Kate stepped back and put out her hands defensively: “A rare bargain,” she said, “and one eminently worthy of you. You’ll do what I say, if I’ll do what you say, without the slightest reference as to whether it impoverishes a woman who has always helped and befriended you. You make me sick!”
“What’s biting you now?” he demanded, sullenly.
Kate stood tall and straight before and above him
“If you have a good plan, if you can prove that it will work, what is the necessity for ‘wheedling’ anybody? Why not state what you propose in plain, unequivocal terms, and let the dear, old soul, who has done so much for us already, decide what she will do?”
“That’s what I meant! That’s all I meant!” he cried.
“In that case, ‘wheedle’ is a queer word to use.”
“I believe you’d throw up the whole thing; I believe you’d let the chance to be a rich woman slip through your fingers, if it all depended on your saying only one word you thought wasn’t quite straight,” he cried, half in assertion, half in question.
“I honour you in that belief,” said Kate. “I most certainly would.”
“Then you turn the whole thing down? You won’t have anything to do with it?” he cried, plunging into stoop-shouldered, mouth-sagging despair.
“Oh, I didn’t say that!” said Kate. “Give me time! Let me think! I’ve got to know that there isn’t a snare in it, from the title of the land to the grade of the creek bed. Have you investigated that? Is your ravine long enough and wide enough to dam it high enough at our outlet to get your power, and yet not back water on the road, and the farmers above you? Won’t it freeze in winter? and can you get strong enough power from water to run a large saw? I doubt it!”
“Oh, gee! I never thought about that!” he cried.
“And if it would work, did you figure the cost of a dam into your estimate of the building and machinery?”
He snapped his fingers in impatience.
“By heck!” he cried, “I forgot that, too! But that wouldn’t cost much. Look what we did in that ravine just for fun. Why, we could build that dam ourselves!”
“Yes, strong enough for conditions in September, but what about the January freshet?” she said.
“Croak! Croak! You blame old raven,” cried George.
“And have you thought,” continued Kate, “that there is no room on the bank toward town to set your mill, and it wouldn’t be allowed there, if there were?”
“You bet I have!” he said defiantly. “I’m no such slouch as you think me. I’ve even stepped off the location!”
“Then,” said Kate, “will you build a bridge across the ravine to reach it, or will you buy a strip from Linn and build a road?”
George collapsed with a groan.
“That’s the trouble with you,” said Kate. “You always build your castle with not even sand for a foundation. The most nebulous of rosy clouds serve you as perfectly as granite blocks. Before you go glimmering again, double your estimate to cover a dam and a bridge, and a lot of incidentals that no one ever seems able to include in a building contract. And whatever you do, keep a still head until we get these things figured, and have some sane idea of what the venture would cost.”