Part 8 out of 8
"Has she been to see John and made things right with him?"
Katy nodded again.
"He's in there with her waitin' for ye," she said.
It was a stunned Linda who slowly dropped her arm, stood erect,
and lifted her head very high. She thought intently.
"You don't mean to tell me," she said, "that you have been CRYING
Katy held out both hands.
"Linda," she said, "she always was such a pretty thing, and her
ma didn't raise her to have the sense of a peewee. If your pa
had been let take her outdoors and grow her in the sun and the
air, she would have been bigger and broader, an' there would have
been the truth of God's sunshine an' the glory of His rain about
her. Ye know, Linda, that she didn't ever have a common decent
chance. It was curls that couldn't be shook out and a nose that
dassen't be sunburned and shoes that mustn't be scuffed and a
dress that shouldn't be mussed, from the day she was born. Ye
couldn't jist honest say she had ever had a FAIR chance, now
"No," said Linda conclusively' "no, Katherine O'Donovan, you
could not. But what are we up against? Does she want to come
back? Does she want to stay here again?"
"I think she would like to," said Katy. "You go in and see her
for yourself, lambie, before ye come to any decision."
"You don't mean," said Linda in a marveling tone, "that she has
been homesick, that she has come back to us because she would
like to be with us again?"
"You go and see her for yourself; and if you don't say she is the
worst beat out and the tiredest mortal that ye have ever seen
you'll be surprisin' me. My God, Linda, they ain't nothin' in
bein' rich if it can do to a girl what has been done to Eileen!"
"Oh, well," said Linda impatiently, "don't condemn all money
because Eileen has not found happiness with it. The trouble has
been that Eileen's only chance to be rich came to her through the
wrong kind of people."
"Well, will ye jist tell me, then," said Katy, "how it happened
that Eileen's ma was a sister to that great beef of a man, which
same is hard on self-rayspectin' beef; pork would come nearer."
"Yes," said Linda, "I'll tell you. Eileen's mother had a big
streak of the same coarseness and the same vulgarity in HER
nature, or she could not have reared Eileen as she did. She
probably had been sent to school and had better advantages than
the boy through a designing mother of her own. Her first husband
must have been a man who greatly refined and educated her. We
can't ever get away from the fact that Daddy believed in her and
"Yes," said Katy, "but he was a fooled man. She wasn't what we
thought she was. Many's the time I've stood injustice about the
accounts and household management because I wouldn't be wakin'
him up to what he was bound to for life."
"That doesn't help us," said Linda. "I must go in and face
She handed her books to Katy, and went into the living room She
concentrated on John Gilman first, and a wee qualm of disgust
crept through her soul when she saw that after weeks of suffering
he was once more ready to devote himself to Eileen. Linda
marveled at the power a woman could hold over a man that would
force him to compromise with his intellect, his education and
environment. Then she turned her attention to Eileen, and the
shock she received was informing. She studied her an instant
incredulously, then she went to her and held out her hand.
"How do you do?" she said as cordially as was possible to
her."This is unexpected."
Her mind was working rapidly, yet she could not recall ever
having seen a woman quite so beautiful as Eileen. She was very
certain that the color on her cheeks was ebbing and rising with
excitement; it was no longer so deep as to be stationary. She
was very certain that her eyes had not been darkened as to lids
or waxed as to lashes. Her hair was beautifully dressed in
sweeping waves with scarcely any artificial work upon it. Her
dress was extremely tasteful and very expensive. There was no
simper on her lips, nothing superficial. She was only a tired,
homesick girl. As Linda looked at her she understood why Katy
had cried over her. She felt tears beginning to rise in her own
heart. She put both arms protectingly around Eileen.
"Why, you poor little thing," she said wonderingly, "was it so
damn' bad as all that?"
Eileen stood straight. She held herself rigidly. She merelY
nodded. Then after a second she said: "Worse than anything you
could imagine, Linda. Being rich with people who have grown rich
by accident is a dreadful experience."
"So I have always imagined," said Linda. And then in her usual
downright way she asked: "Why did you come, Eileen? Is there
anything you wanted of me?"
Eileen hesitated. It was not in Linda's heart to be mean.
"Homesick, little sister?" she asked lightly "Do you want to come
here while you're getting ready to make a home for John? Is that
Then Eileen swayed forward suddenly, buried her face in Linda's
breast, and for the first time in her life Linda saw and heard
her cry, not from selfishness, not from anger, not from greed,
but as an ordinary human being cries when the heart is so full
that nature relieves itself with tears. Linda closed her arms
around her and smiled over her head at John Gilman.
"Finish all of it before you stop," she advised. "It's all
right. You come straight home. You didn't leave me any word,
and I didn't know what to do with your things, but I couldn't
feel that you would want to give up such beautiful things that
you had so enjoyed. We had planned for Marian to spend her
summer vacation here so I put her things in your suite and I had
moved mine into the guest room, but I have had my room done over
and the guest room things are in there, and every scrap of yours
is carefully put away. If that will do, you are perfectly
welcome to it."
Eileen wiped her eyes.
"Anything," she sobbed. "I'd rather have Katy's room than be
shamed and humiliated and hurt any further. Linda, I would
almost like you to know my Aunt Callie, because you will never
understand about her if you don't. Her favorite pastime was to
tell everyone we met how much the things I wore cost her."
Linda released Eileen with a slight shake.
"Cheer up !" she said. "We'll all have a gorgeous time together.
I haven't the slightest ambition to know more than that about
your Aunt Callie. If my brain really had been acting properly I
would never have dismantled your room. I would have known that
you could not endure her, and that you would come home just as
you should. It's all right, John, make yourself comfortable. I
don't know what Katy has for dinner but she can always find
enough for an extra couple. Come Eileen, I'll help you to
settle. Where is your luggage?"
"I brought back, Linda, just what I have on," said Eileen. "I
will begin again where I left off. I realize that I am not
entitled to anything further from the Strong estate, but Uncle
was so unhappy and John says it's all right--really I am the only
blood heir to all they have; I might as well take a comfortable
allowance from it. I am to go to see them a few days of every
month. I can endure that when I know I have John and you to come
When Eileen had been installed in Linda's old room Linda went
down to the kitchen, shut the door behind her, and leaning
against it, laid her hand over her mouth to suppress a low laugh.
"Katy," she said, "I've been and gone and done it; I have put the
perfect lady in my old room. That will be a test of her
sincerity--even dainty and pretty as it is since it's been done
over. If she is sincere enough to spend the summer getting ready
to marry John Gilman--why that is all right, old girl. We can
stand it, can't we?"
"Yes," said Katy, "it's one of them infernal nuisances but we can
stand it. I'm thinkin', from the looks of John Gilman and his
manner of spakin', that it ain't goin' to be but a very short
time that he'll be waitin'."
"Katy," said Linda, "isn't this the most entertaining world?
Doesn't it produce the most lightning-like changes, and don't the
most unexpected things happen? Sort of dazes me. I had planned
to take a little run with you and the Cat. Since we are
having--no, I mustn't say guests--since John and Eileen have come
home, I'll have to give up that plan until after dinner, and then
we'll go and take counsel with our souls and see if we can figure
out how we are going to solve this equation; and if you don t
know what an equation is, old dear heart, it's me with a war-club
and you with a shillalah and Eileen between us, and be 'damned'
to us if we can't make an average, ordinary, decent human being
out of her. Pin an apron on her in the morning, Katy, and hand
her a dust cloth and tell her to industrialize. We will help her
with her trousseau, but she SHALL help us with the work."
"Ye know, lambie," whispered Katy suddenly, "this is a burnin'
shame. The one thing I DIDN'T think about is that book of yours.
What about it?"
"I scarcely know," said Linda; "it's difficult to say. Of course
we can't carry out the plans we had made to work here, exactly as
we had intended, with Eileen in the house preparing to be
married. But she tells me that her uncle has made her a generous
allowance, so probably it's environment and love she is needing
much more than help. It is barely possible, Katy, that after I
have watched her a few days, if I decide she is in genuine,
sincere, heart-whole earnest, I might introduce her and John to
my friend, 'Jane.' It is probable that if I did, Eileen would not
expect me to help her, and at the same time she wouldn't feel
that I was acting indifferently because I did not. We'll wait
awhile, Katy, and see whether we skid before we put on the
"What about Marian?" inquired Katy.
"I don't know," said Linda thoughtfully. "If Marian is big
enough to come here and spend the summer under the same roof with
Eileen and John Gilman, and have a really restful, enjoyable time
out of it, she is bigger than I am. Come up to the garret; I
think Eileen has brought no more with her than she took away.
We'll bring her trunk down, put it in her room and lay the keys
on top. Don't begin by treating her as a visitor; treat her as
if she were truly my sister. Tell her what you want and how you
want it, exactly as you tell me and as I tell you. If you see
even a suspicion of any of the former objectionable tendencies
popping up, let's check them quick and hard, Katy."
For a week Linda watched Eileen closely. At the end of that time
she was sincere in her conviction that Eileen had been severely
chastened. When she came in contact with Peter Morrison or any
other man they met she was not immediately artificial. She had
learned to be as natural with men as with other women. There
were no pretty postures, no softened vocal modulations, no
childish nonsense on subjects upon which the average child of
these days displays the knowledge of the past-generation
grandmother. When they visited Peter Morrison's house it was
easy to see that Eileen was interested, more interested than any
of them ever before had seen her in any subject outside of
clothing and jewels. Her conduct in the Strong home had been
irreproachable. She had cared for her own room, quietly
undertaken the duties of dusting and arranging the rooms and
cutting and bringing in flowers. She had gone to the kitchen and
wiped dishes and asked to be taught how to cook things of which
John was particularly fond. She had been reasonable in the
amount of time she had spent on her shopping, and had repeatedly
gone to Linda and shown interest in her concerns. The result was
that Linda at once displayed the same interest in anything
pertaining to Eileen.
One afternoon Linda came home unusually early. She called for
Eileen, told her to tie on her sunshade and be ready for a short
ride. Almost immediately she brought around the Bear Cat and
when they were seated side by side headed it toward the canyon.
She stopped at the usual resting place, and together she and
Eileen walked down the light-dappled road bed. She pointed out
things to Eileen, telling her what they were, to what uses they
could be put, while at the same time narrowly watching her. To
her amazement she found that Eileen was interested, that she was
noticing things for herself, asking what they were. She wanted
to know the names of the singing birds. When a big bird trailed
a waving shadow in front of her Linda explained how she might
distinguish an eagle from a hawk, a hawk from a vulture, a sea
bird from those of the land. When they reached the bridge Linda
climbed down the embankment to gather cress. She was moved to
protest when Eileen followed and without saying a word began to
assist her, but she restrained herself, for it suddenly occurred
to her that it would be an excellent thing for Eileen to think
more of what she was doing and why she was doing it than about
whether she would wet her feet or muddy her fingers. So the
protest became an explanation that it was rather late for cress:
the leaves toughened when it bloomed and were too peppery. The
only way it could be used agreeably was to work along the edges
and select the small tender shoots that had not yet matured to
the flowering point. When they had an armload they went back to
the car, and without any explanation Linda drove into Los Angeles
and stopped at the residence of Judge Whiting, not telling Eileen
where she was.
"Friends of mine," said Linda lightly as she stepped from the
car. "Fond of cress salad with their dinner. They prepare it
after the Jane Meredith recipe to which you called my attention,
in Everybody's Home last winter. Come along with me."
Eileen stepped from the car and followed. Linda led the way
round the sidewalk to where her quick ear had located voices on
the side lawn. She stopped at the kitchen door, handed in the
cress, exchanged a few laughing words with the cook, and then
presented herself at the door of the summerhouse. Inside, his
books and papers spread over a worktable, sat Donald Whiting.
One side of him his mother was busy darning his socks; on the
other his sister Louise was working with embroidery silk and
small squares of gaily colored linen. Linda entered with exactly
the same self-possession that characterized her at home. She
shook hands with Mrs. Whiting, Mary Louise, and Donald, and then
she said quietly: "Eileen and I were gathering cress and we
stopped to leave you some for your dinner." With this
explanation she introduced Eileen to Mrs. Whiting. Mary Louise
immediately sprang up and recalled their meeting at Riverside.
Donald remembered a meeting he did not mention. It was only a
few minutes until Linda was seated beside Donald, interesting
herself in his lessons. Eileen begged to be shown the pretty
handkerchiefs that Mary Louise was making. An hour later Linda
refused an invitation to dinner because Katy would be expecting
them. When she arose to go, Eileen was carrying a small square
of blue-green linen. Carefully pinned to it was a patch of white
with a spray of delicate flowers outlined upon it, and a skein of
pink silk thread. She had been initiated into the thrillingly
absorbing feminine accomplishment of making sport handkerchiefs.
When they left Eileen was included naturally, casually,
spontaneously, in their invitation to Linda to run in any time
she would. Mary Louise had said she would ride out with Donald
in few days and see how the handkerchiefs were coming on, and
more instruction and different stitches and patterns were
necessary, she would love to teach them. So Linda realized that
Mary Louise had been told about the trousseau. She knew, even
lacking as she was in feminine sophistication, that there were
two open roads to the heart of a woman. One is a wedding and the
other is a baby. The lure of either is irresistible.
As the Bear Cat glided back to Lilac Valley, Eileen sat silent.
For ten years she had coveted the entree to the Whiting home
perhaps more than any other in the city. Merely by being simple
and natural, by living her life as life presented itself each
day, Linda with no effort whatever had made possible to Eileen
the thing she so deeply craved. Eileen was learning a new lesson
each day--some days many of them--but none was more amazing more
simple, or struck deeper into her awakened consciousness. As she
gazed with far-seeing eye on the blue walls of the valley Eileen
was taking a mental inventory of her former self. One by one she
was arraigning all the old tricks she had used in her trade of
getting on in the world. One by one she was discarding them in
favor of honesty, unaffectedness, and wholesome enjoyment.
Because of these things Linda came home the next afternoon and
left a bundle on Eileen's bed before she made her way to her own
room to busy herself with a head piece for Peter's latest
article. She had taken down the wasp picture and while she had
not destroyed it she had turned the key of a very substantial
lock upon it. She was hard at work when she heard steps on the
stairs. When Eileen entered, Linda smiled quizzically and then
broke into an unaffected ejaculation.
"Ripping!" she cried. "Why, Eileen, you're perfectly topping."
Eileen's face flamed with delight. She was a challenging little
figure. None of them was accustomed to her when she represented
anything more substantial than curls and ruffles.
Linda reached for the telephone, called Gilman, and asked him if
he could go to the beach for supper that evening. He immediately
replied that he would. Then she called Peter Morrison and asked
him the same question and when Peter answered affirmatively she
told him to bring his car. Then she hastily put on her own field
clothes and ran to the kitchen to fill the lunch box. To Katy's
delight Linda told her there would be room for her and that she
It was evening and the sun was moving slowly toward the horizon
when they stopped the cars and went down on the white sands of
Santa Monica Bay. Eileen had been complimented until she was in
a glow of delight. She did not notice that in piling things out
of the car for their beach supper Linda had handed her a shovel
and the blackened iron legs of a broiler. Everyone was loaded
promiscuously as they took up their march down to as near the
water's edge as the sands were dry. Peter and John gathered
driftwood. Linda improvised two cooking places, one behind a
rock for herself, the other under the little outdoor stove for
Katy. Eileen was instructed as to how to set up the beach table,
spread the blankets beside it, and place the food upon it. While
Katy made coffee and toasted biscuit Linda was busy introducing
her party to brigand beefsteak upon four long steel skewers. The
day had been warm. The light salt breeze from the sea was like a
benediction. Friendly gulls gathered on the white sands around
them. Cunning little sea chickens worked in accord with the
tide: when the waves advanced they rose above them on wing; when
they retreated they scampered over the wet sand, hunting any
small particles of food that might have been carried in. Out
over the water big brown pelicans went slowly fanning homeward;
and white sea swallows drew wonderful pictures on the blue night
sky with the tips of their wings. For a few minutes at the
reddest point of its setting the sun painted a marvelous picture
in a bank of white clouds. These piled up like a great rosy
castle, and down the sky roadway before it came a long procession
of armored knights, red in the sun glow and riding huge red
horses. Then the colors mixed and faded and a long red bridge
for a short time spanned the water, ending at their feet. The
gulls hunted the last scrap thrown them and went home. The
swallows sought their high cliffs. The insidiously alluring
perfume of sand verbena rose like altar incense around them.
Gilman spread a blanket, piled the beach fire higher, and sitting
beside Eileen, he drew her head to his shoulder and put his arm
around her. Possibly he could have been happier in a careless
way if he had never suffered. It is very probable that the
poignant depth of exquisite happiness he felt in that hour never
would have come to him had he not lost Eileen and found her again
so much more worth loving. Linda wandered down the beach until
she reached the lighthouse rocks. She climbed on a high one and
sat watching the sea as it sprayed just below. Peter Morrison
"May I come up?" he asked.
"Surely," said Linda, "this belongs to the Lord; it isn't mine."
So Peter climbed up and sat beside her.
"How did the landscape appeal to you when you left the campfire?"
"I should think the night cry might very well be Eight o'clock
and all's well," answered Peter.
"'God's in his heaven, all's right with the world?'" Linda put it
in the form of a question.
"It seems to be for John and Eileen," said Peter.
"It is for a number of people," said Linda. "I had a letter from
Marian today. I had written her to ask if she would come to us
for the summer, in spite of the change in our plans; but Mr. Snow
has made some plans of his own. He is a very astute individual.
He wanted Marian to marry him at once and she would not, so he
took her for a short visit to see his daughter at her
grandmother's home in the northern part of the state. Marian
fell deeply in love with his little girl, and of course those
people found Marian charming, just as right-minded people would
find her. When she saw how the little girl missed her father and
how difficult it was for him to leave her, and when she saw how
she would be loved and appreciated in that fine family, she
changed her mind. Peter, we are going to be invited to San
Francisco to see them married very shortly. Are you glad or
"I am very glad," said Peter heartily. "I make no concealment of
my admiration for Miss Thorne but I am very glad indeed that it
is not her head that is to complete the decoration when you start
the iris marching down my creek banks."
"Well, that's all right," said Linda. "Of course you should have
something to say about whose head finished that picture. I can't
contract to do more than set the iris. The thing about this I
dread is that Marian and Eugene are going to live in San
Francisco, and I did so want her to make her home in Lilac
"That's too bad," said Peter sympathetically. "I know how you
appreciate her, how deeply you love her. Do you think the valley
will ever be right for you without her, Linda?"
"It will have to be," said Linda. "I've had to go on without
Father, you know. If greater happiness seems to be in store for
Marian in San Francisco, all I can do is to efface myself and say
'Amen.' When the world is all right for Marian, it is about as
near all right as it can be for me. And did you ever see much
more sincerely and clearly contented people than John and Eileen
are at the present minute?"
Peter looked at Linda whimsically. He lowered his voice as if a
sea urchin might hear and tattle.
"What did you do about the wasp, Linda?" he whispered.
"I delicately erased the stinger, fluffed up a ruffle, and put
the sketch under lock and key. I should have started a fire with
it, but couldn't quite bring myself to let it go, yet."
"Is she going to hold out?" asked Peter.
"She'll hold out or get her neck wrung," said Linda. "I truly
think she has been redeemed. She has been born again. She has a
new heart and a new soul and a new impulse and a right conception
of life. Why, Peter, she has even got a new body. Her face is
not the same."
"She is much handsomer," said Peter.
"Isn't she?" cried Linda enthusiastically. "And doesn't having a
soul and doesn't thinking about essential things make the most
remarkable difference in her? It is worth going through a fiery
furnace to come out new like that. I called her Abednego the
other day, but she didn't know what I meant."
Then they sat silent and watched the sea for a long time. By
and by the night air grew chill. Peter slipped from the rock and
up the beach and came back with an Indian blanket. He put it
very carefully around Linda's shoulders, and when he went to
resume his seat beside her he found one of her arms stretching it
with a blanket corner for him. So he sat down beside her and
drew the corner over his shoulder; and because his right arm was
very much in his way, and it would have been very disagreeable if
Linda had slipped from the rock and fallen into the cold, salt,
unsympathetic Pacific at nine o'clock at night--merely to dispose
of the arm comfortably and to ensure her security, Peter put it
around Linda and drew her up beside him very close. Linda did
not seem to notice. She sat quietly looking at the Pacific and
thinking her own thoughts. When the fog became damp and chill,
she said they must be going, and so they went back to their cars
and drove home through the sheer wonder of the moonlight, through
the perfume of the orange orchards, hearing the night song of the
CHAPTER XXXIII. The Lady of the Iris
A few days later Linda and Peter went to San Francisco and helped
celebrate the marriage of Marian and Eugene Snow. They left
Marian in a home carefully designed to insure every comfort and
convenience she ever had planned, furnished in accordance with
her desires. Both Linda and Peter were charmed with little
Deborah Snow; she was a beautiful and an appealing child.
"It seems to me," said Linda, on the train going home, "that
Marian will get more out of life, she will love deeper, she will
work harder, she will climb higher in her profession than she
would have done if she had married John. It is difficult
sometimes, when things are happening, to realize that they are
for the best, but I really believe this thing has been for the
level best. I think Marian is going to be a bigger woman in San
Francisco than she ever would have been in Lilac Valley. With
that thought I must reconcile myself."
"And what about John?" asked Peter. "Is he going to be a bigger
man with Eileen than he would have been with Marian?"
"No," said Linda, "he is not. He didn't do right and he'll have
penalty to pay. Eileen is developing into a lovable and truly
beautiful woman, but she has not the intellect, nor the
education, nor the impulse to stimulate a man's mental processes
and make him outdo himself the way Marian will. John will
probably never know it, but he will have to do his own
stimulating; he will have to vision life for himself. He will
have to find his high hill and climb it with Eileen riding
securely on his shoulders. It isn't really the pleasantest thing
in the world, it isn't truly the thing I wanted to do this
summer--helping them out--but it has seemed to be the work at
hand, the thing Daddy probably would have wanted me to do, so
it's up to me to do all I can for them, just as I did all I could
for Donald. One thing I shall always be delighted about. With
my own ears I heard the pronouncement: Donald had the Jap
beaten; he was at the head of his class before Oka Sayye was
eliminated. The Jap knew it. His only chance lay in getting rid
of his rival. Donald can take the excellent record he has made
in this race to start on this fall when he commences another
battle against some other man's brain for top honors in his
"Will he start with the idea that he wants to be an honor man?"
Linda laughed outright.
"I think," she said, "his idea was that if he were one of fifty
or one hundred leading men it would be sufficient, but I insisted
that if he wanted to be first with me, he would have to be first
in his school work."
"I see," said Peter. "Linda, have you definitely decided that
when you come to your home-making hour, Donald is the man with
whom you want to spend the remainder of your life?"
"Oh, good gracious!" said Linda. "Who's talking about 'homes'
and 'spending the remainder of lives'? Donald and I are school
friends, and we are good companions. You're as bad as Eileen.
She's always trying to suggest things that nobody else ever
thought of, and now Katy's beginning it too."
"Sapheads, all!" said Peter. "Well, allow me to congratulate you
on having given Donald his spurs. I think it's a very fine thing
for him to start to college with the honor idea in his head.
What about your Saturday excursions?"
"They have died an unnatural death," said Linda. "Don and I
fought for them, but the Judge and Mrs. Whiting and Mary Louise
were terrified for fear a bone might slip in Don's foot, or some
revengeful friend or relative of Oka Sayye lie in wait for us.
They won't hear of our going any more. I go every Saturday and
take Donald for a very careful drive over a smooth road with the
Bear Cat cursing our rate of speed all the way. All the fun's
spoiled for all three of us."
"Think I would be any good as a substitute when it comes to field
work?" inquired Peter casually. "I have looked at your desert
garden so much I would know a Cotyledon if I saw it. I believe I
"You wouldn't have time to bother," objected Linda. "You're a
man, with a man's business to transact in the world. You have to
hustle and earn money to pay for the bridge and changing the
"But I had money to pay for the brook and the bridge before I
agreed to them," said Peter.
"Well, then," said Linda, "you should begin to hunt old mahogany
"I hadn't intended to," said Peter; "if they are to be old, I
won't have to do more than to ship them. In storage in Virginia
there are some very wonderful old mahogany and rosewood and rugs
and bric-a-brac enough to furnish the house I am building. The
stuff belonged to a little old aunt of mine who left it to me in
her will, and it was with those things in mind that I began my
house. The plans and finishing will fit that furniture
"Why, you lucky individual!" said Linda. "Nowhere in the world
is there more beautiful furniture than in some of those old homes
in Virginia. There are old Flemish and Dutch and British and
Italian pieces that came into this country on early sailing
vessels for the aristocrats. You don't mean that kind of stuff,
do you, Peter?"
"That is precisely the kind of stuff I do mean," answered Peter.
"Why Peter, if you have furniture like that," cried Linda, "then
all you need is Mary Louise."
"Linda," said Peter soberly, "you are trespassing on delicate
ground again. You selected one wife for me and your plan didn't
work. When that furniture arrives and is installed I'll set
about inducing the lady of my dreams to come and occupy my dream
house, in my own way. I never did give you that job. It was
merely assumed on your part."
"So it was," said Linda. "But you know I could set that iris and
run that brook with more enthusiasm if I knew the lady who was to
walk beside it."
"You do," said Peter. "You know her better than anyone else,
even better than I. Put that in your mental pipe and smoke it!"
"Saints preserve us!" cried Linda. "I believe the man is
planning to take Katy away from me."
"Not FROM you," said Peter, "WITH you."
"Let me know about it before you do it," said Linda with a
"That's what I'm doing right now," said Peter.
"And I'm going to school," said Linda.
"Of course," said Peter, "but that won't last forever."
Linda entered enthusiastically upon the triple task of getting
Donald in a proper frame of mind to start to college with the
ambition to do good work, of marrying off Eileen and John Gilman,
and of giving her best brain and heart to Jane Meredith. When
the time came, Donald was ready to enter college comfortable and
happy, willing to wait and see what life had in store for him as
he lived it.
When she was sure of Eileen past any reasonable doubt Linda took
her and John to her workroom one evening and showed them her book
contract and the material she had ready, and gave them the best
idea she could of what yet remained to be done. She was not
prepared for their wholehearted praise, for their delight and
Alone, they took counsel as to how they could best help her, and
decided that to be married at once and take a long trip abroad
would be the best way. That would leave Linda to work in quiet
and with no interruption to distract her attention. They could
make their home arrangements when they returned.
When they had gone Linda worked persistently, but her book was
not completed and the publishers were hurrying her when the fall
term of school opened. By the time the final chapter with its
exquisite illustration had been sent in, the first ones were
coming back in proof, and with the proof came the materialized
form of Linda's design for her cover, and there was no Marian to
consult about it. Linda worked until she was confused. Then she
piled the material in the Bear Cat and headed up Lilac Valley.
As she came around the curve and turned from the public road she
saw that for the first time she might cross her bridge; it was
waiting for her. She heard the rejoicing of the water as it fell
from stone to stone where it dipped under the road, and as she
swung across the bridge she saw that she might drive over the
completed road which had been finished in her weeks of absence.
The windows told another story. Peter's furniture had come and
he had been placing it without telling her. She found the front
door standing wide open, so she walked in. With her bundle on
her arm she made her way to Peter's workroom. When he looked up
and saw her standing in his door he sprang to his feet and came
to meet her.
"Peter," she said, "I've taken on more work than I can possibly
finish on time, and I'm the lonesomest person in California
"I doubt that," said Peter gravely. "If you are any lonesomer
than I am you must prove it."
"I have proved it," said Linda quietly. "If you had been as
lonesome as I am you would have come to me. As it is, I have
come to you."
"I see," said Peter rather breathlessly. "What have you there,
Linda? Why did you come?"
"I came for two reasons," said Linda. "I want to ask you about
this stuff. Several times this summer you have heard talk about
Jane Meredith and the Everybody's Home articles. Ever read any
of them, Peter?"
"Yes," said Peter, "I read all of them. Interested in home stuff
these days myself."
"Well," said Linda, dumping her armload before Peter, "there's
the proof and there's the illustration and there's the cover
design for a book to be made from that stuff. Peter, make your
best boy and say 'pleased to meet you' to Jane Meredith."
Peter secured both of Linda's hands and held them. First he
looked at her, then he looked at the material she had piled down
in front of him.
"Never again," said Peter in a small voice, "will I credit myself
with any deep discernment, any keen penetration. How I could
have read that matter and looked at those pictures and not seen
you in and through and over them is a thing I can't imagine.
It's great, Linda, absolutely great! Of course I will help you
any way in the world I can. And what else was it you wanted?
You said two things."
"Oh, the other doesn't amount to much," said Linda. "I only
wanted the comfort of knowing whether, as soon as I graduate, I
may take Katy and come home, Peter."
From previous experience with Linda, Peter had learned that a
girl reared by men is not as other women. He had supposed the
other thing concerning which she had wanted to appeal to him was
on par with her desire for sympathy and help concerning her book.
At her question, with her eyes frankly meeting his, Peter for an
instant felt lightheaded. He almost dodged, he was so sweepingly
taken unawares. Linda was waiting and his brain was not working.
He tried to smile, but he knew she would not recognize as natural
the expression of that whirling moment. She saw his hesitation.
"Of course, if you don't want us, Peter--"
Peter found his voice promptly. Only his God knew how much he
wanted Linda, but there were conditions that a man of Peter's
soul-fiber could not endure. More than life he wanted her, but
he did not want her asleep. He did not want to risk her
awakening to a spoiled life and disappointed hopes.
"But you remember that I told you coming home from San Francisco
that you knew the Lady of my Iris better than anyone else, and
that I was planning to take Katy, not from you, but with you."
"Of course I remember," said Linda. "That is why when Marian and
Eileen and Donald and all my world went past and left me standing
desolate, and my work piled up until I couldn't see my way, I
just started right out to ask you if you would help me with the
proof. Of course I knew you would be glad to do that and I
thought if you really meant in your heart that I was the one to
complete your iris procession, it would be a comfort to me during
the hard work and the lonesome days to have it put in
two-syllable English. Marian said that was the only real way--"
"And Marian is eminently correct. You will have to give me an
ordinary lifetime, Linda, in which to try to make you understand
exactly what this means to me. Perhaps I'll even have to invent
new words in which to express myself."
"Oh, that's all right," said Linda. "It means a lot to me too.
I can't tell you how much I think of you. That first day, as
soon as I put down the Cotyledon safely and tucked in my blouse,
I would have put my hand in yours and started around the world,
if you had asked me to. I have the very highest esteem for you,
"Esteem, yes," said Peter slowly. "But Linda-girl, isn't the
sort of alliance I am asking you to enter with me usually based
on something a good bit stronger than 'esteem'?"
"Yes, I think it is," said Linda. "But you needn't worry. I
only wanted the comfort of knowing that I was not utterly alone
again, save for Katy. I'll stick to my book and to my fight for
Senior honors all right."
Peter was blinking his eyes and fighting to breathe evenly. When
he could speak he said as smoothly as possible: "Of course,
Linda. I'll do your proof for you and you may put all your time
on class honors. It merely occurred to me to wonder whether you
realized the full and ultimate significance of what we are
saying; exactly what it means to me and to you."
"Possibly not, Peter," said Linda, smiling on him with utter
confidence. "Everyone says I am my father's daughter, and Father
didn't live to coach me on being your iris decoration, as a woman
would; but, Peter, when the time comes, I have every confidence
in your ability to teach me what you would like me to know
yourself. Don't you agree with me, Peter?"
Making an effort to control himself Peter gathered up the
material Linda had brought and taking her arm he said casually:
"I thoroughly agree with you, dear. You are sanely and health
fully and beautifully right. Now let's go and take Katy into our
confidence, and then you shall show me your ideas before I begin
work on your proof. And after this, instead of you coming to me
I shall always come to you whenever you can spare a minute for
Linda nodded acquiescence.
"Of course! That would be best," she said. "Peter, you are so