Part 6 out of 8
needs badly. How would you like, Peter, to finish your cigar in
"I would like it immensely," said Peter.
So together they climbed to the top of the house. Linda knelt
and made a little ceremony of lighting the first fire in her
fireplace. She pushed one of her chairs to one side for Peter,
and taking the other for herself, she sat down and began the
process of really becoming acquainted with him. Two hours later,
as he was leaving her, Peter made a circuit of the room,
scrutinizing the sketches and paintings that were rapidly
covering the walls, and presently he came to the wasp. He looked
at it so closely that he did not miss even the stinger. Linda
stood beside him when he made his first dazed comment: "If that
isn't Eileen, and true to the life!"
"I must take that down," said Linda. "I did it one night when my
heart was full of bitterness."
"Better leave it," said Peter drily.
"Do you think I need it as a warning?" asked Linda.
Peter turned and surveyed her slowly.
"Linda," he said quietly, "what I think of you has not yet been
written in any of the books."
CHAPTER XXV. Buena Moza
As soon as Peter had left her Linda took her box of candy flowers
and several of her finest roses and went to Katy's room. She
found Katy in a big rocking chair, her feet on a hassock, reading
a story in Everybody's home. When her door opened and she saw
her young mistress framed in it she tossed the magazine aside and
sprang to her feet, but Linda made her resume her seat. The girl
shortened the stems of the roses and put them in a vase on Katy's
"They may clash with your coloring a mite, Mother Machree," she
said, "but by themselves they are very wonderful things, aren't
Linda went over, and drawing her dress aside, sat down on the
hassock and leaning against Katy's knee she held up the box of
candy flowers for amazed and delighted inspection.
"Ah, the foine gintleman!" cried Katy. "Sure 'twas only a pape I
had when ye opened the box, an' I didn't know how rare them
beauties railly was."
"Choose the one you like best," said Linda.
But Katy would not touch the delicate things, so Linda selected a
brushy hollyhock for her and then sat at her knee again.
"Katherine O'Donovan," she said solemnly, "it's up to a couple of
young things such as we are, stranded on the shoals of the
Pacific as we have been, to put our heads together and take
counsel. You're a host, Katy, and while I am taking care of you,
I'll be just delighted to have you go on looking after your black
sheep; but it's going to be lonely, for all that. After Eileen
has taken her personal possessions, what do you say to fixing up
that room with the belongings that Marian kept, and inviting her
to make that suite her home until such time as she may have a
home of her own again?"
"Foine!" cried Katy. "I'd love to be havin' her. I'd agree to
take orders from Miss Marian and to be takin' care of her jist
almost the same as I do of ye, Miss Linda. The one thing I don't
like about it is that it ain't fair nor right to give even Marian
the best. Ye be takin' that suite yourself, lambie, and give
Miss Marian your room all fixed up with her things, or, if ye
want her nearer, give her the guest room and make a guest room of
"I am willing to follow either of the latter suggestions for
myself," said Linda; "it might be pleasant to be across the hall
from Marian where we could call back and forth to each other. I
wouldn't mind a change as soon as I have time to get what I'd
need to make the change. I'll take the guest room for mine, and
you may call in a decorator and have my room freshly done and the
guest things moved into it."
Katy looked belligerent. Linda reached up and touched the
frowning lines on her forehead.
"Brighten your lovely features with a smile, Katherine me dear,"
she said gaily. "Don't be forgetting that this is our Day of
Jubilee. We are free--I hope we are free forever--from petty
annoyances and dissatisfactions and little, galling things that
sear the soul and bring out all the worst in human nature. I
couldn't do anything to Eileen's suite, not even if I resorted to
tearing out partitions and making it new from start to finish,
that would eliminate Eileen from it for me. If Marian will give
me permission to move and install her things in it, I think she
can use it without any such feeling, but I couldn't. It's agreed
then, Katy, I am to write to Marian and extend to her a welcome
on your part as well as on mine?"
"That ye may, lambie," said Katy heartily. "And, as the boss
used to be sabin', just to make assurance doubly sure, if YoU
would address it for me I would be writing' a bit of a line
myself, conveying' to her me sentiments on the subject."
"Oh, fine, Katy; Marian would be delighted!" cried Linda,
"And, Katy dear, it won't make us feel any more like mourning for
Eileen when I tell you that it developed at the bank yesterday
and today, that since she has been managing household affairs she
has deposited in a separate account all the royalties from
Father's books. I had thought the matter closed at the bank when
this fund was added to the remainder of the estate, the household
expenses set aside to Eileen, and the remainder divided equally
between us. I didn't get the proof that she was not my sister
until after I came home. I think it means that I shall have to
go back to the bank, have the matter reopened, and unless she can
produce a will or something proving that she is entitled to it,
it seems to me that what remains of my father's estate is legally
mine. Of course, if it develops that he has made any special
provision for her, she shall have it; otherwise, Katy, we'll be
in a position to install you as housekeeper and put some
light-footed, capable young person under you for a step-saver in
any direction you want to use her. It means, too, that I shall
be able to repay your loan immediately and to do the things that
I wanted to do about the house."
"Now I ain't in any hurry about that money, lambie," said Katy;
"and you understand of course that the dress you're wearing' I am
"Of course, old dear, and you should have seen Peter Morrison
light up and admire it. He thinks you have wonderful taste,
Katy threw up both her hands.
"Oh, my Lord, lambie!" she cried, aghast. "Was you telling' him
that the dress ye were wearing' was a present from your old
"Why, certainly I was," said Linda, wide eyed with astonish meet.
"Why shouldn't I? I was proud to. And now, old dear, before I
go, the biggest secret of all. I had a letter, Katy, from the
editor of Everybody's Home, and people like our articles, KatY;
they are something now and folk are letting the editor know about
it, and he wants all I can send him. He likes the pictures I
make; and, Katy, you won't believe it till I show you my little
bank book, but for the three already published with their
illustrations he pays me five hundred nice, long, smooth,
beautifully decorated, paper dollars!"
"Judas praste!" cried Katy, her hands once more aloft. "Ye ain't
manin' it, lambie?"
"Yes, I are," laughed Linda. "I've got the money; and for each
succeeding three with their pictures I am to have that much more,
and when I finish- -now steady yourself, Katy, because this is
going to be a shock--when I finish, blessed old dear heart, he is
going to make them into a book! That will be my job for this
summer, and you shall help me, and it will be a part of our great
secret. Won't it be the most fun?"
"My soul!" said Katy. "You're jist crazy. I don't belave a word
you're telling' me."
"But I can prove it, because I have the letter and the bank
book," said Linda.
Katy threw her arms around the girl and kissed the top of her
head and cried over her and laughed at the same time and patted
her and petted her and ended by saying: "Oh, lambie, if only the
master could be knowin' it."
"But he does know, Katy," said Linda.
She went to her room, removed the beautiful dress and, arranging
it on a hanger, left it in her closet. Slipping into an old
dressing gown, she ran to her workroom and wrote a letter to
Marian from herself. She tried not to tell Marian the big, vital
thing that was throbbing in her heart all day concerning her
work, the great secret that meant such a wonderful thing to her,
the thing that was beating in her heart and fluttering behind her
lips like a bird trying to escape its cage; but she could tell
her in detail of Eileen's undoubted removal to San Francisco; she
could tell her enough of the financial transactions of the day to
understand what had been happening in the past; and she could
tell of her latest interview with John Gilman. Once, as she sat
with her pen poised, thinking how to phrase a sentence, Linda
said to herself: "I wonder in my heart if he won't try to come
crawfishing back to Marian now, and if he does, I wonder, oh, how
I wonder, what she will do." Linda shut her lips very tight and
stared up through her skylight to the stars, as she was fast
falling into a habit of doing when she wanted inspiration.
"Well, I know one thing," she said to the shining things above
her, "Marian will do as she sees fit, of course, but if it were
I, and any man had discarded me as John Gilman discarded Marian,
in case he ever wanted to pick me up again he would find I was
not there. Much as I plan in my heart for the home and the man
and the little people that I hope to have some day, I would give
up all of them before I would be discarded and re-sought like
that; and knowing Marian as I do, I have a conviction that she
will feel the same way. From the things she is writing about
this Snow man I think it is highly probable that he may awake
some day to learn that he is not so deeply grieved but that he
would like to have Marian to comfort him in his loneliness; and
as for his little girl I don't see where he could find a woman
who would rear her more judiciously and beautifully than Marian
She finished her letter, sealed and stamped it, and then, taking
out a fresh sheet, she lettered in at the top of it, "INDIAN
POTATOES" and continued:
And very good potatoes they are. You will find these growing
everywhere throughout California, blooming from May to July,
their six long, slender, white petals shading to gold at the
base, grayish on the outside, a pollen-laden pistil upstanding,
eight or ten gold-clubbed stamens surrounding it, the slender
brown stem bearing a dozen or more of these delicate blooms,
springing high from a base of leaves sometimes nearly two feet
long and an inch broad, wave margined, spreading in a circle
around it. In the soil of the plains and the dry hillsides you
will find an amazingly large solid bulb, thickly enwrapped in a
coat of brown fiber, the long threads of which can be braided,
their amazing strength making them suitable for bow strings,
lariats, or rope of any kind that must needs be improvised for
use at the moment. The bulbs themselves have many uses. Crushed
and rubbed up in water they make a delightful cleansing lather.
The extracted juice, when cooked down, may be used as glue. Of
the roasted bulbs effective poultices for bruises and boils may
be made. It was an Indian custom to dam a small stream and throw
in mashed Amole bulbs, the effect of which was to stupefy the
fish so that they could be picked out by hand; all of which does
not make it appear that the same bulb would serve as an excellent
substitute for a baked potato; but we must remember how our
grandmothers made starch from our potatoes, used them to break in
the new ironware, and to purify the lard; which goes to prove
that one vegetable may be valuable for many purposes. Amole,
whose ponderous scientific name is Chlorogalum pomeridiarum, is
at its best for my purposes when all the chlorophyll from flower
and stem has been driven back to the bulb, and it lies ripe and
fully matured from late August until December.
Remove the fibrous cover down to the second or third layer
enclosing the bulb. These jackets are necessary as they keep the
bulbs from drying out and having a hard crust. Roast them
exactly as you would potatoes. When they can easily be pierced
with a silver fork remove from the oven, and serve immediately
with any course with which you would use baked potatoes.
"And gee, but they're good!" commented Linda as she reread what
she had written.
After that she turned her attention to drawing a hillside
whitened here and there with amole bloom showing in its purity
against the warm grayish-tan background. The waving green leaves
ran among big rocks and overlapped surrounding growth. At the
right of her drawing Linda sketched in a fine specimen of monkey
flower, deepening the yellow from the hearts of the amole lilies
for the almost human little monkey faces. On the left one giant
specimen of amole, reared from a base of exquisitely waving
leaves, ran up the side of the drawing and broke into an airy and
graceful head of gold-hearted white lilies. For a long time
Linda sat with poised pencil, studying her foreground. What
should she introduce that would be most typical of the location
and gave her the desired splash of contrasting color that she
used as a distinctive touch in the foreground of all her
Her pencil flew busily a few minutes while she sketched in a
flatly growing bush of prickly phlox, setting the flower faces as
closely as the overlapped scales of a fish, setting them even as
they grow in nature; and when she resorted to the color box she
painted these faces a wonderful pink that was not wild rose, not
cerise, not lilac, but it made one think of all of them. When
she could make no further improvement on this sketch, she
carefully stretched it against the wall and tacked it up to dry.
Afterward she cleared her mental decks of all the work she could
think of in order to have Saturday free, because Saturday was the
day upon which she found herself planning in the back of her mind
throughout the strenuous week, to save for riding the King's
Highway with Donald Whiting. Several times she had met him on
the walks or in the hallways, and always he had stopped to speak
with her and several times he had referred to the high hope in
which he waited for Saturday. Linda already had held a
consultation with Katy on the subject of the lunch basket. That
matter being satisfactorily arranged, there was nothing for her
to do but to double on her work so that Saturday would be free.
Friday evening Linda was called from the dinner table to the
telephone. She immediately recognized the voice inquiring for
her as that of Judge Whiting, and then she listened breathlessly
while he said to her: "You will recognize that there is very
little I may say over a telephone concerning a matter to which
you brought my attention. I have a very competent man looking
into the matter thoroughly, and I find that your fear is amply
justified. Wherever you go or whatever you do, use particular
care. Don't have anything to do with any stranger. Just use
what your judgment and common sense tell you is a reasonable
degree of caution in every direction no matter how trivial. You
"I do," said Linda promptly. "Would you prefer that we do not go
on any more Saturday trips at present?"
The length of time that the Judge waited to answer proved that he
had taken time to think.
"I can't see," he said finally, "that you would not be safer on
such a trip where you are moving about, where no one knows who
you arc, than you would where you are commonly found."
"All right then," said Linda. "Ask the party we are considering
and he will tell you where he will be tomorrow. Thank you very
much for letting me know. If anything should occur, you will
understand that it was something quite out of my range of
"I understand," said the Judge.
With all care and many loving admonitions Katy assisted in the
start made early Saturday morning. The previous Saturday Linda
had felt that all nature along the road she planned to drive
would be at its best, but they had not gone far until she
modified her decision. They were slipping through mists of early
morning, over level, carefully made roads like pavilion floors.
If any one objection could have been made, it would have been
that the mists of night were weighting too heavily to earth the
perfume from the blooming orchards and millions of flowers in
gardens and along the roadside. At that hour there were few cars
abroad. Linda was dressed in her outing suit of dark green. She
had removed her hat and slipped it on the seat beside her. She
looked at Donald, a whimsical expression on her most expressive
"Please to 'scuse me," she said lightly, "if I step on the gas a
mite while we have the road so much to ourselves and are so
familiar with it. Later, when we reach stranger country and have
to share with others, we'll be forced to go slower."
"Don't stint your speed on account of me," said Donald. "I am
just itching to know what Kitty can do."
"All right, here's your chance," said Linda. "Hear her purr?"
She settled her body a trifle tensely, squared her shoulders, and
gripped the steering wheel. Then she increased the gas and let
the Bear Cat roll over the smooth road from Lilac Valley running
south into Los Angeles. At a speed that was near to flying as a
non-professional attains, the youngsters traveled that road.
Their eyes were shining; their blood was racing. Until the point
where rougher roads and approaching traffic forced them to go
slower, they raced, and when they slowed down they looked at each
other and laughed in morning delight.
"I may not be very wise," said Linda, "but didn't I do the
smartest thing when I let Eileen have the touring car and saved
the Bear Cat for us?"
"Nothing short of inspiration," said Donald. "The height of my
ambition is to own a Bear Cat. If Father makes any mention of
anything I would like particularly to have for a graduation
present, I am cocked and primed as to what I shall tell him."
"You'd better save yourself a disappointment," said Linda
soberly. "You will be starting to college this fall, and when
you do you will be gone nine months out of the year, and I am
fairly sure your father wouldn't think shipping a Bear Cat back
and forth a good investment, or furnishing you one to take to
school with you. He would fear you would never make a grade that
would be a credit to him if he did."
"My!" laughed Donald, "you've got a long head on your shoulders!"
"When you're thrown on your own for four of the longest,
lonesomest years of your life, you learn to think," said Linda
She was touching the beginning of Los Angeles traffic. Later she
was on the open road again. The mists were thinning and lifting.
The perfume was not so heavy. The sheeted whiteness of the
orange groves was broken with the paler white of plum merging
imperceptibly into the delicate pink of apricot and the stronger
pink of peach, and there were deep green orchards of smooth waxen
olive foliage and the lacy-leaved walnuts. Then came the citrus
orchards again, and all the way on either hand running with them
were almost uninterrupted miles of roses of every color and kind,
and everywhere homes ranging from friendly mansions, all written
over in adorable flower color with the happy invitation, "Come in
and make yourself at home," to tiny bungalows along the wayside
crying welcome to this gay pair of youngsters in greetings
fashioned from white and purple wisteria, gold bignonia, every
rose the world knows, and myriad brilliant annual and perennial
flower faces gathered from the circumference of the tropical
globe and homing enthusiastically on the King's Highway.
Sometimes Linda lifted her hand from the wheel to wave a passing
salute to a particularly appealing flower picture. Sometimes she
whistled a note or cried a greeting to a mockingbird, a rosy
finch, or a song sparrow.
"Look at the pie timber!" she cried to Donald, calling his
attention to a lawn almost covered with red-winged blackbirds.
"Four hundred and twenty might be baked in that pie," she
Then a subtle change began to creep over the world. The sun
peered over the mountains inquiringly, a timid young thing, as if
she were asking what degree of light and warmth they would like
for the day. A new brilliancy tinged every flower face in this
light, a throbbing ecstasy mellowed every bird note; the orchards
dropped farther apart, meadows filled with grazing cattle flashed
past them, the earthy scent of freshly turned fields mingled with
flower perfume, and on their right came drifting in a cool salt
breath from the sea. At mid-forenoon, as they neared Laguna,
they ran past great hills, untouched since the days when David
cried: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence
cometh my help." At one particularly beautiful range, draped
with the flowing emerald of spring, decorated with beds of gold
poppy, set with flowering madrona and manzanita, with the gold of
yellow monkey flower or the rich red of the related species, with
specimens of lupin growing in small trees, here and there
adventurous streams singing and flashing their unexpected way to
the mother breast of the waiting ocean very near to the road
which at one surprising turn carried them to the never-ending
wonder of the troubled sea, they drove as slowly as the Bear Cat
would consent to travel, so that they might study great boulders,
huge as many of the buildings they had passed, their faces
scarred by the wrack of ages. Studying their ancient records one
could see that they had been familiar with the star that rested
over Bethlehem. On their faces had shone the same moon that
opened the highways Journeying into Damascus. They had stood the
storms that had beaten upon the world since the days when the
floods subsided, the land lifted above the face of the waters in
gigantic upheavals that had ripped the surface of the globe from
north to south and forced up the hills, the foothills, and the
mountains of the Coast Range. They had been born then, they had
first seen the light of day, in glowing, molten, red-hot,
high-piled streams of lava that had gushed forth in that awful
evolution of birth.
Sometimes Linda stopped the car, they left it, and climbed over
the faces of these mighty upheavals. Once Linda reached her hand
to Donald and cried, half laughingly, half in tense earnest:
"Oh, kid, we have got to hurry. Compared with the age of these,
we've only a few minutes. It's all right to talk jestingly about
'the crack of doom' but you know there really was a crack of
doom, and right here is where it cracked and spewed out the
material that hardened into these very rocks. Beside them I feel
as a shrimp must feel beside a whale, and I feel that we must
"And so we must," said Donald. "I'm hungry as Likeliest when he
waited for them to find enough peacock tongues to satisfy his
"I wonder what brand of home-brew made him think of that," said
"Well, you know," said Donald, "the world was only a smallish
place then. They didn't have to go far to find everything to
which they had access, and it must have been rather a decent time
in which to live. Awful lot of light and color and music and
"You're talking," said Linda, "from the standpoint of the king or
the master. Suppose you had lived then and had been the slave."
"There you go again," said Donald, "throwing a brick into the
most delicate mechanism of my profound thought. You ought to be
ashamed to round me up with something scientific and
materialistic every time I go a-glimmering. Don't you think this
would be a fine place to have lunch?"
"You wait and see where we lunch today, and you will have the
answer to that," said Linda, starting back to the Bear Cat.
A few miles farther on they followed the road around the frowning
menace of an overhanging rock and sped out directly to the
panorama of the sea. The sun was shining on it, but, as always
round the Laguna shore, the rip tide was working itself into
undue fury. It came dashing up on the ancient rocks until one
could easily understand why a poet of long ago wrote of sea
horses. Some of the waves did suggest monstrous white chargers
racing madly to place their feet upon the solid rock.
Through the village, up the steep inclines, past placid lakes,
past waving yellow mustard beds, beside highways where the
breastplate of Mother Earth gleamed emerald and ruby against the
background of billions of tiny, shining diamonds of the iceplant,
past the old ostrich tree reproduced by etchers of note the world
over, with grinding brakes, sliding down the breathless declivity
leading to the shore, Linda stopped at last where the rock walls
lifted sheer almost to the sky. She led Donald to a huge circle
carpeted with cerise sand verbena, with pink and yellow iceplant
bloom, with jewelled iceplant foliage, with the running blue of
the lovely sea daisy, with the white and pink of the sea fig,
where the walls were festooned with ferns, lichens, studded all
over with flaming Our Lord's Candles, and strange, uncanny,
grotesque flower forms, almost human in their writhing turns as
they twisted around the rocks and slipped along clinging to the
sheer walls. Just where the vegetation met the white, sea-washed
sand, Linda spread the Indian blanket, and Donald brought the
lunch box. At their feet adventurous waves tore themselves to
foam on the sharp rocks. On their left they broke in booming
spray, tearing and fretting the base of cliffs that had stood
impregnable through aeons of such ceaseless attack and repulse.
"I wonder," said Donald, "how it comes that I have lived all my
life in California, and today it seems to me that most of the
worthwhile things I know about her I owe to you. When I go to
college this winter t.he things I shall be telling the boys will
be how I could gain a living, if I had to, on the desert, in
Death Valley, from the walls of Multiflores Canyon; and how the
waves go to smash on the rocks of Laguna, not to mention cactus
fish hooks, mescal sticks, and brigand beefsteak. It's no wonder
the artists of all the world come here copying these pictures.
It's no wonder they build these bungalows and live here for
years, unsatisfied with their efforts to reproduce the pictures
of the Master Painter of them all."
"I wonder," said Linda, "if anybody is very easily satisfied. I
wonder today if Eileen is satisfied with being merely rich. I
wonder if we are satisfied to have this golden day together. I
wonder if the white swallows are satisfied with the sea. I
wonder if those rocks are satisfied and proud to stand
impregnable against the constant torment of the tide."
"I wonder, oh, Lord, how I wonder," broke in Donald, "about
Katherine O'Donovan's lunch box. If you want a picture of per
feet satisfaction, Belinda beloved, lead me to it!"
"Thank heaven you're mistaken," she said; "they spared me the
'Be'--. It's truly just 'Linda."'
"Well, I'm not sparing you the 'Be--'," said Donald, busy with
the fastenings of the lunch basket. "Did you hear where I used
"Yes, child, and I like it heaps," said Linda casually. "It's
fine to have you like me. Awfully proud of myself."
"You have two members of our family at your feet," said Donald
soberly as he handed her packages from the box. "My dad is
beginning to discourse on you with such signs of intelligence
that I am almost led to believe, from some of his wildest
outbursts, that he has had some personal experience in some way."
"And why not?" asked Linda lightly. "Haven't I often told you
that my father constantly went on fishing and hunting trips, that
he was a great collector of botanical specimens, that he
frequently took his friends with him? You might ask your father
if he does not recall me as having fried fish and made coffee and
rendered him camp service when I was a slip of a thing in the
dawn of my teens."
"Well, he didn't just mention it," said Donald, "but I can
.easily see how it might have been."
After they had finished one of Katy's inspired lunches, in which
a large part of the inspiration had been mental on Linda's part
and executive on Katy's, they climbed rock faces, skirted
wave-beaten promontories, and stood peering from overhanging
cliffs dipping down into the fathomless green sea, where the
water boiled up in turbulent fury. Linda pointed out the rocks
upon which she would sit, if she were a mermaid, to comb the
seaweed from her hair. She could hear the sea bells ringing in
those menacing depths, but Donald's ears were not so finely
tuned. At the top of one of the highest cliffs they climbed,
there grew a clump of slender pale green bushes, towering high
above their heads with exquisitely cut blue-green leaves, lance
shaped and slender. Donald looked at the fascinating growth
"Linda," he said, "do you know that the slimness and the
sheerness and the audacious foothold and the beauty of that thing
remind me of you? It is covered all over with the delicate
frostbloom you taught me to see upon fruit. I find it everywhere
but you have never told me what it is."
Linda laughingly reached up and broke a spray of greenish-yellow
tubular flowers, curving out like clustered trumpets spilling
melody from their fluted throats.
"You will see it everywhere. You will find these flowers every
month of the year," she said, "and I am particularly gladsome
that this plant reminds you of me. I love the bluish-green
'bloom' of its sheer foliage. I love the music these flower
trumpets make to me. I love the way it has traveled, God knows
how, all the way from the Argentine and spread itself over our
country wherever it is allowed footing. I am glad that there is
soothing in these dried leaves for those who require it. I shall
be delighted to set my seal on you with it. There are two little
Spanish words that it suggests to the Mexican--Buena moza--but
you shall find out for yourself what they mean."
Encountering his father that night at his library door, Donald
Whiting said to him: "May I come in, Dad? I have something I
must look up before I sleep. Have you a Spanish lexicon, or no
doubt you have this in your head."
"Well, I've a halting vocabulary," said the Judge. "What's your
"Linda put this flower on me today," said Donald, "and she said
she was pleased because I said the tall, slender bush it grew on
reminded me of her. She gave me the Spanish name, but I don't
know the exact significance of the decoration I am wearing until
I learn the meaning of the phrase."
"Try me on it," said the Judge.
" 'Buena moza,"' quoted Donald.
The Judge threw back his head and laughed heartily.
"Son," he said, "you should know that from the Latin you're
learning. You should translate it instinctively. I couldn't
tell you exactly whether a Spaniard would translate 'Buena'
'fine' or 'good.' Knowing their high-falutin' rendition of almost
everything else I would take my chance on 'fine.' Son, your
phrase means 'a fine girl.' "
Donald looked down at the flower in his buttonhole, and then he
looked straight at his father.
"And only the Lord knows, Dad," he said soberly, "exactly how
fine Linda-girl is."
CHAPTER XXVI. A Mouse Nest
I am delighted that you had such a wonderful birthday. I would
take a shot in air that anything you don't understand about it
you might with reasonable safety charge to Katherine O'Donovan.
I think it was great of her to have a suitable and a becoming
dress waiting for you and a congenial man like Peter Morrison to
dine with you. He appealed to me as being a rare character,
highly original, and, I should think, to those who know him well
he must be entertaining and lovable in the extreme. I never
shall be worried about you so long as I know that he is taking
care of you.
I should not be surprised if some day I meet Eileen somewhere,
because Dana and I are going about more than you would believe
possible. I heartily join with you in wishing her every good
that life can bring her. I don't want to be pessimistic, but I
can't help feeling, Linda, that she is taking a poor way to win
the best, and I gravely doubt whether she finds it in the
spending of unlimited quantities of the money of a coarse man who
stumbled upon his riches accidentally, as has many a man of
California and Colorado.
I intended, when I sat down to write, the very first thing I
said, to thank you for your wonderful invitation, seconded so
loyally and cordially by Katy, to make my home with you until the
time comes-- if it ever does come--when I shall have a home of my
own again. And just as simply and wholeheartedly as you made the
offer, I accept it. I am enclosing the address and the receipt
for my furniture in storage, and a few lines ordering it
delivered at your house and the bill sent to me. I only kept a
few heirlooms and things of Mother's and Father's that are very
precious to me. Whenever Eileen takes her things you can order
mine in and let me know, and I'll take a day or two off and run
down for a short visit.
Mentioning Eileen makes me think of John. I think of him more
frequently than I intend or wish that I did, but I feel my ninth
life is now permanently extinguished concerning him. I thought I
detected in your letter, Linda dear, a hint of fear that he might
come back to me and that I might welcome him. If you have any
such feeling in your heart, abandon it, child, because, while I
try not to talk about myself, I do want to say that I rejoice in
a family inheritance of legitimate pride. I couldn't give the
finest loyalty and comradeship I had to give to a man, have it
returned disdainfully, and then furbish up the pieces and present
it over again. If I can patch those same pieces and so polish
and refine them that I can make them, in the old phrase, "as good
as new," possibly in time-
But, Linda, one thing is certain as the hills of morning. Never
in my life will any man make any headway with me again with vague
suggestions and innuendoes and hints. If ever any man wants to
be anything in my life, he will speak plainly and say what he
wants and thinks and hopes and intends and feels in not more than
two-syllable English. I learned my lesson about the futility of
building your house of dreams on a foundation of sand. Next time
I erect a dream house, it is going to have a proper foundation of
solid granite. And that may seem a queer thing for me to say
when you know that I am getting the joy in my life, that I do not
hesitate to admit I am, from letters written by a man whose name
I don't know. It may be that I don't know the man, but I
certainly am very well acquainted with him, and in some way he
seems to me to be taking on more definite form. I should not be
surprised if I were to recognize him the first time I met him
face to face.
Linda looked through the skylight and cried out to the stars:
"Good heavens! Have I copied Peter too closely?"
She sat thinking a minute and then she decided she had not.
And in this connection you will want to know how I am progressing
in my friendship with the junior partner, and what kind of
motorist I am making. I am still driving twice a week, and
lately on Sundays in a larger car, taking Dana and a newspaper
friend of hers along. I think I have driven every hazard that
this part of California affords except the mountains; Mr. Snow is
still merciful about them.
Linda dear, I know what you're dying to know. You want to know
whether Mr. Snow is in the same depths of mourning as when our
acquaintance first began. This, my dear child, is very
reprehensible of you. Young girls with braids down their
backs--and by the way, Linda, you did not tell me what happened
"after the ball was over." Did you go to school the next morning
with braids down your back, or wearing your coronet? Because on
that depends what I have to say to you now; if you went with
braids, you're still my little girl chum, the cleanest, finest
kid I have ever known; but if you wore your coronet, then you're
a woman and my equal and my dearest friend, far dearer than Dana
even; and I tell you this, Linda, because I want you always to
understand that you come first.
I have tried and tried to visualize you, and can't satisfy my
mind as to whether the braids are up or down. Going on the
assumption that they are up, and that life may in the near future
begin to hold some interesting experiences for you, I will tell
you this, beloved child: I don't think Mr. Snow is mourning
quite so deeply as he was. I have not been asked, the last four
or five trips we have been on, to carry an armload of exquisite
flowers to the shrine of a departed love. I have been privileged
to take them home and arrange them in my room and Dana's. And I
haven't heard so much talk about loneliness, and I haven't seen
such tired, sad eyes. It seems to me that a familiar pair of
shoulders are squaring up to the world again, and a very kind
pair of eyes are brighter with interest. I don't know how you
feel about this; I don't know how I feel about it myself. I am
sure that Eugene Snow is a man who, in the years to come, would
line up beside your father and mine, and I like him immensely.
It is merely a case of not liking him less, but of liking my
unknown man more. I couldn't quite commit the sacrilege, Linda
dear, of sending you a sample of the letters I am receiving, but
they are too fanciful and charming for any words of mine to
describe adequately. I don't know who this man is, or what he
has to offer, or whether he intends to offer anything, but it is
a ridiculous fact, Linda, that I would rather sit with him in a
chimney corner of field boulders, on a pine floor, with a palm
roof and an Ocotillo candle, than to glow in the
parchment-shielded electric light of the halls of a rich man. In
a recent letter, Linda, there was a reference to a woman who wore
"a diadem of crystallized light." It was a beautiful thing and I
could not help taking it personally. It was his way of telling
me that he knew me, and knew my tragedy; and, as I said before, I
am beginning to feel that I have him rather definitely located;
and I can understand the fine strain in him that prompted his
anonymity, and his reasons for it. Of course I am not
sufficiently confident yet to say anything definite, but my heart
is beginning to say things that I sincerely hope my lips never
will be forced to deny.
Linda laid down the letter, folded her hands across it, and once
more looked at the stars.
"Good gracious!" she said. "I am tincturing those letters with
too much Peter. I'll have to tone down a bit. Next thing I know
she will be losing her chance with that wonderful Snow man for a
dream. In my efforts to comfort her I must have gone too far.
It is all right to write a gushy love letter and stuff it full of
Peter's whimsical nonsense, but, in the language of the poet, how
am I going to 'deliver the goods'? Of course that talk about
Louise Whiting was all well enough. Equally, of course, I
outlined and planted the brook and designed the bridge for
Marian, whether she knows it or Peter knows it, or not. If they
don't know it, it's about time they were finding it out. I think
it's my job to visit Peter more frequently and see if I can't
invent some way to make him see the light. I will give Katy a
hint in the morning. Tomorrow evening I'll go up and have supper
with him and see if he has another article in the stewpan. I
like this work with Peter. I like having him make me dream
dreams and see pictures. I like the punch and the virility he
puts into my drawings. It's all right reproducing monkey flowers
and lilies for pastime, but for serious business, for real life
work, I would rather do Peter's brainstorming, heart-thrilling
pictures than my merely pretty ones. On the subject of Peter, I
must remember in the morning to take those old books he gave me
to Donald. I believe that from one of them he is going to get
the very material he needs to down the Jap in philosophy. And
they are not text books which proves that Peter must have been
digging into the subject and hunted them up in some second-hand
store, or even sent away an order for them."
In the hall the next morning Linda stopped Donald and gave him
the books. In the early stages of their friendship she had
looked at him under half-closed lids and waited to see whether he
intended stopping to say a word with her when they passed each
other or came down the halls together. She knew that their
acquaintance would be noted and commented upon, and she knew how
ready the other girls would be to say that she was bold and
forward, so she was careful to let Donald make the advances,
until he had called to her so often, and had dug flowers and left
his friends waiting at her door while he delivered them, that she
felt free to address him as she chose. He had shown any
interested person in the high school that he was her friend, that
he was speaking to her exactly as he did to girls he had known
from childhood. He was very popular among the boys and girls of
his class and the whole school. His friendship, coming at the
time of Linda's rebellion on the subject of clothes, had
developed a tendency to bring her other friendships. Boys who
never had known she was in existence followed Donald's example in
stopping her to say a word now and then. Girls who had politely
ignored her now found things to say; and several invitations she
had not had leisure to accept had been sent to her for afternoon
and evening entertainments among the young people. Linda had
laid out for herself something of a task in deciding to be the
mental leader of her class. There were good brains in plenty
among the other pupils. It was only by work, concentration, and
purpose, only by having a mind keenly alert, by independent
investigation and introducing new points of view that she could
hold her prestige. Up to the receipt of her letter containing
the offer to publish her book she had been able rigorously to
exclude from her mind the personality and the undertakings of
Jane Meredith. She was Linda Strong in the high school and for
an hour or two at her studies. She was Jane Meredith over the
desert, through the canyons, beside the sea, in her Multiflores
kitchen or in Katherine O'Donovan's. But this book offer opened
a new train of thought, a new series of plans. She could see her
way-- thanks to her father she had the material in her mind and
the art in her finger tips-- to materialize what she felt would
be even more attractive in book form than anything her editor had
been able to visualize from her material. She knew herself, she
knew her territory so minutely. Frequently she smiled when she
read statements in her botanies as to where plants and vegetables
could be found. She knew the high home of the rare and precious
snow plant. She knew the northern limit of the strawberry
cactus. She knew where the white sea swallow nested. She knew
where the Monarch butterfly went on his winter migration. She
knew where the trap-door spider, with cunning past the cunning of
any other architect of Nature, built his small, round,
silken-lined tower and hinged his trap door so cleverly that only
he could open it from the outside. She had even sat immovable
and watched him erect his house, and she would have given much to
see him weave its silver lining.
Linda was fast coming to the place where she felt herself to be
one in an interested group of fellow workers. She no longer gave
a thought to what kind of shoes she wore. Other girls were
beginning to wear the same kind. The legislatures of half a
dozen states were passing laws regulating the height of heel
which might be worn within their boundaries. Manufacturers were
promising for the coming season that suitable shoes would be
built for street wear and mountain climbing, for the sands of the
sea and the sands of the desert, and the sheer face of canyons.
The extremely long, dirt-sweeping skirts were coming up; the
extremely short, immodest skirts were coming down. A sane and
sensible wave seemed to be sweeping the whole country. Under the
impetus of Donald Whiting's struggles to lead his classes and
those of other pupils to lead theirs a higher grade of
scholarship was beginning to be developed throughout the high
school. Pupils were thinking less of what they wore and how much
amusement they could crowd in, and more about making grades that
would pass them with credit from year to year. The horrors of
the war and the disorders following it had begun to impress upon
the young brains growing into maturity the idea that soon it
would be their task to take over the problems that were now
vexing the world's greatest statesmen and its wisest and most
courageous women. A tendency was manifesting itself among young
people to equip themselves to take a worthy part in the struggles
yet to come. Classmates who had looked with toleration upon
Linda's common-sense shoes and plain dresses because she was her
father's daughter, now looked upon her with respect and
appreciation because she started so many interesting subjects for
discussion, because she was so rapidly developing into a creature
well worth looking at. Always she would be unusual because of
her extreme height, her narrow eyes, her vivid coloring. But a
greater maturity, a fuller figure, had come to be a part of the
vision with which one looked at Linda. In these days no one saw
her as she was. Even her schoolmates had fallen into the habit
of seeing her as she would be in the years to come.
Thus far she had been able to keep her identities apart without
any difficulty; but the book proposition was so unexpected, it
was such a big thing to result from her modest beginning, that
Linda realized that she must proceed very carefully, she must
concentrate with all her might, else her school work would begin
to suffer in favor of the book. Recently so many things had
arisen to distract her attention. Many days she had not been
able to keep Eileen's face off her geometry papers; and again she
saw Gilman's, anxious and pain-filled. Sometimes she found
herself lifting her eyes from tasks upon which she was
concentrating with all her might, and with no previous thought
whatever she was searching for Donald Whiting, and when she saw
him, coming into muscular and healthful manhood, she returned to
her work with more strength, deeper vision, a quiet, assured
feeling around her heart. Sometimes, over the edge of Literature
and Ancient History, Peter Morrison looked down at her with
gravely questioning eyes and dancing imps twisting his mouth
muscles, and Linda paused a second to figure upon what had become
an old problem with her. Why did her wild-flower garden make
Peter Morrison think of a graveyard? What was buried there
besides the feet of her rare flowers? She had not as yet found
This day her thoughts were on Peter frequently because she
intended to see him that night. She was going to share with him
a supper of baked ham and beans and bread and butter and pickled
onions and little nut cakes, still warm from Katy's oven. She
was going to take Katy with her in order that she might see Peter
Morrison's location and the house for his dream lady, growing at
the foot of the mountain like a gay orchid homing on a forest
tree. To Linda it was almost a miracle, the rapidity with which
a house could be erected in California. In a few weeks' time she
had seen a big cellar scooped out of the plateau, had seen it
lined and rising to foundation height above the surface in solid
concrete, faced outside with cracked boulders. She had seen a
framework erected, a rooftree set, and joists and rafters and
beams swinging into place. Fretworks of lead and iron pipe were
running everywhere, and wires for electricity. Soon shingles and
flooring would be going into place, and Peter said that when he
had finished acrobatic performances on beams and girders and
really stepped out on solid floors where he might tread without
fear of breaking any of his legs, he would perform a Peacock
Dance all by himself.
"Peter, you sound like a centipede," said Linda.
"Dear child," said Peter, "when I enter my front door and get to
the back on two-inch footing, I positively feel that I have
numerous legs, and I ache almost as badly in the fear that I
shall break the two I have, as I should if they were really
And then he added a few words on a subject of which he had not
before spoken to Linda.
"It was like that in France. When we really got into the heat of
things and the work was actually being done, we were not afraid:
we were too busy; we were 'supermen.' The time when we were all
legs and arms and head, and all of them were being blown away
wholesale was when the shells whined over while we had a rest
hour and were trying to sleep, or in the cold, dim dawn when we
stumbled out stiff, hungry, and sleepy. It's not the REAL THING
when it's really occurring that gets one. It's the devils of
imagination tormenting the soul. There is only one thing in this
world can happen to me that is really going to be as bad as the
things I dream."
Linda looked down Lilac Valley, her eyes absently focusing on
Katy busily setting supper on a store box in front of the garage.
Then she looked at Peter.
"Mind telling?" she inquired lightly.
Peter looked at her speculatively.
"And would a man be telling his heart's best secret to a kid like
you?" he asked.
"Now, I call that downright mean," said Linda. "Haven't you
noticed that my braids are up? Don't you see a maturity and a
dignity and a general matronliness apparent all over me today?"
"Matronliness" was too much for Peter. You could have heard his
laugh far down the blue valley.
"That's good!" he cried.
"It is," agreed Linda. "It means that my braids are up to stay,
so hereafter I'm a real woman."
She lingered over the word an instant, glancing whimsically at
Peter, a trace of a smile on her lips, then she made her way down
a slant declivity and presently returned with an entire flower
plant, new to Peter and of unusual beauty.
"And because I am a woman I shall set my seal upon you," she
In the buttonhole of his light linen coat she placed a flower of
satin face of purest gold, the five petals rounded, but sharply
tipped, a heavy mass of silk stamens, pollen dusted in the heart.
She pushed back the left side of his coat and taking one of the
rough, hairy leaves of the plant she located it over Peter's
heart, her slim, deft fingers patting down the leaf and
flattening it out until it lay pasted smooth and tight. As she
worked, she smiled at him challengingly. Peter knew he was
experiencing a ceremony of some kind, the significance of which
he must learn. It was the first time Linda had voluntarily
touched him. He breathed lightly and held steady, lest he
"Lovely enough," he said, "to have come from the hills of the
stars. Don't make me wait, Linda; help me to the
"Buena Mujer," suggested Linda.
"Good woman," translated Peter.
Linda nodded, running a finger down the leaf over his heart.
"Because she sticks close to you," she explained. Then startled
by the look in Peter's eyes, she cried in swift change: "Now we
are all going to work for a minute. Katy's spreading the lunch.
You take this pail and go to the spring for water and I shall
tidy your quarters for you."
With the eye of experience Linda glanced over the garage deciding
that she must ask for clean sheets for the cot and that the
Salvation Army would like the heap of papers. Studying the
writing table she heard a faint sound that untrained ears would
"Ah, ha, Ma wood mouse," said Linda, "nibbling Peter's dr, goods
Her cry a minute later answered the question. She came from the
garage upon Katherine O'Donovan rushing to meet her, holding a
man's coat at the length of her far-reaching arm.
"I wish you'd look at that pocket. I don't know how long this
coat has been hanging there, but there is a nest of field mice in
it," she said.
Katy promptly retreated to the improvised dining table, seated
herself upon an end of it, and raised both feet straight into the
"Small help I'll be getting from you," said Linda laughingly.
She went to the edge of the declivity that cut back to the garage
and with a quick movement reversed the coat catching it by the
skirts and shaking it vigorously.
CHAPTER XXVII. The Straight and Narrow
This served exactly the purpose Linda had intended. It dislodged
the mouse nest and dropped it three feet below her level, but it
did something else upon which Linda had no time to count. It
emptied every pocket in the coat and sent the contents scattering
down the rough declivity.
"Oh my gracious!" gasped Linda. "Look what I have done! Katy,
come help me quickly; I have to gather up this stuff; but it's no
use; I'll have to take it to Peter and tell him. I couldn't put
these things back in the pockets where his hand will reach for
them, because I don't know which came from inside and which came
Linda sprang down and began hastily gathering up everything she
could see that had fallen from the coat pockets. She had almost
finished when her fingers chanced upon a very soiled, befigured
piece of paper whose impressed folds showed that it had been
carried for some time in an inner pocket. As her fingers touched
this paper her eyes narrowed, her breath came in a gasp. She
looked at it a second, irresolute, then she glanced over the top
of the declivity in the direction Peter had taken. He was
standing in front of the building, discussing some matter with
the contractor. He had not yet gone to the spring. Shielded by
the embankment with shaking fingers Linda opened the paper barely
enough to see that it was Marian's lost sheet of plans; but it
was not as Marian had lost it. It was scored deeply here and
there with heavy lines suggestive of alterations, and the margin
was fairly covered with fine figuring. Linda did not know Peter
Morrison's writing or figures. His articles had been typewritten
and she had never seen his handwriting. She sat down suddenly on
account of weakened knees, and gazed unseeingly down the length
of Lilac Valley, her heart sick, her brain tormented. Suddenly
she turned and studied the house.
"Before the Lord!" she gasped. "I THOUGHT there was something
mighty familiar even about the skeleton of you! Oh, Peter, Peter,
where did you get this, and how could you do it?"
For a while a mist blurred her eyes. She reached for the coat
and started to replace the things she had gathered up, then she
shut her lips tight.
"Best time to pull a tooth," she said tersely to a terra cotta
red manzanita bush, "is when it aches."
When Peter returned from the spring he was faced by a trembling
girl, colorless and trying hard to keep her voice steady. She
held out the coat to him with one hand, the package of papers
with the other, the folded drawing conspicuous on the top. With
these she gestured toward the declivity.
"Mouse nest in your pocket, Peter," she said thickly. "Reversed
the coat to shake it out, and spilled your stuff."
Then she waited for Peter to be confounded. But Peter was not in
the faintest degree troubled about either the coat or the papers.
What did trouble him was the face and the blazing eyes of the
girl concerning whom he would not admit, even to himself, his
exact state of feeling.
"The mouse did not get on you, Linda?" he asked anxiously.
Linda shook her head. Suddenly she lost her self-control.
"Oh, Peter," she wailed, "how could you do it?"
Peter's lean frame tensed suddenly.
"I don't understand, Linda," he said quietly. "Exactly what have
Linda thrust the coat and the papers toward him accusingly and
stood there wordless but with visible pain in her dark eyes.
peter smiled at her reassuringly.
"That's not my coat, you know. If there is anything distressing
about it, don't lay it to me."
"Oh, Peter!" cried Linda, "tell the truth about it. Don't try
any evasions. I am so sick of them."
A rather queer light sprang into Peter's eyes. He leaned forward
suddenly and caught the coat from Linda's fingers.
"Well, if you need an alibi concerning this coat," he said, "I
think I can furnish it speedily."
As he talked he whirled the garment around and shot his long arms
into the sleeves. Shaking it into place on his shoulders, he
slowly turned in front of Linda and the surprised Katy. The
sleeves came halfway to his wrists and the shoulders slid down
over his upper arms. He made such a quaint and ridiculous figure
that Katy burst out laughing. She was very well trained, but she
knew Linda was deeply distressed.
"Wake up, lambie!" she cried sharply. "That coat ain't belonging
to Mr. Pater Morrison. That gairment is the property of that
bug-catchin' architect of his."
Peter shook off the coat and handed it back to Linda.
"Am I acquitted?" he asked lightly; but his surprised eyes were
searching her from braid to toe.
Linda turned from him swiftly. She thrust the packet into a side
pocket and started to the garage with the coat. As she passed
inside she slipped down her hand, slid the sheet of plans from
the other papers, and slipped it into the front of her blouse.
She hung the coat back where she had found it, then suddenly sat
down on the side of Peter Morrison's couch, white and shaken.
Peter thought he heard a peculiar gasp and when he strayed past
the door, casually glancing inward, he saw what he saw, and it
brought him to his knees beside Linda with all speed.
"Linda-girl," he implored, "what in this world has happened?"
Linda struggled to control her voice; but at last she buried her
face in her hands and frankly emitted a sound that she herself
would have described as "howling." Peter knelt back in wonder.
"Of all the things I ever thought about you, Linda," he said,
"the one thing I never did think was that you were hysterical."
If there was one word in Linda's vocabulary more opprobrious than
"nerves," which could be applied to a woman, it was "hysterics."
The great specialist had admitted nerves; hysterics had no
standing with him. Linda herself had no more use for a
hysterical woman than she had for a Gila monster. She
straightened suddenly, and in removing her hands from her face
she laid one on each of Peter's shoulders.
"Oh, Peter," she wailed, "I am not a hysterical idiot, but I
couldn't have stood it if that coat had been yours. Peter, I
just couldn't have borne it!"
Peter held himself rigidly in the fear that he might disturb the
hands that were gripping him.
"I see I have the job of educating these damned field mice as to
where they may build with impunity," he said soberly.
But Linda was not to be diverted. She looked straight and deep
into his eyes.
"Peter," she said affirmatively, "you don't know a thing about
that coat, do you?"
"I do not," said Peter promptly.
"You never saw what was in its pockets, did you?"
"Not to my knowledge," answered Peter. "What was in the pockets,
Linda thought swiftly. Peter adored his dream house. If she
told him that the plans for it had been stolen by his architect,
the house would be ruined for Peter. Anyone could see from the
candor of his gaze and the lines that God and experience had
graven on his face that Peter was without guile. Suddenly Linda
shot her hands past Peter's shoulders and brought them together
on the back of his neck. She drew his face against hers and
cried: "Oh Peter, I would have been killed if that coat had been
yours. I tell you I couldn't have endured it, Peter. I am just
tickled to death!"
One instant she hugged him tight. If her lips did not brush his
cheek, Peter deluded himself. Then she sprang up and ran from
the garage. Later he took the coat from its nail, the papers
from its pockets, and carefully looked them over. There was
nothing among them that would give him the slightest clue to
Linda's conduct. He looked again, penetratingly, searchingly,
for he must learn from them a reason; and no reason was apparent.
With the coat in one hand and the papers in the other he stepped
"Linda," he said, "won't you show me? Won't you tell me? What
is there about this to upset you?"
Linda closed her lips and shook her head. Once more Peter sought
in her face, in her attitude the information he craved.
"Needn't tell me," he said, "that a girl who will face the desert
and the mountains and the canyons and the sea is upset by a
"Well, you should have seen Katy sitting in the midst of our
supper with her feet rigidly extended before her!" cried the
girl, struggling to regain her composure. "Put back that coat
and come to your supper. It's time for you to be fed now. The
last workman has gone and we'll barely have time to finish nicely
and show Katy your dream house before it's time to go."
Peter came and sat in the place Linda indicated. His mind was
whirling. There was something he did not understand, but in her
own time, in her own way, a girl of Linda's poise and
self-possession would tell him what had occurred that could be
responsible for the very peculiar things she had done. In some
way she had experienced a shock too great for her usual
self-possession. The hands with which she fished pickled onions
from the bottle were still unsteady, and the corroboration Peter
needed for his thoughts could be found in the dazed way in which
Katy watched Linda as she hovered over her in serving her. But
that was not the time. By and by the time would come. The thing
to do was to trust Linda and await its coming. So Peter called
on all the reserve wit and wisdom he had at command. He jested,
told stories, and to Linda's satisfaction and Katy's delight, he
ate his supper like a hungry man, frankly enjoying it, and when
the meal was finished Peter took Katy over the house, explaining
to her as much detail as was possible at that stage of its
construction, while Linda followed with mute lips and rebellion
surging in her heart. When leaving time came, while Katy packed
the Bear Cat, Linda wandered across toward the spring, and Peter,
feeling that possibly she might wish to speak with him, followed
her. When he overtook her she looked at him straightly, her eyes
showing the hurt her heart felt.
"Peter," she said, "that first night you had dinner with us, was
Henry Anderson out of your presence one minute from the time you
came into the house until you left it?"
Peter stopped and studied the ground at his feet intently.
Finally he said conclusively: "I would go on oath, Linda, that
he was not. We were all together in the living room, all
together in the dining room. We left together at night and John
was with us."
"I see," said Linda. "Well, then, when you came back the next
morning after Eileen, before you started on your trip, to hunt a
location, was he with you all the time?"
Again Peter took his time to answer.
"We came to your house with Gilman," he said. "John started to
the front door to tell Miss Eileen that we were ready. I
followed him. Anderson said he would look at the scenery. He
must have made a circuit of the house, because when we came out
ready to start, a very few minutes later, he was coming down the
other side of the house."
"Ah," said Linda comprehendingly.
"Linda," said Peter quietly, "it is very obvious that something
has worried you extremely. Am I in any way connected with it?"
Linda shook her head.
"Is there anything I can do?"
The negative was repeated. Then she looked at him.
"No, Peter," she said quietly, "I confess I have had a shock, but
it is in no way connected with you and there is nothing you can
do about it but forget my foolishness. But I am glad--Peter, you
will never know how glad I am--that you haven't anything to do
Then in the friendliest fashion imaginable she reached him her
hand and led the way back to the Bear Cat, their tightly gripped
hands swinging between them. As Peter closed the door he looked
down on Linda.
"Young woman," he said, "since this country has as yet no nerve
specialist to take the place of your distinguished father, if you
have any waves to wave to me tonight, kindly do it before you
start or after you reach the highway. If you take your hands off
that steering wheel as you round the boulders and strike that
declivity as I have seen you do heretofore, I won't guarantee
that I shall not require a specialist myself."
Linda started to laugh, then she saw Peter's eyes and something
in them stopped her suddenly.
"I did not realize that I was taking any risk," she said. "I
won't do it again. I will say good-bye to you right here and now
so I needn't look back."
So she shook hands with Peter and drove away. Peter slowly
followed down the rough driveway, worn hard by the wheels of
delivery trucks, and stood upon the highest point of the rocky
turn, looking after the small gray car as it slid down the steep
declivity. And he wondered if there could have been telepathy in
the longing with which he watched it go, for at the level roadway
that followed between the cultivated land out to the highway
Linda stopped the car, stood up in it, and turning, looked back
straight to the spot upon which Peter stood. She waved both
hands to him, and then gracefully and beautifully, with
outstretched, fluttering fingers she made him the sign of birds
flying home. And with the whimsy in his soul uppermost, Peter
reflected, as he turned back for a microscopic examination of
Henry Anderson's coat and the contents of its pockets, that there
was one bird above all others which made him think of Linda; but
he could not at the moment feather Katherine O'Donovan. And then
he further reflected as he climbed the hill that if it had to be
done the best he could do would be a bantam hen contemplating
Linda looked the garage over very carefully when she put away the
Bear Cat. When she closed the garage doors she was particular
about the locks. As she came through the kitchen she said to
Katy, busy with the lunch box:
"Belovedest, have there been any strange Japs poking around here
She nearly collapsed when Katy answered promptly:
"A dale too many of the square-headed haythens. I am pestered to
death with them. They used to come jist to water the lawn but
now they want to crane the rugs; they want to do the wash. They
are willing to crane house. They want to get into the garage;
they insist on washing the car. If they can't wash it they jist
want to see if it nades washin'."
Linda stood amazed.
"And how long has this been going on, Katy?" she finally asked.
"Well, I have had two good months of it," said Katy; "that is, it
started two months ago. The past month has been workin' up and
the last ten days it seemed to me they was a Jap on the back
steps oftener than they was a stray cat, and I ain't no truck
with ayther of them. They give me jist about the same falin'.
Between the two I would trust the cat a dale further with my bird
than I would the Jap."
"Have you ever unlocked the garage for them, Katy?" asked Linda.
"No," said Katy. "I only go there when I nade something about me
"Well, Katy," said Linda, "let me tell you this: the next time
you go there for anything take a good look for Japs before you
open the door. Get what you want and get out as quickly as
possible and be sure, Katy, desperately sure, that you lock the
door securely when you leave."
Katy set her hands on her hips, flared her elbows, and lifted her
"What's any of them little haythen been coin' to scare ye,
missy?" she demanded belligerently. "Don't you think I'm afraid
of them! Comes any of them around me and I'll take my mopstick
over the heads of them."
"And you'll break a perfectly good mopstick and not hurt the Jap
when you do it," said Linda. "There's an undercurrent of
something deep and subtle going on in this country right now,
Katy. When Japan sends college professors to work in our
kitchens and relatives of her greatest statesmen to serve our
tables, you can depend on it she is not doing it for the money
that is paid them. If California does not wake up very shortly
and very thoroughly she is going to pay an awful price for the
luxury she is experiencing while she pampers herself with the
service of the Japanese, just as the South has pampered herself
for generations with the service of the Negroes. When the
Negroes learn what there is to know, then the day of retribution
will be at hand. And this is not croaking, Katy. It is the
truest gospel that was ever preached. Keep your eyes wide open
for Japs. Keep your doors locked, and if you see one prowling
around the garage and don't know what he is after, go to the
telephone and call the police."
Linda climbed the stairs to her workroom, plumped down at the
table, set her chin in her palms, and lost herself in thought.
For half an hour she sat immovable, staring at her caricature of
Eileen through narrowed lids. Then she opened the typewriter,
inserted a sheet and wrote:
MY DEAR Mr. SNOW:
I am writing as the most intimate woman friend of Marian Thorne.
As such, I have spent much thought trying to figure out exactly
the reason for the decision in your recent architectural
competition; why a man should think of such a number of very
personal, intimate touches that, from familiarity with them, I
know that Miss Thorne had incorporated in her plans, and why his
winning house should be her winning house, merely reversed.
Today I have found the answer, which I am forwarding to you,
knowing that you will understand exactly what should be done.
Enclosed you will find one of the first rough s};etches Marian
made of her plans. In some mysterious manner it was lost on a
night when your prize-winning architect had dinner at our house
where Miss Thorne was also a guest. Before retiring she showed
to me and explained the plans with which she hoped to win your
competition. In the morning I packed her suitcase and handed it
to the porter of her train. When she arrived at San Francisco
she found that the enclosed sheet was missing.
This afternoon tidying a garage in which Mr. Peter Morrison, the
author, is living while Henry Anderson completes a residence he
is building for him near my home, I reversed a coat belonging to
Henry Anderson to dislodge from its pocket the nest of a field
mouse. In so doing I emptied all the pockets, and in gathering
up their contents I found this lost sheet from Marian's plans.
I think nothing more need be said on my part save that I
understood the winning plan was to become the property of
Nicholson and Snow. Without waiting to see whether these plans
would win or not, Henry Anderson has them three fourths of the
way materialized in Mr. Morrison's residence in Lilac Valley
which is a northwestern suburb of Los Angeles.
You probably have heard Marian speak of me, and from her you may
obtain any information you might care to have concerning my
I am mailing the sketch to you rather than to Marian because I
feel that you are the party most deeply interested in a business
way, and I hope, too, that you will be interested in protecting
my very dear friend from the disagreeable parts of this very
Very truly yours,
CHAPTER XXVIII. Putting It Up to Peter
When Peter Morrison finally gave up looking in the pockets of
Henry Anderson's coat for enlightenment concerning Linda's
conduct, it was with his mind settled on one point. There was
nothing in the coat now that could possibly have startled the
girl or annoyed her. Whatever had been there that caused her
extremely peculiar conduct she had carried away with her. Peter
had settled convictions concerning Linda. From the first instant
he had looked into her clear young eyes as she stood in
Multiflores Canyon triumphantly holding aloft the Cotyledon in
one hand and with the other struggling to induce the skirt of her
blouse to resume its proper location beneath the band of her
trousers, he had felt that her heart and her mind were as clear
and cool and businesslike as the energetic mountain stream
hurrying past her. Above all others, "straight" was the one
adjective he probably would have applied to her. Whatever she
had taken from Henry's pockets was something that concerned her.
If she took anything, she had a right to take it; of that Peter
was unalterably certain. He remembered that a few days before
she practically had admitted to him that Anderson had annoyed
her, and a slow anger began to surge up in Peter's carefully
regulated heart. His thoughts were extremely busy, but the thing
he thought most frequently and most forcefully was that he would
thoroughly enjoy taking Henry Anderson by the scruff of the neck,
leading him to the sheerest part of his own particular share of
the mountain, and exhaustively booting him down it.
"It takes these youngsters to rush in and raise the devil where
there's no necessity for anything to happen if just a modicum of
common sense had been used," growled Peter.
He mulled over the problem for several days, and then he decided
he should see Linda, and with his first look into her
straight-forward eyes, from the tones of her voice and the
carriage of her head he would know whether the annoyance
persisted. About the customary time for her to return from
school Peter started on foot down the short cut between his home
and the Strong residence. He was following a footpath rounding
the base of the mountain, crossing and recrossing the
enthusiastic mountain stream as it speeded toward the valley,
when a flash of color on the farther side of the brook attracted
him. He stopped, then hastily sprang across the water, climbed a
few yards, and, after skirting a heavy clump of bushes, looked at
Linda sitting beside them--a most astonishing Linda, appearing
small and humble, very much tucked away, unrestrained tears
rolling down her cheeks, a wet handkerchief wadded in one hand, a
packet of letters in her lap. A long instant they studied each
"Am I intruding?" inquired Peter at last.
Linda shook her head vigorously and gulped down a sob.
"No, Peter," she sobbed, "I had come this far on my way to you
when my courage gave out."
Peter rearranged the immediate landscape and seated himself
"Now stop distressing yourself," he said authoritatively. "You
youngsters do take life so seriously. The only thing that could
have happened to you worth your shedding a tear over can't
possibly have happened; so stop this waste of good material.
Tears are very precious things, Linda. They ought to be the most
unusual things in life. Now tell me something. Were you coming
to me about that matter that worried you the other evening?"
Linda shook her head.
"No," she said, "I have turned that matter over where it belongs.
I have nothing further to do with it. I'll confess to you I took
a paper from among those that fell from Henry Anderson's pocket.
It was not his. He had no right to have it. He couldn't
possibly have come by it honorably or without knowing what it
was. I took the liberty to put it where it belongs, or at least
where it seemed to me that it belongs. That is all over."
"Then something else has happened?" asked Peter. "Something
connected with the package of letters in your lap?"
Linda nodded vigorously.
"Peter, I have done something perfectly awful," she confessed.
"I never in this world meant to do it. I wouldn't have done it
for anything. I have got myself into the dreadfullest mess, and
I don't know how to get out. When I couldn't stand it another
minute I started right to you, Peter, just like I'd have started
to my father if I'd had him to go to."
"I see," said Peter, deeply interested in the toe of his shoe.
"You depended on my age and worldly experience and my unconcealed
devotion to your interests, which is exactly what you should do,
my dear. Now tell me. Dry your eyes and tell me, and whatever
it is I'll fix it all right and happily for you. I'll swear to
do it if you want me to."
Then Linda raised her eyes to his face.
"Oh, Peter, you dear!" she cried. "Peter, I'll just kneel and
kiss your hands if you can fix this for me."
Peter set his jaws and continued his meditations on shoe leather.
"Make it snappy!" he said tersely. "The sooner your troubles are
out of your system the better you'll feel. Whose letters are
those, and why are you crying over them?"
"Oh, Peter," quavered Linda, "you know how I love Marian. You
have seen her and I have told you over and over."
"Yes," said Peter soothingly, "I know."
"I have told you how, after years of devotion to Marian, John
Gilman let Eileen make a perfect rag of him and tie him into any
kind of knot she chose. Peter, when Marian left here she had
lost everything on earth but a little dab of money. She had lost
a father who was fine enough to be my father's best friend. She
had lost a mother who was fine enough to rear Marian to what she
is. She had lost them in a horrible way that left her room for a
million fancies and regrets: 'if I had done this,' or 'if I had
done that,' or 'if I had taken another road.' And when she went
away she knew definitely she had lost the first and only love of
her heart; and I knew, because she was so sensitive and so fine,
I knew, better than anybody living, how she COULD be hurt; and I
thought if I could fix some scheme that would entertain her and
take her mind off herself and make her feel appreciated only for
a little while--I knew in all reason, Peter, when she got out in
the world where men would see her and see how beautiful and fine
she is, there would be somebody who would want her quickly. All
the time I have thought that when she came back, YOU would want
her. Peter, I fibbed when I said I was setting your brook for
Louise Whiting. I was not. I don't know Louise Whiting. She is
nothing to me. I was setting it for you and Marian. It was a
WHITE head I saw among the iris marching down your creek bank,
not a gold one, Peter."
Peter licked his dry lips and found it impossible to look at
"Straight ahead with it," he said gravely. "What did you do?"
"Oh, I have done the awfullest thing," wailed Linda, "the most
She reached across and laid hold of the hand next her, and
realizing that she needed it for strength and support, Peter gave
it into her keeping.
"Yes?" he questioned. "Get on with it, Linda. What was it you
"I had a typewriter: I could. I began writing her letters, the
kind of letters that I thought would interest her and make her
feel loved and appreciated."
"You didn't sign my name to them, did you, Linda?" asked Peter in
a dry, breathless voice.
"No, Peter," said Linda, "I did not do that, I did worse. Oh, I
did a whole lot worse!"
"I don't understand," said Peter hoarsely.
"I wanted to make them fine. I wanted to make them brilliant.
I wanted to make them interesting. And of course I could not do
it by myself. I am nothing but a copycat. I just quoted a lot
of things I had heard you say; and I did worse than that, Peter.
I watched the little whimsy lines around your mouth and I tried
to interpret the perfectly lovely things they would make you say
to a woman if you loved her and were building a dream house for
her. And oh, Peter, it's too ghastly; I don't believe I can tell
"This is pretty serious business, Linda," said Peter gravely.
"Having gone this far you are in honor bound to finish. It would
not be fair to leave me with half a truth. What is the result of
"Oh, Peter," sobbed Linda, breaking down again, "you're going to
hate me; I know you're going to hate me and Marian's going to
hate me; and I didn't mean a thing but the kindest thing in all
"Don't talk like that, Linda," said Peter. "If your friend is
all you say she is, she is bound to understand. And as for me, I
am not very likely to misjudge you. But be quick about it. What
did you do, Linda?"
"Why, I just wrote these letters that I am telling you about,"
said Linda, "and I said the things that I thought would comfort
her and entertain her and help with her work; and these are the
answers that she wrote me, and I don't think I realized till last
night that she was truly attributing them to any one man, truly
believing in them. Oh, Peter, I wasn't asleep a minute all last
night, and for the first time I failed in my lessons today."
"And what is the culmination, Linda?" urged Peter.
"She liked the letters, Peter. They meant all I intended them to
and they must have meant something I never could have imagined.
And in San Francisco one of the firm where she studies --a very
fine man she says he is, Peter; I can see that in every way he
would be quite right for her; and I had a letter from her last
night, and, Peter, he had asked her to marry him, to have a
lifelong chance at work she's crazy about. He had offered her a
beautiful home with everything that great wealth and culture and
good taste could afford. He had offered her the mothering of his
little daughter; and she refused him, Peter, refused him because
she is in love, with all the love there is left in her
disappointed, hurt heart, with the personality that these letters
represent to her; and that personality is yours, Peter. I stole
it from you. I copied it into those letters. I'm not straight.
I'm not fair. I wasn't honest with her. I wasn't honest with
you. I'll just have to take off front the top of the highest
mountain or sink in the deepest place in the sea, Peter. I
thought I was straight. I thought I was honorable I have made
Donald believe that I was. If I have to tell him the truth about
this he won't want to wear my flower any more. I shall know all
the things that Marian has suffered, and a thousand times worse,
because she was not to blame; she had nothing with which to
Peter put an arm across Linda's shoulders and drew her up to him.
For a long, bitter moment he thought deeply, and then he said
hoarsely: "Now calm down, Linda. You're making an extremely
high mountain out of an extremely shallow gopher hole. You
haven't done anything irreparable. I see the whole situation.
You are sure your friend has finally refused this offer she has
had on account of these letters you have written?"
Suddenly Linda relaxed. She leaned her warm young body against
Peter. She laid her tired head on his shoulder. She slipped the
top letter of the packet in her lap from under its band, opened
it, and held it before him. Peter read it very deliberately,
then he nodded in acquiescence.
"It's all too evident," he said quietly, "that you have taught
her that there is a man in this world more to her liking than
John Gilman ever has been. When it came to materializing the
man, Linda, what was your idea? Were you proposing to deliver
"I thought it would be suitable and you would be perfectly
happy," sobbed Linda, "and that way I could have both of you."
"And Donald also?" asked Peter lightly.
"Donald of course," assented Linda.
And then she lifted her tear-spilling, wonderful eyes, wide open,
to Peter's, and demanded: "But, oh Peter, I am so miserable I am
almost dead. I have said you were a rock, and you are a rock.
peter, can you get me out of this?"
"Sure," said Peter grimly. "Merely a case of living up to your
blue china, even if it happens to be in the form of hieroglyphics
instead of baked pottery. Give me the letters, Linda. Give me a
few days to study them. Exchange typewriters with me so I can
have the same machine. Give me some of the paper on which you
have been writing and the address you have been using, and I'll
guarantee to get you out of this in some way that will leave you
Donald, and your friendship with Marian quite as good as new."
At that juncture Peter might have been kissed, but his neck was
very stiff and his head was very high and his eyes were on a
far-distant hilltop from which at that minute he could not seem
to gather any particular help.
"Would it be your idea," he said, "that by reading these letters
I could gain sufficient knowledge of what has passed to go on
"Of course you could," said Linda.
Peter reached in his side pocket and pulled out a clean
handkerchief. He shook it from its folds and dried her eyes.
Then he took her by her shoulders and set her up straight.
"Now stop this nerve strain and this foolishness," he said
tersely. "You have done a very wonderful thing for me. It is
barely possible that Marian Thorne is not my dream woman, but we
can't always have our dreams in this world, and if I could not
have mine, truly and candidly, Linda, so far as I have lived my
life, I would rather have Marian Thorne than any other woman I
have ever met."
Linda clapped her hands in delight.
"Oh, goody goody, Peter!" she cried. "How joyous! Can it be
possible that my bungling is coming out right for Marian and
right for you?"
"And right for you, Linda?" inquired Peter lightly.
"Sure, right for me," said Linda eagerly. "Of course it's right
for me when it's right for you and Marian. And since it's not my
secret alone I don't think it would be quite honorable to tell
Donald about it. What hurts Marian's heart or heals it is none
of his business. He doesn't even know her."
"All right then, Linda," said Peter, rising, "give me the letters
and bring me the machine and the paper. Give me the joyous
details and tell me when I am expected to send in my first letter
in propria persona?',
"Oh, Peter," cried Linda, beaming on him, "oh, Peter, you are a
rock! I do put my trust in you."
"Then God help me," said Peter, "for whatever happens, your trust
in me shall not be betrayed, Linda."
CHAPTER XXIX. Katy Unburdens Her Mind
Possibly because she wished to eliminate herself from the offices
of Nicholson and Snow for a few days, possibly because her finely
attuned nature felt the call, Marian Thorne boarded a train that
carried her to Los Angeles. She stepped from it at ten o'clock
in the morning, and by the streetcar route made her way to Lilac
Valley. When she arrived she realized that she could not see
Linda before, possibly, three in the afternoon. She entered a
restaurant, had a small lunch box packed, and leaving her
dressing case, she set off down the valley toward the mountains.
She had need of their strength, their quiet and their healing.
To the one particular spot where she had found comfort in Lilac
Valley her feet led her. By paths of her own, much overgrown for
want of recent usage, she passed through the cultivated fields,
left the roadway, and began to climb. When she reached the
stream flowing down the rugged hillside, she stopped to rest for
a while, and her mind was in a tumult. In one minute she was
seeing the bitterly disappointed face of a lonely, sensitive man
whose first wound had been reopened by the making of another
possibly quite as deep; and at the next her heart was throbbing
because Linda had succeeded in transferring the living Peter to
The time had come when Marian felt that she would know the
personality embodied in the letters she had been receiving; and
in the past few days her mind had been fixing tenaciously upon
Morrison. And the feeling concerning which she had written Linda
had taken possession of her. Wealth did not matter; position did
not matter. Losing the love of a good man did not matter But the
mind and the heart and the personality behind the letters she had
been receiving did matter. She thought long and seriously When
at last she arose she had arrived at the conclusion that she had
done the right thing, no matter whether the wonderful letters she
had received went on and offered her love or not, no matter about
anything. She must merely live and do the best she could, until
the writer of those letters chose to disclose himself and say
what purpose he had in mind when he wrote them.
So Marian followed her own path beside the creek until she neared
its head, which was a big, gushing icy spring at the foot of the
mountain keeping watch over the small plateau that in her heart
she had thought of as hers for years. As she neared the location
strange sounds began to reach her, voices of men, clanging of
hammers, the rip of saws. A look of deep consternation
overspread her face. She listened an instant and then began to
run. When she broke through the rank foliage flourishing from
the waters of the spring and looked out on the plateau what she
saw was Peter Morrison's house in the process of being floored
and shingled. For a minute Marian was physically ill. Her heart
hurt until her hand crept to her side in an effort to soothe it.
Before she asked the question of a man coming to the spring with
a pail in his hand, she knew the answer. It was Peter Morrison's
house. Marian sprang across the brook, climbed to the temporary
roadway, and walked down in front of the building. She stood
looking at it intently. It was in a rough stage, but much
disguise is needed to prevent a mother from knowing her own
child. Marian's dark eyes began to widen and to blaze. She
walked up to the front of the house and found that rough flooring
had been laid so that she could go over the first floor. When
she had done this she left the back door a deeply indignant
"There is some connection," she told herself tersely, "between my
lost sketch and this house, which is merely a left-to-right
rehearsal of my plans; and it's the same plan with which Henry
Anderson won the Nicholson and Snow prize money and the still
more valuable honor of being the prize winner. What I want to
know is how such a wrong may be righted, and what Peter Morrison
has to do with it."
Stepping from the back door, Marian followed the well-worn
pathway that led to the garage, looking right and left for Peter,
and she was wondering what she would say to him if she met him.
She was thinking that perhaps she had better return to San
Francisco and talk the matter over with Mr. Snow before she said
anything to anyone else; by this time she had reached the garage
and stood in its wide-open door. She looked in at the cot, left
just as someone had arisen from it, at the row of clothing
hanging on a rough wooden rack at the back, at the piled boxes,
at the big table, knocked together from rough lumber, in the
center, scattered and piled with books and magazines; and then
her eyes fixed intently on a packet lying on the table beside a
typewriter and a stack of paper and envelopes. She walked over
and picked up the packet. As she had known the instant she saw
them, they were her letters. She stood an instant holding them
in her hand, a dazed expression on her face. Mechanically she
reached out and laid her hands on the closed typewriter to steady
herself. Something about it appealed to her as familiar. She
looked at it closely, then she lifted the cover and examined the
machine. It was the same machine that had stood for years in
Doctor Strong's library, a machine upon which she had typed
business letters for her own father, and sometimes she had copied
lectures and book manuscript on it for Doctor Strong. Until his
house was completed and his belongings arrived, Peter undoubtedly
had borrowed it. Suddenly a wild desire to escape swept over
Marian. Her first thought was of her feelings. She was angry,
and justly so. In her heart she had begun to feel that the
letters she was receiving were from Peter Morrison. Here was the
Could it be possible that in their one meeting Peter had decided
that she was his dream woman, that in some way he had secured
that rough sketch of her plans, and from them was preparing her
dream house for her? The thought sped through her brain that he
was something more than human to have secured those plans, to
have found that secluded and choice location. For an instant she
forgot the loss of the competition in trying to comprehend the
wonder of finding her own particular house fitting her own
particular location as naturally as one of its big boulders.
She tried to replace the package of letters exactly as she had
found them. On tiptoe she slipped back to the door and looked
searchingly down the road, around, and as far as possible through
the house. Then she gathered her skirts, stepped from the
garage, and began the process of effacing herself on the mountain
side From clump to clump of the thickest bushes, crouching below
the sage and greasewood, pausing to rest behind lilac and elder,
with. out regard for her traveling suit or her beautifully shod
feet, Marian fled from her location. When at last she felt that
she was completely hidden and at least a mile from the spot, she
dropped panting on a boulder, brushing the debris from her
skirts, lifting trembling hands to straighten her hat, and
ruefully contemplating her shoes. Then she tried to think in a
calm, dispassionate, and reasonable manner, but she found it a
most difficult process. Her mind was not well ordered, neither
was it at her command. It whirled and shot off at unexpected
tangents and danced as irresponsibly as a grasshopper from one
place to another. The flying leaps it took ranged from San
Francisco to Lilac Valley, from her location upon which Peter
Morrison was building her house, to Linda. Even John Gilman
obtruded himself once more. At one minute she was experiencing a
raging indignation against Henry Anderson. How had he secured
her plan? At another she was trying to figure dispassionately
what connection Peter Morrison could have had with the building
of his house upon her plan. Every time Peter came into the
equation her heart arose in his defense. In some way his share
in the proceeding was all right. He had cared for her and he had
done what he thought would please her. Therefore she must be
pleased, although forced to admit to herself that she would have
been infinitely more pleased to have built her own house in her
She was hungry to see Linda. She wanted Katherine O'Donovan to
feed her and fuss over her and entertain her with her mellow
Irish brogue; but if she went to them and disclosed her presence
in the valley, Peter would know about it, and if he intended the
building he was erecting as a wonderful surprise for her, then
she must not spoil his joy. Plan in any way she could, Marian
could see no course left to her other than to slip back to the
station and return to San Francisco without meeting any of her
friends. She hurriedly ate her lunch, again straightened her
clothing, went to the restaurant for her traveling bag, and took
the car for the station where she waited for a return train to
San Francisco She bought a paper and tried to concentrate upon it
in an effort to take her mind from her own problems so that, when
she returned to them, she would be better able to think clearly,
to reason justly, to act wisely. She was very glad when her
train came and she was started on her way northward. At the
first siding upon which it stopped to allow the passing of a
south-bound limited, she was certain that as the cars flashed by,
in one of them she saw Eugene Snow. She was so certain that when
she reached the city she immediately called the office and asked
for Mr. Snow only to be told that he had gone away for a day or
two on business. After that Marian's thought was confused to the
point of exasperation.
It would be difficult to explain precisely the state of mind in
which Linda, upon arriving at her home that afternoon, received
from Katy the information that a man named Snow had been waiting
an hour for her in the living room. Linda's appearance was that
of a person so astonished that Katy sidled up to her giving
strong evidence of being ready to bristle.
"Ye know, lambie," she said with elaborate indifference, "ye
aren't havin' to see anybody ye don't want to. If it's somebody
intrudin' himself on ye, just say the word and I'll fire him;
higher than Guilderoy's kite I'll be firin' him."
"No, I must see him, Katy," said Linda quietly. "And have
something specially nice for dinner. Very likely I'll take him
to see Peter Morrison's house and possibly I'll ask him and Peter
to dinner. He is a San Francisco architect from the firm where
Marian takes her lessons, and it's business about Peter's house.