“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.”