Her Father's Daughter by Gene Stratton-Porter
Chapter X. Katy to the Rescue
Linda delivered Donald Whiting at his door with an armload of books and a bundle of miners' lettuce and then drove to her home in Lilac Valley--in the eye of the beholder on the floor-level macadam road; in her own eye she scarcely grazed it. The smooth, easy motion of the car, the softly purring engine were thrilling. The speed at which she was going was like having wings on her body. The mental stimulus she had experienced in concentrating her brain on Donald Whiting's problem had stimulated her imagination. The radiant color of spring; the chilled, perfumed, golden air; the sure sense of having found a friend, had ruffled the plumes of her spirit. On the home road Donald had plainly indicated that he would enjoy spending the morrow with her, and she had advised him to take the books she had provided and lock himself in his room and sweat out some information about Monday's lessons which would at least arrest his professor's attention, and lead his mind to the fact that something was beginning to happen. And then she had laughingly added: "Tomorrow is Katy's turn. I told the old dear I would take her as soon as I felt the car was safe. Every day she does many things that she hopes will give me pleasure. This is one thing I can do that I know will delight her."
"Next Saturday, then?" questioned Donald. And Linda nodded.
"Sure thing. I'll be thinking up some place extra interesting. Come in the morning if you want, and we'll take a lunch and go for the day. Which do you like best, mountains or canyons or desert or sea?"
"I like it best wherever what you're interested in takes you," said Donald simply.
"All right, then," answered Linda, "we'll combine business and pleasure."
So they parted with another meeting arranged.
When she reached home she found Katy tearfully rejoicing, plainly revealing how intensely anxious she had been. But when Linda told her that the old tires had held, that the car ran wonderfully, that everything was perfectly safe, that she drove as unconsciously as she breathed, and that tomorrow Katy was to go for a long ride, her joy was incoherent.
Linda laughed. She patted Katy and started down the hallway, when she called back: "What is this package?"
"A delivery boy left it special only a few minutes ago. Must be something Miss Eileen bought and thought she would want tomorrow, and then afterward she got this invitation and went on as she was."
Linda stood gazing at the box. It did look so suspiciously like a dress box.
"Katy," she said, "I have just about got an irresistible impulse to peep. I was telling Eileen last night of a dress I saw that I thought perfect. It suited me better than any other dress I ever did see. It was at 'The Mode.' This box is from 'The Mode.' Could there be a possibility that she sent it up specially for me?"
"I think she would put your name on it if she meant it for ye," said Katy.
"One peep would show me whether it is my dress or not," said Linda, "and peep I'm going to."
She began untying the string.
"There's one thing," said Katy, "Miss Eileen's sizes would never fit ye."
"Might," conceded Linda. "I am taller than she is, but I could
wear her waists if I wanted to, and she always alters her skirts herself to save the fees. Glory be! This is my dress, and there's a petticoat and stockings to match it. Why, the nice old thing! I suggested hard enough, but in my heart I hardly thought she would do it. Oh, dear, now if I only had some shoes, and a hat."
Linda was standing holding the jacket in one hand, the stockings in the other, her face flaming. Katy drew herself to full height. She reached over and picked the things from Linda's fingers.
"If ye know that is your dress, lambie," she said authoritatively, "ye go right out and get into that car and run to town and buy ye a pair of shoes."
"But I have no credit anywhere and I have no money, yet," said Linda.
"Well, I have," said Katy, "and this time ye're going to stop your stubbornness and take enough to get ye what you need. Ye go to the best store in Los Angeles and come back here with a pair of shoes that just match those stockings, and ye go fast, before the stores close. If ye've got to speed a little, do it in the country and do it judacious."
"Katy, you're arriving!" cried Linda. "'Judicious speeding' is one thing I learned better than any other lesson about driving a motor car. Three fourths of the driving Father and I did we were speeding judiciously."
Katy held the skirt to Linda's waist.
"Well, maybe it's a little shorter than any you have been wearing, but it ain't as short as Eileen and all the rest of the girls your age have them, so that's all right, honey. Slip on your coat."
Katy's fingers were shaking as she lifted the jacket and Linda slipped into it.
"Oh, Lord," she groaned, "ye can't be wearing that! The sleeves don't come much below your elbows."
"You will please to observe," said Linda, "that they are flowing sleeves and they are not intended to come below the elbows; but it's a piece of luck I tried it on, for it reminds me that it's a jacket suit and I must have a blouse. When you get the shoe money, make it enough for a blouse--two blouses, Katy, one for school and one to fuss up in a little."
Without stopping to change her clothing, Linda ran to the garage and hurried back to the city. It was less than an hour's run, but she made it in ample time to park her car and buy the shoes. She selected a pair of low oxfords of beautiful color, matching the stockings. Then she hurried to one of the big drygoods stores and bought the two waists and an inexpensive straw hat that would harmonize with the suit; a hat small enough to stick, in the wind, with brim enough to shade her eyes. In about two hours she was back with Katy and they were in her room trying on the new clothing.
"It dumbfounds me," said Linda, "to have Eileen do this for me."
She had put on the shoes and stockings, a plain georgette blouse of a soft, brownish wood-gray, with a bit of heavy brown silk embroidery decorating the front, and the jacket. The dress was of silky changeable tricolette, the skirt plain. Where a fold lifted and was strongly lighted, it was an exquisite silver-gray; where a shadow fell deeply it was gray-brown. The coat reached half way to the knees. It had a rippling skirt with a row of brown embroidery around it, a deep belt with double buttoning at the waistline, and collar and sleeves in a more elaborate pattern of the same embroidery as the skirt. Linda perched the hat on her head, pulled it down securely, and faced Katy.
"Now then!" she challenged.
"And it's a perfect dress!" said Katy proudly, "and you're just the colleen to wear it. My, but I wisht your father could be seeing ye the now."
With almost reverent hands Linda removed the clothing and laid it away. Then she read a letter from Marian that was waiting for her, telling Katy scraps of it in running comment as she scanned the sheets.
"She likes her boarding place. There are nice people in it. She has got a wonderful view from the windows of her room. She is making friends. She thinks one of the men at Nicholson and Snow's is just fine; he is helping her all he can, on the course she is taking. And she wants us to look carefully everywhere for any scrap of paper along the hedge or around the shrubbery on the north side of the house. One of her three sheets of plans is missing. I don't see where in the world it could have gone, Katy."
Katy spread out her hands in despair.
"There was not a scrap of a sheet of paper in the room when I cleaned it," she said, "not a scrap. And if I had seen a sheet flying around the yard I would have picked it up. She just must be mistaken about having lost it here. She must have opened her case on the train and lost it there."
Linda shook her head.
"I put that stuff in the case myself," she said, "and the clothes on top of it, and she wouldn't have any reason for taking those things out on the train. I can't understand, but she did have three rough sketches. She had her heart set on winning that prize and it would be a great help to her, and certainly it was the most comprehensive and convenient plan for a house of that class that I ever have seen. If I ever have a house, she is going to plan it, even if she doesn't get to plan John Gilman's as he always used to say that she should. And by the way, Katy, isn't it kind of funny for Eileen to go away over Sunday when it's his only holiday?"
"Oh, she'll telephone him," said Katy, "and very like, he'll go down, or maybe he is with her. Ye needn't waste any sympathy on him. Eileen will take care that she has him so long as she thinks she wants him."
Later it developed that Eileen had secured the invitation because she was able to produce three most eligible men. Not only was John Gilman with the party, but Peter Morrison and Henry
Anderson were there as well. It was in the nature of a hastily arranged celebration, because the deal for three acres of land that Peter Morrison most coveted on the small plateau, mountain walled, in Lilac Valley, was in escrow. He had made a payment on it. Anderson was working on his plans. Contractors had been engaged, and on Monday work would begin. The house was to be
built as soon as possible, and Peter Morrison had arranged that the garage was to be built first. This he meant to occupy as a residence so that he could be on hand to superintend the construction of the new home and to protect, as far as possible, the natural beauty and the natural growth of the location.
Early Sunday morning Linda and Katy, with a full lunch box and a full gasoline tank, slid from the driveway and rolled down the main street of Lilac Valley toward the desert.
"We'll switch over and strike San Fernando Road," said Linda, "and I'll scout around Sunland a bit and see if I can find anything that will furnish material for another new dish."
That day was wonderful for Katy. She trotted after Linda over sandy desert reaches, along the seashore, up mountain trails, and through canyons connected by long stretches of motoring that was more like flying than riding. She was tired but happy when she went to bed. Monday morning she was an interested spectator as Linda dressed for school.
"Sure, and hasn't the old chrysalis opened up and let out the nicest little lady-bird moth, Katy?' inquired Linda as she smoothed her gray-gold skirts. "I think myself that this dress is a trifle too good for school. When I get my allowance next week I think I'll buy me a cloth skirt and a couple of wash waists and save this for better; but it really was good of Eileen to take so much pains and send it to me, when she was busy planning a trip."
Katy watched Linda go, and she noted the new light in her eyes, the new lift of her head, and the proud sureness of her step, and she wondered if a new dress could do all that for a girl, she scarcely believed that it could. And, too, she had very serious doubts about the dress. She kept thinking of it during the day, and when Eileen came, in the middle of the afternoon, at the first words on her lips: "Has my dress come?" Katy felt a wave of illness surge through her. She looked at Eileen so helplessly that that astute reader of human nature immediately Suspected something.
"I sent it special," she said, "because I didn't know at the time that I was going to Riverside and I wanted to work on it. Isn't it here yet?"
Then Katy prepared to do battle for the child of her heart.
"Was the dress ye ordered sent the one Miss Linda was telling ye about?" she asked tersely.
"Yes, it was," said Eileen. "Linda has got mighty good taste. Any dress she admired was sure to be right. She said there was a beautiful dress at 'The Mode'. I went and looked, and sure enough there was, a perfect beauty."
"But she wanted the dress for herself," said Katy.
"It was not a suitable dress for school," said Eileen.
"Well, it strikes me," said Katy, "that it was just the spittin' image of fifty dresses I've seen ye wear to school.
"What do you know about it?" demanded Eileen.
"I know just this," said Katy with determination. "Ye've had one new dress in the last few days and you're not needin' another. The blessed Virgin only knows when Miss Linda's had a dress. She thought ye'd done yourself proud and sent it for her, and she put it on, and a becoming and a proper thing it was too! I advanced her the money myself and sent her to get some shoes to match it since she had her car fixed and could go in a hurry. A beautiful dress it is, and on her back this minute it is !"
Eileen was speechless with anger. Her face was a sickly white and the rouge spots on her cheeks stood a glaring admission
"Do you mean to tell me--" she gasped.
"Not again," said the daughter of Erin firmly, "because I have already told ye wance. Linda's gone like a rag bag since the Lord knows when. She had a right to the dress, and she thought it was hers, and she took it. And if ye ever want any more respect or obedience or love from the kiddie, ye better never let her know that ye didn't intend it for her, for nothing was ever quite so fair and right as that she should have it; and while you're about it you'd better go straight to the store and get her what she is needin' to go with it, or better still, ye had better give her a fair share of the money of which there used to be such a plenty, and let her get her things herself, for she's that tasty nobody can beat her when she's got anything to do with."
Eileen turned on Katy in a gust of fury.
"Katherine O'Donovan," she said shrilly, "pack your trunk and see how quick you can get out of this house. I have stood your insolence for years, and I won't endure it a minute longer!"
Katy folded her red arms and lifted her red chin, and a steel-blue light flashed from her steel-gray eyes.
"Humph!" she said, "I'll do nothing of the sort. I ain't working for ye and I never have been no more than I ever worked for your mother. Every lick I ever done in this house I done for Linda and Doctor Strong and for nobody else. Half of this house and everything in it belongs to Linda, and it's a mortal short time till she's of age to claim it. Whichever is her half, that half I'll be staying in, and if ye manage so as she's got nothing to pay me, I'll take care of her without pay till the day comes when she can take care of me. Go to wid ye, ye triflin', lazy, self-possessed creature. Ten years I have itched to tell ye what I thought of ye, and now ye know it."
As Katy's rage increased, Eileen became intimidated. Like every extremely selfish person she was a coward in her soul.
"If you refuse to go on my orders," she said, "I'll have John Gilman issue his."
Then Katy set her left hand on her left hip, her lower jaw shot past the upper, her doubled right fist shook precious near the tip of Eileen's exquisite little nose.
"I'm darin' ye," she shouted. "I'm just darin' ye to send John Gilman in the sound of my voice. If ye do, I'll tell him every mean and selfish thing ye've done to me poor lambie since the day of the Black Shadow. Send him to me? Holy Mither, I wish ye would! If ever I get my chance at him, don't ye think I won't be tellin' him what he has lost, and what he has got? And as for taking orders from him, I am taking my orders from the person I am working for, and as I told ye before, that's Miss Linda. Be off wid ye, and primp up while I get my supper, and mind ye this,, if ye tell Miss Linda ye didn't mean that gown for her and spoil the happy day she has had, I won't wait for ye to send John Gilman to me; I'll march straight to him. Put that in your cigarette and smoke it! Think I've lost me nose as well as me sense?"
Then Katy started a triumphal march to the kitchen and cooled down by the well-known process of slamming pots and pans for half an hour. Soon her Irish sense of humor came to her rescue.
"Now, don't I hear myself telling Miss Linda a few days ago to kape her temper, and to kape cool, and to go aisy. Look at the aise of me when I got started. By gracious, wasn't I just itching to wallop her?"
Then every art that Katy possessed was bent to the consummation of preparing a particularly delicious dinner for the night.
Linda came in softly humming something to herself about the kind of shoes that you might wear if you chose. She had entered the high school that morning with an unusually brilliant color. Two or three girls, who never had noticed her before, had nodded to her that morning, and one or two had said: "What a pretty dress you have!" She had caught the flash of approval in the eyes of Donald Whiting, and she had noted the flourish with which he raised his hat when he saw her at a distance, and she knew what he meant when he held up a book, past the covers of which she could see protruding a thick fold of white paper. He had foresworn whatever pleasure he might have thought of for Sunday. He had prepared notes on some subject that he thought would further him. The lift of his head, the flourish of his hat, and the book all told Linda that he had struggled and that he felt the struggle had brought an exhilarating degree of success. That had made the day particularly bright for Linda. She had gone home with a feeling of uplift and exultation in her heart. As she closed the front door she cried up the stairway: "Eileen, are you there?"
"Yes," answered a rather sulky voice from above.
Linda ascended, two steps at a bound.
"Thank you over and over, old thing!" she cried as she raced down the hallway. "Behold me! I never did have a more becoming dress, and Katy loaned me money, till my income begins, to get shoes and a little scuff hat to go with it. Aren't I spiffy?"
She pirouetted in the doorway. Eileen gripped the brush she was wielding, tight.
"You have good taste," she said. "It's a pretty dress, but You're always howling about things being suitable. Do you call that suitable for school?"
"It certainly is an innovation for me," said Linda, "but there are dozens of dresses of the same material, only different cut and colors in the high school today. As soon as I get my money I'll buy a skirt and some blouses so I won't have to wear this all the time; but I surely do thank you very much, and I surely have had a lovely day. Did you have a nice time at Riverside?"
Eileen slammed down the brush and turned almost a distorted face to Linda. She had temper to vent. In the hour's reflection previous to Linda's coming, she realized that she had reached the limit with Katy. If she antagonized her by word or look, she would go to John Gilman, and Eileen dared not risk what she would say.
"No, I did not have a lovely time," she said. "I furnished the men for the party and I expected to have a grand time, but the first thing we did was to run into that inflated egotist calling herself Mary Louise Whiting, and like a fool, Janie Brunson introduced her to Peter Morrison. I had paired him with Janie on purpose to keep my eye on him."
Linda tried hard but she could not suppress a chuckle: "Of course you would!" she murmured softly.
Eileen turned her back. That had been her first confidence to Linda. She was so aggrieved at that moment that she could have told unanswering walls her tribulations. It would have been better if she had done so. She might have been able to construe silence as sympathy. Linda's laughter she knew exactly how to interpret. "Served you right," was what it meant.
"I hadn't the least notion you would take an interest in anything concerning me," she said. "People can talk all they please about Mary Louise Whiting being a perfect lady but she is a perfect beast. I have met her repeatedly and she has always ignored me, and yesterday she singled out for her special attention the most desirable man in my party--"
"'Most desirable,'" breathed Linda. "Poor John! I see his second fiasco. Lavender crystals, please!"
Eileen caught her lip in mortification. She had not intended to say what she thought.
"Well, you can't claim," she hurried on to cover her confusion, "that it was not an ill-bred, common trick for her to take possession of a man of my party, and utterly ignore me. She has everything on earth that I want; she treats me like a dog, and she could give me a glorious time by merely nodding her head."
"I am quite sure you are mistaken," said Linda. "From what I've heard of her, she wouldn't mistreat anyone. Very probably what she does is merely to feel that she is not acquainted with you. You have an unfortunate way, Eileen, of defeating your own ends. If you wanted to attract Mary Louise Whiting, you missed the best chance you ever could have had, at three o'clock Saturday afternoon, when you maliciously treated her only brother as you would a mechanic, ordered him to our garage, and shut our door in his face."
Eileen turned to Linda. Her mouth fell open. A ghastly greenish white flooded her face.
"What do you mean?" she gasped.
"I mean," said Linda, "that Donald Whiting was calling on me, and you purposely sent him to the garage."
Crash down among the vanities of Eileen's dressing table went her lovely head, and she broke into deep and violent sobs. Linda stood looking at her a second, slowly shaking her head. Then she turned and went to her room.
Later in the evening she remembered the Roman scarf and told Eileen of what she had done, and she was unprepared for Eileen's reply: "That scarf always was too brilliant for me. You're welcome to it if you want it."
"Thank you," said Linda gravely, "I want it very much indeed."