“But what was the use?” asked Nancy Ellen. “Adam had been managing the administrator business for Mother and paying her taxes with his, of course when she made a deed to you, and had it recorded, they told him. All of us knew it for two years before she went after you. And the new furniture was bought with your money, so it’s yours; what was there to have a meeting about?”
“Mother didn’t understand that you children knew,” said Kate.
“Sometimes I thought there were a lot of things Mother didn’t understand,” said Nancy Ellen, “and sometimes I thought she understood so much more than any of the rest of us, that all of us would have had a big surprise if we could have seen her brain.”
“Yes, I believe we would,” said Kate. “Do you mind telling me how the boys and girls feel about this?”
Nancy Ellen laughed shortly. “Well, the boys feel that you negotiated such a fine settlement of Father’s affairs for them, that they owe this to you. The girls were pretty sore at first, and some of them are nursing their wrath yet; but there wasn’t a thing on earth they could do. All of them were perfectly willing that you should have something — after the fire — of course, most of them thought Mother went too far.”
“I think so myself,” said Kate. “But she never came near me, or wrote me, or sent me even one word, until the day she came after me. I had nothing to do with it —”
“All of us know that, Kate,” said Nancy Ellen. “You needn’t worry. We’re all used to it, and we’re all at the place where we have nothing to say.”
To escape grieving for her mother, Kate worked that summer as never before. Adam was growing big enough and strong enough to be a real help. He was interested in all they did, always after the reason, and trying to think of a better way. Kate secured the best agricultural paper for him and they read it nights together. They kept an account book, and set down all they spent, and balanced against it all they earned, putting the difference, which was often more than they hoped for, in the bank.
So the years ran. As the children grew older, Polly discovered that the nicest boy in school lived across the road half a mile north of them; while Adam, after a real struggle in his loyal twin soul, aided by the fact that Henry Peters usually had divided his apples with Polly before Adam reached her, discovered that Milly York, across the road, half a mile south, liked his apples best, and was as nice a girl as Polly ever dared to be. In a dazed way, Kate learned these things from their after-school and Sunday talk, saw that they nearly reached her shoulder, and realized that they were sixteen. So quickly the time goes, when people are busy, happy, and working together. At least Kate and Adam were happy, for they were always working together. By tacit agreement, they left Polly the easy housework, and went themselves to the fields to wrestle with the rugged work of a farm. They thought they were shielding Polly, teaching her a woman’s real work, and being kind to her.