That spring was difficult for Kate. Day after day she saw her mother growing older, feebler, and frailer. And as the body failed, up flamed the wings of the spirit, carrying her on and on, each day keeping her alive, when Kate did not see how it could be done. With all the force she could gather, each day Mrs. Bates struggled to keep going, denied that she felt badly, drove herself to try to help about the house and garden. Kate warned the remainder of the family what they might expect at any hour; but when they began coming in oftener, bringing little gifts and being unusually kind, Mrs. Bates endured a few of the visits in silence, then she turned to Kate and said after her latest callers: “I wonder what in the name of all possessed ails the folks? Are they just itching to start my funeral? Can’t they stay away until you send them word that the breath’s out of my body?”
“Mother, you shock me,” said Kate. “They come because they love you. They try to tell you so with the little things they bring. Most people would think they were neglected, if their children did not come to see them when they were not so well.”
“Not so well!” cried Mrs. Bates. “Folly! I am as well as I ever was. They needn’t come snooping around, trying to make me think I’m not. If they’d a-done it all their lives, well and good; it’s no time for them to begin being cotton-mouthed now.”
“Mother,” said Kate gently, “haven’t you changed, yourself, about things like Christmas, for example? Maybe your children are changing, too. Maybe they feel that they have missed something they’d like to have from you, and give back to you, before it’s too late. Just maybe,” said Kate.
Mrs. Bates sat bolt upright still, but her flashing eyes softened.
“I hadn’t just thought of that,” she said. “I think it’s more than likely. Well, if it’s that way, I s’pose I’ve got to button up my lip and stand it; but it’s about more than I can go, when I know that the first time I lose my grip I’ll land smash up against Adam Bates and my settlement with him.”
“Mother,” said Kate still more gently, “I thought we had it settled at the time Father went that each of you would be accountable to god, not to each other. I am a wanderer in darkness myself, when it come to talking about God, but this I know, He is somewhere and He is redeeming love. If Father has been in the light of His love all these years, he must have changed more, far more than you have. He’ll understand now how wrong he was to force ways on you he knew you didn’t think right; he’ll have more to account to you for than you ever will to him; and remember this only, neither of you is accountable, save to your God.”