“Then I understand,” said Mary, “that if we take under the law, each of us is entitled to sixty-eight and three quarter acres; and if we take under Mother’s proposition we are entitled to eighty-seven and a half acres.”
“No, no, E. A.,” said Kate, the old nickname for “Exceptional Ability” slipping out before she thought. “No, no! Not so! You take sixty-eight and three quarters under the law. Mother’s proposition is made only to the boys, and only on condition that they settle here and now; because she feels responsible to them for her share in rearing them and starting them out as she did. By accepting her proposition you lose eight hundred and seventy-five dollars, approximately. The boys lose on the same basis, figuring at fifty dollars and acre, six thousand five hundred and sixty-two dollars and fifty cents, plus their work and taxes, and minus what Mother will turn in, which will be about, let me see — It will take a pool of fifty-four thousand dollars to pay each of us six thousand. If Mother raises thirty-five thousand, plus sale money and notes, it will leave about nineteen thousand for the boys, which will divide up at nearly two thousand five hundred for them to lose, as against less than a thousand for us. That should be enough to square matters with any right-minded woman, even in our positions. It will give us that much cash in hand, it will leave the boys, some of the younger ones, in debt for years, if they hold their land. What more do you want?”
“I want the last cent that is coming to me,” said Mary.
“I thought you would,” said Kate. “Yet you have the best home, and the most money, of any of the girls living on farms. I settle under this proposition, because it is fair and just, and what Mother wants done. If she feels that this is defrauding the girls any, she can arrange to leave what she has to us at her death, which would more than square matters in our favour — "
“You hold on there, Katie,” said Mrs. Bates. “You’re going too fast! I’ll get what’s coming to me, and hang on to it awhile, before I decide which way the cat jumps. I reckon you’ll all admit that in mothering the sixteen of you, doing my share indoors and out, and living with pa for all these years, I’ve earned it. I’ll not tie myself up in any way. I’ll do just what I please with mine. Figure in all I’ve told you to; for the rest — let be!”
“I beg your pardon,” said Kate. “You’re right, of course. I’ll sign this, and I shall expect every sister I have to do the same, quickly and cheerfully, as the best way out of a bad business that has hurt all of us for years, and then I shall expect the boys to follow like men. It’s the fairest, decentest thing we can do, let’s get it over.”