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A Daughter Of The Land by Gene Stratton-Porter

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him coming down the ravine bank, carrying his small bundle of
sets. Kate felt a glow of relief; Polly ran to meet him. Kate
watched as they met and saw Adam take Polly's hand.

"If only they looked as much alike as some twins do, I'd be
thankful," said Kate.

Adam delivered the sets, said Aunt Ollie and Grandma were all
right, that it was an awful long walk, and he was tired. Kate
noticed that his feet were dust covered, but his clothes were so
clean she said to him: "You didn't fish much."

"I didn't fish any," said Adam, "not like I always fish," he
added.

"Had any time to THINK?" asked Kate.

"You just bet I did," said the boy. "I didn't waste a minute."

"Neither did I," said Kate. "I know exactly what the prettiest
lot in town can be sold for."

"Good!" cried Adam. "Fine!"

Monday Kate wanted to get up early and stick the sets, but Adam
insisted that Aunt Ollie said the sign would not be right until
Wednesday. If they were stuck on Monday or Tuesday, they would
all grow to top.

"My goodness! I knew that," said Kate. "I am thinking so hard
I'm losing what little sense I had; but anyway, mere thinking is
doing me a world of good. I am beginning to feel a kind of rising
joy inside, and I can't imagine anything else that makes it."

Adam went to school, laughing. Kate did the washing and ironing,
and worked in the garden getting beds ready. Tuesday she was at
the same occupation, when about ten o'clock she dropped her spade
and straightened, a flash of perfect amazement crossing her face.
She stood immovable save for swaying forward in an attitude of
tense listening.

"Hoo! hoo!"

Kate ran across the yard and as she turned the corner of the house
she saw a one-horse spring wagon standing before the gate, while a
stiff, gaunt figure sat bolt upright on the seat, holding the
lines. Kate was at the wheel looking up with a face of delighted
amazement.

"Why, Mother!" she cried. "Why, Mother!"

"Go fetch a chair and help me down," said Mrs. Bates, "this seat
is getting tarnation hard."

Kate ran after a chair, and helped her mother to alight. Mrs.
Bates promptly took the chair, on the sidewalk.

"Just drop the thills," she said. "Lead him back and slip on the
halter. It's there with his feed."

Kate followed instructions, her heart beating wildly. Several
times she ventured a quick glance at her mother. How she had
aged! How lined and thin she was! But Oh, how blessed good it
was to see her! Mrs. Bates arose and they walked into the house,
where she looked keenly around, while her sharp eyes seemed to
appraise everything as she sat down and removed her bonnet.

"Go fetch me a drink," she said, "and take the horse one and then
I'll tell you why I came."

"I don't care why you came," said Kate, "but Oh, Mother, thank God
you are here!"

"Now, now, don't get het up!" cautioned Mrs. Bates. "Water, I
said."

Kate hurried to obey orders; then she sank on a chair and looked
at her mother. Mrs. Bates wiped her face and settled in the chair
comfortably.

"They's no use to waste words," she said. "Katie, you're the only
one in the family that has any sense, and sometimes you ain't got
enough so's you could notice it without a magnifyin' glass; but
even so, you're ahead of the rest of them. Katie, I'm sick an'
tired of the Neppleses and the Whistlers and being bossed by the
whole endurin' Bates tribe; sick and tired of it, so I just came
after you."

"Came after me?" repeated Kate stupidly.

"Yes, parrot, 'came after you,'" said Mrs. Bates. "I told you,
you'd no great amount of sense. I'm speakin' plain, ain't I? I
don't see much here to hold you. I want you should throw a few
traps, whatever you are beholden to, in the wagon - that's why I
brought it - and come on home and take care of me the rest of my
time. It won't be so long; I won't interfere much, nor be much
bother. I've kep' the place in order, but I'm about fashed. I
won't admit it to the rest of them; but I don't seem to mind
telling you, Katie, that I am almost winded. Will you come?"

"Of course I will," said Kate, a tide of effulgent joy surging up
in her heart until it almost choked her. "Of course I will,
Mother, but my children, won't they worry you?"

"Never having had a child about, I s'pect likely they may," said
Mrs. Bates, dryly. "Why, you little fool! I think likely it's
the children I am pinin' for most, though I couldn't a-stood it
much longer without YOU. Will you get ready and come with me to-
day?"

"Yes," said Kate, "if I can make it. There's very little here I
care for; I can have the second-hand man give me what he will for
the rest; and I can get a good price for the lot to-day, if I say
so. Dr. James wants it to build on. I'll go and do the very best
I can, and when you don't want me any longer, Adam will be bigger
and we can look out for ourselves. Yes, I'll get ready at once if
you want me to."

"Not much of a haggler, are you, Katie?" said Mrs. Bates. "Why
don't you ask what rooms you're to have, and what I'll pay you,
and how much work you'll have to do, and if you take charge of the
farm, and how we share up?"

Kate laughed: "Mother," she said, "I have been going to school
here, with the Master of Life for a teacher; and I've learned so
many things that really count, that I know now NONE of the things
you mention are essential. You may keep the answers to all those
questions; I don't care a cent about any of them. If you want me,
and want the children, all those things will settle themselves as
we come to them. I didn't use to understand you; but we got well
enough acquainted at Father's funeral, and I do, now. Whatever
you do will be fair, just, and right. I'll obey you, as I shall
expect Adam and Polly to."

"Well, for lands sakes, Katie," said Mrs. Bates. "Life must a-
been weltin' it to you good and proper. I never expected to see
you as meek as Moses. That Holt man wasn't big enough to beat
you, was he?"

"The ways in which he 'beat' me no Bates would understand. I had
eight years of them, and I don't understand them yet; but I am so
cooked with them, that I shall be wild with joy if you truly mean
for me to pack up and come home with you for awhile."

"Oh, Lordy, Katie!" said Mrs. Bates. "This whipped out, take-
anything-anyway style ain't becomin' to a big, fine, upstanding
woman like you. Hold up your head, child! Hold up your head, and
say what you want, an' how you want it!"

"Honestly, Mother, I don't want a thing on earth but to go home
with you and do as you say for the next ten years," said Kate.

"Stiffen up!" cried Mrs. Bates. "Stiffen up!" "Don't be no
broken reed, Katie! I don't want you dependin' on ME; I came to
see if you would let ME lean on YOU the rest of the way. I wa'n't
figuring that there was anything on this earth that could get you
down; so's I was calculatin' you'd be the very one to hold me up.
Since you seem to be feeling unaccountably weak in the knees,
let's see if we can brace them a little. Livin' with Pa so long
must kind of given me a tendency toward nussin' a deed. I've got
one here I had executed two years ago, and I was a coming with it
along about now, when 'a little bird tole me' to come to-day, so
here I am. Take that, Katie."

Mrs. Bates pulled a long sealed envelope from the front of her
dress and tossed it in Kate's lap.

"Mother, what is this?" asked Kate in a hushed voice.

"Well, if you'd rather use your ears than your eyes, it's all the
same to me," said Mrs. Bates. "The boys always had a mortal
itchin' to get their fingers on the papers in the case. I can't
say I don't like the difference; and I've give you every chance,
too, an you WOULDN'T demand, you WOULDN'T specify. Well, I'll
just specify myself. I'm dead tired of the neighbours taking care
of me, and all of the children stoppin' every time they pass, each
one orderin' or insinuatin' according to their lights, as to what
I should do. I've always had a purty clear idea of what I wanted
to do myself. Over forty years, I sided with Pa, to keep the
peace; NOW I reckon I'm free to do as I like. That's my side.
You can tell me yours, now."

Kate shook her head: "I have nothing to say."

"Jest as well," said Mrs. Bates. "Re-hashing don't do any good.
Come back, and come to-day; but stiffen up. That paper you are
holding is a warrantee deed to the home two hundred to you and
your children after you. You take possession to-day. There's
money in the bank to paper, an' paint, and make any little changes
you'd like, such as cutting doors or windows different places,
floorin' the kitchen new, or the like. Take it an' welcome. I
got more 'an enough to last me all my days; all I ask of you is my
room, my food, and your company. Take the farm, and do what you
pretty please with it."

"But, Mother!" cried Kate. "The rest of them! They'd tear me
limb for limb. I don't DARE take this."

"Oh, don't you?" asked Mrs. Bates. "Well, I still stand for quite
a bit at Bates Corners, and I say you WILL take that farm, and run
it as you like. It is mine, I give it to you. We all know it
wasn't your fault you lost your money, though it was a dose it
took some of us a good long time to swallow. You are the only one
out of your share; you settled things fine for the rest of them;
and they all know it, and feel it. You'll never know what you did
for me the way you put me through Pa's funeral; now if you'll just
shut up, and stick that deed somewhere it won't burn, and come
home an' plant me as successfully as you did Pa, you'll have
earned all you'll get, an' something coming. Now set us out a
bite to eat, and let's be off."

Kate slowly arose and handed back the deed.

"I'll be flying around so lively I might lose that," she said,
"you put it where you had it, till we get to Hartley, and then
I'll get a place in the bank vault for it. I can't quite take
this in, just yet, but you know I'll do my best for you, Mother!"

"Tain't likely I'd be here else," said Mrs. Bates, "and tea,
Katie. A cup of good strong hot tea would fix me up about proper,
right now."

Kate went to the kitchen and began setting everything she had to
eat on the table. As she worked Polly came flying in the door
crying: "Mother, who has come?" so Kate stepped toward the living
room to show the child to her grandmother and as she advanced she
saw a queer thing. Adam was sitting on his grandmother's lap.
Her arms were tight around him, her face buried in his crisp hair,
and he was patting her shoulder and telling her he would take care
of her, while her voice said distinctly: "Of course you will,
birdie!" Then the lad and the old woman laid their heads together
and laughed almost hysterically.

"WELL, IF THAT ISN'T QUICK WORK!" said Kate to herself. Then she
presented Polly, who followed Adam's lead in hugging the stranger
first and looking at her afterward. God bless all little
children. Then Adam ran to tell the second-hand man to come at
one o'clock and Dr. James that he might have the keys at three.
They ate hurriedly. Kate set out what she wished to save; the
children carried things to the wagon; she packed while they ran
after their books, and at three o'clock all of them climbed into
the spring wagon, and started to Bates Corners.

Kate was the last one in. As she climbed on the seat beside her
mother and took the lines, she handed Mrs. Bates a small china mug
to hold for her. It was decorated with a very fat robin and on a
banner floating from its beak was inscribed: "For a Good Girl."

LIFE'S BOOMERANG

AS THEY drove into Hartley, Mrs. Bates drew forth the deed.

"You are right about the bank being a safe place for this," she
said. "I've had it round the house for two years, and it's a fair
nervous thing to do. I wish I'd a-had sense to put it there and
come after you the day I made it. But there's no use crying over
spilt milk, nor fussin' with the grease spot it makes; salt it
down safely now, and when you get it done, beings as this setting
is fairly comfortable, take time to run into Harding's and pick up
some Sunday-school clothes for the children that will tally up
with the rest of their relations'; an' get yourself a cheap frock
or two that will spruce you up a bit till you have time to decide
what you really want."

Kate passed the lines to her mother, and climbed from the wagon.
She returned with her confidence partly restored and a new look on
her face. Her mother handed her two dimes.

"I can wait five minutes longer," she said. "Now get two nice
oranges and a dime's worth of candy."

Kate took the money and obeyed orders. She handed the packages to
her mother as she climbed into the wagon and again took the lines,
heading the horse toward the old, familiar road. Her mother
twisted around on the seat and gave each of the children an orange
and a stick of candy.

"There!" she said. "Go on and spoil yourselves past redemption."

Kate laughed. "But, Mother," she said, "you never did that for
us."

"Which ain't saying I never WANTED to," said Mrs. Bates, sourly.
"You're a child only once in this world; it's a little too rough
to strip childhood of everything. I ain't so certain Bates ways
are right, that for the rest of my time I'm goin' to fly in the
face of all creation to prove it. If God lets me live a few years
more, I want the faces around me a little less discontenteder than
those I've been used to. If God Almighty spares me long enough, I
lay out to make sure that Adam and Polly will squeeze out a tear
or two for Granny when she is laid away."

"I think you are right, Mother," said Kate. "It didn't cost
anything, but we had a real pretty Christmas tree this year, and I
believe we can do better next time. I want the children to love
you, but don't BUY them."

"Well, I'd hardly call an orange and a stick of candy traffickin'
in affection," said Mrs. Bates. "They'll survive it without
underminin' their principles, I'll be bound, or yours either.
Katie, let's make a beginning to-day. LET'S WORK WHAT IS RIGHT,
AND HEALTHY, A FAIR PART OF THE DAY, AND THEN EACH DAY, AND SUNDAY
ESPECIALLY, LET'S PLAY AND REST, JUST AS HARD AS WE WORK. IT'S
BEEN ALL WORK AND NO PLAY TILL WE'VE BEEN MIGHTY 'DULL BOYS' AT
OUR HOUSE; I'M FREE TO SAY THAT I HANKER FOR A CHANGE BEFORE I
DIE."

"Don't speak so often of dying," said Kate. "You're all right.
You've been too much alone. You'll feel like yourself as soon as
you get rested."

"I guess I been thinking about it too much," said Mrs. Bates. "I
ain't been so well as I might, an' not being used to it, it
worries me some. I got to buck up. The one thing I CAN'T do is
to die; but I'm most tired enough to do it right now. I'll be
glad when we get home."

Kate drove carefully, but as fast as she dared with her load. As
they neared Bates Corners, the way became more familiar each mile.
Kate forgot the children, forgot her mother, forgot ten years of
disappointment and failure, and began a struggle to realize what
was happening to her now. The lines slipped down, the horse
walked slowly, the first thing she knew, big hot tears splashed on
her hand. She gathered up the lines, drew a deep breath, and
glanced at her mother, meeting her eye fairly. Kate tried to
smile, but her lips were quivering.

"Glad, Katie?" asked Mrs. Bates.

Kate nodded.

"Me, too!" said Mrs. Bates.

They passed the orchard.

"There's the house, there, Polly!" cried Adam.

"Why, Adam, how did you know the place?" asked Kate, turning.

Adam hesitated a second. "Ain't you told us times a-plenty about
the house and the lilac, and the snowball bush -- " "Yes, and the
cabbage roses," added Polly.

"So I have," said Kate. "Mostly last winter when we were
knitting. Yes, this will be home for all the rest of our lives.
Isn't it grand? How will we ever thank Grandmother? How will we
ever be good enough to pay her?"

Both children thought this a hint, so with one accord they arose
and fell on Mrs. Bates' back, and began to pay at once in coin of
childhood.

"There, there," said Kate, drawing them away as she stopped the
horse at the gate. "There, there, you will choke Grandmother."

Mrs. Bates pushed Kate's arm down.

"Mind your own business, will you?" she said. "I ain't so feeble
that I can't speak for myself awhile yet."

In a daze Kate climbed down, and ran to bring a chair to help her
mother. The children were boisterously half eating Mrs. Bates up;
she had both of them in her arms, with every outward evidence of
enjoying the performance immensely. That was a very busy evening,
for the wagon was to be unpacked; all of them were hungry, while
the stock was to be fed, and the milking done. Mrs. Bates and
Polly attempted supper; Kate and Adam went to the barn; but they
worked very hurriedly, for Kate could see how feeble her mother
had grown.

When at last the children were bathed and in bed, Kate and her
mother sat on the little front porch to smell spring a few minutes
before going to rest. Kate reached over and took her mother's
hand.

"There's no word I know in any language big enough to thank you
for this, Mother," she said. "The best I can do is make each day
as nearly a perfect expression of what I feel as possible."

Mrs. Bates drew away her hand and used it to wipe her eyes; but
she said with her usual terse perversity: "My, Kate! You're most
as wordy as Agatha. I'm no glibtonguer, but I bet you ten dollars
it will hustle you some to be any gladder than I am."

Kate laughed and gave up the thanks question.

"To-morrow we must get some onions in," she said. "Have you made
any plans about the farm work for this year yet?"

"No," said Mrs. Bates. "I was going to leave that till I decided
whether I'd come after you this spring or wait until next. Since
I decided to come now, I'll just leave your farm to you. Handle
it as you please."

"Mother, what will the other children say?" implored Kate.

"Humph! You are about as well acquainted with them as I am. Take
a shot at it yourself. If it will avoid a fuss, we might just say
you had to come to stay with me, and run the farm for me, and let
them get used to your being here, and bossing things by degrees;
like the man that cut his dog's tail off an inch at a time, so it
wouldn't hurt so bad."

"But by inches, or 'at one fell swoop,' it's going to hurt," said
Kate.

"Sometimes it seems to me," said Mrs. Bates, "that the more we get
HURT in this world the decenter it makes us. All the boys were
hurt enough when Pa went, but every man of them has been a BIGGER,
BETTER man since. Instead of competing as they always did, Adam
and Andrew and the older, beforehandeder ones, took hold and
helped the younger as you told them to, and it's done the whole
family a world of good. One thing is funny. To hear Mary talk
now, you'd think she engineered that plan herself. The boys are
all thankful, and so are the girls. I leave it to you. Tell them
or let them guess it by degrees, it's all one to me."

"Tell me about Nancy Ellen and Robert," said Kate.

"Robert stands head in Hartley. He gets bigger and broader every
year. He is better looking than a man has any business to be; and
I hear the Hartley ladies give him plenty of encouragement in
being stuck on himself, but I think he is true to Nancy Ellen, and
his heart is all in his work. No children. That's a burning
shame! Both of them feel it. In a way, and strictly between you
and me, Nancy Ellen is a disappointment to me, an' I doubt if she
ain't been a mite of a one to him. He had a right to expect a
good deal of Nancy Ellen. She had such a good brain, and good
body, and purty face. I may miss my guess, but it always strikes
me that she falls SHORT of what he expected of her. He's coined
money, but she hasn't spent it in the ways he would. Likely I
shouldn't say it, but he strikes me as being just a leetle mite
too good for her."

"Oh, Mother!" said Kate.

"Now you lookey here," said Mrs. Bates. "Suppose you was a man of
Robert's brains, and education, and professional ability, and you
made heaps of money, and no children came, and you had to see all
you earned, and stood for, and did in a community spent on the
SELFISHNESS of one woman. How big would you feel? What end is
that for the ambition and life work of a real man? How would you
like it?"

"I never thought of such a thing," said Kate.

"Well, mark my word, you WILL think of it when you see their home,
and her clothes, and see them together," said Mrs. Bates.

"She still loves pretty clothing so well?" asked Kate.

"She is the best-dressed woman in the county, and the best
looking," said Mrs. Bates, "and that's all there is to her. I'm
free to say with her chances, I'm ashamed of what she has, and
hasn't made of herself. I'd rather stand in your shoes, than
hers, this minute, Katie."

"Does she know I'm here?" asked Kate.

"Yes. I stopped and told her on my way out, this morning," said
Mrs. Bates. "I asked them to come out for Sunday dinner, and they
are coming."

"Did you deliver the invitation by force?" asked Kate.

"Now, none of your meddling," said Mrs. Bates. "I got what I went
after, and that was all I wanted. I've told her an' told her to
come to see you during the last three years, an' I know she WANTED
to come; but she just had that stubborn Bates streak in her that
wouldn't let her change, once her mind was made up. It did give
us a purty severe jolt, Kate, havin' all that good Bates money
burn up."

"I scarcely think it jolted any of you more than it did me," said
Kate dryly.

"No, I reckon it didn't," said Mrs. Bates. "But they's no use
hauling ourselves over the coals to go into that. It's past. You
went out to face life bravely enough and it throwed you a
boomerang that cut a circle and brought you back where you started
from. Our arrangements for the future are all made. Now it's up
to us to live so that we get the most out of life for us an' the
children. Those are mighty nice children of yours, Kate. I take
to that boy something amazin', and the girl is the nicest little
old lady I've seen in many a day. I think we will like knittin'
and sewin' together, to the top of our bent."

"My, but I'm glad you like them, Mother," said Kate. "They are
all I've got to show for ten years of my life."

"Not by a long shot, Katie," said Mrs. Bates. "Life has made a
real woman of you. I kept watchin' you to-day comin' over; an' I
was prouder 'an Jehu of you. It's a debatable question whether
you have thrown away your time and your money. I say you've got
something to show for it that I wish to God the rest of my
children had. I want you should brace your back, and stiffen your
neck, and make things hum here. Get a carpenter first. Fix the
house the way it will be most convenient and comfortable. Then
paint and paper, and get what new things you like, in reason -- of
course, in reason -- and then I want you should get all of us
clothes so's there ain't a noticeable difference between us and
the others when we come together here or elsewhere. Put in a
telephone; they're mighty handy, and if you can scrape up a place
-- I washed in Nancy Ellen's tub a few weeks ago. I never was wet
all over at once before in my life, and I'm just itching to try it
again. I say, let's have it, if it knocks a fair-sized hole in a
five-hundred-dollar bill. An' if we had the telephone right now,
we could call up folks an' order what we want without ever budgin'
out of our tracks. Go up ahead, Katie, I'll back you in anything
you can think of. It won't hurt my feelings a mite if you can
think of one or two things the rest of them haven't got yet.
Can't you think of something that will lay the rest of them clear
in the shade? I just wish you could. Now, I'm going to bed."

Kate went with her mother, opened her bed, pulled out the pins,
and brushed her hair, drew the thin cover over her, and blew out
the light. Then she went past the bed on her way to the door, and
stooping, she kissed her mother for the first time since she could
remember.

Then she lighted a lamp, hunted a big sheet of wrapping paper, and
sitting down beside the living room table, she drew a rough sketch
of the house. For hours she pored over it, and when at last she
went to bed, on the reverse of the sheet she had a drawing that
was quite a different affair; yet it was the same house with very
few and easily made changes that a good contractor could
accomplish in a short time. In the morning, she showed these
ideas to her mother who approved all of them, but still showed
disappointment visibly.

"That's nothing but all the rest of them have," she said. "I
thought you could think up some frills that would be new, and
different."

"Well," said Kate, "would you want to go to the expense of setting
up a furnace in the cellar? It would make the whole house toasty
warm; it would keep the bathroom from freezing in cold weather;
and make a better way to heat the water."

"Now you're shouting!" cried Mrs. Bates. "That's it! But keep
still. Don't you tell a soul about it, but go on and do it,
Katie. Wade right in! What else can you think of?"

"A brain specialist for you," said Kate. "I think myself this is
enough for a start; but if you insist on more, there's a gas line
passing us out there on the road; we could hitch on for a very
reasonable sum, and do away with lamps and cooking with wood."

"Goody for you! That's it!" cried Mrs. Bates. "That's the very
thing! Now brush up your hair your prettiest, and put on your new
blue dress, and take the buggy, and you and Adam go see how much
of this can be started to-day. Me and Polly will keep house."

In a month all of these changes had been made, and were in running
order; the painting was finished, new furniture in place, a fair
start made on the garden, while a strong, young, hired man was not
far behind Hiram with his plowing. Kate was so tired she almost
staggered; but she was so happy she arose each morning refreshed,
and accomplished work enough for three average women before the
day was over. She suggested to her mother that she use her money
from the sale of the Walden home to pay for what furniture she had
bought, and then none of the others could feel that they were
entitled to any share in it, at any time. Mrs. Bates thought that
a good idea, so much ill will was saved among the children.

They all stopped in passing; some of them had sharp words to say,
which Kate instantly answered in such a way that this was seldom
tried twice. In two months the place was fresh, clean,
convenient, and in good taste. All of them had sufficient
suitable clothing, while the farm work had not been neglected
enough to hurt the value of the crops.

In the division of labour, Adam and the hired man took the barn
and field work, Mrs. Bates and Polly the house, while Kate threw
all her splendid strength wherever it was most needed. If a horse
was sick, she went to the barn and doctored it. If the hay was
going to get wet, she pitched hay. If the men had not time for
the garden she attended it, and hoed the potatoes. For a change,
everything went right. Mrs. Bates was happier than she ever had
been before, taking the greatest interest in the children. They
had lived for three years in such a manner that they would never
forget it. They were old enough to appreciate what changes had
come to them, and to be very keen about their new home and life.
Kate threw herself into the dream of her heart with all the zest
of her being. Always she had loved and wanted land. Now she had
it. She knew how to handle it. She could make it pay as well as
any Bates man, for she had man strength, and all her life she had
heard men discuss, and helped men apply man methods.

There was a strong strain of her father's spirit of driving in
Kate's blood; but her mother was so tired of it that whenever Kate
had gone just so far the older woman had merely to caution: "Now,
now, Katie!" to make Kate realized what she was doing and take a
slower pace. All of them were well, happy, and working hard; but
they also played at proper times, and in convenient places. Kate
and her mother went with the children when they fished in the
meadow brook, or hunted wild flowers in the woods for Polly's bed
in the shade of the pear tree beside the garden. There were
flowers in the garden now, as well as vegetables. There was no
work done on Sunday. The children always went to Sunday-school
and the full term of the District School at Bates Corners. They
were respected, they were prosperous, they were finding a joy in
life they never before had known, while life had taught them how
to appreciate its good things as they achieved them.

The first Christmas Mrs. Bates and Kate made a Christmas tree from
a small savine in the dooryard that stood where Kate wanted to set
a flowering shrub she had found in the woods. Guided by the
former year, and with a few dollars they decided to spend, these
women made a real Christmas tree, with gifts and ornaments, over
which Mrs. Bates was much more excited than the children. Indeed,
such is the perversity of children that Kate's eyes widened and
her mouth sagged when she heard Adam say in a half-whisper to
Polly: "This is mighty pretty, but gee, Polly, there'll never be
another tree as pretty as ours last year!"

While Polly answered: "I was just thinking about it, Adam.
Wasn't it the grandest thing?"

The next Christmas Mrs. Bates advanced to a tree that reached the
ceiling, with many candles, real ornaments, and an orange, a
stocking of candy and nuts, and a doll for each girl, and a knife
for each boy of her grandchildren, all of whom she invited for
dinner. Adam, 3d, sat at the head of the table, Mrs. Bates at the
foot. The tiniest tots that could be trusted without their
parents ranged on the Dictionary and the Bible, of which the Bates
family possessed a fat edition for birth records; no one had ever
used it for any other purpose, until it served to lift Hiram's
baby, Milly, on a level with her roast turkey and cranberry jelly.
For a year before her party Mrs. Bates planned for it. The tree
was beautiful, the gifts amazing, the dinner, as Kate cooked and
served it, a revelation, with its big centre basket of red,
yellow, and green apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, and flowers.
None of them ever had seen a table like that. Then when dinner
was over, Kate sat before the fire and in her clear voice, with
fine inflections, she read from the Big Book the story of the
guiding star and the little child in the manger. Then she told
stories, and they played games until four o'clock; and then Adam
rolled all of the children into the big wagon bed mounted on the
sled runners, and took them home. Then he came back and finished
the day. Mrs. Bates could scarcely be persuaded to go to bed.
When at last Kate went to put out her mother's light, and see that
her feet were warm and her covers tucked, she found her crying.

"Why, Mother!" exclaimed Kate in frank dismay. "Wasn't everything
all right?"

"I'm just so endurin' mad," sobbed Mrs. Bates, "that I could a-
most scream and throw things. Here I am, closer the end of my
string than anybody knows. Likely I'll not see another Christmas.
I've lived the most of my life, and never knowed there was a time
like that on earth to be had. There wasn't expense to it we
couldn't easy have stood, always. Now, at the end of my tether, I
go and do this for my grandchildren. 'Tween their little shining
faces and me, there kept coming all day the little, sad,
disappointed faces of you and Nancy Ellen, and Mary, and Hannah,
and Adam, and Andrew, and Hiram and all the others. Ever since he
went I've thought the one thing I COULDN'T DO WAS TO DIE AND FACE
ADAM BATES, but to-day I ain't felt so scared of him. Seems to me
HE has got about as much to account for as I have."

Kate stood breathlessly still, looking at her mother. Mrs. Bates
wiped her eyes. "I ain't so mortal certain," she said, "that I
don't open up on him and take the first word. I think likely I
been defrauded out of more that really counts in this world, than
he has. Ain't that little roly-poly of Hannah's too sweet? Seems
like I'll hardly quit feeling her little sticky hands and her
little hot mouth on my face when I die; and as she went out she
whispered in my ear: 'Do it again, Grandma, Oh, please do it
again!' an it's more'n likely I'll not get the chance, no matter
how willing I am. Kate, I am going to leave you what of my money
is left -- I haven't spent so much -- and while you live here, I
wish each year you would have this same kind of a party and pay
for it out of that money, and call it 'Grandmother's Party.' Will
you?"

"I surely will," said Kate. "And hadn't I better have ALL of
them, and put some little thing from you on the tree for them?
You know how Hiram always was wild for cuff buttons, and Mary
could talk by the hour about a handkerchief with lace on it, and
Andrew never yet has got that copy of 'Aesop's Fables,' he always
wanted. Shall I?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Bates. "Oh, yes, and when you do it, Katie, if
they don't chain me pretty close in on the other side, I think
likely I'll be sticking around as near as I can get to you."

Kate slipped a hot brick rolled in flannel to the cold old feet,
and turning out the light she sat beside the bed and stroked the
tired head until easy breathing told her that her mother was sound
asleep. Then she went back to the fireplace and sitting in the
red glow she told Adam, 3d, PART of what her mother had said.
Long after he was gone, she sat gazing into the slowly graying
coals, her mind busy with what she had NOT told.

That spring was difficult for Kate. Day after day she saw her
mother growing older, feebler, and frailer. And as the body
failed, up flamed the wings of the spirit, carrying her on and on,
each day keeping her alive, when Kate did not see how it could be
done. With all the force she could gather, each day Mrs. Bates
struggled to keep going, denied that she felt badly, drove herself
to try to help about the house and garden. Kate warned the
remainder of the family what they might expect at an hour; but
when they began coming in oftener, bringing little gifts and being
unusually kind, Mrs. Bates endured a few of the visits in silence,
then she turned to Kate and said after her latest callers: "I
wonder what in the name of all possessed ails the folks? Are they
just itching to start my funeral? Can't they stay away until you
send them word that the breath's out of my body?"

"Mother, you shock me," said Kate. "They come because they LOVE
you. They try to tell you so with the little things they bring.
Most people would think they were neglected, if their children did
NOT come to see them when they were not so well."

"Not so well!" cried Mrs. Bates. "Folly! I am as well as I ever
was. They needn't come snooping around, trying to make me think
I'm not. If they'd a-done it all their lives, well and good; it's
no time for them to begin being cotton-mouthed now."

"Mother," said Kate gently, "haven't YOU changed, yourself, about
things like Christmas, for example? Maybe your children are
changing, too. Maybe they feel that they have missed something
they'd like to have from you, and give back to you, before it's
too late. Just maybe," said Kate.

Mrs. Bates sat bolt upright still, but her flashing eyes softened.

"I hadn't just thought of that," she said. "I think it's more
than likely. Well, if it's THAT way, I s'pose I've got to button
up my lip and stand it; but it's about more than I can go, when I
know that the first time I lose my grip I'll land smash up against
Adam Bates and my settlement with him."

"Mother," said Kate still more gently, "I thought we had it
settled at the time Father went that each of you would be
accountable to GOD, not to each other. I am a wanderer in
darkness myself, when it come to talking about God, but this I
know, He is SOMEWHERE and He is REDEEMING love. If Father has
been in the light of His love all these years, he must have
changed more, far more than you have. He'll understand now how
wrong he was to force ways on you he knew you didn't think right;
he'll have more to account to you for than you ever will to him;
and remember this only, neither of you is accountable, save to
your God."

Mrs. Bates arose and walked to the door, drawn to full height, her
head very erect. The world was at bloom-time. The evening air
was heavily sweet with lilacs, and the widely branching, old apple
trees of the dooryard with loaded with flowers. She stepped
outside. Kate followed. Her mother went down the steps and down
the walk to the gate. Kate kept beside her, in reach, yet not
touching her. At the gate she gripped the pickets to steady
herself as she stared long and unflinchingly at the red setting
sun dropping behind a white wall of bloom. Then she slowly
turned, life's greatest tragedy lining her face, her breath coming
in short gasps. She spread her hands at each side, as if to
balance herself, her passing soul in her eyes, and looked at Kate.

"Katherine Eleanor," she said slowly and distinctly, "I'm going
now. I can't fight it off any longer. I confess myself. I
burned those deeds. Every one of them. Pa got himself afire, but
he'd thrown THEM out of it. It was my chance. I took it. Are
you going to tell them?"

Kate was standing as tall and straight as her mother, her hands
extended the same, but not touching her.

"No," she said. "You were an instrument in the hands of God to
right a great wrong. No! I shall never tell a soul while I live.
In a minute God himself will tell you that you did what He willed
you should."

"Well, we will see about that right now," said Mrs. Bates, lifting
her face to the sky. "Into thy hands, O Lord, into thy hands!"

Then she closed her eyes and ceased to breathe. Kate took her
into her arms and carried her to her bed.

SOMEWHAT OF POLLY

IF THE spirit of Mrs. Bates hovered among the bloom-whitened apple
trees as her mortal remains were carried past the lilacs and
cabbage rose bushes, through a rain of drifting petals, she must
have been convinced that time had wrought one great change in the
hearts of her children. They had all learned to weep; while if
the tears they shed were a criterion of their feelings for her,
surely her soul must have been satisfied. They laid her away with
simple ceremony and then all of them went to their homes, except
Nancy Ellen and Robert, who stopped in passing to learn if there
was anything they could do for Kate. She was grieving too deeply
for many words; none of them would ever understand the deep bond
of sympathy and companionship that had grown to exist between her
and her mother. She stopped at the front porch and sat down,
feeling unable to enter the house with Nancy Ellen, who was deeply
concerned over the lack of taste displayed in Agatha's new spring
hat. When Kate could endure it no longer she interrupted: "Why
didn't all of them come?"

"What for?" asked Nancy Ellen.

"They had a right to know what Mother had done," said Kate in a
low voice.

"But what was the use?" asked Nancy Ellen. "Adam had been
managing the administrator business for Mother and paying her
taxes with his, of course when she made a deed to you, and had it
recorded, they told him. All of us knew it for two years before
she went after you. And the new furniture was bought with your
money, so it's yours; what was there to have a meeting about?"

"Mother didn't understand that you children knew," said Kate.

"Sometimes I thought there were a lot of things Mother didn't
understand," said Nancy Ellen, "and sometimes I thought she
understood so much more than any of the rest of us, that all of us
would have had a big surprise if we could have seen her brain."

"Yes, I believe we would," said Kate. "Do you mind telling me how
the boys and girls feel about this?"

Nancy Ellen laughed shortly. "Well, the boys feel that you
negotiated such a fine settlement of Father's affairs for them,
that they owe this to you. The girls were pretty sore at first,
and some of them are nursing their wrath yet; but there wasn't a
thing on earth they could do. All of them were perfectly willing
that you should have something -- after the fire -- of course,
most of them thought Mother went too far."

"I think so myself," said Kate. "But she never came near me, or
wrote me, or sent me even one word, until the day she came after
me. I had nothing to do with it --"

"All of us know that, Kate," said Nancy Ellen. "You needn't
worry. We're all used to it, and we're all at the place where we
have nothing to say."

To escape grieving for her mother, Kate worked that summer as
never before. Adam was growing big enough and strong enough to be
a real help. He was interested in all they did, always after the
reason, and trying to think of a better way. Kate secured the
best agricultural paper for him and they read it nights together.
They kept an account book, and set down all they spent, and
balanced against it all they earned, putting the difference, which
was often more than they hoped for, in the bank.

So the years ran. As the children grew older, Polly discovered
that the nicest boy in school lived across the road half a mile
north of them; while Adam, after a real struggle in his loyal twin
soul, aided by the fact that Henry Peters usually had divided his
apples with Polly before Adam reached her, discovered that Milly
York, across the road, half a mile south, liked his apples best,
and was as nice a girl as Polly ever dared to be. In a dazed way,
Kate learned these things from their after-school and Sunday talk,
saw that they nearly reached her shoulder, and realized that they
were sixteen. So quickly the time goes, when people are busy,
happy, and working together. At least Kate and Adam were happy,
for they were always working together. By tacit agreement, they
left Polly the easy housework, and went themselves to the fields
to wrestle with the rugged work of a farm. They thought they were
shielding Polly, teaching her a woman's real work, and being kind
to her.

Polly thought they were together because they liked to be; doing
the farm work because it suited them better; while she had known
from babyhood that for some reason her mother did not care for her
as she did for Adam. She thought at first that it was because
Adam was a boy. Later, when she noticed her mother watching her
every time she started to speak, and interrupting with the never-
failing caution: "Now be careful! THINK before you speak! Are
you SURE?" she wondered why this should happen to her always, to
Adam never. She asked Adam about it, but Adam did not know. It
never occurred to Polly to ask her mother, while Kate was so
uneasy it never occurred to her that the child would notice or
what she would think. The first time Polly deviated slightly from
the truth, she and Kate had a very terrible time. Kate felt fully
justified; the child astonished and abused.

Polly arrived at the solution of her problem slowly. As she grew
older, she saw that her mother, who always was charitable to
everyone else, was repelled by her grandmother, while she loved
Aunt Ollie. Older still, Polly realized that SHE was a
reproduction of her grandmother. She had only to look at her to
see this; her mother did not like her grandmother, maybe Mother
did not like her as well as Adam, because she resembled her
grandmother. By the time she was sixteen, Polly had arrived at a
solution that satisfied her as to why her mother liked Adam
better, and always left her alone in the house to endless cooking,
dishwashing, sweeping, dusting, washing, and ironing, while she
hoed potatoes, pitched hay, or sheared sheep. Polly thought the
nicer way would have been to do the housework together and then go
to the fields together; but she was a good soul, so she worked
alone and brooded in silence, and watched up the road for a
glimpse of Henry Peters, who liked to hear her talk, and to whom
it mattered not a mite that her hair was lustreless, her eyes
steel coloured, and her nose like that of a woman he never had
seen. In her way, Polly admired her mother, loved her, and worked
until she was almost dropping for Kate's scant, infrequent words
of praise.

So Polly had to be content in the kitchen. One day, having
finished her work two hours before dinnertime, she sauntered to
the front gate. How strange that Henry Peters should be at the
end of the field joining their land. When he waved, she waved
back. When he climbed the fence she opened the gate. They met
halfway, under the bloomful shade of a red haw. Henry wondered
who two men he had seen leaving the Holt gate were, and what they
wanted, but he was too polite to ask. He merely hoped they did
not annoy her. Oh, no, they were only some men to see Mother
about some business, but it was most kind of him to let her know
he was looking out for her. She got so lonely; Mother never would
let her go to the field with her. Of course not! The field was
no place for such a pretty girl; there was enough work in the
house for her. His sister should not work in the field, if he had
a sister, and Polly should not work there, if she belonged to him;
No-sir-ee! Polly looked at Henry with shining, young girl eyes,
and when he said she was pretty, her blue-gray eyes softened, her
cheeks pinked up, the sun put light in her hair nature had failed
to, and lo and behold, the marvel was wrought -- plain little
Polly became a thing of beauty. She knew it instantly, because
she saw herself in Henry Peters' eyes. And Henry was so amazed
when this wonderful transformation took place in little Polly,
right there under the red haw tree, that his own eyes grew big and
tender, his cheeks flooded with red blood, his heart shook him,
and he drew to full height, and became possessed of an
overwhelming desire to dance before Polly, and sing to her. He
grew so splendid, Polly caught her breath, and then she smiled on
him a very wondering smile, over the great discovery; and Henry
grew so bewildered he forgot either to dance or sing as a
preliminary. He merely, just merely, reached out and gathered
Polly in his arms, and held her against him, and stared down at
her wonderful beauty opening right out under his eyes.

"Little Beautiful!" said Henry Peters in a hushed, choking voice,
"Little Beautiful!"

Polly looked up at him. She was every bit as beautiful as he
thought her, while he was so beautiful to Polly that she gasped
for breath. How did he happen to look as he did, right under the
red haw, in broad daylight? He had been hers, of course, ever
since, shy and fearful, she had first entered Bates Corners
school, and found courage in his broad, encouraging smile. Now
she smiled on him, the smile of possession that was in her heart.
Henry instantly knew she always had belonged to him, so he grasped
her closer, and bent his head.

When Henry went back to the plow, and Polly ran down the road,
with the joy of the world surging in her heart and brain, she knew
that she was going to have to account to her tired, busy mother
for being half an hour late with dinner; and he knew he was going
to have to explain to an equally tired father why he was four
furrows short of where he should be.

He came to book first, and told the truth. He had seen some men
go to the Holts'. Polly was his little chum; and she was always
alone all summer, so he just walked that way to be sure she was
safe. His father looked at him quizzically.

"So THAT'S the way the wind blows!" he said. "Well, I don't know
where you could find a nicer little girl or a better worker. I'd
always hoped you'd take to Milly York; but Polly is better; she
can work three of Milly down. Awful plain, though!"

This sacrilege came while Henry's lips were tingling with their
first kiss, and his heart was drunken with the red wine of
innocent young love.

"Why, Dad, you're crazy!" he cried. "There isn't another girl in
the whole world as pretty and sweet as Polly. Milly York? She
can't hold a candle to Polly! Besides, she's been Adam's as long
as Polly has been mine!"

"God bless my soul!" cried Mr. Peters. "How these youngsters to
run away with us. And are you the most beautiful young man at
Bates Corners, Henry?"

"I'm beautiful enough that Polly will put her arms around my neck
and kiss me, anyway," blurted Henry. "So you and Ma can get ready
for a wedding as soon as Polly says the word. I'm ready, right
now."

"So am I," said Mr. Peters, "and from the way Ma complains about
the work I and you boys make her, I don't think she will object to
a little help. Polly is a good, steady worker."

Polly ran, but she simply could not light the fire, set the table,
and get things cooked on time, while everything she touched seemed
to spill or slip. She could not think what, or how, to do the
usual for the very good reason that Henry Peters was a Prince, and
a Knight, and a Lover, and a Sweetheart, and her Man; she had just
agreed to all this with her soul, less than an hour ago under the
red haw. No wonder she was late, no wonder she spilled and
smeared; and red of face she blundered and bungled, for the first
time in her life. Then in came Kate. She must lose no time, the
corn must be finished before it rained. She must hurry -- for the
first time dinner was late, while Polly was messing like a perfect
little fool.

Kate stepped in and began to right things with practised hand.
Disaster came when she saw Polly, at the well, take an instant
from bringing in the water, to wave in the direction of the Peters
farm. As she entered the door, Kate swept her with a glance.

"Have to upset the bowl, as usual?" she said, scathingly. "Just
as I think you're going to make something of yourself, and be of
some use, you begin mooning in the direction of that big, gangling
Hank Peters. Don't you ever let me see you do it again. You are
too young to start that kind of foolishness. I bet a cow he was
hanging around here, and made you late with dinner."

"He was not! He didn't either!" cried Polly, then stopped in
dismay, her cheeks burning. She gulped and went on bravely:
"That is, he wasn't here, and he didn't make ME late, any more
than I kept HIM from his work. He always watches when there are
tramps and peddlers on the road, because he knows I'm alone. I
knew he would be watching two men who stopped to see you, so I
just went as far as the haw tree to tell him I was all right, and
we got to talking --"

If only Kate had been looking at Polly then! But she was putting
the apple butter and cream on the table. As she did so, she
thought possibly it was a good idea to have Henry Peters seeing
that tramps did not frighten Polly, so she missed dawn on the face
of her child, and instead of what might have been, she said:
"Well, I must say THAT is neighbourly of him; but don't you dare
let him get any foolish notions in his head. I think Aunt Nancy
Ellen will let you stay at her house after this, and go to the
Hartley High School in winter, so you can come out of that much
better prepared to teach than I ever was. I had a surprise
planned for you to-night, but now I don't know whether you deserve
it or not. I'll have to think."

Kate did not think at all. After the manner of parents, she SAID
that, but her head was full of something she thought vastly more
important just then; of course Polly should have her share in it.
Left alone to wash the dishes and cook supper while her mother
went to town, it was Polly, who did the thinking. She thought
entirely too much, thought bitterly, thought disappointedly, and
finally thought resentfully, and then alas, Polly thought
deceitfully. Her mother had said: "Never let me see you." Very
well, she would be extremely careful that she was NOT seen; but
before she slept she rather thought she would find a way to let
Henry know how she was being abused, and about that plan to send
her away all the long winter to school. She rather thought Henry
would have something to say about how his "Little Beautiful" was
being treated. Here Polly looked long and searchingly in the
mirror to see if by any chance Henry was mistaken, and she
discovered he was. She stared in amazement at the pink-cheeked,
shining eyed girl she saw mirrored. She pulled her hair looser
around the temples, and drew her lips over her teeth. Surely
Henry was mistaken. "Little Beautiful" was too moderate. She
would see that he said "perfectly lovely," the next time, and he
did.

KATE'S HEAVENLY TIME

ONE evening Kate and Polly went to the front porch to rest until
bedtime and found a shining big new trunk sitting there, with
Kate's initials on the end, her name on the check tag, and a key
in the lock. They unbuckled the straps, turned the key, and
lifted the lid. That trunk contained underclothing, hose, shoes,
two hats, a travelling dress with half a dozen extra waists, and
an afternoon and an evening dress, all selected with especial
reference to Kate's colouring, and made one size larger than Nancy
Ellen wore, which fitted Kate perfectly. There were gloves, a
parasol, and a note which read:

DEAR KATE: Here are some clothes. I am going to go North a week
after harvest. You can be spared then as well as not. Come on!
Let's run away and have one good time all by ourselves. It is my
treat from start to finish. The children can manage the farm
perfectly well. Any one of her cousins will stay with Polly, if
she will be lonely. Cut loose and come on, Kate. I am going. Of
course Robert couldn't be pried away from his precious patients;
we will have to go alone; but we do not care. We like it. Shall
we start about the tenth, on the night train, which will be
cooler? NANCY ELLEN.

"We shall!" said Kate emphatically, when she finished the note.
"I haven't cut loose and had a good time since I was married; not
for eighteen years. If the children are not big enough to take
care of themselves, they never will be. I can go as well as not."

She handed the note to Polly, while she shook out dresses and
gloated over the contents of the trunk.

"Of course you shall go!" shouted Polly as she finished the note,
but even as she said it she glanced obliquely up the road and
waved a hand behind her mother's back.

"Sure you shall go!" cried Adam, when he finished the note, and
sat beside the trunk seeing all the pretty things over again.
"You just bet you shall go. Polly and I can keep house, fine! We
don't need any cousins hanging around. I'll help Polly with her
work, and then we'll lock the house and she can come out with me.
Sure you go! We'll do all right." Then he glanced obliquely down
the road, where a slim little figure in white moved under the
cherry trees of the York front yard, aimlessly knocking croquet
balls here and there.

It was two weeks until time to go, but Kate began taking care of
herself at once, solely because she did not want Nancy Ellen to be
ashamed of her. She rolled her sleeves down to meet her gloves
and used a sunbonnet instead of a sunshade. She washed and
brushed her hair with care she had not used in years. By the time
the tenth of July came, she was in very presentable condition,
while the contents of the trunk did the remainder. As she was
getting ready to go, she said to Polly: "Now do your best while
I'm away, and I am sure I can arrange with Nancy Ellen about
school this winter. When I get back, the very first thing I shall
do will be to go to Hartley and buy some stuff to begin on your
clothes. You shall have as nice dresses as the other girls, too.
Nancy Ellen will know exactly what to get you."

But she never caught a glimpse of Polly's flushed, dissatisfied
face or the tightening of her lips that would have suggested to
her, had she seen them, that Miss Polly felt perfectly capable of
selecting the clothing she was to wear herself. Adam took his
mother's trunk to the station in the afternoon. In the evening
she held Polly on her knee, while they drove to Dr. Gray's. Kate
thought the children would want to wait and see them take the
train, but Adam said that would make them very late getting home,
they had better leave that to Uncle Robert and go back soon; so
very soon they were duly kissed and unduly cautioned; then started
back down a side street that would not even take them through the
heart of the town. Kate looked after them approvingly: "Pretty
good youngsters," she said. "I told them to go and get some ice
cream; but you see they are saving the money and heading straight
home." She turned to Robert. "Can anything happen to them?" she
asked, in evident anxiety.

"Rest in peace, Kate," laughed the doctor. "You surely know that
those youngsters are going to be eighteen in a few weeks. You've
reared them carefully. Nothing can, or will, happen to them, that
would not happen right under your nose if you were at home. They
will go from now on according to their inclinations."

Kate looked at him sharply: "What do you mean by that?" she
demanded.

He laughed: "Nothing serious," he said. "Polly is half Bates, so
she will marry in a year or two, while Adam is all Bates, so he
will remain steady as the Rock of Ages, and strictly on the job.
Go have your good time, and if I possibly can, I'll come after
you."

"You'll do nothing of the kind," said Nancy Ellen, with finality.
"You wouldn't leave your patients, and you couldn't leave dear
Mrs. Southey."

"If you feel that way about it, why do you leave me?" he asked.

"To show the little fool I'm not afraid of her, for one thing,"
said Nancy Ellen with her head high. She was very beautiful in
her smart travelling dress, while her eyes flashed as she spoke.
The doctor looked at her approvingly.

"Good!" he cried. "I like a plucky woman! Go to have a good
time, Nancy Ellen; but don't go for that. I do wish you would
believe that there isn't a thing the matter with the little woman,
she's -- "

"I can go even farther than that," said Nancy Ellen, dryly. "I
KNOW 'there isn't a thing the matter with the little woman,'
except that she wants you to look as if you were running after
her. I'd be safe in wagering a thousand dollars that when she
hears I'm gone, she will send for you before to-morrow evening."

"You may also wager this," he said. "If she does, I shall be very
sorry, but I'm on my way to the country on an emergency call.
Nancy Ellen, I wish you wouldn't!"

"Wouldn't go North, or wouldn't see what every other living soul
in Hartley sees?" she asked curtly. Then she stepped inside to
put on her hat and gloves.

Kate looked at the doctor in dismay. "Oh, Robert!" she said.

"I give you my word of honour, Kate," he said. "If Nancy Ellen
only would be reasonable, the woman would see shortly that my wife
is all the world to me. I never have been, and never shall be,
untrue to her. Does that satisfy you?"

"Of course," said Kate. "I'll do all in my power to talk Nancy
Ellen out of that, on this trip. Oh, if she only had children to
occupy her time!"

"That's the whole trouble in a nutshell," said the doctor; "but
you know there isn't a scarcity of children in the world. Never a
day passes but I see half a dozen who need me, sorely. But with
Nancy Ellen, NO CHILD will do unless she mothers it, and
unfortunately, none comes to her."

"Too bad!" said Kate. "I'm so sorry!"

"Cheer her up, if you can," said the doctor.

An hour later they were speeding north, Nancy Ellen moody and
distraught, Kate as frankly delighted as any child. The spring
work was over; the crops were fine; Adam would surely have the
premium wheat to take to the County Fair in September; he would
work unceasingly for his chance with corn; he and Polly would be
all right; she could see Polly waiting in the stable yard while
Adam unharnessed and turned out the horse.

Kate kept watching Nancy Ellen's discontented face. At last she
said: "Cheer up, child! There isn't a word of truth in it!"

"I know it," said Nancy Ellen.

"Then why take the way of all the world to start, and KEEP people
talking?" asked Kate.

"I'm not doing a thing on earth but attending strictly to my own
business," said Nancy Ellen.

"That's exactly the trouble," said Kate. "You're not. You let
the little heifer have things all her own way. If it were my man,
and I loved him as you do Robert Gray, you can stake your life I
should be doing something, several things, in fact."

"This is interesting," said Nancy Ellen. "For example --?"

Kate had not given such a matter a thought. She looked from the
window a minute, her lips firmly compressed. Then she spoke
slowly: "Well, for one thing, I should become that woman's bosom
companion. About seven times a week I should uncover her most
aggravating weakness all unintentionally before the man in the
case, at the same time keeping myself, strictly myself. I should
keep steadily on doing and being what he first fell in love with.
Lastly, since eighteen years have brought you no fulfillment of
the desire of your heart, I should give it up, and content myself
and delight him by taking into my heart and home a couple of the
most attractive tiny babies I could find. Two are scarcely more
trouble than one; you can have all the help you will accept; the
children would never know the difference, if you took them as
babies, and soon you wouldn't either; while Robert would be
delighted. If I were you, I'd give myself something to work for
besides myself, and I'd give him so much to think about at home,
that charming young grass widows could go to grass!"

"I believe you would," said Nancy Ellen, wonderingly. "I believe
you would!"

"You're might right, I would," said Kate. "If I were married to a
man like Robert Gray, I'd fight tooth and nail before I'd let him
fall below his high ideals. It's as much your job to keep him up,
as it is his to keep himself. If God didn't make him a father, I
would, and I'd keep him BUSY on the job, if I had to adopt
sixteen."

Nancy Ellen laughed, as they went to their berths. The next
morning they awakened in cool Michigan country and went speeding
north among evergreen forests and clear lakes mirroring the
pointed forest tops and blue sky, past slashing, splashing
streams, in which they could almost see the speckled trout darting
over the beds of white sand. By late afternoon they had reached
their destination and were in their rooms, bathed, dressed, and
ready for the dinner hour. In the evening they went walking,
coming back to the hotel tired and happy. After several days they
began talking to people and making friends, going out in fishing
and boating parties in the morning, driving or boating in the
afternoon, and attending concerts or dances at night. Kate did
not dance, but she loved to see Nancy Ellen when she had a
sufficiently tall, graceful partner; while, as she watched the
young people and thought how innocent and happy they seemed, she
asked her sister if they could not possibly arrange for Adam and
Polly to go to Hartley a night or two a week that winter, and join
the dancing class. Nancy Ellen was frankly delighted, so Kate
cautiously skirted the school question in such a manner that she
soon had Nancy Ellen asking if it could not be arranged. When
that was decided, Nancy Ellen went to dance, while Kate stood on
the veranda watching her. The lights from the window fell
strongly on Kate. She was wearing her evening dress of smoky
gray, soft fabric, over shining silk, with knots of dull blue
velvet and gold lace here and there. She had dressed her hair
carefully; she appeared what she was, a splendid specimen of
healthy, vigorous, clean womanhood.

"Pardon me, Mrs. Holt," said a voice at her elbow, "but there's
only one head in this world like yours, so this, of course, must
be you."

Kate's heart leaped and stood still. She turned slowly, then held
out her hand, smiling at John Jardine, but saying not a word. He
took her hand, and as he gripped it tightly he studied her
frankly.

"Thank God for this!" he said, fervently. "For years I've dreamed
of you and hungered for the sight of your face; but you cut me off
squarely, so I dared not intrude on you -- only the Lord knows how
delighted I am to see you here, looking like this."

Kate smiled again.

"Come away," he begged. "Come out of this. Come walk a little
way with me, and tell me WHO you are, and HOW you are, and all the
things I think of every day of my life, and now I must know. It's
brigandage! Come, or I shall carry you!"

"Pooh! You couldn't!" laughed Kate. "Of course I'll come! And I
don't own a secret. Ask anything you want to know. How good it
is to see you! Your mother --?"

"At rest, years ago," he said. "She never forgave me for what I
did, in the way I did it. She said it would bring disaster, and
she was right. I thought it was not fair and honest not to let
you know the worst. I thought I was too old, and too busy, and
too flourishing, to repair neglected years at that date, but
believe me, Kate, you waked me up. Try the hardest one you know,
and if I can't spell it, I'll pay a thousand to your pet charity."

Kate laughed spontaneously. "Are you in earnest?" she asked.

"I am incomprehensibly, immeasurably in earnest," he said, guiding
her down a narrow path to a shrub-enclosed, railed-in platform,
built on the steep side of a high hill, where they faced the moon-
whitened waves, rolling softly in a dancing procession across the
face of the great inland sea. Here he found a seat.

"I've nothing to tell," he said. "I lost Mother, so I went on
without her. I learned to spell, and a great many other things,
and I'm still making money. I never forget you for a day; I never
have loved and never shall love any other woman. That's all about
me, in a nutshell; now go on and tell me a volume, tell me all
night, about you. Heavens, woman, I wish you could see yourself,
in that dress with the moon on your hair. Kate, you are the
superbest thing! I always shall be mad about you. Oh, if only
you could have had a little patience with me. I thought I
COULDN'T learn, but of course I COULD. But, proceed! I mustn't
let myself go."

Kate leaned back and looked a long time at the shining white waves
and the deep blue sky, then she turned to John Jardine, and began
to talk. She told him simply a few of the most presentable
details of her life: how she had lost her money, then had been
given her mother's farm, about the children, and how she now
lived. He listened with deep interest, often interrupting to ask
a question, and when she ceased talking he said half under his
breath: "And you're now free! Oh, the wonder of it! You're now,
free!"

Kate had that night to think about the remainder of her life. She
always sincerely hoped that the moonlight did not bewitch her into
leading the man beside her into saying things he seemed to take
delight in saying.

She had no idea what time it was; in fact, she did not care even
what Nancy Ellen thought or whether she would worry. The night
was wonderful; John Jardine had now made a man of himself worthy
of all consideration; being made love to by him was enchanting.
She had been occupied with the stern business of daily bread for
so long that to be again clothed as other women and frankly adored
by such a man as John Jardine was soul satisfying. What did she
care who worried or what time it was?

"But I'm keeping you here until you will be wet with these mists,"
John Jardine cried at last. "Forgive me, Kate, I never did have
any sense where you were concerned! I'll take you back now, but
you must promise me to meet me here in the morning, say at ten
o'clock. I'll take you back now, if you'll agree to that."

"There's no reason why I shouldn't," said Kate.

"And you're free, free!" he repeated.

The veranda, halls, and ballroom were deserted when they returned
to the hotel. As Kate entered her room, Nancy Ellen sat up in bed
and stared at her sleepily, but she was laughing in high good
humour. She drew her watch from under her pillow and looked at
it.

"Goodness gracious, Miss!" she cried. "Do you know it's almost
three o'clock?"

"I don't care in the least," said Kate, "if it's four or five.
I've had a perfectly heavenly time. Don't talk to me. I'll put
out the light and be quiet as soon as I get my dress off. I think
likely I've ruined it."

"What's the difference?" demanded Nancy Ellen, largely. "You can
ruin half a dozen a day now, if you want to."

"What do you mean?" asked Kate.

"'Mean?'" laughed Nancy Ellen. "I mean that I saw John Jardine or
his ghost come up to you on the veranda, looking as if he'd eat
you alive, and carry you away about nine o'clock, and you've been
gone six hours and come back having had a 'perfectly heavenly
time.' What should I mean! Go up head, Kate! You have earned
your right to a good time. It isn't everybody who gets a second
chance in this world. Tell me one thing, and I'll go to sleep in
peace and leave you to moon the remainder of the night, if you
like. Did he say he still loved you?"

"Still and yet," laughed Kate. "As I remember, his exact words
were that he 'never had loved and never would love any other
woman.' Now are you satisfied?"

Nancy Ellen sprang from the bed and ran to Kate, gathering her in
her strong arms. She hugged and kissed her ecstatically. "Good!
Good! Oh, you darling!" she cried. "There'll be nothing in the
world you can't have! I just know he had gone on making money; he
was crazy about you. Oh, Kate, this is too good! How did I ever
think of coming here, and why didn't I think of it seven years
ago? Kate, you must promise me you'll marry him, before I let you
go."

"I'll promise to THINK about it," said Kate, trying to free
herself, for despite the circumstances and the hour, her mind flew
back to a thousand times when only one kind word from Nancy Ellen
would have saved her endless pain. It was endless, for it was
burning in her heart that instant. At the prospect of wealth,
position, and power, Nancy Ellen could smother her with caresses;
but poverty, pain, and disgrace she had endured alone.

"I shan't let you go till you promise," threatened Nancy Ellen.
"When are you to see him again?"

"Ten, this morning," said Kate. "You better let me get to bed, or
I'll look a sight."

"Then promise," said Nancy Ellen.

Kate laid firm hands on the encircling arms. "Now, look here,"
she said, shortly, "it's about time to stop this nonsense.
There's nothing I can promise you. I must have time to think.
I've got not only myself, but the children to think for. And I've
only got till ten o'clock, so I better get at it."

Kate's tone made Nancy Ellen step back.

"Kate, you haven't still got that letter in your mind, have you?"
she demanded.

"No!" laughed Kate, "I haven't! He offered me a thousand dollars
if I could pronounce him a word he couldn't spell; and it's
perfectly evident he's studied until he is exactly like anybody
else. No, it's not that!"

"Then what is it? Simpleton, there WAS nothing else!" cried Nancy
Ellen.

"Not so much at that time; but this is nearly twenty years later,
and I have the fate of my children in my hands. I wish you'd go
to bed and let me think!" said Kate.

"Yes, and the longer you think the crazier you will act," cried
Nancy Ellen. "I know you! You better promise me now, and stick
to it."

For answer Kate turned off the light; but she did not go to bed.
She sat beside the window and she was still sitting there when
dawn crept across the lake and began to lighten the room. Then
she stretched herself beside Nancy Ellen, who roused and looked at
her.

"You just coming to bed?" she cried in wonder.

"At least you can't complain that I didn't think," said Kate, but
Nancy Ellen found no comfort in what she said, or the way she said
it. In fact, she arose when Kate did, feeling distinctly sulky.
As they returned to their room from breakfast, Kate laid out her
hat and gloves and began to get ready to keep her appointment.
Nancy Ellen could endure the suspense no longer.

"Kate," she said in her gentlest tones, "if you have no mercy on
yourself, have some on your children. You've no right, positively
no right, to take such a chance away from them."

"Chance for what?" asked Kate tersely.

"Education, travel, leisure, every opportunity in the world,"
enumerated Nancy Ellen.

Kate was handling her gloves, her forehead wrinkled, her eyes
narrowed in concentration.

"That is one side of it," she said. "The other is that neither my
children nor I have in our blood, breeding, or mental cosmos, the
background that it takes to make one happy with money in unlimited
quantities. So far as I'm concerned personally, I'm happier this
minute as I am, than John Jardine's money ever could make me. I
had a fierce struggle with that question long ago; since I have
had nearly eight years of life I love, that is good for my soul,
the struggle to leave it would be greater now. Polly would be
happier and get more from life as the wife of big gangling Henry
Peters, than she would as a millionaire's daughter. She'd be very
suitable in a farmhouse parlour; she'd be a ridiculous little
figure at a ball. As for Adam, he'd turn this down quick and
hard."

"Just you try him!" cried Nancy Ellen.

"For one thing, he won't be here at ten o'clock," said Kate, "and
for another, since it involves my becoming the wife of John
Jardine, it isn't for Adam to decide. This decision is strictly
my own. I merely mention the children, because if I married him,
it would have an inevitable influence on their lives, an influence
that I don't in the least covet either for them or for myself.
Nancy Ellen, can't you remotely conceive of such a thing as one
human being in the world who is SATISFIED THAT HE HAS HIS SHARE,
and who believes to the depths of his soul that no man should be
allowed to amass, and to use for his personal indulgence, the
amount of money that John Jardine does?"

"Yes, I can," cried Nancy Ellen, "when I see you, and the way you
act! You have chance after chance, but you seem to think that
life requires of you a steady job of holding your nose to the
grindstone. It was rather stubby to begin with, go on and grind
it clear off your face, if you like."

"All right," said Kate. "Then I'll tell you definitely that I
have no particular desire to marry anybody; I like my life
immensely as I'm living it. I'm free, independent, and my
children are in the element to which they were born, and where
they can live naturally, and spend their lives helping in the
great work of feeding, clothing, and housing their fellow men.
I've no desire to leave my job or take them from theirs, to start
a lazy, shiftless life of self-indulgence. I don't meddle much
with the Bible, but I have a profound BELIEF in it, and a large
RESPECT for it, as the greatest book in the world, and it says:
'By the sweat of his brow shall man earn his bread,' or words to
that effect. I was born a sweater, I shall just go on sweating
until I die; I refuse to begin perspiring at my time of life."

"You big fool!" cried Nancy Ellen.

"Look out! You're 'in danger of Hell fire,' when you call me
that!" warned Kate.

"Fire away!" cried Nancy Ellen, with tears in her eyes and voice.
"When I think what you've gone through -- "

Kate stared at her fixedly. "What do you know about what I've
gone though?" she demanded in a cold, even voice. "Personally, I
think you're not qualified to MENTION that subject; you better let
it rest. Whatever it has been, it's been of such a nature that I
have come out of it knowing when I have my share and when I'm well
off, for me. If John Jardine wants to marry me, and will sell all
he has, and come and work on the farm with me, I'll consider
marrying him. To leave my life and what I love to go to Chicago
with him, I do not feel called on, or inclined to do. No, I'll
not marry him, and in about fifteen minutes I'll tell him so."

"And go on making a mess of your life such as you did for years,"
said Nancy Ellen, drying her red eyes.

"At least it was my life," said Kate. "I didn't mess things for
any one else."

"Except your children," said Nancy Ellen.

"As you will," said Kate, rising. "I'll not marry John Jardine;
and the sooner I tell him so and get it over, the better. Good-
bye. I'll be back in half an hour."

Kate walked slowly to the observation platform, where she had been
the previous evening with John Jardine; and leaning on the
railing, she stood looking out over the water, and down the steep
declivity, thinking how best she could word what she had to say.
She was so absorbed she did not hear steps behind her or turn
until a sharp voice said: "You needn't wait any longer. He's not
coming!"

Kate turned and glanced at the speaker, and then around to make
sure she was the person being addressed. She could see no one
else. The woman was small, light haired, her face enamelled,
dressed beyond all reason, and in a manner wholly out of place for
morning at a summer resort in Michigan.

"If you are speaking to me, will you kindly tell me to whom you
refer, and give me the message you bring?" said Kate.

"I refer to Mr. John Jardine, Mrs. Holt," said the little woman
and then Kate saw that she was shaking, and gripping her hands for
self-control.

"Very well," said Kate. "It will save me an unpleasant task if he
doesn't come. Thank you," and she turned back to the water.

"You certainly didn't find anything unpleasant about being with
him half last night," said the little woman.

Kate turned again, and looked narrowly at the speaker. Then she
laughed heartily. "Well done, Jennie!" she cried. "Why, you are
such a fashionable lady, such a Dolly Varden, I never saw who you
were. How do you do? Won't you sit down and have a chat? It's
just dawning on me that very possibly, from your dress and manner,
I SHOULD have called you Mrs. Jardine."

"Didn't he tell you?" cried Jennie.

"He did not," said Kate. "Your name was not mentioned. He said
no word about being married."

"We have been married since a few weeks after Mrs. Jardine died.
I taught him the things you turned him down for not knowing; I
have studied him, and waited on him, and borne his children, and
THIS is my reward. What are you going to do?"

"Go back to the hotel, when I finish with this view," said Kate.
"I find it almost as attractive by day as it was by night."

"Brazen!" cried Mrs. Jardine.

"Choose your words carefully," said Kate. "I was her first; since
you have delivered your message, suppose you go and leave me to my
view."

"Not till I get ready," said Mrs. Jardine. "Perhaps it will help
you to know that I was not twenty feet from you at any time last
night; and that I stood where I could have touched you, while my
husband made love to you for hours."

"So?" said Kate. "I'm not at all surprised. That's exactly what
I should have expected of you. But doesn't it clarify the
situation any, at least for me, when I tell you that Mr. Jardine
gave me no faintest hint that he was married? If you heard all we
said, you surely remember that you were not mentioned?"

Mrs. Jardine sat down suddenly and gripped her little hands. Kate
studied her intently. She wondered what she would look like when
her hair was being washed; at this thought she smiled broadly.
That made the other woman frantic.

"You can well LAUGH at me," she said. "I made the banner fool of
the ages of myself when I schemed to marry him. I knew he loved
you. He told me so. He told me, just as he told you last night,
that he never had loved any other woman and he never would. I
thought he didn't know himself as I knew him. He was so grand to
his mother, I thought if I taught him, and helped him back to
self-respect, and gave him children, he must, and would love me.
Well, I was mistaken. He does not, and never will. Every day he
thinks of you; not a night but he speaks your name. He thinks all
things can be done with money -- "

"So do you, Jennie," interrupted Kate. "Well, I'll show you that
this CAN'T!"

"Didn't you hear him exulting because you are now free?" cried
Jennie. "He thinks he will give me a home, the children, a big
income; then secure his freedom and marry you."

"Oh, don't talk such rot!" cried Kate. "John Jardine thinks no
such thing. He wouldn't insult me by thinking I thought such a
thing. That thought belongs where it sprang from, right in your
little cramped, blonde brain, Jennie."

"You wouldn't? Are you sure you wouldn't?" cried Jennie, leaning
forward with hands clutched closely.

"I should say not!" said Kate. "The last thing on earth I want is
some other woman's husband. Now look here, Jennie, I'll tell you
the plain truth. I thought last night that John Jardine was as
free as I was; or I shouldn't have been here with him. I thought
he was asking me again to marry him, and I was not asleep last
night, thinking it over. I came here to tell him that I would
not. Does that satisfy you?"

"Satisfy?" cried Jennie. "I hope no other woman lives in the kind
of Hell I do."

"It's always the way," said Kate, "when people will insist on
getting out of their class. You would have gotten ten times more
from life as the wife of a village merchant, or a farmer, than you
have as the wife of a rich man. Since you're married to him, and
there are children, there's nothing for you to do but finish your
job as best you can. Rest your head easy about me. I wouldn't
touch John Jardine married to you; I wouldn't touch him with a
ten-foot pole, divorced from you. Get that clear in your head,
and do please go!"

Kate turned again to the water, but when she was sure Jennie was
far away she sat down suddenly and asked of the lake: "Well,
wouldn't that freeze you?"

POLLY TRIES HER WINGS

FINALLY Kate wandered back to the hotel and went to their room to
learn if Nancy Ellen was there. She was and seemed very much
perturbed. The first thing she did was to hand Kate a big white
envelope, which she opened and found to be a few lines from John
Jardine, explaining that he had been unexpectedly called away on
some very important business. He reiterated his delight in having
seen her, and hoped for the same pleasure at no very distant date.
Kate read it and tossed it on the dresser. As she did so, she saw
a telegram, lying opened among Nancy Ellen's toilet articles, and
thought with pleasure that Robert was coming. She glanced at her
sister for confirmation, and saw that she was staring from the
window as if she were in doubt about something. Kate thought
probably she was still upset about John Jardine, and that might as
well be gotten over, so she said: "That note was not delivered
promptly. It is from John Jardine. I should have had it before I
left. He was called away on important business and wrote to let
me know he would not be able to keep his appointment; but without
his knowledge, he had a representative on the spot."

Nancy Ellen seemed interested so Kate proceeded: "You couldn't
guess in a thousand years. I'll have to tell you spang! It was
his wife."

"His wife!" cried Nancy Ellen. "But you said -- "

"So I did," said Kate. "And so he did. Since the wife loomed on
the horizon, I remembered that he said no word to me of marriage;
he merely said he always had loved me and always would -- "

"Merely?" scoffed Nancy Ellen. "Merely!"

"Just 'merely,'" said Kate. "He didn't lay a finger on me; he
didn't ask me to marry him; he just merely met me after a long
separation, and told me that he still loved me."

"The brute!" said Nancy Ellen. "He should be killed."

"I can't see it," said Kate. "He did nothing ungentlemanly. If
we jumped to wrong conclusions that was not his fault. I doubt if
he remembered or thought at all of his marriage. It wouldn't be
much to forget. I am fresh from an interview with his wife.
She's an old acquaintance of mine. I once secured her for his
mother's maid. You've heard me speak of her."

"Impossible! John Jardine would not do that!" cried Nancy Ellen.

"There's a family to prove it," said Kate. "Jennie admits that
she studied him, taught him, made herself indispensable to him,
and a few weeks after his mother's passing, married him, after he
had told her he did not love her and never could. I feel sorry
for him."

"Sure! Poor defrauded creature!" said Nancy Ellen. "What about
her?"

"Nothing, so far as I can see," said Kate. "By her own account
she was responsible. She should have kept in her own class."

"All right. That settles Jennie!" said Nancy Ellen. "I saw you
notice the telegram from Robert -- now go on and settle me!"

"Is he coming?" asked Kate.

"No, he's not coming," said Nancy Ellen.

"Has he eloped with the widder?" asked Kate flippantly.

"He merely telegraphs that he thinks it would be wise for us to
come home on the first train," said Nancy Ellen. "For all I can
make of that, the elopement might quite as well be in your family
as mine."

Kate held out her hand, Nancy Ellen laid the message in it. Kate
studied it carefully; then she raised steady eyes to her sister's
face.

"Do you know what I should do about this?" she asked.

"Catch the first train, of course," she said.

"Far be it from me," said Kate. "I should at once telegraph him
that his message was not clear, to kindly particularize. We've
only got settled. We're having a fine time; especially right now.
Why should we pack up and go home? I can't think of any
possibility that could arise that would make it necessary for him
to send for us. Can you?"

"I can think of two things," said Nancy Ellen. "I can think of a
very pretty, confiding, little cat of a woman, who is desperately
infatuated with my husband; and I can think of two children
fathered by George Holt, who might possibly, just possibly, have
enough of his blood in their veins to be like him, given
opportunity. Alone for a week, there is barely a FAINT
possibility that YOU might be needed. Alone for the same week,
there is the faintest possibility that ROBERT is in a situation
where I could help him."

Kate drew a deep breath.

"Isn't life the most amusing thing?" she asked. "I had almost
forgotten my wings. I guess we'd better take them, and fly
straight home."

She arose and called the office to learn about trains, and then
began packing her trunk. As she folded her dresses and stuffed
them in rather carelessly she said: "I don't know why I got it
into my head that I could go away and have a few days of a good
time without something happening at home."

"But you are not sure anything has happened at home. This call
may be for me," said Nancy Ellen.

"It MAY, but this is July," said Kate. "I've been thinking hard
and fast. It's probable I can put my finger on the spot."

Nancy Ellen paused and standing erect she looked questioningly at
Kate.

"The weak link in my chain at the present minute is Polly," said
Kate. "I didn't pay much attention at the time, because there
wasn't enough of it really to attract attention; but since I
think, I can recall signs of growing discontent in Polly, lately.
She fussed about the work, and resented being left in the house
while I went to the fields, and she had begun looking up the road
to Peters' so much that her head was slightly turned toward the
north most of the time. With me away -- "

"What do you think?" demanded Nancy Ellen.

"Think very likely she has decided that she'll sacrifice her
chance for more schooling and to teach, for the sake of marrying a
big, green country boy named Hank Peters," said Kate.

"Thereby keeping in her own class," suggested Nancy Ellen.

Kate laughed shortly. "Exactly!" she said. "I didn't aspire to
anything different for her from what she has had; but I wanted her
to have more education, and wait until she was older. Marriage is
too hard work for a girl to begin at less than eighteen. If it is
Polly, and she has gone away with Hank Peters, they've no place to
go but his home; and if ever she thought I worked her too hard,
she'll find out she has played most of her life, when she begins
taking orders from Mrs. Amanda Peters. You know her! She never
can keep a girl more than a week, and she's always wanting one.
If Polly has tackled THAT job, God help her."

"Cheer up! We're in that delightful state of uncertainty where
Polly may be blacking the cook stove, like a dutiful daughter;
while Robert has decided that he'd like a divorce," said Nancy
Ellen.

"Nancy Ellen, there's nothing in that, so far as Robert is
concerned. He told me so the evening we came away," said Kate.

Nancy Ellen banged down a trunk lid and said: "Well, I am getting
to the place where I don't much care whether there is or there is
not."

"What a whopper!" laughed Kate. "But cheer up. This is my
trouble. I feel it in my bones. Wish I knew for sure. If she's
eloped, and it's all over with, we might as well stay and finish
our visit. If she's married, I can't unmarry her, and I wouldn't
if I could."

"How are you going to apply your philosophy to yourself?" asked
Nancy Ellen.

"By letting time and Polly take their course," said Kate. "This
is a place where parents are of no account whatever. They stand
back until it's time to clean up the wreck, and then they get
theirs -- usually theirs, and several of someone's else, in the
bargain."

As the train stopped at Hartley, Kate sat where she could see
Robert on the platform. It was only a fleeting glance, but she
thought she had never seen him look so wholesome, so vital, so
much a man to be desired.

"No wonder a woman lacking in fine scruples would covet him,"
thought Kate. To Nancy Ellen she said hastily: "The trouble's
mine. Robert's on the platform."

"Where?" demanded Nancy Ellen, peering from the window.

Kate smiled as she walked from the car and confronted Robert.

"Get it over quickly," she said. "It's Polly?"

He nodded.

"Did she remember to call on the Squire?" she asked.

"Oh, yes," said Robert. "It was at Peters', and they had the
whole neighbourhood in."

Kate swayed slightly, then lifted her head, her eyes blazing. She
had come, feeling not altogether guiltless, and quite prepared to
overlook a youthful elopement. The insult of having her only
daughter given a wedding at the home of the groom, about which the
whole neighbourhood would be laughing at her, was a different
matter. Slowly the high colour faded from Kate's face, as she
stepped back. "Excuse me, Nancy Ellen," she said. "I didn't mean
to deprive you of the chance of even speaking to Robert. I KNEW
this was for me; I was over-anxious to learn what choice morsel
life had in store for me now. It's one that will be bitter on my
tongue to the day of my death."

"Oh, Kate, I as so sorry that if this had to happen, it happened
in just that way," said Nancy Ellen, "but don't mind. They're
only foolish kids!"

"Who? Mr. and Mrs. Peters, and the neighbours, who attended the
wedding! Foolish kids? Oh, no!" said Kate. "Where's Adam?"

"I told him I'd bring you out," said Robert.

"Why didn't he send for you, or do something?" demanded Kate.

"I'm afraid the facts are that Polly lied to him," said Robert.
"She told him that Peters were having a party, and Mrs. Peters
wanted her to come early and help her with the supper. They had
the Magistrate out from town and had the ceremony an hour before
Adam got there. When he arrived, and found out what had happened,
he told Polly and the Peters family exactly his opinion of them;
and then he went home and turned on all the lights, and sat where
he could be seen on the porch all evening, as a protest in
evidence of his disapproval, I take it."

Slowly the colour began to creep back into Kate's face. "The good
boy!" she said, in commendation.

"He called me at once, and we talked it over and I sent you the
telegram; but as he said, it was done; there was no use trying to
undo it. One thing will be a comfort to you. All of your family,
and almost all of your friends, left as soon as Adam spoke his
piece, and they found it was a wedding and not a party to which
they'd been invited. It was a shabby trick of Peters."

Kate assented. "It was because I felt instinctively that Mrs.
Peters had it in her to do tricks like that, that I never would
have anything to do with her," said Kate, "more than to be passing
civil. This is how she gets her revenge, and her hired girl, for
no wages, I'll be bound! It's a shabby trick. I'm glad Adam
saved me the trouble of telling her so."

Robert took Nancy Ellen home, and then drove to Bates Corners with
Kate.

"In a few days now I hope we can see each other oftener," he said,
on the way. "I got a car yesterday, and it doesn't seem so
complicated. Any intelligent person can learn to drive in a short
time. I like it so much, and I knew I'd have such constant use
for it that -- now this is a secret -- I ordered another for Nancy
Ellen, so she can drive about town, and run out here as she
chooses. Will she be pleased?"

"She'll be overjoyed! That was dear of you, Robert. Only one
thing in world would please her more," said Kate.

"What's that?" asked Robert.

Kate looked him in the eye, and smiled.

"Oh," he said. "But there is nothing in it!"

"Except TALK, that worries and humiliates Nancy Ellen," said Kate.

"Kate," he said suddenly, "if you were in my shoes, what would you
do?"

"The next time I got a phone call, or a note from Mrs. Southey,
and she was having one of those terrible headaches, I should say:
'I'm dreadfully sorry, Mrs. Southey, but a breath of talk that
might be unpleasant for you, and for my wife, has come to my ear,
so I know you'll think it wiser to call Dr. Mills, who can serve
you better than I. In a great rush this afternoon. Good-bye!'
THAT is what I should do, Robert, and I should do it quickly, and
emphatically. Then I should interest Nancy Ellen in her car for a
time, and then I should keep my eyes open, and the first time I
found in my practice a sound baby with a clean bill of health, and
no encumbrances, I should have it dressed attractively, and bestow
it on Nancy Ellen as casually as I did the car. And in the
meantime, love her plenty, Robert. You can never know how she
FEELS about this; and it's in no way her fault. She couldn't
possibly have known; while you would have married her just the
same if you had known. Isn't that so?"

"It's quite so. Kate, I think your head is level, and I'll follow
your advice to the letter. Now you have 'healed my lame leg,' as
the dog said in McGuffey's Third, what can I do for THIS poor
dog?"

"Nothing," said Kate. "I've got to hold still, and take it. Life
will do the doing. I don't want to croak, but remember my word,
it will do plenty."

"We'll come often," he said as he turned to go back.

Kate slowly walked up the path, dreading to meet Adam. He
evidently had been watching for her, for he came around the corner
of the house, took her arm, and they walked up the steps and into
the living room together. She looked at him; he looked at her.
At last he said: "I'm afraid that a good deal of this is my
fault, Mother."

"How so?" asked Kate, tersely.

"I guess I betrayed your trust in me," said Adam, heavily. "Of
course I did all my work and attended to things; but in the
evening after work was over, the very first evening on the way
home we stopped to talk to Henry at the gate, and he got in and
came on down. We could see Milly at their gate, and I wanted her,
I wanted her so much, Mother; and it was going to be lonesome, so

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