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- A Daughter Of The Land - 70/71 -


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?" he demanded.

"Of course!" said Kate. "I thought if you could tell him that his letter came the day I married you, it would stop his coming, and not be such a disappointment to him."


A Daughter Of The Land - 70/71

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