Part 4 out of 8
the back door.
"Can it possibly be, Katy," she asked, "that those men are
planning to begin work on my room so soon? I am scared out of
almost seven of my five senses. I had no idea they would be
ready to begin work until after I had my settlement with Eileen
or was paid for the books."
"Don't ye be worried," said Katy. "There's more in me stocking
than me leg, and you're as welcome to it as the desert is welcome
to rain, an' nadin' it 'most as bad."
"Anyway," said Linda, "it will surely take them long enough so
that I can pay by the time they finish."
But Linda was not figuring that back of the projected
improvements stood two men, each of whom had an extremely
personal reason for greatly desiring to please her. Peter
Morrison had secured a slab of sandstone. He had located a
marble cutter to whom he meant to carry it, and was spending much
thought that he might have been using on an article in trying to
hit upon exactly the right line or phrase to build in above
Linda's fire--something that would convey to her in a few words a
sense of friendship and beauty.
While Peter gazed at the unresponsive gray sandstone and wrote
line after line which he immediately destroyed, Henry Anderson
explored the mountain and came in, red faced and perspiring, from
miles of climbing with a bright stone in each hand, or took the
car to bring in small heaps too heavy to carry that he had
collected near the roads. They were two men striving for the
favor of the same girl. How Linda would have been amused had she
understood the situation, or how Eileen would have been provoked,
neither of the men knew nor did they care.
The workmen came after Linda left and went before her return.
Having been cautioned to silence, Katy had not told her when work
actually began; and so it happened that, going to her room one
evening, she unlocked the door and stepped inside to face the
completed fireplace. The firebox was not very large but ample.
The hearthstone was a big sheet of smooth gray sandstone. The
sides and top were Henry's collection of brilliant boulders,
carefully and artistically laid in blue mortar, and over the
firebox was set Peter's slab of gray sandstone. On it were four
deeply carved lines. The quaint Old English lettering was filled
even to the surface with a red mortar, while the capitals were
done in dull blue. The girl slowly read:
Voiceless stones, with Flame-tongues Preach Sermons struck
from Nature's Lyre; Notes of Love and Trust and Hope Hourly
sing in Linda's Fire.
In the firebox stood a squat pair of black andirons, showing age
and usage. A rough eucalyptus log waited across them while the
shavings from the placing of the mantel and the cutting of the
windows were tucked beneath it. Linda stood absorbed a minute.
She looked at the skylight, flooding the room with the light she
so needed coming from the right angle. She went over to the new
window that gave her a view of the length of the valley she loved
and a most essential draft. When she turned back to the
fireplace her hands were trembling.
"Now isn't that too lovely of them?" she said softly. "Isn't
that altogether wonderful? How I wish Daddy were here to sit
beside my fire and share with me the work I hope to do here."
In order to come as close to him as possible she did the next
best thing. She sat down at her table and wrote a long letter to
Marian, telling her everything she could think of that would
interest her. Then she re-read with extreme care the letter she
had found at the Post Office that day in reply to the one she had
written Marian purporting to come from an admirer. Writing
slowly and thinking deeply, she answered it. She tried to
imagine that she was Peter Morrison and she tried to say the
things in that letter that she thought Peter would say in the
circumstances, because she felt sure that Marian would be
entertained by such things as Peter would say. When she
finished, she read it over carefully, and then copied it with
equal care on the typewriter, which she had removed to her
When she heard Katy's footstep outside her door, she opened it
and drew her in, slipping the bolt behind her. She led her to
the fireplace and recited the lines.
"Now ain't they jist the finest gentlemen?" said Katy. "Cut
right off of a piece of the same cloth as your father. Now some
way we must get together enough money to get ye a good-sized rug
for under your worktable, and then ye've got to have two bits of
small ones, one for your hearthstone and one for your aisel; and
then ye're ready, colleen, to show what ye can do. I'm so proud
of ye when I think of the grand secret it's keepin' for ye I am;
and less and less are gettin' me chances for the salvation of me
soul, for every night I'm a-sittin' starin' at the magazines ye
gave me when I ought to be tellin' me beads and makin' me
devotions. Ain't it about time the third was comin' in?"
"Any day now," said Linda in a whisper. "And, Katy, you'll be
careful? That editor must think that 'Jane Meredith' is full of
years and ripe experience. I probably wouldn't get ten cents, no
not even a for-nothing chance, if he knew those articles were
written by a Junior."
"Junior nothing!" scoffed Katy. "There was not a day of his life
that your pa did not spend hours drillin' ye in things the rest
of the girls in your school never heard of. 'Tain't no
high-school girl that's written them articles. It's Alexander
Strong speakin' through the medium of his own flesh and blood."
"Why, so it is, Katy!" cried Linda delightedly. "You know, I
never thought of that. I have been so egoistical I thought I was
doing them myself."
"Paid ye anything yet?" queried Katy.
"No," said Linda, "they haven't. It seems that the amount of
interest the articles evoke is going to decide what I am to be
paid for them, but they certainly couldn't take the recipe and
the comments and the sketch for less than twenty-five or thirty
dollars, unless recipes are like poetry. Peter said the other
day that if a poet did not have some other profession to support
him, he would starve to death on all he was paid for writing the
most beautiful things that ever are written in all this world.
Peter says even an effort to write a poem is a beautiful thing."
"Well, maybe that used to be the truth," said Katy as she started
toward the door, "but I have been reading some things labeled
'poetry' in the magazines of late, and if the holy father knows
what they mean, he's even bigger than ever I took him to be."
"Katy," said Linda, "we are dreadful back numbers. We are
letting this world progress and roll right on past us without a
struggle. We haven't either one been to a psychoanalyst to find
out the color of our auras."
"Now God forbid," said Katy. "I ain't going to have one of them
things around me. The colors I'm wearin' satisfy me entoirely."
"And mine are going to satisfy me very shortly, now," laughed
Linda, "because tomorrow is my big day with Eileen. Next time we
have a minute together, old dear, I'll have started my bank
"Right ye are," said Katy, "jist exactly right. You're getting
such a great girl it's the proper thing ye should be suitably
dressed, and don't ye be too modest."
"The unfortunate thing about that, Katy, is that l intimated the
other day that I would be content with less than half, since she
is older and she should have her chance first."
"Now ain't that jist like ye?" said Katy. "I might have known ye
would be doing that very thing."
"After I have gone over the accounts," said Linda, "I'll know
better what to demand. Now fly to your cooking, Katy, and let me
sit down at this table and see if I can dig out a few dollars of
honest coin; but I'm going to have hard work to keep my eves on
the paper with that fireplace before me. Isn't that red and blue
lettering the prettiest thing, Katy, and do you notice that tiny
'P. M.' cut down in the lower left-hand corner nearly out of
sight? That, Katy, stands for 'Peter Morrison,' and one of these
days Peter is going to be a large figure on the landscape. The
next Post he has an article in I'll buy for you."
"It never does," said Katy, "to be makin' up your mind in this
world so hard and fast that ye can't change it. In the days
before John Gilman got bewitched out of his senses I did think,
barrin' your father, that he was the finest man the Lord ever
made; but I ain't thought so much of him of late as I did
"Same holds good for me," said Linda.
"I've studied this Peter," continued Katy, "like your pa used to
study things under his microscope. He's the most come-at-able
man. He's got such a kind of a questionin' look on his face, and
there's a bit of a stoop to his shoulders like they had been
whittled out for carryin' a load, and there's a kind of a whimsy
quiverin' around his lips that makes me heart stand still every
time he speaks to me, because I can't be certain whether he is
going to make me laugh or going to make me cry, and when what
he's sayin' does come with that little slow drawl, I can't be
just sure whether he's meanin' it or whether he's jist pokin' fun
at me. He said the quarest thing to me the other day when he was
here fiddlin' over the makin' of this fireplace. He was standin'
out beside your desert garden and I come aven with him and I says
to him: 'Them's the rare plants Miss Linda and her pa have been
goin' to the deserts and the canyons, as long as he lived, to
fetch in; and then Miss Linda went alone, and now the son of
Judge Whiting, the biggest lawyer in Los Angeles, has begun goin'
with her. Ain't it the brightest, prettiest place?' I says to
him. And he stood there lookin', and he says to me: 'No, Katy,
that is a graveyard.' Now what in the name of raison was the man
meanin' by that?"
Linda stared at the hearth motto reflectively.
"A graveyard!" she repeated. "Well, if anything could come
farther from a graveyard than that spot, I don't know how it
would do it. I haven't the remotest notion what he meant. Why
didn't you ask him?"
"Well, the truth is," said Katy, "that I proide myself on being
able to kape me mouth shut when I should."
"I'll leave to think over it," said Linda. "At present I have no
more idea than you in what respect my desert garden could
resemble a graveyard. Oh! yes, there's one thing I wanted to ask
you, Katy. Has Eileen been around while this room was being
"She came in yesterday," answered Katy, "when the hammerin' and
sawin' was goin' full blast."
"What I wanted to find out'" said Linda, "was whether she had
been here and seen this room or not, because if she hasn't and
she wants to see it, now is her time. After I get things going
here and these walls are covered with drying sketches this room
is going to be strictly private. You see that you keep your key
where nobody gets hold of it."
"It's on a string round me neck this blessed minute," said Katy.
"I didn't see her come up here, but ye could be safe in bettin'
anything ye've got that she came."
"Yes, I imagine she did," said Linda. "She would be sufficiently
curious that she would come to learn how much I have spent if she
had no other interest in me."
She looked at the fireplace reflectively.
"I wonder," she said, "what Eileen thought of that and I wonder
if she noticed that little 'P. M.' tucked away down there in the
"Sure she did," said Katy. "She has got eyes like a cat. She
can see more things in a shorter time than anybody I ever knew."
So that evening at dinner Linda told Eileen that the improvements
she had made for her convenience in the billiard room were
finished, and asked her if she would like to see them.
"I can't imagine what you want to stick yourself off up there
alone for," said Eileen. "I don't believe I am sufficiently
interested in garret skylights and windows to climb up to look at
them. What everybody in the neighborhood can see is that you
have absolutely ruined the looks of the back part of the house."
"Good gracious!" said Linda. "Have I? You know I never thought
"Of course! But all you've got to do is go on the cast lawn and
take a look at that side and the back end of the house to see
what you have done," said Eileen. "Undoubtedly you've cut the
selling price of the house one thousand, at least. But it's
exactly like you not to have thought of what chopping up the roof
and the end of the house as you have done, would make it look
like. You have got one of those single-track minds, Linda, that
can think of only one thing at a time, and you never do think,
when you start anything, of what the end is going to be."
"Very likely there's a large amount of truth in that," said Linda
soberly. "Perhaps I do get an idea and pursue it to the
exclusion of everything else. It's an inheritance from Daddy,
this concentrating with all my might on one thing at a time. But
I am very sorry if I have disfigured the house."
"What I want to know," said Eileen, "is how in this world, at
present wages and cost of material, you're expecting to pay men
for the work you have had done."
"I can talk more understandingly about that," said Linda quietly,
"day after tomorrow. I'll get home from school tomorrow as early
as I can, and then we'll figure out our financial situation
Eileen made no reply.
CHAPTER XVI. Producing the Evidence
When Linda hurried home the next evening, her first word to Katy
was to ask if Eileen were there.
"No, she isn't here," said Katy, "and she's not going to be."
"Not going to be!" cried Linda, her face paling perceptibly.
"She went downtown this morning and she telephoned me about three
sayin' she had an invoitation to go with a motor party to
Pasadena this afternoon, an' she wasn't knowin' whether she could
get home the night or not."
"I don't like it," said Linda. "I don't like it at all."
She liked it still less when Eileen came home for a change of
clothing the following day, and again went to spend the night
with a friend, without leaving any word whatever.
"I don't understand this," said Linda, white lipped and tense.
"She does not want to see me. She does not intend to talk
business with me if she can possibly help it. She is treating me
as if I were a four-year-old instead of a woman with as much
brain as she has. If she appears while I am gone tomorrow and
starts away again, you tell her Come to think of it, you needn't
tell her anything; I'll give you a note for her."
So Linda sat down and wrote:
It won't be necessary to remind you of our agreement night before
last to settle on an allowance from Father's estate for me. Of
course I realize that you are purposely avoiding seeing me, for
what reason I can't imagine; but I give you warning, that if you
have been in this house and have read this note, and are not here
with your figures ready to meet me when I get home tomorrow
night, I'll take matters into my own hands, and do exactly what I
think best without the slightest reference to what you think
about it. If you don't want something done that you will
dislike, even more than you dislike seeing me, you had better
heed this warning.
She read it over slowly: "My, that sounds melodramatic!" she
commented. "It's even got a threat in it, and it's a funny thing
to threaten my own sister. I don't think that it's a situation
that occurs very frequently, but for that matter I sincerely hope
that Eileen isn't the kind of sister that occurs frequently."
Linda went up to her room and tried to settle herself to work,
but found that it was impossible to fix her attention on what she
was doing. Her mind jumped from one thing to another in a way
that totally prohibited effective work of any kind. A sudden
resolve came into her heart. She would not wait any longer. She
would know for herself just how she was situated financially.
She wrote a note to the editor of Everybody's Home, asking him if
it would be convenient to let her know what reception her work
was having with his subscribers, whether he desired her to
continue the department in his magazines, and if so, what was the
best offer he could make her for the recipes, the natural history
comments accompanying them, and the sketches. Then she went down
to the telephone book and looked up the location of the
Consolidated Bank. She decided that she would stop there on her
way from school the next day and ask to be shown the Strong
While she was meditating these heroic measures the bell rang and
Katy admitted John Gilman. Strangely enough, he was asking for
Linda, not for Eileen. At the first glimpse of him Linda knew
that something was wrong; so without any prelude she said
abruptly: "What's the matter, John? Don't you know where I
Eileen is either?"
"Approximately," he answered. "She has 'phoned me two or three
times, but I haven't seen her for three days. Do you know where
she is or exactly why she is keeping away from home as she is?"
"Yes," said Linda, "I do. I told you the other day the time had
come when I was going to demand a settlement of Father's estate
and a fixed income. That time came three days ago and I have not
seen Eileen since."
They entered the living room. As Linda passed the table, propped
against a candlestick on it, she noticed a note addressed to
"Oh, here will be an explanation," she said. "Here is a note for
me. Sit down a minute till I read it."
She seated herself on the arm of a chair, tore open the note, and
instantly began reading aloud.
"Dear little sister--"
"Pathetic," interpolated Linda, "in consideration of the fact
that I am about twice as big as she is. However, we'll let that
go, and focus on the enclosure." She waved a slender slip of
paper at Gilman. "I never was possessed of an article like this
before in all my tender young life, but it seems to me that it's
a cheque, and I can't tell you quite how deeply it amuses me.
But to return to business, at the present instant I am:
DEAR LITTLE SISTER:
It seems that all the friends I have are particularly insistent
on seeing me all at once and all in a rush. I don't think I ever
had quite so many invitations at one time in my life before, and
the next two or three days seem to be going to be equally as
full. But I took time to run into the bank and go over things
carefully. I find that after the payment of taxes and insurance
and all the household expenses, that by wearing old clothes I
have and making them over I can afford to turn over at least
seventy-five dollars a month to you for your clothing and
personal expenses. As I don't know exactly when I can get home,
I am enclosing a cheque which is considerably larger than I had
supposed I could make it, and I can only do this by skimping
myself; but of course you are getting such a big girl and
beginning to attract attention, so it is only right that you
should have the very best that I can afford to do for you. I am
not taking the bill from The Mode into consideration. I paid
that with last month's expenses.
Linda held the letter in one hand, the cheque in the other, and
stared questioningly at John Gilman.
"What do you think of that?" she inquired tersely.
"It seems to me," said Gilman, "that a more pertinent question
would be, what do you think of it?"
"Rot!" said Linda tersely. "If I were a stenographer in your
office I would think that I was making a fairly good start; but I
happen to be the daughter of Alexander Strong living in my own
home with my only sister, who can afford to flit like the
flittingest of social butterflies from one party to another as
well dressed as, and better dressed than, the Great General
Average. You have known us, John, ever since Eileen sat in the
sun to dry her handmade curls, while I was leaving a piece of my
dress on every busk in Multiflores Canyon. Right here and now I
am going to show you something!"
Linda started upstairs, so John Gilman followed her. She went to
the door of Eileen's suite and opened it.
"Now then," she said, "take a look at what Eileen feels she can
afford for herself. You will observe she has complete and
exquisite furnishings and all sorts of feminine accessories on
her dressing table. You will observe that she has fine rugs in
her dressing room and bathroom. Let me call your attention to
the fact that all these drawers are filled with expensive
comforts and conveniences."
Angrily Linda began to open drawers filled with fancy feminine
apparel, daintily and neatly folded, everything in perfect order:
gloves, hose, handkerchiefs, ribbons, laces, all in separate
compartments She pointed to the high chiffonier, the top
decorated with candlesticks and silver-framed pictures. Here the
drawers revealed heaps of embroidered underclothing and silken
garments. Then she walked to the closet and threw the door wide.
She pushed hangers on their rods, sliding before the perplexed
and bewildered man dress after dress of lace and georgette,
walking suits of cloth, street dresses of silk, and pretty
afternoon gowns, heavy coats, light coats, a beautiful evening
coat. Linda took this down and held it in front of John Gilman.
"I see things marked in store windows," she said. "Eileen paid
not a penny less than three hundred for this one coat. Look at
the rows of shoes, and pumps, and slippers, and what that box is
or I don't know."
Linda slid to the light a box screened by the hanging dresses,
and with the toe of her shoe lifted the lid, disclosing a
complete smoking outfit--case after case of cigarettes. Linda
dropped the lid and shoved the box back. She stood silent a
second, then she looked at John Gilman.
"That is the way things go in this world," she said quietly.
"Whenever you lose your temper, you always do something you
didn't intend to do when you started. I didn't know that, and I
wouldn't have shown it to you purposely if I had known it; but it
doesn't alter the fact that you should know it. If you did know
it no harm's done but if you didn't know it, you shouldn't be
allowed to marry Eileen without knowing as much about her as you
did about Marian, and there was nothing about Marian that you
didn't know. I am sorry for that, but since I have started this
I am going through with it. Now give me just one minute more."
Then she went down the hall, threw open the door to her room, and
walking in said: "You have seen Eileen's surroundings; now take
a look at mine. There's my bed; there's my dresser and toilet
articles; and this is my wardrobe."
She opened the closet door and exhibited a pair of overalls in
which she watered her desert garden. Next ranged her khaki
breeches and felt hat. Then hung the old serge school dress,
beside it the extra skirt and orange blouse. The stack of
underclothing on the shelves was pitifully small, visibly
dilapidated. Two or three outgrown gingham dresses hung
forlornly on the opposite wall. Linda stood tall and straight
before John Gilman.
"What I have on and one other waist constitute my wardrobe," she
said, "and I told Eileen where to get this dress and suggested it
before I got it."
Gilman looked at her in a dazed fashion.
"I don't understand," he said slowly. "If that isn't the dress I
saw Eileen send up for herself, I'm badly mistaken. It was the
Saturday we went to Riverside. It surely is the very dress."
Linda laughed bleakly.
"That may be," she said. "The one time she ever has any respect
for me is in a question of taste. She will agree that I know
when colors are right and a thing is artistic. Now then, John,
you are the administrator of my father's estate; you have seen
what you have seen. What are you going to do about it?"
"Linda," he said quietly, "what my heart might prompt me to do in
consideration of the fact that I am engaged to marry Eileen, and
what my legal sense tells me I must do as executor of your
father's wishes, are different propositions. I am going to do
exactly what you tell me to. What you have shown me, and what
I'd have realized, if I had stopped to think, is neither right
Then Linda took her tun at deep thought.
"John," she said at last, "I am feeling depressed over what I
have just done. I am not sure that in losing my temper and
bringing you up here I have played the game fairly. You don't
need to do anything. I'll manage my affairs with Eileen myself.
But I'll tell you before you go, that you needn't practice any
subterfuges. When she reaches the point where she is ready to
come home, I'll tell her that you were here, and what you have
seen. That is the best I can do toward squaring myself with my
Slowly they walked down the ha]l together. At the head of the
stairs Linda took the cheque that she carried and tore it into
bits. Stepping across the hall, she let the little heap slowly
flutter to the rug in front of Eileen's door. Then she went back
to her room and left John Gilman to his own reflections.
CHAPTER XVII. A Rock and a Flame
The first time Linda entered the kitchen after her interview with
Gilman, Katy asked in deep concern, "Now what ye been doing,
"Doing the baby act, Katy," confessed Linda. "Disgracing myself.
Losing my temper. I wish I could bring myself to the place where
I would think half a dozen times before I do a thing once."
"Now look here," said Katy, beginning to bristle, "ain't it the
truth that ye have thought for four years before ye did this
"Quite so," said Linda. "But since I am the daughter of the
finest gentleman I ever knew, I should not do hasty, regrettable
things. On the living-room table I found a note sweeter than
honey, and it contained a cheque for me that wouldn't pay
Eileen's bills for lunches, candy, and theaters for a month; so
in undue heat I reduced it to bits and decorated the rug before
her door. But before that, Katy, I led my guardian into the
room, and showed him everything. I meant to tell him that, since
he had neglected me for four years, he could see that I had
justice now, but when I'd personally conducted him from Eileen's
room to mine, and when I took a good look at him there was
something on his face, Katy, that I couldn't endure. So I told
him to leave it to me; that I would tell Eileen myself what I had
done, and so I will. But I am sorry I did it, Katy; I am awfully
sorry. You always told me to keep my temper and I lost it
completely. From now on I certainly will try to behave myself
more like a woman than a spoiled child. Now give me a dust cloth
and brushes. I am almost through with my job in the library and
I want to finish, because I shall be forced to use the money from
the books to pay for my skylight and fireplace."
Linda went to the library and began work, efficiently, carefully,
yet with a precise rapidity habitual to her. Down the long line
of heavy technical books, she came to the end of the shelf.
Three books from the end she noticed a difference in the wall
behind the shelf. Hastily removing the other two volumes, she
disclosed a small locked door having a scrap of paper protruding
from the edge which she pulled out and upon which she read:
In the event of my passing, should anyone move these books and
find this door, these lines are to inform him that it is to
remain untouched. The key to it is in my safety-deposit vault at
the Consolidated Bank. The Bank will open the door and attend to
the contents of the box at the proper time.
Linda fixed the paper back exactly as she had found it. She
stood looking at the door a long time, then she carefully wiped
it, the wall around it, and the shelf. Going to another shelf,
she picked out the books that had been written by her father and,
beginning at the end of the shelf, she ranged them in a row until
they completely covered the opening. Then she finished filling
the shelf with other books that she meant to keep, but her brain
was working, milling over and over the question of what that
little compartment contained and when it was to be opened and
whether John Gilman knew about it, and whether the Consolidated
Bank would remember the day specified, and whether it would mean
anything important to her.
She carried the dusters back to Katy, and going to her room,
concentrated resolutely upon her work; but she Was unable to do
anything constructive. Her routine lessons she could prepare,
but she could not even sketch a wild rose accurately. Finally
she laid down her pencil, washed her brushes, put away her
material, and locking her door, slipped the key into her pocket.
Going down to the garage she climbed into the Bear Cat and headed
straight for Peter Morrison. She drove into his location and
blew the horn. Peter stepped from the garage, and seeing her,
started in her direction. Linda sprang down and hurried toward
him. He looked at her intently as she approached and formed his
"Sort of restless," said Linda. "Couldn't evolve a single new
idea with which to enliven the gay annals of English literature
and Greek history. A personal history seems infinitely more
insistent and unusual. I ran away from my lessons, and my work,
and came to you, Peter, because I had a feeling that there was
something you could give me, and I thought you would."
Peter smiled a slow curious smile.
"I like your line of thought, Linda," he said quietly. "It
greatly appeals to me. Any time an ancient and patriarchal
literary man named Peter Morrison can serve as a rock upon which
a young thing can rest, why he'll be glad to be that rock."
"What were you doing?" asked Linda abruptly.
"Come and see," said Peter.
He led the way to the garage. His worktable and the cement floor
around it were littered with sheets of closely typed paper.
"I'll have to assemble them first," said Peter, getting down on
his knees and beginning to pick them up.
Linda sat on a packing case and watched him. Already she felt
comforted. Of course Peter was a rock, of course anyone could
trust him, and of course if the tempest of life beat upon her too
strongly she could always fly to Peter.
"May I?" she inquired, stretching her hand in the direction of a
"Sure," said Peter.
"What is it?" inquired Linda lightly. "The bridge or the road or
"Gad!" he said slowly. "Don't talk about me being a rock! Rocks
are stolid, stodgy unresponsive things. I thought I was
struggling with one of the biggest political problems of the day
from an economic and psychological standpoint. If I'd had sense
enough to realize that it was a bridge I was building, I might
have done the thing with some imagination and subtlety. If you
want a rock and you say I am a rock, a rock I'll be, Linda. But
I know what you are, and what you will be to me when we really
become the kind of friends we are destined to be."
"I wonder now," said Linda, "if you are going to say that I could
be any such lovely thing on the landscape as a bridge."
"No," said Peter slowly, "nothing so prosaic. Bridges are common
in this world. You are going to be something uncommon. History
records the experiences of but one man who has seen a flame in
the open. I am a second Moses and you are going to be my burning
bush. I intended to read this article to you."
Peter massed the sheets, straightened them on the desk, and
deliberately ripped them across several times. Linda sprang to
her feet and stretched out her hands.
"Why, Peter!" she cried in a shocked voice. "That is perfectly
inexcusable. There are hours and hours of work on that, and I
have not a doubt but that it was good work."
"Simple case of mechanism," said Peter, reducing the bits to
smaller size and dropping them into the empty nail keg that
served as his wastebasket. "A lifeless thing without a soul,
mere clockwork. I have got the idea now. I am to build a bridge
and make a road. Every way I look I can see a golden-flame
tongue of inspiration burning. I'll rewrite that thing and
animate it. Take me for a ride, Linda."
Linda rose and walked to the Bear Cat. Peter climbed in and sat
beside her. Linda laid her hands on the steering wheel and
started the car. She ran it down to the highway and chose a
level road leading straight down the valley through cultivated
country. In all the world there was nothing to equal the
panorama that she spread before Peter that evening. She drove
the Bear Cat past orchards, hundreds of acres of orchards of
waxen green leaves and waxen white bloom of orange, grapefruit,
and lemon. She took him where seas of pink outlined peach
orchards, and other seas the more delicate tint of the apricots.
She glided down avenues lined with palm and eucalyptus, pepper
and olive, and through unbroken rows, extending for miles, of
roses, long stretches of white, again a stretch of pink, then
salmon, yellow, and red. Nowhere in all the world are there to
be found so many acres of orchard bloom and so many miles of
tree-lined, rose-decorated roadway as in southern California.
She sent the little car through the evening until she felt that
it was time to go home, and when at last she stopped where they
had started, she realized that neither she nor Peter had spoken
one word. As he stepped from the car she leaned toward him and
reached out her hand.
"Thank you for the fireplace, Peter," she said.
Peter took the hand she extended and held it one minute in both
his own. Then very gently he straightened it out in the palm of
one of his hands and with the other hand turned back the fingers
and laid his lips to the heart of it.
"Thank you, Linda, for the flame," he said, and turning abruptly,
he went toward his workroom.
Stopping for a bite to eat in the kitchen, Linda went back to her
room. She sat down at the table and picking up her pencil, began
to work, and found that she could work. Every stroke came true
and strong. Every idea seemed original and unusual. Quite as
late as a light ever had shone in her window, it shone that
night, the last thing she did being to write another anonymous
letter to Marian, and when she reread it Linda realized that it
was an appealing letter. She thought it certainly would comfort
Marian and surely would make her feel that someone worth while
was interested in her and in her work. She loved some of the
whimsical little touches she had put into it, and she wondered if
she had made it so much like Peter Morrison that it would be
suggestive of him to Marian. She knew that she had no right to
do that and had no such intention. She merely wanted a model to
copy from and Peter seemed the most appealing model at hand.
After school the next day Linda reported that she had finished
going through the books and was ready to have them taken. Then,
after a few minutes of deep thought, she made her way to the
Consolidated Bank. At the window of the paying teller she
explained that she wished to see the person connected with the
bank who had charge of the safety-deposit boxes and who looked
after the accounts pertaining to the estate of Alexander Strong.
The teller recognized the name. He immediately became
"I'll take you to the office of the president," he said. "He and
Doctor Strong were very warm friends. You can explain to him
what it is you want to know."
Before she realized what was happening, Linda found herself in an
office that was all mahogany and marble. At a huge desk stacked
with papers sat a man, considerably older than her father. Linda
remembered to have seen him frequently in their home, in her
father's car, and she recalled one fishing expedition to the
Tulare Lake region where he had been a member of her father's
"Of course you have forgotten me, Mr. Worthington," she said as
she approached his desk. "I have grown such a tall person during
the past four years."
The white-haired financier rose and stretched out his hand.
"You exact replica of Alexander Strong," he said laughingly, "I
couldn't forget you any more than I could forget your father.
That fine fishing trip where you proved such a grand little scout
is bright in my memory as one of my happiest vacations. Sit down
and tell me what I can do for you."
Linda sat down and told him that she was dissatisfied with the
manner in which her father's estate was being administered.
He listened very carefully to all she had to say, then he pressed
a button and gave a few words of instruction to the clerk who
answered it. When several ledgers and account books were laid
before him, with practiced hand he turned to what he wanted. The
records were not complicated. They covered a period of four
years. They showed exactly what monies had been paid into the
bank for the estate. They showed what royalties had been paid on
the books. Linda sat beside him and watched his pencil running
up and down columns, setting down a list of items, and making
everything plain. Paid cheques for household expenses I and
drygoods bills were all recorded and deducted. With narrow,
alert eyes, Linda was watching, and her brain was keenly alive.
As she realized the discrepancy between the annual revenue from
the estate and the totaling of the expenses, she had an
inspiration. Something she never before had thought of occurred
to her. She looked the banker in the eye and said very quietly:
"And now, since she is my sister and I am going to be of age very
shortly and these things must all be gone into and opened up,
would it be out of place for me to ask you this afternoon to let
me have a glimpse at the private account of Miss Eileen Strong?"
The banker drew a deep breath and looked at Linda keenly.
"That would not be customary," he said slowly.
"No?" said Linda. "But since Father and Mother went out at the
same time and there was no will and the property would be legally
divided equally between us upon my coming of age, would my sister
be entitled to a private account?"
"Had she any sources of obtaining money outside the estate?"
"No," said Linda. "At least none that I know of. Mother had I
some relatives in San Francisco who were very wealthy people, but
they never came to see us and we never went there. I know
nothing about them. I never had any money from them and I am
quite sure Eileen never had."
Linda sat very quietly a minute and then she looked at the
"Mr. Worthington," she said, "the situation is slightly peculiar.
My guardian, John Gilman, is engaged to marry my sister Eileen.
She is a beautiful girl, as you no doubt recall, and he is very
much in love with her. Undoubtedly she has been able, at least
recently, to manage affairs very much in her own way. She is
more than four years my senior, and has always had charge of the
household accounts and the handling of the bank accounts. Since
there is such a wide discrepancy between the returns from the
property and the expenses that these books show, I am forced .o
the conclusion that there must be upon your books, or the books
of some other bank in the city, a private account in Eileen's
name or in the name of the Strong estate."
"That I can very easily ascertain," said Mr. Worthington,
reaching again toward the button on his desk. A few minutes
later the report came that there was a private account in the
name of Miss Eileen Strong. Again Linda was deeply thoughtful.
"Is there anything I can do," she inquired, "to prevent that
account from being changed or drawn out previous to my coming of
Then Mr. Worthington grew thoughtful.
"Yes," he said at last. "If you are dissatisfied, if you feel
that you have reason to believe that money rightfully belonging
to you is being diverted to other channels, you have the right to
issue an injunction against the bank, ordering it not to pay out
any further money on any account nor to honor any cheques drawn
by Miss Strong until the settlement of the estate. Ask your
guardian to execute and deliver such an injunction, or merely ask
him, as your guardian and the administrator of the estate, to
give the bank a written order to that effect."
"But because he is engaged to Eileen, I told him I would not
bring him into this matter," said Linda. "I told him that I
would do what I wanted done, myself."
"Well, how long is it until this coming birthday of yours?"
inquired Mr. Worthington.
"Less than two weeks," answered Linda.
For a time the financier sat in deep thought, then he looked at
Linda. It was a keen, searching look. It went to the depths of
her eyes; it included her face and hair; it included the folds of
her dress, the cut of her shoe, and rested attentively on the
slender hands lying quietly in her lap.
"I see the circumstances very clearly," he said. "I sympathize
with your position. Having known your father and being well
acquainted with your guardian, would you be satisfied if I should
take the responsibility of issuing to the clerks an order not to
allow anything to be drawn from the private account until the
settlement of the estate?"
"Perfectly satisfied," said Linda.
"It might be," said Mr. Worthington, "managing matters i that
way, that no one outside of ourselves need ever know of il Should
your sister not draw on the private account in the mean time, she
would be free to draw household cheques on the monthly income and
if in the settlement of the estate she turns in this private
account or accounts, she need never know of the restriction
concerning this fund."
"Thank you very much," said Linda. "That will fix everything
On her way to the street car, Linda's brain whirled.
"It's not conceivable," she said, "that Eileen should be
enriching herself at my expense. I can't imagine her being
dishonest in money affairs, and yet I can recall scarcely a
circumstance in life in which Eileen has ever hesitated to be
dishonest when a lie served her purpose better than the truth.
Anyway, matters are safe now."
The next day the books were taken and a cheque for their value
was waiting for Linda when she reached home. She cashed this
cheque and went straight to Peter Morrison for his estimate of
the expenses for the skylight and fireplace. When she asked for
the bill Peter hesitated.
"You wouldn't accept this little addition to your study as a gift
from Henry and me?" he asked lightly. "It would be a great
pleasure to us if you would."
"I could accept stones that Henry Anderson had gathered from the
mountains and canyons, and I could accept a verse carved on
stone, and be delighted with the gift; but I couldn't accept
hours of day labor at the present price of labor, so you will
have to give me the bill, Peter."
Peter did not have the bill, but he had memoranda, and when Linda
paid him she reflected that the current talk concerning the
inflated price of labor was greatly exaggerated.
For two evenings as Linda returned from school and went to her
room she glanced down the hall and smiled at the decoration
remaining on Eileen's rug. The third evening it was gone, so
that she knew Eileen was either in her room or had been there.
She did not meet her sister until dinnertime. She was prepared
to watch Eileen, to study her closely. She was not prepared to
admire her, but in her heart she almost did that very thing.
Eileen had practiced subterfuges so long, she was so
accomplished, that it would have taken an expert to distinguish
reality from subterfuge. She entered the dining room humming a
gay tune. She was carefully dressed and appealingly beautiful.
She blew a kiss to Linda and waved gaily to Katy.
"I was rather afraid," she said lightly, "that I might find you
two in mourning when I got back. I never stayed so long before,
did I? Seemed as if every friend I had made special demand on my
time all at once. Hope you haven't been dull without me."
"Oh, no," said Linda quietly. "Being away at school all day, of
course I wouldn't know whether you were at home or not, and I
have grown so accustomed to spending my evenings alone that I
don't rely on you for entertainment at any time."
"In other words," said Eileen, "it doesn't make any difference to
you where I am."
"Not so far as enjoying your company is concerned," said Linda.
"Otherwise, of course it makes a difference. I hope you had a
"Oh, I always have a happy time," answered Eileen lightly. "I
certainly have the best friends."
"That's your good fortune," answered Linda.
At the close of the meal Linda sat waiting. Eileen gave Katy
instructions to have things ready for a midnight lunch for her
and John Gilman and then, humming her tune again, she left the
dining room and went upstairs. Linda stood looking after her.
"Now or never," she said at last. "I have no business to let
her meet John until I have recovered my self-respect. But the
Lord help me to do the thing decently !"
So she followed Eileen up the stairway. She tapped at the door,
and without waiting to hear whether she was invited or not,
opened it and stepped inside. Eileen was sitting before the
window, a big box of candy beside her, a magazine in her fingers.
Evidently she intended to keep her temper in case the coming
interview threatened to become painful.
"I was half expecting you," she said, "you silly hothead. I
found the cheque I wrote you when I got home this afternoon.
That was a foolish thing to do. Why did you tear it up? If it
were too large or if it were not enough why didn't you use it and
ask for another? Because I had to be away that was merely to
leave you something to go on until I got back."
Then Linda did the most disconcerting thing possible. In her
effort at self-control she went too far. She merely folded her
hands in her lap and sat looking straight at Eileen without
saying one word. It did not show much on the surface, but Eileen
really had a conscience, she really had a soul; Linda's eyes,
resting rather speculatively on her, were honest eyes, and Eileen
knew what she knew. She flushed and fidgeted, and at last she
broke out impatiently: "Oh, for goodness' sake, Linda, don't
play 'Patience-on-a-monument.' Speak up and say what it is that
you want. If that cheque was not big enough, what will satisfy
"Come to think of it," said Linda quietly, "I can get along with
what I have for the short time until the legal settlement of our
interests is due. You needn't bother any more about a cheque."
Eileen was surprised and her face showed it; and she was also
relieved. That too her face showed.
"I always knew," she said lightly, "that I had a little sister
with a remarkably level head and good common sense. I am glad
that you recognize the awful inflation of prices during the war
period, and how I have had to skimp and scheme and save in order
to make ends meet and to keep us going on Papa's meager income."
All Linda's good resolutions vanished. She was under strong
nervous tension. It irritated her to have Eileen constantly
referring to their monetary affairs as if they were practically
paupers, as if their father's life had been a financial failure,
as if he had not been able to realize from achievements
recognized around the world a comfortable living for two women.
"Oh, good Lord!" she said shortly. "Bluff the rest of the world
like a professional, Eileen, but why try it with me? You're
right about my having common sense. I'll admit that I am using
it now. I will be of age in a few days, and then we'll take John
Gilman and go to the Consolidated Bank, and if it suits your
convenience to be absent for four or five days at that period,
I'll take John Gilman and we'll go together."
Eileen was amazed. The receding color in her cheeks left the
rouge on them a ghastly, garish thing.
"Well, I won't do anything of the sort," she said hotly, "and
neither will John Gilman."
"Unfortunately for you," answered Linda, "John Gilman is my
guardian, not yours. He'll be forced to do what the law says he
must, and what common decency tells him he must, no matter what
his personal feelings are; and I might as well tell you that your
absence has done you no good. You'd far better have come home,
as you agreed to, and gone over the books and made me a decent
allowance, because in your absence John came here to ask me where
you were, and I know that he was anxious."
"He came here!" cried Eileen.
"Why, yes," said Linda. "Was it anything unusual? Hasn't he
been coming here ever since I can remember? Evidently you didn't
keep him as well posted this time as you usually do. He came
here and asked for me."
"And I suppose," said Eileen, an ugly red beginning to rush into
her white cheeks, "that you took pains to make things
uncomfortable for me."
"I am very much afraid," said Linda, "that you are right. You
have made things uncomfortable for me ever since I can remember,
for I can't remember the time when you were not finding fault
with me, putting me in the wrong and getting me criticized and
punished if you possibly could. It was a fair understanding that
you should be here, and you were not, and I was seeing red about
it; and just as John came in I found your note in tile living
room and read it aloud.';
"Oh, well, there was nothing in that," said Eileen in a relieved
"Nothing in the wording of it, no," said Linda, "but there was
everything in the intention back of it. Because you did not live
up to your tacit agreement, and because I had been on high
tension for two or three days, I lost my temper completely. I
brought John Gilman up here and showed him the suite of rooms in
which you have done for yourself, for four years. I gave him
rather a thorough inventory of your dressing table and drawers,
and then I opened the closet door and called his attention to the
number and the quality of the garments hanging there. The box
underneath them I thought was a shoe box, but it didn't prove to
be exactly that; and for that I want to tell you, as I have
already told John, I am sorry. I wouldn't have done that if I
had known what I was doing."
"Is that all?" inquired Eileen, making a desperate effort at
"Not quite," said Linda. "When I finished with your room, I took
him back and showed him mine in even greater detail than I showed
him yours. I thought the contrast would be more enlightening
than anything either one of us could say."
"And I suppose you realize," said Eileen bitterly, "that you lost
me John Gilman when you did it."
"I?" said Linda. "I lost you John Gilman when I did it? But I
didn't do it. You did it. You have been busy for four years
doing it. If you hadn't done it, it wouldn't have been there for
me to show him. I can't see that this is profitable. Certainly
it's the most distressing thing that ever has occurred for me.
But I didn't feel that I could let you meet John Gilman tonight
without telling you what he knows. If you have any way to square
your conscience and cleanse your soul before you meet him, you
had better do it, for he's a mighty fine man and if you lose him
you will have lost the best chance that is likely ever to come to
Linda sat studying Eileen. She saw the gallant effort she was
making to keep her self-possession, to think with her accustomed
rapidity, to strike upon some scheme whereby she could square
herself. She rose and started toward the door.
"What you'll say to John I haven't the faintest notion," she
said. "I told him very little. I just showed him."
Then she went out and closed the door after her. At the foot of
the stairs she met Katy admitting Gilman. Without any
preliminaries she said: "I repeat, John, that I'm sorry for what
happened the other day. I have just come from Eileen. She will
be down as soon as Katy tells her you're here, no doubt. I have
done what I told you I would. She knows what I showed you so you
needn't employ any subterfuges. You can be frank and honest with
"I wish to God we could," said John Gilman.
Linda went to her work. She decided that she would gauge what
happened by the length of time John stayed. If he remained only
a few minutes it would indicate that there had been a rupture.
If he stayed as long as he usually did, the chances were that
Eileen's wit had triumphed as usual.
At twelve o'clock Linda laid her pencils in the box, washed the
brushes, and went down the back stairs to the ice chest for a
glass of milk. The living room was still lighted and Linda
thought Eileen's laugh quite as gay as she ever had heard it.
Linda closed her lips very tight and slowly climbed the stairs.
When she entered her room she walked up to the mirror and stared
at herself in the glass for a long time, and then of herself she
asked this question:
"Well, how do you suppose she did it?"
CHAPTER XVIII. Spanish Iris
Just as Linda was most deeply absorbed with her own concerns
there came a letter from Marian which Linda read and reread
several times; for Marian wrote:
MY DEAREST PAL:
Life is so busy up San Francisco way that it makes Lilac Valley
look in retrospection like a peaceful sunset preliminary to bed
But I want you to have the consolation and the comfort of knowing
that I have found at least two friends that I hope will endure.
One is a woman who has a room across the hall from mine in my
apartment house. She is a newspaper woman and life is very full
for her, but it is filled with such intensely interesting things
that I almost regret having made my life work anything so prosaic
as inanimate houses; but then it's my dream to enliven each house
I plan with at least the spirit of home. This woman--her name is
Dana Meade--enlivens every hour of her working day with something
concerning the welfare of humanity. She is a beautiful woman in
her soul, so extremely beautiful that I can't at this minute
write you a detailed description of her hair and her eyes and her
complexion, because this nice, big, friendly light that radiates
from her so lights her up and transfigures her that everyone says
how beautiful she is, and yet I have a vague recollection that
her nose is what you would call a "beak," and I am afraid her
cheek bones are too high for good proportion, and I know that her
hair is not always so carefully dressed as it should be, but what
is the difference when the hair is crowned with a halo? I can't
swear to any of these things; they're sketchy impressions. The
only thing I am absolutely sure about is the inner light that
shines to an unbelievable degree. I wish she had more time and I
wish I had more time and that she and I might become such friends
as you and I are. I can't tell you, dear, how much I think of
you. It seems to me that you're running a sort of undercurrent
in my thoughts all day long.
You will hardly credit it, Linda, but a few days ago I drove a
car through the thickest traffic, up a steep hill, and round a
curve. I did it, but practically collapsed when it was over.
The why of it was this: I think I told you before that in the
offices of Nicholson and Snow there is a man who is an
understanding person. He is the junior partner and his name is
Eugene Snow. I happened to arrive at his desk the day I came for
my instructions and to make my plans for entering their contest.
He was very kind to me and went out of his way to smooth out the
rough places. Ever since, he makes a point of coming to me and
talking a few minutes when I am at the office or when he passes
me on my way to the drafting rooms where I take my lessons. The
day I mention I had worked late and hard the night before. I had
done the last possible thing to the plans for my dream house. At
the last minute, getting it all on paper, working at the
specifications, at which you know I am wobbly, was nervous
business; and when I came from the desk after having turned in my
plans, perhaps I showed fatigue. Anyway, he said to me that his
car was below. He said also that he was a lonely person, having
lost his wife two years ago, and not being able very frequently
to see his little daughter who is in the care of her grandmother,
there were times when he was hungry for the companionship he had
lost. He asked me if I would go with him for a drive and I told
him that I would. I am rather stunned yet over what happened.
The runabout he led me to was greatly like yours, and, Linda, he
stopped at a florist's and came out with an armload of
bloom--exquisite lavender and pale pink and faint yellow and
waxen white--the most enticing armload of spring. For one minute
I truly experienced a thrill. I thought he was going to give
that mass of flowers to me, but he did not. He merely laid it
across my lap and said: "Edith adored the flowers from bulbs. I
never see such bloom that my heart does not ache with a keen,
angry ache to think that she should be taken from the world, and
the beauty that she so loved, so early and so ruthlessly. We'll
take her these as I would take them to her were she living."
So, Linda dear, I sat there and looked at color and drank in
fragrance, and we whirled through the city and away to a cemetery
on a beautiful hill, and filled a vase inside the gates of a
mausoleum with these appealing flowers. Then we sat down, and a
man with a hurt heart told me about his hurt, and what an effort
he was making to get through the world as the woman he loved
would have had him; and before I knew what I was doing, Linda, I
told him the tellable part of my own hurts. I even lifted my
turban and bowed my white head before him. This hurt--it was one
of the inexorable things that come to people in this world--I
could talk about. That deeper hurt, which has put a scar that
never will be effaced on my soul, of course I could not tell him
about. But when we went back to the car he said to me that he
would help me to get back into the sunlight. He said the first
thing I must do to regain self-confidence was to begin driving
again. I told him I could not, but he said I must, and made me
take the driver's seat of a car I had never seen and take the
steering wheel of a make of machine I had never driven, and
tackle two or three serious problems for a driver. I did it all
right, Linda, because I couldn't allow myself to fail the kind of
a man Mr. Snow is, when he was truly trying to help me, but in
the depths of my heart I am afraid I am a coward forever, for
there is a ghastly illness takes possession of me as I write
these details to you. But anyway, put a red mark on your
calendar beside the date on which you get this letter, and
joyfully say to yourself that Marian has found two real,
In a week or ten days I shall know about the contest. If 1:
win, as I really have a sneaking hope that I shall, since I have
condensed the best of two dozen houses into one and exhausted my
imagination on my dream home, I will surely telegraph, and you
can make it a day of jubilee. If I fail, I will try to find out
where my dream was not true and what can be done to make it
materialize properly; but between us, Linda girl, I am going to
be dreadfully disappointed. I could use the material value that
prize represents. I could start my life work which I hope to do
in Lilac Valley on the prestige and the background that it would
give me. I don't know, Linda, whether you ever learned to pray
or not, but I have, and it's a thing that helps when the black
shadow comes, when you reach the land of "benefits forgot and
friends remembered not."
And this reminds me that I should not write to my very dearest
friend who has her own problems and make her heart sad with mine;
so to the joyful news of my two friends add a third, Linda, for I
am going to tell you a secret because it will make you happy.
Since I have been in San Francisco some man, who for a reason of
his own does not tell me his name, has been writing me extremely
attractive letters. I have had several of them and I can't tell
you, Linda, what they mean to me or how they help me. There is a
touch of whimsy about them. I can't as yet connect them with
anybody I ever met, but to me they are taking the place of a
little lunch on the bread of life. They are such real, such
vivid, such alive letters from such a real person that I have
been doing the very foolish and romantic thing of answering them
as my heart dictates and signing my own name to them, which on
the surface looks unwise when the man in the case keeps his
identity in the background; but since he knows me and knows my
name it seems useless to do anything else: and answer these
letters I shall and must; because every one of them is to me a
strong light thrown on John Gilman. Every time one of these
letters comes to me I have the feeling that I would like to reach
out through space and pick up the man who is writing them and
dangle him before Eileen and say to her: "Take HIM. I dare you
to take HIM." And my confidence, Linda, is positively supreme
that she could not do it.
You know, between us, Linda, we regarded Eileen as a rare
creature, a kind of exotic thing, made to be kept in a glass
house with tempered air and warmed water; but as I go about the
city and at times amuse myself at concerts and theaters, I am
rather dazed to tell you, honey, that the world is chock full of
Eileens. On the streets, in the stores, everywhere I go,
sometimes half a dozen times in a day I say to myself: "There
goes Eileen." I haven't a doubt that Eileen has a heart, if it
has not become so calloused that nobody could ever reach it, and
I suspect she has a soul, but the more I see of her kind the more
I feel that John Gilman may have to breast rather black water
before he finds them.
With dearest love, be sure to remember me to Katherine O'Donovan.
Hug her tight and give her my unqualified love. Don't let her
This was the letter that Linda read once, then she read it again
and then she read it a third time, and after that she lost count
and reread it whenever she was not busy doing something else, for
it was a letter that was the next thing to laying hands upon
Marian. The part of the letter concerning the unknown man who
was writing Marian, Linda pondered over deeply.
"That is the best thing I ever did in my life," she said in self-
commendation. "It's doing more than I hoped it would. It's
giving Marian something to think about. It's giving her an
interest in life. It's distracting her attention. Without
saying a word about John Gilman it is making her see for herself
the weak spots in him through the very subtle method of calling
her attention to the strength that may lie in another man. For
once in your life, Linda, you have done something strictly worth
while. The thing for you to do is to keep it up, and in order to
keep it up, to make each letter fresh and original, you will have
to do a good deal of sticking around Peter Morrison's location
and absorbing rather thoroughly the things he says. Peter
doesn't know he is writing those letters but he is in them till
it's a wonder Marian does not hear him drawl and see the imps
twisting his lips as she reads them. Before I write another
single one I'll go see Peter. Maybe he will have that article
written. I'll take a pencil, and as he reads I'll jot down the
salient points and then I'll come home and work out a head and
tail piece for him to send in with it, and in that way I'll ease
my soul about the skylight and the fireplace."
So Linda took pad and pencils, raided Katy for everything she
could find that was temptingly edible, climbed into the Bear Cat,
and went to see Peter as frankly as she would have crossed the
lawn to visit Marian. He was not in the garage when she stopped
her car before it, but the workmen told her that he had strolled
up the mountain and that probably he would return soon. Learning
that he had been gone but a short time Linda set the Bear Cat
squalling at the top of its voice. Then she took possession of
the garage, and clearing Peter's worktable spread upon it the
food she had brought, and then started out to find some flowers
for decorations. When Peter came upon the scene he found Linda,
flushed and brilliant eyed, holding before him a big bouquet of
alder bloom, the last of the lilacs she had found in a cool,
shaded place, pink filaree, blue lupin, and white mahogany
panicles. "Peter," she cried. "you can't guess what I have been
Peter glanced at the flowers.
"Isn't it obvious?" he inquired.
"No, it isn't," said Linda, "because I am capable of two
processes at once. The work of my hands is visible; with it I am
going to decorate your table. You won't have to go down to the
restaurant for your supper tonight because I have brought my
supper up to share with you, and after we finish, you're going to
read me your article as you have rewritten it. I am going to
decorate it and we are going to make a hit with it that will be
at least a start on the road to greater fame. What you see is
material. You can pick it up, smell it, admire it and eat it.
But what I have truly been doing is setting Spanish iris for
yards down one side of the bed of your stream. When I left it
was a foot and a half high Peter, and every blue that the sky
ever knew in its loveliest moments, and a yellow that is the
concentrated essence of the best gold from the heart of
California. Oh, Peter, there is enchantment in the way I set it.
There are irregular deep beds, and there are straggly places
where there are only one or two in a ragged streak, and then it
runs along the edge in a fringy rim, and then it stretches out in
a marshy place that is going to have some other wild things,
arrowheads, and orchids, and maybe a bunch of paint brush on a
high, dry spot near by. I wish you could see it!"
Peter looked at Linda reflectively and then he told her that he
could see it. He fold her that he adored it, that he was crazy
about her straggly continuity and her fringy border, but there
was not one word of truth in what he said, because what he saw
was a slender thing, willowy, graceful; roughened wavy black hair
hanging half her length in heavy braids, dark eyes and bright
cheeks, a vivid red line of mouth, and a bright brown line of
freckles bridging a prominent and aristocratic nose. What he was
seeing was a soul, a young thing, a thing he coveted with every
nerve and fiber of his being. And while he glibly humored her in
her vision of decorating his brook, in his own consciousness he
was saying to himself: "Is there any reason why I should not try
And then he answered himself. "There is no reason in your life.
There is nothing ugly that could offend her or hurt her. The
reason, the real reason, probably lies in the fact that if she
were thinking of caring for anyone it would be for that
attractive young schoolmate she brought up here for me to
exercise my wits upon. It is very likely that she regards me in
the light of a grandfatherly person to whom she can come with her
joys or her problems, as frankly as she has now."
So Peter asked if the irises crossed the brook and ran down both
sides. Linda sat on a packing case and concentrated on the iris,
and finally she announced that they did. She informed him that
his place was going to bc natural, that Nature evolved things in
her own way. She did not grow irises down one side of a brook
and arrowheads down the other. They waded across and flew across
and visited back and forth, riding the water or the wind or the
down of a bee or the tail of a cow. As she served the supper she
had brought she very gravely informed him that there would be
iris on both sides of his brook, and cress and miners' lettuce
under the bridge; and she knew exactly where the wild clematis
grew that would whiten his embankment after his workmen had
extracted the last root of poison oak.
"It may not scorch you, Peter," she said gravely, "but you must
look out for the Missus and the little things. I haven't
definitely decided on her yet, but she looks a good deal like
Mary Louise Whiting to mc. I saw her the other day. She came to
school after Donald. I liked her looks so well that I said to
myself: 'Everybody talks about how fine she is. I shouldn't
wonder if I had better save her for Peter'; but if I decide to,
you should act that poison stuff out, because it's sure as
shooting to attack any one with the soft, delicate skin that goes
with a golden head."
"Oh, let's leave it in," said Peter, "and dispense with the
golden head. By the time you get that stream planted as you're
planning, I'll have become so accustomed to a dark head bobbing
up and down beside it that I won't take kindly to a sorrel top."
"That is positively sacrilegious," said Linda, lifting her hands
to her rough black hair. "Never in my life saw anything lovelier
than the rich gold on Louise Whiting's bare head as she bent to
release her brakes and start her car. A black head looks like a
cinder bed beside it; and only think what a sunburst it will be
when Mary Louise kneels down beside the iris."
When they had finished their supper Linda gathered up the
remnants and put them in the car, then she laid a notebook and
pencil on the table.
"Now I want to hear that article," she said. "I knew you would
do it over the minute I was gone, and I knew you would keep it to
read to me before you sent it."
"Hm," said Peter. "Is it second sight or psychoanalysis or
telepathy, or what?"
"Mostly 'what'," laughed Linda. "I merely knew. The workmen are
gone and everything is quiet now, Peter. Begin. I am crazy to
get the particular angle from which you 'make the world safe for
democracy.' John used to call our attention to your articles
during the war. He said we had not sent another man to France
who could write as humanely and as interestingly as you did. I
wish I had kept those articles; because I didn't get anything
from them to compare with what I can get since I have a slight
acquaintance with the procession that marches around your mouth.
Peter, you will have to watch that mouth of yours. It's an
awfully betraying feature. So long as it's occupied with
politics and the fads and the foibles and the sins and the
foolishness and the extravagances of humanity, it's all very
well. But if you ever get in trouble or if ever your heart
hurts, or you get mad enough to kill somebody, that mouth of
yours is going to be a most awfully revealing feature, Peter.
You will have hard work to settle it down into hard-and-fast
Peter looked at the girl steadily.
"Have you specialized on my mouth?" he asked.
"Huh-umph!" said Linda, shaking her head vigorously. When I
specialize I use a pin and a microscope and go right to the root
of matters as I was taught. This is superficial. I am
"Well, if this is extemporizing," said Peter, "God help my soul
if you ever go at me with a pin and a microscope."
"Oh, but I won't!" cried Linda. "It wouldn't be kind to pin your
friends on a setting board and use a microscope on them. You
might see things that were strictly private. You might see
things they wouldn't want you to see. They might not be your
friends any more if you did that. When I make a friend I just
take him on trust like I did Donald. You're my friend, aren't
"Yes, Linda," said Peter soberly. "Put me to any test you can
think of if you want proof."
"But I don't believe in PROVING friends, either," said Linda. "I
believe in nurturing them. I would set a friend in my garden and
water his feet and turn the sunshine on him and tell him to stay
there and grow. I might fertilize him, I might prune him, and I
might use insecticide on him. I might spray him with rather
stringent solutions, but I give you my word I would not test him.
If he flourished under my care I would know it, and if he did not
I would know it, and that would be all I would want to know. I
have watched Daddy search for the seat of nervous disorders, and
sometimes he had to probe very deep to find what developed nerves
unduly but he didn't ever do any picking and raveling and
fringing at the soul of a human being merely for the sake of
finding out what it was made of; and everyone says I am like
"I wish I might have known him," said Peter.
"Don't I wish it!" said Linda. "Now then, Peter, go ahead. Read
Peter opened a packing case, picked out a sheaf of papers, and
sitting opposite Linda, began to read. He was dumbfounded to
find that he, a man who had read and talked extemporaneously
before great bodies of learned men, should have cold feet and
shaking hands and a hammering heart because he was trying to read
an article on America for Americans before a high-school Junior.
But presently, as the theme engrossed him, he forgot the vision
of Linda interesting herself in his homemaking, and saw instead a
vision of his country threatened on one side by the red menace of
the Bolshevik, on the other by the yellow menace of the Jap, and
yet on another by the treachery of the Mexican and the slowly
uprising might of the black man, and presently he was thundering
his best-considered arguments at Linda until she imperceptibly
drew back from him on the packing case, and with parted lips and
wide eyes she listened in utter absorption. She gazed at a
transformed Peter with aroused eyes and a white light of
patriotism on his forehead, and a conception even keener than
anything that the war had brought her young soul was burning in
her heart of what a man means when he tries to express his
feeling concerning the land of his birth. Presently, without
realizing what she was doing, she reached for her pad and pencils
and rapidly began sketching a stretch of peaceful countryside
over which a coming storm of gigantic proportions was gathering.
Fired by Peter's article, the touch of genius in Linda's soul
became creative and she fashioned huge storm clouds wind driven,
that floated in such a manner as to bring the merest suggestion
of menacing faces, black faces, yellow faces, brown faces, and
under the flash of lightning, just at the obscuring of the sun, a
huge, evil, leering red face. She swept a stroke across her
sheet and below this she began again, sketching the same stretch
of country she had pictured above, strolling in cultivated
fields, dotting it with white cities, connecting it with smooth
roadways, sweeping the sky with giant planes. At one side,
winging in from the glow of morning, she drew in the
strong-winged flight of a flock of sea swallows, peacefully
homing toward the far-distant ocean. She was utterly unaware
when Peter stopped reading. Absorbed, she bent over her work.
When she had finished she looked up.
"Now I'll take this home," she said. "I can't do well on color
with pencils. You hold that article till I have time to put this
on water-color paper and touch it up a bit here and there, and I
believe it will be worthy of starting and closing your article."
She pushed the sketches toward him.
"You little wonder!" said Peter softly.
"Yes, 'little' is good," scoffed Linda, rising to very nearly his
height and reaching for the lunch basket. " 'Little' is good,
Peter. If I could do what I like to myself I would get in some
kind of a press and squash down about seven inches."
"Oh, Lord!" said Peter. "Forget it. What's the difference what
the inches of your body are so long as your brain has a stature
worthy of mention?"
"Good-bye!" said Linda. "On the strength of that I'll jazz that
sketch all up, bluey and red-purple and jade-green. I 11 make it
as glorious as a Catalina sunset."
As she swung the car around the sharp curve at the boulders she
looked back and laughingly waved her hand at Peter, and Peter
experienced a wild desire to shriek lest she lose control of the
car and plunge down the steep incline. A second later, when he
saw her securely on the road below, he smiled to himself.
"Proves one thing," he said conclusively. "She is over the
horrors. She is driving unconsciously. Thank God she knew that
curve so well she could look the other way and drive it mentally.
CHAPTER XIX. The Official Bug-Catcher
Not a mile below the exit from Peter's grounds, Linda perceived a
heavily laden person toiling down the roadway before her and when
she ran her car abreast and stopped it, Henry Anderson looked up
at her with joyful face.
"Sorry I can't uncover, fair lady," he said, "but you see I am
very much otherwise engaged."
What Linda saw was a tired, disheveled man standing in the
roadway beside her car, under each arm a boulder the size of her
head, one almost jet-black, shot through with lines of white and
flying figures of white crossing between these bands that almost
reminded one of winged dancers. The other was a combination
stone made up of matrix thickly imbedded with pebbles of brown,
green, pink, and dull blue.
"For pity's sake!" said Linda. "Where are you going and why are
you personally demonstrating a new method of transporting rock?"
"I am on my way down Lilac Valley to the residence of a friend of
mine," said Henry Anderson. "I heard her say the other day that
she saved every peculiarly marked boulder she could find to
preserve coolness and moisture in her fern bed."
Linda leaned over and opened the car door.
"All well and good," she said; "but why in the cause of reason
didn't you leave them at Peter's and bring them down in his car?"
Henry Anderson laid the stones in the bottom of the car, stepped
in and closed the door behind him. He drew a handkerchief from
his pocket and wiped his perspiring face and soiled hands.
"I had two sufficient personal reasons," he said. "One was that
the car at our place is Peter Morrison's car, not mine; and the
other was that it's none of anybody's business but my own if I
choose to 'say it' with stones."
Linda started the car, being liberal with gas--so liberal that it
was only a few minutes till Henry Anderson protested.
"This isn't the speedway," he said. "What's your hurry?"
"Two reasons seem to be all that are allowed for things at the
present minute," answered Linda. "One of mine is that you can't
drive this beast slow, and the other is that my workroom is piled
high with things I should be doing. I have two sketches I must
complete while I am in the mood, and I have had a great big
letter from my friend, Marian Thorne, today that I want to answer
before I go to bed tonight."
"In other words," said Henry Anderson bluntly, "you want me to
understand that when I have reached your place and dumped these
stones I can beat it; you have no further use for me."
"You said that," retorted Linda.
"And who ever heard of such a thing," said Henry, "as a young
woman sending away a person of my numerous charms and attractions
in order to work, or to write a letter to another woman?"
"But you're not taking into consideration," said Linda, "that I
must work, and I scarcely know you, while I have known Marian
ever since I was four years old and she is my best friend."
"Well, she has no advantage over me" said Henry instantly,
"because I have known you quite as long as Peter Morrison has at
least, and I'm your official bug-catcher."
"I had almost forgotten about the bugs," said Linda.
"Well, don't for a minute think I am going to give you an
opportunity to forget," said Henry Anderson.
He reached across and laid his hand over Linda's on the steering
gear. Linda said nothing, neither did she move. She merely
added more gas and put the Bear Cat forward at a dizzy whirl.
"That's all right, my beauty," he said. "Don't you think for a
minute that I can't ride as fast as you can drive."
A dull red mottled Linda's cheeks. As quickly as it could be
done she brought the Bear Cat to a full stop. Then she turned
and looked at Henry Anderson. The expression in her eyes was
disconcerting even to that cheeky young individual--he had not
borne her gaze a second until he removed his hand.
"Thanks," said Linda in a dry drawl. "And you will add to my
obligation if in the future you will remember not to deal in
assumptions. I am not your 'beauty,' and I'm not anyone's
beauty; while the only thing in this world that I am interested
in at present is to get the best education I can and at the same
time carry on work that I love to do. I have a year to finish my
course in the high school and when I finish I will only have a
good beginning for whatever I decide to study next."
"That's nothing," said the irrepressible Henry. "It will take me
two years to catch a sufficient number of gold bugs to be really
serious, but there wouldn't be any harm in having a mutual
understanding and something definite to work for, and then we
might be able, you know, to cut out some of that year of high-
school grinding. If the plans I have submitted in the Nicholson
and Snow contest should just happen to be the prize winners, that
would put matters in such a shape for young Henry that he could
devote himself to crickets and tumble-bugs at once."
"Don't you think," said Linda quietly, "that you would better
forget that silly jesting and concentrate the best of your brains
on improving your plans for Peter Morrison's house?"
"Why, surely I will if that's what you command me to do," said
Henry, purposely misunderstanding her.
"You haven't mentioned before," said Linda, "that you had
submitted plans in that San Francisco contest."
"All done and gone," said Henry Anderson lightly. "I had an
inspiration one day and I saw a way to improve a house with
comforts and conveniences I never had thought of before. I was
enthusiastic over the production when I got it on paper and
figured it. It's exactly the house that I am going to build for
Peter, and when I've cut my eye teeth on it I am going to correct
everything possible and build it in perfection for you."
"Look here," said Linda soberly, "I'm not accustomed to this sort
of talk. I don't care for it. If you want to preserve even the
semblance of friendship with me you must stop it, and get to
impersonal matters and stay there."
"All right," he agreed instantly, "but if you don't like my line
of talk, you're the first girl I ever met that didn't."
"You have my sympathy," said Linda gravely. "You have been
Then she started the Bear Cat, and again running at undue speed
she reached her wild-flower garden. Henry Anderson placed the
stones as she directed and waited for an invitation to come in,
but the invitation was not given. Linda thanked him for the
stones. She told him that in combination with a few remaining
from the mantel they would make all she would require, and
excusing herself she drove to the garage. When she came in she
found the irrepressible Henry sitting on the back steps
explaining to Katy the strenuous time he had had finding and
carrying down the stones they had brought. Katy had a plate of
refreshments ready to hand him when Linda laughingly passed them
and went to her room.
When she had finished her letter to Marian she took a sheet of
drawing paper, and in her most attractive lettering sketched in
the heading, "A Palate Teaser," which was a direct quotation from
Katy. Below she wrote:
You will find Tunas in the cacti thickets of any desert, but if
you are so fortunate as to be able to reach specimens which were
brought from Mexico and set as hedges around the gardens of the
old missions, you will find there the material for this salad in
its most luscious form. Naturally it can be made from either
Opuntia Fiscus-Indica or Opuntia Tuna, but a combination of these
two gives the salad an exquisite appearance and a tiny touch more
delicious flavor, because Tuna, which is red, has to my taste a
trifle richer and fuller flavor than Indica, which is yellow.
Both fruits taste more like the best well-ripened watermelon than
any other I recall.
Bring down the Tunas with a fishing rod or a long pole with a
nail in the end. With anything save your fingers roll them in
the sand or in tufts of grass to remove the spines. Slice off
either end, score the skin down one side, press lightly, and a
lush globule of pale gold or rosy red fruit larger than a hen's
egg lies before you. With a sharp knife, beginning with a layer
of red and ending with one of yellow, slice the fruits thinly,
stopping to shake out the seeds as you work. In case you live in
San Diego County or farther south, where it is possible to secure
the scarlet berries of the Strawberry Cactus-- it is the
Mammillaria Goodridgei species that you should use--a beautiful
decoration for finishing your salad can be made from the red
strawberries of these. If you live too far north to find these,
you may send your salad to the table beautifully decorated by
cutting fancy figures from the red Tuna, or by slicing it
lengthwise into oblong pieces and weaving them into a decoration
over the yellow background.
For your dressing use the juice of a lemon mixed with that of an
orange, sweetened to taste, into which you work, a drop at a
time, four tablespoons of the best Palermo olive oil. If the
salad is large more oil and more juice should be used.
To get the full deliciousness of this salad, the fruit must have
been on ice, and the dressing made in a bowl imbedded in cracked
ice, so that when ready to blend both are ice-cold, and must be
Gigantic specimens of fruit-bearing Cacti can be found all over
the Sunland Desert near to the city, but they are not possessed
of the full flavor of the cultivated old mission growths, so that
it is well worth your while to make a trip to the nearest of
these for the fruit with which to prepare this salad. And if, as
you gather it, you should see a vision of a white head, a thin,
ascetic, old face, a lean figure trailing a brown robe, slender
white hands clasping a heavy cross; if you should hear the music
of worship ascending from the throats of Benedictine fathers
leading a clamoring choir of the blended voices of Spaniard,
Mexican, and Indian, combining with the music of the bells and
the songs of the mocking birds, nest making among the Tunas, it
will be good for your soul in the line of purging it from
selfishness, since in this day we are not asked to give all of
life to the service of others, only a reasonable part of it.
Linda read this over, working in changes here and there, then she
picked up her pencil and across the top of her sheet indicated an
open sky with scarcely a hint of cloud. Across the bottom she
outlined a bit of Sunland Desert she well remembered, in the
foreground a bed of flat-leaved nopal, flowering red and yellow,
the dark red prickly pears, edible, being a near relative of the
fruits she had used in her salad. After giving the prickly pear
the place of honor to the left, in higher growth she worked in
the slender, cylindrical, jointed stems of the Cholla, shading
the flowers a paler, greenish yellow. On the right, balancing
the Cholla, she drew the oval, cylindrical columns of the
hedgehog cactus, and the color touch of the big magenta flowers
blended exquisitely with the color she already had used. At the
left, the length of her page, she drew a gigantic specimen of
Opuntia Tuna, covered with flowers, and well-developed specimens
of the pears whose coloring ran into the shades of the hedgehog
She was putting away her working materials when she heard steps
and voices on the stairs, so she knew that Eileen and John Gilman
were coming. She did not in the least want them, yet she could
think of no excuse for refusing them admission that would not
seem ungracious. She hurried to the wall, snatched down the
paintings for Peter Morrison, and looked around to see how she
could dispose of them. She ended by laying one of them in a
large drawer which she pushed shut and locked. The other she
placed inside a case in the wall which formerly had been used for
billiard cues. At their second tap she opened the door. Eileen
was not at her best. There was a worried look across her eyes, a
restlessness visible in her movements, but Gilman was radiant.
"What do you think, Linda?" he cried. "Eileen has just named the
"I did no such thing," broke in Eileen.
"Your pardon, fair lady, you did not," said Gilman. "That was
merely a figure of speech. I meant named the month. She has
definitely promised in October, and I may begin to hunt a
location and plan a home for us. I want the congratulations of
my dear friend and my dearer sister."
Linda held out her hand and smiled as bravely as she could.
"I am very glad you are so pleased, John," she said quietly, "and
I hope that you will be as happy as you deserve to be."
"Now exactly what do you mean by that?" he asked.
"Oh, Linda prides herself on being deep and subtle and conveying
hidden meanings," said Eileen. "She means what a thousand people
will tell you in the coming months: merely that they hope you
will be happy."
"Of course," Linda hastened to corroborate, wishing if possible
to avoid any unpleasantness.
"You certainly have an attractive workroom here," said John,
"much as I hate to see it spoiled for billiards."
"It's too bad," said Linda, "that I have spoiled it for you for
billiards. I have also spoiled the outside appearance of the
house for Eileen."
"Oh, I don't know," said John. "I looked at it carefully the
other day as I came up, and I thought your changes enhanced the
value of the property."
"I am surely glad to hear that," said Linda. "Take a look
through my skylight and my new window. Imagine you see the rugs
I am going to have and a few more pieces of furniture when I can
afford them; and let me particularly point out the fireplace that
Henry Anderson and your friend Peter designed and had built for
me. Doesn't it add a soul and a heart to my study?"
John Gilman walked over and looked at the fireplace critically.
He read the lines aloud, then he turned to Eileen.
"Why, that is perfectly beautiful," he said. "Let's duplicate it
in our home."
"You bungler!" scoffed Eileen.
"I think you're right," said Gilman reflectively, "exactly right.
Of course I would have no business copying Linda's special
fireplace where the same people would see it frequently; and if I
had stopped to think a second, I might have known that you would
prefer tiling to field stone."
"Linda seems very busy tonight," said Eileen. "Perhaps we are
"Yes," said John, "we'll go at once. I had to run up to tell our
good news; and I wanted to tell you too, Linda dear, that I think
both of us misjudged Eileen the other day. You know, Linda, you
have always dressed according to your father's ideas, which were
so much simpler and plainer than the manner in which your mother
dressed Eileen, that she merely thought that you wished to
continue in his way. She had no objection to your having any
kind of clothes you chose, if only you had confided in her, and
explained to her what you wanted."
Linda stood beside her table, one lean hand holding down the
letter she had been writing. She stood very still, but she was
powerless to raise her eyes to the face of either John or Eileen.
Above everything she did not wish to go any further in revealing
Eileen to John Gilman. If he knew what he knew and if he felt
satisfied, after what he had seen, with any explanation that
Eileen could trump up to offer, Linda had no desire to carry the
matter further. She had been ashamed of what she already had
done. She had felt angry and dissatisfied with herself, so she
stood before them downcast and silent.
"And it certainly was a great joke on both of us," said John
jovially, "what we thought about that box of cigarettes, you
know. They were a prize given by a bridge club at an
'Ambassador' benefit for the Good Samaritan Hospital. Eileen,
the little card shark she is, won it, and she was keeping it
hidden away there to use as a gift for my birthday. Since we
disclosed her plans prematurely, she gave it to me at once, and
I'm having a great time treating all my friends."
At that instant Linda experienced a revulsion. Previously she
had not been able to raise her eyes. Now it would have been
quite impossible to avoid looking straight into Eileen's face.
But Eileen had no intention of meeting anyone's gaze at that
minute. She was fidgeting with a sheet of drawing paper.
"Careful you don't bend that," cautioned Linda. Then she looked
at John Gilman. He BELIEVED what he was saying; he was happy
again. Linda evolved the best smile she could.
"How stupid of us not to have guessed!" she said.
Closing the door behind them, Linda leaned against it and looked
up through the skylight at the creep blue of the night, the
low-hung stars. How long she stood there she did not know.
Presently she went to her chair, picked up her pencil, and slowly
began to draw. At first she scarcely realized what she was
doing, then she became absorbed in her work. Then she reached
for her color box and brushes, and shortly afterward tacked
against the wall an extremely clever drawing of a greatly
enlarged wasp. Skillfully she had sketched a face that was
recognizable round the big insect eyes. She had surmounted the
face by a fluff of bejewelled yellow curls, encased the hind legs
upon which the creature stood upright in pink velvet Turkish
trousers and put tiny gold shoes on the feet. She greatly
exaggerated the wings into long trails and made them of green
gauze with ruffled edges. All the remainder of the legs she had
transformed into so many braceleted arms, each holding a tiny
fan, or a necklace, a jewel box, or a handkerchief of lace. She
stood before this sketch, studying it for a few minutes, then she
walked over to the table and came back with a big black pencil.
Steadying her hand with a mahl stick rested against the wall,
with one short sharp stroke she drew a needle-pointed stinger, so
screened by the delicate wings that it could not be seen unless
you scrutinized the picture minutely. After that, with careful,
interested hands she brought out Peter Morrison's drawings and
replaced them on the wall to dry.
CHAPTER XX. The Cap Sheaf
Toward the last of the week Linda began to clear the mental decks
of her ship of life in order that she might have Saturday free
for her promised day with Donald. She had decided that they
would devote that day to wave-beaten Laguna. It was a long drive
but delightful. It ran over the old King's Highway between miles
of orange and lemon orchards in full flower, bordered by other
miles of roses in their prime.
Every minute when her mind was not actively occupied with her
lessons or her recipes Linda was dreaming of the King's Highway.
Almost unconsciously she began to chant:
"All in the golden weather, forth let us ride today, You and I
together on the King's Highway, The blue skies above us, and
below the shining sea; There's many a road to travel, but it's
this road for me."
You must have ridden this road with an understanding heart and
the arm of God around you to know the exact degree of
disappointment that swelled in Linda's heart when she answered
the telephone early Saturday morning and heard Donald Whiting's
strained voice speaking into it. He was talking breathlessly in
eager, boyish fashion.
"Linda, I am in a garage halfway downtown," he was saying, "and
it looks to me as if to save my soul I couldn't reach you before
noon. I have had the darnedest luck. Our Jap got sick last week
and he sent a new man to take his place. There wasn't a thing
the matter with our car when I drove it in Friday night. This
morning Father wanted to use it on important business, and it
wouldn't run. He ordered me to tinker it up enough to get it to
the shop. I went at it and when it would go, I started You can
imagine the clip I was going, and the thing went to pieces. I
don't know yet how it comes that I saved my skin. I'm pretty
badly knocked out, but I'll get there by noon if it's a possible
"Oh, that's all right," said Linda, fervently hoping that the
ache in her throat would not tincture her voice.
It was half-past eleven when Donald came. Linda could not bring
herself to give up the sea that day. She found it impossible to
drive the King's Highway. It seemed equally impossible not to
look on the face of the ocean, so she compromised by skirting
Santa Monica Bay, and taking the foothill road she ran it to the
north end of the beach drive. When they had spread their
blankets on the sand, finished their lunch and were resting,
Linda began to question Donald about what had happened. She
wanted to know how long Whitings' gardener had been in their
employ; if they knew where he lived and about his family; if they
knew who his friends were, or anything concerning him. She
inquired about the man who had taken his place, and wanted most
particularly to know what the garage men had found the trouble
with a car that ran perfectly on Friday night and broke down in
half a dozen different places on Saturday morning. Finally
Donald looked at her, laughingly quizzical.
"Linda," he said, "you're no nerve specialist and no naturalist.
You're the cross examiner for the plaintiff. What are you trying
to get at? Make out a case against Yogo Sani?"
"Of course it's all right," said Linda, watching a distant
pelican turn head down and catapult into the sea. "It has to be
all right, but you must admit that it looks peculiar. How have
you been getting along this week?"