(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Kate Fennigate was a manager, even as a young child; she influenced her mother, her schoolmates, and, particularly, her father. Because of her good manners, however, Kate was never offensive in her desire to lead. Her father, who had showed great promise as a lawyer when he was young, had permitted both women and liquor to interfere with his career. Mrs. Fennigate had no great interest in life except eating, and Mr. Fennigate had no great interest in her. Kate grew into a pretty, quiet, well-mannered girl with a managing complex. Her only intimate was Laila Capper, a self-centered, unintelligent, but beautiful girl who attended Miss Carroll’s day school with Kate. Kate found it flattering to help Laila with her homework and to get for her invitations to parties to which Laila would not otherwise have been invited.

At a school dance, just before she was graduated, Kate first became aware of her love for Ames Lanning, her cousin and Mary’s husband. Not long after Kate’s graduation, her mother died, and she and her father sold the house and went to Europe for two years. Her father, who had been ill even before they left America, died and was buried in Europe.

When Kate returned home, Aunt Daisy, the tyrant of her family, insisted that Kate stay with her. With the excuse of protecting Kate, she made a household drudge of her. Kate was nurse to Mary, Aunt Daisy’s daughter, governess to Mary’s child, Celia, and maid-of-all-work about the house. In return, she received only her room and board. Kate realized what Aunt Daisy was doing, but she preferred to stay on. She wanted to help Ames make something of his talents as a lawyer and to get him from under his mother-in-law’s thumb.

Ames introduced Kate to Tuke Speer, his friend. Laila also took an interest in Tuke, who fell deeply in love with Kate’s friend. Aunt Daisy taunted Kate for losing out to Laila, but since Aunt Daisy did not guess where Kate’s true feelings lay, the girl did not mind.

When Mary, a semi-invalid for years, died, Aunt Daisy was inconsolable. Her whole life had been wrapped up in her child, her money, and her house. The first of her interests was gone. Kate convinced Ames that he could now take the position he wanted with Mr. Bortshleff, an established lawyer. The second blow fell on Aunt Daisy not long afterward,...

(The entire section is 958 words.)