“Kate, I’m sorry I said anything,” he said hastily. “I wouldn’t offend you purposely, you know.”
Kate looked at him in surprise. “But I’m not offended,” she said, snapping an ear and reaching for another. “I am merely telling you! Don’t give me a thought! I’m all right! If you’ll save me an hour the next time Little Poll has a tooth coming through, you’ll have completely earned my gratitude. Tell Agatha I’ll come as soon as I finish my evening work.”
That was clearly a dismissal, for Kate glancing across the field toward Adam, saw that he had advanced to a new shock, so she began husking faster than before.
THE ELEVENTH HOUR
Robert said good-bye and started back toward his car. Kate looked after him as he reached the fence. A surge of pity for him swept up in her heart. He seemed far from happy, and he surely was very tired. Impulsive as always, she lifted her clear voice and called: “Robert!”
He paused with his foot on a rail of the fence, and turned toward her.
“Have you had any dinner?” she asked.
He seemed to be considering. “Come to think of it, I don’t believe I have,” he said.
“I thought you looked neglected,” said Kate. “Sonny across the field is starting a shock ahead of me; I can’t come, but go to the kitchen — the door is unlocked — you’ll find fried chicken and some preserves and pickles in the pantry; the bread box is right there, and the milk and butter are in the spring house.”
He gave Kate one long look. “Thank you,” he said and leaped the fence. He stopped on the front walk and stood a minute, then he turned and went around the house. She laughed aloud. She was sending him to chicken perfectly cooked, barely cold, melon preserves, pickled cucumbers, and bread like that which had for years taken a County Fair prize each fall; butter yellow as the goldenrod lining the fences, and cream stiff enough to stand alone. Also, he would find neither germ nor mould in her pantry and spring house, while it would be a new experience for him to let him wait on himself. Kate husked away in high good humour, but she quit an hour early to be on time to go to Agatha. She explained this to Adam, when she told him that he would have to milk alone, while she bathed and dressed herself and got supper.
When she began to dress, Kate examined her hair minutely, and combed it with unusual care. If Robert was at Agatha’s when she got there, she would let him see that her hair was not sunburned and ruined. To match the hair dressing, she reached back in her closet and took down her second best white dress. She was hoping that Agatha would be well enough to have a short visit. Kate worked so steadily that she seldom saw any of her brothers and sisters during the summer. In winter she spent a day with each of them, if she could possibly manage.