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- A Daughter Of The Land - 2/71 -

to Nancy Ellen had been the greatest trial of Kate's life, until the possibility of not going to Normal had confronted her.

Nancy Ellen was almost as large as Kate, quite as pink, her features assembled in a manner that made all the difference, her jet-black hair as curly as Kate's, her eyes big and dark, her lips red. As for looking at Kate twice, no one ever looked at her at all if Nancy Ellen happened to be walking beside her. Kate bore that without protest; it would have wounded her pride to rebel openly; she did Nancy Ellen's share of the work to allow her to study and have her Normal course; she remained at home plainly clothed to loan Nancy Ellen her best dress when she attended Normal; but when she found that she was doomed to finish her last year at school under Nancy Ellen, to work double so that her sister might go to school early and remain late, coming home tired and with lessons to prepare for the morrow, some of the spontaneity left Kate's efforts.

She had a worse grievance when Nancy Ellen hung several new dresses and a wrapper on her side of the closet after her first pay-day, and furnished her end of the bureau with a white hair brush and a brass box filled with pink powder, with a swan's-down puff for its application. For three months Kate had waited and hoped that at least "thank you" would be vouchsafed her; when it failed for that length of time she did two things: she studied so diligently that her father called her into the barn and told her that if before the school, she asked Nancy Ellen another question she could not answer, he would use the buggy whip on her to within an inch of her life. The buggy whip always had been a familiar implement to Kate, so she stopped asking slippery questions, worked harder than ever, and spent her spare time planning what she would hang in the closet and put on her end of the bureau when she had finished her Normal course, and was teaching her first term of school.

Now she had learned all that Nancy Ellen could teach her, and much that Nancy Ellen never knew: it was time for Kate to be starting away to school. Because it was so self-evident that she should have what the others had had, she said nothing about it until the time came; then she found her father determined that she should remain at home to do the housework, for no compensation other than her board and such clothes as she always had worn, her mother wholly in accord with him, and marvel of all, Nancy Ellen quite enthusiastic on the subject.

Her father always had driven himself and his family like slaves, while her mother had ably seconded his efforts. Money from the sale of chickens, turkeys, butter, eggs, and garden truck that other women of the neighbourhood used for extra clothing for themselves and their daughters and to prettify their homes, Mrs. Bates handed to her husband to increase the amount necessary to purchase the two hundred acres of land for each son when he came of age. The youngest son had farmed his land with comfortable profit and started a bank account, while his parents and two sisters were still saving and working to finish the last payment. Kate thought with bitterness that if this final payment had been made possibly there would have been money to spare for her; but with that thought came the knowledge that her father had numerous investments on which he could have realized and made the payments had he not preferred that they should be a burden on his family.

"Take the wings of morning," repeated Kate, with all the emphasis the old minister had used. "Hummm! I wonder what kind of wings. Those of a peewee would scarcely do for me; I'd need the wings of an eagle to get me anywhere, and anyway it wasn't the wings of a bird I was to take, it was the wings of morning. I wonder what the wings of morning are, and how I go about taking them. God knows where my wings come in; by the ache in my feet I seem to have walked, mostly. Oh, what ARE the wings of morning?"

Kate stared straight before her, sitting absorbed and motionless. Close in front of her a little white moth fluttered over the twigs and grasses. A kingbird sailed into view and perched on a brush- heap preparatory to darting after the moth. While the bird measured the distance and waited for the moth to rise above the entangling grasses, with a sweep and a snap a smaller bird, very similar in shape and colouring, flashed down, catching the moth and flying high among the branches of a big tree.

"Aha! You missed your opportunity!" said Kate to the kingbird.

She sat straighter suddenly. "Opportunity," she repeated. "Here is where I am threatened with missing mine. Opportunity! I wonder now if that might not be another name for 'the wings of morning.' Morning is winging its way past me, the question is: do I sit still and let it pass, or do I take its wings and fly away?"

Kate brooded on that awhile, then her thought formulated into words again.

"It isn't as if Mother were sick or poor, she is perfectly well and stronger than nine women out of ten of her age; Father can afford to hire all the help she needs; there is nothing cruel or unkind in leaving her; and as for Nancy Ellen, why does the fact that I am a few years younger than she, make me her servant? Why do I cook for her, and make her bed, and wash her clothes, while she earns money to spend on herself? And she is doing everything in her power to keep me at it, because she likes what she is doing and what it brings her, and she doesn't give a tinker whether I like what I am doing or not; or whether I get anything I want out of it or not; or whether I miss getting off to Normal on time or not. She is blame selfish, that's what she is, so she won't like the jolt she's going to get; but it will benefit her soul, her soul that her pretty face keeps her from developing, so I shall give her a little valuable assistance. Mother will be furious and Father will have the buggy whip convenient; but I am going! I don't know how, or when, but I am GOING.

"Who has a thirst for knowledge, in Helicon may slake it, If he has still, the Roman will, to find a way, or make it."

Kate arose tall and straight and addressed the surrounding woods. "Now you just watch me 'find a way or make it,'" she said. "I am 'taking the wings of morning,' observe my flight! See me cut curves and circles and sail and soar around all the other Bates girls the Lord ever made, one named Nancy Ellen in particular. It must be far past noon, and I've much to do to get ready. I fly!"

Kate walked back to the highway, but instead of going on she turned toward home. When she reached the gate she saw Nancy Ellen, dressed her prettiest, sitting beneath a cherry tree reading a book, in very plain view from the road. As Kate came up the path: "Hello!" said Nancy Ellen. "Wasn't Adam at home?"

"I don't know," answered Kate. "I was not there."

"You weren't? Why, where were you?" asked Nancy Ellen.

"Oh, I just took a walk!" answered Kate.

"Right at dinner time on Sunday? Well, I'll be switched!" cried Nancy Ellen.

"Pity you weren't oftener, when you most needed it," said Kate, passing up the walk and entering the door. Her mother asked the same questions so Kate answered them.

"Well, I am glad you came home," said Mrs. Bates. "There was no use tagging to Adam with a sorry story, when your father said flatly that you couldn't go."

"But I must go!" urged Kate. "I have as good a right to my chance as the others. If you put your foot down and say so, Mother, Father will let me go. Why shouldn't I have the same chance as Nancy Ellen? Please Mother, let me go!"

"You stay right where you are. There is an awful summer's work before us," said Mrs. Bates.

"There always is," answered Kate. "But now is just my chance while you have Nancy Ellen here to help you."

"She has some special studying to do, and you very well know that she has to attend the County Institute, and take the summer course of training for teachers."

"So do I," said Kate, stubbornly. "You really will not help me, Mother?"

"I've said my say! Your place is here! Here you stay!" answered her mother.

"All right," said Kate, "I'll cross you off the docket of my hopes, and try Father."

"Well, I warn you, you had better not! He has been nagged until his patience is lost," said Mrs. Bates.

Kate closed her lips and started in search of her father. She found him leaning on the pig pen watching pigs grow into money, one of his most favoured occupations. He scowled at her, drawing his huge frame to full height.

"I don't want to hear a word you have to say," he said. "You are the youngest, and your place is in the kitchen helping your mother. We have got the last installment to pay on Hiram's land this summer. March back to the house and busy yourself with something useful!"

Kate looked at him, from his big-boned, weather-beaten face, to his heavy shoes, then turned without a word and went back toward the house. She went around it to the cherry tree and with no preliminaries said to her sister: "Nancy Ellen, I want you to lend me enough money to fix my clothes a little and pay my way to Normal this summer. I can pay it all back this winter. I'll pay every cent with interest, before I spend any on anything else."

"Why, you must be crazy!" said Nancy Ellen.

"Would I be any crazier than you, when you wanted to go?" asked Kate.

"But you were here to help Mother," said Nancy Ellen.

"And you are here to help her now," persisted Kate.

"But I've got to fix up my clothes for the County Institute," said Nancy Ellen, "I'll be gone most of the summer."

A Daughter Of The Land - 2/71

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