Part 7 out of 8
I was surprised, that's all."
Then Linda turned and laid a hand on each of Katy's hairy red
"Katherine O'Donovan, old dear," she said, "if we do come back
for dinner, concentrate on Mr. Snow and study him. Scrutinize,
Katy! It's a bully word. Scrutinize closely. To add one more to
our long lists of secrets, here's another. He's the man I told
you about who has asked Marian to marry him, and Marian has
refused him probably because she prefers somebody nearer home."
Then Linda felt the tensing of every muscle in Katy's body. She
saw the lift of her head, the incredulous, resentful look in her
eyes. There was frank hostility in her tone.
"Well, who is there nearer home that Marian knows?" she demanded
"Well, now, who would there be?" retorted Linda.
"Ye ain't manin' John Gilman?" asked Katy.
"No," said Linda, "I am not meaning John Gilman. You should know
Marian well enough to know that."
"Well, ye ought to know yourself well enough to know that they
ain't anybody else around these diggin's that Marian Thorne's
going to get," said Katy.
"I imagine Marian will get pretty much whom she wants," said
Linda laughingly. "In your heart, Katy, you know that Marian
need not have lost John Gilman if she had not deliberately let
him go. If she had been willing to meet Eileen on her own ground
and to play the game with her, it wouldn't have happened. Marian
has more brains in a minute than Eileen has in a month."
When Linda drew back the portiere and stepped into the living
room Eugene Snow rose to meet her. What either of them expected
it might be difficult to explain. Knowing so little of each
other, it is very possible that they had no visualizations. What
Snow saw was what everyone saw who looked at Linda--a girl
arrestingly unusual. With Linda lay the advantage by far, since
she had Marian's letters for a background. What she saw was a
tall man, slender, and about him there was to Linda a strong
appeal. As she looked into his eyes, she could feel the double
hurt that Fate had dealt him. She thought she could fathom the
fineness in his nature that had led him to made home-building his
chosen occupation. Instantly she liked him. With only one look
deep into his eyes she was on his side. She stretched out both
her hands and advanced.
"Now isn't this the finest thing of you?" she said. "I am so
glad that you came. I'll tell you word for word what happened
"That will be fine," he said. "Which is your favorite chair?"
"You know," she said, "that is a joke. I am so unfamiliar with
this room that I haven't any favorite chair. I'll have to take
the nearest, like Thoreau selected his piece of chicken."
Then for a few minutes Linda talked frankly. She answered Eugene
Snow's every question unhesitatingly and comprehensively.
Together they ascended the stairs, and in the guest room she
showed him the table at which she and Marian had studied the
sketches of plans, and exactly where they had left them lying
"The one thing I can't be explicit about," said Linda, "is how
many sheets were there in the morning. We had stayed awake so
late talking, that we overslept. I packed Marian's bag while she
dressed. I snatched up what there were without realizing whether
there were two sheets or three, laid them in the flat bottom of
the case, and folded her clothing on top of them."
"I see," said Mr. Snow comprehendingly. "Now let's experiment a
little. Of course the window before that table was raised?"
"Yes, it was," said Linda, "but every window in the house is
"And what about the door opening into the hall? Can you tell me
whether it was closed or open?"
"It was open," said Linda. "We left it slightly ajar to create a
draft; the night was warm."
"Is there anyone about the house," inquired Mr. Snow, "who could
tell us certainly whether that window was screened that night?"
"Of course," said Linda. "Our housekeeper, Katherine O'Donovan,
would know. When we go down we'll ask her."
On their return to the living room, for the first time in her
life Linda rang for Katy. She hesitated an instant before she
did it. It would be establishing a relationship that never
before had existed between them. She always had gone to Katy as
she would have, gone to her mother. She would have gone to her
now, but she wanted Katy to make her appearance and give her
information without the possibility of previous discussion. Katy
answered the bell almost at once. Linda went to her side and
reached her arm across her shoulders.
"Katy," she said, "this is Mr. Eugene Snow of San Francisco He is
interested in finding out exactly what became of that lost plan
of Marian's that we have looked for so carefully. Put on your
thinking cap, old dear, and try to answer accurately any question
that Mr. Snow may wish to ask you."
Katy looked expectantly at Eugene Snow.
"In the meantime," said Linda, "I'll be excused and go bring
round the Bear Cat."
"I have only one question to ask you," said Mr. Snow. "Can you
recall whether, for any reason, there was a screen out of the
guest-room window directly in front of which the reading table
was standing the night Miss Marian occupied the room before
leaving for San Francisco?"
"Sure there was," answered Katy instantly in her richest,
She was taking the inventory she had been told to take. She was
deciding, as instantly as Linda had done, that she liked this
man. Years, appearance, everything about him appealed to Katy as
being exactly right for Marian; and her cunning Irish mind was
leaping and flying and tugging at the leash that thirty years of
conventions had bound upon her.
"Sure," she repeated, "the wildest santana that ever roared over
us just caught that screen and landed it slam against the side of
the garage, and it set inside for three days till I could get a
workman to go up the outside and put it back. It had been out
two days before the night Marian was here."
"Did Miss Linda know about it?" asked Snow.
"Not that I know of," said Katy. "She is a schoolgirl, you know,
off early in the morning, back and up to her room, the busiest
youngster the valley knows; and coin' a dale of good she is, too.
It was Miss Eileen that heard the screen ripped out and told me
it was gone. She's the one who looked after the housekapin' and
paid the bills. She knew all about it. If 'twould be helpin'
Miss Marian any about findin' them plans we've ransacked the
premises for, I couldn't see any reason why Miss Eileen wouldn't
tell ye the same as I'm tellin' ye, and her housekapin' accounts
and her cheque book would show she paid the carpenter, if it's
legal business you're wantin'."
"Thank you, Katy," said Mr. Snow. "I hope nothing of that kind
will occur. A great wrong has been perpetrated, but we must find
some way to right it without involving such extremely nice young
women in the annoyance of legal proceedings."
Katy folded her arms and raised her head. All her share of the
blarney of Ireland began to roll from the mellow tip of her
"Now, the nice man ye are, to be seein' the beauty of them girls
so quick," she said. "The good Lord airly in the mornin' of
creation thought them out when He was jist fresh from rist, and
the material was none shopworn. They ain't ladies like 'em
anywhere else in the whole of California, and belave me, a many
rale ladies have I seen in my time. Ye can jist make up your
mind that Miss Linda is the broth of the earth. She is her
father's own child and she is like him as two pase in the pod.
And Marian growed beside her, and much of a hand I've had in her
raisin' meself, and well I'm knowin' how fine she is and what a
juel she'd be, set on any man's hearthstone. I'm wonderin',"
said Katy challengingly, "if you're the Mr. Snow at whose place
she is takin' her lessons, and if ye are, I'm wonderin' if ye
ain't goin' to use the good judgment to set her, like the juel
she would be, ia the stone of your own hearth."
Eugene Snow looked at Katy intently. He was not accustomed to
discussing his affairs with household helpers, but he could not
look at Katy without there remaining in his vision the forte of
Linda standing beside her, a reassuring arm stretched across her
shoulders, the manner in which she had presented her and then
left her that she might be free to answer as she chose with out
her young mistress even knowing exactly what was asked of her.
Such faith and trust and love were unusual.
"I might try to do that very thing," he said, "but, you know, a
wonderful woman is an animated jewel. You can't manufacture a
setting and put her in and tighten the clasps without her
"Then why don't you get it?" said Katy casually.
Eugene Snow laughed ruefully.
"But suppose," he said, "that the particular jewel you're
discussing prefers to select her own setting, and mine does not
"Well, they's jist one thing," said Katy. Her heels left the
floor involuntarily; she arose on her tiptoes; her shoulders came
up, and her head lifted to a height it never had known before.
"They's jist one thing," she said. "Aside from Miss Linda, who
is my very own child that I have washed and I have combed and I
have done for since she was a toddlin' four-year-old, they ain't
no woman in this world I would go as far for as I would for Miss
Marian; but I'm tellin' ye now, ye Mr. Eujane Snow, that they's
one thing I don't lend no countenance to. I am sorry she has had
the cold, cruel luck that she has, but I ain't sorry enough that
I'm goin' to stand for her droppin' herself into the place where
she doesn't belong. If the good Lord ain't give her the sense to
see that you're jist the image of the man that would be jist
exactly right for her, somebody had better be tellin' her so.
Anyway, if Miss Linda is takin' ye up to the house that Mr. Pater
Morrison is buildin' and the Pater man is there, I would advise
ye to cast your most discernin' eye on that gintleman. Ye watch
him jist one minute when he looks at the young missus and he
thinks nobody ain't observing him, and ye'll see what ye'll see.
If ye want Marian, ye jist go on and take her. I'm not carin'
whether ye use a club or white vi'lets, but don't ye be lettin'
Marian Thorne get no idea into her head that she is goin' to take
Mr. Pater Morrison, because concernin' Pater I know what I know,
and I ain't goin' to stand by and see things goin' wrong for want
of spakin' up. Now if you're a wise man, ye don't nade nothing
further said on the subject."
Eugene Snow thought intently for a few moments. His vision
centered on Katherine O'Donovan's face.
"You're absolutely sure of this?" he said at last.
"Jist as sure as the sun's sure, and the mountains, and the
seaSons come and go," said Katy with finality. "Watch him and
you'll see it stickin' out all over him. I have picked him for
me boss, and it's jist adorin' that man crature I am."
"What about Miss Linda?" inquired Snow. "Is she adoring him?"
"She ain't nothing but a ganglin' school kid, adorin' the spade
with which she can shoot around that Bear Cat of hers, and race
the canyons, and the rely lovely things she can strike on paper
with her pencil and light up with her joyous colors. Her day and
her hour ain't come, and the Pater man's that fine he won't lay a
finger on her to wake her up when she has a year yet of her
schoolin' before her. But in the manetime it's my job to stand
guard as I'm standin' right now. I'm tellin' ye frank and fair.
Ye go on and take Marian Thorne because ye ought to have her. If
she's got any idea in her head that she's goin' to have Pater
Morrison, she'll have to get it out."
Eugene Snow held out his hand and started to the front door in
answer to the growl of the Bear Cat. As he came down the steps
and advanced to the car, Linda, with the quick eye that had been
one of her special gifts as a birthright, noted a change in him.
He seemed to have been keyed up and toned up. There was a
different expression on his face. There was buoyancy in his
step. There was a visible determination in his eye. He took the
seat beside her and Linda started the car. She looked at him
"Can you connect a heavy wind with the date of the lost plan?" he
"There was a crack-a-jack a few days before," said Linda. "It
blew over some trees in the lot next to us."
"Exactly," said Snow; "and it plucked a screen from your
guest-room window. Katy thinks that the cheque to the carpenter
and the cost of the repairs will be in your sister's account
"Um hm," nodded Linda. "Well, that simplifies matters, because
Peter Morrison is going to tell you about a trip Henry Anderson
made around our house the morning Marian left."
"I think that is about all we need to know," said Mr. Snow
"I think so," said Linda, "but I want you to see Peter's house
for yourself, since I understand that according to your contract
the rights to reproduce these particular plans remained with you
after you had paid prize money for them."
"Most certainly," said Mr. Snow. "We should have that much to
show for our share of the transaction."
"It's a queer thing," said Linda. "You would have to know me a
long time, and perhaps know under what conditions I have been
reared in order to understand a feeling that I frequently have
concerning people. I tobogganed down a sheer side of Multiflores
Canyon one day without my path having been previously prepared,
and I very nearly landed in the automobile that carried Henry
Anderson and Peter Morrison on their first trip to Lilac Valley.
I was much interested in preserving the integrity of my neck. I
fervently hoped not to break more than a dozen of my legs and
arms, and was forced to bring down intact the finest Cotyledon
pulverulenta that Daddy or I had found in fourteen years of
collecting in California. I am telling you all this that you may
see why I might have been excused for not having been minutely
observant of my surroundings when I landed. But what I did
observe was a chilly, caterpillary sensation chasing up my spine
the instant I met the eyes of Henry Anderson. In that instant I
said to myself that I would not trust him, that I did not like
"And what about his companion?" asked Eugene Snow lightly. "Oh,
Peter?" said Linda. There was a caress in her pronunciation of
the name. "Why, Peter is a rock. The instant I deposited my
Cotyledon in a safe place I would have put my hand in Peter
Morrison's and started around the world if he had asked me to go.
There is only one Peter. You will recognize that the instant you
"I am altogether willing to take your word for it," said Mr.
"And there is one thing about this disagreeable business," said
Linda. "It was not Peter's coat that had the plan in it. He
knew nothing about it. He has had his full service of stiff war
work, and he has been knocking around big cities in newspaper
work, and now he has come home to Lilac Valley to 'set up his
rest,' as in the hymn book, you know. He built his garage first
and he is living in it because he so loves this house of his that
he has to be present to watch it grow in minutes" detail. Once
on a time I saw a great wizard walking along the sidewalk, and he
looked exactly like any man. He might have been you so far as
anything different from other men in his appearance w as
Linda cut down the Bear Cat to its slowest speed.
"What is on my mind is this," she said. "I don't think Peter
could quite afford the amount of ground he has bought, and the
house he is building. I think possibly he is tying himself up in
obligations. It may take him two or three years to come even on
it; but it is a prepossession with him. Now can't you see that
if we go to him and tell him this sordid, underhand, unmanly
tale, how his fine nature is going to be hurt, how his big heart
is going to be wrung, how his home-house that he is building with
such eager watchfulness will be a weighty Old Man of the Sea
clinging to his back? Do you think, Mr. Eugene Snow, that you're
enough of a wizard to examine this house and to satisfy yourself
as to whether it's an infringement of your plans or not, without
letting Peter know the things about it that would spoil it for
Eugene Snow reached across and closed a hand over the one of
Linda's nearest him on the steering wheel.
"You very decent kid, you," he said appreciatively. "I certainly
am enough of a wizard to save your Peter man any disillusionment
concerning his dream house."
"Oh, but he is not my Peter man," said Linda. "We are only the
best friends in the world. Really and truly, if you can keep a
secret, he's Marian's."
"Is he?" asked Mr. Snow interestedly. And then he added very
casually, in the most offhand manner--he said it more to an
orange orchard through which they were passing than he said it to
Linda--"I have very grave doubts about that. I think there must
be some slight complication that will have to be cleared up."
Linda's heart gave a great jump of consternation.
"Indeed no," she said emphatically. "I don't think he has just
told Marian yet, but I am very sure that he cares for her more
than for any other woman, and I am equally sure she cares for
him; and nothing could be more suitable."
"All right then," agreed Mr. Snow.
Linda put the Bear Cat at the mountain, crept around the road,
skirted the boulders, and stopped halfway to the garage. And
there, in a low tone, she indicated to Mr. Snow where they had
lunched, when she found the plans, how she had brought out the
coat, where she had emptied the mouse nest. Then she stepped
from the car and hallooed for Peter. Peter came hurrying from
the garage, and Eugene Snow was swift in his mental inventory.
It coincided exactly with Linda's. He would have been willing to
join hands with Peter and start around the world, quite convinced
of the fairness of the outcome, with no greater acquaintance than
one intent look at Peter, one grip of his sure hand. After that
he began to act on Katy's hint, and in a very short time he had
convinced himself that she was right. Maybe Peter tried to
absorb himself in the plans he was going over, in the house he
was proud to show the great architect; but it seemed to the man
he was entertaining that his glance scarcely left Linda, that he
was so preoccupied with where she went and what she did that he
was like a juggler keeping two mental balls in the air at the
It seemed to Peter a natural thing that, the architect being in
the city on business, he should run out to call on Miss Thorne's
dearest friend It seemed to him equally natural that Linda should
bring him to see a house in which she was so kindly interesting
herself. And just when Peter was most dexterous in his juggling,
just when he was trying to explain the very wonderful
step-saving' time-saving, rational kitchen arrangements and at
the same time watch Linda on her course down to the spring, the
architect halted him with a jerk. Eugene Snow stood very
straight, his hands in his coat pockets, looking, Peter supposed,
with interest at the arrangements of kitchen conveniences. His
next terse sentence fairly staggered Peter. He looked him
straight in the eye and inquired casually: "Chosen your dream
woman to fit your house, Morrison?"
Peter was too surprised to conceal his feelings. His jaws
snapped together; a belligerent look sprang into his eyes.
"I have had a good deal to do with houses," continued Mr. Snow.
"They are my life work. I find that invariably they are built
for a woman. Almost always they are built from her plans, and
for her pleasure. It's a new house, a unique house, a wonderful
house you're evolving here. It must be truly a wonderful woman
you're dreaming about while you build it."
That was a nasty little trap. With his years and worldly
experience Peter should not have fallen into it; but all men are
children when they are sick, heart sick or body sick, and Peter
was a very sick man at that minute. He had been addressed in
such a frank and casual manner. His own brain shot off at queer
tangents and led him constantly into unexpected places. The
narrow side lane that opened up came into view so suddenly that
Peter, with the innocence of a four-year-old, turned with
military precision at the suggestion and looked over the premises
for the exact location of Linda. Eugene Snow had seen for
himself the thing that Katy had told him he would see if he
looked for it. Suddenly he held out his hand.
"As man to man, Morrison, in this instance," he said in rather a
hoarse, breathless voice, "don't you think it would be a good
idea for you and me to assert our manhood, to manage our own
affairs, to select our own wives if need be? If we really set
ourselves to the job don't you believe we can work out our lives
more to our liking than anyone else can plan for us? You get the
idea, don't you, Morrison?"
Peter was facing the kitchen sink but he did not see it. His
brain was whirling. He did see Snow's point of view. He did
realize his position. But what Mr. Snow knew of his affairs he
could only guess. The one thing Mr. Snow could not know was that
Linda frankly admitted her prepossession for her school chum,
Donald Whiting, but in any event if Peter could not have Linda he
would much prefer occupying his dream house alone. So he caught
at the straw held out to him with both hands.
"I get you," he said tersely. "It is not quite up to the mark of
the manhood we like to think we possess to let our lives be
engineered by a high school kid. Suppose we do just quietly and
masterfully assert ourselves concerning our own affairs."
"Suppose we do," said Snow with finality.
Whereupon they shook hands with a grip that whitened their
Then they went back to Lilac Valley and had their dinner
together, and Linda and Peter escorted Eugene Snow to his train
and started him on his return trip to San Francisco feeling very
much better. Peter would not allow Linda to drive him home at
night, so he left her after the Bear Cat had been safely placed
in the garage. As she stood on the walk beside him, strongly
outlined in the moonlight, Peter studied Linda whimsically. He
said it half laughingly, but there was something to think about
in what he said:
"I'm just picturing, Linda, what a nice old lady you will be by
the time that high school kid of yours spends four years in
college, one on the continent, and the Lord knows how many at
mastering a profession."
Linda looked at him with widened eyes.
KATY UNBURDENS HER MIND 307
"Why, what are you talking about, Peter? Are you moonstruck?"
she inquired solicitously. "Donald's only a friend, you know. I
love him because he is the nicest companion; but there is nothing
for you to be silly about."
Then Peter began to realize the truth. There wasn't anything for
him to be concerned about. She had not the slightest notion what
love meant, even as she announced that she loved Donald.
CHAPTER XXX. Peter's Release
Eugene Snow returned to San Francisco enthusiastic about Linda,
while he would scarcely have known how to express his
appreciation of Katherine O'Donovan. He had been served a
delicious dinner, deftly and quietly, such food as men
particularly like; but there had been no subservience. If
Katherine O'Donovan had been waiting on her own table, serving
her own friends she could not have managed with more pride. It
was very evident that she loved service, that she loved the girl
to whom she gave constant attention. He understood exactly what
there was in her heart and why she felt as she did when he saw
Linda and Peter together and heard their manner of speaking to
each other, and made mental note of the many points of interest
which seemed to exist between them. He returned to San Francisco
with a good deal of a "See-the-conquering-hero-comes" mental
attitude. He went directly to his office, pausing on the way for
a box of candy and a bunch of Parma violets. His first act on
reaching the office was to send for Miss Thorne. Marian came
almost immediately, a worried look in her eyes. She sat in the
big, cushioned chair that was offered her, and smiled faintly
when the box was laid on her lap, topped with the violets. She
looked at Eugene Snow with an "I-wish-you-wouldn't" expression on
her face; but he smiled at her reassuringly.
"Nothing," he said. "Picked them up on the way from the station.
I made a hasty trip to that precious Lilac Valley of yours, and I
must say it pales your representation. It is a wonderfully
Marian settled back in the chair. She picked up the violets and
ran an experienced finger around the stems until she found the
pin with which she fastened them at her waist. Then as they
occupied themselves making selections from the candy box he
looked smilingly at Marian. Her eyes noted the change in him.
He was neither disappointed nor sad. Something had happened in
Lilac Valley that had changed his perspective. Womanlike, she
"Glad you liked my valley," she said. "We are told that blue is
a wonderful aura to surround a person, and it's equally wonderful
when it surrounds a whole valley. With the blue sky and the blue
walls and a few true-blue friends I have there, it's naturally a
very dear spot to me."
"Yes," said Mr. Snow, "I can see that it is. I ran down on a
business matter. I have been deeply puzzled and much perturbed
over this prize contest. We have run these affairs once a year,
sometimes oftener, for a long time, so I couldn't understand the
peculiar thing about the similarity of the winning plans and your
work this year. I have been holding up the prize money, because
I did not feel that you were saying exactly what was in your
heart, and I couldn't be altogether satisfied that everything was
right. I went to Lilac Valley because I had a letter from your
friend, Miss Linda Strong. There was an enclosure in it."
He drew from his pocket the folded sheet and handed it to Marian.
Her eyes were surprised, incredulous, as she opened the missing
sheet from her plans, saw the extraneous lines drawn upon it and
the minute figuring with which the margin was covered.
"Linda found it at last!" she cried. "Where in this world did
she get it, and whose work is this on it?"
"She got it," said Eugene Snow, "when she undertook to clean
Peter Morrison's workroom on an evening when she and her cook
were having supper with him. She turned a coat belonging to his
architect that hung with some of his clothing in Peter Morrison's
garage. She was shaking the nest of a field mouse from one of
the side pockets. Naturally this emptied all the pockets, and in
gathering up their contents she came across that plan, which she
recognized. She thought it was right to take it and very wisely
felt that it was man's business, so she sent it to me with her
explanations. I went to Lilac Valley because I wanted to judge
for myself exactly what kind of young person she was. I wanted
to see her environment. I wanted to see the house that she felt
sure was being built from these plans. I wanted to satisfy
myself of the stability of what I had to work on before I
mentioned the matter to you or Henry Anderson."
Marian sat holding the plan, listening absorbedly to what he was
"It's an ugly business," he said, "so ugly that there is no
question whatever but that it can be settled very quietly and
without any annoyance to you. I shall have to take the matter up
with the board, but I have the details so worked out that I shall
have no difficulty in arranging matters as I think best. There
is no question whatever, Marian, but Anderson found that sketch
on the west side of the Strong residence. When you left your
plans lying on a table before a window in the Strong guestroom
the night before you came to San Francisco you did not know that
the santana which raged through the valley a day or two
previously had stripped a screen from the window before which you
left them. In opening your door to establish a draft before you
went to bed you started one that carried your top drawing through
the window. Waiting for Miss Strong the next morning, in making
a circuit of the grounds Anderson found it and appropriated it to
most excellent advantage. Miss Linda tells me that your study of
architecture was discussed at the dinner table that night. He
could not have helped realizing that any sheet of plans he found
there must have been yours. If he could acquit his conscience of
taking them and using them, he would still have to explain why he
was ready to accept the first prize and the conditions imposed
when he already had a house fairly well under construction from
the plans he submitted in the contest. The rule is unbreakable
that the plans must be original, must be unused, must be our sole
property, if they take the prize."
Marian was leaning forward, her eyes wide with interest, her
breast agitated. She nodded in acquiescence. Eugene Snow
reached across and helped himself to another piece of candy from
the box on her knee. He looked at her speculatively and spoke
quietly as if the matter were of no great importance.
"Would it be agreeable, Marian, if the prize committee should
annOunce that there were reasons as to why they were not
satisfied, that they have decided to return all plans and call
off the present contest, opening another in a few months in which
interested parties may again submit their drawings? I will
undertake swiftly and comprehensively to eliminate Henry Anderson
from California. I would be willing to venture quite a sum that
when I finish with the youngster he will see the beauty of going
straight hereafter and the desirability of a change of
atmosphere. He's a youngster. I hate to make the matter public,
not only on account of involving you and your friends in such
disagreeable business, but I am sorry for him. I would like to
deal with him like the proverbial 'Dutch uncle,' then I would
like to send him away to make a new start with the assurance that
I am keeping close watch on him. Would you be satisfied if I
handled the matter quietly and in my own way? Could you wait a
few weeks for justice?"
Marian drew a deep breath.
"Of course," she said, "it would be wonderful if you could do
that. But what about Peter Morrison? How much did he know
concerning the plans, and what does he know about this?"
"Nothing," said Mr. Snow. "That most unusual young friend of
yours made me see the light very clearly concerning Peter
Morrison. There is no necessity for him ever to know that the
'dream house,' as Miss Linda calls it, that he is building for
his dream woman has any disagreeable history attached to it. He
so loves the spot that he is living on it to watch that house in
minutest detail. Miss Linda was fairly eloquent in the plea she
made on his behalf. He strikes me as a very unusual person, and
appealed to me in the same way. There must be some scientific
explanation concerning her that I don't just get, but I can see
that she is most unusual When I watched them together and heard
them talk of their plans for the house and the grounds and
discussing illustrations that she is making for articles that he
is writing, I saw how deep and wholesome was the friendship
existing between them. I even heard that wonderful serving
woman, whom they so familiarly speak of as 'Katy,' chiding Peter
Morrison for allowing Linda to take her typewriter to him and do
her own work with a pen. And because Miss Linda seems so
greathearted and loving with her friends, I was rather glad to
hear his explanation that they were merely changing machines for
the time being for a very particular reason of their own."
"Do you mean," asked Marian, "that you think there is anything
more than casual friendship between Linda and Peter Morrison?"
"Not on her part," answered Eugene Snow. "Anybody can see that
she is a child deeply engrossed in all sorts of affairs uncommon
for a girl of her age and position. Her nice perceptions, her
wonderful loyalty to her friends, her loving thought for them,
are manifest in everything she says or does. If she ever makes
any mistakes they will be from the head, not from the heart. But
for the other end of the equation I could speak authoritatively.
Katy pointed out to me the fact that if I would watch Peter
Morrison in Miss Linda's presence, I should see that he adored
her. I did watch, and I did see that very thing. When I taxed
him about building a dream house for a dream woman, his eyes
crossed a plateau, leaped a brook, and started up the side of a
mountain. They did not rest until they had found Linda."
Marian sat so still that it seemed as if she were not even
breathing. In view of what Katy had said, and his few words with
Peter Morrison, Eugene Snow had felt justified in giving Marian a
hint as to what was going on in Lilac Valley. Exactly what he
had done he had no means of knowing. If he had known and had
talked intentionally he could not have made clearer to Marian the
thing which for months had puzzled her. She was aware that
Eugene Snow was talking, that he was describing the dinner he had
been served, the wonderful wild-flower garden that he had seen,
how skillfully Linda drove the Bear Cat. She heard these things
and dimly comprehended them but underneath, her brain was seizing
upon one fact after another. They had exchanged typewriters.
The poor, foolish little kid had known how her health was
wracked, how she was suffering, how her pride would not let her
stoop to Eileen's subterfuges and wage war with her implements
for a man she did not want if her manner of living her everyday
life did not appeal to him. Linda had known how lonely and heart
hungry and disappointed she had gone away, and loyally she had
tried to create an interest in life for her; and she had
succeeded entirely too well. And then in a panic she must have
gone to Peter Morrison and explained the situation; and Peter
must have agreed to take over the correspondence. One by one
things that had puzzled her about the letters and about the whole
affair began to grow clear. She even saw how Linda, having
friendly association with no man save Peter, would naturally use
him for a model. The trouble was that, with her gift of
penetration and insight and her facility with her pen, she had
overdone the matter. She had not imitated Peter; she had BEEN
Peter. Marian arose suddenly.
She went home, locked the door, and one after another she read
the letters that had piqued, amused, comforted, and finally
intrigued her. They were brilliant letters, charming, appealing
letters, and yet, with knowledge concerning them, Marian wondered
how she could have failed to appreciate in the beginning that
they were from Linda.
"It goes to prove," she said at last, "how hungry the human heart
is for love and sympathy. And that poor kid, what she must have
suffered when she went to Peter for help! And if, as Mr. Snow
thinks, he cares for her, how he must have suffered before he
agreed to help her, as no doubt he did. What I have to do is to
find some way out of the situation that will relieve Linda's
anxiety and at least partially save my face. I shall have to
take a few days to work it out. Luckily I haven't answered my
last letter. When I find out what I really want to say then I
will be very careful how I say it. I don't just exactly relish
having my letters turned over to Peter Morrison, but possibly I
can think of some way--I must think of some way--to make them
feel that I have not been any more credulous than they."
While she thought, both Linda and Peter were doing much thinking
on the same subject. Linda's heart was full of gratitude to
Peter for helping her out of her very disagreeable situation.
Peter had not yet opened the packet of letters lying on his table
He had a sickening distaste for the whole transaction. He had
thought that he would wait until he received the first letter he
was to answer. If it gave him sufficient foundation in itself
for the answer, he would not be forced to search further. He had
smoked many pipes on this decision. After the visit of Mr. Snow,
Peter had seen a great light and had decided, from the mood and
the attitude of that gentleman after his interview with Katy,
that he very likely would be equal to any complication that might
arise when he reached San Francisco. Mulling over the situation
one day Peter said reflectively to the spring which was very busy
talking to him: "I am morally certain that this matter has
resolved itself into a situation that closely resembles the
bootblack's apple: 'they ain't goin' to be any core.' I am
reasonably certain that I never shall have a letter to answer.
In a few days probably I shall be able to turn back that packet
to Linda without having opened it."
To make up for the perturbation which had resulted in failure in
class and two weeks of work that represented her worst
appearances in high-school history, Linda, her mind freed from
the worry over Marian's plans, and her heart calmer over the
fiasco in trying to comfort her, devoted herself absorbingly to
her lessons and to the next magazine article that she must
finish. She had decided that it was time to write on the subject
of Indian confections. Her first spare minute she and Katy must
busy themselves working out the most delicious cactus candy
possible. Then they could try the mesquite candy. No doubt she
could evolve a delicious gum from the mesquite and the incense
plant. She knew she could from the willow milkweed; and under
the head of "sweets" an appetizing jelly from manzanita. There
were delightful drinks too, from the manzanita and the chia. And
better than either, the lemonade berry would serve this purpose.
She had not experimented to an authoritative extent with the
desert pickles. And among drinks she might use the tea made from
blue-eyed grass, brewed by the Indians for feverish conditions;
and there was a whole world of interest to open up in differing
seeds and berries, parched or boiled for food. And there were
the seeds that were ground for mush, like the thistle sage, and
the mock orange which was food and soap also, and the wild
sunflowers that were parched for meal, and above all, the acorns.
She could see that her problem was not going to be one of
difficulty in securing sufficient material for her book; it would
be how to find time to gather all these things, and put them
through the various processes and combinations necessary to make
edible dishes from I them. It would mean a long summer of
interesting and absorbing I work for her and for Katy. Much of
it could not be done until the I summer was far advanced and the
seeds and the berries were I ripe. She could rely on Donald to
help her search for the material. l With only herself and Katy
in the family they could give much of their time to the work.
"Where Katy will rebel," said Linda to herself, "is when it comes
to gathering sufficient seeds and parching them to make these
meal and mush dishes. She will call it 'fiddlin' business.' She
shall be propitiated with a new dress and a beautiful bonnet, and
she shall go with me frequently to the fields. The old dear
loves to ride. First thing I do I'll call at the bank again and
have our affairs properly straightened and settled there in the
light of the letter Daddy left me. Then I shall have money to
get all the furniture and the rugs and things we truly need.
I'll repaint the kitchen and get Katy some new cooking utensils
to gladden her soul. And Saturday I must make my trip with
Donald account for something worth while on the book."
All these plans were feasible. What Linda had to do was to
accomplish them, and this she proceeded to do in a swift and
businesslike manner. She soon reached the place where the whole
house with the exception of Eileen's suite had been gone over,
freshened and refurnished to her liking. The guest-room
furniture had been moved to her rejuvenated room. On the
strength of her I returns from the book she had disposed of her
furniture and was finding much girlish delight in occupying a
beautiful room, daintily decorated, comfortably furnished with
pieces of her own selection. As she and Katy stood looking over
their work when everything was ready for her first night of
occupancy Katy had said to her:
"It's jist right and proper, lambie; it's jist the way it ought
to be; and now say the word and let me clean out Eileen's suate
and get it ready for Miss Marian, so if she would drop down
unexpected she would find we was good as our word."
"All right," said Linda.
"And what am I to do with the stuff?" inquired Katy.
"Katy, my dear," said Linda with a dry laugh, "you'll think I am
foolish, but I have the queerest feeling concerning those things.
I can't feel that Eileen has done with them; I can't feel that
she will never want them again; I can't feel that they should go
to some second-hand basement. Pack all of her clothing that you
can manage in her trunk and put it in the garret, and what the
trunk won't hold pack in a tight box and put that in the garret
also. She hasn't written me a line; she has sent me no address;
I don't know what to do; but, as I have said before, I am going
to save the things at least a year and see whether some day
Eileen won't think of something she wants to do with them. Clean
the rooms and I will order Marian's things sent."
According to these arrangements it was only a few days until
Linda wrote Marian that her room was ready for her and that any
time she desired to come and take possession she could test the
lovingness of the welcome that awaited her by becoming intimately
acquainted with it. Marian answered the letter immediately. She
said that she was planning to come very soon to test that
welcome. She longed for the quiet of the valley, for its cool,
clean, wild air. She was very tired; she needed rest. She
thought she would love the new home they were offering her. Then
came two amazing paragraphs.
The other day Dana and I went into one of the big cafes in the
city to treat ourselves to a taste of the entertainment with
which the people of wealth regale themselves. We had wandered in
laughingly jesting about what we should order, and ran into
Eileen in the company of her aunt and uncle and a very flashy and
loudly dressed young man, evidently a new suitor of Eileen's. I
don't think Eileen wanted to introduce us, and yet she acted like
a person ravenous for news of her home and friends. She did
introduce us, and immediately her ponderous uncle took possession
of us. It seems that the man is a brother of Eileen's mother.
Linda, he is big and gross, he is everything that a man of nice
perceptions would not be, but he does love Eileen. He is trying
conscientiously to please her. His wife is the kind of person
who would marry that kind of man and think everything he said and
did was right. And the suitor, my dear, was the kind of man who
could endure that kind of people. Eileen was almost, if not
quite, the loveliest thing I ever have seen. She was plain; she
was simple; but it was the costly simplicity of extravagance. Ye
gods! but she had pearls of the size she had always wanted. She
tried with all her might to be herself, but she knows me well
enough to know what I would think and what I would write to you
concerning the conditions under which I met her. We were simply
forced to lunch with them. We could only nibble at the too rich,
too highly seasoned food set before us. And I noticed that
Eileen nibbled also. She is not going to grow fat and waddle and
redden her nose, but, my dear, back deep in her eyes and in the
curve of her lips and in the tone of her voice there were such
disappointment and discontent as I never have seen in any woman.
She could not suppress them; she could not conceal them. There
was nothing on earth she could do but sit quietly and endure.
They delivered us at our respective offices, leaving both of us
dates on which to visit them, but neither of us intends to call
on them. Eileen's face was a tragedy when her uncle insisted on
making the arrangements. I can at least spare her that.
And now, my dear, life is growing so full and my time is so taken
with my work at the office and with my widening friendships with
Dana and her friends and with Mr. Snow, that I really feel I have
not time to go farther with our anonymous correspondence. It is
all I can do to find time to write you letters such as the one I
am writing I have done my best to play up to what you expected of
me and I think I have succeeded in fooling you quite as much as
you have felt that you were fooling me. But, Linda dear, I want
you always to know that I appreciate the spirit in which you
began this thing. I know why you did it and I shall always love
you a trifle more for your thought of me and your effort to tide
over the very dark days you knew I would be facing in San
Francisco. I think, dear friend of mine, that I have had my
share of dark days. I think there is very beautiful sunlight
ahead for me. And by and by I hope to come into happiness that
maybe is even more than my share. I am coming to see you soon
and then I will tell you all about it.
There was more of the letter, but at that point Linda made one
headlong rush for the Bear Cat. She took the curve on two wheels
and almost ran into the mountain face behind the garage before
she could slow down. Then she set the Cat screaming wildly for
Peter. As he came up to the car she leaned toward him, shaking
"Peter," she cried, "have you opened that packet of letters yet?"
"No," said Peter, "I have not."
"Then give them to me quickly, Peter," said Linda.
Peter rushed into the garage and brought out the packet. Linda
caught it in both hands and dropped it in her lap.
"Well, thank God," she said devoutly. "And, Peter, the joke's on
me. Marian knew I was writing those letters all the time and she
just pretended that she cared for them to make the game
interesting for me. And when she had so many friends and so much
to do, she hadn't time for them any longer; then she pretended
that she was getting awfully in earnest in order to stop me, and
she did stop me all right."
Linda's face was a small panorama of conflicting emotions as she
appealed to Peter.
"Peter," she said in a quivering voice, "you can testify that she
stopped me properly, can't you, Peter?"
Peter tried to smile. He was older than Linda, and he was
thinking swiftly, intently.
"Yes, kid," he said with utmost corroboration, "yes, kid, she
stopped you, but I can't see that it was necessary literally to
scare the life out of you till she had you at the point where you
were thinking of taking off from a mountain or into the sea. Did
you really mean that, Linda?"
Linda relaxed suddenly. She sank back into the deeply padded
seat of the Bear Cat. A look of fright and entreaty swept into
her dark eyes.
"Yes, Peter, I did mean it," she said with finality. "I couldn't
have lived if I had hurt Marian irreparably. She has been hurt
so much already. And, Peter, it was awfully nice of you to wait
about reading these letters. Even if she only did it for a joke,
I think Marian would rather that you had not read them. Now I'll
go back home and begin to work in earnest on the head piece of
'How to Grow Good Citizens.' And I quite agree with you, Peter,
that the oath of allegiance, citizenship, and the title to a
piece of real estate are the prime requisites. People have no
business comma to our country to earn money that they intend to
carry away to invest in the development and the strengthening of
some other country that may some day be our worst enemy. I have
not found out yet how to say it in a four-by-twelve-inch strip,
but by the time I have read the article aloud to my skylight
along about ten tonight I'll get an inspiration; I am sure I
"Of course you will," said Peter; "but don't worry about it,
dear; don't lose sleep. Take things slower. Give time for a
little more flesh to grow on your bones. And don't forget that
while you're helping Donald to keep at the head of his classes
first job to keep at the head of your own."
"Thank you," said Linda. "How is the dream coming?"
"Beautifully," said Peter. "One of these days you're going to
come rushing around the boulders and down the side of the
building to find all this debris cleared away and the place for a
lawn leveled. I am fighting down every possible avenue of
expertise on the building in the effort to save money to make the
brook run and the road wind where you have indicated that you
want them to follow you."
Linda looked at Peter while a queer, reflective light gathered in
her eyes. At last she said soberly: "Well, I don't know, Peter,
that you should make them so very personal to me as all that."
"Why not?" asked Peter casually. "Since there is no one else,
Linda released the clutch and started the car. She backed in
front of the garage and turned. She was still thinking deeply as
she stopped. Once again she extended a hand to Peter.
"Thank you a thousand times for not reading these letters,
Peter," she said. "I can't express how awfully fine I think it
is of you. And if it's all right with you, perhaps there's not
any real reason why you should not run that brook and drive that
road the way I think they should go. Somebody is going to design
them. Why shouldn't I, if it pleases you to have me?"
"It pleases me very greatly," said Peter--"more than anything
else I can think of in all the world at this minute."
And then he did a thing that he had done once or twice before.
He bent back Linda's fingers and left another kiss in the palm of
her hand, and then he closed her fingers very tightly over it.
CHAPTER XXXI. The End of Donald's Contest
The middle of the week Linda had told Katy that she intended
stocking up the Bear Cat for three and that she would take her
along on the next Saturday's trip to her canyon kitchen. It was
a day upon which she had planned to gather greens, vegetables,
and roots, and prepare a dinner wholly from the wild. She was
fairly sure exactly where in nature she would find the materials
she wanted, but she knew that the search would be long and
tiring. It would be jolly to have Katy to help her prepare the
lunch. It would please Katy immensely to be taken; and the
original things she said in her quaint Irish brogue greatly
amused Donald. The arrangement had been understood among them
for some time, so they all started on their journey filled with
happy expectations. They closed the house and the garage
carefully. Linda looked over the equipment of the Bear Cat
minutely making sure that her field axe, saw, knives, and her
field glasses were in place. Because more food than usual was to
be prepared in the kitchen they took along a nest of cooking
vessels and a broiler. They found Donald waiting before either
of them were ready, and in great glee, with much laughing and
many jests they rolled down the valley in the early morning.
They drove to the kitchen, spread their blankets, set up their
table, and arranged the small circular opening for their day's
occupancy. While Katy and Linda were busy with these affairs
Donald took the axe and collected a big heap of wood. Then they
left Katy to burn the wood and have a deep bed of coals ready
while they started out to collect from the canyon walls, the foot
of the mountains, and the near-by desert the materials they would
use for their dinner.
Just where the desert began to climb the mountain Linda had for a
long time watched a big bed of amole. Donald used the shovel,
she the hatchet, and soon they had brought to the surface such a
quantity that Donald protested.
"But I have two uses for them today," explained Linda. "They
must serve for potatoes and they have to furnish our meat."
"Oh, I get you," said Donald. "I have always been crazy to try
So he began to dig again enthusiastically.
"Now I'll tell you what I think we had better do," said Linda.
"We will skirmish around this side of the mountain and find a
very nice tender yucca shoot; and then we'll take these back to
Katy and let her bury them in the ashes and keep up the fire
while we forage for the remainder of our wild Indian feast."
Presently they found a yucca head that Linda said was exactly
right, a delicate pink, thicker than her wrist and two feet in
length. With this and the amole they ran back to Katy. She knew
how to prepare the amole for roasting. Linda gave her a few
words of instruction concerning the yucca. Then from the
interior of the Bear Cat she drew a tightly rolled section of
wire window screening. Just where a deep, wide pool narrowed at
a rocky defile they sank the screening, jammed it well to the
bottom, fastened it tight at the sides, and against the current
side of it they threw leaves, grass, chunks of moss, any debris
they could gather that would make a temporary dam. Then,
standing on one side with her field knife, Linda began to slice
the remainder of the amole very thin and to throw it over the
surface of the pool. On the other, Donald pounded the big, juicy
bulbs to pulp and scattered it broadcast over the water. Linda
instructed Katy to sit on the bank with a long-handled landing
net and whenever a trout arose, to snatch it out as speedily as
possible, being careful not to take more than they would require.
Then the two youngsters, exhilarated with youth, with living,
with the joy of friendship, with the lure of the valley, with the
heady intoxication of the salt breeze and the gold of the
sunshine, climbed into the Bear Cat and went rolling through the
canyon and out to the valley on the far side. Here they gathered
the tenderest heart shoots of the lupin until Linda said they had
enough. Then to a particular spot that she knew on the desert
they hurried for the enlarged stems of the desert trumpet which
was to serve that day for an appetizer in the stead of pickles.
Here, too, they filled a bucket from the heart of a big Bisnaga
cactus as a basis for their drink. Among Katherine O'Donovan's
cooking utensils there was a box of delicious cactus candy made
from the preserved and sun-dried heart meat of this same fruit
which was to serve as their confection. On the way back they
stopped at the bridge and gathered cress for their salad. When
they returned to Katy she had five fine trout lying in the shade,
and with more experienced eyes and a more skillful hand Linda in
a few minutes doubled this number. Then they tore out the dam,
rinsed the screen and spread it over a rock to dry. While Donald
scaled the fish Linda put the greens to cook, prepared the salad
and set the table. Once, as he worked under her supervision,
Linda said to Donald: "Now about bread, kid--there's not going
to be any bread, because the Indians did not have it when they
lived the way we are living today. When you reach the place
where your left hand feels empty without a piece of bread in it,
just butter up another amole and try it. It will serve the same
purpose as bread, and be much better for the inner man."
"If you would let me skin these fish," said Donald, "I could do
it much faster and make a better job of it."
"But you shouldn't skin them; you want the skin to hold the meat
together when it begins to cook tender; and you should be able to
peel it off and discard it if it burns or gets smoky in the
cooking. It's a great concession to clean them as we do. The
Indians cooked them in the altogether and ate the meat from the
"Oh my tummy!" said Donald. "I always thought there was some
dark secret about the Indians."
Linda sat on a rock opposite him and clasped her hands around her
knees. She looked at him meditatively.
"Did you?" she asked. "Suppose you revise that opinion. Our
North American Indians in their original state were as fine as
any peoples that ever have been discovered the round of the
globe. My grandfather came into intimate contact with them in
the early days, and he said that their religion, embracing the
idea of a great spirit to whom they were responsible for their
deeds here, and a happy hunting ground to which they went as a
reward for decent living, was as fine as any religion that ever
has been practiced by people of any nation. Immorality was
unknown among them. Family ties were formed and they were
binding They loved their children and reared them carefully.
They were hardy and healthful. Until the introduction of whiskey
and what we are pleased to term civilized methods of living, very
few of them died save from war or old age. They were free; they
were happy. The moping, lazy, diseased creature that you find
sleeping in the sun around the reservations is a product of our
civilization. Nice commentary on civilization, isn't it?"
"For heaven's sake, Linda," said Donald, "don't start any big
brainstorming trains of thought today! Grant me repose. I have
overworked my brain for a few months past until I know only one
thing for certain."
"All right then, me lad, this is the time for the big secret,"
said Linda. "I just happened to be in the assembly room on some
business of my own last Thursday afternoon when my sessions were
over, and I overheard your professor in trigonometry tell a marl
I did not know, who seemed to be a friend visiting him, that the
son of Judge Whiting was doing the finest work that ever had been
done in any of the Los Angeles high schools, and that undoubtedly
you were going to graduate with higher honors than any other boy
ever had from that school."
Donald sat thinking this over. He absently lifted an elbow and
wiped the tiny scales from his face with his shirt sleeve.
"Young woman," he said solemnly, "them things what you're saying,
are they 'cross your heart, honest to goodness, so help you,'
truth, or are they the fruit of a perfervid imagination?"
Linda shook her head vigorously.
"De but', kid," she said, "de gospel but'. You have the Jap
going properly. He can't stop you now. You have fought your
good fight, and you have practically won it. All you have to do
is to carry on till the middle of June, and you're It."
"I wish Dad knew," said Donald in a low voice.
"The Judge does know," said Linda heartily. "It wasn't fifteen
minutes after I heard that till I had him on the telephone
repeating it as fast as I could repeat. Come to think of it,
haven't you noticed a particularly cocky set of his head and the
corksome lightness about his heels during the past few days?"
"By Jove, he has been happy about something!" said Donald. "And
I noticed that Louise and the Mater were sort of cheery and
making a specialty of the only son and brother."
"Sure, brother, sure," said Linda. "Hurry up and scrape those
fish and let's scamper down the canyon merely for the joy of
flying with wings on our feet. You're It, young man, just It!"
Donald was sitting on a boulder. On another in front of him he
was operating on the trout. His hands were soiled; his hair was
tousled; he was fairly well decorated with fine scales. He
looked at Linda appealingly.
"Am I 'It' with you, Linda?" he asked soberly.
"Sure you are," said Linda. "You're the best friend I have."
"Will you write to me when I go to college this fall?"
"Why, you couldn't keep me from it," said Linda. "I'll have
so many things to tell you. And when your first vacation comes
we'll make it a hummer."
"I know Dad won't let me come home for my holidays except for the
midsummer ones," said Donald soberly. "It would take most of the
time there would be of the short holidays to travel back and
"You will have to go very carefully about getting a start," said
Linda, "and you should be careful to find the right kind of
friends at the very start. Christmas and Thanksgiving boxes can
always be sent on time to reach you. It won't be so long for you
as for us; and by the time you have Oka Sayye beaten to ravelings
you will have such a 'perfect habit' that you will start right in
with the beating idea. That should keep you fairly busy, because
most of the men you come up against will be beaters themselves."
"Yes, I know," said Donald. "Are you going to start me to
college with the idea that I have to keep up this beating habit?
If I were to be one of fifty or a hundred, wouldn't that be good
"Why, sure," said Linda, "if you will be satisfied with having me
like fifty or a hundred as well as I do you."
"Oh, damn!" said Donald angrily. "Do I have to keep up this
top-crust business all my days?"
Linda looked at him with a queer smile on her lips.
"Not unless you want to, Donald," she said quietly; "not unless
you think you would rather."
Donald scraped a fish vigorously. Linda sat watching him.
Presently the tense lines around his eyes vanished. A faint red
crept up his neck and settled on his left cheek bone. A confused
grin slowly widened his naturally wide mouth.
"Then it's me for the top crust," he said conclusively.
"Then it's me for you," answered Linda in equally as
matter-of-fact tones; and rising, she gathered up the fish and
carried them to Katy while Donald knelt beside the chilly stream
and scoured his face and hands, after which Linda whipped away
the scales with an improvised brush of willow twigs.
It was such a wonderful day; it was such an unusual and delicious
feast. Plump brook trout, fresh from icy water, delicately
broiled over searing wood coals, are the finest of food. Through
the meal to the point where Donald lay on his back at the far
curve of the canyon wall, nibbling a piece of cactus candy,
everything had been perfect. Nine months would be a long time to
be gone, but Linda would wait for him, and she would write to
He raised his head on his elbow and called across to her: "Say,
Linda, how often will you write to me?"
Linda answered promptly: "Every Saturday night. Saturday is our
day. I'll tell you what has happened all the week. I'll tell
you specially what a darned unprofitable day Saturday is when
you're three thousand miles away."
Bending over the canyon fireplace, her face red with heat and
exertion, Katherine O'Donovan caught up her poker and beat up the
fire until the ashes flew.
"Easy, Katy, easy," cautioned Linda. "We may want to bury those
coals and resurrect them to warm up what is left for supper."
"We'll do no such thing," said Katy promptly. "What remains goes
to feed the fish. Next time it's hungry ye are, we're goin' to
hit it straight to Lilac Valley and fill ourselves with God's own
bread and beefsteak and paraties. Don't ye think we're goin' to
be atin' these haythen messes twice in one day."
To herself she was saying: "The sooner I get you home to Pater
Morrison, missy, the better I'll be satisfied."
Once she stood erect, her hands at her belt, her elbows
widespread, and with narrowed eyes watched the youngsters. Her
lips were closed so tightly they wrinkled curiously as she turned
back to the fireplace.
"Nayther one of them fool kids has come to yet," she said to
herself, "and a mighty good thing it is that they haven't."
Linda was looking speculatively at Donald as he lay stretched on
the Indian blanket at the base of the cliff. And then, because
she was for ever busy with Nature, her eyes strayed above him up
the side of the cliff, noting the vegetation, the scarred rocks,
the sheer beauty of the canyon wall until they reached the top.
Then, for no reason at all, she sat looking steadily at a huge
boulder overhanging the edge of the cliff, and she was wondering
how many ages it had hung there and how many more it would hang,
poised almost in air, when a tiny pebble at its base loosened and
came rattling and bounding down the canyon face. Every nerve in
Linda tensed. She opened her mouth, but not a sound came. For a
breathless second she was paralyzed. Then she shrieked wildly:
"Donald, Donald, roll under the ledge! Quick, quick!"
She turned to Katy.
"Back, Katy, back!" she screamed. "That boulder is loose; it's
For months Donald Whiting had obeyed Linda implicitly and
instantly. He had moved with almost invisible speed at her
warning many times before. Sometimes it had been a venomous
snake, sometimes a yucca bayonet, sometimes poison vines, again
unsafe footing--in each case instant obedience had been the rule.
He did hot "question why" at her warning; he instantly did as he
was told. He, too, had noticed the falling pebble. With all the
agility of which he was capable he rolled under the narrow
projecting ledge above him. Katherine O'Donovan was a good
soldier also. She whirled and ran to the roadway. She had
barely reached it when, with a grinding crash, down came the huge
boulder, carrying bushes, smaller rocks, sand, and debris with
it. On account of its weight it fell straight, struck heavily,
and buried itself in the earth exactly on the spot upon which
Donald had been lying. Linda raised terrified eyes to the top of
the wall. For one instant a dark object peered over it and then
drew back. Without thought for herself Linda rushed to the
boulder, and kneeling, tried to see back of it.
"Donald!" she cried, "Donald, are you all right?"
"Guess I am, unless it hit one foot pretty hard. Feels fast."
"Can you get out?" she cried, beginning to tear with her hands at
the stone and the bushes where she thought his head would be.
"I'm fast; but I'm all right," he panted. "Why the devil did
that thing hang there for ages, and then come down on me today?"
"Yes, why did it?" gasped Linda. "Donald, I must leave you a
minute. I've got to know if I saw a head peer over just as that
stone came down."
"Be careful what you do!" he cried after her.
Linda sprang to her feet and rushed to the car. She caught out
the field classes and threw the strap over her head as she raced
to the far side of the fireplace where the walls were not so
sheer. Katherine O'Donovan promptly seized the axe, caught its
carrying strap lying beside it, thrust the handle through, swung
it over her own head, dropped it between her shoulders, and
ripping off her dress skirt she started up the cliff after Linda.
Linda was climbing so swiftly and so absorbedly that she reached
the top before she heard a sound behind her. Then she turned
with a white face, and her mouth dropped open as she saw Katy
three fourths of the way up the cliff. For one second she was
again stiff with terror, then, feeling she could do nothing, she
stepped back out of sight and waited a second until Katy's red
head and redder face appeared over the edge. Realizing that her
authority was of no avail, that Katy would follow her no matter
where she went or what she did, and with no time to argue, Linda
simply called to her encouragingly: "Follow where I go; take
your time; hang tight, old dear, it's dangerous!"
She started around the side of the mountain, heading almost
straight upward, traveling as swiftly and as noiselessly as
possible. Over big boulders, on precarious footing, clinging to
bushes, they made their way until they reached a place that
seemed to be sheer above them; certainly it was for hundreds of
feet below On a point of rock screened by overhanging bushes
Linda paused until Katy overtook her.
"We are about stalled," she panted. "Find a good footing and
stay where you are. I'm going to climb out on these bushes and
see if I can get a view of the mountain side."
Advancing a few yards, Linda braced herself, drew around her
glasses, and began searching the side of the mountain opposite
her and below as far as she could range with the glasses. At
last she gave up.
"Must have gone the other way," she said to Katy. "I'll crawl
back to you. We'll go after help and get Donald out. There will
be time enough to examine the cliff afterward; but I am just as
sure now as I will be when it is examined that that stone was
purposely loosened to a degree where a slight push would drop it.
As Donald says, there's no reason why it should hang there for
centuries and fall on him today. Shut your eyes, old dear, and
back up. We must go to Donald. I rather think it's on one of
his feet from what he said. Let me take one more good look."
At that minute from high on the mountain above them a shower of
sand and pebbles came rattling down. Linda gave Katy one
"My God!" she panted. "He's coming down right above us!"
Just how Linda recrossed the bushes and reached Katy she did not
know. She motioned for her to make her way back as they had
come. Katy planted her feet squarely upon the rock. Her lower
jaw shot out; her eyes were aflame. She stood perfectly still
with the exception of motioning Linda to crowd back under the
bushes, and again Linda realized that she had no authority; as
she had done from childhood when Katy was in earnest, Linda
obeyed her. She had barely reached the overhanging bushes,
crouched under them, and straightened herself, when a small
avalanche came showering down, and a minute later a pair of feet
were level with her head. Then screened by the bushes, she could
have reached out and touched Oka Sayye. As his feet found a
solid resting place on the ledge on which Linda and Katy stood,
and while he was still clinging to the bushes, Katherine
O'Donovan advanced upon him. He had felt that his feet were
firm, let go his hold, and turned, when he faced the infuriated
Irishwoman. She had pulled the strap from around her neck,
slipped the axe from it, and with a strong thrust she planted the
head of it against Oka Sayye's chest so hard that she almost fell
forward. The Jap plunged backward among the bushes, the roots of
which had supported Linda while she used the glasses. Then he
fell, sliding among them, snatching wildly. Linda gripped the
overhanging growth behind which she had been screened, and leaned
"He has a hold; he is coming back up, Katy!" she cried.
Katy took another step forward. She looked over the cliff down
an appalling depth of hundreds of feet. Deliberately she raised
the axe, circled it round her head and brought it down upon that
particular branch to which Oka Sayye was clinging. She cut it
through, and the axe rang upon the stone wall behind it. As she
swayed forward Linda reached out, gripped Katy and pulled her
"Get him?" she asked tersely, as if she were speaking of a rat or
Katy sank back limply against the wall. Linda slowly turned her
around, and as she faced the rock, "Squeeze tight against it shut
your eyes, and keep a stiff upper lip," she cautioned. "I'm
going to work around You; I want to be ahead of you."
She squeezed past Katy, secured the axe and hung it round her own
neck. She cautioned Katy to keep her eyes shut and follow where
she led her, then they started on their way back. Linda did not
attempt to descend the sheer wall by which they had climbed, but
making a detour she went lower, and in a very short time they
were back in the kitchen. Linda rushed to the boulder and knelt
again, but she could get no response to her questions. Evidently
Donald's foot was caught and he was unconscious from the pain.
Squeezing as close as she could, she thrust her arm under the
ledge until she could feel his head. Then she went to the other
side, and there she could see that his right foot was pinned
under the rock. She looked at Katy reassuringly, then she took
off the axe and handed it to her.
"He's alive," she said. "Can't kill a healthy youngster to have
a crushed foot. You stand guard until I take the Bear Cat and
bring help. It's not far to where I can find people."
At full speed Linda put the Cat through the stream and out of the
canyon until she reached cultivated land, where she found a man
who would gather other men and start to the rescue. She ran on
until she found a house with a telephone. There she called Judge
Whiting, telling him to bring an ambulance and a surgeon, giving
him explicit directions as to where to come, and assuring him
that Donald could not possibly be seriously hurt. She found time
to urge, also, that before starting he set in motion any
precautions he had taken for Donald's protection. She told him
where she thought what remained of Oka Sayye could be found. And
then, as naturally and as methodically as she had done all the
rest, she called Peter Morrison and told him that she was in
trouble and where he could find her.
And because Peter had many miles less distance to travel than the
others she had summoned, he arrived first. He found Linda and
Katy had burrowed under the stone until they had made an opening
into which the broken foot might sink so that the pain of the
pressure would be relieved. Before the rock, with picks and
shovels, half a dozen sympathetic farmers from ranches and
cultivated land at the mouth of the canyon were digging furiously
to make an opening undermining the boulder so that it could be
easily tipped forward. Donald was conscious and they had been
passing water to him and encouraging him with the report that his
father and a good surgeon would be there very soon. Katherine
O'Donovan had crouched at one side of the boulder, supporting the
hurt foot. She was breathing heavily and her usually red face
was a ghastly green. Linda had helped her to resume the skirt of
her dress. At the other side of the rock the girl was reaching
to where she could touch Donald's head or reassuringly grip the
hand that he could extend to her. Peter seized Linda's axe and
began hewing at the earth and rock in order to help in the speedy
removal of the huge boulder. Soon Judge Whiting, accompanied by
Doctor Fleming, the city's greatest surgeon, came caring into the
canyon and stopped on the roadway when he saw the party. The
Judge sprang from the car, leaped the stream, and started toward
them. In an effort to free his son before his arrival, all the
men braced themselves against the face of the cliff and pushed
with their combined strength. The boulder dropped forward into
the trench they had dug for it enough to allow Peter to crowd his
body between it and the cliff and lift Donald's head and
shoulders. Linda instantly ran around the boulder, pushed
her way in, and carefully lifting Donald's feet, she managed to
work the lithe slenderness of her body through the opening, so
that they carried Donald out and laid him down in the open. He
was considerably dazed and shaken, cruelly hurt, but proved
himself a game youngster of the right mettle. He raised himself
to a sitting posture, managing a rather stiff-lipped smile for
his father and Linda. The surgeon instantly began cutting to
reach the hurt foot, while Peter Morrison supported the boy's
head and shoulders on one side, his father on the other.
An exclamation of dismay broke from the surgeon's lips. He
looked at Judge Whiting and nodded slightly. The men immediately
picked up Donald and carried him to the ambulance. Katherine
O'Donovan sat down suddenly and buried her face in the skirt of
her dress. Linda laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
"Don't, Katy," she said. "Keep up your nerve; you're all right,
old dear. Donald's fine. That doesn't mean anything except that
his foot is broken, so he won't be able, and it won't be
necessary for him, to endure the pain of setting it in a cast
without an anesthetic; and Doctor Fleming can work much better
where he has every convenience. It's all right."
The surgeon climbed into the ambulance and they started on an
emergency run to the hospital. As the car turned and swept down
the canyon, for no reason that she could have explained, Linda
began to shake until her teeth clicked. Peter Morrison sprang
back across the brook, and running to her side, he put his arm
around her and with one hand he pressed her head against his
shoulder, covering her face.
"Steady, Linda," he said quietly, "steady. You know that he is
all right. It will only be a question of a short confinement."
Linda made a brave effort to control herself. She leaned against
Peter and held out both her hands.
"I'm all right," she chattered. "Give me a minute."
Judge Whiting came to them.
"I am getting away immediately," he said. "I must reach Louise
and Mother before they get word of this. Doctor Fleming will
take care of Donald all right. What happened, Linda? Can you
Linda opened her lips and tried to speak, but she was too
breathless, too full of excitement, to be coherent. To her
amazement Katherine O'Donovan scrambled to her feet, lifted her
head and faced the Judge. She pointed to the fireplace.
"I was right there, busy with me cookie' utensils," she said l
Miss Linda was a-sittin, on that exact spot, they jist havin 1
finished atin' some of her haythen messes; and the lad was lyin,
square where the boulder struck, on the Indian blanket, atin' a
pace of cactus candy. And jist one pebble came rattlin' down,
but Miss Linda happened to be lookin', and she scramed to the b'y
to be rollin' under where ye found him; so he gave a flop or two,
and it's well that he took his orders without waitin' to ask the
raison for them, for if he had, at the prisint minute he would be
about as thick as a shate of writing paper. The thing dropped
clear and straight and drove itself into the earth and stone
below it, as ye see."
Katherine O'Donovan paused.
"Yes," said the Judge. "Anything else?"
"Miss Linda got to him and she made sure he had brathin' space
and he wasn't hurt bad, and then she told him he had got to stand
it, because, sittin' where she did, she faced the cliff and she
thought she had seen someone. She took the telescope and started
climbin', and I took the axe and I started climbin' after her."
Katy broke down and emitted a weird Irish howl. Linda instantly
braced herself, threw her arms around Katy, and drew her head to
her shoulder. She looked at Judge Whiting and began to talk
"I can show you where she followed me, straight up the face of
the canyon, almost," she said. "And she never had tried to climb
a canyon side for a yard, either, but she came up and over after
me, like a cat. And up there on a small ledge Oka Sayye came
down directly above us. I couldn't be mistaken. I saw him
plainly. I know him by sight as well as I do any of you. We
heard the stones coming down before him, and we knew someone was
going to be on us who was desperate enough to kill. When he
touched our level and turned to follow the ledge we were on, I
pushed him over."
Katy shook off Linda's protecting arm and straightened suddenly.
"Why, ye domned little fool, ye!" she screamed. "Ye never told a
lie before in all your days! Judge Whiting, I had the axe round
me neck by the climbin' strap, and I got it in me fingers when we
heard the crature comin', and against his chist I set it, and I
gave him a shove that sint him over. Like a cat he was
a-clingin' and climbin', and when I saw him comin' up on us with
that awful face of his, I jist swung the axe like I do when I'm
rejoocin' a pace of eucalyptus to fireplace size, and whack! I
took the branch supportin' him, and a dome' good axe I spoiled
Katy folded her arms, lifted her chin higher than it ever had
been before, and glared defiance at the Judge.
"Now go on," she said, "and decide what ye'll do to me for it."
The Judge reached over and took both Katherine O'Donovan's hands
in a firm grip.
"You brave woman!" he said. "If it lay in my power, I would give
you the Carnegie Medal. In any event I will see that you have a
good bungalow with plenty of shamrock on each side of your front
path, and a fair income to keep you comfortable when the
rheumatic days are upon you."
"I am no over-feeder," said Katy proudly. "I'm daily exercisin'
me muscles enough to kape them young. The rheumatism I'll not
have. And nayther will I have the house nor the income. I've
saved me money; I've an income of me own."
"And as for the bungalow," interrupted Linda, "Katherine, as I
have mentioned frequently before is my father, and my mother, and
my whole family, and her front door is mine."
"Sure," said Katy proudly. "When these two fine people before
you set up their hearthstone, a-swapin' it I'll be, and carin'
for their youngsters; but, Judge, I would like a bit of the
shamrock. Ye might be sendin' me a start of that, if it would
plase Your Honor."
Judge Whiting looked intently at Katherine O'Donovan. And then,
as if they had been on the witness stand, he looked searchingly
at Linda. But Linda was too perturbed, too accustomed to Katy's
extravagant nonsense even to notice the purport of what she had
said. Then the Judge turned his attention to Peter Morrison and
realized that at least one of the parties to Katherine's proposed
hearthstone had understood and heartily endorsed her proposal.
"I will have to be going. The boy and his mother will need me,"
he said. "I will see all of you later."
Then he sprang across the brook and sent his car roaring down the
canyon after the ambulance.
Once more Katy sank to the ground. Linda looked at her as she
buried her face and began to wail.
"Peter," she said quietly, "hunt our belongings and pack them in
the Bear Cat the best you can. Excuse us for a few minutes. We
must act this out of our systems."
Gravely she sat down beside Katy, laid her head on her shoulder,
and began to cry very nearly as energetically as Katy herself.
And that was the one thing which was most effective in restoring
Katy's nerves. Tears were such an unaccustomed thing with Linda
that Katy controlled herself speedily so that she might be better
able to serve the girl. In a few minutes Katy had reduced her
emotions to a dry sniffle. She lifted her head, groped for her
pocket, and being unable to find it for the very good reason that
she was sitting upon it, she used her gingham hem as a
handkerchief. Once she had risen to the physical effort of
wiping her eyes, she regained calmness rapidly. The last time
she applied the hem she looked at Peter, but addressed the
Almighty in resigned tones: "There, Lord, I guess that will do."
In a few minutes she was searching the kitchen, making sure that
no knives, spoons, or cooking utensils were lost. Missing her
support, Linda sat erect and endeavored to follow Katy's example.
Her eyes met Peter's and when she saw that his shoulders were
shaking, a dry, hysterical laugh possessed her.
"Yes, Katy," she panted, "that WILL do, and remember the tears we
are shedding are over Donald's broken foot, and because this may
interfere with his work, though I don't think it will for long."
"When I cry," said Katy tersely, "I cry because I feel like it.
I wasn't wapin' over the snake that'd plan a death like that for
anyone"--Katy waved toward the boulder--"and nayther was I
wastin' me tears over the fut of a kid bein' jommed up a trifle."
"Well, then, Katy," asked Linda tremulously, "why were you
"Well, there's times," said Katy judicially, "when me spirits
tell me I would be the better for lettin' off a wee bit of stame,
and one of them times havin' arrived, I jist bowed me head to it,
as is in accordance with the makings of me. Far be it from me to
be flyin' in the face of Providence and sayin' I won't, when all
me interior disposhion says to me: 'Ye will!'"
"And now, Linda," said Peter, "can you tell us why you were
"Why, I think," said Linda, "that Katy has explained sufficiently
for both of us. It was merely time for us to howl after such
fearful nerve strain, so we howled."
"Well, that's all right," said Peter. "Now I'll tell you
something. If you had gone away in that ambulance to an
anesthetic and an operation, no wildcat that ever indulged in a
hunger hunt through this canyon could have put up a howl equal to
the one that I would have sent up."
"Peter," said Linda, "there is nothing funny about this; it's no
tame for jest. But do men have nerves? Would you really?"
"Of course I would," said Peter.
"No, you wouldn't," contradicted Linda. "You just say that
because you want to comfort us for having broken down, instead of
trying to tease us as most men would."
"He would, too!" said Katy, starting to the Bear Cat with a load
of utensils. "Now come on; let's go home and be gettin' craned
up and ready for what's goin' to happen to us. Will they be
jailin' us, belike, Miss Linda?"
Linda looked at Peter questioningly.
"No," he said quietly. "It is very probable that the matter
never will be mentioned to you again, unless Judge Whiting gets
hold of some clue that he wishes to use as an argument against
matured Japs being admitted in the same high-school classes with
our clean, decent, young Americans. They stopped that in the
grades several years ago, I am told."
Before they could start back to Lilac Valley a car stopped in the
canyon and a couple of men introducing themselves as having come
from Judge Whiting interviewed Katy and Linda exhaustively. Then
Linda pointed out to them an easier but much longer route by
which they might reach the top of the canyon to examine the spot
from which the boulder had fallen. She showed them where she and
Katy had ascended, and told them where they would be likely to
find Oka Sayye.
When it came to a question of really starting, Linda looked with
appealing eyes at Peter.
"Peter," she said, "could we fix it any way so you could drive
Katy and me home? For the first time since I have begun driving
this spring I don't feel equal to keeping the road."
"Of course," said Peter. "I'll take your car to the nearest
farmhouse and leave it, then I'll take you and Katy in my car."
Late that evening Judge Whiting came to Lilac Valley with his
wife and daughter to tell Linda that the top of the cliff gave
every evidence of the stone having been loosened previously, so
that a slight impetus would send it crashing down at the time
when Donald lay in his accustomed place directly in the line of
its fall. His detectives had found the location of the encounter
and they had gone to the bottom of the cliff, a thousand feet
below, but they had not been able to find any trace of Oka Sayye.
Somewhere in waiting there had been confederates who had removed
what remained of him. On the way home Mrs. Whiting said to her
husband: "Judge, are you very sure that what the cook said to
you this afternoon about Miss Strong and Mr. Morrison is true?"
"I am only sure of its truth so far as he is concerned," replied
the Judge. "What he thought about Linda was evident. I am very
sorry. She is a mighty fine girl and I think Donald is very much
interested in her."
"Yes, I think so, too," said Donald's mother. "Interested; but
he has not even a case of first love. He is interested for the
same reason you would be or I would be, because she is
intellectually so stimulating. And you have to take into
consideration the fact that in two or three years more she will
be ready for marriage and a home of her own, and Donald will
still be in school with his worldly experience and his business
education not yet begun. The best thing that can happen to
Donald is just to let his infatuation for her die a natural
death, with the quiet assistance of his family."
The Judge's face reddened slightly.
"Well, I would like mighty well to have her in the family," he
said. "She's a corking fine girl. She would make a fine mother
of fine men. I haven't a doubt but that with the power of his
personality and the power of his pen and the lure of propinquity,
Peter Morrison will win her, but I hate it. It's the best chance
the boy ever will have."
And then Louise spoke up softly.
"Donald hasn't any chance, Dad," she said quietly, "and he never
did have. I have met Peter Morrison myself and I would be only
too glad if I thought he was devoted to me. I'll grant that
Linda Strong is a fine girl, but when she wakes up to the worth
of Peter Morrison and to a realization of what other women would
be glad to be to him, she will merely reach out and lay
possessive hands upon what already belongs to her."
It was a curious thing that such occurrences as the death of Oka
Sayye and the injury to Donald could take place and no one know
about them. Yet the papers were silent on the subject and so
were the courts. Linda and Katy were fully protected. The
confederates of Oka Sayye for reasons of their own preferred to
keep very quiet.
By Monday Donald, with his foot in a plaster cast, was on a side
veranda of his home with a table beside him strewn with books and
papers. An agreement had been made that his professors should
call and hear his recitations for a few days until by the aid of
a crutch and a cane he could resume his place in school. Linda
went to visit him exactly as she would have gone to see Marian
in like circumstances. She succeeded in making all of the
Whiting family her very devoted friends.
One evening, after he had been hobbling about for over a week,
Linda and Peter called to spend the evening, and a very gay and
enjoyable evening it was. And yet when it was over and they had
gone away together Donald appeared worried and deeply thoughtful.
When his mother came to his room to see if the foot was unduly
painful or there was anything she could do to make him more
comfortable, he looked at her belligerently.
"Mother," he said, "I don't like Peter Morrison being so much
with my girl."
Mrs. Whiting stood very still. She thought very fast. Should
she postpone it or should she let the boy take all of his hurts
together? Her heart ached for him and yet she felt that she knew
what life had in store for him concerning Linda. So she sat on
the edge of the bed and began to talk quietly, plainly,
reasonably. She tried to explain nature and human nature and
what she thought the laws of probability were in the case.
Donald lay silent. He said nothing until she had finished all
she had to say, and then he announced triumphantly: "You're all
wrong. That is what would happen if Linda were a girl like any
of the other girls in her class, or like Louise. But she has
promised that she would write to me every Saturday night and she
has said that she thinks more of me than of any of the other
"Donald dear," said Mrs. Whiting, "you're not 'in love' with
Linda yourself, and neither is she with you. By the time you are
ready to marry and settle down in life, Linda in all probability
will be married and be the mother of two or three babies."
"Yes, like fun she will," said Donald roughly.
"Have you asked her whether she loves you?" inquired Mrs.
"Oh, that 'love' business," said Donald, "it makes me tired!
Linda and I never did any mushing around. We had things of some
importance to talk about and to do."
A bit of pain in Mrs. Whiting's heart eased. It was difficult to
keep her lips quiet and even.
"You haven't asked her to marry you, then?" she said soberly.
"Oh good Lord," cried Donald, "'marry!' How could I marry anyone
when I haven't even graduated from high school and with college
and all that to come?"
"That is what I have been trying to tell you," said his mother
evenly. "I don't believe you have been thinking about marriage
and I am absolutely certain that Linda has not, but she is going
to be made to think about it long before you will be in such
financial position that you dare. That is the reason I am
suggesting that you think about these things seriously and
question yourself as to whether you would be doing the fair thing
by Linda if you tried to tie her up in an arrangement that would
ask her to wait six or eight years yet before you would be
"Well, I can get around faster than that," said Donald
"Of course you can," agreed his mother. "I made that estimate
fully a year too long. But even in seven years Linda could do an
awful lot of waiting; and there are some very wonderful girls
that will be coming up six or seven years from now here at home.
You know that hereafter all the girls in the world are going to
be very much more Linda's kind of girls than they have been
heretofore. The girls who have lived through the war and who
have been intimate with its sorrow and its suffering and its
terrible results to humanity, are not going to be such heedless,
thoughtless, not nearly such selfish, girls as the world has
known in the decade just past. And there is going to be more
outdoor life, more nature study. There are going to be stronger
bodies, better food, better-cared-for young people; and every
year educational advantages are going to be greater. If you can
bring yourself to think about giving up the idea of there ever
existing any extremely personal thing between you and Linda, I am
very sure I could guarantee to introduce you to a girl who would
be quite her counterpart, and undoubtedly we could meet one who
would be handsomer."
Donald punched his pillow viciously.
"That's nice talk," he said, "and it may be true talk. But in
the first place I wish that Peter Morrison would let my girl
alone, and in the second place I don't care if there are a
thousand just as nice girls or even better-looking girls than
Linda, though any girl would be going some if she were nicer and
better looking than Linda. But I am telling you that when my
foot gets better I am going to Lilac Valley and tell him where to
head in, and I'll punch his head if he doesn't do it promptly."
"Of course you will," said his mother reassuringly; "and I'll go
with you and we'll see to it that he attends strictly to his own
Donald burst out laughing, exactly as his mother in her heart had
hoped that he would.
"Yes, I've got a hand-painted picture of myself starting to Lilac
Valley to fight a man who is butting in with my girl, and taking
my mother along to help me beat him up," he said.
Mrs. Whiting put her arms around her boy, kissed him tenderly,
and smoothed his hair, and then turned out the lights and slipped
from the room. But in the clear moonlight as she closed the door
she could see that a boyish grin was twisting his lips, and she
went down to tell the Judge that he need not worry. If his boy
were irreparably hurt anywhere, it was in his foot.
CHAPTER XXXII. How the Wasp Built Her Nest
The following weeks were very happy for Linda. When the cast was
removed from Donald's foot and it was found that a year or two of
care would put him even on the athletic fields and the dancing
floor again, she was greatly relieved.
She lacked words in which to express her joy that Marian was
rapidly coming into happiness. She was so very busy with her
school work, with doing all she could to help Donald with his,
with her "Jane Meredith" articles, with hunting and working out
material for her book, that she never had many minutes at a time
for introspection. When she did have a few she sometimes
pondered deeply as to whether Marian had been altogether sincere
in the last letter she had written her in their correspondence,
but she was so delighted in the outcome that if she did at times
have the same doubt in a fleeting form that had not been in the
least fleeting with Peter Morrison, she dismissed it as rapidly
as possible. When things were so very good as they were at that
time, why try to improve them?
One evening as she came from school, thinking that she would take
Katy for a short run in the Bear Cat before dinner, she noticed a
red head prominent in the front yard as she neared home. When
she turned in at the front walk and crossed the lawn she would
have been willing to wager quite a sum that Katy had been crying.
"Why, old dear," said Linda, putting her arms around her, "if
anything has gone wrong with you I will certainly take to the
warpath, instanter. I can't even imagine what could be troubling
you." Linda lowered her voice. "Nothing has come up about Oka
Katy shook her head.
"I thought not," said Linda. "Judge Whiting promised me that
what use he made of that should be man's business and exploited
wholly for the sake of California and her people. He said we
shouldn't be involved. I haven't been worried about it even,
although I am willing to go upon the stand and tell the whole
story if it will be any help toward putting right what is at
present a great wrong to California."
"Yes, so would I," said Katy. "I'm not worryin' meself about the
little baste any more than I would if it had been a mad dog
foaming up that cliff at ye."
"Then what is it?" asked Linda. "Tell me this minute."
"I dunno what in the world you're going to think," said Katy "I
dunno what in the world you're going to do."
Her face was so distressed that Linda's nimble brain flew to a
conclusion. She tightened her arm across Katy's shoulder.
"By Jove, Katy!" she said breathlessly. "Is Eileen in the