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- A Daughter Of The Land - 1/71 -


A DAUGHTER OF THE LAND

by Gene Stratton-Porter

CONTENTS Chapter I. The Wings of Morning II. An Embryo Mind Reader III. Peregrinations IV. A Question of Contracts V. The Prodigal Daughter VI. Kate's Private Pupil VII. Helping Nancy Ellen and Robert to Establish a Home VIII. The History of a Leghorn Hat IX. A Sunbonnet Girl X. John Jardine's Courtship XI. A Business Proposition XII. Two Letters XIII. The Bride XIV. Starting Married Life XV. A New Idea XVI. The Work of the Sun XVII. The Banner Hand XVIII. Kate Takes the Bit in Her Teeth XIX. "As a Man Soweth" XX. "For a Good Girl" XXI. Life's Boomerang XXII. Somewhat of Polly III. Kate's Heavenly Time XXIV. Polly Tries Her Wings XXV. One More for Kate XXVI. The Winged Victory XXVII. Blue Ribbon Corn XXVIII. The Eleventh Hour

To Gene Stratton II

A DAUGHTER OF THE LAND

THE WINGS OF MORNING

"TAKE the wings of Morning."

Kate Bates followed the narrow footpath rounding the corner of the small country church, as the old minister raised his voice slowly and impressively to repeat the command he had selected for his text. Fearing that her head would be level with the windows, she bent and walked swiftly past the church; but the words went with her, iterating and reiterating themselves in her brain. Once she paused to glance back toward the church, wondering what the minister would say in expounding that text. She had a fleeting thought of slipping in, taking the back seat and listening to the sermon. The remembrance that she had not dressed for church deterred her; then her face twisted grimly as she again turned to the path, for it occurred to her that she had nothing else to wear if she had started to attend church instead of going to see her brother.

As usual, she had left her bed at four o'clock; for seven hours she had cooked, washed dishes, made beds, swept, dusted, milked, churned, following the usual routine of a big family in the country. Then she had gone upstairs, dressed in clean gingham and confronted her mother.

"I think I have done my share for to-day," she said. "Suppose you call on our lady school-mistress for help with dinner. I'm going to Adam's."

Mrs. Bates lifted her gaunt form to very close six feet of height, looking narrowly at her daughter.

"Well, what the nation are you going to Adam's at this time a- Sunday for?" she demanded.

"Oh, I have a curiosity to learn if there is one of the eighteen members of this family who gives a cent what becomes of me!" answered Kate, her eyes meeting and looking clearly into her mother's.

"You are not letting yourself think he would 'give a cent' to send you to that fool normal-thing, are you?"

"I am not! But it wasn't a 'fool thing' when Mary and Nancy Ellen, and the older girls wanted to go. You even let Mary go to college two years."

"Mary had exceptional ability," said Mrs. Bates.

"I wonder how she convinced you of it. None of the rest of us can discover it," said Kate.

"What you need is a good strapping, Miss."

"I know it; but considering the facts that I am larger than you, and was eighteen in September, I shouldn't advise you to attempt it. What is the difference whether I was born in '62 or '42? Give me the chance you gave Mary, and I'll prove to you that I can do anything she has done, without having 'exceptional ability!'"

"The difference is that I am past sixty now. I was stout as an ox when Mary wanted to go to school. It is your duty and your job to stay here and do this work."

"To pay for having been born last? Not a bit more than if I had been born first. Any girl in the family owes you as much for life as I do; it is up to the others to pay back in service, after they are of age, if it is to me. I have done my share. If Father were not the richest farmer in the county, and one of the richest men, it would be different. He can afford to hire help for you, quite as well as he can for himself."

"Hire help! Who would I get to do the work here?"

"You'd have to double your assistants. You could not hire two women who would come here and do so much work as I do in a day. That is why I decline to give up teaching, and stay here to slave at your option, for gingham dresses and cowhide shoes, of your selection. If I were a boy, I'd work three years more and then I would be given two hundred acres of land, have a house and barn built for me, and a start of stock given me, as every boy in this family has had at twenty-one."

"A man is a man! He founds a family, he runs the Government! It is a different matter," said Mrs. Bates.

"It surely is; in this family. But I think, even with us, a man would have rather a difficult proposition on his hands to found a family without a woman; or to run the Government either."

"All right! Go on to Adam and see what you get."

"I'll have the satisfaction of knowing that Nancy Ellen gets dinner, anyway," said Kate as she passed through the door and followed the long path to the gate, from there walking beside the road in the direction of her brother's home. There were many horses in the pasture and single and double buggies in the barn; but it never occurred to Kate that she might ride: it was Sunday and the horses were resting. So she followed the path beside the fences, rounded the corner of the church and went on her way with the text from which the pastor was preaching, hammering in her brain. She became so absorbed in thought that she scarcely saw the footpath she followed, while June flowered, and perfumed, and sang all around her.

She was so intent upon the words she had heard that her feet unconsciously followed a well-defined branch from the main path leading into the woods, from the bridge, where she sat on a log, and for the unnumbered time, reviewed her problem. She had worked ever since she could remember. Never in her life had she gotten to school before noon on Monday, because of the large washings. After the other work was finished she had spent nights and mornings ironing, when she longed to study, seldom finishing before Saturday. Summer brought an endless round of harvesting, canning, drying; winter brought butchering, heaps of sewing, and postponed summer work. School began late in the fall and closed early in spring, with teachers often inefficient; yet because she was a close student and kept her books where she could take a peep and memorize and think as she washed dishes and cooked, she had thoroughly mastered all the country school near her home could teach her. With six weeks of a summer Normal course she would be as well prepared to teach as any of her sisters were, with the exception of Mary, who had been able to convince her parents that she possessed two college years' worth of "ability."

Kate laid no claim to "ability," herself; but she knew she was as strong as most men, had an ordinary brain that could be trained, and while she was far from beautiful she was equally as far from being ugly, for her skin was smooth and pink, her eyes large and blue-gray, her teeth even and white. She missed beauty because her cheekbones were high, her mouth large, her nose barely escaping a pug; but she had a real "crown of glory" in her hair, which was silken fine, long and heavy, of sunshine-gold in colour, curling naturally around her face and neck. Given pure blood to paint such a skin with varying emotions, enough wind to ravel out a few locks of such hair, the proportions of a Venus and perfect health, any girl could rest very well assured of being looked at twice, if not oftener.

Kate sat on a log, a most unusual occurrence for her, for she was familiar only with bare, hot houses, furnished with meagre necessities; reeking stables, barnyards and vegetable gardens. She knew less of the woods than the average city girl; but there was a soothing wind, a sweet perfume, a calming silence that quieted her tense mood and enabled her to think clearly; so the review went on over years of work and petty economies, amounting to one grand aggregate that gave to each of seven sons house, stock, and land at twenty-one; and to each of nine daughters a bolt of muslin and a fairly decent dress when she married, as the seven older ones did speedily, for they were fine, large, upstanding girls, some having real beauty, all exceptionally well-trained economists and workers. Because her mother had the younger daughters to help in the absence of the elder, each girl had been allowed the time and money to prepare herself to teach a country school; all of them had taught until they married. Nancy Ellen, the beauty of the family, the girl next older than Kate, had taken the home school for the second winter. Going to school


A Daughter Of The Land - 1/71

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