As she approached the house she could see the children playing in the yard. It was the first time she ever had been away from them; she wondered if they had missed her. She was amazed to find that they were very decidedly disappointed to see her; but a few pertinent questions developed the reason. Their grandmother had come with her sister; she had spent her time teaching them that their mother was cold, and hard, and abused them, by not treating them as other children were treated. So far as Kate could see they had broken every rule she had ever laid down for them: eaten until their stomachs were out of order, and played in their better clothing, until it never would be nice again, while Polly shouted at her approach: “Give me the oranges and candy. I want to divide them.”
“Silly,” said Kate. “This is too soon. I’ve no money yet, it will be a long time before I get any; but you shall each have an orange, some candy, and new clothing when I do. Now run see what big fish you can catch.”
Satisfied, the children obeyed and ran to the creek. Aunt Ollie, worried and angered, told Adam to tell his father that Mother was home and for him to come and take her and grandmother to Walden at once. She had not been able to keep Mrs. Holt from one steady round of mischief; but she argued that her sister could do less, with her on guard, than alone, so she had stayed and done her best; but she knew how Kate would be annoyed, so she believed the best course was to leave as quickly as possible. Kate walked into the house, spoke to both women, and went to her room to change her clothing. Before she had finished, she heard George’s voice in the house demanding: “Where’s our millionaire lady? I want a look at her.”
Kate was very tired, slowly relaxing from intense nerve strain, she was holding herself in check about the children. She took a tighter grip, and vowed she would not give Mrs. Holt the satisfaction of seeing her disturbed and provoked, if she killed herself in the effort at self-control. She stepped toward the door.
“Here,” she called in a clear voice, the tone of which brought George swiftly.
“What was he worth, anyway?” he shouted.
“Oh, millions and millions,” said Kate, sweetly, “at least I think so. It was scarcely a time to discuss finances, in the face of that horrible accident.”
George laughed. “Oh, you’re a good one!” he cried. “Think you can keep a thing like that still? The cats, and the dogs, and the chickens of the whole county know about the deeds the old Land King had made for his sons; and how he got left on it. Served him right, too! We could here Andrew swear, and see Adam beat his horse, clear over here! That’s right! Go ahead! Put on airs! Tell us something we don’t know, will you? Maybe you think I wasn’t hanging pretty close around that neighbourhood, myself!”
“Spying?” cried Kate.