Part 4 out of 8
would if I hadn't known there was another man in existence."
"That was a very fine letter," said Kate.
"It is a very fine, deep, sincere love that I am offering you,"
said George Holt. "Of course I could see prosperity sticking out
all over that city chap, but it didn't bother me much, because I
knew that you, of all women, would judge a man on his worth. A
rising young professional man is not to be sneered at, at least
until he makes his start and proves what he can do. I couldn't
get an early start, because I've always had to work, just as
you've seen me last summer and this, so I couldn't educate myself
so fast, but I've gone as fast and far as I could."
Kate winced. This was getting on places that hurt and to matters
she well understood, but she was the soul of candour. "You did
very well to educate yourself as you have, with no help at all,"
"I've done my best in the past, I'm going to do marvels in the
future, and whatever I do, it is all for you and yours for the
taking," he said grandiosely.
"Thank you," said Kate. "But are you making that offer when you
can't help seeing that I'm in deep trouble?"
"A thousand times over," he said. "All I want to know about your
trouble is whether there is anything a man of my size and strength
can do to help you."
"Not a thing," said Kate, "in the direction of slaying a gay
deceiver, if that's what you mean. The extent of my familiarities
with John Jardine consists in voluntarily kissing him twice last
Sunday night for the first and last time, once for himself, and
once for his mother, whom I have since ceased to respect."
George Holt was watching her with eyes lynx-sharp, but Kate never
saw it. When she mentioned her farewell of Sunday night, a queer
smile swept over his face and instantly disappeared.
"I should thing any girl might be permitted that much, in saying a
final good-bye to a man who had shown her a fine time for weeks,"
he commented casually.
"But I didn't know I was saying good-bye," explained Kate. "I
expected him back in a week, and that I would then arrange to
marry him. That was the agreement we made then."
As she began to speak, George Holt's face flashed triumph at
having led her on; at what she said it fell perceptibly, but he
instantly controlled it and said casually: "In any event, it was
your own business."
"It was," said Kate. "I had given no man the slightest
encouragement, I was perfectly free. John Jardine was courting me
openly in the presence of his mother and any one who happened to
be around. I intended to marry him. I liked him as much as any
man need be liked. I don't know whether it was the same feeling
Nancy Ellen had for Robert Gray or not, but it was a whole lot of
feeling of some kind. I was satisfied with it, and he would have
been. I meant to be a good wife to him and a good daughter to his
mother, and I could have done much good in the world and extracted
untold pleasure from the money he would have put in my power to
handle. All was going 'merry as a marriage bell,' and then this
morning came my Waterloo, in the same post with your letter."
"Do you know what you are doing?" cried George Holt, roughly,
losing self-control with hope. "YOU ARE PROVING TO ME, AND
ADMITTING TO YOURSELF, THAT YOU NEVER LOVED THAT MAN AT ALL. You
were flattered, and tempted with position and riches, but your
heart was not his, or you would be mighty SURE of it, don't you
"I am not interested in analyzing exactly what I felt for him,"
said Kate. "It made small difference then; it makes none at all
now. I would have married him gladly, and I would have been to
him all a good wife is to any man; then in a few seconds I turned
squarely against him, and lost my respect for him. You couldn't
marry me to him if he were the last and only man on earth; but it
hurt terribly, let me tell you that!"
George Holt suddenly arose and went to Kate. He sat down close
beside her and leaned toward her.
"There isn't the least danger of my trying to marry you to him,"
he said, "because I am going to marry you myself at the very first
opportunity. Why not now? Why not have a simple ceremony
somewhere at once, and go away until school begins, and forget
him, having a good time by ourselves? Come on, Kate, let's do it!
We can go stay with Aunt Ollie, and if he comes trying to force
himself on you, he'll get what he deserves. He'll learn that
there is something on earth he can't buy with his money."
"But I don't love you," said Kate.
"Neither did you love him," retorted George Holt. "I can prove it
by what you say. Neither did you love him, but you were going to
marry him, and use all his wonderful power of position and wealth,
and trust to association to BRING love. You can try that with me.
As for wealth, who cares? We are young and strong, and we have a
fine chance in the world. You go on and teach this year, and I'll
get such a start that by next year you can be riding around in
your carriage, proud as Pompey."
"Of course we could make it all right, as to a living," said Kate.
"Big and strong as we are, but --"
Then the torrent broke. At the first hint that she would consider
his proposal George Holt drew her to him and talked volumes of
impassioned love to her. He gave her no chance to say anything;
he said all there was to say himself; he urged that Jardine would
come, and she should not be there. He begged, he pleaded, he
reasoned. Night found Kate sitting on the back porch at Aunt
Ollie's with a confused memory of having stood beside the little
stream with her hand in George Holt's while she assented to the
questions of a Justice of the Peace, in the presence of the School
Director and Mrs. Holt. She knew that immediately thereafter they
had walked away along a hot, dusty country road; she had tried to
eat something that tasted like salted ashes. She could hear
George's ringing laugh of exultation breaking out afresh every few
minutes; in sudden irritation at the latest guffaw she clearly
remembered one thing: in her dazed and bewildered state she had
forgotten to tell him that she was a Prodigal Daughter.
ONLY one memory in the ten days that followed before her school
began ever stood out clearly and distinctly with Kate. That was
the morning of the day after she married George Holt. She saw
Nancy Ellen and Robert at the gate so she went out to speak with
them. Nancy Ellen was driving, she held the lines and the whip in
her hands. Kate in dull apathy wondered why they seemed so deeply
agitated. Both of them stared at her as if she might be a maniac.
"Is this thing in the morning paper true?" cried Nancy Ellen in a
high, shrill voice that made Kate start in wonder. She did not
take the trouble to evade by asking "what thing?" she merely made
assent with her head.
"You are married to that -- that --" Nancy Ellen choked until she
could not say what.
"It's TIME to stop, since I am married to him," said Kate,
"You rushed in and married him without giving Robert time to find
out and tell you what everybody knows about him?" demanded Nancy
"I married him for what I knew about him myself," said Kate. "We
shall do very well."
"Do well!" cried Nancy. "Do well! You'll be hungry and in rags
the rest of your life!"
"Don't, Nancy Ellen, don't!" plead Robert. "This is Kate's
affair, wait until you hear what she has to say before you go
"I don't care what she has to say!" cried Nancy Ellen. "I'm
saying my say right now. This is a disgrace to the whole Bates
family. We may not be much, but there isn't a lazy, gambling,
drunken loafer among us, and there won't be so far as I'm
She glared at Kate who gazed at her in wonder.
"You really married this lout?" she demanded.
"I told you I was married," said Kate, patiently, for she saw that
Nancy Ellen was irresponsible with anger.
"You're going to live with him, you're going to stay in Walden to
live?" she cried.
"That is my plan at present," said Kate.
"Well, see that YOU STAY THERE," said Nancy Ellen. "You can't
bring that -- that creature to my house, and if you're going to be
his wife, you needn't come yourself. That's all I've got to say
to you, you shameless, crazy --"
"Nancy Ellen, you shall not!" cried Robert Gray, deftly slipping
the lines from her fingers, and starting the horse full speed.
Kate saw Nancy Ellen's head fall forward, and her hands lifted to
cover her face. She heard the deep, tearing sob that shook her,
and then they were gone. She did not know what to do, so she
stood still in the hot sunshine, trying to think; but her brain
refused to act at her will. When the heat became oppressive, she
turned back to the shade of a tree, sat down, and leaned against
it. There she got two things clear after a time. She had married
George Holt, there was nothing to do but make the best of it. But
Nancy Ellen had said that if she lived with him she should not
come to her home. Very well. She had to live with him, since she
had consented to marry him, so she was cut off from Robert and
Nancy Ellen. She was now a prodigal, indeed. And those things
Nancy Ellen had said -- she was wild with anger. She had been
misinformed. Those things could not be true.
"Shouldn't you be in here helping Aunt Ollie?" asked George's
voice from the front step where he seated himself with his pipe.
"Yes, in a minute," said Kate, rising. "Did you see who came?"
"No. I was out doing the morning work. Who was it?" he asked.
"Nancy Ellen and Robert," she answered.
He laughed hilariously: "Brought them in a hurry, didn't we? Why
didn't they come in?"
"They came to tell me," said Kate, slowly, "that if I had married
you yesterday, as I did, that they felt so disgraced that I wasn't
to come to their home again."
"'Disgraced?'" he cried, his colour rising. "Well, what's the
matter with me?"
"Not the things they said, I fervently hope."
"Well, they have some assurance to come out here and talk about
me, and you've got as much to listen, and then come and tell me
about it," he cried.
"It was over in a minute," said Kate. "I'd no idea what they were
going to say. They said it, and went. Oh, I can't spare Nancy
Ellen, she's all I had!"
Kate sank down on the step and covered her face. George took one
long look at her, arose, and walked out of hearing. He went into
the garden and watched from behind a honeysuckle bush until he saw
her finally lift her head and wipe her eyes; then he sauntered
back, and sat down on the step beside her.
"That's right," he said. "Cry it out, and get it over. It was
pretty mean of them to come out here and insult you, and tell any
lie they could think up, and then drive away and leave you; but
don't mind, they'll soon get over it. Nobody ever keeps up a fuss
over a wedding long."
"Nancy Ellen never told a lie in her life," said Kate. "She has
too much self-respect. What she said she THOUGHT was true. My
only chance is that somebody has told her a lie. You know best if
"Of course they did," he broke in, glibly. "Haven't you lived in
the same house with me long enough to know me better than any one
"You can live in the same house with people and know less about
them than any one else, for that matter," said Kate, "but that's
neither here nor there. We're in this together, we got to get on
the job and pull, and make a success out of it that will make all
of them proud to be our friends. That's the only thing left for
me. As I know the Bates, once they make up their minds, they
never change. With Nancy Ellen and Father both down on me, I'm a
prodigal for sure."
"What?" he cried, loudly. "What? Is your father in this, too?
Did he send you word you couldn't come home, either? This is a
hell of a mess! Speak up!"
Kate closed her lips, looked at him with deep scorn, and walked
around the corner of the house. For a second he looked after her
threateningly, then he sprang to his feet, and ran to her,
catching her in his arms.
"Forgive me, dearest," he cried. "That took the wind out of my
sails until I was a brute. You'd no business to SAY a thing like
that. Of course we can't have the old Land King down on us.
We've got to have our share of that land and money to buy us a
fine home in Hartley, and fix me up the kind of an office I should
have. We'll borrow a rig and drive over to-morrow and fix things
solid with the old folks. You bet I'm a star-spangled old
persuader, look what I did with you --"
"You stop!" cried Kate, breaking from his hold. "You will drive
me crazy! You're talking as if you married me expecting land and
money from it. I haven't been home in a year, and my father would
deliberately kill me if I went within his reach."
"Well, score one for little old scratchin', pickin', Mammy!" he
cried. "She SAID you had a secret!"
Kate stood very still, looking at him so intently that a sense of
shame must have stirred in his breast.
"Look here, Kate," he said, roughly. "Mother did say you had a
secret, and she hinted at Christmas that the reason you didn't go
home was because your folks were at outs with you, and you can ask
her if I didn't tell her to shut up and leave you alone, that I
was in love with you, and I'd marry you and we'd get along all
right, even if you were barred from home, and didn't get a penny.
I just dare you to ask her."
"It's no matter," said Kate, wearily. "I'd rather take your
"All right, you take it, for that's the truth," he said. "But
what was the rumpus? How did you come to have a racket with your
"Over my wanting to teach," said Kate. Then she explained in
"Pother! Don't you fret about that!" said George. "I'm taking
care of you now, and I'll see that you soon get home and to
Grays', too; that's all buncombe. As for your share of your
father's estate, you watch me get it! You are his child, and
there is law!"
"There's law that allows him to deed his land to his sons before
he dies, and that is exactly what he has done," said Kate.
"The Devil, you say!" shouted George Holt, stepping back to stare
at her. "You tell that at the Insane Asylum or the Feeble Minded
Home! I've seen the records! I know to the acre how much land
stands in your father's name. Don't try to work that on me, my
"I am not trying to work anything on you," said Kate, dully,
wondering to herself why she listened, why she went on with it.
"I'm merely telling you. In Father's big chest at the head of his
bed at home lies a deed for two hundred acres of land for each of
his seven sons, all signed and ready to deliver. He keeps the
land in his name on record to bring him distinction and feed his
vanity. He makes the boys pay the taxes, and ko-tow, and help
with his work; he keeps them under control; but the land is
theirs; none of the girls get a penny's worth of it!"
George Holt cleared his face with an effort.
"Well, we are no worse off than the rest of them, then," he said,
trying to speak naturally and cheerfully. "But don't you ever
believe it! Little old Georgie will sleep with this in his night
cap awhile, and it's a problem he will solve if he works himself
to death on it."
"But that is Father's affair," said Kate. "You had best turn your
efforts, and lie awake nights thinking how to make enough money to
buy some land for us, yourself."
"Certainly! Certainly! I see myself doing it!" laughed George
Holt. "And now, knowing how you feel, and feeling none to good
myself, we are going to take a few days off and go upstream,
fishing. I'll take a pack of comforts to sleep on, and the tackle
and some food, and we will forget the whole bunch and go have a
good time. There's a place, not so far away, where I have camped
beside a spring since I was a little shaver, and it's quiet and
cool. Go get what you can't possibly exist without, nothing
"But we must dig the potatoes," protested Kate.
"Let them wait until we get back; it's a trifle early, anyway," he
said. "Stop objecting and get ready! I'll tell Aunt Ollie.
We're chums. Whatever I do is always all right with her. Come
on! This is our wedding trip. Not much like the one you had
planned, no doubt, but one of some kind."
So they slipped beneath the tangle of vines and bushes, and,
following the stream of the ravine, they walked until mid-
afternoon, when they reached a spot that was very lovely, a clear,
clean spring, grassy bank, a sheltered cave-in floored with clean
sand, warm and golden. From the depths of the cave George brought
an old frying pan and coffee pot. He spread a comfort on the sand
of the cave for a bed, produced coffee, steak, bread, butter, and
fruit from his load, and told Kate to make herself comfortable
while he got dinner. They each tried to make allowances for, and
to be as decent as possible with, the other, with the result that
before they knew it, they were having a good time; at least, they
were keeping the irritating things they thought to themselves, and
saying only the pleasant ones.
After a week, which George enjoyed to the fullest extent, while
Kate made the best of everything, they put away the coffee pot and
frying pan, folded the comforts, and went back to Aunt Ollie's for
dinner; then to Walden in the afternoon. Because Mrs. Holt knew
they would be there that day she had the house clean and the best
supper she could prepare ready for them. She was in a quandary as
to how to begin with Kate. She heartily hated her. She had been
sure the girl had a secret, now she knew it; for if she did not
attend the wedding of her sister, if she had not been at home all
summer, if her father and mother never mentioned her name or made
any answer to any one who did, there was a reason, and a good
reason. Of course a man as rich as Adam Bates could do no wrong;
whatever the trouble was, Kate was at fault, she had done some
"Hidin' in the bushes!" spat Mrs. Holt. "Hidin' in the bushes!
Marry a man who didn't know he was goin' to be married an hour
before, unbeknownst to her folks, an' wouldn't even come in the
house, an' have a few of the neighbours in. Nice doin's for the
school-ma'am! Nice prospect for George."
Mrs. Holt hissed like a copperhead, which was a harmless little
creature compared with her, as she scraped, and slashed, and
dismembered the chicken she was preparing to fry. She had not
been able, even by running into each store in the village, and the
post office, to find one person who would say a word against Kate.
The girl had laid her foundations too well. The one thing people
could and did say was: "How could she marry George Holt?" The
worst of them could not very well say it to his mother. They said
it frequently to each other and then supplied the true answers.
"Look how he spruced up after she came!" "Look how he worked!"
"Look how he ran after and waited on her!" "Look how nice he has
been all summer!" Plenty was being said in Walden, but not one
word of it was for the itching ears of Mrs. Holt. They had told
her how splendid Kate was, how they loved her, how glad they were
that she was to have the school again, how fortunate her son was,
how proud she should be, until she was almost bursting with
She met them at the gate, after their week's camping. They were
feeling in splendid health, the best spirits possible in the
circumstances, but appearing dirty and disreputable. They were
both laughing as they approached the gate.
"Purty lookin' bride you be!" Mrs. Holt spat at Kate.
"Yes, aren't I?" laughed Kate. "But you just give me a tub of hot
soapsuds and an hour, and you won't know me. How are you? Things
look as if you were expecting us."
"Hump!" said Mrs. Holt.
Kate laughed and went into the house. George stepped in front of
"Now you look here," he said. "I know every nasty thing your mind
has conjured up that you'd LIKE to say, and have other folks say,
about Kate. And I know as well as if you were honest enough to
tell me, that you haven't been able to root out one living soul
who would say a single word against her. Swallow your secret!
Swallow your suspicions! Swallow your venom, and forget all of
them. Kate is as fine a woman as God ever made, and anybody who
has common sense knows it. She can just MAKE me, if she wants to,
and she will; she's coming on fine, much faster and better than I
hoped for. Now you drop this! Stop it! Do you hear?"
He passed her and hurried up the walk. In an hour, both George
and Kate had bathed and dressed in their very best. Kate put on
her prettiest white dress and George his graduation suit. Then
together they walked to the post office for their mail, which
George had ordered held, before they left. Carrying the bundle,
they entered several stores on trifling errands, and then went
home. They stopped and spoke to everyone. Kate kissed all her
little pupils she met, and told them to come to see her, and to be
ready to help clean the schoolhouse in the morning. Word flew
over town swiftly. The Teacher was back, wearing the loveliest
dress, and nicer than ever, and she had invited folks to come to
Kate and George had scarcely finished their supper, when the first
pair of shy little girls came for their kisses and to bring
"Teacher" a bunch of flowers and a pretty pocket handkerchief from
each. They came in flocks, each with flowers, most with a towel
or some small remembrance; then the elders began to come,
merchants with comforts, blankets, and towels, hardware men with
frying pans, flat irons, and tinware. By ten o'clock almost
everyone in Walden had carried Kate some small gift, wished her
joy all the more earnestly, because they felt the chances of her
ever having it were so small, and had gone their way, leaving her
feeling better than she had thought possible.
She slipped into her room alone and read two letters, one a few
typewritten lines from John Jardine, saying he had been at
Hartley, also at Walden, and having found her married and gone,
there was nothing for him to do but wish that the man she married
had it in his heart to guard her life and happiness as he would
have done. He would never cease to love her, and if at any time
in her life there was anything he could do for her, would she
please let him know. Kate dropped the letter on her dresser, with
a purpose, and let it lie there. The other was from Robert. He
said he was very sorry, but he could do nothing with Nancy Ellen
at present. He hoped she would change later. If there was ever
anything he could do, to let him know. Kate locked that letter in
her trunk. She wondered as she did so why both of them seemed to
think she would need them in the future. She felt perfectly able
to take care of herself.
Monday morning George carried Kate's books to school for her, saw
that she was started on her work in good shape, then went home,
put on his old clothes, and began the fall work at Aunt Ollie's.
Kate, wearing her prettiest blue dress, forgot even the dull ache
in her heart, as she threw herself into the business of educating
those young people. She worked as she never had before. She
seemed to have developed fresh patience, new perception, keener
penetration; she made the dullest of them see her points, and
interested the most inattentive. She went home to dinner feeling
better. She decided to keep on teaching a few years until George
was well started in his practice; if he ever got started. He was
very slow in action it seemed to her, compared with his enthusiasm
when he talked.
STARTING MARRIED LIFE
FOR two weeks Kate threw herself into the business of teaching
with all her power. She succeeded in so interesting herself and
her pupils that she was convinced she had done a wise thing.
Marriage did not interfere with her teaching; she felt capable and
independent so long as she had her salary. George was working and
working diligently, to prepare for winter, whenever she was
present or could see results. With her first month's salary she
would buy herself a warm coat, a wool suit, an extra skirt for
school, and some waists. If there was enough left, she would have
another real hat. Then for the remainder of the year she would
spend only for the barest necessities and save to help toward a
home something like Nancy Ellen's. Whenever she thought of Nancy
Ellen and Robert there was a choking sensation in her throat, a
dull ache where she had been taught her heart was located.
For two weeks everything went as well as Kate hoped: then Mrs.
Holt began to show the results of having been partially bottled
up, for the first time in her life. She was careful to keep to
generalities which she could claim meant nothing, if anything she
said was taken up by either George or Kate. George was too lazy
to quarrel unless he was personally angered; Kate thought best to
ignore anything that did not come in the nature of a direct
attack. So long as Mrs. Holt could not understand how some folks
could see their way to live off of other folks, or why a girl who
had a chance to marry a fortune would make herself a burden to a
poor man, Kate made the mistake of ignoring her. Thus emboldened
she soon became personal. It seemed as if she spent her spare
time and mental force thinking up suggestive, sarcastic things to
say, where Kate could not help hearing them. She paid no
attention unless the attack was too mean and premeditated; but to
her surprise she found that every ugly, malicious word the old
woman said lodged in her brain and arose to confront her at the
most inopportune times -- in the middle of a recitation or when
she roused enough to turn over in her bed at night. The more
vigorously she threw herself into her school work, the more she
realized a queer lassitude, creeping over her. She kept squaring
her shoulders, lifting her chin, and brushing imaginary cobwebs
from before her face.
The final Friday evening of the month, she stopped at the post
office and carried away with her the bill for her Leghorn hat,
mailed with nicely conceived estimate as to when her first check
would be due. Kate visited the Trustee, and smiled grimly as she
slipped the amount in an envelope and gave it to the hack driver
to carry to Hartley on his trip the following day. She had
intended all fall to go with him and select a winter headpiece
that would be no discredit to her summer choice, but a sort of
numbness was in her bones; so she decided to wait until the coming
week before going. She declined George's pressing invitation to
go along to Aunt Ollie's and help load and bring home a part of
his share of their summer's crops, on the ground that she had some
work to prepare for the coming week.
Then Kate went to her room feeling faint and heavy. She lay there
most of the day, becoming sorrier for herself, and heavier every
passing hour. By morning she was violently ill; when she tried to
leave her bed, dizzy and faint. All day she could not stand.
Toward evening, she appealed to George either to do something for
her himself, or to send for the village doctor. He asked her a
few questions and then, laughing coarsely, told her that a doctor
would do her no good, and that it was very probable that she would
feel far worse before she felt better. Kate stared at him in dumb
"But my school!" she cried. "My school! I must be able to go to
school in the morning. Could that spring water have been infected
with typhus? I've never been sick like this before."
"I should hope not!" said George. And then he told her bluntly
what caused her trouble. Kate had been white to begin with, now
she slowly turned greenish as she gazed at him with incredulous
eyes. Then she sprang to her feet.
"But I can't be ill!" she cried. "I can't! There is my school!
I've got to teach! Oh, what shall I do?"
George had a very clear conception of what she could do, but he
did not intend to suggest it to her. She could think of it, and
propose it herself. She could not think of anything at that
minute, because she fainted, and fell half on the bed, half in his
arms as he sprang to her. He laid her down, and stood a second
smiling triumphantly at her unheeding face.
"Easy snap for you this winter, Georgie, my boy!" he muttered. "I
don't see people falling over each other to get to you for
professional services, and it's hard work anyway. Zonoletics are
away above the head of these country ignoramuses; blue mass and
quinine are about their limit."
He took his time to bathe Kate's face. Presently she sat up, then
fell on the pillow again.
"Better not try that!" warned George. "You'll hurt yourself, and
you can't make it. You're out of the game; you might as well get
used to it."
"I won't be out of the game!" cried Kate. "I can't be! What will
become of my school? Oh, George, could you possibly teach for me,
only for a few days, until I get my stomach settled?"
"Why, I'd like to help you," he said, "but you see how it is with
me. I've got my fall work finished up, and I'm getting ready to
open my office next week. I'm going to rent that nice front room
over the post office."
"But, George, you must," said Kate. "You've taught several terms.
You've a license. You can take it until this passes. If you have
waited from June to October to open your office, you can wait a
few more days. Suppose you OPEN the office and patients don't
come, or we haven't the school; what would we LIVE on? What would
I buy things with, and pay doctor bills?"
"Why didn't you think of that before you got married? What was
your rush, anyway? I can't figure it to save my soul," he said.
"George, the school can't go," she cried. "If what you say is
true, and I suspect it is, I must have money to see me through."
"Then set your wits to work and fix things up with your father,"
he said casually.
Kate arose tall and straight, standing unwaveringly as she looked
at him in blazing contempt.
"So?" she said. "This is the kind of man you are? I'm not so
helpless as you think me. I have a refuge. I know where to find
it. You'll teach my school until I'm able to take it myself, if
the Trustee and patrons will allow you, or I'll sever my relations
with you as quickly as I formed them. You have no practice; I
have grave doubts if you can get any; this is our only chance for
the money we must have this winter. Go ask the Trustee to come
here until I can make arrangements with him."
Then she wavered and rolled on the bed again. George stood
looking at her between narrowed eyelids.
"Tactics I use with Mother don't go with you, old girl," he said
to himself. "Thing of fire and tow, stubborn as an ox; won't be
pushed a hair's breadth; old Bates over again -- alike as two
peas. But I'll break you, damn you, I'll break you; only, I WANT
that school. Lots easier than kneading somebody's old stiff
muscles, while the money is sure. Oh, I go after the Trustee, all
He revived Kate, and telling her to keep quiet, and not excite
herself, he explained that it was a terrible sacrifice to him to
put off opening his office any longer; she must forgive him for
losing self-control when he thought of it; but for her dear sake
he would teach until she was better -- possibly she would be all
right in a few days, and then she could take her work again.
Because she so devoutly hoped it, Kate made that arrangement with
the Trustee. Monday, she lay half starved, yet gagging and ill,
while George went to teach her school. As she contemplated that,
she grew sicker than she had been before. When she suddenly
marshalled all the facts she knew of him, she stoutly refused to
think of what Nancy Ellen had said; when she reviewed his
character and disposition, and thought of him taking charge of the
minds of her pupils, Kate suddenly felt she must not allow that to
happen, she must not! Then came another thought, even more
personal and terrible, a thought so disconcerting she mercifully
lost consciousness again.
She sent for the village doctor, and found no consolation from her
talk with him. She was out of the school; that was settled. No
harpy ever went to its meat with one half the zest Mrs. Holt found
in the situation. With Kate so ill she could not stand on her
feet half the time, so ill she could not reply, with no spirit
left to appeal to George, what more could be asked? Mrs. Holt
could add to every grievance she formerly had, that of a sick
woman in the house for her to wait on. She could even make vile
insinuations to Kate, prostrate and helpless, that she would not
have dared otherwise. She could prepare food that with a touch of
salt or sugar where it was not supposed to be, would have sickened
a well person. One day George came in from school and saw a bowl
of broth sitting on a chair beside Kate's bed.
"Can't you drink it?" he asked. "Do, if you possibly can," he
urged. "You'll get so weak you'll be helpless."
"I just can't," said Kate. "Things have such a sickening,
sweetish taste, or they are bitter, or sour; not a thing is as it
used to be. I simply can't!"
A curious look crept over George's face. He picked up the bowl
and tasted the contents. Instantly his face went black; he
started toward the kitchen. Kate heard part of what happened, but
she never lifted her head. After a while he came back with more
broth and a plate of delicate toast.
"Try this," he said. "I made it myself."
Kate ate ravenously.
"That's good!" she cried.
"I'll tell you what I'm going to do," he said. "I'm going to take
you out to Aunt Ollie's for a week after school to-night. Want to
"Yes! Oh, yes!" cried Kate.
"All right," he said. "I know where I can borrow a rig for an
hour. Get ready if you are well enough, if you are not, I'll help
you after school."
That week with Aunt Ollie remained a bright spot in Kate's memory.
The October days were beginning to be crisp and cool. Food was
different. She could sleep, she could eat many things Aunt Ollie
knew to prepare especially; soon she could walk and be outdoors.
She was so much better she wrote George a note, asking him to walk
out and bring her sewing basket, and some goods she listed, and in
the afternoons the two women cut and sewed quaint, enticing little
garments. George found Kate so much better when he came that he
proposed she remain another week. Then for the first time he
talked to her about her theory of government and teaching, until
she realized that the School Director had told him he was
dissatisfied with him -- so George was trying to learn her ways.
Appalled at what might happen if he lost the school, Kate made
notes, talked at length, begged him to do his best, and to come at
once if anything went wrong. He did come, and brought the school
books so she went over the lessons with him, and made marginal
notes of things suggested to her mind by the text, for him to
discuss and elucidate. The next time he came, he was in such good
spirits she knew his work had been praised, so after that they
went over the lessons together each evening. Thinking of what
would help him also helped fill her day.
He took her home, greatly improved, in much better spirits, to her
room, cleaned and ready for winter, with all of her things
possible to use in place, so that it was much changed, prettier,
and more convenient. As they drove in she said of him: "George,
what about it? Did your mother purposely fix my food so I could
not eat it?"
"Oh, I wouldn't say that," he said. "You know neither of you is
violently attached to the other. She'll be more careful after
this, I'm sure she will."
"Why, have you been sick?" asked Kate as soon as she saw Mrs.
She seemed so nervous and appeared so badly Kate was sorry for
her; but she could not help noticing how she kept watch on her
son. She seemed to keep the width of the room and a piece of
furniture between them, while her cooking was so different that it
was not in the least necessary for George to fix things for Kate
himself, as he had suggested. Everything was so improved, Kate
felt better. She began to sew, to read, to sit for long periods
in profound thought, then to take walks that brought back her
strength and colour. So through the winter and toward the
approach of spring they lived in greater comfort. With Kate's
help, George was doing so well with the school that he was
frequently complimented by the parents. That he was trying to do
good work and win the approval of both pupils and parents was
evident to Kate. Once he said to her that he wondered if it would
be a good thing for him to put in an application for the school
the coming winter. Kate stared at him in surprise: "But your
profession," she objected. "You should be in your office and
having enough practice to support us by then."
"Yes, I should!" he said. "But this is a new thing, and you know
how these clodhoppers are."
"If I came as near living in the country, and worked at farming as
much as you do, that's the last thing I would call any human
being," said Kate. "I certainly do know how they are, and what I
know convinces me that you need not look to them for any
"You seem to think I won't have any from any source," he said
"I confess myself dubious," said Kate. "You certainly are, or you
wouldn't be talking of teaching."
"Well, I'll just show you!" he cried.
"I'm waiting," said Kate. "But as we must live in the meantime,
and it will be so long before I can earn anything again, and so
much expense, possibly it would be a good idea to have the school
to fall back on, if you shouldn't have the patients you hope for
this summer. I think you have done well with the school. Do your
level best until the term closes, and you may have a chance."
Laughing scornfully, he repeated his old boast: "I'll just show
"Go ahead," said Kate. "And while you are at it, be generous.
Show me plenty. But in the meantime, save every penny you can, so
you'll be ready to pay the doctor's bills and furnish your
"I love you advice; it's so Batesy," he said. "I have money saved
for both contingencies you mention, but I'll tell you what I
think, and about this I'm the one who knows. I've told you
repeatedly winter is my best time. I've lost the winter trying to
help you out; and I've little chance until winter comes again. It
takes cold weather to make folks feel what ails their muscles, and
my treatment is mostly muscular. To save so we can get a real
start, wouldn't it be a good idea for you to put part of your
things in my room, take what you must have, and fix Mother's
bedroom for you, let her move her bed into her living room, and
spare me all you can of your things to fix up your room for my
office this summer. That would save rent, it's only a few steps
from downtown, and when I wasn't busy with patients, I could be
handy to the garden, and to help you."
"If your mother is willing, I'll do my share," said Kate,
"although the room's cramped, and where I'll put the small party
when he comes I don't know, but I'll manage someway. The big
objection to it is that it will make it look to people as if it
were a makeshift, instead of starting a real business."
"Real," was the wrong word. It was the red rag that started
George raging, until to save her self-respect, Kate left the room.
Later in the day he announced that his mother was willing, she
would clean the living room and move in that day. How Kate hated
the tiny room with its one exterior wall, only one small window,
its scratched woodwork, and soiled paper, she could not say. She
felt physically ill when she thought of it, and when she thought
of the heat of the coming summer, she wondered what she would do;
but all she could do was to acquiesce. She made a trip downtown
and bought a quart of white paint and a few rolls of dainty, fresh
paper. She made herself ill with turpentine odours in giving the
woodwork three coats, and fell from a table almost killing herself
while papering the ceiling. There was no room for her trunk; the
closet would not hold half her clothes; her only easy chair was
crowded out; she was sheared of personal comfort at a clip, just
at a time when every comfort should have been hers. George
ordered an operating table, on which to massage his patients, a
few other necessities, and in high spirits, went about fixing up
his office and finishing his school. He spent hours in the
woodshed with the remainder of Kate's white paint, making a sign
to hang in front of the house.
He was so pathetically anxious for a patient, after he had put his
table in place, hung up his sign, and paid for an announcement in
the county paper and the little Walden sheet, that Kate was sorry
On a hot July morning Mrs. Holt was sweeping the front porch when
a forlorn specimen of humanity came shuffling up the front walk
and asked to see Dr. Holt. Mrs. Holt took him into the office and
ran to the garden to tell George his first patient had come. His
face had been flushed from pulling weeds, but it paled perceptibly
as he started to the back porch to wash his hands.
"Do you know who it is, Mother?" he asked.
"It's that old Peter Mines," she said, "an' he looks fit to drop."
"Peter Mines!" said George. "He's had about fifty things the
matter with him for about fifty years."
"Then you're a made man if you can even make him think he feels
enough better so's he'll go round talking about it," said Mrs.
George stood with his hands dripping water an instant, thinking
"Well said for once, old lady," he agreed. "You are just exactly
He hurried to his room, and put on his coat.
"A patient that will be a big boom for me," he boasted to Kate as
he went down the hall.
Mrs. Holt stood listening at the hall door. Kate walked around
the dining room, trying to occupy herself. Presently cringing
groans began to come from the room, mingling with George's deep
voice explaining, and trying to encourage the man. Then came a
wild shriek and then silence. Kate hurried out to the back walk
and began pacing up and down in the sunshine. She did not know
it, but she was praying.
A minute later George's pallid face appeared at the back door:
"You come in here quick and help me," he demanded.
"What's the matter?" asked Kate.
"He's fainted. His heart, I think. He's got everything that ever
ailed a man!" he said.
"Oh, George, you shouldn't have touched him," said Kate.
"Can't you see it will make me, if I can help him! Even Mother
could see that," he cried.
"But if his heart is bad, the risk of massaging him is awful,"
said Kate as she hurried after George.
Kate looked at the man on the table, ran her hand over the heart
region, and lifted terrified eyes to George.
"Do you think --?" he stammered.
"Sure of it!" she said, "but we can try. Bring your camphor
bottle, and some water," she cried to Mrs. Holt.
For a few minutes, they worked frantically. Then Kate stepped
back. "I'm scared, and I don't care who knows it," she said.
"I'm going after Dr. James."
"No, you are not!" cried George. "You just hold yourself. I'll
have him out in a minute. Begin at his feet and rub the blood up
to his heart."
"They are swollen to a puff, he's got no circulation," said Kate.
"Oh, George, how could you ever hope to do anything for a man in
this shape, with MUSCULAR treatment?"
"You keep still and rub, for God's sake," he cried, frantically.
"Can't you see that I am ruined if he dies on this table?"
"No, I can't," said Kate. "Everybody would know that he was
practically dying when he came here. Nobody will blame you, only,
you never should have touched him! George, I AM going after Dr.
"Well, go then," he said wildly.
Kate started. Mrs. Holt blocked the doorway.
"You just stop, Missy!" she cried. "You're away too smart, trying
to get folks in here, and ruin my George's chances. You just stay
where you are till I think what to do, to put the best face on
"He may not be really gone! The doctor might save him!" cried
Mrs. Holt looked long at the man.
"He's deader 'an a doornail," she said. "You stay where you are!"
Kate picked her up by the shoulders, set her to one side, ran from
the room and down the street as fast as possible. She found the
doctor in his office with two patients. She had no time to think
"Get your case and come to our house quick, doctor," she cried.
"An old man they call Peter Mines came to see George, and his
heart has failed. Please hurry!"
"Heart, eh?" said the doctor. "Well, wait a minute. No use to go
about a bad heart without digitalis."
He got up and put on his hat, told the men he would be back soon,
and went to the nearest drug store. Kate followed. The men who
had been in the office came also.
"Doctor, hurry!" she panted. "I'm so frightened."
"You go to some of the neighbours, and stay away from there," he
"Hurry!" begged Kate. "Oh, do hurry!"
She was beside him as they sped down the street, and at his
shoulder as they entered the room. With one glance she lurched
against the casing and then she plunged down the hall, entered her
room, closed the door behind her, and threw herself on the bed.
She had only a glance, but in that glance she had seen Peter Mines
sitting fully clothed, his hat on his head, his stick in his
hands, in her easy chair; the operating table folded and standing
against the wall; Mrs. Holt holding the camphor bottle to Peter's
nose, while George had one hand over Peter's heart, the other
steadying his head.
The doctor swung the table in place, and with George's help laid
Peter on it, then began tearing open his clothes. As they worked
the two men followed into the house to see if they could do
anything and excited neighbours began to gather. George and his
mother explained how Peter had exhausted himself walking two miles
from the country that hot morning, how he had entered the office,
tottering with fatigue, and had fallen in the chair in a fainting
condition. Everything was plausible until a neighbour woman,
eager to be the centre of attention for a second, cried: "Yes, we
all see him come more'n an hour ago; and when he begin to let out
the yells we says to each other, 'THERE! George has got his first
patient, sure!' An' we all kind of waited to see if he'd come out
The doctor looked at her sharply: "More than an hour ago?" he
said. "You heard cries?"
"Yes, more'n a good hour ago. Yes, we all heard him yell, jist
once, good and loud!" she said.
The doctor turned to George. Before he could speak his mother
"That was our Kate done the yellin'," she said. "She was scart
crazy from the start. He jest come in, and set in the chair and
he's been there ever since."
"You didn't give him any treatment, Holt?" asked the doctor.
Again Mrs. Holt answered: "Never touched him! Hadn't even got
time to get his table open. Wa'n't nothing he could 'a' done for
him anyway. Peter was good as gone when he got here. His fool
folks never ought 'a' let him out this hot day, sick as he was."
The doctor looked at George, at his mother, long at Peter. "He
surely was too sick to walk that far in this heat," he said. "But
to make sure, I'll look him over. George, you help me. Clear the
room of all but these two men."
HE began minutely examining Peter's heart region. Then he rolled
him over and started to compress his lungs. Long white streaks
marked the puffy red of the swollen, dropsical flesh. The doctor
examined the length of the body, and looked straight into George
"No use," he said. "Bill, go to the 'phone in my office, and tell
Coroner Smith to get here from Hartley as soon as he can. All
that's left to do here is to obey the law, and have a funeral.
Better some of the rest of you go tell his folks. I've done all I
can do. It's up to the Coroner now. The rest of you go home, and
keep still till he comes."
When he and George were left alone he said tersely: "Of course
you and your mother are lying. You had this man stripped, he did
cry out, and he did die from the pain of the treatment you tried
to give him, in his condition. By the way, where's your wife?
This is a bad thing for her right now. Come, let's find her and
see what state she is in."
Together they left the room and entered Kate's door. As soon as
the doctor was busy with her, George slipped back into the closed
room, rolled Peter on his back and covered him, in the hope that
the blood would settle until it would efface the marks of his work
before the Coroner arrived. By that time the doctor was too busy
to care much what happened to Peter Mines; he was a poor old soul
better off as he was. Across Kate's unconscious body he said to
George Holt: "I'm going to let the Coroner make what he pleases
out of this, solely for your wife's sake. But two things: take
down that shingle. Take it down now, and never put it up again if
you want me to keep still. I'll give you what you paid for that
table. It's a good one. Get him out as soon as you can. Set him
in another room. I've got to have Mrs. Holt where I can work.
And send Sarah Nepple here to help me. Move fast! This is going
to be a close call. And the other thing: I've heard you put in
an application for our school this winter. Withdraw it! Now
So they set Peter in the living room, cleaned Kate's room quickly,
and moved in her bed. By the time the Coroner arrived, the doctor
was too busy to care what happened. On oath he said a few words
that he hoped would make life easier for Kate, and at the same
time pass muster for truth; told the Coroner what witnesses to
call; and gave an opinion as to Peter's condition. He also added
that he was sure Peter's family would be very glad he was to
suffer no more, and then he went back to Kate who was suffering
entirely too much for safety. Then began a long vigil that ended
at midnight with Kate barely alive and Sarah Nepple, the Walden
mid-wife, trying to divide a scanty wardrobe between a pair of
A NEW IDEA
KATE slowly came back to consciousness. She was conscious of her
body, sore from head to foot, with plenty of pain in definite
spots. Her first clear thought was that she was such a big woman;
it seemed to her that she filled the room, when she was one
bruised ache from head to heels. Then she became conscious of a
moving bundle on the bed beside her, and laid her hand on it to
reassure herself. The size and shape of the bundle were not
"Oh, Lord!" groaned Kate. "Haven't You any mercy at all? It was
Your advice I followed when I took wing and started out in life."
A big sob arose in her throat, while at the same time she began to
laugh weakly. Dr. James heard her from the hall and entered
hastily. At the sight of him, Kate's eyes filled with terrified
remembrance. Her glance swept the room, and rested on her rocking
chair. "Take that out of here!" she cried. "Take it out, split
it into kindling wood, and burn it."
"All right," said Dr. James calmly. "I'll guarantee that you
never see it again. Is there anything else you want?"
"You -- you didn't --?"
The doctor shook his head. "Very sorry," he said, "but there
wasn't a thing could be done."
"Where is he?" she asked in a whisper.
"His people took him home immediately after the Coroner's inquest,
which found that he died from heart failure, brought on by his
long walk in the heat."
Kate stared at him with a face pitiful to behold.
"You let him think THAT?" she whispered again.
"I did," said the old doctor. "I thought, and still think, that
for the sake of you and yours," he waved toward the bundle, "it
was the only course to pursue."
"Thank you," said Kate. "You're very kind. But don't you think
that I and mine are going to take a lot of shielding? The next
man may not be so kindly disposed. Besides, is it right? Is it
"It is for you," said the doctor. "You had nothing to do with it.
If you had, things would not have gone as they did. As for me, I
feel perfectly comfortable about it in my conscience, which is my
best guide. All I had to do was to let them tell their story. I
perjured myself only to the extent of testifying that you knew
nothing about it. The Coroner could well believe that. George
and his mother could easily manage the remainder."
Kate waved toward the bundle: "Am I supposed to welcome and love
"A poet might expect you to," said the doctor. "In the
circumstances, I do not. I shall feel that you have done your
whole duty if you will try to nurse them when the time comes. You
must have a long rest, and they must grow some before you'll
discover what they mean to you. There's always as much chance
that they'll resemble your people as that they will not. The boy
will have dark hair and eyes I think, but he looks exactly like
you. The girl is more Holt."
"Where is George?" she asked.
"He was completely upset," said the doctor. "I suggested that he
go somewhere to rest up a few days, so he took his tackle and went
fishing, and to the farm."
"Shouldn't he have stayed and faced it?" asked Kate.
"There was nothing for him to face, except himself, Kate," said
Kate shook her head. She looked ghastly ill.
"Doctor," she said, "couldn't you have let me die?"
"And left your son and your little daughter to them?" he asked.
"No, Kate, I couldn't have let you die; because you've your work
in the world under your hand right now."
He said that because when he said "left your son and your little
daughter to them," Kate had reached over and laid her hand
possessively, defensively, on the little, squirming bundle, which
was all Dr. James asked of her. Presently she looked the doctor
straight in the face. "Exactly what do you know?" she asked.
"Everything," said the doctor. "And you?"
"Everything," said Kate.
There was a long silence. Then Kate spoke slowly: "That George
didn't know that he shouldn't have touched that man, proves him
completely incompetent," she said. "That he did, and didn't have
the courage to face the results, proves him lacking in principle.
He's not fit for either work to which he aspires."
"You are talking too much," said the doctor. "Nurse Nepple is in
charge here, and Aunt Ollie. George's mother went to the farm to
cook for him. You're in the hands of two fine women, who will
make you comfortable. You have escaped lasting disgrace with your
skirts clear, now rest and be thankful."
"I can't rest until I know one thing," said Kate. "You're not
going to allow George to kill any one else?"
"No," said the doctor. "I regretted telling him very much; but I
had to tell him THAT could not happen."
"And about the school?" she asked. "I half thought he might get
"He WON'T!" said the doctor. "I'm in a position to know that.
Now try to take some rest."
Kate waved toward the babies: "Will you please take them away
until they need me?" she asked.
"Of course," said the doctor. "But don't you want to see them,
Kate? There isn't a mark or blemish on either of them. The boy
weighs seven pounds and the girl six; they seem as perfect as
children can be."
"You needn't worry about that," said Kate. "Twins are a Bates
habit. My mother had three pairs, always a boy and a girl, always
big and sound as any children; mine will be all right, too."
The doctor started to turn back the blanket. Kate turned her head
away: "Don't you think I have had about enough at present?" she
asked. "I'd stake my life that as a little further piece of my
punishment, the girl looks exactly like Mrs. Holt."
"By Jove," said the doctor, "I couldn't just think who it was."
He carried the babies from the room, lowered the blinds, and Kate
tried to sleep, and did sleep, because she was so exhausted she
could not keep awake.
Later in the evening Aunt Ollie slipped in, and said George was in
the woodhouse, almost crying himself to death, and begging to see
"You tell him I'm too sick to be seen for at least a week," said
"But, my dear, he's so broken up; he feels so badly," begged Aunt
"So do I," said Kate. "I feel entirely too badly to be worried
over seeing him. I must take the babies now."
"I do wish you would!" persisted Aunt Ollie.
"Well, I won't," said Kate. "I don't care if I never see him
again. He knows WHY he is crying; ask him."
"I'll wager they ain't a word of truth in that tale they're
telling," she said.
Kate looked straight at her: "Well, for their sakes and my sake,
and the babies' sake, don't TALK about it."
"You poor thing!" said Aunt Ollie, "I'll do anything in the world
to help you. If ever you need me, just call on me. I'll go start
him back in a hurry."
He came every night, but Kate steadily refused, until she felt
able to sit up in a chair, to see him, or his mother when she came
to see the babies. She had recovered rapidly, was over the
painful part of nursing the babies, and had a long talk with Aunt
Ollie, before she consented to see George. At times she thought
she never could see him again; at others, she realized her
helplessness. She had her babies to nurse for a year; there was
nothing she could think of she knew to do, that she could do, and
take proper care of two children. She was tied "hand and foot,"
as Aunt Ollie said. And yet it was Aunt Ollie who solved her
problem for her. Sitting beside the bed one day she said to Kate:
"My dear, do you know that I'm having a mighty good time? I guess
I was lonesomer than I thought out there all alone so much, and
the work was nigh to breaking me during the long, cold winter. I
got a big notion to propose somepin' to you that might be a
comfort to all of us."
"Propose away," said Kate. "I'm at my wit's end."
"Well, what would you think of you and George taking the land,
working it on the shares, and letting me have this room, an' live
in Walden, awhile?"
Kate sat straight up in bed: "Oh, Aunt Ollie! Would you?" she
cried. "Would you? That would be a mercy to me; it would give
George every chance to go straight, if there is a straight impulse
"Yes, I will," said Aunt Ollie, "and you needn't feel that I am
getting the little end of the bargain, either. The only
unpleasant thing about it will be my sister, and I'll undertake to
manage her. I read a lot, an' I can always come to see you when
mortal sperrits will bear her no more. She'll be no such trial to
me, as she is to you."
"You're an angel," said Kate. "You've given me hope where I had
not a glimmer. If I have George out there alone, away from his
mother, I can bring out all the good there is in him, and we can
get some results out of life, or I can assure myself that it is
impossible, so that I can quit with a clear conscience. I do
"All right, then, I'll go out and begin packing my things, and see
about moving this afternoon. I'll leave my stoves, and beds, and
tables, and chairs for you; you can use your wedding things, and
be downright comfortable. I'll like living in town a spell real
So once more Kate saw hope a beckoning star in the distance, and
ruffled the wings of the spirit preparatory to another flight:
only a short, humble flight this time, close earth; but still as
full of promise as life seemed to hold in any direction for her.
She greeted George casually, and as if nothing had happened, when
she was ready to see him.
"You're at the place where words are not of the slightest use to
me," she said. "I'm giving you one, and a final chance to ACT.
This seems all that is open to us. Go to work like a man, and we
will see what we can make of our last chance."
Kate was so glad when she sat in the carriage that was to take her
from the house and the woman she abominated that she could
scarcely behave properly. She clasped Adam tightly in her arms,
and felt truly his mother. She reached over and tucked the
blanket closer over Polly, but she did not carry her, because she
resembled her grandmother, while Adam was a Bates.
George drove carefully. He was on behaviour too good to last, but
fortunately both women with him knew him well enough not to expect
that it would. When they came in sight of the house, Kate could
see that the grass beside the road had been cut, the trees
trimmed, and Oh, joy, the house freshly painted a soft, creamy
white she liked, with a green roof. Aunt Ollie explained that she
furnished the paint and George did the work. He had swung oblong
clothes baskets from the ceiling of a big, cheery, old-fashioned
bedroom for a cradle for each baby, and established himself in a
small back room adjoining the kitchen. Kate said nothing about
the arrangement, because she supposed it had been made to give her
more room, and that George might sleep in peace, while she
wrestled with two tiny babies.
There was no doubt about the wrestling. The babies seemed of
nervous temperament, sleeping in short naps and lightly. Kate was
on her feet from the time she reached her new home, working when
she should not have worked; so that the result developed cross
babies, each attacked with the colic, which raged every night from
six o'clock until twelve and after, both frequently shrieking at
the same time. George did his share by going to town for a bottle
of soothing syrup, which Kate promptly threw in the creek. Once
he took Adam and began walking the floor with him, extending his
activities as far as the kitchen. In a few minutes he had the
little fellow sound asleep and he did not waken until morning;
then he seemed to droop and feel listless. When he took the baby
the second time and made the same trip to the kitchen, Kate laid
Polly on her bed and silently followed. She saw George lay the
baby on the table, draw a flask from his pocket, pour a spoon
partly full, filling it the remainder of the way from the
teakettle. As he was putting the spoon to the baby's lips, Kate
stepped beside him and taking it, she tasted the contents. Then
she threw the spoon into the dishpan standing near and picked up
"I knew it!" she said. "Only I didn't know what. He acted like a
drugged baby all last night and to-day. Since when did you begin
carrying that stuff around with you, and feeding it to tiny
"It's a good thing. Dr. James recommended it. He said it was
harmful to let them strain themselves crying, and very hard on
you. You could save yourself a lot," he urged.
"I need saving all right," said Kate, "but I haven't a picture of
myself saving myself by drugging a pair of tiny babies."
He slipped the bottle back in his pocket. Kate stood looking at
him so long and so intently, he flushed and set the flask on a
shelf in the pantry. "It may come in handy some day when some of
us have a cold," he said.
Kate did her best, but she was so weakened by nursing both of the
babies, by loss of sleep, and overwork in the house, that she was
no help whatever to George in getting in the fall crops and
preparing for spring. She had lost none of her ambition, but
there was a limit to her capacity.
In the spring the babies were big and lusty, eating her up, and
crying with hunger, until she was forced to resort to artificial
feeding in part, which did not agree with either of them. As a
saving of time and trouble she decided to nurse one and feed the
other. It was without thought on her part, almost by chance, yet
the chance was that she nursed Adam and fed Polly. Then the
babies began teething, so that she was rushed to find time to
prepare three regular meals a day, and as for the garden and
poultry she had planned, George did what he pleased about them,
which was little, if anything.
He would raise so much to keep from being hungry, he would grow so
many roots, and so much cabbage for winter, he would tend enough
corn for a team and to fatten pork; right there he stopped and
went fishing, while the flask was in evidence on the pantry shelf
only two days. Kate talked crop rotation, new seed,
fertilization, until she was weary; George heartily agreed with
her, but put nothing of it all into practice.
"As soon as the babies are old enough to be taken out," she said,
"things will be better. I just can't do justice to them and my
work, too. Three pairs! My poor mother! And she's alive yet! I
marvel at it."
So they lived, and had enough to eat, and were clothed, but not
one step did they advance toward Kate's ideals of progression,
economy, accumulation. George always had a little money, more
than she could see how he got from the farming. There were a few
calves and pigs to see occasionally; she thought possibly he saved
his share from them.
For four years, Kate struggled valiantly to keep pace with what
her mother always had done, and had required of her at home; but
she learned long before she quit struggling that farming with
George was hopeless. So at last she became so discouraged she
began to drift into his way of doing merely what would sustain
them, and then reading, fishing, or sleeping the remainder of the
time. She began teaching her children while very small, and daily
they had their lessons after dinner, while their father slept.
Kate thought often of what was happening to her; she hated it, she
fought it; but with George Holt for a partner she could not escape
it. She lay awake nights, planning ways to make a start toward
prosperity; she propounded her ideas at breakfast. To save time
in getting him early to work she began feeding the horses as soon
as she was up, so that George could go to work immediately after
breakfast; but she soon found she might as well save her strength.
He would not start to harness until he had smoked, mostly three
quarters of an hour. That his neighbours laughed at him and got
ahead of him bothered him not at all. All they said and all Kate
said, went, as he expressed it, "in at one ear, out at the other."
One day in going around the house Kate was suddenly confronted by
a thing she might have seen for three years, but had not noticed.
Leading from the path of bare, hard-beaten earth that ran around
the house through the grass, was a small forking path not so wide
and well defined, yet a path, leading to George's window. She
stood staring at it a long time with a thoughtful expression on
That night she did not go to bed when she went to her room.
Instead she slipped out into the night and sitting under a
sheltering bush she watched that window. It was only a short time
until George crawled from it, went stealthily to the barn, and a
few minutes later she saw him riding barebacked on one of the
horses he had bridled, down the footpath beside the stream toward
town. She got up and crossing the barnyard shut the gate after
him, and closed the barn door. She went back to the house and
closed his window and lighting a lamp set it on his dresser in
front of his small clock. His door was open in the morning when
she passed it on her way to the kitchen, so she got breakfast
instead of feeding the horses. He came in slowly, furtively
watching her. She worked as usual, saying no unpleasant word. At
length he could endure it no longer.
"Kate," he said, "I broke a bolt in the plow yesterday, and I
never thought of it until just as I was getting into bed, so to
save time I rode in to Walden and got another last night. Ain't I
a great old economist, though?"
"You are a great something," she said. "'Economist' would
scarcely be my name for it. Really, George, can't you do better
"Better than what?" he demanded.
"Better than telling such palpable lies," she said. "Better than
crawling out windows instead of using your doors like a man;
better than being the most shiftless farmer of your neighbourhood
in the daytime, because you have spend most of your nights, God
and probably all Walden know how. The flask and ready money I
never could understand give me an inkling."
"Anything else?" he asked, sneeringly.
"Nothing at present," said Kate placidly. "I probably could find
plenty, if I spent even one night in Walden when you thought I was
"Go if you like," he said. "If you think I'm going to stay here,
working like a dog all day, year in and year out, to support a
daughter of the richest man in the county and her kids, you fool
yourself. If you want more than you got, call on your rich folks
for it. If you want to go to town, either night or day, go for
all I care. Do what you damn please; that's what I am going to do
in the future and I'm glad you know it. I'm tired climbing
through windows and slinking like a dog. I'll come and go like
other men after this."
"I don't know what other men you are referring to," said Kate.
"You have a monopoly of your kind in this neighbourhood; there is
none other like you. You crawl and slink as 'to the manner
"Don't you go too far," he menaced with an ugly leer.
"Keep that for your mother," laughed Kate. "You need never try a
threat with me. I am stronger than you are, and you may depend
upon it I shall see that my strength never fails me again. I know
now that you are all Nancy Ellen said you were."
"Well, if you married me knowing it, what are you going to do
about it?" he sneered.
"I didn't know it then. I thought I knew you. I thought she had
been misinformed," said Kate, in self-defence.
"Well," he said insultingly, "if you hadn't been in such a big
hurry, you could soon have found out all you wanted to know. I
took advantage of it, but I never did understand your rush."
"You never will," said Kate.
Then she arose and went to see if the children had wakened. All
day she was thinking so deeply she would stumble over the chairs
in her preoccupation. George noticed it, and it frightened him.
After supper he came and sat on the porch beside her.
"Kate," he said, "as usual you are 'making mountains out of mole
hills.' It doesn't damn a fellow forever to ride or walk, I
almost always walk, into town in the evening, to see the papers
and have a little visit with the boys. Work all day in a field is
mighty lonesome; a man has got the have a little change. I don't
deny a glass of beer once in awhile, or a game of cards with the
boys occasionally; but if you have lived with me over five years
here, and never suspected it before, it can't be so desperately
bad, can it? Come now, be fair!"
"It's no difference whether I am fair or unfair," Kate said,
wearily. "It explains why you simply will not brace up, and be a
real man, and do a man's work in the world, and achieve a man's
"Who can get anywhere, splitting everything in halves?" he
"The most successful men in this neighbourhood got their start
exactly that way," she said.
"Ah, well, farming ain't my job, anyway," he said. "I always did
hate it. I always will. If I could have a little capital to
start with, I know a trick that would suit you, and make us
independent in no time."
Kate said no word, and seeing she was not going to, he continued:
"I've thought about this till I've got it all down fine, and it's
a great scheme; you'll admit that, even angry as you are. It is
this: get enough together to build a saw mill on my strip of
ravine. A little damming would make a free water power worth a
fortune. I could hire a good man to run the saw and do the work,
and I could take a horse and ride, or drive around among the
farmers I know, and buy up timber cheaper than most men could get
it. I could just skin the eyes out of them."
"Did it ever occur to you that you could do better by being
honest?" asked Kate, wearily.
"Aw, well, Smarty! you know I didn't mean that literally!" he
scoffed. "You know I only meant I could talk, and jolly, and buy
at bed-rock prices; I know where to get the timber, and the two
best mill men in the country; we are near the railroad; it's the
dandiest scheme that ever struck Walden. What do you think about
"I think if Adam had it he'd be rich from it in ten years," she
"Then you DO think it's a bully idea," he cried. "You WOULD try
it if we had a chance?"
"I might," said Kate.
"You know," he cried, jumping up in excitement, "I've never
mentioned this to a soul, but I've got it all thought out. Would
you go to see your brother Adam, and see if you could get him to
take an interest for young Adam? He could manage the money
"I wouldn't go to a relative of mine for a cent, even if the
children were starving," said Kate. "Get, and keep, THAT clear in
"But you think there is something in it?" he persisted.
"I know there is," said Kate with finality. "In the hands of the
right man, and with the capital to start."
"Kate, you can be the meanest," he said.
"I didn't intend to be, in this particular instance," she said.
"But honestly, George, what have I ever seen of you in the way of
financial success in the past that would give me hope for the
"I know it," he said, "but I've never struck exactly the right
thing. This is what I could make a success of, and I would make a
good big one, you bet! Kate, I'll not go to town another night.
I'll stop all that." He drew the flask from his pocket and
smashed it against the closest tree. "And I'll stop all there
ever was of that, even to a glass of beer on a hot day; if you say
so, if you'll stand by me this once more, if I fail this time,
I'll never ask you again; honest, I won't."
"If I had money, I'd try it, keeping the building in my own name
and keeping the books myself; but I've none, and no way to get
any, as you know," she said. "I can see what could be done, but
"I'M NOT!" said George. "I've got it all worked out. You see I
was doing something useful with my head, if I wasn't always
plowing as fast as you thought I should. If you'll back me, if
you'll keep books, if you'll handle the money until she is paid
back, I know Aunt Ollie will sell enough of this land to build the
mill and buy the machinery. She could keep the house, and
orchard, and barn, and a big enough piece, say forty acres, to
live on and keep all of us in grub. She and Mother could move out
here -- she said the other day she was tired of town and getting
homesick -- and we could go to town to put the children in school,
and be on the job. I won't ever ask you and Mother to live
together again. Kate, will you go in with me? Will you talk to
Aunt Ollie? Will you let me show you, and explain, and prove to
"I won't be a party to anything that would even remotely threaten
to lose Aunt Ollie's money for her," she said.
"She's got nobody on earth but me. It's all mine in the end. Why
not let me have this wonderful chance with it? Kate, will you?"
"I'll think about it," she conceded. "If I can study out a sure,
honourable way. I'll promise to think. Now go out there, and
hunt the last scrap of that glass; the children may cut their feet
in the morning."
Then Kate went in to bed. If she had looked from her window, she
might have seen George scratching matches and picking pieces of
glass from the grass. When he came to the bottom of the bottle
with upstanding, jagged edges, containing a few drops, he glanced
at her room, saw that she was undressing in the dark, and lifting
it, he poured the liquid on his tongue to the last drop that would
THE WORK OF THE SUN
BEFORE Kate awakened the following morning George was out feeding
the horses, cattle, and chickens, doing the milking, and working
like the proverbial beaver. By the time breakfast was ready, he
had convinced himself that he was a very exemplary man, while he
expected Kate to be convinced also. He stood ready and willing to
forgive her for every mean deceit and secret sin he ever had
committed, or had it in his heart to commit in the future. All
the world was rosy with him, he was flying with the wings of hope
straight toward a wonderful achievement that would bring pleasure
and riches, first to George Holt, then to his wife and children,
then to the old aunt he really cared more for than any one else.
Incidentally, his mother might have some share, while he would
bring such prosperity and activity to the village that all Walden
would forget every bad thing it had ever thought or known of him,
and delight to pay him honour. Kate might have guessed all this
when she saw the pails full of milk on the table, and heard George
whistling "Hail the Conquering Hero Comes," as he turned the cows
into the pasture; but she had not slept well. Most of the night
she had lain staring at the ceiling, her brain busy with
calculations, computations, most of all with personal values.
She dared not be a party to anything that would lose Aunt Ollie
her land; that was settled; but if she went into the venture
herself, if she kept the deeds in Aunt Ollie's name, the bank
account in hers, drew all the checks, kept the books, would it be
safe? Could George buy timber as he thought; could she, herself,
if he failed? The children were old enough to be in school now,
she could have much of the day, she could soon train Polly and
Adam to do even more than sweep and run errands; the scheme could
be materialized in the Bates way, without a doubt; but could it be
done in a Bates way, hampered and impeded by George Holt? Was the
plan feasible, after all? She entered into the rosy cloud
enveloping the kitchen without ever catching the faintest gleam of
its hue. George came to her the instant he saw her and tried to
put his arm around her. Kate drew back and looked at him
"Aw, come on now, Kate," he said. "Leave out the heroics and be
human. I'll do exactly as you say about everything if you will
help me wheedle Aunt Ollie into letting me have the money."
Kate stepped back and put out her hands defensively: "A rare
bargain," she said, "and one eminently worthy of you. You'll do
what I say, if I'll do what you say, without the slightest
reference as to whether it impoverishes a woman who has always
helped and befriended you. You make me sick!"
"What's biting you now?" he demanded, sullenly.
Kate stood tall and straight before and above him
"If you have a good plan, if you can prove that it will work, what
is the necessity for 'wheedling' anybody? Why not state what you
propose in plain, unequivocal terms, and let the dear, old soul,
who has done so much for us already, decide what she will do?"
"That's what I meant! That's all I meant!" he cried.
"In that case, 'wheedle' is a queer word to use."
"I believe you'd throw up the whole thing; I believe you'd let the
chance to be a rich woman slip through your fingers, if it all
depended on your saying only one word you thought wasn't quite
straight," he cried, half in assertion, half in question.
"I honour you in that belief," said Kate. "I most certainly
"Then you turn the whole thing down? You won't have anything to
do with it?" he cried, plunging into stoop-shouldered, mouth-
"Oh, I didn't SAY that!" said Kate. "Give me time! Let me think!
I've got to know that there isn't a snare in it, from the title of
the land to the grade of the creek bed. Have you investigated
that? Is your ravine long enough and wide enough to dam it high
enough at our outlet to get your power, and yet not back water on
the road, and the farmers above you? Won't it freeze in winter?
and can you get strong enough power from water to run a large saw?
I doubt it!"
"Oh, gee! I never thought about that!" he cried.
"And if it would work, did you figure the cost of a dam into your
estimate of the building and machinery?"
He snapped his fingers in impatience.
"By heck!" he cried, "I forgot THAT, too! But that wouldn't cost
much. Look what we did in that ravine just for fun. Why, we
could build that dam ourselves!"
"Yes, strong enough for conditions in September, but what about
the January freshet?" she said.
"Croak! Croak! You blame old raven," cried George.
"And have you thought," continued Kate, "that there is no room on
the bank toward town to set your mill, and it wouldn't be allowed
there, if there were?"
"You bet I have!" he said defiantly. "I'm no such slouch as you
think me. I've even stepped off the location!"
"Then," said Kate, "will you build a bridge across the ravine to
reach it, or will you buy a strip from Linn and build a road?"
George collapsed with a groan.
"That's the trouble with you," said Kate. "You always build your
castle with not even sand for a foundation. The most nebulous of
rosy clouds serve you as perfectly as granite blocks. Before you
go glimmering again, double your estimate to cover a dam and a
bridge, and a lot of incidentals that no one ever seems able to
include in a building contract. And whatever you do, keep a still
head until we get these things figured, and have some sane idea of
what the venture would cost."
"How long will it take?" he said sullenly.
"I haven't an idea. I'd have to go the Hartley and examine the
records and be sure that there was no flaw in the deeds to the
land; but the first thing is to get a surveyor and know for sure
if you have a water-power that will work and not infringe on your
neighbours. A thing like this can't be done in a few minutes'
persuasive conversation. It will take weeks."
It really seemed as if it would take months. Kate went to Walden
that afternoon, set the children playing in the ravine while she
sketched it, made the best estimate she could of its fall, and
approved the curve on the opposite bank which George thought could
be cleared for a building site and lumber yard. Then she added a
location for a dam and a bridge site, and went home to figure and
think. The further she went in these processes the more hopeless
the project seemed. She soon learned that there must be an engine
with a boiler to run the saw. The dam could be used only to make
a pond to furnish the water needed; but at that it would be
cheaper than to dig a cistern or well. She would not even suggest
to Aunt Ollie to sell any of the home forty. The sale of the
remainder at the most hopeful price she dared estimate would not
bring half the money needed, and it would come in long-time
payments. Lumber, bricks, machinery, could not be had on time of
any length, while wages were cash every Saturday night.
"It simply can't be done," said Kate, and stopped thinking about
it, so far as George knew.
He was at once plunged into morose moping; he became sullen and
indifferent about the work, ugly with Kate and the children, until
she was driven almost frantic, and projects nearly as vague as
some of George's began to float through her head.
One Saturday morning Kate had risen early and finished cleaning up
her house, baking, and scrubbing porches. She had taken a bath to
freshen and cool herself and was standing before her dresser,
tucking the last pins in her hair, when she heard a heavy step on
the porch and a loud knock on the screen door. She stood at an
angle where she could peep; she looked as she reached for her
dress. What she saw carried her to the door forgetful of the
dress. Adam, Jr., stood there, white and shaken, steadying
himself against the casing.
"Adam!" cried Kate. "Is Mother --?"
He shook his head.
"Father --?" she panted.
He nodded, seeming unable to speak. Kate's eyes darkened and
widened. She gave Adam another glance and opened the door. "Come
in," she said. "When did it happen? How did he get hurt?"
In that moment she recalled that she had left her father in
perfect health, she had been gone more than seven years. In that
time he could not fail to illness; how he had been hurt was her
first thought. As she asked the question, she stepped into her
room and snatched up her second best summer dress, waiting for
Adam to speak as she slipped into it. But speaking seemed to be a
very difficult thing for Adam. He was slow in starting and words
dragged and came singly: "Yesterday -- tired -- big dinner --
awful hot -- sunstroke -- "
"He's gone?" she cried.
Adam nodded in that queer way again.
"Why did you come? Does Mother want me?" the questions leaped
from Kate's lips; her eyes implored him. Adam was too stricken to
heed his sister's unspoken plea.
"Course," he said. "All there -- your place -- I want you. Only
one in the family -- not stark mad!"
Kate straightened tensely and looked at him again. "All right,"
she said. "I can throw a few things in my telescope, write the
children a note to take to their father in the field, and we can
stop in Walden and send Aunt Ollie out to cook for them; I can go
as well as not, for as long as Mother wants me."
"Hurry!" said Adam.
In her room Kate stood still a second, her eyes narrow, her
underlip sucked in, her heart almost stopped. Then she said
aloud: "Father's sons have wished he would die too long for his
death to strike even the most tolerant of them like that.
Something dreadful has happened. I wonder to my soul -- !"
She waited until they were past Hartley and then she asked
suddenly: "Adam, what is the matter?"
Then Adam spoke: "I am one of a pack of seven poor fools, and
every other girl in the family has gone raving mad, so I thought
I'd come after you, and see if you had sense, or reason, or
justice, left in you."
"What do you want of me?" she asked dazedly.
"I want you to be fair, to be honest, to do as you'd be done by.
You came to me when you were in trouble," he reminded her.
Kate could not prevent the short laugh that sprang to her lips,
nor what she said: "And you would not lift a finger; young Adam
MADE his MOTHER help me. Why don't you go to George for what you
Adam lost all self-control and swore sulphurously.
"I thought you'd be different," he said, "but I see you are going
to be just like the rest of the --!"
"Stop that!" said Kate. "You're talking about my sisters -- and
yours. Stop this wild talk, and tell me exactly what is the
"I'm telling nothing," said Adam. "You can find out what is the
matter and go it with the rest of them, when you get there.
Mother said this morning she wished you were there, because you'd
be the only SANE one in the family, so I thought I'd bring you;
but I wish now I hadn't done it, for it stands to reason that you
will join the pack, and run as fast as the rest of the wolves."
"FROM a prairie fire, or TO a carcass?" asked Kate.
"I told you, you could find out when you got there. I'm not going
to have them saying I influenced you, or bribed you," he said.
"Do you really think that they think you could, Adam?" asked Kate,
"I have said all I'm going to say," said Adam, and then he began
driving his horse inhumanely fast, for the heat was deep, slow,
"Adam, is there any such hurry?" asked Kate. "You know you are
abusing your horse dreadfully."
Adam immediately jerked the horse with all his might, and slashed
the length of its body with two long stripes that rapidly raised
in high welts, so Kate saw that he was past reasoning with and
said no other word. She tried to think who would be at home, how
they would treat her, the Prodigal, who had not been there in
seven years; and suddenly it occurred to Kate that, if she had
known all she now knew in her youth, and had the same decision to
make again as when she knew nothing, she would have taken wing,
just as she had. She had made failures, she had hurt herself,
mind and body, but her honour, her self-respect were intact.
Suddenly she sat straight. She was glad that she had taken a
bath, worn a reasonably decent dress, and had a better one in the
back of the buggy. She would cut the Gordian knot with a
vengeance. She would not wait to see how they treated her, she
would treat them! As for Adam's state, there was only one surmise
she could make, and that seemed so incredible, she decided to wait
until her mother told her all about whatever the trouble was.
As they came in sight of the house, queer feelings took possession
of Kate. She struggled to think kindly of her father; she tried
to feel pangs of grief over his passing. She was too forthright
and had too good memory to succeed. Home had been so unbearable
that she had taken desperate measures to escape it, but as the
white house with its tree and shrub filled yard could be seen more
plainly, Kate suddenly was filled with the strongest possessive
feeling she ever had known. It was home. It was her home. Her
place was there, even as Adam had said. She felt a sudden
revulsion against herself that she had stayed away seven years;
she should have taken her chances and at least gone to see her
mother. She leaned from the buggy and watched for the first
glimpse of the tall, gaunt, dark woman, who had brought their big
brood into the world and stood squarely with her husband, against
every one of them, in each thing he proposed.
Now he was gone. No doubt he had carried out his intentions. No
doubt she was standing by him as always. Kate gathered her
skirts, but Adam passed the house, driving furiously as ever, and
he only slackened speed when he was forced to at the turn from the
road to the lane. He stopped the buggy in the barnyard, got out,
and began unharnessing the horse. Kate sat still and watched him
until he led it away, then she stepped down and started across the
barnyard, down the lane leading to the dooryard. As she closed
the yard gate and rounded a widely spreading snowball bush, her
heart was pounding wildly. What was coming? How would the other
boys act, if Adam, the best balanced man of them all, was behaving
as he was? How would her mother greet her? With the thought,
Kate realized that she was so homesick for her mother that she
would do or give anything in the world to see her. Then there was
a dragging step, a short, sharp breath, and wheeling, Kate stood
facing her mother. She had come from the potato patch back of the
orchard, carrying a pail of potatoes in each hand. Her face was
haggard, her eyes bloodshot, her hair falling in dark tags, her
cheeks red with exertion. They stood facing each other. At the
first glimpse Kate cried, "Oh, Mother," and sprang toward her.
Then she stopped, while her heart again failed her, for from the
astonishment on her mother's face, Kate saw instantly that she was
surprised, and had neither sent for nor expected her. She was
nauseatingly disappointed. Adam had said she was wanted, had been
sent for. Kate's face was twitching, her lips quivering, but she
did not hesitate more than an instant.
"I see you were not expecting me," she said. "I'm sorry. Adam
came after me. I wouldn't have come if he hadn't said you sent
Kate paused a minute hopefully. Her mother looked at her
"I'm sorry," Kate repeated. "I don't know why he said that."
By that time the pain in her heart was so fierce she caught her
breath sharply, and pressed her hand hard against her side. Her
mother stooped, set down the buckets, and taking off her
sunbonnet, wiped the sweat from her lined face with the curtain.
"Well, I do," she said tersely.
"Why?" demanded Kate.
"To see if he could use you to serve his own interests, of
course," answered her mother. "He lied good and hard when he said
I sent for you; I didn't. I probably wouldn't a-had the sense to
do it. But since you are here, I don't mind telling you that I
never was so glad to see any one in all my born days."
Mrs. Bates drew herself full height, set her lips, stiffened her
jaw, and again used the bonnet skirt on her face and neck. Kate
picked up the potatoes, to hide the big tears that gushed from her
eyes, and leading the way toward the house she said: "Come over
here in the shade. Why should you be out digging potatoes?"
"Oh, they's enough here, and willing enough," said Mrs. Bates.
"Slipped off to get away from them. It was the quietest and the
peacefullest out there, Kate. I'd most liked to stay all day, but
it's getting on to dinner time, and I'm short of potatoes."
"Never mind the potatoes," said Kate. "Let the folks serve
themselves if they are hungry."
She went to the side of the smoke house, picked up a bench turned
up there, and carrying it to the shady side of a widely spreading
privet bush, she placed it where it would be best screened from
both house and barn. Then setting the potatoes in the shade, she
went to her mother, put her arm around her, and drew her to the
seat. She took her handkerchief and wiped her face, smoothed back
her straggled hair, and pulling out a pin, fastened the coil
"Now rest a bit," she said, "and then tell me why you are glad to
see me, and exactly what you'd like me to do here. Mind, I've
been away seven years, and Adam told me not a word, except that
Father was gone."
"Humph! All missed the mark again," commented Mrs. Bates dryly.