“Well, it isn’t much of a joke,” said Nancy Ellen, thinking intently.
What she might have said had they been alone, Kate always wondered. What she did say while her betrothed looked at her with indignant eyes was possibly another matter. It proved to be merely: “Oh, Kate, I am so sorry!”
“So am I,” said Kate. “If I had known what your plans were, of course I should gladly have helped you out. If only you had written me and told me.”
“I wanted to surprise you,” said Nancy Ellen.
“You have,” said Kate. “Enough to last a lifetime. I don’t see how you figured. You knew how late it was. You knew it would be nip and tuck if I got a school at all.”
“Of course we did! We thought you couldn’t possibly get one, this late, so we fixed up the scheme to let you have my school, and let me sew on my linen this winter. We thought you would be as pleased as we were.”
“I am too sorry for words,” said Kate. “If I had known your plan, I would have followed it, even though I gave up a better school at a higher salary. But I didn’t know. I thought I had to paddle my own canoe, so I made my own plans. Now I must live up to them, because my contract is legal, while Father’s is not. I would have taught the school for you, in the circumstances, but since I can’t, so far as I am concerned, the arrangement I have made is much better. The thing that really hurts the worst, aside from disappointing you, is that Father says I was not honest in what I did.”
“But what did you do?” cried Nancy Ellen.
So Kate told them exactly what she had done.
“Of course you had a right to your own letter, when you could see the address on it, and it was where you could pick it up,” said Robert Gray.
Kate lifted dull eyes to his face.
“Thank you for so much grace, at any rate,” she said.
“I don’t blame you a bit,” said Nancy Ellen. “In the same place I’d have taken it myself.”
“You wouldn’t have had to,” said Kate. “I’m too abrupt — too much like the gentleman himself. You would have asked him in a way that would have secured you the letter with no trouble.”
Nancy Ellen highly appreciated these words of praise before her lover. She arose immediately.
“Maybe I could do something with him now,” she said. “I’ll go and see.”
“You shall do nothing of the kind,” said Kate. “I am as much Bates as he is. I won’t be taunted afterward that he turned me out and that I sent you to him to plead for me.”
“I’ll tell him you didn’t want me to come, that I came of my own accord,” offered Nancy Ellen.
“And he won’t believe you,” said Kate.
“Would you consent for me to go?” asked Robert Gray.
“Certainly not! I can look out for myself.”
“What shall you do?” asked Nancy Ellen anxiously.
“That is getting slightly ahead of me,” said Kate. “If I had been diplomatic I could have evaded this until morning. Adam, 3d, is to be over then, prepared to take me anywhere I want to go. What I have to face now is a way to spend the night without letting the neighbours know that I am turned out. How can I manage that?”