Kate was the last one in. As she climbed on the seat beside her mother and took the lines, she handed Mrs. Bates a small china mug to hold for her. It was decorated with a very fat robin and on a banner floating from its beak was inscribed: “For a Good Girl.”
As they drove into Hartley, Mrs. Bates drew forth the deed.
“You are right about the bank being a safe place for this,” she said. “I’ve had it round the house for two years, and it’s a fair nervous thing to do. I wish I’d a-had sense to put it there and come after you the day I made it. But there’s no use crying over spilt milk, nor fussin’ with the grease spot it makes; salt it down safely now, and when you get it done, beings as this setting is fairly comfortable, take time to run into Harding’s and pick up some Sunday-school clothes for the children that will tally up with the rest of their relations’; an’ get yourself a cheap frock or two that will spruce you up a bit till you have time to decide what you really want.”
Kate passed the lines to her mother, and climbed from the wagon. She returned with her confidence partly restored and a new look on her face. Her mother handed her two dimes.
“I can wait five minutes longer,” she said. “Now get two nice oranges and a dime’s worth of candy.”
Kate took the money and obeyed orders. She handed the packages to her mother as she climbed into the wagon and again took the lines, heading the horse toward the old, familiar road. Her mother twisted around on the seat and gave each of the children an orange and a stick of candy.
“There!” she said. “Go on and spoil yourselves past redemption.”
Kate laughed. “But, Mother,” she said, “you never did that for us.”
“Which ain’t saying I never wanted to,” said Mrs. Bates, sourly. “You’re a child only once in this world; it’s a little too rough to strip childhood of everything. I ain’t so certain Bates ways are right, that for the rest of my time I’m goin’ to fly in the face of all creation to prove it. If God lets me live a few years more, I want the faces around me a little less discontenteder than those I’ve been used to. If God Almighty spares me long enough, I lay out to make sure that Adam and Polly will squeeze out a tear or two for Granny when she is laid away.”
“I think you are right, Mother,” said Kate. “It didn’t cost anything, but we had a real pretty Christmas tree this year, and I believe we can do better next time. I want the children to love you, but don’t buy them.”