“I don’t know!” said Nancy Ellen. “She asked me yesterday, but of course I told her that so long as you and Father decided she was not to go, I couldn’t possibly lend her the money.”
“Did you look if she had taken it?”
Nancy Ellen straightened. “Mother! I didn’t need do that!”
“You said she took your clothes,” said Mrs. Bates.
“I had hers this time last year. She’ll bring back clothes.”
“Not here, she won’t! Father will see that she never darkens these doors again. This is the first time in his life that a child of his has disobeyed him.”
“Except Adam, when he married Agatha; and he strutted like a fighting cock about that.”
“Well, he won’t ‘strut’ about this, and you won’t either, even if you are showing signs of standing up for her. Go at that wash, while I get dinner.”
Dinner was on the table when Adam Bates hung his hat on its hook and saw the note for him. He took it down and read:
Father: I have gone to Normal. I borrowed the money of a woman who was willing to trust me to pay it back as soon as I earned it. Not Nancy Ellen, of course. She would not even loan me a pocket handkerchief, though you remember I stayed at home six weeks last summer to let her take what she wanted of mine. Mother: I think you can get Sally Whistler to help you as cheaply as any one and that she will do very well. Nancy Ellen: I have taken your second best hat and a few of your things, but not half so many as I loaned you. I hope it makes you mad enough to burst. I hope you get as mad and stay as mad as I have been most of this year while you taught me things you didn’t know yourself; and I cooked and washed for you so you could wear fine clothes and play the lady. Kate
Adam Bates read that note to himself, stretching every inch of his six feet six, his face a dull red, his eyes glaring. Then he turned to his wife and daughter.
“Is Kate gone? Without proper clothing and on borrowed money,” he demanded.
“I don’t know,” said Mrs. Bates. “I was hoeing potatoes all forenoon.”
“Listen to this,” he thundered. Then he slowly read the note aloud. But someway the spoken words did not have the same effect as when he read them mentally in the first shock of anger. When he heard his own voice read off the line, “I hope it makes you mad enough to burst,” there was a catch and a queer gurgle in his throat. Mrs. Bates gazed at him anxiously. Was he so surprised and angry he was choking? Might it be a stroke? It was! It was a master stroke. He got no farther than “taught me things you didn’t know yourself,” when he lowered the sheet, threw back his head and laughed as none of his family ever had seen him laugh in his life; laughed and laughed until his frame was shaken and the tears rolled. Finally he looked at the dazed Nancy Ellen. “Get Sally Whistler, nothing!” he said. “You hustle your stumps and do for your mother what Kate did while you were away last summer. And if you have any common decency send your sister as many of your best things as you had of hers, at least. Do you hear me?”