mother out of poverty,
he dressed her 'in purple and fine linen,' he housed her in the
same kind of home other rich men of the Lake Shore Drive live in,
and gave her the same kind of service. As most men do, when
things begin to come their way, he lived for making money alone.
He was so keen on the chase he wouldn't stop to educate and
culture himself; he drove headlong on, and on, piling up more, far
more than any one man should be allowed to have; so you can see
that it isn't strange that he thinks there's nothing on earth that
money can't do. You can see THAT sticking out all over him. At
the hotel, on boats, on the trains, anywhere we went, he pushed
straight for the most conspicuous place, the most desirable thing,
the most expensive. I almost prayed sometimes that in some way he
would strike ONE SINGLE THING that he couldn't make come his way
with money; but he never did. No. I haven't an idea what he has
in his mind yet, but he's going to write me about it this week,
and if I agree to whatever it is, he is coming Sunday; then he has
threatened me with a 'deluge,' whatever he means by that"

"He means providing another teacher for Walden, taking you to
Chicago shopping for a wonderful trousseau, marrying you in his
Lake Shore palace, no doubt."

"Well, if that's what he means by a 'deluge,'" said Kate, "he'll
find the flood coming his way. He'll strike the first thing he
can't do with money. I shall teach my school this winter as I
agreed to. I shall marry him in the clothes I buy with what I
earn. I shall marry him quietly, here, or at Adam's, or before a
Justice of the Peace, if neither of you wants me. He can't pick
me up, and carry me away, and dress me, and marry me, as if I were
a pauper."

"You're RIGHT about it," said Nancy Ellen. "I don't know how we
came to be so different. I should do at once any way he suggested
to get such a fine-looking man and that much money. That it would
be a humiliation to me all my after life, I wouldn't think about
until the humiliation began, and then I'd have no way to protect
myself. You're right! But I'd get out of teaching this winter if
I could. I'd love to have you here."

"But I must teach to the earn money for my outfit. I'll have to
go back to school in the same old sailor."

"Don't you care," laughed Nancy Ellen. "We know a secret!"

"That we do!" agreed Kate.

Wednesday Kate noticed Nancy Ellen watching for the boy Robert had
promised to send with the mail as soon as it was distributed,
because she was, herself. Twice Thursday, Kate hoped in vain that
the suspense would be over. It had to end Friday, if John were
coming Saturday night. She began to resent the length of time he
was waiting. It was like him to wait until the last minute, and
then depend on money to carry him through.

"He is giving me a long time to think things over," Kate said to
Nancy Ellen when there was no letter in the afternoon mail
Thursday.

"It may have been lost or delayed," said Nancy Ellen. "It will
come to-morrow, surely."

Both of them saw the boy turn in at the gate Friday morning. Each
saw that he carried more than one letter. Nancy Ellen was on her
feet and nearer to the door; she stepped to it, and took the
letters, giving them a hasty glance as she handed them to Kate.

"Two," she said tersely. "One, with the address written in the
clear, bold hand of a gentleman, and one, the straggle of a
country clod-hopper."

Kate smiled as she took the letters: "I'll wager my hat, which is
my most precious possession," she said, "that the one with the
beautifully written address comes from the 'clod-hopper,' and the
'straggle' from the 'gentleman.'"

She glanced at the stamping and addresses and smiled again: "So
it proves," she said. "While I'm about it, I'll see what the
'clod-hopper' has to say, and then I shall be free to give my
whole attention to the 'gentleman.'"

"Oh, Kate, how can you!" cried Nancy Ellen.

"Way I'm made, I 'spect," said Kate. "Anyway, that's the way this
is going to be done."

She dropped the big square letter in her lap and ran her finger
under the flap of the long, thin, beautifully addressed envelope,
and drew forth several quite as perfectly written sheets. She
read them slowly and deliberately, sometimes turning back a page
and going over a part of it again. When she finished, she glanced
at Nancy Ellen while slowly folding the sheets. "Just for half a
cent I'd ask you to read this," she said.

"I certainly shan't pay anything for the privilege, but I'll read
it, if you want me to," offered Nancy Ellen.

"All right, go ahead," said Kate. "It might possibly teach you
that you can't always judge a man by appearance, or hastily;
though just why George Holt looks more like a 'clod-hopper' than
Adam, or Hiram, or Andrew, it passes me to tell."

She handed Nancy Ellen the letter and slowly ripped open the flap
of the heavy white envelope. She drew forth the sheet and sat an
instant with it in her fingers, watching the expression of Nancy
Ellen's face, while she read the most restrained yet impassioned
plea that a man of George Holt's nature and opportunities could
devise to make to a woman after having spent several months in the
construction of it. It was a masterly letter, perfectly composed,
spelled, and written; for among his other fields of endeavour,
George Holt had taught several terms of country school, and taught
them with much success; so that he might have become a fine
instructor, had it been in his blood to stick to anything long
enough to make it succeed. After a page as she turned the second
sheet Nancy Ellen glanced at Kate, and saw that she had not opened
the creased page in her hands. She flamed with sudden irritation.

"You do beat the band!" she cried. "You've watched for two days
and been provoked because that letter didn't come. Now you've got
it, there you sit like a mummy and let your mind be so filled with
this idiotic drivel that you're not ever reading John Jardine's
letter that is to tell you what both of us are crazy to know."

"If you were in any mood to be fair and honest, you'd admit that
you never read a finer letter than THAT," said Kate. "As for
THIS, I never was so AFRAID in all my life. Look at that!"

She threw the envelope in Nancy Ellen's lap.

"That is the very first line of John Jardine's writing I have ever
seen," she said. "Do you see anything about it to ENCOURAGE me to
go farther?"

"You Goose!" cried the exasperated Nancy Ellen. "I suppose he
transacts so much business he scarcely ever puts pen to paper.
What's the difference how he writes? Look at what he is and what
he does! Go on and read his letter."

Kate arose and walked to the window, turning her back to Nancy
Ellen, who sat staring at her, while she read John Jardine's
letter. Once Nancy Ellen saw Kate throw up her head and twist her
neck as if she were choking; then she heard a great gulping sob
down in her throat; finally Kate turned and stared at her with
dazed, incredulous eyes. Slowly she dropped the letter,
deliberately set her foot on it, and leaving the room, climbed the
stairs. Nancy Ellen threw George Holt's letter aside and snatched
up John Jardine's. She read:

MY DEREST KATE: I am a day late with this becos as I told you I
have no schooling and in writing a letter is where I prove it, so
I never write them, but it was not fare to you for you not to know
what kind of a letter I would write if I did write one, so here it
is very bad no dout but the best I can possably do which has got
nothing at all to do with my pashion for you and the aughful time
I will have till I here from you. If you can stand for this
telagraf me and I will come first train and we will forget this
and I will never write another letter. With derest love from
Mother, and from me all the love of my hart. Forever yours only,
JOHN JARDINE.

The writing would have been a discredit to a ten-year-old
schoolboy. Nancy Ellen threw the letter back on the floor; with a
stiffly extended finger, she poked it into the position in which
she thought she had found it, and slowly stepped back.

"Great God!" she said amazedly. "What does the man mean? Where
does that dainty and wonderful little mother come in? She must be
a regular parasite, to such ease and comfort for herself out of
him, and not see that he had time and chance to do better than
THAT for himself. Kate will never endure it, never in the world!
And by the luck of the very Devil, there comes that school-proof
thing in the same mail, from that abominable George Holt, and Kate
reads it FIRST. It's too bad! I can't believe it! What did his
mother mean?"

Suddenly Nancy Ellen began to cry bitterly; between sobs she could
hear Kate as she walked from closet and bureau to her trunk which
she was packing. The lid slammed heavily and a few minutes later
Kate entered the room dressed for the street.

"Why are you weeping?" she asked casually.

Her eyes were flaming, her cheeks scarlet, and her lips twitching.
Nancy Ellen sat up and looked at her. She pointed to the letter:
"I read that," she said.

"Well, what do I care?" said Kate. "If he has no more respect for
me than to write me such an insult as that, why should I have the
respect for him to protect him in it? Publish it in the paper if
you want to."

"Kate, what are you going to do?" demanded Nancy Ellen.

"Three things," said Kate, slowly putting on her long silk gloves.
"First, I'm going to telegraph John Jardine that I never shall see
him again, if I can possibly avoid it. Second, I'm going to send
a drayman to get my trunk and take it to Walden. Third, I'm going
to start out and walk miles, I don't know or care where; but in
the end, I'm going to Walden to clean the schoolhouse and get
ready for my winter term of school."

"Oh, Kate, you are such a fine teacher! Teach him! Don't be so
hurried! Take more time to think. You will break his heart,"
pleaded Nancy Ellen.

Kate threw out both hands, palms down.

"P-a-s-h, a-u-g-h, h-a-r-t, d-o-u-t, d-e-r-e," she slowly spelled
out the letters. "What about my heart and my pride? Think I can
respect that, or ask my children to respect it? But thank you and
Robert, and come after me as often as you can, as a mercy to me.
If John persists in coming, to try to buy me, as he thinks he can
buy anything he wants, you needn't let him come to Walden; for
probably I won't be there until I have to, and I won't see him, or
his mother, so he needn't try to bring her in. Say good-bye to
Robert for me."

She walked from the house, head erect, shoulders squared, and so
down the street from sight. In half an hour a truckman came for
her trunk, so Nancy Ellen made everything Kate had missed into a
bundle to send with it. When she came to the letters, she
hesitated.

"I guess she didn't want them," she said. "I'll just keep them
awhile and if she doesn't ask about them, the next time she comes,
I'll burn them. Robert must go after her every Friday evening,
and we'll keep her until Monday, and do all we can to cheer her;
and this very day he must find out all there is to know about that
George Holt. That IS the finest letter I ever read; she does kind
of stand up for him; and in the reaction, impulsive as she is and
self-confident -- of course she wouldn't, but you never can tell
what kind of fool a girl will make of herself, in some cases."

Kate walked swiftly, finished two of the errands she set out to
do, then her feet carried her three miles from Hartley on the
Walden road, before she knew where she was, so she proceeded to
the village.

Mrs. Holt was not at home, but the house was standing open. Kate
found her room cleaned, shining, and filled with flowers. She
paid the drayman, opened her trunk, and put away her dresses,
laying out all the things which needed washing; then she bathed,
put on heavy shoes, and old skirt and waist, and crossing the road
sat in a secluded place in the ravine and looked stupidly at the
water. She noticed that everything was as she had left it in the
spring, with many fresher improvements, made, no doubt, to please
her. She closed her eyes, leaned against a big tree, and slow,
cold and hot shudders alternated in shaking her frame.

She did not open her eyes when she heard a step and her name
called. She knew without taking the trouble to look that George
had come home, found her luggage in her room, and was hunting for
her. She heard him come closer and knew when he seated himself
that he was watching her, but she did not care enough even to
move. Finally she shifted her position to rest herself, opened
her eyes, and looked at him without a word. He returned her gaze
steadily, smiling gravely. She had never seen him looking so
well. He had put in the summer grooming himself, he had kept up
the house and garden, and spent all his spare time on the ravine,
and farming on the shares with his mother's sister who lived three
miles east of them. At last she roused herself and again looked
at him.

"I had your letter this morning," she said.

"I was wondering about that," he replied.

"Yes, I got it just before I started," said Kate. "Are you
surprised to see me?"

"No," he answered. "After last year, we figured you might come
the last of this week or the first of next, so we got your room
ready Monday."

"Thank you," said Kate. "It's very clean and nice."

"I hope soon to be able to offer you such a room and home as you
should have," he said. "I haven't opened my office yet. It was
late and hot when I got home in June and Mother was fussing about
this winter -- that she had no garden and didn't do her share at
Aunt Ollie's, so I have farmed most of the summer, and lived on
hope; but I'll start in and make things fly this fall, and by
spring I'll be sailing around with a horse and carriage like the
best of them. You bet I am going to make things hum, so I can
offer you anything you want."

"You haven't opened an office yet?" she asked for the sake of
saying something, and because a practical thing would naturally
suggest itself to her.

"I haven't had a breath of time," he said in candid disclaimer.

"Why don't you ask me what's the matter?"

"Didn't figure that it was any of my business in the first place,"
he said, "and I have a pretty fair idea, in the second."

"But how could you have?" she asked in surprise.

"When your sister wouldn't give me your address, she hinted that
you had all the masculine attention you cared for; then Tilly
Nepple visited town again last week and she had been sick and
called Dr. Gray. She asked him about you, and he told what I fine
time you had at Chautauqua and Chicago, with the rich new friends
you'd made. I was watching for you about this time, and I just
happened to be at the station in Hartley last Saturday when you
got off the train with your fine gentleman, so I stayed over with
some friends of mine, and I saw you several times Sunday. I saw
that I'd practically no chance with you at all; but I made up my
mind I'd stick until I saw you marry him, so I wrote just as I

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