"Yes, please!" panted Eileen. "I just don't want to meet any of them. It's time enough for them to know what has happened after I am gone."
"All right then," said Uncle James. "Pile in and we'll go."
So Eileen started on the road to the unlimited wealth her soul had always craved.
CHAPTER XXIV. Linda's First Party
At the bank Linda and John Gilman waited an hour past the time set for Eileen's appearance. Then Linda asserted herself.
"I have had a feeling for some time," she said quietly, "that Eileen would not appear today, and if she doesn't see fit to come, there is no particular reason why she should. There is nothing to do but go over the revenue from the estate. The books will show what Eileen has drawn monthly for her expense budget. That can be set aside and the remainder divided equally between us. It's very simple. Here is a letter I wrote to the publishers of Father's books asking about royalties. I haven't even opened it. I will turn it in with the remainder of the business."
They were in the office with the president of the bank. He rang for the clerk he wanted and the books he required, and an hour's rapid figuring settled the entire matter, with the exception of the private account, amounting to several thousands, standing in Eileen's name. None of them knew any source of separate income she might have. At a suggestion from Linda, the paying teller was called in and asked if he could account for any of the funds that had gone into the private account.
"Not definitely," he said, "but the amounts always corresponded exactly with the royalties from the books. I strongly suspect that they constitute this private account of Miss Eileen's."
But he did not say that she had tried to draw it the day previous.
John Gilman made the suggestion that they should let the matter rest until Eileen explained about it. Then Linda spoke very quietly, but with considerable finality in her tone.
"No," she said, "I know that Eileen HAD no source of private income. Mother used to mention that she had some wealthy relatives in San Francisco, but they didn't approve of her marriage to what they called a 'poor doctor,' and she would never accept, or allow us to accept, anything from them. They never came to see us and we never went to see them. Eileen knows no more about them than I do. We will work upon the supposition that everything that is here belonged to Father. Set aside to Eileen's credit the usual amount for housekeeping expenses. Turn the private account in with the remainder. Start two new bank books, one for Eileen and one for me. Divide the surplus each month exactly in halves. And I believe this is the proper time for the bank to turn over to me a certain key, specified by my father as having been left in your possession to be delivered to me on my coming of age."
With the key in her possession, Linda and John Gilman left the bank. As they stood for a moment in front of the building, Gilman removed his hat and ran his hands through his hair as if it were irritating his head.
"Linda," he said in a deeply wistful tone, "I don't understand this. Why shouldn't Eileen have come today as she agreed? What is there about this that is not according to law and honor and the plain, simple rights of the case?"
"I don't know," said Linda; "but there is something we don't understand about it. And I am going to ask you, John, as my guardian, closing up my affairs today, to go home with me to be present when I open the little hidden door I found at the back of a library shelf when I was disposing of Daddy's technical books. There was a slip of paper at the edge of it specifying that the key was in possession of the Consolidated Bank and was to be delivered to me, in the event of Daddy's passing, on my coming of age. I have the key, but I would like to have you with me, and Eileen if she is in the house, when I open that door. I don't know what is behind it, but there's a certain feeling that always has been strong in my heart and it never was so strong as it is at this minute."
So they boarded the street car and ran out to Lilac Valley. When Katy admitted them Linda put her arm around her and kissed her. She could see that the house was freshly swept and beautifully decorated with flowers, and her trained nostrils could scent whiffs of delicious odors from food of which she was specially fond. In all her world Katy was the one person who was celebrating her birthday. She seemed rather surprised when Linda and Gilman came in together.
"Where is Eileen?" inquired Linda.
"She must have made some new friends," said Katy. "About four o'clock, the biggest car that ever roared down this street rolled up, and the biggest man and woman that I ever see came puffin' and pantin' in. Miss Eileen did not tell me where she was goin' or when she would be back, but I know it won't be the night, because she took her little dressin' case with her. Belike it's another of them trips to Riverside or Pasadena."
"Very likely," said Linda quietly. "Katy, can you spare a few minutes?"
"No, lambie, I jist can't," said Katy, "because a young person that's the apple of me eye is havin' a birthday the day and I have got me custard cake in the oven and the custard is in the makin', and after Miss Eileen went and I didn't see no chance for nothin' special, I jist happened to look out, one of the ways ye do things unbeknownst to yourself, and there stood Mr. Pater Morrison moonin' over the 'graveyard,' like he called it, and it was lookin' like seein' graves he was, and I jist took the bull by the horns, and I sings out to him and I says: 'Mr. Pater Morrison, it's a good friend ye were to the young missus when ye engineered her skylight and her beautiful fireplace, and this bein' her birthday, I'm takin' the liberty to ask ye to come to dinner and help me celebrate.' And he said he would run up to the garage and get into his raygimentals, whatever them might be, and he would be here at six o'clock. So ye got a guest for dinner, and if the custard's scorched and the cake's flat, it's up to ye for kapin' me here to tell ye all this."
Then Katy hurried to the kitchen. Linda looked at John Gilman and smiled.
"Isn't that like her?" she said.
Then she led the way to the library, pulled aside the books, fitted the key to the little door, and opened it. Inside lay a single envelope, sealed and bearing her name. She took the envelope, and walking to her father's chair beside his library table, sat down in it, and laying the envelope on the table, crossed her hands on top of it.
"John," she said, "ever since I have been big enough to think and reason and study things out for myself, there is a feeling I have had—I used to think it was unreasonable, then I thought it remote possibility. This minute I think it's extremely probable. Before I open this envelope I am going to tell you what I believe it contains. I have not the slightest evidence except personal conviction, but I believe that the paper inside this envelope is written by my father's hand and I believe it tells me that he was not Eileen's father and that I am not her sister. If it does not say this, then there is nothing in race and blood and inherited tendencies."
Linda picked up the paper cutter, ran it across the envelope, slipped out the sheet, and bracing herself she read:
MY DARLING LINDA:
These lines are to tell you that your mother went to her eternal sleep when you were born. Four years later I met and fell in love with the only mother you ever have known. At the time of our marriage we entered into a solemn compact that her little daughter by a former marriage and mine should be reared as sisters. I was to give half my earnings and to do for Eileen exactly as I did for you. She was to give half her love and her best attention to your interests.
I sincerely hope that what I have done will not result in any discomfort or inconvenience to you.
With dearest love, as ever your father,
Linda laid the sheet on the table and dropped her hands on top of it. Then she looked at John Gilman.
"John," she said, "I believe you had better face the fact that the big car and the big people that carried Eileen away today were her mother's wealthy relatives from San Francisco. She must have been in touch with them. I think very likely she sent for them after I saw her in the bank yesterday afternoon, trying with all her might to make the paying teller turn over to her the funds of the private account."
John Gilman sat very still for a long time, then he raised tired, disappointed eyes to Linda's face.
"Linda," he said, "do you mean you think Eileen was not straight about money matters?"
"John," said Linda quietly, "I think it is time for the truth about Eileen between you and me. If you want me to answer that question candidly, I'll answer it."
"I want the truth," said John Gilman gravely.
"Well," said Linda, "I never knew Eileen to be honest about anything in all her life unless the truth served her better than an evasion. Her hair was not honest color and it was not honest curl. Her eyebrows were not so dark as she made them. Her cheeks and lips were not so red, her forehead and throat were not so white, her form was not so perfect. Her friends were selected because they could serve her. As long as you were poor and struggling, Marian was welcome to you. When you won a great case and became prosperous and fame came rapidly, Eileen took you. I believe what I told you a minute ago: I think she has gone for good. I think she went because she had not been fair and she would not be forced to face the fact before you and me and the president of the Consolidated today. I think you will have to take your heart home tonight and I think that before the night is over you will realize what Marian felt when she knew that in addition to having been able to take you from her, Eileen was not a woman who would make you happy. I am glad, deeply glad, that there is not a drop of her blood in my veins, sorry as I am for you and much as I regret what has happened. I won't ask you to stay tonight, because you must go through the same black waters Marian breasted, and you will want to be alone. Later, if you think of any way I can serve you, I will be glad for old sake's sake; but you must not expect me ever to love you or respect your judgment as I did before the shadow fell."
Then Linda rose, replaced the letter, turned the key in the lock, and quietly slipped out of the room.
When she opened her door and stepped into her room she paused in astonishment. Spread out upon the bed lay a dress of georgette with little touches of fur and broad ribbons of satin. In color it was like the flame of seasoned beechwood. Across the foot of the bed hung petticoat, camisole, and hose, and beside the dress a pair of satin slippers exactly matching the hose, and they seemed the right size. Linda tiptoed to the side of the bed and delicately touched the dress, and then she saw a paper lying on the waist front, and picking it up read:
Lambie, here's your birthday, from loving old Katy.
The lines were terse and to the point. Linda laid them down, and picking up the dress she walked to the mirror, and holding it under her chin glanced down the length of its reflection. What she saw almost stunned her.
"Oh, good Lord!" she said. "I can't wear that. That isn't me."
Then she tossed the dress on the bed and started in a headlong rush to the kitchen. As she came through the door, "You blessed old darling!" she cried. "What am I going to say to make you know how I appreciate your lovely, lovely gift?"
Katy raised her head. There was something that is supposed to be the prerogative of royalty in the lift of it. Her smile was complacent in the extreme.
"Don't ye be standin' there wastin' no time talkie'," she said.
"I have oodles of time," said Linda, "but I warn you, you won't know me if I put on that frock, Katy."
"Yes, I will, too," said Katy.
"Katy," said Linda, sobering suddenly, "would it make any great difference to you if I were the only one here for always, after this?"
Katy laughed contemptuously.
"Well, I'd warrant to survive it," she said coolly.
"But that is exactly what I must tell you, Katy," said Linda soberly. "You know I have told you a number of times through these years that I did not believe Eileen and I were sisters, and I am telling you now that I know it. She did not come to the bank today, and the settlement of Father's affairs developed the fact that I was my father's child and Eileen was her mother's; and I'm thinking, Katy, that the big car you saw and the opulent people in it were Eileen's mother's wealthy relatives from San Francisco. My guess is, Katy, that Eileen has gone with them for good. Lock her door and don't touch her things until we know certainly what she wants done with them."
Katy stood thinking intently, then she lifted her eyes to Linda's.
"Lambie," she whispered softly, "are we ixpicted to go into mourning over this?"
A mischievous light leaped into Linda's eyes.
"Well, if there are any such expectations abroad, Katherine O'Donovan," she said soberly, "the saints preserve 'em, for we can't fulfill 'em, can we, Katy?"
"Not to be savin' our souls," answered Katy heartily. "I'm jist so glad and thankful that I don't know what to do, and it's such good news that I don't belave one word of it. And while you're talkie', what about John Gilman?"
"I think," said Linda quietly, "that tonight is going to teach him how Marian felt in her blackest hours."
"Well, he needn't be coming to me for sympathy," said Katy. "But if Miss Eileen has gone to live with the folks that come after her the day, ye might be savin' a wee crap o' sympathy for her, lambie. They was jist the kind of people that you'd risk your neck slidin' down a mountain to get out of their way."
"That is too bad," said Linda reflectively; "because Eileen is sensitive and constant contact with crass vulgarity certainly would wear on her nerves."
"Now you be goin' and gettin' into that dress, lambie," said Katy.
"Katherine O'Donovan," said Linda, "you're used to it; come again to confession. Tell me truly where and how did you get that dress?"
"'Tain't no rule of polite society to be lookin' gift horses in the mouth," said Katy proudly. "HOW I got it is me own affair, jist like ye got any gifts ye was ever makin' me, is yours. WHERE I got it? I went into the city on the strafe car and I went to the biggest store in the city and I got in the elevator and I says to the naygur: 'Let me off where real ladies buy ready-to-wear dresses.'
"And up comes a little woman, and her hair was jist as soft and curling round her ears, and brown and pretty was her eyes, and the pink that God made was in her cheeks, and in a voice like runnin' water she says: 'Could I do anything for you?' I told her what I wanted. And she says: 'How old is the young lady, and what's her size, and what's her color?' Darlin', ain't that dress the answer to what I told her?"
"Yes," said Linda. "If an artist had been selecting a dress for me he would probably have chosen that one. But, old dear, it's not suitable for me. It's not the kind of dress that I intended to wear for years and years yet. Do you think, if I put it on tonight, I'll ever be able to go back to boots and breeches again, and hunt the canyons for plants to cook for—you know what?"
Katy stood in what is commonly designated as a "brown study." Then she looked Linda over piercingly.
"Yes, ma'am," she said conclusively. "It's my judgment that ye will. I think ye'll maybe wrap the braids of ye around your head tonight, and I think ye'll put on that frock, and I think ye'll show Pater Morrison how your pa's daughter can sit at the head of his table and entertain her friends. Then I think ye'll hang it in your closet and put on your boots and breeches and go back to your old Multiflores and attind to your business, the same as before."
"All right, Katy," said Linda, "if you have that much faith in me I have that much faith in myself; but, old dear, I can't tell you how I LOVE having a pretty dress for tonight. Katy dear, the 'Day of Jubilee' has come. Before you go to sleep I'm coming to your room to tell you fine large secrets, that you won't believe for a minute, but I haven't the time to do it now."
Then Linda raced to her room and began dressing. She let down the mop of her hair waving below her waist and looked at it despairingly.
"That dress never was made for braids down your back," she said, glancing toward the bed where it lay shimmering in a mass of lovely color. "I am of age today; for state occasions I should be a woman. What shall I do with it?"
And then she recalled Katy's voice saying: "Braids round your head."
"Of course," said Linda, "that would be the thing to do. I certainly don't need anything to add to my height; I am far too tall now."
So she parted her hair in the middle, brushed it back, divided it in even halves, and instead of braiding it, she coiled it around her head, first one side and then the other.
She slipped into the dress and struggled with its many and intricate fastenings. Then she went to the guest room to stand before the full-length mirror there. Slowly she turned. Critically she examined herself.
"It's a bit shorter than I would have ordered it," she said, "but it reduces my height, it certainly gives wonderful freedom in walking, and it's not nearly so short as I see other girls wearing."
Again she studied herself critically.
"Need some kind of ornament for my hair," she muttered, "but I haven't got it, and neither do I own beads, bracelet, or a ring; and my ears are sticking right out in the air. I am almost offensively uncovered."
Then she went down to show herself to a delighted Katy. When the doorbell rang Linda turned toward the hall. Katy reached a detaining hand.
"You'll do nothing of the sort," she said. "I answered the bell for Miss Eileen. Answer the bell I shall for you."
Down the hall went Katy with the light of battle in her eyes and the air of a conqueror in the carriage of her head. She was well trained. Neither eyelid quivered as she flung the door wide to Peter Morrison. He stood there in dinner dress, more imposing than Katy had thought he could be. With quick, inner exultation she reached for two parcels he carried; over them her delight was so overpowering that Peter Morrison must have seen a hint of it. With a flourish Katy seated him, and carried the packages to Linda. She returned a second later for a big vase, and in this Linda arranged a great sheaf of radiant roses. As Katy started to carry them back to the room, Linda said "Wait a second," and selecting one half opened, she slipped it out, shortened the stem and tucked it among the coils of hair where she would have set an ornament. The other package was a big box that when opened showed its interior to be divided into compartments in each of which nestled an exquisite flower made of spun sugar. The petals, buds, and leaves were perfect. There were wonderful roses with pale pink outer petals and deeper-colored hearts. There were pink mallows that seemed as if they must have been cut from the bushes bordering Santa Monica road. There were hollyhocks of white and gold, and simply perfect tulips. Linda never before had seen such a treasure candy box. She cried out in delight, and hurried to show Katy. In her pleasure over the real flowers and the candy flowers Linda forgot her dress, but when she saw Peter Morrison standing tall and straight, in dinner dress, she stopped and looked the surprise and pleasure she felt. She had grown accustomed to Peter in khaki pottering around his building. This Peter she never before had seen. He represented something of culture, something of pride, a conformity to a nice custom and something more. Linda was not a psychoanalyst.
She could not see a wonderful aura of exquisite color enveloping Peter. But when Peter saw the girl approaching him, transformed into a woman whose shining coronet was jewelled with his living red rose, when he saw the beauty of her lithe slenderness clothed in a soft, flaming color, something emanated from his inner consciousness that Linda did see, and for an instant it disturbed her as she went forward holding out her hands.
"Peter," she said gaily, "do you know that this is my Day of Jubilee? I am a woman today by law, Peter. Hereafter I am to experience at least a moderate degree of financial freedom, and that I shall enjoy. But the greatest thing in life is friends."
Peter took both the hands extended to him and looked smilingly into her eyes.
"You take my breath," he said. "I knew, the first glimpse I ever had of you scrambling from the canyon floor, that this transformation COULD take place. My good fortune is beyond words that I have been first to see it. Permit me, fair lady."
Peter bent and kissed both her hands. He hesitated a second, then he turned the right hand and left one more kiss in its palm.
"To have and to hold!" he said whimsically.
"Thank you," said Linda, closing her fist over it and holding it up for inspection. "I'll see that it doesn't escape. And this minute I thank you for the candy, which I know is delicious, and for my very first sheaf of roses from any man. See what I have done with one of them?"
She turned fully around that he might catch the effect of the rose, and in getting that he also got the full effect of the costume, and the possibilities of the girl before him. And then she gave him a shock.
"Isn't it a lovely frock?" she said. "Another birthday gift from the Strong rock of ages. I have been making a collection of rocks for my fern bed, and I have got another collection that is not visible to anyone save myself. Katy's a rock, and you're a rock, and Donald is a rock, and Marian's a rock, and I am resting securely on all of you. I wish my father knew that in addition to Marian and Katy I have found two more such wonderful friends."
"And what about Henry Anderson?" inquired Peter. "Aren't you going to include him?"
Linda walked over to the chair in which she intended to seat herself.
"Peter," she said, "I wish you hadn't asked me that."
Peter's figure tensed suddenly.
"Look here, Linda," he said sternly, "has that rather bold youngster made himself in any way offensive to you?"
"Not in any way that I am not perfectly capable of handling myself," said Linda. She looked at Peter confidently.
"Do you suppose," she said, "that I can sit down in this thing without ruining it? Shouldn't I really stand up while I am wearing it?"
Peter laughed unrestrainedly.
"Linda, you're simply delicious," he said. "It seems to me that I have seen young ladies in like case reach round and gather the sash to one side and smooth out the skirt as they sit."
"Thank you, Peter, of course that would be the way," said Linda. "This being my first, I'm lacking in experience."
And thereupon she sat according to direction; while Peter sat opposite her.
"Now finish. Just one word more about Henry Anderson," he said. "Are you perfectly sure there is nothing I need do for you in that connection?"
"Oh, perfectly," said Linda lightly. "I didn't mean to alarm you. He merely carried that bug-catcher nonsense a trifle too far. I wouldn't have minded humoring him and fooling about it a little. But, Peter, do you know him quite well? Are you very sure of him?"
"No," said Peter, "I don't know him well at all. The only thing I am sure about him is that he is doing well in his profession. I chose him because he was an ambitious youngster and I thought I could get more careful attention from him than I could from some of the older fellows who had made their reputation. You see, there are such a lot of things I want to know about in this building proposition, and the last four years haven't been a time for any man to be careful about saving his money."
"Then," said Linda, "he is all right, of course. He must be. But I think I'm like a cat. I'm very complacent with certain people, but when I begin to get goose flesh and hair prickles my head a bit, I realize that there is something antagonistic around, something for me to beware of. I guess it's because I am such a wild creature."
"Do you mean to say," said Peter, "that these are the sensations that Henry gives you?"
"Now forget Henry," she said. "I have had such a big day I must tell you about it, and then we'll come to that last article you left me. I haven't had time to put anything on paper concerning it yet, but I believe I have an awfully good idea in the paint pot, and I'll find time in a day or two to work it out. Peter, I have just come from the bank, where I was recognized as of legal age, and my guardian discharged. And perhaps I ought to explain to you, Peter, that your friend, John Gilman, is not here because this night is going to be a bad one for him. When you knew him best he was engaged, or should have been, to Marian Thorne. When you met him this time he really was engaged to Eileen. I don't know what you think about Eileen. I don't feel like influencing anyone's thought concerning her, so I'll merely say that today has confirmed a conviction that always has been in my heart. Katy could tell you that long ago I said to her that I did not believe Eileen was my sister. Today has brought me the knowledge and proof positive that she is not, and today she has gone to some wealthy relatives of her mother in San Francisco. She expressed her contempt for what she was giving up by leaving everything, including the exquisite little necklace of pearls which has been a daily part of her since she owned them. I may be mistaken, but intuition tells me that with the pearls and the wardrobe she has also discarded John Gilman. I think your friend will be suffering tonight quite as deeply as my friend suffered when John abandoned her at a time when she had lost everything else in life but her money. I feel very sure that we won't see Eileen any more. I hope she will have every lovely thing in life."
"Amen," said Peter Morrison earnestly. "I loved John Gilman when we were in school together, but I have not been able to feel, since I located here, that he is exactly the same John; and what you have told me very probably explains the difference in him."
When Katy announced dinner Linda arose.
Peter Morrison stepped beside her and offered his arm. Linda rested her finger tips upon it and he led her to the head of the table and seated her. Then Katy served a meal that, if it had been prepared for Eileen, she would have described as a banquet. She gave them delicious, finely flavored food, stimulating, exquisitely compounded drinks that she had concocted from the rich fruits of California and mints and essences at her command. When, at the close of the meal, she brought Morrison some of the cigars Eileen kept for John Gilman, she set a second tray before Linda, and this tray contained two packages. Linda looked at Katy inquiringly, and Katy, her face beaming, nodded her sandy red head emphatically.
"More birthday gifts you've havin', me lady," she said in her mellowest Irish voice.
"More?" marveled Linda. She picked up the larger package, and opening it, found a beautiful book inscribed from her friend Donald, over which she passed caressing fingers.
"Why, how lovely of him!" she said. "How in this world did he know?"
Katherine O'Donovan could have answered that question, but she did not. The other package was from Marian. When she opened it Linda laughed unrestrainedly.
"What a joke!" she said. "I had promised myself that I would not touch a thing in Eileen's room, and before I could do justice to Katy's lovely dress I had to go there for pins for my hair and powder for my nose. This is Marian's way of telling me that I am almost a woman. Will you look at this?"
"Well, just what is it?" inquired Peter.
"Hairpins," laughed Linda, "and hair ornaments, and a box of face powder, and the little, feminine touches that my dressing table needs badly. How would you like, Peter, to finish your cigar in my workroom?"
"I would like it immensely," said Peter.
So together they climbed to the top of the house. Linda knelt and made a little ceremony of lighting the first fire in her fireplace. She pushed one of her chairs to one side for Peter, and taking the other for herself, she sat down and began the process of really becoming acquainted with him. Two hours later, as he was leaving her, Peter made a circuit of the room, scrutinizing the sketches and paintings that were rapidly covering the walls, and presently he came to the wasp. He looked at it so closely that he did not miss even the stinger. Linda stood beside him when he made his first dazed comment: "If that isn't Eileen, and true to the life!"
"I must take that down," said Linda. "I did it one night when my heart was full of bitterness."
"Better leave it," said Peter drily.
"Do you think I need it as a warning?" asked Linda.
Peter turned and surveyed her slowly.
"Linda," he said quietly, "what I think of you has not yet been written in any of the books."
CHAPTER XXV. Buena Moza
As soon as Peter had left her Linda took her box of candy flowers and several of her finest roses and went to Katy's room. She found Katy in a big rocking chair, her feet on a hassock, reading a story in Everybody's home. When her door opened and she saw her young mistress framed in it she tossed the magazine aside and sprang to her feet, but Linda made her resume her seat. The girl shortened the stems of the roses and put them in a vase on Katy's dresser.
"They may clash with your coloring a mite, Mother Machree," she said, "but by themselves they are very wonderful things, aren't they?"
Linda went over, and drawing her dress aside, sat down on the hassock and leaning against Katy's knee she held up the box of candy flowers for amazed and delighted inspection.
"Ah, the foine gintleman!" cried Katy. "Sure 'twas only a pape I had when ye opened the box, an' I didn't know how rare them beauties railly was."
"Choose the one you like best," said Linda.
But Katy would not touch the delicate things, so Linda selected a brushy hollyhock for her and then sat at her knee again.
"Katherine O'Donovan," she said solemnly, "it's up to a couple of young things such as we are, stranded on the shoals of the Pacific as we have been, to put our heads together and take counsel. You're a host, Katy, and while I am taking care of you, I'll be just delighted to have you go on looking after your black sheep; but it's going to be lonely, for all that. After Eileen has taken her personal possessions, what do you say to fixing up that room with the belongings that Marian kept, and inviting her to make that suite her home until such time as she may have a home of her own again?"
"Foine!" cried Katy. "I'd love to be havin' her. I'd agree to take orders from Miss Marian and to be takin' care of her jist almost the same as I do of ye, Miss Linda. The one thing I don't like about it is that it ain't fair nor right to give even Marian the best. Ye be takin' that suite yourself, lambie, and give Miss Marian your room all fixed up with her things, or, if ye want her nearer, give her the guest room and make a guest room of yours."
"I am willing to follow either of the latter suggestions for myself," said Linda; "it might be pleasant to be across the hall from Marian where we could call back and forth to each other. I wouldn't mind a change as soon as I have time to get what I'd need to make the change. I'll take the guest room for mine, and you may call in a decorator and have my room freshly done and the guest things moved into it."
Katy looked belligerent. Linda reached up and touched the frowning lines on her forehead.
"Brighten your lovely features with a smile, Katherine me dear," she said gaily. "Don't be forgetting that this is our Day of Jubilee. We are free—I hope we are free forever—from petty annoyances and dissatisfactions and little, galling things that sear the soul and bring out all the worst in human nature. I couldn't do anything to Eileen's suite, not even if I resorted to tearing out partitions and making it new from start to finish, that would eliminate Eileen from it for me. If Marian will give me permission to move and install her things in it, I think she can use it without any such feeling, but I couldn't. It's agreed then, Katy, I am to write to Marian and extend to her a welcome on your part as well as on mine?"
"That ye may, lambie," said Katy heartily. "And, as the boss used to be sabin', just to make assurance doubly sure, if YoU would address it for me I would be writing' a bit of a line myself, conveying' to her me sentiments on the subject."
"Oh, fine, Katy; Marian would be delighted!" cried Linda, springing up.
"And, Katy dear, it won't make us feel any more like mourning for Eileen when I tell you that it developed at the bank yesterday and today, that since she has been managing household affairs she has deposited in a separate account all the royalties from Father's books. I had thought the matter closed at the bank when this fund was added to the remainder of the estate, the household expenses set aside to Eileen, and the remainder divided equally between us. I didn't get the proof that she was not my sister until after I came home. I think it means that I shall have to go back to the bank, have the matter reopened, and unless she can produce a will or something proving that she is entitled to it, it seems to me that what remains of my father's estate is legally mine. Of course, if it develops that he has made any special provision for her, she shall have it; otherwise, Katy, we'll be in a position to install you as housekeeper and put some light-footed, capable young person under you for a step-saver in any direction you want to use her. It means, too, that I shall be able to repay your loan immediately and to do the things that I wanted to do about the house."
"Now I ain't in any hurry about that money, lambie," said Katy; "and you understand of course that the dress you're wearing' I am given' ye."
"Of course, old dear, and you should have seen Peter Morrison light up and admire it. He thinks you have wonderful taste, Katy."
Katy threw up both her hands.
"Oh, my Lord, lambie!" she cried, aghast. "Was you telling' him that the dress ye were wearing' was a present from your old cook?"
"Why, certainly I was," said Linda, wide eyed with astonish meet. "Why shouldn't I? I was proud to. And now, old dear, before I go, the biggest secret of all. I had a letter, Katy, from the editor of Everybody's Home, and people like our articles, Katy; they are something now and folk are letting the editor know about it, and he wants all I can send him. He likes the pictures I make; and, Katy, you won't believe it till I show you my little bank book, but for the three already published with their illustrations he pays me five hundred nice, long, smooth, beautifully decorated, paper dollars!"
"Judas praste!" cried Katy, her hands once more aloft. "Ye ain't manin' it, lambie?"
"Yes, I are," laughed Linda. "I've got the money; and for each succeeding three with their pictures I am to have that much more, and when I finish—now steady yourself, Katy, because this is going to be a shock—when I finish, blessed old dear heart, he is going to make them into a book! That will be my job for this summer, and you shall help me, and it will be a part of our great secret. Won't it be the most fun?"
"My soul!" said Katy. "You're jist crazy. I don't belave a word you're telling' me."
"But I can prove it, because I have the letter and the bank book," said Linda.
Katy threw her arms around the girl and kissed the top of her head and cried over her and laughed at the same time and patted her and petted her and ended by saying: "Oh, lambie, if only the master could be knowin' it."
"But he does know, Katy," said Linda.
She went to her room, removed the beautiful dress and, arranging it on a hanger, left it in her closet. Slipping into an old dressing gown, she ran to her workroom and wrote a letter to Marian from herself. She tried not to tell Marian the big, vital thing that was throbbing in her heart all day concerning her work, the great secret that meant such a wonderful thing to her, the thing that was beating in her heart and fluttering behind her lips like a bird trying to escape its cage; but she could tell her in detail of Eileen's undoubted removal to San Francisco; she could tell her enough of the financial transactions of the day to make her understand what had been happening in the past; and she could tell of her latest interview with John Gilman. Once, as she sat with her pen poised, thinking how to phrase a sentence, Linda said to herself: "I wonder in my heart if he won't try to come crawfishing back to Marian now, and if he does, I wonder, oh, how I wonder, what she will do." Linda shut her lips very tight and stared up through her skylight to the stars, as she was fast falling into a habit of doing when she wanted inspiration.
"Well, I know one thing," she said to the shining things above her, "Marian will do as she sees fit, of course, but if it were I, and any man had discarded me as John Gilman discarded Marian, in case he ever wanted to pick me up again he would find I was not there. Much as I plan in my heart for the home and the man and the little people that I hope to have some day, I would give up all of them before I would be discarded and re-sought like that; and knowing Marian as I do, I have a conviction that she will feel the same way. From the things she is writing about this Snow man I think it is highly probable that he may awake some day to learn that he is not so deeply grieved but that he would like to have Marian to comfort him in his loneliness; and as for his little girl I don't see where he could find a woman who would rear her more judiciously and beautifully than Marian would."
She finished her letter, sealed and stamped it, and then, taking out a fresh sheet, she lettered in at the top of it, "INDIAN POTATOES" and continued:
And very good potatoes they are. You will find these growing everywhere throughout California, blooming from May to July, their six long, slender, white petals shading to gold at the base, grayish on the outside, a pollen-laden pistil upstanding, eight or ten gold-clubbed stamens surrounding it, the slender brown stem bearing a dozen or more of these delicate blooms, springing high from a base of leaves sometimes nearly two feet long and an inch broad, wave margined, spreading in a circle around it. In the soil of the plains and the dry hillsides you will find an amazingly large solid bulb, thickly enwrapped in a coat of brown fiber, the long threads of which can be braided, their amazing strength making them suitable for bow strings, lariats, or rope of any kind that must needs be improvised for use at the moment. The bulbs themselves have many uses. Crushed and rubbed up in water they make a delightful cleansing lather. The extracted juice, when cooked down, may be used as glue. Of the roasted bulbs effective poultices for bruises and boils may be made. It was an Indian custom to dam a small stream and throw in mashed Amole bulbs, the effect of which was to stupefy the fish so that they could be picked out by hand; all of which does not make it appear that the same bulb would serve as an excellent substitute for a baked potato; but we must remember how our grandmothers made starch from our potatoes, used them to break in the new ironware, and to purify the lard; which goes to prove that one vegetable may be valuable for many purposes. Amole, whose ponderous scientific name is Chlorogalum pomeridiarum, is at its best for my purposes when all the chlorophyll from flower and stem has been driven back to the bulb, and it lies ripe and fully matured from late August until December.
Remove the fibrous cover down to the second or third layer enclosing the bulb. These jackets are necessary as they keep the bulbs from drying out and having a hard crust. Roast them exactly as you would potatoes. When they can easily be pierced with a silver fork remove from the oven, and serve immediately with any course with which you would use baked potatoes.
"And gee, but they're good!" commented Linda as she reread what she had written.
After that she turned her attention to drawing a hillside whitened here and there with amole bloom showing in its purity against the warm grayish-tan background. The waving green leaves ran among big rocks and overlapped surrounding growth. At the right of her drawing Linda sketched in a fine specimen of monkey flower, deepening the yellow from the hearts of the amole lilies for the almost human little monkey faces. On the left one giant specimen of amole, reared from a base of exquisitely waving leaves, ran up the side of the drawing and broke into an airy and graceful head of gold-hearted white lilies. For a long time Linda sat with poised pencil, studying her foreground. What should she introduce that would be most typical of the location and gave her the desired splash of contrasting color that she used as a distinctive touch in the foreground of all her drawings?
Her pencil flew busily a few minutes while she sketched in a flatly growing bush of prickly phlox, setting the flower faces as closely as the overlapped scales of a fish, setting them even as they grow in nature; and when she resorted to the color box she painted these faces a wonderful pink that was not wild rose, not cerise, not lilac, but it made one think of all of them. When she could make no further improvement on this sketch, she carefully stretched it against the wall and tacked it up to dry.
Afterward she cleared her mental decks of all the work she could think of in order to have Saturday free, because Saturday was the day upon which she found herself planning in the back of her mind throughout the strenuous week, to save for riding the King's Highway with Donald Whiting. Several times she had met him on the walks or in the hallways, and always he had stopped to speak with her and several times he had referred to the high hope in which he waited for Saturday. Linda already had held a consultation with Katy on the subject of the lunch basket. That matter being satisfactorily arranged, there was nothing for her to do but to double on her work so that Saturday would be free. Friday evening Linda was called from the dinner table to the telephone. She immediately recognized the voice inquiring for her as that of Judge Whiting, and then she listened breathlessly while he said to her: "You will recognize that there is very little I may say over a telephone concerning a matter to which you brought my attention. I have a very competent man looking into the matter thoroughly, and I find that your fear is amply justified. Wherever you go or whatever you do, use particular care. Don't have anything to do with any stranger. Just use what your judgment and common sense tell you is a reasonable degree of caution in every direction no matter how trivial. You understand?"
"I do," said Linda promptly. "Would you prefer that we do not go on any more Saturday trips at present?"
The length of time that the Judge waited to answer proved that he had taken time to think.
"I can't see," he said finally, "that you would not be safer on such a trip where you are moving about, where no one knows who you are, than you would where you are commonly found."
"All right then," said Linda. "Ask the party we are considering and he will tell you where he will be tomorrow. Thank you very much for letting me know. If anything should occur, you will understand that it was something quite out of my range of fore-sight."
"I understand," said the Judge.
With all care and many loving admonitions Katy assisted in the start made early Saturday morning. The previous Saturday Linda had felt that all nature along the road she planned to drive would be at its best, but they had not gone far until she modified her decision. They were slipping through mists of early morning, over level, carefully made roads like pavilion floors. If any one objection could have been made, it would have been that the mists of night were weighting too heavily to earth the perfume from the blooming orchards and millions of flowers in gardens and along the roadside. At that hour there were few cars abroad. Linda was dressed in her outing suit of dark green. She had removed her hat and slipped it on the seat beside her. She looked at Donald, a whimsical expression on her most expressive young face.
"Please to 'scuse me," she said lightly, "if I step on the gas a mite while we have the road so much to ourselves and are so familiar with it. Later, when we reach stranger country and have to share with others, we'll be forced to go slower."
"Don't stint your speed on account of me," said Donald. "I am just itching to know what Kitty can do."
"All right, here's your chance," said Linda. "Hear her purr?"
She settled her body a trifle tensely, squared her shoulders, and gripped the steering wheel. Then she increased the gas and let the Bear Cat roll over the smooth road from Lilac Valley running south into Los Angeles. At a speed that was near to flying as a non-professional attains, the youngsters traveled that road. Their eyes were shining; their blood was racing. Until the point where rougher roads and approaching traffic forced them to go slower, they raced, and when they slowed down they looked at each other and laughed in morning delight.
"I may not be very wise," said Linda, "but didn't I do the smartest thing when I let Eileen have the touring car and saved the Bear Cat for us?"
"Nothing short of inspiration," said Donald. "The height of my ambition is to own a Bear Cat. If Father makes any mention of anything I would like particularly to have for a graduation present, I am cocked and primed as to what I shall tell him."
"You'd better save yourself a disappointment," said Linda soberly. "You will be starting to college this fall, and when you do you will be gone nine months out of the year, and I am fairly sure your father wouldn't think shipping a Bear Cat back and forth a good investment, or furnishing you one to take to school with you. He would fear you would never make a grade that would be a credit to him if he did."
"My!" laughed Donald, "you've got a long head on your shoulders!"
"When you're thrown on your own for four of the longest, lonesomest years of your life, you learn to think," said Linda soberly.
She was touching the beginning of Los Angeles traffic. Later she was on the open road again. The mists were thinning and lifting. The perfume was not so heavy. The sheeted whiteness of the orange groves was broken with the paler white of plum merging imperceptibly into the delicate pink of apricot and the stronger pink of peach, and there were deep green orchards of smooth waxen olive foliage and the lacy-leaved walnuts. Then came the citrus orchards again, and all the way on either hand running with them were almost uninterrupted miles of roses of every color and kind, and everywhere homes ranging from friendly mansions, all written over in adorable flower color with the happy invitation, "Come in and make yourself at home," to tiny bungalows along the wayside crying welcome to this gay pair of youngsters in greetings fashioned from white and purple wisteria, gold bignonia, every rose the world knows, and myriad brilliant annual and perennial flower faces gathered from the circumference of the tropical globe and homing enthusiastically on the King's Highway. Sometimes Linda lifted her hand from the wheel to wave a passing salute to a particularly appealing flower picture. Sometimes she whistled a note or cried a greeting to a mockingbird, a rosy finch, or a song sparrow.
"Look at the pie timber!" she cried to Donald, calling his attention to a lawn almost covered with red-winged blackbirds. "Four hundred and twenty might be baked in that pie," she laughed.
Then a subtle change began to creep over the world. The sun peered over the mountains inquiringly, a timid young thing, as if she were asking what degree of light and warmth they would like for the day. A new brilliancy tinged every flower face in this light, a throbbing ecstasy mellowed every bird note; the orchards dropped farther apart, meadows filled with grazing cattle flashed past them, the earthy scent of freshly turned fields mingled with flower perfume, and on their right came drifting in a cool salt breath from the sea. At mid-forenoon, as they neared Laguna, they ran past great hills, untouched since the days when David cried: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help." At one particularly beautiful range, draped with the flowing emerald of spring, decorated with beds of gold poppy, set with flowering madrona and manzanita, with the gold of yellow monkey flower or the rich red of the related species, with specimens of lupin growing in small trees, here and there adventurous streams singing and flashing their unexpected way to the mother breast of the waiting ocean very near to the road which at one surprising turn carried them to the never-ending wonder of the troubled sea, they drove as slowly as the Bear Cat would consent to travel, so that they might study great boulders, huge as many of the buildings they had passed, their faces scarred by the wrack of ages. Studying their ancient records one could see that they had been familiar with the star that rested over Bethlehem. On their faces had shone the same moon that opened the highways Journeying into Damascus. They had stood the storms that had beaten upon the world since the days when the floods subsided, the land lifted above the face of the waters in gigantic upheavals that had ripped the surface of the globe from north to south and forced up the hills, the foothills, and the mountains of the Coast Range. They had been born then, they had first seen the light of day, in glowing, molten, red-hot, high-piled streams of lava that had gushed forth in that awful evolution of birth.
Sometimes Linda stopped the car, they left it, and climbed over the faces of these mighty upheavals. Once Linda reached her hand to Donald and cried, half laughingly, half in tense earnest: "Oh, kid, we have got to hurry. Compared with the age of these, we've only a few minutes. It's all right to talk jestingly about 'the crack of doom' but you know there really was a crack of doom, and right here is where it cracked and spewed out the material that hardened into these very rocks. Beside them I feel as a shrimp must feel beside a whale, and I feel that we must hurry."
"And so we must," said Donald. "I'm hungry as Likeliest when he waited for them to find enough peacock tongues to satisfy his appetite."
"I wonder what brand of home-brew made him think of that," said Linda.
"Well, you know," said Donald, "the world was only a smallish place then. They didn't have to go far to find everything to which they had access, and it must have been rather a decent time in which to live. Awful lot of light and color and music and unique entertainment."
"You're talking," said Linda, "from the standpoint of the king or the master. Suppose you had lived then and had been the slave."
"There you go again," said Donald, "throwing a brick into the most delicate mechanism of my profound thought. You ought to be ashamed to round me up with something scientific and materialistic every time I go a-glimmering. Don't you think this would be a fine place to have lunch?"
"You wait and see where we lunch today, and you will have the answer to that," said Linda, starting back to the Bear Cat.
A few miles farther on they followed the road around the frowning menace of an overhanging rock and sped out directly to the panorama of the sea. The sun was shining on it, but, as always round the Laguna shore, the rip tide was working itself into undue fury. It came dashing up on the ancient rocks until one could easily understand why a poet of long ago wrote of sea horses. Some of the waves did suggest monstrous white chargers racing madly to place their feet upon the solid rock.
Through the village, up the steep inclines, past placid lakes, past waving yellow mustard beds, beside highways where the breastplate of Mother Earth gleamed emerald and ruby against the background of billions of tiny, shining diamonds of the iceplant, past the old ostrich tree reproduced by etchers of note the world over, with grinding brakes, sliding down the breathless declivity leading to the shore, Linda stopped at last where the rock walls lifted sheer almost to the sky. She led Donald to a huge circle carpeted with cerise sand verbena, with pink and yellow iceplant bloom, with jewelled iceplant foliage, with the running blue of the lovely sea daisy, with the white and pink of the sea fig, where the walls were festooned with ferns, lichens, studded all over with flaming Our Lord's Candles, and strange, uncanny, grotesque flower forms, almost human in their writhing turns as they twisted around the rocks and slipped along clinging to the sheer walls. Just where the vegetation met the white, sea-washed sand, Linda spread the Indian blanket, and Donald brought the lunch box. At their feet adventurous waves tore themselves to foam on the sharp rocks. On their left they broke in booming spray, tearing and fretting the base of cliffs that had stood impregnable through aeons of such ceaseless attack and repulse.
"I wonder," said Donald, "how it comes that I have lived all my life in California, and today it seems to me that most of the worthwhile things I know about her I owe to you. When I go to college this winter the things I shall be telling the boys will be how I could gain a living, if I had to, on the desert, in Death Valley, from the walls of Multiflores Canyon; and how the waves go to smash on the rocks of Laguna, not to mention cactus fish hooks, mescal sticks, and brigand beefsteak. It's no wonder the artists of all the world come here copying these pictures. It's no wonder they build these bungalows and live here for years, unsatisfied with their efforts to reproduce the pictures of the Master Painter of them all."
"I wonder," said Linda, "if anybody is very easily satisfied. I wonder today if Eileen is satisfied with being merely rich. I wonder if we are satisfied to have this golden day together. I wonder if the white swallows are satisfied with the sea. I wonder if those rocks are satisfied and proud to stand impregnable against the constant torment of the tide."
"I wonder, oh, Lord, how I wonder," broke in Donald, "about Katherine O'Donovan's lunch box. If you want a picture of per feet satisfaction, Belinda beloved, lead me to it!"
"Thank heaven you're mistaken," she said; "they spared me the 'Be'—. It's truly just 'Linda."'
"Well, I'm not sparing you the 'Be—'," said Donald, busy with the fastenings of the lunch basket. "Did you hear where I used it?"
"Yes, child, and I like it heaps," said Linda casually. "It's fine to have you like me. Awfully proud of myself."
"You have two members of our family at your feet," said Donald soberly as he handed her packages from the box. "My dad is beginning to discourse on you with such signs of intelligence that I am almost led to believe, from some of his wildest outbursts, that he has had some personal experience in some way."
"And why not?" asked Linda lightly. "Haven't I often told you that my father constantly went on fishing and hunting trips, that he was a great collector of botanical specimens, that he frequently took his friends with him? You might ask your father if he does not recall me as having fried fish and made coffee and rendered him camp service when I was a slip of a thing in the dawn of my teens."
"Well, he didn't just mention it," said Donald, "but I can easily see how it might have been."
After they had finished one of Katy's inspired lunches, in which a large part of the inspiration had been mental on Linda's part and executive on Katy's, they climbed rock faces, skirted wave-beaten promontories, and stood peering from overhanging cliffs dipping down into the fathomless green sea, where the water boiled up in turbulent fury. Linda pointed out the rocks upon which she would sit, if she were a mermaid, to comb the seaweed from her hair. She could hear the sea bells ringing in those menacing depths, but Donald's ears were not so finely tuned. At the top of one of the highest cliffs they climbed, there grew a clump of slender pale green bushes, towering high above their heads with exquisitely cut blue-green leaves, lance shaped and slender. Donald looked at the fascinating growth appraisingly.
"Linda," he said, "do you know that the slimness and the sheerness and the audacious foothold and the beauty of that thing remind me of you? It is covered all over with the delicate frostbloom you taught me to see upon fruit. I find it everywhere but you have never told me what it is."
Linda laughingly reached up and broke a spray of greenish-yellow tubular flowers, curving out like clustered trumpets spilling melody from their fluted throats.
"You will see it everywhere. You will find these flowers every month of the year," she said, "and I am particularly gladsome that this plant reminds you of me. I love the bluish-green 'bloom' of its sheer foliage. I love the music these flower trumpets make to me. I love the way it has traveled, God knows how, all the way from the Argentine and spread itself over our country wherever it is allowed footing. I am glad that there is soothing in these dried leaves for those who require it. I shall be delighted to set my seal on you with it. There are two little Spanish words that it suggests to the Mexican—Buena moza—but you shall find out for yourself what they mean."
Encountering his father that night at his library door, Donald Whiting said to him: "May I come in, Dad? I have something I must look up before I sleep. Have you a Spanish lexicon, or no doubt you have this in your head."
"Well, I've a halting vocabulary," said the Judge. "What's your phrase?"
"Linda put this flower on me today," said Donald, "and she said she was pleased because I said the tall, slender bush it grew on reminded me of her. She gave me the Spanish name, but I don't know the exact significance of the decoration I am wearing until I learn the meaning of the phrase."
"Try me on it," said the Judge.
"'Buena moza,'" quoted Donald.
The Judge threw back his head and laughed heartily.
"Son," he said, "you should know that from the Latin you're learning. You should translate it instinctively. I couldn't tell you exactly whether a Spaniard would translate 'Buena' 'fine' or 'good.' Knowing their high-falutin' rendition of almost everything else I would take my chance on 'fine.' Son, your phrase means 'a fine girl.'"
Donald looked down at the flower in his buttonhole, and then he looked straight at his father.
"And only the Lord knows, Dad," he said soberly, "exactly how fine Linda-girl is."
CHAPTER XXVI. A Mouse Nest
I am delighted that you had such a wonderful birthday. I would take a shot in air that anything you don't understand about it you might with reasonable safety charge to Katherine O'Donovan. I think it was great of her to have a suitable and a becoming dress waiting for you and a congenial man like Peter Morrison to dine with you. He appealed to me as being a rare character, highly original, and, I should think, to those who know him well he must be entertaining and lovable in the extreme. I never shall be worried about you so long as I know that he is taking care of you.
I should not be surprised if some day I meet Eileen somewhere, because Dana and I are going about more than you would believe possible. I heartily join with you in wishing her every good that life can bring her. I don't want to be pessimistic, but I can't help feeling, Linda, that she is taking a poor way to win the best, and I gravely doubt whether she finds it in the spending of unlimited quantities of the money of a coarse man who stumbled upon his riches accidentally, as has many a man of California and Colorado.
I intended, when I sat down to write, the very first thing I said, to thank you for your wonderful invitation, seconded so loyally and cordially by Katy, to make my home with you until the time comes—if it ever does come—when I shall have a home of my own again. And just as simply and wholeheartedly as you made the offer, I accept it. I am enclosing the address and the receipt for my furniture in storage, and a few lines ordering it delivered at your house and the bill sent to me. I only kept a few heirlooms and things of Mother's and Father's that are very precious to me. Whenever Eileen takes her things you can order mine in and let me know, and I'll take a day or two off and run down for a short visit.
Mentioning Eileen makes me think of John. I think of him more frequently than I intend or wish that I did, but I feel my ninth life is now permanently extinguished concerning him. I thought I detected in your letter, Linda dear, a hint of fear that he might come back to me and that I might welcome him. If you have any such feeling in your heart, abandon it, child, because, while I try not to talk about myself, I do want to say that I rejoice in a family inheritance of legitimate pride. I couldn't give the finest loyalty and comradeship I had to give to a man, have it returned disdainfully, and then furbish up the pieces and present it over again. If I can patch those same pieces and so polish and refine them that I can make them, in the old phrase, "as good as new," possibly in time—but, Linda, one thing is certain as the hills of morning. Never in my life will any man make any headway with me again with vague suggestions and innuendoes and hints. If ever any man wants to be anything in my life, he will speak plainly and say what he wants and thinks and hopes and intends and feels in not more than two-syllable English. I learned my lesson about the futility of building your house of dreams on a foundation of sand. Next time I erect a dream house, it is going to have a proper foundation of solid granite. And that may seem a queer thing for me to say when you know that I am getting the joy in my life, that I do not hesitate to admit I am, from letters written by a man whose name I don't know. It may be that I don't know the man, but I certainly am very well acquainted with him, and in some way he seems to me to be taking on more definite form. I should not be surprised if I were to recognize him the first time I met him face to face.
Linda looked through the skylight and cried out to the stars: "Good heavens! Have I copied Peter too closely?"
She sat thinking a minute and then she decided she had not.
And in this connection you will want to know how I am progressing in my friendship with the junior partner, and what kind of motorist I am making. I am still driving twice a week, and lately on Sundays in a larger car, taking Dana and a newspaper friend of hers along. I think I have driven every hazard that this part of California affords except the mountains; Mr. Snow is still merciful about them.
Linda dear, I know what you're dying to know. You want to know whether Mr. Snow is in the same depths of mourning as when our acquaintance first began. This, my dear child, is very reprehensible of you. Young girls with braids down their backs—and by the way, Linda, you did not tell me what happened "after the ball was over." Did you go to school the next morning with braids down your back, or wearing your coronet? Because on that depends what I have to say to you now; if you went with braids, you're still my little girl chum, the cleanest, finest kid I have ever known; but if you wore your coronet, then you're a woman and my equal and my dearest friend, far dearer than Dana even; and I tell you this, Linda, because I want you always to understand that you come first.
I have tried and tried to visualize you, and can't satisfy my mind as to whether the braids are up or down. Going on the assumption that they are up, and that life may in the near future begin to hold some interesting experiences for you, I will tell you this, beloved child: I don't think Mr. Snow is mourning quite so deeply as he was. I have not been asked, the last four or five trips we have been on, to carry an armload of exquisite flowers to the shrine of a departed love. I have been privileged to take them home and arrange them in my room and Dana's. And I haven't heard so much talk about loneliness, and I haven't seen such tired, sad eyes. It seems to me that a familiar pair of shoulders are squaring up to the world again, and a very kind pair of eyes are brighter with interest. I don't know how you feel about this; I don't know how I feel about it myself. I am sure that Eugene Snow is a man who, in the years to come, would line up beside your father and mine, and I like him immensely. It is merely a case of not liking him less, but of liking my unknown man more. I couldn't quite commit the sacrilege, Linda dear, of sending you a sample of the letters I am receiving, but they are too fanciful and charming for any words of mine to describe adequately. I don't know who this man is, or what he has to offer, or whether he intends to offer anything, but it is a ridiculous fact, Linda, that I would rather sit with him in a chimney corner of field boulders, on a pine floor, with a palm roof and an Ocotillo candle, than to glow in the parchment-shielded electric light of the halls of a rich man. In a recent letter, Linda, there was a reference to a woman who wore "a diadem of crystallized light." It was a beautiful thing and I could not help taking it personally. It was his way of telling me that he knew me, and knew my tragedy; and, as I said before, I am beginning to feel that I have him rather definitely located; and I can understand the fine strain in him that prompted his anonymity, and his reasons for it. Of course I am not sufficiently confident yet to say anything definite, but my heart is beginning to say things that I sincerely hope my lips never will be forced to deny.
Linda laid down the letter, folded her hands across it, and once more looked at the stars.
"Good gracious!" she said. "I am tincturing those letters with too much Peter. I'll have to tone down a bit. Next thing I know she will be losing her chance with that wonderful Snow man for a dream. In my efforts to comfort her I must have gone too far. It is all right to write a gushy love letter and stuff it full of Peter's whimsical nonsense, but, in the language of the poet, how am I going to 'deliver the goods'? Of course that talk about Louise Whiting was all well enough. Equally, of course, I outlined and planted the brook and designed the bridge for Marian, whether she knows it or Peter knows it, or not. If they don't know it, it's about time they were finding it out. I think it's my job to visit Peter more frequently and see if I can't invent some way to make him see the light. I will give Katy a hint in the morning. Tomorrow evening I'll go up and have supper with him and see if he has another article in the stewpan. I like this work with Peter. I like having him make me dream dreams and see pictures. I like the punch and the virility he puts into my drawings. It's all right reproducing monkey flowers and lilies for pastime, but for serious business, for real life work, I would rather do Peter's brainstorming, heart-thrilling pictures than my merely pretty ones. On the subject of Peter, I must remember in the morning to take those old books he gave me to Donald. I believe that from one of them he is going to get the very material he needs to down the Jap in philosophy. And they are not text books which proves that Peter must have been digging into the subject and hunted them up in some second-hand store, or even sent away an order for them."
In the hall the next morning Linda stopped Donald and gave him the books. In the early stages of their friendship she had looked at him under half-closed lids and waited to see whether he intended stopping to say a word with her when they passed each other or came down the halls together. She knew that their acquaintance would be noted and commented upon, and she knew how ready the other girls would be to say that she was bold and forward, so she was careful to let Donald make the advances, until he had called to her so often, and had dug flowers and left his friends waiting at her door while he delivered them, that she felt free to address him as she chose. He had shown any interested person in the high school that he was her friend, that he was speaking to her exactly as he did to girls he had known from childhood. He was very popular among the boys and girls of his class and the whole school. His friendship, coming at the time of Linda's rebellion on the subject of clothes, had developed a tendency to bring her other friendships. Boys who never had known she was in existence followed Donald's example in stopping her to say a word now and then. Girls who had politely ignored her now found things to say; and several invitations she had not had leisure to accept had been sent to her for afternoon and evening entertainments among the young people. Linda had laid out for herself something of a task in deciding to be the mental leader of her class. There were good brains in plenty among the other pupils. It was only by work, concentration, and purpose, only by having a mind keenly alert, by independent investigation and introducing new points of view that she could hold her prestige. Up to the receipt of her letter containing the offer to publish her book she had been able rigorously to exclude from her mind the personality and the undertakings of Jane Meredith. She was Linda Strong in the high school and for an hour or two at her studies. She was Jane Meredith over the desert, through the canyons, beside the sea, in her Multiflores kitchen or in Katherine O'Donovan's. But this book offer opened a new train of thought, a new series of plans. She could see her way—thanks to her father she had the material in her mind and the art in her finger tips—to materialize what she felt would be even more attractive in book form than anything her editor had been able to visualize from her material. She knew herself, she knew her territory so minutely. Frequently she smiled when she read statements in her botanies as to where plants and vegetables could be found. She knew the high home of the rare and precious snow plant. She knew the northern limit of the strawberry cactus. She knew where the white sea swallow nested. She knew where the Monarch butterfly went on his winter migration. She knew where the trap-door spider, with cunning past the cunning of any other architect of Nature, built his small, round, silken-lined tower and hinged his trap door so cleverly that only he could open it from the outside. She had even sat immovable and watched him erect his house, and she would have given much to see him weave its silver lining.
Linda was fast coming to the place where she felt herself to be one in an interested group of fellow workers. She no longer gave a thought to what kind of shoes she wore. Other girls were beginning to wear the same kind. The legislatures of half a dozen states were passing laws regulating the height of heel which might be worn within their boundaries. Manufacturers were promising for the coming season that suitable shoes would be built for street wear and mountain climbing, for the sands of the sea and the sands of the desert, and the sheer face of canyons. The extremely long, dirt-sweeping skirts were coming up; the extremely short, immodest skirts were coming down. A sane and sensible wave seemed to be sweeping the whole country. Under the impetus of Donald Whiting's struggles to lead his classes and those of other pupils to lead theirs a higher grade of scholarship was beginning to be developed throughout the high school. Pupils were thinking less of what they wore and how much amusement they could crowd in, and more about making grades that would pass them with credit from year to year. The horrors of the war and the disorders following it had begun to impress upon the young brains growing into maturity the idea that soon it would be their task to take over the problems that were now vexing the world's greatest statesmen and its wisest and most courageous women. A tendency was manifesting itself among young people to equip themselves to take a worthy part in the struggles yet to come. Classmates who had looked with toleration upon Linda's common-sense shoes and plain dresses because she was her father's daughter, now looked upon her with respect and appreciation because she started so many interesting subjects for discussion, because she was so rapidly developing into a creature well worth looking at. Always she would be unusual because of her extreme height, her narrow eyes, her vivid coloring. But a greater maturity, a fuller figure, had come to be a part of the vision with which one looked at Linda. In these days no one saw her as she was. Even her schoolmates had fallen into the habit of seeing her as she would be in the years to come.
Thus far she had been able to keep her identities apart without any difficulty; but the book proposition was so unexpected, it was such a big thing to result from her modest beginning, that Linda realized that she must proceed very carefully, she must concentrate with all her might, else her school work would begin to suffer in favor of the book. Recently so many things had arisen to distract her attention. Many days she had not been able to keep Eileen's face off her geometry papers; and again she saw Gilman's, anxious and pain-filled. Sometimes she found herself lifting her eyes from tasks upon which she was concentrating with all her might, and with no previous thought whatever she was searching for Donald Whiting, and when she saw him, coming into muscular and healthful manhood, she returned to her work with more strength, deeper vision, a quiet, assured feeling around her heart. Sometimes, over the edge of Literature and Ancient History, Peter Morrison looked down at her with gravely questioning eyes and dancing imps twisting his mouth muscles, and Linda paused a second to figure upon what had become an old problem with her. Why did her wild-flower garden make Peter Morrison think of a graveyard? What was buried there besides the feet of her rare flowers? She had not as yet found the answer.
This day her thoughts were on Peter frequently because she intended to see him that night. She was going to share with him a supper of baked ham and beans and bread and butter and pickled onions and little nut cakes, still warm from Katy's oven. She was going to take Katy with her in order that she might see Peter Morrison's location and the house for his dream lady, growing at the foot of the mountain like a gay orchid homing on a forest tree. To Linda it was almost a miracle, the rapidity with which a house could be erected in California. In a few weeks' time she had seen a big cellar scooped out of the plateau, had seen it lined and rising to foundation height above the surface in solid concrete, faced outside with cracked boulders. She had seen a framework erected, a rooftree set, and joists and rafters and beams swinging into place. Fretworks of lead and iron pipe were running everywhere, and wires for electricity. Soon shingles and flooring would be going into place, and Peter said that when he had finished acrobatic performances on beams and girders and really stepped out on solid floors where he might tread without fear of breaking any of his legs, he would perform a Peacock Dance all by himself.
"Peter, you sound like a centipede," said Linda.
"Dear child," said Peter, "when I enter my front door and get to the back on two-inch footing, I positively feel that I have numerous legs, and I ache almost as badly in the fear that I shall break the two I have, as I should if they were really broken."
And then he added a few words on a subject of which he had not before spoken to Linda.
"It was like that in France. When we really got into the heat of things and the work was actually being done, we were not afraid: we were too busy; we were 'supermen.' The time when we were all legs and arms and head, and all of them were being blown away wholesale was when the shells whined over while we had a rest hour and were trying to sleep, or in the cold, dim dawn when we stumbled out stiff, hungry, and sleepy. It's not the REAL THING when it's really occurring that gets one. It's the devils of imagination tormenting the soul. There is only one thing in this world can happen to me that is really going to be as bad as the things I dream."
Linda looked down Lilac Valley, her eyes absently focusing on Katy busily setting supper on a store box in front of the garage. Then she looked at Peter.
"Mind telling?" she inquired lightly.
Peter looked at her speculatively.
"And would a man be telling his heart's best secret to a kid like you?" he asked.
"Now, I call that downright mean," said Linda. "Haven't you noticed that my braids are up? Don't you see a maturity and a dignity and a general matronliness apparent all over me today?"
"Matronliness" was too much for Peter. You could have heard his laugh far down the blue valley.
"That's good!" he cried.
"It is," agreed Linda. "It means that my braids are up to stay, so hereafter I'm a real woman."
She lingered over the word an instant, glancing whimsically at Peter, a trace of a smile on her lips, then she made her way down a slant declivity and presently returned with an entire flower plant, new to Peter and of unusual beauty.
"And because I am a woman I shall set my seal upon you," she said.
In the buttonhole of his light linen coat she placed a flower of satin face of purest gold, the five petals rounded, but sharply tipped, a heavy mass of silk stamens, pollen dusted in the heart. She pushed back the left side of his coat and taking one of the rough, hairy leaves of the plant she located it over Peter's heart, her slim, deft fingers patting down the leaf and flattening it out until it lay pasted smooth and tight. As she worked, she smiled at him challengingly. Peter knew he was experiencing a ceremony of some kind, the significance of which he must learn. It was the first time Linda had voluntarily touched him. He breathed lightly and held steady, lest he startle her.
"Lovely enough," he said, "to have come from the hills of the stars. Don't make me wait, Linda; help me to the interpretation."
"Buena Mujer," suggested Linda.
"Good woman," translated Peter.
Linda nodded, running a finger down the leaf over his heart.
"Because she sticks close to you," she explained. Then startled by the look in Peter's eyes, she cried in swift change: "Now we are all going to work for a minute. Katy's spreading the lunch. You take this pail and go to the spring for water and I shall tidy your quarters for you."
With the eye of experience Linda glanced over the garage deciding that she must ask for clean sheets for the cot and that the Salvation Army would like the heap of papers. Studying the writing table she heard a faint sound that untrained ears would have missed.
"Ah, ha, Ma wood mouse," said Linda, "nibbling Peter's dr. goods are you?"
Her cry a minute later answered the question. She came from the garage upon Katherine O'Donovan rushing to meet her, holding a man's coat at the length of her far-reaching arm.
"I wish you'd look at that pocket. I don't know how long this coat has been hanging there, but there is a nest of field mice in it," she said.
Katy promptly retreated to the improvised dining table, seated herself upon an end of it, and raised both feet straight into the air.
"Small help I'll be getting from you," said Linda laughingly.
She went to the edge of the declivity that cut back to the garage and with a quick movement reversed the coat catching it by the skirts and shaking it vigorously.
CHAPTER XXVII. The Straight and Narrow
This served exactly the purpose Linda had intended. It dislodged the mouse nest and dropped it three feet below her level, but it did something else upon which Linda had no time to count. It emptied every pocket in the coat and sent the contents scattering down the rough declivity.
"Oh my gracious!" gasped Linda. "Look what I have done! Katy, come help me quickly; I have to gather up this stuff; but it's no use; I'll have to take it to Peter and tell him. I couldn't put these things back in the pockets where his hand will reach for them, because I don't know which came from inside and which came from out."
Linda sprang down and began hastily gathering up everything she could see that had fallen from the coat pockets. She had almost finished when her fingers chanced upon a very soiled, befigured piece of paper whose impressed folds showed that it had been carried for some time in an inner pocket. As her fingers touched this paper her eyes narrowed, her breath came in a gasp. She looked at it a second, irresolute, then she glanced over the top of the declivity in the direction Peter had taken. He was standing in front of the building, discussing some matter with the contractor. He had not yet gone to the spring. Shielded by the embankment with shaking fingers Linda opened the paper barely enough to see that it was Marian's lost sheet of plans; but it was not as Marian had lost it. It was scored deeply here and there with heavy lines suggestive of alterations, and the margin was fairly covered with fine figuring. Linda did not know Peter Morrison's writing or figures. His articles had been typewritten and she had never seen his handwriting. She sat down suddenly on account of weakened knees, and gazed unseeingly down the length of Lilac Valley, her heart sick, her brain tormented. Suddenly she turned and studied the house.
"Before the Lord!" she gasped. "I THOUGHT there was something mighty familiar even about the skeleton of you! Oh, Peter, Peter, where did you get this, and how could you do it?"
For a while a mist blurred her eyes. She reached for the coat and started to replace the things she had gathered up, then she shut her lips tight.
"Best time to pull a tooth," she said tersely to a terra cotta red manzanita bush, "is when it aches."
When Peter returned from the spring he was faced by a trembling girl, colorless and trying hard to keep her voice steady. She held out the coat to him with one hand, the package of papers with the other, the folded drawing conspicuous on the top. With these she gestured toward the declivity.
"Mouse nest in your pocket, Peter," she said thickly. "Reversed the coat to shake it out, and spilled your stuff."
Then she waited for Peter to be confounded. But Peter was not in the faintest degree troubled about either the coat or the papers. What did trouble him was the face and the blazing eyes of the girl concerning whom he would not admit, even to himself, his exact state of feeling.
"The mouse did not get on you, Linda?" he asked anxiously.
Linda shook her head. Suddenly she lost her self-control.
"Oh, Peter," she wailed, "how could you do it?"
Peter's lean frame tensed suddenly.
"I don't understand, Linda," he said quietly. "Exactly what have I done?"
Linda thrust the coat and the papers toward him accusingly and stood there wordless but with visible pain in her dark eyes. peter smiled at her reassuringly.
"That's not my coat, you know. If there is anything distressing about it, don't lay it to me."
"Oh, Peter!" cried Linda, "tell the truth about it. Don't try any evasions. I am so sick of them."
A rather queer light sprang into Peter's eyes. He leaned forward suddenly and caught the coat from Linda's fingers.
"Well, if you need an alibi concerning this coat," he said, "I think I can furnish it speedily."
As he talked he whirled the garment around and shot his long arms into the sleeves. Shaking it into place on his shoulders, he slowly turned in front of Linda and the surprised Katy. The sleeves came halfway to his wrists and the shoulders slid down over his upper arms. He made such a quaint and ridiculous figure that Katy burst out laughing. She was very well trained, but she knew Linda was deeply distressed.
"Wake up, lambie!" she cried sharply. "That coat ain't belonging to Mr. Pater Morrison. That gairment is the property of that bug-catchin' architect of his."
Peter shook off the coat and handed it back to Linda.
"Am I acquitted?" he asked lightly; but his surprised eyes were searching her from braid to toe.
Linda turned from him swiftly. She thrust the packet into a side pocket and started to the garage with the coat. As she passed inside she slipped down her hand, slid the sheet of plans from the other papers, and slipped it into the front of her blouse. She hung the coat back where she had found it, then suddenly sat down on the side of Peter Morrison's couch, white and shaken. Peter thought he heard a peculiar gasp and when he strayed past the door, casually glancing inward, he saw what he saw, and it brought him to his knees beside Linda with all speed.
"Linda-girl," he implored, "what in this world has happened?"
Linda struggled to control her voice; but at last she buried her face in her hands and frankly emitted a sound that she herself would have described as "howling." Peter knelt back in wonder.
"Of all the things I ever thought about you, Linda," he said, "the one thing I never did think was that you were hysterical."
If there was one word in Linda's vocabulary more opprobrious than "nerves," which could be applied to a woman, it was "hysterics." The great specialist had admitted nerves; hysterics had no standing with him. Linda herself had no more use for a hysterical woman than she had for a Gila monster. She straightened suddenly, and in removing her hands from her face she laid one on each of Peter's shoulders.
"Oh, Peter," she wailed, "I am not a hysterical idiot, but I couldn't have stood it if that coat had been yours. Peter, I just couldn't have borne it!"
Peter held himself rigidly in the fear that he might disturb the hands that were gripping him.
"I see I have the job of educating these damned field mice as to where they may build with impunity," he said soberly.
But Linda was not to be diverted. She looked straight and deep into his eyes.
"Peter," she said affirmatively, "you don't know a thing about that coat, do you?"
"I do not," said Peter promptly.
"You never saw what was in its pockets, did you?"
"Not to my knowledge," answered Peter. "What was in the pockets, Linda?"
Linda thought swiftly. Peter adored his dream house. If she told him that the plans for it had been stolen by his architect, the house would be ruined for Peter. Anyone could see from the candor of his gaze and the lines that God and experience had graven on his face that Peter was without guile. Suddenly Linda shot her hands past Peter's shoulders and brought them together on the back of his neck. She drew his face against hers and cried: "Oh Peter, I would have been killed if that coat had been yours. I tell you I couldn't have endured it, Peter. I am just tickled to death!"
One instant she hugged him tight. If her lips did not brush his cheek, Peter deluded himself. Then she sprang up and ran from the garage. Later he took the coat from its nail, the papers from its pockets, and carefully looked them over. There was nothing among them that would give him the slightest clue to Linda's conduct. He looked again, penetratingly, searchingly, for he must learn from them a reason; and no reason was apparent. With the coat in one hand and the papers in the other he stepped outside.
"Linda," he said, "won't you show me? Won't you tell me? What is there about this to upset you?"
Linda closed her lips and shook her head. Once more Peter sought in her face, in her attitude the information he craved.
"Needn't tell me," he said, "that a girl who will face the desert and the mountains and the canyons and the sea is upset by a mouse."
"Well, you should have seen Katy sitting in the midst of our supper with her feet rigidly extended before her!" cried the girl, struggling to regain her composure. "Put back that coat and come to your supper. It's time for you to be fed now. The last workman has gone and we'll barely have time to finish nicely and show Katy your dream house before it's time to go."
Peter came and sat in the place Linda indicated. His mind was whirling. There was something he did not understand, but in her own time, in her own way, a girl of Linda's poise and self-possession would tell him what had occurred that could be responsible for the very peculiar things she had done. In some way she had experienced a shock too great for her usual self-possession. The hands with which she fished pickled onions from the bottle were still unsteady, and the corroboration Peter needed for his thoughts could be found in the dazed way in which Katy watched Linda as she hovered over her in serving her. But that was not the time. By and by the time would come. The thing to do was to trust Linda and await its coming. So Peter called on all the reserve wit and wisdom he had at command. He jested, told stories, and to Linda's satisfaction and Katy's delight, he ate his supper like a hungry man, frankly enjoying it, and when the meal was finished Peter took Katy over the house, explaining to her as much detail as was possible at that stage of its construction, while Linda followed with mute lips and rebellion surging in her heart. When leaving time came, while Katy packed the Bear Cat, Linda wandered across toward the spring, and Peter, feeling that possibly she might wish to speak with him, followed her. When he overtook her she looked at him straightly, her eyes showing the hurt her heart felt.
"Peter," she said, "that first night you had dinner with us, was Henry Anderson out of your presence one minute from the time you came into the house until you left it?"
Peter stopped and studied the ground at his feet intently. Finally he said conclusively: "I would go on oath, Linda, that he was not. We were all together in the living room, all together in the dining room. We left together at night and John was with us."
"I see," said Linda. "Well, then, when you came back the next morning after Eileen, before you started on your trip, to hunt a location, was he with you all the time?"
Again Peter took his time to answer.
"We came to your house with Gilman," he said. "John started to the front door to tell Miss Eileen that we were ready. I followed him. Anderson said he would look at the scenery. He must have made a circuit of the house, because when we came out ready to start, a very few minutes later, he was coming down the other side of the house."
"Ah," said Linda comprehendingly.
"Linda," said Peter quietly, "it is very obvious that something has worried you extremely. Am I in any way connected with it?"
Linda shook her head.
"Is there anything I can do?"
The negative was repeated. Then she looked at him.
"No, Peter," she said quietly, "I confess I have had a shock, but it is in no way connected with you and there is nothing you can do about it but forget my foolishness. But I am glad—Peter, you will never know how glad I am—that you haven't anything to do with it."
Then in the friendliest fashion imaginable she reached him her hand and led the way back to the Bear Cat, their tightly gripped hands swinging between them. As Peter closed the door he looked down on Linda.
"Young woman," he said, "since this country has as yet no nerve specialist to take the place of your distinguished father, if you have any waves to wave to me tonight, kindly do it before you start or after you reach the highway. If you take your hands off that steering wheel as you round the boulders and strike that declivity as I have seen you do heretofore, I won't guarantee that I shall not require a specialist myself."
Linda started to laugh, then she saw Peter's eyes and something in them stopped her suddenly.
"I did not realize that I was taking any risk," she said. "I won't do it again. I will say good-bye to you right here and now so I needn't look back."
So she shook hands with Peter and drove away. Peter slowly followed down the rough driveway, worn hard by the wheels of delivery trucks, and stood upon the highest point of the rocky turn, looking after the small gray car as it slid down the steep declivity. And he wondered if there could have been telepathy in the longing with which he watched it go, for at the level roadway that followed between the cultivated land out to the highway Linda stopped the car, stood up in it, and turning, looked back straight to the spot upon which Peter stood. She waved both hands to him, and then gracefully and beautifully, with outstretched, fluttering fingers she made him the sign of birds flying home. And with the whimsy in his soul uppermost, Peter reflected, as he turned back for a microscopic examination of Henry Anderson's coat and the contents of its pockets, that there was one bird above all others which made him think of Linda; but he could not at the moment feather Katherine O'Donovan. And then he further reflected as he climbed the hill that if it had to be done the best he could do would be a bantam hen contemplating domesticity.
Linda looked the garage over very carefully when she put away the Bear Cat. When she closed the garage doors she was particular about the locks. As she came through the kitchen she said to Katy, busy with the lunch box:
"Belovedest, have there been any strange Japs poking around here lately?"
She nearly collapsed when Katy answered promptly:
"A dale too many of the square-headed haythens. I am pestered to death with them. They used to come jist to water the lawn but now they want to crane the rugs; they want to do the wash. They are willing to crane house. They want to get into the garage; they insist on washing the car. If they can't wash it they jist want to see if it nades washin'."
Linda stood amazed.
"And how long has this been going on, Katy?" she finally asked.
"Well, I have had two good months of it," said Katy; "that is, it started two months ago. The past month has been workin' up and the last ten days it seemed to me they was a Jap on the back steps oftener than they was a stray cat, and I ain't no truck with ayther of them. They give me jist about the same falin'. Between the two I would trust the cat a dale further with my bird than I would the Jap."
"Have you ever unlocked the garage for them, Katy?" asked Linda.
"No," said Katy. "I only go there when I nade something about me work."
"Well, Katy," said Linda, "let me tell you this: the next time you go there for anything take a good look for Japs before you open the door. Get what you want and get out as quickly as possible and be sure, Katy, desperately sure, that you lock the door securely when you leave."
Katy set her hands on her hips, flared her elbows, and lifted her chin.
"What's any of them little haythen been coin' to scare ye, missy?" she demanded belligerently. "Don't you think I'm afraid of them! Comes any of them around me and I'll take my mopstick over the heads of them."
"And you'll break a perfectly good mopstick and not hurt the Jap when you do it," said Linda. "There's an undercurrent of something deep and subtle going on in this country right now, Katy. When Japan sends college professors to work in our kitchens and relatives of her greatest statesmen to serve our tables, you can depend on it she is not doing it for the money that is paid them. If California does not wake up very shortly and very thoroughly she is going to pay an awful price for the luxury she is experiencing while she pampers herself with the service of the Japanese, just as the South has pampered herself for generations with the service of the Negroes. When the Negroes learn what there is to know, then the day of retribution will be at hand. And this is not croaking, Katy. It is the truest gospel that was ever preached. Keep your eyes wide open for Japs. Keep your doors locked, and if you see one prowling around the garage and don't know what he is after, go to the telephone and call the police."
Linda climbed the stairs to her workroom, plumped down at the table, set her chin in her palms, and lost herself in thought. For half an hour she sat immovable, staring at her caricature of Eileen through narrowed lids. Then she opened the typewriter, inserted a sheet and wrote: