Part 7 out of 8
all of us went on there, and she came up here and we sat on the
porch, and then I took her home and that left Henry and Polly
together. The next night Henry took us to town for a treat, and
we were all together, and the next night Milly asked us all there,
and so it went. It was all as open and innocent as it could be;
only Henry and Polly were in awful earnest and she was bound she
wouldn't be sent to town to school -- "
"Why didn't she tell me so? She never objected a word, to me,"
"Well, Mother, you are so big, and Polly was so little, and she
was used to minding -- "
"Yes, this looks like it," said Kate. "Well, go on!"
"That's all," said Adam. "It was only that instead of staying at
home and attending to our own affairs we were somewhere every
night, or Milly and Henry were here. That is where I was to
blame. I'm afraid you'll never forgive me, Mother; but I didn't
take good care of Sister. I left her to Henry Peters, while I
tried to see how nice I could be to Milly. I didn't know what
Polly and Henry were planning; honest, I didn't, Mother. I would
have told Uncle Robert and sent for you if I had. I thought when
I went there it was to be our little crowd like it was at York's.
I was furious when I found they were married. I told Mr. and Mrs.
Peters what they were, right before the company, and then I came
straight home and all the family, and York's, and most of the
others, came straight away. Only a few stayed to the supper. I
was so angry with Polly I just pushed her away, and didn't even
say good-night to her. The little silly fool! Mother, if she had
told you, you would have let her stay at home this winter and got
her clothing, and let her be married here, when she was old
enough, wouldn't you?"
"Certainly!" said Kate. "All the world knows that. Bates all
marry; and they all marry young. Don't blame yourself, Adam. If
Polly had it in her system to do this, and she did, or she
wouldn't have done it, the thing would have happened when I was
here, and right under my nose. It was a scheme all planned and
ready before I left. I know that now. Let it go! There's
nothing we can do, until things begin to go WRONG, as they always
do in this kind of wedding; then we shall get our call. In the
meantime, you mustn't push your sister away. She may need you
sooner than you'd think; and will you just please have enough
confidence in my common sense and love for you, to come to me,
FIRST, when you feel that there's a girl who is indispensable to
your future, Adam?"
"Yes, I will," said Adam. "And it won't be long, and the girl
will be Milly York."
"All right," said Kate, gravely, "whenever the time comes, let me
know about it. Now see if you can find me something to eat till I
lay off my hat and wash. It was a long, hot ride, and I'm tired.
Since there's nothing I can do, I wish I had stayed where I was.
No, I don't, either! I see joy coming over the hill for Nancy
"Why is joy coming to Nancy Ellen?" asked the boy, pausing an
instant before he started to the kitchen.
"Oh, because she's had such a very tough, uncomfortable time with
life," said Kate, "that in the very nature of things joy SHOULD
come her way."
The boy stood mystified until the expression on his face so amused
Kate that she began laughing, then he understood.
"That's WHY it's coming," said Kate; "and, here's HOW it's coming.
She is going to get rid of a bothersome worry that's troubling her
head -- and she's going to have a very splendid gift, but it's a
"Then you'll have to whisper it," said Adam, going to her and
holding a convenient ear. Kate rested her hands on his shoulder a
minute, as she leaned on him, her face buried in his crisp black
hair. Then she whispered the secret.
"Crickey, isn't that grand!" cried the boy, backing away to stare
"Yes, it is so grand I'm going to try it ourselves," said Kate.
"We've a pretty snug balance in the bank, and I think it would be
great fun evenings or when we want to go to town in a hurry and
the horses are tired."
Adam was slowly moving toward the kitchen, his face more of a
study than before.
"Mother," he said as he reached the door, "I be hanged if I know
how to take you! I thought you'd just raise Cain over what Polly
has done; but you act so sane and sensible; someway it doesn't
seem so bad as it did, and I feel more sorry for Polly than like
going back on her. And are you truly in earnest about a car?"
"I'm going to think very seriously about it this winter, and I
feel almost sure it will come true by early spring," said Kate.
"But who said anything about 'going back on Polly?'"
"Oh, Mrs. York and all the neighbours said that you'd never
forgive her, and that she'd never darken your door again, and
things like that until I was almost crazy," answered Adam.
Kate smiled grimly. "Adam," she said, "I had seven years of that
'darken you door' business, myself. It's a mighty cold, hard
proposition. It's a wonder the neighbours didn't remember that.
Maybe they did, and thought I was so much of a Bates leopard that
I couldn't change my spots. If they are watching me, they will
find that I am not spotted; I'm sorry and humiliated over what
Polly has done; but I'm not going to gnash my teeth, and tear my
hair, and wail in public, or in private. I'm trying to keep my
real mean spot so deep it can't be seen. If ever I get my chance,
Adam, you watch me pay back Mrs. Peters. THAT is the size and
location of my spot; but it's far deeper than my skin. Now go on
and find me food, man, food!"
Adam sat close while Kate ate her supper, then he helped her
unpack her trunk and hang away her dresses, and then they sat on
the porch talking for a long time.
When at last they arose to go to bed Kate said: "Adam, about
Polly: first time you see her, if she asks, tell her she left
home of her own free will and accord, and in her own way, which,
by the way, happens to be a Holt way; but you needn't mention
that. I think by this time she has learned or soon she will learn
that; and whenever she wants to come back and face me, to come
right ahead. I can stand it if she can. Can you get that
Adam said he could. He got that straight and so much else that by
the time he finished, Polly realized that both he and her mother
had left her in the house to try to SHIELD her; that if she had
told what she wanted in a straightforward manner she might have
had a wedding outfit prepared and been married from her home at a
proper time and in a proper way, and without putting her mother to
shame before the community. Polly was very much ashamed of
herself by the time Adam finished. She could not find it in her
heart to blame Henry; she knew he was no more to blame than she
was; but she did store up a grievance against Mr. and Mrs. Peters.
They were older and had had experience with the world; they might
have told Polly what she should do instead of having done
everything in their power to make her do what she had done,
bribing, coaxing, urging, all in the direction of her
At heart Polly was big enough to admit that she had followed her
inclinations without thinking at all what the result would be.
Adam never would have done what she had. Adam would have thought
of his mother and his name and his honour. Poor little Polly had
to admit that honour with her had always been a matter of, "Now
remember," "Be careful," and like caution on the lips of her
The more Polly thought, the worse she felt. The worse she felt,
the more the whole Peters family tried to comfort her. She was
violently homesick in a few days; but Adam had said she was to
come when she "could face her mother," and Polly suddenly found
that she would rather undertake to run ten miles than to face her
mother, so she began a process of hiding from her. If she sat on
the porch, and saw her mother coming, she ran in the house. She
would go to no public place where she might meet her. For a few
weeks she lived a life of working for Mrs. Peters from dawn to
dark, under the stimulus of what a sweet girl she was, how
splendidly she did things, how fortunate Henry was, interspersed
with continual kissing, patting, and petting, all very new and
unusual to Polly. By that time she was so very ill, she could not
lift her head from the pillow half the day, but it was to the
credit of the badly disappointed Peters family that they kept up
the petting. When Polly grew better, she had no desire to go
anywhere; she worked to make up for the trouble she had been
during her illness, to sew every spare moment, and to do her full
share of the day's work in the house of an excessively nice woman,
whose work never was done, and most hopeless thing of all, never
would be. Mrs. Peters' head was full of things that she meant to
do three years in the future. Every night found Polly so tired
she staggered to bed early as possible; every morning found her
confronting the same round, which from the nature of her condition
every morning was more difficult for her.
Kate and Adam followed their usual routine with only the
alterations required by the absence of Polly. Kate now prepared
breakfast while Adam did the feeding and milking; washed the
dishes and made the beds while he hitched up; then went to the
field with him. On rainy days he swept and she dusted; always
they talked over and planned everything they did, in the house or
afield; always they schemed, contrived, economized, and worked to
attain the shortest, easiest end to any result they strove for.
They were growing in physical force, they were efficient, they
attended their own affairs strictly. Their work was always done
on time, their place in order, their deposits at the bank
frequent. As the cold days came they missed Polly, but scarcely
ever mentioned her. They had more books and read and studied
together, while every few evenings Adam picked up his hat and
disappeared, but soon he and Milly came in together. Then they
all read, popped corn, made taffy, knitted, often Kate was called
away by some sewing or upstairs work she wanted to do, so that the
youngsters had plenty of time alone to revel in the wonder of
life's greatest secret.
To Kate's ears came the word that Polly would be a mother in the
spring, that the Peters family were delighted and anxious for the
child to be a girl, as they found six males sufficient for one
family. Polly was looking well, feeling fine, was a famous little
worker, and seldom sat on a chair because some member of the
Peters family usually held her.
"I should think she would get sick of all that mushing," said Adam
when he repeated these things.
"She's not like us," said Kate. "She'll take all she can get, and
call for more. She's a long time coming; but I'm glad she's well
"Buncombe!" said Adam. "She isn't so very well. She's white as
putty, and there are great big, dark hollows under her eyes, and
she's always panting for breath like she had been running. Nearly
every time I pass there I see her out scrubbing the porches, or
feeding the chickens, or washing windows, or something. You bet
Mrs. Peters has got a fine hired girl now, and she's smiling all
over about it."
"She really has something to smile about," said Kate.
To Polly's ears went the word that Adam and her mother were having
a fine time together, always together; and that they had Milly
York up three times a week to spend the evening; and that Milly
said that it passed her to see why Polly ran away from Mrs. Holt.
She was the grandest woman alive, and if she had any running to do
in her neighbourhood, she would run TO her, and not FROM her.
Whereupon Polly closed her lips firmly and looked black, but not
before she had said: "Well, if Mother had done just one night a
week of that entertaining for Henry and me, we wouldn't have run
from her, either."
Polly said nothing until April, then Kate answered the telephone
one day and a few seconds later was ringing for Adam as if she
would pull down the bell. He came running and soon was on his way
to Peters' with the single buggy, with instructions to drive
slowly and carefully and on no account to let Polly slip getting
out. The Peters family had all gone to bury an aunt in the
neighbourhood, leaving Polly alone for the day; and Polly at once
called up her mother, and said she was dying to see her, and if
she couldn't come home for the day, she would die soon, and be
glad of it. Kate knew the visit should not have been made at that
time and in that way; but she knew that Polly was under a
dangerous nervous strain; she herself would not go to Peters' in
Mrs. Peters' absence; she did not know what else to do. As she
waited for Polly she thought of many things she would say; when
she saw her, she took her in her arms and almost carried her into
the house, and she said nothing at all, save how glad she was to
see her, and she did nothing at all, except to try with all her
might to comfort and please her, for to Kate, Polly did no seem
like a strong, healthy girl approaching maternity. She appeared
like a very sick woman, who sorely needed attention, while a few
questions made her so sure of it that she at once called Robert.
He gave both of them all the comfort he could, but what he told
Nancy Ellen was: "Polly has had no attention whatever. She wants
me, and I'll have to go; but it's a case I'd like to side-step.
I'll do all I can, but the time is short."
"Oh, Lord!" said Nancy Ellen. "Is it one more for Kate?"
"Yes," said Robert, "I am very much afraid it's 'one more for
ONE MORE FOR KATE
POLLY and Kate had a long day together, while Adam was about the
house much of the time. Both of them said and did everything they
could think of to cheer and comfort Polly, whose spirits seemed
most variable. One minute she would be laughing and planning for
the summer gaily, the next she would be gloomy and depressed, and
declaring she never would live through the birth of her baby. If
she had appeared well, this would not have worried Kate; but she
looked even sicker than she seemed to feel. She was thin while
her hands were hot and tremulous. As the afternoon went on and
time to go came nearer, she grew more and more despondent, until
Kate proposed watching when the Peters family came home, calling
them up, and telling them that Polly was there, would remain all
night, and that Henry should come down.
Polly flatly vetoed the proposition, but she seemed to feel much
better after it had been made. She was like herself again for a
short time, and then she turned to Kate and said suddenly:
"Mother, if I don't get over this, will you take my baby?"
Kate looked at Polly intently. What she saw stopped the ready
answer that was on her lips. She stood thinking deeply. At last
she said gently: "Why, Polly, would you want to trust a tiny baby
with a woman you ran away from yourself?"
"Mother, I haven't asked you to forgive me for the light I put you
in before the neighbours," said Polly, "because I knew you
couldn't honestly do it, and wouldn't lie to say you did. I don't
know WHAT made me do that. I was TIRED staying alone at the house
so much, I was WILD about Henry, I was BOUND I wouldn't leave him
and go away to school. I just thought it would settle everything
easily and quickly. I never once thought of how it would make you
look and feel. Honestly I didn't, Mother. You believe me, don't
"Yes, I believe you," said Kate.
"It was an awful thing for me to do," said Polly. "I was foolish
and crazy, and I suppose I shouldn't say it, but I certainly did
have a lot of encouragement from the Peters family. They all
seemed to think it would be a great joke, that it wouldn't make
any difference, and all that, so I just did it. I knew I
shouldn't have done it; but, Mother, you'll never know the fight
I've had all my life to keep from telling stories and sneaking. I
hated your everlasting: 'Now be careful,' but when I hated it
most, I needed it worst; and I knew it, when I grew older. If
only you had been here to say, 'Now be careful,' just once, I
never would have done it; but of course I couldn't have you to
keep me straight all my life. All I can say is that I'd give my
life and never whimper, if I could be back home as I was this time
last year, and have a chance to do things your way. But that is
past, and I can't change it. What I came for to-day, and what I
want to know now is, if I go, will you take my baby?"
"Polly, you KNOW the Peters family wouldn't let me have it," said
"If it's a boy, they wouldn't WANT it," said Polly. "Neither
would you, for that matter. If it's a girl, they'll fight for it;
but it won't do them any good. All I want to know is, WILL YOU
"Of course I would, Polly," said Kate.
"Since I have your word, I'll feel better," said Polly. "And
Mother, you needn't be AFRAID of it. It will be all right. I
have thought about it so much I have it all figured out. It's
going to be a girl, and it's going to be exactly like you, and its
name is going to be Katherine Eleanor. I have thought about you
every hour I was awake since I have been gone; so the baby will
have to be exactly like you. There won't be the taint of
grandmother in it that there is in me. You needn't be afraid. I
quit sneaking forever when Adam told me what I had done to you. I
have gone straight as a dart, Mother, every single minute since,
Mother; truly I have!"
Kate sat down suddenly, an awful sickness in her heart.
"Why, you poor child you!" she said.
"Oh, I've been all right," said Polly. "I've been almost petted
and loved to death; but Mother, there never should be the amount
of work attached to living that there is in that house. It's
never ending, it's intolerable. Mrs. Peters just goes until she
drops, and then instead of sleeping, she lies awake planning some
hard, foolish, unnecessary thing to do next. Maybe she can stand
it herself, but I'm tired out. I'm going to sit down, and not
budge to do another stroke until after the baby comes, and then I
am going to coax Henry to rent a piece of land, and move to
Kate took heart. "That will be fine!" she cried. "That will be
the very thing. I'll ask the boys to keep their eyes open for any
chance for you."
"You needn't take any bother about it," said Polly, "because that
isn't what is going to happen. All I want to be sure of now is
that you and Adam will take my baby. I'll see to the rest."
"How will you see to it, Polly?" asked Kate, gently.
"Well, it's already seen to, for matter of that," said Polly
conclusively. "I've known for quite a while that I was sick; but
I couldn't make them do anything but kiss me, and laugh at me,
until I am so ill that I know better how I feel than anybody else.
I got tired being laughed at, and put off about everything, so one
day in Hartley, while Mother Peters was shopping, I just went in
to the lawyer Grandmother always went to, and told him all about
what I wanted. He has the papers made out all right and proper;
so when I send for Uncle Robert, I am going to send for him, too,
and soon as the baby comes I'll put in its name and sign it, and
make Henry, and then if I have to go, you won't have a bit of
Kate gazed at Polly in dumb amazement. She was speechless for a
time, then to break the strain she said: "My soul! Did you
really, Polly? I guess there is more Bates in you than I had
"Oh, there's SOME Bates in me," said Polly. "There's enough to
make me live until I sign that paper, and make Henry Peters sign
it, and send Mr. Thomlins to you with it and the baby. I can do
that, because I'm going to!"
Ten days later she did exactly what she had said she would. Then
she turned her face to the wall and went into a convulsion out of
which she never came. While the Peters family refused Kate's plea
to lay Polly beside her grandmother, and laid her in their family
lot, Kate, moaning dumbly, sat clasping a tiny red girl in her
arms. Adam drove to Hartley to deposit one more paper, the most
precious of all, in the safety deposit box.
Kate and Adam mourned too deeply to talk about it. They went
about their daily rounds silently, each busy with regrets and self
investigations. They watched each other carefully, were kinder
than they ever had been to everyone they came in contact with; the
baby they frankly adored. Kate had reared her own children with
small misgivings, quite casually, in fact; but her heart was torn
to the depths about this baby. Life never would be even what it
had been before Polly left them, for into her going there entered
an element of self-reproach and continual self-condemnation. Adam
felt that if he had been less occupied with Milly York and had
taken proper care of his sister, he would not have lost her. Kate
had less time for recrimination, because she had the baby.
"Look for a good man to help you this summer, Adam," she said.
"The baby is full of poison which can be eliminated only slowly.
If I don't get it out before teething, I'll lose her, and then we
never shall hear the last from the Peters family." Adam consigned
the Peters family to a location he thought suitable for them on
the instant. He spoke with unusual bitterness, because he had
heard that the Peters family were telling that Polly had grieved
herself to death, while his mother had engineered a scheme whereby
she had stolen the baby. Occasionally a word drifted to Kate here
and there, until she realized much of what they were saying. At
first she grieved too deeply to pay any attention, but as the
summer went on and the baby flourished and grew fine and strong,
and she had time in the garden, she began to feel better; grief
began to wear away, as it always does.
By midsummer the baby was in short clothes, sitting in a high
chair, which if Miss Baby only had known it, was a throne before
which knelt her two adoring subjects. Polly had said the baby
would be like Kate. Its hair and colouring were like hers, but it
had the brown eyes of its father, and enough of his facial lines
to tone down the too generous Bates features. When the baby was
five months old it was too pretty for adequate description. One
baby has no business with perfect features, a mop of curly, yellow
silk hair, and big brown eyes. One of the questions Kate and Adam
discussed most frequently was where they would send her to
college, while one they did not discuss was how sick her stomach
teeth would make her. They merely lived in mortal dread of that.
"Convulsion," was a word that held a terror for Kate above any
other in the medical books.
The baby had a good, formal name, but no one ever used it. Adam,
on first lifting the blanket, had fancied the child resembled its
mother and had called her "Little Poll." The name clung to her.
Kate could not call such a tiny morsel either Kate or Katherine;
she liked "Little Poll," better. The baby had three regular
visitors. One was her father. He was not fond of Kate; Little
Poll suited him. He expressed his feeling by bringing gifts of
toys, candy, and unsuitable clothes. Kate kept these things in
evidence when she saw him coming and swept them from sight when he
went; for she had the good sense not to antagonize him. Nancy
Ellen came almost every day, proudly driving her new car, and with
the light of a new joy on her face. She never said anything to
Kate, but Kate knew what had happened. Nancy Ellen came to see
the baby. She brought it lovely and delicate little shoes,
embroidered dresses and hoods, cloaks and blankets. One day as
she sat holding it she said to Kate: "Isn't the baby a dreadful
bother to you? You're not getting half your usual work done."
"No, I'm doing UNUSUAL work," said Kate, lightly. "Adam is hiring
a man who does my work very well in the fields; there isn't money
that would hire me to let any one else take my job indoors, right
A slow red crept into Nancy Ellen's cheeks. She had meant to be
diplomatic, but diplomacy never worked well with Kate. As Nancy
Ellen often said, Kate understood a sledge-hammer better. Nancy
Ellen used the hammer. Her face flushed, her arms closed tightly.
"Give me this baby," she demanded.
Kate looked at her in helpless amazement.
"Give it to me," repeated Nancy Ellen.
"She's a gift to me," said Kate, slowly. "One the Peters family
are searching heaven and earth to find an excuse to take from me.
I hear they've been to a lawyer twice, already. I wouldn't give
her up to save my soul alive, for myself; for you, if I would let
you have her, they would not leave you in possession a day."
"Are they really trying to get her?" asked Nancy Ellen, slowly
loosening her grip.
"They are," said Kate. "They sent a lawyer to get a copy of the
papers, to see if they could pick a flaw in them."
"Can they?" cried Nancy Ellen.
"God knows!" said Kate, slowly. "I HOPE not. Mr. Thomlins is the
best lawyer in Hartley; he says not. He says Henry put his neck
in the noose when he signed the papers. The only chance I can see
for him would be to plead undue influence. When you look at her,
you can't blame him for wanting her. I've two hopes. One that
his mother will not want the extra work; the other that the next
girl he selects will not want the baby. If I can keep them going
a few months more with a teething scare, I hope they will get over
"If they do, then may we have her?" asked Nancy Ellen.
Kate threw out her hands. "Take my eyes, or my hands, or my
feet," she said; "but leave me my heart."
Nancy Ellen went soon after, and did not come again for several
days. Then she began coming as usual, so that the baby soon knew
her and laughed in high glee when she appeared. Dr. Gray often
stopped in passing to see her; if he was in great haste, he
hallooed at the gate to ask if she was all right. Kate was
thankful for this, more than thankful for the telephone and car
that would bring him in fifteen minutes day or night, if he were
needed. But he was not needed. Little Poll throve and grew fat
and rosy; for she ate measured food, slept by the clock, in a
sanitary bed, and was a bathed, splendidly cared for baby. When
Kate's family and friends laughed, she paid not the slightest
"Laugh away," she said. "I've got something to fight with this
baby; I don't propose for the battle to come and find the chances
against me, because I'm unprepared."
With scrupulous care Kate watched over the child, always putting
her first, the house and land afterward. One day she looked up
the road and saw Henry Peters coming. She had been expecting
Nancy Ellen. She had finished bathing the baby and making her
especially attractive in a dainty lace ruffled dress with blue
ribbons and blue shoes that her sister had brought on her latest
trip. Little Poll was a wonderful picture, for her eyes were
always growing bigger, her cheeks pinker, her skin fairer, her
hair longer and more softly curling. At first thought Kate had
been inclined to snatch off the dress and change to one of the
cheap, ready-made ginghams Henry brought, but the baby was so
lovely as she was, she had not the heart to spoil the picture,
while Nancy Ellen might come any minute. So she began putting
things in place while Little Poll sat crowing and trying to pick
up a sunbeam that fell across her tray. Her father came to the
door and stood looking at her. Suddenly he dropped in a chair,
covered his face with his hands and began to cry, in deep,
shuddering sobs. Kate stood still in wonderment. As last she
seated herself before him and said gently: "Won't you tell me
about it, Henry?"
Henry struggled for self-control. He looked at the baby
longingly. Finally he said: "It's pretty tough to give up a baby
like that, Mrs. Holt. She's my little girl. I wish God had
struck my right hand with palsy, when I went to sign those
"Oh, no, you don't, Henry," said Kate, suavely. "You wouldn't
like to live the rest of your life a cripple. And is it any worse
for me to have your girl in spite of the real desires and dictates
of your heart, than it was for you to have mine? And you didn't
take the intelligent care of my girl that I'm taking of yours,
either. A doctor and a little right treatment at the proper time
would have saved Polly to rear her own baby; but there's no use to
go into that. I was waiting for Polly to come home of her own
accord, as she left it; and while I waited, a poison crept into
her system that took her. I never shall feel right about it;
neither shall you -- "
"No, I should say I won't!" said Henry emphatically. "I never
thought of anything being the matter with Polly that wouldn't be
all over when the baby came -- "
"I know you didn't, Henry," said Kate. "I know how much you would
have done, and how gladly, if you had known. There is no use
going into that, we are both very much to blame; we must take our
punishment. Now what is this I hear about your having been to see
lawyers and trying to find a way to set aside the adoption papers
you signed? Let's have a talk, and see what we can arrive at.
Tell me all about it."
So Henry told Kate how he had loved Polly, how he felt guilty of
her death, how he longed for and wanted her baby, how he had
signed the paper which Polly put before him so unexpectedly, to
humour her, because she was very ill; but he had not dreamed that
she could die; how he did not feel that he should be bound by that
signature now. Kate listened with the deepest sympathy, assenting
to most he said until he was silent. Then she sat thinking a long
time. At last she said: "Henry, if you and Polly had waited
until I came home, and told me what you wanted and how you felt, I
should have gotten her ready, and given you a customary wedding,
and helped you to start a life that I think would have saved her
to you, and to me. That is past, but the fact remains. You are
hurt over giving up the baby as you have; I'm hurt over losing my
daughter as I did; we are about even on the past, don't you
"I suppose we are," he said, heavily.
"That being agreed," said Kate, "let us look to the future. You
want the baby now, I can guess how much, by how much I want her,
myself. I know YOUR point of view; there are two others, one is
mine, and the other is the baby's. I feel that it is only right
and just that I should have this little girl to replace the one
you took from me, in a way far from complimentary to me. I feel
that she is mine, because Polly told me the day she came to see me
how sick she had been, how she had begged for a doctor, and been
kissed and told there was nothing the matter with her, when she
knew she was very ill. She gave the baby to me, and at that time
she had been to see a lawyer, and had her papers all made out
except the signatures and dates. Mr. Thomlins can tell you that;
and you know that up to that time I had not seen Polly, or had any
communication with her. She simply was unnerved at the thought of
trusting her baby to the care she had had."
Kate was hitting hard and straight from the shoulder. The baby,
busy with her sunbeam, jabbered unnoticed.
"When Polly died as she did," continued Kate, "I knew that her
baby would be full of the same poison that killed her; and that it
must be eliminated before it came time to cut her worst teeth, so
I undertook the work, and sleeping or waking, I have been at it
ever since. Now, Henry, is there any one at your house who would
have figured this out, and taken the time, pains, and done work
that I have? Is there?"
"Mother raised six of us." he said defensively.
"But she didn't die of diathesis giving birth to the first of
you," said Kate. "You were all big, strong boys with a perfectly
sound birthright. And your mother is now a much older, wearier
woman than she was then, and her hands are far too full every day,
as it is. If she knew how to handle the baby as I have, and was
willing to add the work to her daily round, would you be willing
to have her? I have three times her strength, while I consider
that I've the first right. Then there is the baby's side of the
question. I have had her through the worst, hardest part of
babyhood; she is accustomed to a fixed routine that you surely
will concede agrees with her; she would miss me, and she would not
thrive as she does with me, for her food and her hours would not
be regular, while you, and your father, and the boys would tire
her to death handling her. That is the start. The finish would
be that she would grow up, if she survived, to take the place
Polly took at your house, while you would marry some other girl,
as you WILL before a year from now. I'm dreadfully sorry to say
these things to you, Henry, but you know they are the truth. If
you're going to try to take the baby, I'm going to fight you to
the last dollar I can raise, and the last foot of land I own.
That's all. Look at the baby; think it over; and let me know what
you'll do as soon as you can. I'm not asking mercy at your hands,
but I do feel that I have suffered about my share."
"You needn't suffer any longer," said Henry, drying his eyes.
"All you say is true; just as what I said was true; but I might as
well tell you, and let one of us be happy. I saw my third lawyer
yesterday, and he said the papers were unbreakable unless I could
prove that the child was neglected, and not growing right, or not
having proper care. Look at her! I might do some things! I did
do a thing as mean as to persuade a girl to marry me without her
mother's knowledge, and ruined her life thereby, but God knows I
couldn't go on the witness stand and swear that that baby is not
properly cared for! Mother's job is big enough; and while it
doesn't seem possible now, very likely I shall marry again, as
other men do; and in that event, Little Poll WOULD be happier with
you. I give her up. I think I came this morning to say that I
was defeated; and to tell you that I'd give up if I saw that you
would fight. Keep the baby, and be as happy as you can. You
shan't be worried any more about her. Polly shall have this thing
as she desired and planned it. Good-bye."
When he had gone Kate knelt on the floor, laid her head on the
chair tray, and putting her arms around the baby she laughed and
cried at the same time, while Miss Baby pulled her hair, patted
her face, and plastered it with wet, uncertain kisses. Then Kate
tied a little bonnet on the baby's head and taking her in her
arms, she went to the field to tell Adam. It seemed to Kate that
she could see responsibility slipping from his shoulders, could
see him grow taller as he listened. The breath of relief he drew
was long and deep.
"Fine!" he cried. "Fine! I haven't told you HALF I knew. I've
been worried until I couldn't sleep."
Kate went back to the house so glad she did not realize she was
touching earth at all. She fed the baby and laid her down for her
morning nap, and then went out in the garden; but she was too
restless to work. She walked bareheaded in the sun and was glad
as she never before in her life had known how to be glad. The
first thing Kate knew she was standing at the gate looking up at
the noonday sky and from the depths of her heart she was crying
aloud: "Praise ye the Lord, Oh my soul. Let all that is within
me praise His holy name!"
For the remainder of the day Kate was unblushingly insane. She
started to do a hundred things and abandoned all of them to go out
and look up at the sky and to cry repeatedly: "Praise the Lord!"
If she had been asked to explain why she did this, Kate could have
answered, and would have answered: "Because I FEEL like it!" She
had been taught no religion as a child, she had practised no
formal mode of worship as a woman. She had been straight, honest,
and virtuous. She had faced life and done with small question the
work that she thought fell to her hand. She had accepted joy,
sorrow, shame, all in the same stoic way. Always she had felt
that there was a mighty force in the universe that could as well
be called God as any other name; it mattered not about the name;
it was a real force, and it was there.
That day Kate exulted. She carried the baby down to the brook in
the afternoon and almost shouted; she sang until she could have
been heard a mile. She kept straight on praising the Lord,
because expression was imperative, and that was the form of
expression that seemed to come naturally to her. Without giving a
thought as to how, or why, she followed her impulses and praised
the Lord. The happier she grew, the more clearly she saw how
uneasy and frightened she had been.
When Nancy Ellen came, she took only one glance at Kate's
glorified face and asked: "What in this world has happened to
Kate answered in all seriousness: "My Lord has 'shut the lions'
mouths,' and they are not going to harm me."
Nancy Ellen regarded her closely. "I hope you aren't running a
temperature," she said. "I'll take a shot at random. You have
found out that the Peters family can't take Little Poll."
Kate laughed joyously. "Better than that, sister mine!" she
cried. "I have convinced Henry that he doesn't want her himself
as much as he wants me to have her, and he can speedily convert
his family. He will do nothing more! He will leave me in peace
"Thank God!" said Nancy Ellen.
"There you go, too!" cried Kate. "That's the very first thought
that came to me, only I said, 'Praise the Lord,' which is exactly
the same thing; and Nancy Ellen, since Robert has been trying to
praise the Lord for twenty years, and both of us do praise Him
when our time comes, wouldn't it be a good idea to open up our
heads and say so, not only to ourselves and to the Lord, but to
the neighbours? I'm afraid she won't understand much of it, but I
think I shall find the place and read to Little Poll about Abraham
and Isaac to-night, and probably about Hagar and Ishmael to-morrow
night, and it wouldn't surprise me a mite to hear myself saying
'Praise the Lord,' right out loud, any time, any place. Let's
gather a great big bouquet of our loveliest flowers, and go tell
Mother and Polly about it."
Without a word Nancy Ellen turned toward the garden. They
gathered the flowers and getting in Nancy Ellen's car drove the
short distance to the church where Nancy Ellen played with the
baby in the shade of a big tree while Kate arranged her flowers.
Then she sat down and they talked over their lives from childhood.
"Nancy Ellen, won't you stay to supper with us?" asked Kate.
"Yes," said Nancy Ellen, rising, "I haven't had such a good time
in years. I'm as glad for you as I'd be if I had such a child
assured me, myself."
"You can't bring yourself --?" began Kate.
"Yes, I think so," said Nancy Ellen. "Getting things for Little
Poll has broken me up so, I told Robert how I felt, and he's
watching in his practice, and he's written several letters of
inquiry to friends in Chicago. Any day now I may have my work cut
out for me."
"Praise the Lord again!" cried Kate. "I see where you will be
happier than you ever have been. Real life is just beginning for
Then they went home and prepared a good supper and had such a fine
time they were exalted in heart and spirit. When Nancy Ellen
started home, Kate took the baby and climbed in the car with her,
explaining that they would go a short way and walk back. She went
only as far as the Peters gate; then she bravely walked up to the
porch, where Mr. Peters and some of the boys sat, and said
casually: "I just thought I'd bring Little Poll up to get
acquainted with her folks. Isn't she a dear?"
An hour later, as she walked back in the moonlight, Henry beside
her carrying the baby, he said to her: "This is a mighty big
thing, and a kind thing for you to do, Mrs. Holt. Mother has been
saying scandalous things about you."
"I know," said Kate. "But never mind! She won't any more."
The remainder of the week she passed in the same uplifted mental
state. She carried the baby in her arms and walked all over the
farm, going often to the cemetery with fresh flowers. Sunday
morning, when the work was all done, the baby dressed her
prettiest, Kate slipped into one of her fresh white dresses and
gathering a big bunch of flowers started again to whisper above
the graves of her mother and Polly the story of her gladness, and
to freshen the flowers, so that the people coming from church
would see that her family were remembered. When she had finished
she arose, took up the baby, and started to return across the
cemetery, going behind the church, taking the path she had
travelled the day she followed the minister's admonition to "take
the wings of morning." She thought of that. She stood very
still, thinking deeply.
"I took them," she said. "I've tried flight after flight; and
I've fallen, and risen, and fallen, and got up and tried again,
but never until now have I felt that I could really 'fly to the
uttermost parts of the earth.' There is a rising power in me that
should benefit more than myself. I guess I'll just join in."
She walked into the church as the last word of the song the
congregation were singing was finished, and the minister was
opening his lips to say: "Let us pray." Straight down the aisle
came Kate, her bare, gold head crowned with a flash of light at
each window she passed. She paused at the altar, directly facing
"Baby and I would like the privilege of praising the Lord with
you," she said simply, "and we would like to do our share in
keeping up this church and congregation to His honour and glory.
There's some water. Can't you baptize us now?"
The minister turned to the pitcher, which always stood on his
desk, filled his palm, and asked: "What is the baby's name?"
"Katherine Eleanor Peters," said Kate.
"Katherine Eleanor, I baptize thee," said the minister, and he
laid his hand on the soft curls of the baby. She scattered the
flowers she was holding over the altar as she reached to spat her
hands in the water on her head and laughed aloud.
"What is your name?" asked the minister.
"Katherine Eleanor Holt," said Kate.
Again the minister repeated the formula, and then he raised both
hands and said: "Let us pray."
THE WINGED VICTORY
KATE turned and placing the baby on the front seat, she knelt and
put her arms around the little thing, but her lips only repeated
the words: "Praise the Lord for this precious baby!" Her heart
was filled with high resolve. She would rear the baby with such
care. She would be more careful with Adam. She would make heroic
effort to help him to clean, unashamed manhood. She would be a
better sister to all her family. She would be friendlier, and
have more patience with the neighbours. She would join in
whatever effort the church was making to hold and increase its
membership among the young people, and to raise funds to keep up
the organization. All the time her mind was busy thinking out
these fine resolves, her lips were thanking the Lord for Little
Poll. Kate arose with the benediction, picked up the baby, and
started down the aisle among the people she had known all her
life. On every side strong hands stretched out to greet and
welcome her. A daughter of Adam Bates was something new as a
church member. They all knew how she could work, and what she
could give if she chose; while that she had stood at the altar and
been baptized, meant that something not customary with the Bates
family was taking place in her heart. So they welcomed her, and
praised the beauty and sweetness of the baby until Kate went out
into the sunshine, her face glowing.
Slowly she walked home and as she reached the veranda, Adam took
"Been to the cemetery?" he asked.
Kate nodded and dropped into a chair.
"That's too far to walk and carry this great big woman," he said,
snuggling his face in the baby's neck, while she patted his cheeks
and pulled his hair. "Why didn't you tell me you wanted to go,
and let me get out the car?"
Kate looked at him speculatively.
"Adam," she said, "when I started out, I meant only to take some
flowers to Mother and Polly. As I came around the corner of the
church to take the footpath, they were singing 'Rejoice in the
Lord!' I went inside and joined. I'm going to church as often as
I can after this, and I'm going to help with the work of running
"Well, I like that!" cried Adam, indignantly. "Why didn't you let
me go with you?"
Kate sat staring down the road. She was shocked speechless.
Again she had followed an impulse, without thinking of any one
besides herself. Usually she could talk, but in that instant she
had nothing to say. Then a carriage drew into the line of her
vision, stopped at York's gate, and Mr. York alighted and swung to
the ground a slim girlish figure and then helped his wife. Kate
had a sudden inspiration. "But you would want to wait a little
and join with Milly, wouldn't you?" she asked. "Uncle Robert
always has been a church member. I think it's a fine stand for a
man to take."
"Maybe that would be better," he said. "I didn't think of Milly.
I only thought I'd like to have been with you and Little Poll."
"I'm sure Milly will be joining very soon, and that she'll want
you with her," said Kate.
She was a very substantial woman, but for the remainder of that
day she felt that she was moving with winged feet. She sang, she
laughed, she was unspeakably happy. She kept saying over and
over: "And a little child shall lead them." Then she would catch
Little Poll, almost crushing her in her strong arms. It never
occurred to Kate that she had done an unprecedented thing. She
had done as her heart dictated. She did not know that she put the
minister into a most uncomfortable position, when he followed her
request to baptize her and the child. She had never thought of
probations, and examinations, and catechisms. She had read the
Bible, as was the custom, every morning before her school. In
that book, when a man wanted to follow Jesus, he followed; Jesus
accepted him; and that was all there was to it, with Kate.
The middle of the week Nancy Ellen came flying up the walk on
winged feet, herself. She carried photographs of several small
children, one of them a girl so like Little Poll that she might
have been the original of the picture.
"They just came," said Nancy Ellen rather breathlessly. "I was
wild for that little darling at once. I had Robert telegraph them
to hold her until we could get there. We're going to start on the
evening train and if her blood seems good, and her ancestors
respectable, and she looks like that picture, we're going to bring
her back with us. Oh, Kate, I can scarcely wait to get my fingers
on her. I'm hungry for a baby all of my own."
Kate studied the picture.
"She's charming!" she said. "Oh, Nancy Ellen, this world is
getting entirely too good to be true."
Nancy Ellen looked at Kate and smiled peculiarly.
"I knew you were crazy," she said, "but I never dreamed of you
going such lengths. Mrs. Whistler told Robert, when she called
him in about her side, Tuesday. I can't imagine a Bates joining
"If that is joining church, it's the easiest thing in the world,"
said Kate. "We just loved doing it, didn't we, Little Poll? Adam
and Milly are going to come in soon, I'm almost sure. At least he
is willing. I don't know what it is that I am to do, but I
suppose they will give me my work soon."
"You bet they'll give you work soon, and enough," said Nancy
Ellen, laughing. "But you won't mind. You'll just put it
through, as you do things out here. Kate, you are making this
place look fine. I used to say I'd rather die than come back here
to live, but lately it has been growing so attractive, I've been
here about half my time, and wished I were the other half."
Kate slipped her arm around Nancy Ellen as they walked to the
"You know," said Nancy Ellen, "the MORE I study you, the LESS I
know about you. Usually it's sickness, and sorrow, and losing
their friends that bring people to the consolations of the church.
You bore those things like a stoic. When they are all over, and
you are comfortable and happy, just the joy of being sure of
Little Poll has transformed you. Kate, you make me think of the
'Winged Victory,' this afternoon. If I get this darling little
girl, will she make me big, and splendid, and fine, like you?"
Kate suddenly drew Nancy Ellen to her and kissed her a long, hard
kiss on the lips.
"Nancy Ellen," she said, "you ARE 'big, and splendid, and fine,'
or you never would be going to Chicago after this little
motherless child. You haven't said a word, but I know from the
joy of you and Robert during the past months that Mrs. Southey
isn't troubling you any more; and I'm sure enough to put it into
words that when you get your little child, she will lead you
straight where mine as led me. Good-bye and good luck to you, and
remember me to Robert."
Nancy Ellen stood intently studying the picture she held in her
hand. Then she looked at Kate, smiling with misty eyes: "I
think, Kate, I'm very close, if I am not really where you are this
minute," she said. Then she started her car; but she looked back,
waving and smiling until the car swerved so that Kate called after
her: "Do drive carefully, Nancy Ellen!"
Kate went slowly up the walk. She stopped several times to
examine the shrubs and bushes closely, to wish for rain for the
flowers. She sat on the porch a few minutes talking to Little
Poll, then she went inside to answer the phone.
"Kate?" cried a sharp voice.
"Yes," said Kate, recognizing a neighbour, living a few miles down
"Did Nancy Ellen just leave your house?" came a breathless query.
"Yes," said Kate again.
"I just saw a car that looked like hers slip in the fresh sand at
the river levee, and it went down, and two or three times over."
"O God!" said Kate. Then after an instant: "Ring the dinner bell
for your men to get her out. I'll phone Robert, and come as soon
as I can get there."
Kate called Dr. Gray's office. She said to the girl: "Tell the
doctor that Mrs. Howe thinks she saw Nancy Ellen's car go down the
river levee, and two or three times over. Have him bring what he
might need to Howe's, and hurry. Rush him!"
Then she ran to her bell and rang so frantically that Adam came
running. Kate was at the little garage they had built, and had
the door open. She told him what she had heard, ran to get the
baby, and met him at the gate. On the way she said, "You take the
baby when we get there, and if I'm needed, take her back and get
Milly and her mother to come stay with you. You know where her
things are, and how to feed her. Don't you dare let them change
any way I do. Baby knows Milly; she will be good for her and for
you. You'll be careful?"
"Of course, Mother," said Adam.
He called her attention to the road.
"Look at those tracks," he said. "Was she sick? She might have
been drunk, from them."
"No," said Kate, "she wasn't sick. She WAS drunk, drunken with
joy. She had a picture of the most beautiful little baby girl.
They were to start to Chicago after her to-night. I suspect she
was driving with the picture in one hand. Oh, my God, have
They had come to deep grooves in loose gravel, then the cut in the
embankment, then they could see the wrecked car standing on the
engine and lying against a big tree, near the water, while two men
and a woman were carrying a limp form across the meadow toward the
house. As their car stopped, Kate kissed the baby mechanically,
handed her to Adam, and ran into the house where she dragged a
couch to the middle of the first room she entered, found a pillow,
and brought a bucket of water and a towel from the kitchen. They
carried Nancy Ellen in and laid her down. Kate began unfastening
clothing and trying to get the broken body in shape for the doctor
to work upon; but she spread the towel over what had been a face
of unusual beauty. Robert came in a few minutes, then all of them
worked under his directions until he suddenly sank to the floor,
burying his face in Nancy Ellen's breast; then they knew. Kate
gathered her sister's feet in her arms and hid her face beside
them. The neighbours silently began taking away things that had
been used, while Mrs. Howe chose her whitest sheet, and laid it on
a chair near Robert.
Two days later they laid Nancy Ellen beside her mother. Then they
began trying to face the problem of life without her. Robert said
nothing. He seemed too stunned to think. Kate wanted to tell him
of her final visit with Nancy Ellen, but she could not at that
time. Robert's aged mother came to him, and said she could remain
as long as he wanted her, so that was a comfort to Kate, who took
time to pity him, even in her blackest hour. She had some very
black ones. She could have wailed, and lamented, and relinquished
all she had gained, but she did not. She merely went on with
life, as she always had lived it, to the best of her ability when
she was so numbed with grief she scarcely knew what she was doing.
She kept herself driven about the house, and when she could find
no more to do, took Little Poll in her arms and went out in the
fields to Adam, where she found the baby a safe place, and then
cut and husked corn as usual. Every Sabbath, and often during the
week, her feet carried her to the cemetery, where she sat in the
deep grass and looked at those three long mounds and tried to
understand life; deeper still, to fathom death.
She and her mother had agreed that there was "something." Now
Kate tried as never before to understand what, and where, and why,
that "something" was. Many days she would sit for an hour at a
time, thinking, and at last she arrived at fixed convictions that
settled matters forever with her. One day after she had arranged
the fall roses she had grown, and some roadside asters she had
gathered in passing, she sat in deep thought, when a car stopped
on the road. Kate looked up to see Robert coming across the
churchyard with his arms full of greenhouse roses. He carried a
big bunch of deep red for her mother, white for Polly, and a large
sheaf of warm pink for Nancy Ellen. Kate knelt up and taking her
flowers, she moved them lower, and silently helped Robert place
those he had brought. Then she sat where she had been, and looked
Finally he asked: "Still hunting the 'why,' Kate?"
"'Why' doesn't so much matter," said Kate, "as 'where.' I'm
enough of a fatalist to believe that Mother is here because she
was old and worn out. Polly had a clear case of uric poison,
while I'd stake my life Nancy Ellen was gloating over the picture
she carried when she ran into that loose sand. In each of their
cases I am satisfied as to 'why,' as well as about Father. The
thing that holds me, and fascinates me, and that I have such a
time being sure of, is 'where.'"
Robert glanced upward and asked: "Isn't there room enough up
"Too much!" said Kate. "And what IS the soul, and HOW can it
bridge the vortex lying between us and other worlds, that man
never can, because of the lack of air to breathe, and support
"I don't know," said Robert; "and in spite of the fact that I do
know what a man CANNOT do, I still believe in the immortality of
"Oh, yes," said Kate. "If there is any such thing in science as a
self-evident fact, that is one. THAT is provable."
Robert looked at her eager face. "How would you go about proving
it, Kate?" he asked.
"Why, this way," said Kate, leaning to straighten and arrange the
delicate velvet petalled roses with her sure, work-abused fingers.
"Take the history of the world from as near dawn as we have any
record, and trace it from the igloo of the northernmost Esquimo,
around the globe, and down to the ice of the southern pole again,
and in blackest Africa, farthest, wildest Borneo, you will never
discover one single tribe of creatures, upright and belonging to
the race of man, who did not come into the world with four primal
instincts. They all reproduce themselves, they all make something
intended for music, they all express a feeling in their hearts by
the exercise we call dance, they all believe in the after life of
the soul. This belief is as much a PART of any man, ever born in
any location, as his hands and his feet. Whether he believes his
soul enters a cat and works back to man again after long
transmigration, or goes to a Happy Hunting Ground as our Indians,
makes no difference with the fact that he enters this world with
belief in after life of some kind. We see material evidence in
increase that man is not defeated in his desire to reproduce
himself; we have advanced to something better than tom-toms and
pow-wows for music and dance; these desires are fulfilled before
us, now tell me why the very strongest of all, the most deeply
rooted, the belief in after life, should come to nothing. Why
should the others be real, and that a dream?"
"I don't think it is," said Robert.
"It's my biggest self-evident fact," said Kate, conclusively. "I
never heard any one else say these things, but I think them, and
they are provable. I always believed there was something; but
since I saw Mother go, I know there is. She stood in full evening
light, I looked straight in her face, and Robert, you know I'm no
creature of fancies and delusions, I tell you I SAW HER SOUL PASS.
I saw the life go from her and go on, and on. I saw her body
stand erect, long enough for me to reach her, and pick her up,
after its passing. That I know."
"I shouldn't think of questioning it, Kate," said Robert. "But
don't you think you are rather limiting man, when you narrow him
to four primal instincts?"
"Oh, I don't know," said Kate. "Air to breathe and food to
sustain are presupposed. Man LEARNS to fight in self-defense, and
to acquire what he covets. He learns to covet by seeing stronger
men, in better locations, surpass his achievements, so if he is
strong enough he goes and robs them by force. He learns the
desire for the chase in food hunting; I think four are plenty to
"Probably you are right," said the doctor, rising. "I must go
now. Shall I take you home?"
Kate glanced at the sun and shook her head. "I can stay half an
hour longer. I don't mind the walk. I need exercise to keep me
in condition. Good-bye!"
As he started his car he glanced back. She was leaning over the
flowers absorbed in their beauty. Kate sat looking straight
before her until time to help with the evening work, and prepare
supper, then she arose. She stood looking down a long time;
finally she picked up a fine specimen of each of the roses and
slowly dropped them on her father's grave.
"There! You may have that many," she said. "You look a little
too lonely, lying here beside the others with not a single one,
but if you could speak, I wonder whether you would say, 'Thank
you!' or 'Take the damn weeds off me!'"
BLUE RIBBON CORN
NEVER in her life had Kate worked harder than she did that fall;
but she retained her splendid health. Everything was sheltered
and housed, their implements under cover, their stock in good
condition, their store-room filled, and their fruits and
vegetables buried in hills and long rows in the garden. Adam had
a first wheat premium at the County Fair and a second on corn,
concerning which he felt abused. He thought his corn scored the
highest number of points, but that the award was given another man
because of Adam's having had first on wheat. In her heart Kate
agreed with him; but she tried to satisfy him with the blue ribbon
on wheat and keep him interested sufficiently to try for the first
on corn the coming year. She began making suggestions for the
possible improvement of his corn. Adam was not easily
"Mother," he said, "you know as well as you know you're alive,
that if I had failed on wheat, or had second, I would have been
given FIRST on my corn; my corn was the best in every way, but
they thought I would swell up and burst if I had two blue ribbons.
That was what ailed the judges. What encouragement is that to try
again? I might grow even finer corn in the coming year than I did
this, and be given no award at all, because I had two this year.
It would amount to exactly the same thing."
"We'll get some more books, and see if we can study up any new
wrinkles, this winter," said Kate. "Now cheer up, and go tell
Milly about it. Maybe she can console you, if I can't."
"Nothing but justice will console me," said Adam. "I'm not
complaining about losing the prize; I'm fighting mad because my
corn, my beautiful corn, that grew and grew, and held its head so
high, and waved its banners of triumph to me with every breeze,
didn't get its fair show. What encouragement is there for it to
try better the coming year? The crows might as well have had it,
or the cutworms; while all my work is for nothing."
"You're making a big mistake," said Kate. "If your corn was the
finest, it was, and the judges knew it, and you know it, and very
likely the man who has the first prize, knows it. You have a
clean conscience, and you know what you know. They surely can't
feel right about it, or enjoy what they know. You have had the
experience, you have the corn for seed; with these things to back
you, clear a small strip of new land beside the woods this winter,
and try what that will do for you."
Adam looked at her with wide eyes. "By jing, Mother, you are a
dandy!" he said. "You just bet I'll try that next year, but don't
you tell a soul; there are more than you who will let a strip be
cleared, in an effort to grow blue ribbon corn. How did you come
to think of it?"
"Your saying all your work had been for nothing, made me think of
it," she answered. "Let them give another man the prize, when
they know your corn is the best. It's their way of keeping a
larger number of people interested and avoiding the appearance of
partiality; this contest was too close; next year, you grow such
corn, that the CORN will force the decision in spite of the
judges. Do you see?"
"I see," said Adam. "I'll try again."
After that life went on as usual. The annual Christmas party was
the loveliest of all, because Kate gave it loving thought, and
because all of their hearts were especially touched. As spring
came on again, Kate and Adam studied over their work, planning
many changes for the better, but each time they talked, when
everything else was arranged, they came back to corn. More than
once, each of them dreamed corn that winter while asleep, they
frankly talked of it many times a day. Location, soil,
fertilizers, seed, cultivation -- they even studied the almanacs
for a general forecast of the weather. These things brought them
very close together. Also it was admitted between them, that
Little Poll "grappled them with hooks of steel." They never
lacked subjects for conversation. Poll always came first, corn
next, and during the winter there began to be discussion of plans
for Adam and Milly. Should Milly come with them, or should they
build a small house on the end of the farm nearest her mother?
Adam did not care, so he married Milly speedily. Kate could not
make up her mind. Milly had the inclination of a bird for a
personal and private nest of her own. So spring came to them.
August brought the anniversary of Nancy Ellen's death, which again
saddened all of them. Then came cooler September weather, and the
usual rush of preparation for winter. Kate was everywhere and
enjoying her work immensely. On sturdy, tumbly legs Little Poll
trotted after her or rode in state on her shoulder, when distances
were too far. If Kate took her to the fields, as she did every
day, she carried along the half of an old pink and white quilt,
which she spread in a shaded place and filled the baby's lap with
acorns, wild flowers, small brightly coloured stones, shells, and
whatever she could pick up for playthings. Poll amused herself
with these until the heat and air made her sleepy, then she laid
herself down and slept for an hour or two. Once she had trouble
with stomach teeth that brought Dr. Gray racing, and left Kate
white and limp with fear. Everything else had gone finely and
among helping Adam, working in her home, caring for the baby,
doing whatever she could see that she thought would be of benefit
to the community, and what was assigned her by church committees,
Kate had a busy life. She had earned, in a degree, the leadership
she exercised in her first days in Walden. Everyone liked her;
but no one ever ventured to ask her for an opinion unless they
truly wanted it.
Adam came from a run to Hartley for groceries one evening in late
September, with a look of concern that Kate noticed on his face.
He was very silent during supper and when they were on the porch
as usual, he still sat as if thinking deeply. Kate knew that he
would tell her what he was thinking about when he was ready but
she was not in the least prepared for what he said.
"Mother, how do you feel about Uncle Robert marrying again?" he
Kate was too surprised to answer. She looked at him in amazement.
Instead of answering, she asked him a question: "What makes you
"You know how that Mrs. Southey pursued him one summer. Well,
she's back in Hartley, staying at the hotel right across from his
office; she's dressed to beat the band, she's pretty as a picture;
her car stands out in front all day, and to get to ride in it, and
take meals with her, all the women are running after her. I hear
she has even had Robert's old mother out for a drive. What do you
think of that?"
"Think she's in love with him, of course, and trying to marry him,
and that she will very probably succeed. If she has located where
she is right under his eye, and lets him know that she wants him
very much, he'll, no doubt, marry her."
"But what do you THINK about it?" asked Adam.
"I've had no TIME to think," said Kate. "At first blush, I'd say
that I shall hate it, as badly as I could possibly hate anything
that was none of my immediate business. Nancy Ellen loved him so.
I never shall forget that day she first told me about him, and how
loving him brought out her beauty, and made her shine and glow as
if from an inner light. I was always with her most, and I loved
her more than all the other girls put together. I know that
Southey woman tried to take him from her one summer not long ago,
and that he gave her to understand that she could not, so she went
away. If she's back, it means only one thing, and I think
probably she'll succeed; but you can be sure it will make me
"I THOUGHT you wouldn't like it," he said emphatically.
"Now understand me, Adam," said Kate. "I'm no fool. I didn't
expect Robert to be more than human. He has no children, and he'd
like a child above anything else on earth. I've known that for
years, ever since it became apparent that none was coming to Nancy
Ellen. I hadn't given the matter a thought, but if I had been
thinking, I would have thought that as soon as was proper, he
would select a strong, healthy young woman, and make her his wife.
I know his mother is homesick, and wants to go back to her
daughters and their children, which is natural. I haven't an
objection in the world to him marrying a PROPER woman, at a proper
time and place; but Oh, dear Lord, I do dread and despise to see
that little Southey cat come back and catch him, because she knows
"Did you ever see her, Mother?"
"No, I never," said Kate, "and I hope I never shall. I know what
Nancy Ellen felt, because she told me all about it that time we
were up North. I'm trying with all my might to have a Christian
spirit. I swallowed Mrs. Peters, and never blinked, that anybody
saw; but I don't, I truly don't know from where I could muster
grace to treat a woman decently, who tried to do to my sister,
what I KNOW Mrs. Southey tried to do to Nancy Ellen. She planned
to break up my sister's home; that I know. Now that Nancy Ellen
is gone, I feel to-night as if I just couldn't endure to see Mrs.
Southey marry Robert."
"Bet she does it!" said Adam.
"Did you see her?" asked Kate.
"See her!" cried Adam. "I saw her half a dozen times in an hour.
She's in the heart of the town, nothing to do but dress and motor.
Never saw such a peach of a car. I couldn't help looking at it.
Gee, I wish I could get you one like that!"
"What did you think of her looks?" asked Kate.
"Might pretty!" said Adam, promptly. "Small, but not tiny; plump,
but not fat; pink, light curls, big baby blue eyes and a sort of
hesitating way about her, as if she were anxious to do the right
thing, but feared she might not, and wished somebody would take
care of her."
Kate threw out her hands with a rough exclamation. "I get the
picture!" she said. "It's a dead centre shot. THAT gets a man,
every time. No man cares a picayune about a woman who can take
care of herself, and help him with his job if he has a ghost of a
chance at a little pink and white clinger, who will suck the life
and talent out of him, like the parasite she is, while she makes
him believe he is on the job, taking care of her. You can rest
assured it will be settled before Christmas."
Kate had been right in her theories concerning the growing of blue
ribbon corn. At the County Fair in late September Adam exhibited
such heavy ears of evenly grained white and yellow corn that the
blue ribbon he carried home was not an award of the judges; it was
a concession to the just demands of the exhibit.
Then they began husking their annual crop. It had been one of the
country's best years for corn. The long, even, golden ears they
were stripping the husks from and stacking in heaps over the field
might profitably have been used for seed by any farmer. They had
divided the field in halves and Adam was husking one side, Kate
the other. She had a big shock open and kneeling beside it she
was busy stripping open the husks, and heaping up the yellow ears.
Behind her the shocks stood like rows of stationed sentinels;
above, the crisp October sunshine warmed the air to a delightful
degree; around the field, the fence rows were filled with purple
and rose coloured asters, and everywhere goldenrod, yellower than
the corn, was hanging in heavy heads of pollen-spraying bloom.
On her old pink quilt Little Poll, sound asleep, was lifted from
the shade of one shock to another, while Kate worked across her
share of the field. As she worked she kept looking at the child.
She frankly adored her, but she kept her reason and held to rigid
rules in feeding, bathing, and dressing. Poll minded even a
gesture or a nod.
Above, the flocking larks pierced the air with silver notes, on
the fence-rows the gathering robins called to each other; high in
the air the old black vulture that homed in a hollow log in Kate's
woods, looked down on the spots of colour made by the pink quilt,
the gold corn, the blue of Kate's dress, and her yellow head. An
artist would have paused long, over the rich colour, the grouping
and perspective of that picture, while the hazy fall atmosphere
softened and blended the whole. Kate, herself, never had appeared
or felt better. She worked rapidly, often glancing across the
field to see if she was even with, or slightly in advance of Adam.
She said it would never do to let the boy get "heady," so she made
a point of keeping even with him, and caring for Little Poll, "for
She was smiling as she watched him working like a machine as he
ripped open husks, gave the ear a twist, tossed it aside, and
reached for the next. Kate was doing the same thing, quite as
automatically. She was beginning to find the afternoon sun almost
hot on her bare head, so she turned until it fell on her back.
Her face was flushed to coral pink, and framed in a loose border
of her beautiful hair. She was smiling at the thought of how Adam
was working to get ahead of her, smiling because Little Poll
looked such a picture of healthy loveliness, smiling because she
was so well, she felt super-abundant health rising like a
stimulating tide in her body, smiling because the corn was the
finest she ever had seen in a commonly cultivated field, smiling
because she and Adam were of one accord about everything, smiling
because the day was very beautiful, because her heart was at
peace, her conscience clear.
She heard a car stop at her gate, saw a man alight and start
across the yard toward the field, and knew that her visitor had
seen her, and was coming to her. Kate went on husking corn and
when the man swung over the fence of the field she saw that he was
Robert, and instantly thought of Mrs. Southey, so she ceased to
smile. "I've got a big notion to tell him what I think of him,"
she said to herself, even as she looked up to greet him.
Instantly she saw that he had come for something.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Agatha," he said. "She's been having some severe heart attacks
lately, and she just gave me a real scare."
Instantly Kate forgot everything, except Agatha, whom she
cordially liked, and Robert, who appeared older, more tired, and
worried than she ever had seen him. She thought Agatha had "given
him a real scare," and she decided that it scarcely would have
been bad enough to put lines in his face she never had noticed
before, dark circles under his eyes, a look of weariness in his
bearing. She doubted as she looked at him if he were really
courting Mrs. Southey. Even as she thought of these things she
was asking: "She's better now?"
"Yes, easier, but she suffered terribly. Adam was upset
completely. Adam, 3d, and Susan and their families are away from
home and won't be back for a few days unless I send for them.
They went to Ohio to visit some friends. I stopped to ask if it
would be possible for you to go down this evening and sleep there,
so that if there did happen to be a recurrence, Adam wouldn't be
"Of course," said Kate, glancing at the baby. "I'll go right
"No need for that," he said, "if you'll arrange to stay with Adam
to-night, as a precaution. You needn't go till bed-time. I'm
going back after supper to put them in shape for the night. I'm
almost sure she'll be all right now; but you know how frightened
we can get about those we love."
"Yes, I know," said Kate, quietly, going straight on ripping open
ear after ear of corn. Presently she wondered why he did not go.
She looked up at him and met his eyes. He was studying her
intently. Kate was vividly conscious in an instant of her bare
wind-teased head, her husking gloves; she was not at all sure that
her face was clean. She smiled at him, and picking up the
sunbonnet lying beside her, she wiped her face with the skirt.
"If this sun hits too long on the same spot, it grows warm," she
"Kate, I do wish you wouldn't!" he exclaimed abruptly.
Kate was too forthright for sparring.
"Why not?" she asked.
"For one thing, you are doing a man's work," he said. "For
another, I hate to see you burn the loveliest hair I ever saw on
the head of a woman, and coarsen your fine skin."
Kate looked down at the ear of corn she held in her hands, and
considered an instant.
"There hasn't any man been around asking to relieve me of this
work," she said. "I got my start in life doing a man's work, and
I'm frank to say that I'd far rather do it any day, than what is
usually considered a woman's. As for my looks, I never set a
price on them or let them interfere with business, Robert."
"No, I know you don't," he said. "But it's a pity to spoil you."
"I don't know what's the matter with you," said Kate, patiently.
She bent her head toward him. "Feel," she said, "and see if my
hair isn't soft and fine. I always cover it in really burning
sun; this autumn haze is good for it. My complexion is exactly as
smooth and even now, as it was the day I first met you on the
footlog over twenty years ago. There's one good thing about the
Bates women. They wear well. None of us yet have ever faded, and
frazzled out. Have you got many Hartley women, doing what you
call women's work, to compare with me physically, Robert?"
"You know the answer to that," he said.
"So I do!" said Kate. "I see some of them occasionally, when
business calls me that way. Now, Robert, I'm so well, I feel like
running a footrace the first thing when I wake up every morning.
I'm making money, I'm starting my boy in a safe, useful life; have
you many year and a half babies in your practice that can beat
Little Poll? I'm as happy as it's humanly possible for me to be
without Mother, and Polly, and Nancy Ellen. Mother used always to
say that when death struck a family it seldom stopped until it
took three. That was my experience, and saving Adam and Little
Poll, it took my three dearest; but the separation isn't going to
be so very long. If I were you I wouldn't worry about me, Robert.
There are many women in the world willing to pay for your
consideration; save it for them."
"Kate, I'm sorry I said anything," he said hastily. "I wouldn't
offend you purposely, you know."
Kate looked at him in surprise. "But I'm not offended," she said,
snapping an ear and reaching for another. "I am merely telling
you! Don't give me a thought! I'm all right! If you'll save me
an hour the next time Little Poll has a tooth coming through,
you'll have completely earned my gratitude. Tell Agatha I'll come
as soon as I finish my evening work."
That was clearly a dismissal, for Kate glancing across the field
toward Adam, saw that he had advanced to a new shock, so she began
husking faster than before.
THE ELEVENTH HOUR
ROBERT said good-bye and started back toward his car. Kate looked
after him as he reached the fence. A surge of pity for him swept
up in her heart. He seemed far from happy, and he surely was very
tired. Impulsive as always, she lifted her clear voice and
He paused with his foot on a rail of the fence, and turned toward
"Have you had any dinner?" she asked.
He seemed to be considering. "Come to think of it, I don't
believe I have," he said.
"I thought you looked neglected," said Kate. "Sonny across the
field is starting a shock ahead of me; I can't come, but go to the
kitchen -- the door is unlocked -- you'll find fried chicken and
some preserves and pickles in the pantry; the bread box is right
there, and the milk and butter are in the spring house."
He gave Kate one long look. "Thank you," he said and leaped the
fence. He stopped on the front walk and stood a minute, then he
turned and went around the house. She laughed aloud. She was
sending him to chicken perfectly cooked, barely cold, melon
preserves, pickled cucumbers, and bread like that which had for
years taken a County Fair prize each fall; butter yellow as the
goldenrod lining the fences, and cream stiff enough to stand
alone. Also, he would find neither germ nor mould in her pantry
and spring house, while it would be a new experience for him to
let him wait on himself. Kate husked away in high good humour,
but she quit an hour early to be on time to go to Agatha. She
explained this to Adam, when she told him that he would have to
milk alone, while she bathed and dressed herself and got supper.
When she began to dress, Kate examined her hair minutely, and
combed it with unusual care. If Robert was at Agatha's when she
got there, she would let him see that her hair was not sunburned
and ruined. To match the hair dressing, she reached back in her
closet and took down her second best white dress. She was hoping
that Agatha would be well enough to have a short visit. Kate
worked so steadily that she seldom saw any of her brothers and
sisters during the summer. In winter she spent a day with each of
them, if she could possibly manage. Anyway, Agatha would like to
see her appearing well, so she put on the plain snowy linen, and
carefully pinning a big apron over it, she went to the kitchen.
They always had a full dinner at noon and worked until dusk. Her
bath had made her later than she intended to be. Dusk was
deepening, evening chill was beginning to creep into the air. She
closed the door, fed Little Poll and rolled her into bed; set the
potatoes boiling, and began mixing the biscuit. She had them just
ready to roll when steam lifted the lid of the potato pot; with
the soft dough in her hand she took a step to right it. While it
was in her fingers, she peered into the pot.
She did not look up on the instant the door opened, because she
thought it would be Adam. When she glanced toward the door, she
saw Robert standing looking at her. He had stepped inside, closed
the door, and with his hand on the knob was waiting for her to see
"Oh! Hello!" said Kate. "I thought it was Adam. Have you been
to Agatha's yet?"
"Yes. She is very much better," he said. "I only stopped to tell
you that her mother happened to come out for the night, and
they'll not need you."
"I'm surely glad she is better," said Kate, "but I'm rather
disappointed. I've been swimming, and I'm all ready to go."
She set the pot lid in place accurately and gave her left hand a
deft turn to save the dough from dripping. She glanced from it to
Robert, expecting to see him open the door and disappear. Instead
he stood looking at her intently. Suddenly he said: "Kate, will
you marry me?"
Kate mechanically saved the dough again, as she looked at the pot
an instant, then she said casually: "Sure! It would be splendid
to have a doctor right in the house when Little Poll cuts her
"Thank you!" said Robert, tersely. "No doubt that WOULD be a
privilege, but I decline to marry you in order to see Little Poll
safely through teething. Good-night!"
He stepped outside and closed the door very completely, and
Kate stood straight an instant, then realized biscuit dough was
slowly creeping down her wrist. With a quick fling, she shot the
mass into the scrap bucket and sinking on the chair she sat on to
peel vegetables, she lifted her apron, laid her head on her knees,
and gave a big gulping sob or two. Then she began to cry
silently. A minute later the door opened again. That time it had
to be Adam, but Kate did not care what he saw or what he thought.
She cried on in perfect abandon.
Then steps crossed the room, someone knelt beside her, put an arm
around her and said: "Kate, why are you crying?"
Kate lifted her head suddenly, and applied her apron skirt. "None
of your business," she said to Robert's face, six inches from
"Are you so anxious as all this about Little Poll's teeth?" he
"Oh, DRAT Little Poll's teeth!" cried Kate, the tears rolling
"Then WHY did you say that to me?" he demanded.
"Well, you said you 'only stopped to tell me that I needn't go to
Agatha's,'" she explained. "I had to say something, to get even
"Oh," said Robert, and took possession. Kate put her arms around
his neck, drew his head against hers, and knew a minute of
When Adam entered the house his mother was very busy. She was
mixing more biscuit dough, she was laughing like a girl of
sixteen, she snatched out one of their finest tablecloths, and put
on many extra dishes for supper, while Uncle Robert, looking like
a different man, was helping her. He was actually stirring the
gravy, and getting the water, and setting up chairs. And he was
under high tension, too. He was saying things of no moment, as if
they were profound wisdom, and laughing hilariously at things that
were scarcely worth a smile. Adam looked on, and marvelled and
all the while his irritation grew. At last he saw a glance of
understanding pass between them. He could endure it no longer.
"Oh, you might as well SAY what you think," he burst forth. "You
forgot to pull down the blinds."
Both the brazen creatures laughed as if that were a fine joke.
They immediately threw off all reserve. By the time the meal was
finished, Adam was struggling to keep from saying the meanest
things he could think of. Also, he had to go to Milly, with
nothing very definite to tell. But when he came back, his mother
was waiting for him. She said at once: "Adam, I'm very sorry the
blind was up to-night. I wanted to talk to you, and tell you
myself, that the first real love for a man that I have ever known,
is in my heart to-night."
"Why, Mother!" said Adam.
"It's true," said Kate, quietly. "You see Adam, the first time I
ever saw Robert Gray, I knew, and he knew, that he had made a
mistake in engaging himself to Nancy Ellen; but the thing was
done, she was happy, we simply realized that we would have done
better together, and let it go at that. But all these years I
have known that I could have made him a wife who would have come
closer to his ideals than my sister, and SHE should have had the
man who wanted to marry me. They would have had a wonderful time
"And where did my father come in?" asked Adam, quietly.
"He took advantage of my blackest hour," said Kate. "I married
him when I positively didn't care what happened to me. The man I
could have LOVED was married to my sister, the man I could have
married and lived with in comfort to both of us was out of the
question; it was in the Bates blood to marry about the time I did;
I had seen only the very best of your father, and he was an
attractive lover, not bad looking, not embarrassed with one single
scruple -- it's the way of the world. I took it. I paid for it.
Only God knows how dearly I paid; but Adam, if you love me, stand
by me now. Let me have this eleventh hour happiness, with no
alloy. Anything I feel for your Uncle Robert has nothing in the
world to do with my being your mother; with you being my son.
Kiss me, and tell me you're glad, Adam."
Adam rose up and put his arms around his mother. All his
resentment was gone. He was happy as he could be for his mother,
and happier than he ever before had been for himself.
The following afternoon, Kate took the car and went to see Agatha
instead of husking corn. She dressed with care and arrived about
three o'clock, leading Poll in whitest white, with cheeks still
rosy from her afternoon nap. Agatha was sitting up and delighted
to see them. She said they were the first of the family who had
come to visit her, and she thought they had come because she was
thinking of them. Then she told Kate about her illness. She said
it dated from father Bates stroke, and the dreadful days
immediately following, when Adam had completely lost self-control,
and she had not been able to influence him. "I think it broke my
heart," she said simply. Then they talked the family over, and at
last Agatha said: "Kate, what is this I hear about Robert? Have
you been informed that Mrs. Southey is back in Hartley, and that
she is working every possible chance and using multifarious
blandishments on him?"
Kate laughed heartily and suddenly. She never had heard
"blandishments" used in common conversation. As she struggled to
regain self-possession Agatha spoke again.
"It's no laughing matter," she said. "The report has every ear-
mark of verisimilitude. The Bates family has a way of feeling
deeply. We all loved Nancy Ellen. We all suffered severely and
lost something that never could be replaced when she went. Of
course all of us realized that Robert would enter the bonds of
matrimony again; none of us would have objected, even if he
remarried soon; but all of us do object to his marrying a woman
who would have broken Nancy Ellen's heart if she could; and
yesterday I took advantage of my illness, and TOLD him so. Then I
asked him why a man of his standing and ability in this community
didn't frustrate that unprincipled creature's vermiculations
toward him, by marrying you, at once."
Slowly Kate sank down in her chair. Her face whitened and then
grew greenish. She breathed with difficulty.
"Oh, Agatha!" was all she could say.
"I do not regret it," said Agatha. "If he is going to ruin
himself, he is not going to do it without knowing that the Bates
family highly disapprove of his course."
"But why drag me in?" said Kate, almost too shocked to speak at
all. "Maybe he LOVES Mrs. Southey. She has let him see how she
feels about him; possibly he feels the same about her."
"He does, if he weds her," said Agatha, conclusively. "Anything
any one could say or do would have no effect, if he had centred
his affections upon her, of that you may be very sure."
"May I?" asked Kate, dully.
"Indeed, you may!" said Agatha. "The male of the species, when he
is a man of Robert's attainments and calibre, can be swerved from
pursuit of the female he covets, by nothing save extinction."
"You mean," said Kate with an effort, "that if Robert asked a
woman to marry him, it would mean that he loved her."
"Indubitably!" cried Agatha.
Kate laughed until she felt a little better, but she went home in
a mood far different from that in which she started. Then she had
been very happy, and she had intended to tell Agatha about her
happiness, the very first of all. Now she was far from happy.
Possibly -- a thousand things, the most possible, that Robert had
responded to Agatha's suggestion, and stopped and asked her that
abrupt question, from an impulse as sudden and inexplicable as had
possessed her when she married George Holt. Kate fervently wished
she had gone to the cornfield as usual that afternoon.
"That's the way it goes," she said angrily, as she threw off her
better dress and put on her every-day gingham to prepare supper.
"That's the way it goes! Stay in your element, and go on with
your work, and you're all right. Leave your job and go trapesing
over the country, wasting your time, and you get a heartache to
pay you. I might as well give up the idea that I'm ever to be
happy, like anybody else. Every time I think happiness is coming
my way, along comes something that knocks it higher than
Gilderoy's kite. Hang the luck!"
She saw Robert pass while she was washing the dishes, and knew he
was going to Agatha's, and would stop when he came back. She
finished her work, put Little Poll to bed, and made herself as
attractive as she knew how in her prettiest blue dress. All the
time she debated whether she would say anything to him about what
Agatha had said or not. She decided she would wait awhile, and
watch how he acted. She thought she could soon tell. So when
Robert came, she was as nearly herself as possible, but when he
began to talk about being married soon, the most she would say was
that she would begin to think about it at Christmas, and tell him
by spring. Robert was bitterly disappointed. He was very lonely;
he needed better housekeeping than his aged mother was capable of,
to keep him up to a high mark in his work. Neither of them was
young any longer; he could see no reason why they should not be
married at once. Of the reason in Kate's mind, he had not a
glimmering. But Kate had her way. She would not even talk of a
time, or express an opinion as to whether she would remain on the
farm, or live in Nancy Ellen's house, or sell it and build
whatever she wanted for herself. Robert went away baffled, and
disappointed over some intangible thing he could not understand.
For six weeks Kate tortured herself, and kept Robert from being
happy. Then one morning Agatha stopped to visit with her, while
Adam drove on to town. After they had exhausted farming, Little
Poll's charms, and the neighbours, Agatha looked at Kate and said:
"Katherine, what is this I hear about Robert coming here every
day, now? It appeals to me that he must have followed my advice."
"Of course he never would have thought of coming, if you hadn't
told him so," said Kate dryly.
"Now THERE you are in error," said the literal Agatha, as she
smoothed down Little Poll's skirts and twisted her ringlets into
formal corkscrews. "Right THERE, you are in error, my dear. The
reason I told Robert to marry you was because he said to me, when
he suggested going after you to stay the night with me, that he
had seen you in the field when he passed, and that you were the
most glorious specimen of womanhood that he ever had seen. He
said you were the one to stay with me, in case there should be any
trouble, because your head was always level, and your heart was
big as a barrel."
"Yes, that's the reason I can't always have it with me," said
Kate, looking glorified instead of glorious. "Agatha, it just
happens to mean very much to me. Will you just kindly begin at
the beginning, and tell me every single word Robert said to you,
and you said to him, that day?"
"Why, I have informed you explicitly," said Agatha, using her
handkerchief on the toe of Poll's blue shoe. "He mentioned going
after you, and said what I told you, and I told him to go. He
praised you so highly that when I spoke to him about the Southey
woman I remembered it, so I suggested to him, as he seemed to
think so well of you. It just that minute flashed into my mind;
but HE made me think of it, calling you 'glorious,' and 'level
headed,' and 'big hearted.' Heavens! Katherine Eleanor, what
more could you ask?"
"I guess that should be enough," said Kate.
"One certainly would presume so," said Agatha.
Then Adam came, and handed Kate her mail as she stood beside his
car talking to him a minute, while Agatha settled herself. As
Kate closed the gate behind her, she saw a big, square white
envelope among the newspapers, advertisements, and letters. She
slipped it out and looked at it intently. Then she ran her finger
under the flap and read the contents. She stood studying the few
lines it contained, frowning deeply. "Doesn't it beat the band?"
she asked of the surrounding atmosphere. She went up the walk,
entered the living room, slipped the letter under the lid of the
big family Bible, and walking to the telephone she called Dr.
Gray's office. He answered the call in person.
"Robert, this is Kate," she said. "Would you have any deeply
rooted objections to marrying me at six o'clock this evening?"
"Well, I should say not!" boomed Robert's voice, the "not" coming
so forcibly Kate dodged.
"Have you got the information necessary for a license?" she asked.
"Yes," he answered.
"Then bring one, and your minister, and come at six," she said.
"And Oh, yes, Robert, will it be all right with you if I stay here
and keep house for Adam until he and Milly can be married and move
in? Then I'll come to your house just as it is. I don't mind
coming to Nancy Ellen's home, as I would another woman's."
"Surely!" he cried. "Any arrangement you make will satisfy me."
"All right, I'll expect you with the document and the minister at
six, then," said Kate, and hung up the receiver.
Then she took it down again and calling Milly, asked her to bring
her best white dress, and come up right away, and help her get
ready to entertain a few people that evening. Then she called her
sister Hannah, and asked her if she thought that in the event she,
Kate, wished that evening at six o'clock to marry a very fine man,
and had no preparations whatever made, her family would help her
out to the extent of providing the supper. She wanted all of
them, and all the children, but the arrangement had come up
suddenly, and she could not possibly prepare a supper herself, for
such a big family, in the length of time she had. Hannah said she
was perfectly sure everyone of them would drop everything, and be
tickled to pieces to bring the supper, and to come, and they would
have a grand time. What did Kate want? Oh, she wanted bread, and
chicken for meat, maybe some potato chips, and Angel's Food cake,
and a big freezer or two of Agatha's best ice cream, and she
thought possibly more butter, and coffee, than she had on hand.
She had plenty of sugar, and cream, and pickles and jelly. She
would have the tables all set as she did for Christmas. Then Kate
rang for Adam and put a broom in his hand as he entered the back
door. She met Milly with a pail of hot water and cloths to wash
the glass. She went to her room and got out her best afternoon
dress of dull blue with gold lace and a pink velvet rose. She
shook it out and studied it. She had worn it twice on the trip
North. None of them save Adam ever had seen it. She put it on,
and looked at it critically. Then she called Milly and they
changed the neck and sleeves a little, took a yard of width from
the skirt, and behold! it became a "creation," in the very height
of style. Then Kate opened her trunk, and got out the petticoat,
hose, and low shoes to match it, and laid them on her bed.
Then they set the table, laid a fire ready to strike in the cook
stove, saw that the gas was all right, set out the big coffee
boiler, and skimmed a crock full of cream. By four o'clock, they
could think of nothing else to do. Then Kate bathed and went to
her room to dress. Adam and Milly were busy making themselves
fine. Little Poll sat in her prettiest dress, watching her
beloved "Tate," until Adam came and took her. He had been
instructed to send Robert and the minister to his mother's room as
soon as they came. Kate was trying to look her best, yet making
haste, so that she would be ready on time. She had made no
arrangements except to spread a white goatskin where she and
Robert would stand at the end of the big living room near her
door. Before she was fully dressed she began to hear young voices
and knew that her people were coming. When she was ready Kate
looked at herself and muttered: "I'll give Robert and all of them
a good surprise. This is a real dress, thanks to Nancy Ellen.
The poor girl! It's scarcely fair to her to marry her man in a
dress she gave me; but I'd stake my life she'd rather I'd have him
than any other woman."
It was an evening of surprises. At six, Adam lighted a big log,
festooned with leaves and berries so that the flames roared and
crackled up the chimney. The early arrivals were the young people
who had hung the mantel, gas fixtures, curtain poles and draped
the doors with long sprays of bittersweet, northern holly, and
great branches of red spice berries, dogwood with its red leaves
and berries, and scarlet and yellow oak leaves. The elders
followed and piled the table with heaps of food, then trailed red
vines between dishes. In a quandary as to what to wear, without
knowing what was expected of him further than saying "I will," at
the proper moment, Robert ended by slipping into Kate's room,
dressed in white flannel. The ceremony was over at ten minutes
after six. Kate was lovely, Robert was handsome, everyone was
happy, the supper was a banquet. The Bates family went home, Adam
disappeared with Milly, while Little Poll went to sleep.
Left to themselves, Robert took Kate in his arms and tried to tell
her how much he loved her, but felt he expressed himself poorly.
As she stood before him, he said: "And now, dear, tell me what
changed you, and why we are married to-night instead of at
Christmas, or in the spring."
"Oh, yes," said Kate, "I almost forgot! Why, I wanted you to
answer a letter for me."
"Lucid!" said Robert. He seated himself beside the table. "Bring
on the ink and stationary, and let me get it over."
Kate obeyed, and with the writing material, laid down the letter
she had that morning received from John Jardine, telling her that
his wife had died suddenly, and that as soon as he had laid her
away, he was coming to exact a definite promise from her as to the
future; and that he would move Heaven and earth before he would
again be disappointed. Robert read the letter and laid it down,
his face slowing flushing scarlet.
"You called me out here, and married me expressly to answer this?"