While Emil and Carl were amusing them-
selves at the fair, Alexandra was at home, busy
with her account-books, which had been ne-
glected of late. She was almost through with
her figures when she heard a cart drive up to the
gate, and looking out of the window she saw her
two older brothers. They had seemed to avoid
her ever since Carl Linstrum's arrival, four
weeks ago that day, and she hurried to the
door to welcome them. She saw at once that
they had come with some very definite purpose.
They followed her stiffly into the sitting-room.
Oscar sat down, but Lou walked over to the
window and remained standing, his hands be-
"You are by yourself?" he asked, looking
toward the doorway into the parlor.
"Yes. Carl and Emil went up to the Catho-
For a few moments neither of the men spoke.
Then Lou came out sharply. "How soon
does he intend to go away from here?"
"I don't know, Lou. Not for some time, I
hope." Alexandra spoke in an even, quiet tone
that often exasperated her brothers. They felt
that she was trying to be superior with them.
Oscar spoke up grimly. "We thought we
ought to tell you that people have begun to
talk," he said meaningly.
Alexandra looked at him. "What about?"
Oscar met her eyes blankly. "About you,
keeping him here so long. It looks bad for him
to be hanging on to a woman this way. People
think you're getting taken in."
Alexandra shut her account-book firmly.
"Boys," she said seriously, "don't let's go on
with this. We won't come out anywhere. I
can't take advice on such a matter. I know you
mean well, but you must not feel responsible for
me in things of this sort. If we go on with this
talk it will only make hard feeling."
Lou whipped about from the window. "You
ought to think a little about your family.
You're making us all ridiculous."
"How am I?"
"People are beginning to say you want to
marry the fellow."
"Well, and what is ridiculous about that?"
Lou and Oscar exchanged outraged looks.
"Alexandra! Can't you see he's just a tramp
and he's after your money? He wants to be
taken care of, he does!"
"Well, suppose I want to take care of him?
Whose business is it but my own?"
"Don't you know he'd get hold of your property?"
"He'd get hold of what I wished to give him, certainly."
Oscar sat up suddenly and Lou clutched at
his bristly hair.
"Give him?" Lou shouted. "Our property,
"I don't know about the homestead," said
Alexandra quietly. "I know you and Oscar
have always expected that it would be left to
your children, and I'm not sure but what
you're right. But I'll do exactly as I please
with the rest of my land, boys."
"The rest of your land!" cried Lou, growing
more excited every minute. "Didn't all the
land come out of the homestead? It was bought
with money borrowed on the homestead, and
Oscar and me worked ourselves to the bone
paying interest on it."
"Yes, you paid the interest. But when you
married we made a division of the land, and you
were satisfied. I've made more on my farms
since I've been alone than when we all worked
"Everything you've made has come out of
the original land that us boys worked for,
hasn't it? The farms and all that comes out of
them belongs to us as a family."
Alexandra waved her hand impatiently.
"Come now, Lou. Stick to the facts. You are
talking nonsense. Go to the county clerk and
ask him who owns my land, and whether my
titles are good."
Lou turned to his brother. "This is what
comes of letting a woman meddle in business,"
he said bitterly. "We ought to have taken
things in our own hands years ago. But she
liked to run things, and we humored her. We
thought you had good sense, Alexandra. We
never thought you'd do anything foolish."
Alexandra rapped impatiently on her desk
with her knuckles. "Listen, Lou. Don't talk
wild. You say you ought to have taken things
into your own hands years ago. I suppose you
mean before you left home. But how could you
take hold of what wasn't there? I've got most
of what I have now since we divided the prop-
erty; I've built it up myself, and it has nothing
to do with you."
Oscar spoke up solemnly. "The property of a
family really belongs to the men of the family,
no matter about the title. If anything goes
wrong, it's the men that are held responsible."
"Yes, of course," Lou broke in. "Everybody
knows that. Oscar and me have always been
easy-going and we've never made any fuss.
We were willing you should hold the land and
have the good of it, but you got no right to
part with any of it. We worked in the fields
to pay for the first land you bought, and what-
ever's come out of it has got to be kept in the
Oscar reinforced his brother, his mind fixed
on the one point he could see. "The property
of a family belongs to the men of the family,
because they are held responsible, and because
they do the work."
Alexandra looked from one to the other, her
eyes full of indignation. She had been impa-
tient before, but now she was beginning to feel
angry. "And what about my work?" she asked
in an unsteady voice.
Lou looked at the carpet. "Oh, now, Alex-
andra, you always took it pretty easy! Of
course we wanted you to. You liked to manage
round, and we always humored you. We realize
you were a great deal of help to us. There's no
woman anywhere around that knows as much
about business as you do, and we've always
been proud of that, and thought you were
pretty smart. But, of course, the real work
always fell on us. Good advice is all right, but
it don't get the weeds out of the corn."
"Maybe not, but it sometimes puts in the
crop, and it sometimes keeps the fields for corn
to grow in," said Alexandra dryly. "Why,
Lou, I can remember when you and Oscar
wanted to sell this homestead and all the im-
provements to old preacher Ericson for two
thousand dollars. If I'd consented, you'd have
gone down to the river and scraped along on
poor farms for the rest of your lives. When I
put in our first field of alfalfa you both opposed
me, just because I first heard about it from a
young man who had been to the University.
You said I was being taken in then, and all the
neighbors said so. You know as well as I do
that alfalfa has been the salvation of this coun-
try. You all laughed at me when I said our
land here was about ready for wheat, and I had
to raise three big wheat crops before the neigh-
bors quit putting all their land in corn. Why, I
remember you cried, Lou, when we put in the
first big wheat-planting, and said everybody
was laughing at us."
Lou turned to Oscar. "That's the woman of
it; if she tells you to put in a crop, she thinks
she's put it in. It makes women conceited to
meddle in business. I shouldn't think you'd
want to remind us how hard you were on us,
Alexandra, after the way you baby Emil."
"Hard on you? I never meant to be hard.
Conditions were hard. Maybe I would never
have been very soft, anyhow; but I certainly
didn't choose to be the kind of girl I was. If
you take even a vine and cut it back again and
again, it grows hard, like a tree."
Lou felt that they were wandering from the
point, and that in digression Alexandra might
unnerve him. He wiped his forehead with a
jerk of his handkerchief. "We never doubted
you, Alexandra. We never questioned any-
thing you did. You've always had your own
way. But you can't expect us to sit like stumps
and see you done out of the property by any
loafer who happens along, and making yourself
ridiculous into the bargain."
Oscar rose. "Yes," he broke in, "every-
body's laughing to see you get took in; at your
age, too. Everybody knows he's nearly five
years younger than you, and is after your
money. Why, Alexandra, you are forty years old!"
"All that doesn't concern anybody but Carl
and me. Go to town and ask your lawyers what
you can do to restrain me from disposing of my
own property. And I advise you to do what
they tell you; for the authority you can exert
by law is the only influence you will ever have
over me again." Alexandra rose. "I think I
would rather not have lived to find out what I
have to-day," she said quietly, closing her desk.
Lou and Oscar looked at each other ques-
tioningly. There seemed to be nothing to do
but to go, and they walked out.
"You can't do business with women," Oscar
said heavily as he clambered into the cart.
"But anyhow, we've had our say, at last."
Lou scratched his head. "Talk of that kind
might come too high, you know; but she's apt
to be sensible. You hadn't ought to said that
about her age, though, Oscar. I'm afraid that
hurt her feelings; and the worst thing we can do
is to make her sore at us. She'd marry him out
"I only meant," said Oscar, "that she is old
enough to know better, and she is. If she was
going to marry, she ought to done it long ago,
and not go making a fool of herself now."
Lou looked anxious, nevertheless. "Of course," he reflected hopefully and incon- sistently, "Alexandra ain't much like other women-folks. Maybe it won't make her sore. Maybe she'd as soon be forty as not!"