“Of course,” said Kate, glancing at the baby. “I’ll go right away!”
“No need for that,” he said, “if you’ll arrange to stay with Adam to-night, as a precaution. You needn’t go till bed-time. I’m going back after supper to put them in shape for the night. I’m almost sure she’ll be all right now; but you know how frightened we can get about those we love.”
“Yes, I know,” said Kate, quietly, going straight on ripping open ear after ear of corn. Presently she wondered why he did not go. She looked up at him and met his eyes. He was studying her intently. Kate was vividly conscious in an instant of her bare wind-teased head, her husking gloves; she was not at all sure that her face was clean. She smiled at him, and picking up the sunbonnet lying beside her, she wiped her face with the skirt.
“If this sun hits too long on the same spot, it grows warm,” she told him.
“Kate, I do wish you wouldn’t!” he exclaimed abruptly.
Kate was too forthright for sparring.
“Why not?” she asked.
“For one thing, you are doing a man’s work,” he said. “For another, I hate to see you burn the loveliest hair I ever saw on the head of a woman, and coarsen your fine skin.”
Kate looked down at the ear of corn she held in her hands, and considered an instant.
“There hasn’t any man been around asking to relieve me of this work,” she said. “I got my start in life doing a man’s work, and I’m frank to say that I’d far rather do it any day, than what is usually considered a woman’s. As for my looks, I never set a price on them or let them interfere with business, Robert.”
“No, I know you don’t,” he said. “But it’s a pity to spoil you.”
“I don’t know what’s the matter with you,” said Kate, patiently. She bent her head toward him. “Feel,” she said, “and see if my hair isn’t soft and fine. I always cover it in really burning sun; this autumn haze is good for it. My complexion is exactly as smooth and even now, as it was the day I first met you on the footlog over twenty years ago. There’s one good thing about the Bates women. They wear well. None of us yet have ever faded, and frazzled out. Have you got many Hartley women, doing what you call women’s work, to compare with me physically, Robert?”
“You know the answer to that,” he said.
“So I do!” said Kate. “I see some of them occasionally, when business calls me that way. Now, Robert, I’m so well, I feel like running a footrace the first thing when I wake up every morning. I’m making money, I’m starting my boy in a safe, useful life; have you many year and a half babies in your practice that can beat Little Poll? I’m as happy as it’s humanly possible for me to be without Mother, and Polly, and Nancy Ellen. Mother used always to say that when death struck a family it seldom stopped until it took three. That was my experience, and saving Adam and Little Poll, it took my three dearest; but the separation isn’t going to be so very long. If I were you I wouldn’t worry about me, Robert. There are many women in the world willing to pay for your consideration; save it for them.”