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- A Daughter Of The Land - 10/71 -
"You may take it," said Agatha, "but hadn't you better reconsider, Katherine? Things are progressing so nicely, and this will upset everything for Nancy Ellen."
"That taking the home school will upset everything for me, doesn't seem to count. It is late, late to find teachers, and I can be held responsible if I break the contract I have made. Father can stand the racket better than I can. When he wouldn't consent to my going, he had no business to make plans for me. I had to make my own plans and go in spite of him; he might have known I'd do all in my power to get a school. Besides, I don't want the home school, or the home work piled on me. My hands look like a human being's for the first time in my life; then I need all my time outside of school to study and map out lessons. I am going to try for a room in the Hartley schools next year, or the next after that, surely. They sha'n't change my plans and boss me, I am going to be free to work, and study, and help myself, like other teachers."
"A grand row this will be," commented young Adam. "And as usual Kate will be right, while all of them will be trying to use her to their advantage. Ma has done her share. Now it is your turn, Pa. Ain't you going to go over and help her?"
"What could I do?" demanded his father. "The mischief is done now."
"Well, if you can't do anything to help, you can let me have the buggy to drive her to Walden, if they turn her out."
"'Forcibly invite her to proceed to her destination,' you mean, son," said Agatha.
"Yes, Ma, that is exactly what I mean," said young Adam. "Do I get the buggy?"
"Yes, you may take my private conveyance. But do nothing to publish the fact. There is no need to incur antagonism if it can be avoided."
"Kate, I'll be driving past the privet bush about nine in the morning. If you need me, hang a white rag on it, and I'll stop at the corner of the orchard."
"I shall probably be standing in the road waiting for you," said Kate.
"Oh, I hope not," said Agatha.
"Looks remarkably like it to me," said Kate.
Then she picked up the telescope, said good-bye to each of them, and in acute misery started back to her home. This time she followed the footpath beside the highway. She was so busy with her indignant thought that she forgot to protect her skirts from the dust of wayside weeds, while in her excitement she walked so fast her face was red and perspiring when she approached the church.
"Oh, dear, I don't know about it," said Kate to the small, silent building. "I am trying to follow your advice, but it seems to me that life is very difficult, any way you go at it. If it isn't one thing, it is another. An hour ago I was the happiest I have ever been in my life; only look at me now! Any one who wants 'the wings of morning' may have them for all of me. It seems definitely settled that I walk, carry a load, and fight for the chance to do even that."
A big tear rolled down either side of Kate's nose and her face twisted in self-pity for an instant. But when she came in sight of home her shoulders squared, the blue-gray of her eyes deepened to steel, and her lips set in a line that was an exact counterpart of her father's when he had made up his mind and was ready to drive his family, with their consent or without it. As she passed the vegetable garden -- there was no time or room for flowers in a Bates garden -- Kate, looking ahead, could see Nancy Ellen and Robert Gray beneath the cherry trees. She hoped Nancy Ellen would see that she was tired and dusty, and should have time to brush and make herself more presentable to meet a stranger, and so Nancy Ellen did; for which reason she immediately arose and came to the gate, followed by her suitor whom she at once introduced. Kate was in no mood for words; one glance at her proved to Robert Gray that she was tired and dusty, that there were tear marks dried on her face. They hastily shook hands, but neither mentioned the previous meeting. Excusing herself Kate went into the house saying she would soon return.
Nancy Ellen glanced at Robert, and saw the look of concern on his face.
"I believe she has been crying," she said. "And if she has, it's something new, for I never saw a tear on her face before in my life."
"Truly?" he questioned in amazement.
"Why, of course! The Bates family are not weepers."
"So I have heard," said the man, rather dryly.
Nancy Ellen resented his tone.
"Would you like us better if we were?"
"I couldn't like you better than I do, but because of what I have heard and seen, it naturally makes me wonder what could have happened that has made her cry."
"We are rather outspoken, and not at all secretive," said Nancy Ellen, carelessly, "you will soon know."
Kate followed the walk around the house and entered at the side door, finding her father and mother in the dining room reading the weekly papers. Her mother glanced up as she entered.
"What did you bring Agatha's telescope back with you for?" she instantly demanded.
For a second Kate hesitated. It had to come, she might as well get it over. Possibly it would be easier with them alone than if Nancy Ellen were present.
"It is mine," she said. "It represents my first purchase on my own hook and line."
"You are not very choicy to begin on second-hand stuff. Nancy Ellen would have had a new one."
"No doubt!" said Kate. "But this will do for me."
Her father lowered his paper and asked harshly: "What did you buy that thing for?"
Kate gripped the handle and braced herself.
"To pack my clothes in when I go to my school next week," she said simply.
"What?" he shouted. "What?" cried her mother.
"I don't know why you seem surprised," said Kate. "Surely you knew I went to Normal to prepare myself to teach. Did you think I couldn't find a school?"
"Now look here, young woman," shouted Adam Bates, "you are done taking the bit in your teeth. Nancy Ellen is not going to teach this winter. I have taken the home school for you; you will teach it. That is settled. I have signed the contract. It must be fulfilled."
"Then Nancy Ellen will have to fulfill it," said Kate. "I also have signed a contract that must be fulfilled. I am of age, and you had no authority from me to sign a contract for me."
For an instant Kate thought there was danger that the purple rush of blood to her father's head might kill him. He opened his mouth, but no distinct words came. Her face paled with fright, but she was of his blood, so she faced him quietly. Her mother was quicker of wit, and sharper of tongue.
"Where did you get a school? Why didn't you wait until you got home?" she demanded.
"I am going to teach the village school in Walden," said Kate. "It is a brick building, has a janitor, I can board reasonably, near my work, and I get twenty dollars more a month than our school pays, while the term is four months longer."
"Well, it is a pity about that; but it makes no difference," said her mother. "Our home school has got to be taught as Pa contracted, and Nancy Ellen has got to have her chance."
"What about my chance?" asked Kate evenly. "Not one of the girls, even Exceptional Ability, ever had as good a school or as high wages to start on. If I do well there this winter, I am sure I can get in the Hartley graded schools next fall."
"Don't you dare nickname your sister," cried Mrs. Bates, shrilly. "You stop your impudence and mind your father."
"Ma, you leave this to me," said Adam Bates, thickly. Then he glared at Kate as he arose, stretching himself to full height. "You've signed a contract for a school?" he demanded.
"I have," said Kate.
"Why didn't you wait until you got home and talked it over with us?" he questioned.
"I went to you to talk over the subject to going," said Kate. "You would not even allow me to speak. How was I to know that you would have the slightest interest in what school I took, or where."
"When did you sign this contract?" he continued.
"Yesterday afternoon, in Hartley," said Kate.
"Aha! Then I did miss a letter from my pocket. When did you get to be a thief?" he demanded.
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