Mrs. Bates arose and walked to the door, drawn to full height, her head very erect. The world was at bloom-time. The evening air was heavily sweet with lilacs, and the widely branching, old apple trees of the dooryard with loaded with flowers. She stepped outside. Kate followed. Her mother went down the steps and down the walk to the gate. Kate kept beside her, in reach, yet not touching her. At the gate she gripped the pickets to steady herself as she stared long and unflinchingly at the red setting sun dropping behind a white wall of bloom. Then she slowly turned, life’s greatest tragedy lining her face, her breath coming in short gasps. She spread her hands at each side, as if to balance herself, her passing soul in her eyes, and looked at Kate.
“Katherine Eleanor,” she said slowly and distinctly, “I’m going now. I can’t fight it off any longer. I confess myself. I burned those deeds. Every one of them. Pa got himself afire, but he’d thrown them out of it. It was my chance. I took it. Are you going to tell them?”
Kate was standing as tall and straight as her mother, her hands extended the same, but not touching her.
“No,” she said. “You were an instrument in the hands of God to right a great wrong. No! I shall never tell a soul while I live. In a minute God himself will tell you that you did what He willed you should.”
“Well, we will see about that right now,” said Mrs. Bates, lifting her face to the sky. “Into thy hands, O Lord, into thy hands!”
Then she closed her eyes and ceased to breathe. Kate took her into her arms and carried her to her bed.
If the spirit of Mrs. Bates hovered among the bloom-whitened apple trees as her mortal remains were carried past the lilacs and cabbage rose bushes, through a rain of drifting petals, she must have been convinced that time had wrought one great change in the hearts of her children. They had all learned to weep; while if the tears they shed were a criterion of their feelings for her, surely her soul must have been satisfied. They laid her away with simple ceremony and then all of them went to their homes, except Nancy Ellen and Robert, who stopped in passing to learn if there was anything they could do for Kate. She was grieving too deeply for many words; none of them would ever understand the deep bond of sympathy and companionship that had grown to exist between her and her mother. She stopped at the front porch and sat down, feeling unable to enter the house with Nancy Ellen, who was deeply concerned over the lack of taste displayed in Agatha’s new spring hat. When Kate could endure it no longer she interrupted: “Why didn’t all of them come?”
“What for?” asked Nancy Ellen.
“They had a right to know what Mother had done,” said Kate in a low voice.