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- A Daughter Of The Land - 4/71 -


women. Had they been exactly right, they would have been exactly like her.

So Kate, thinking all these things over, her own problem acutely "advanced and proceeded." She advanced past the closed barn, and stock in the pasture, past the garden flaming June, past the dooryard, up the steps, down the hall, into the screened back porch dining room and "proceeded" to take a chair, while the family finished the Sunday night supper, at which they were seated. Kate was not hungry and she did not wish to trouble her sister-in-law to set another place, so she took the remaining chair, against the wall, behind Agatha, facing Adam, 3d, across the table, and with Adam Jr., in profile at the head, and little Susan at the foot. Then she waited her chance. Being tired and aggressive she did not wait long.

"I might as well tell you why I came," she said bluntly. "Father won't give me money to go to Normal, as he has all the others. He says I have got to stay at home and help Mother."

"Well, Mother is getting so old she needs help," said Adam, Jr., as he continued his supper.

"Of course she is," said Kate. "We all know that. But what is the matter with Nancy Ellen helping her, while I take my turn at Normal? There wasn't a thing I could do last summer to help her off that I didn't do, even to lending her my best dress and staying at home for six Sundays because I had nothing else fit to wear where I'd be seen."

No one said a word. Kate continued: "Then Father secured our home school for her and I had to spend the winter going to school to her, when you very well know that I always studied harder, and was ahead of her, even after she'd been to Normal. And I got up early and worked late, and cooked, and washed, and waited on her, while she got her lessons and reports ready, and fixed up her nice new clothes, and now she won't touch the work, and she is doing all she can to help Father keep me from going."

"I never knew Father to need much help on anything he made up his mind to," said Adam.

Kate sat very tense. She looked steadily at her brother, but he looked quite as steadily at his plate. The back of her sister-in- law was fully as expressive as her face. Her head was very erect, her shoulders stiff and still, not a curl moved as she poured Adam's tea and Susan's milk. Only Adam, 3d, looked at Kate with companionable eyes, as if he might feel a slight degree of interest or sympathy, so she found herself explaining directly to him.

"Things are blame unfair in our family, anyway!" she said, bitterly. "You have got to be born a boy to have any chance worth while; if you are a girl it is mighty small, and if you are the youngest, by any mischance, you have none at all. I don't want to harp things over; but I wish you would explain to me why having been born a few years after Nancy Ellen makes me her slave, and cuts me out of my chance to teach, and to have some freedom and clothes. They might as well have told Hiram he was not to have any land and stay at home and help Father because he was the youngest boy; it would have been quite as fair; but nothing like that happens to the boys of this family, it is always the girls who get left. I have worked for years, knowing every cent I saved and earned above barely enough to cover me, would go to help pay for Hiram's land and house and stock; but he wouldn't turn a hand to help me, neither will any of the rest of you."

"Then what are you here for?" asked Adam.

"Because I am going to give you, and every other brother and sister I have, the chance to REFUSE to loan me enough to buy a few clothes and pay my way to Normal, so I can pass the examinations, and teach this fall. And when you have all refused, I am going to the neighbours, until I find someone who will loan me the money I need. A hundred dollars would be plenty. I could pay it back with two months' teaching, with any interest you say."

Kate paused, short of breath, her eyes blazing, her cheeks red. Adam went steadily on with his supper. Agatha appeared stiffer and more uncompromising in the back than before, which Kate had not thought possible. But the same dull red on the girl's cheeks had begun to burn on the face of young Adam. Suddenly he broke into a clear laugh.

"Oh, Ma, you're too funny!" he cried. "I can read your face like a book. I bet you ten dollars I can tell you just word for word what you are going to say. I dare you let me! You know I can!" Still laughing, his eyes dancing, a picture to see, he stretched his arm across the table toward her, and his mother adored him, however she strove to conceal the fact from him.

"Ten dollars!" she scoffed. "When did we become so wealthy? I'll give you one dollar if you tell me exactly what I was going to say."

The boy glanced at his father. "Oh this is too easy!" he cried. "It's like robbing the baby's bank!" And then to his mother: "You were just opening your lips to say: 'Give it to her! If you don't, I will!' And you are even a little bit more of a brick than usual to do it. It's a darned shame the way all of them impose on Kate."

There was a complete change in Agatha's back. Adam, Jr., laid down his fork and stared at his wife in deep amazement. Adam, 3d, stretched his hand farther toward his mother. "Give me that dollar!" he cajoled.

"Well, I am not concealing it in the sleeve of my garments," she said. "If I have one, it is reposing in my purse, in juxtaposition to the other articles that belong there, and if you receive it, it will be bestowed upon you when I deem the occasion suitable."

Young Adam's fist came down with a smash. "I get the dollar!" he triumphed. "I TOLD you so! I KNEW she was going to say it! Ain't I a dandy mind reader though? But it is bully for you, Father, because of course, if Mother wouldn't let Kate have it, you'd HAVE to; but if you DID it might make trouble with your paternal land-grabber, and endanger your precious deed that you hope to get in the sweet by-and-by. But if Mother loans the money, Grandfather can't say a word, because it is her very own, and didn't cost him anything, and he always agrees with her anyway! Hurrah for hurrah, Kate! Nancy Ellen may wash her own petticoat in the morning, while I take you to the train. You'll let me, Father? You did let me go to Hartley alone, once. I'll be careful! I won't let a thing happen. I'll come straight home. And oh, my dollar, you and me; I'll put you in the bank and let you grow to three!"

"You may go," said his father, promptly.

"You shall proceed according to your Aunt Katherine's instructions," said his mother, at the same time.

"Katie, get your carpet-sack! When do we start?" demanded young Adam.

"Morning will be all right with me, you blessed youngun," said Kate, "but I don't own a telescope or anything to put what little I have in, and Nancy Ellen never would spare hers; she will want to go to County Institute before I get back."

"You may have mine," said Agatha. "You are perfectly welcome to take it wherever your peregrinations lead you, and return it when you please. I shall proceed to my chamber and formulate your check immediately. You are also welcome to my best hat and cape, and any of my clothing or personal adornments you can use to advantage."

"Oh, Agatha, I wish you were as big as a house, like me," said Kate, joyfully. "I couldn't possibly crowd into anything you wear, but it would almost tickle me to death to have Nancy Ellen know you let me take your things, when she won't even offer me a dud of her old stuff; I never remotely hoped for any of the new."

"You shall have my cape and hat, anyway. The cape is new and very fashionable. Come upstairs and try the hat," said Agatha.

The cape was new and fashionable as Agatha had said; it would not fasten at the neck, but there would be no necessity that it should during July and August, while it would improve any dress it was worn with on a cool evening. The hat Kate could not possibly use with her large, broad face and mass of hair, but she was almost as pleased with the offer as if the hat had been most becoming. Then Agatha brought out her telescope, in which Kate laid the cape while Agatha wrote her a check for one hundred and twenty dollars, and told her where and how to cash it. The extra twenty was to buy a pair of new walking shoes, some hose, and a hat, before she went to her train. When they went downstairs Adam, Jr., had a horse hitched and Adam, 3d, drove her to her home, where, at the foot of the garden, they took one long survey of the landscape and hid the telescope behind the privet bush. Then Adam drove away quietly, Kate entered the dooryard from the garden, and soon afterward went to the wash room and hastily ironed her clothing.

Nancy Ellen had gone to visit a neighbour girl, so Kate risked her remaining until after church in the evening. She hurried to their room and mended all her own clothing she had laid out. Then she deliberately went over Nancy Ellen's and helped herself to a pair of pretty nightdresses, such as she had never owned, a white embroidered petticoat, the second best white dress, and a most becoming sailor hat. These she made into a parcel and carried to the wash room, brought in the telescope and packed it, hiding it under a workbench and covering it with shavings. After that she went to her room and wrote a note, and then slept deeply until the morning call. She arose at once and went to the wash room but instead of washing the family clothing, she took a bath in the largest tub, and washed her hair to a state resembling spun gold. During breakfast she kept sharp watch down the road. When she saw Adam, 3d, coming she stuck her note under the hook on which she had seen her father hang his hat all her life, and carrying the telescope in the clothes basket covered with a rumpled sheet, she passed across the yard and handed it over the fence to Adam, climbed that same fence, and they started toward Hartley.

Kate put the sailor hat on her head, and sat very straight, an anxious line crossing her forehead. She was running away, and if discovered, there was the barest chance that her father might follow, and make a most disagreeable scene, before the train pulled out. He had gone to a far field to plow corn and Kate


A Daughter Of The Land - 4/71

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