Chapter XIII. Leavening the Bread of Life
 

"'A house that is divided against itself cannot stand,'" quoted Linda. "I must keep in mind what Eileen said, not that there is the slightest danger, but to fall behind in my grades is a thing that simply must not happen. If it be true that Peter and Henry can so easily and so cheaply add a few improvements in my workroom in connection with Peter's building, I can see no reason why they shouldn't do it, so long as I pay for it. I haven't a doubt but that there will be something I can do for Peter, before he finishes his building, that he would greatly appreciate, while, since I'm handy with my pencil, I might be able to make a few head and tail pieces for some of his articles that would make them more attractive. I don't want to use any friend of mine: I don't want to feel that I am not giving quite as much as I get, but I think I see my way clear, between me and the Bear Cat, to pay for all the favors I would receive in altering my study.

"First thing I do I must go through Father's books and get the money for them, so I'll know my limitation when I come to select furniture. And I don't know that I am going to be so terribly modest when it comes to naming the sum with which I'll be satisfied for my allowance. Possibly I shall exercise my age-old prerogative and change my mind; I may just say 'half' right out loud and stick to it. And there's another thing. Since the editor of Everybody's Home has started my department and promised that if it goes well he will give it to me permanently, I can certainly depend on something from that. He has used my Introduction and two instalments now. I should think it might be fair to talk payments pretty soon. He should give me fifty dollars for a recipe with its perfectly good natural history and embellished with my own vegetable and floral decorations.

"In the meantime I think I might buy my worktable and possibly an easel, so I can have real room to spread out my new material and see how it would feel to do one drawing completely unhampered. I'll order the table tonight, and then I'll begin on the books, because I must have Saturday free; and I must be thinking about the most attractive and interesting place I can take Donald to. I just have to keep him interested until he gets going of his own accord, because he shall beat Oka Sayye. I wouldn't let Donald say it but I don't mind saying myself to myself with no one present except myself that in all my life I have never seen anything so masklike as the stolid little square head on that Jap. I have never seen anything I dislike more than the oily, stiff, black hair standing up on it like menacing bristles. I have never had but one straight look deep into his eyes, but in that look I saw the only thing that ever frightened me in looking into a man's eyes in my whole life. And there is one thing that I have to remember to caution Donald about. He must carry on this contest in a perfectly open, fair, and aboveboard way, and he simply must not antagonize Oka Sayye. There are so many of the Japs. They all look so much alike, and there's a blood brotherhood between them that will make them protect each other to the death against any white man. It wouldn't be safe for Donald to make Oka Sayye hate him. He had far better try to make him his friend and put a spirit of honest rivalry into his heart; but come to think of it, there wasn't anything like that in my one look into Oka Sayye's eyes. I don't know what it was, but whatever it was it was something repulsive."

With this thought in her mind Linda walked slowly as she approached the high school the next time. Far down the street, over the walks and across the grounds, her eyes were searching eagerly for the tall slender figure of Donald Whiting. She did not see him in the morning, but at noon she encountered him in the hall.

"Looking for you," he cried gaily when he saw her. "I've got my pry in on Trig. The professor's interested. Dad fished out an old Trig that he used when he was a boy and I have some new angles that will keep my esteemed rival stirring up his gray matter for some little time."

"Good for you! Joyous congratulations! You've got the idea!" cried Linda. "Go to it! Start something all along the line, but make it something founded on brains and reason and common sense. But, Donald, I was watching for you. I wanted to say a word."

Donald Whiting bent toward her. The faintest suspicion of a tinge of color crept into his cheeks.

"That's fine," he said. "What was it you wanted?"

"Only this," she said in almost a breathless whisper. "There is nothing in California I am afraid of except a Jap, and I am afraid of them, not potentially, not on account of what all of us know they are planning in the backs of their heads for the future, but right here and now, personally and physically. Don't antagonize Oka Sayye. Don't be too precipitate about what you're trying to do. Try to make it appear that you're developing ideas for the interest and edification of the whole class. Don't incur his personal enmity. Use tact."

"You think I am afraid of that little jiu-jitsu?', he scoffed. "I can lick him with one hand."

"I haven't a doubt of it," said Linda, measuring his height and apparent strength and fitness. "I haven't a doubt of it. But let me ask you this confidentially: Have you got a friend who would slip in and stab him in the back in case you were in an encounter and he was getting the better of you?"

Donald Whiting's eyes widened. He looked at Linda amazed.

"Wouldn't that be going rather far?" he asked. "I think I have some fairly good friends among the fellows, but I don't know just whom I would want to ask to do me that small favor."

"That is precisely the point," cried Linda. "You haven't a friend you would ask; and you haven't a friend who would do it, if you did. But don't believe for one second that Oka Sayye hasn't half a dozen who would make away with you at an unexpected time and in a secluded place, and vanish, if it would in any way further Oka Sayye's ambition, or help establish the supremacy of the Japanese in California."

"Um-hm," said Donald Whiting.

He was looking far past Linda and now his eyes were narrowed in thought. "I believe you're right about it."

"I've thought of you so often since I tried to spur you to beat Oka Sayye," said Linda. "I feel a sort of responsibility for you. It's to the honor and glory of all California, and the United States, and the white race everywhere for you to beat him, but if any harm should come to you I would always feel that I shouldn't have urged it."

"Now that's foolishness," said Donald earnestly. "If I am such a dub that I didn't have the ambition to think up some way to beat a Jap myself, no matter what happens you shouldn't regret having been the one to point out to me my manifest duty. Dad is a Harvard man, you know, and that is where he's going to send me, and in talking about it the other night I told him about you, and what you had said to me. He's the greatest old scout, and was mightily interested. He went at once and opened a box of books in the garret and dug out some stuff that will be a big help to me. He's going to keep posted and see what he can do; he said even worse things to me than you did; so you needn't feel that you have any responsibility; besides that, it's not proved yet that I can beat Oka Sayye."

"Yes, it is!" said Linda, sending a straight level gaze deep into his eyes. "Yes, it is! Whenever a white man makes up his mind what he's going to do, and puts his brain to work, he beats any man, of any other color. Sure you're going to beat him."

"Fat chance I have not to," said Donald, laughing ruefully. "If I don't beat him I am disgraced at home, and with you; before I try very long in this highly specialized effort I am making, every professor in the high school and every member of my class is bound to become aware of what is going on. You're mighty right about it. I have got to beat him or disgrace myself right at the beginning of my nice young career."

"Of course you'll beat him," said Linda.

"At what hour did you say I should come, Saturday?"

"Oh, come with the lark for all I care," said Linda. "Early morning in the desert is a mystery and a miracle, and the larks have been there just long enough to get their voices properly tuned for their purest notes."

Then she turned and hurried away. Her first leisure minute after reaching home she went to the library wearing one of Katy's big aprons, and carrying a brush and duster. Beginning at one end of each shelf, she took down the volumes she intended to sell, carefully dusted them, wiped their covers, and the place on which they had stood, and then opened and leafed through them so that no scrap of paper containing any notes or memoranda of possible value should be overlooked. It was while handling these volumes that Linda shifted several of the books written by her father, to separate them from those with which she meant to part. She had grown so accustomed to opening each book she handled and looking through it, that she mechanically opened the first one she picked up and from among its leaves there fell a scrap of loose paper. She picked it up and found it was a letter from the publishers of the book. Linda's eyes widened suddenly as she read:

MY DEAR STRONG:

Sending you a line of congratulations. You have gone to the head of the list of "best sellers" among medical works, and the cheque I draw you for the past six months' royalties will be considerably larger than that which goes to your most esteemed contemporary on your chosen subject.

Very truly yours,

The signature was that of Frederic Dickman, the editor of one of the biggest publishing houses of the country.

"Hm," she said to herself softly. "Now that is a queer thing. That letter was written nearly five years ago. I don't know why I never thought of royalties since Daddy went. I frequently heard him mention them before. I suppose they're being paid to John Gilman as administrator, or to the Consolidated Bank, and cared for with Father's other business. There's no reason why these books should not keep on selling. There are probably the same number of young men, if not a greater number, studying medicine every year. I wonder now, about these royalties. I must do some thinking."

Then Linda began to examine books more carefully than before. The letter she carried with her when she went to her room; but she made a point of being on the lawn that evening when John Gilman came, and after talking to him a few minutes, she said very casually: "John, as Father's administrator, does a royalty from his medical books come to you?"

"No," said Gilman. "It is paid to his bank."

"I don't suppose," said Linda casually, "it would amount to enough to keep one in shoes these inflated days."

"Oh, I don't know about that," said John testily. "I have seen a few of those cheques in your Father's time. You should be able to keep fairly well supplied with shoes."

"So I should," said Linda drily. "So I should."

Then she led him to the back of the house and talked the incident out of his mind as cleverly as possible by giving him an intensive botanical study of Cotyledon. But she could not interest him quite so deeply as she had hoped, for presently he said: "Eileen tells me that you're parting with some of the books."

"Only technical ones for which I could have no possible use," said Linda. "I need clothes, and have found that had I a proper place to work in and proper tools to work with, I could earn quite a bit with my brush and pencil, and so I am trying to get enough money together to fit up the billiard room for a workroom, since nobody uses it for anything else."

"I see," said John Gilman. "I suppose running a house is extremely expensive these days, but even so the income from your estate should be sufficient to dress a schoolgirl and provide for anything you would want in the way of furnishing a workroom."

"That's what I have always thought myself," said Linda; "but Eileen doesn't agree with me, and she handles the money. When the first of the month comes, we are planning to go over things together, and she is going to make me a proper allowance."

"That is exactly as it should be," said Gilman. "I never realized till the other night at dinner that you have grown such a great girl, Linda. That's fine! Fix your workroom the way you would like to have it, and if there's anything I can do to help you in any way, you have only to command me. I haven't seen you often lately."

"No," said Linda, "but I don't feel that it is exactly my fault. Marian and I were always pals. When I saw that you preferred Eileen, I kept with Marian to comfort her all I could. I don't suppose she cared, particularly. She couldn't have, or she would at least have made some effort to prevent Eileen from monopolizing you. She probably was mighty glad to be rid of you; but since you had been together so much, I thought she might miss you, so I tried to cover your defection."

John Gilman's face flushed. He stood very still, while he seemed deeply thoughtful.

"Of course you were free to follow your inclinations, or Eileen's machinations, whichever you did follow," Linda said lightly, "but 'them as knows' could tell you, John, as Katy so well puts it, that you have made the mistake of your young life."

Then she turned and went to the garage, leaving John to his visit with Eileen.

The Eileen who took possession of John was an Eileen with whom he was not acquainted. He had known, the night of the dinner party, that Eileen was pouting, but there had been no chance to learn from her what her grievance was, and by the next time they met she was a bundle of flashing allurement, so he ignored the occurrence. This evening, for the first time, it seemed to him that Eileen was not so beautiful a woman as he had thought her. Something had roiled the blood in her delicate veins until it had muddied the clear freshness of her smooth satiny skin. There was discontent in her eyes, which were her most convincing attraction. They were big eyes, wide open and candid. She had so trained them through a lifetime of practice that she could meet other eyes directly while manipulating her most dextrous evasion. Whenever Eileen was most deceptively subtle, she was looking straight at her victim with the innocent appeal of a baby in her gaze.

John Gilman had had his struggle. He had succeeded. He had watched, and waited, and worked incessantly, and when his opportunity came he was ready. Success had come to such a degree that in a short time he had assured himself of comfort for any woman he loved. He knew that his appearance was quite as pleasing as that of his friend. He knew that in manner and education they were equals. He was now handling large business affairs. He had made friends in high places. Whenever Eileen was ready, he would build and furnish a home he felt sure would be equal, if not superior, to what Morrison was planning. Why had Eileen felt that she would envy any woman who shared life with Peter Morrison?

All that day she had annoyed him, because there must have been in the very deeps of his soul "a still, small voice" whispering to him that he had not lived up to the best traditions of a gentleman in his course with Marian. While no definite plans had been made, there had been endless assumption. Many times they had talked of the home they would make together. When he reached the point where he decided that he never had loved Marian as a man should love the woman he marries, he felt justified in turning to Eileen, but in his heart he knew that if he had been the man he was pleased to consider himself, he would have gone to Marian Thorne and explained, thereby keeping her friendship, while he now knew that he must have earned her contempt.

The day at Riverside had been an enigma he could not solve. Eileen was gay to a degree that was almost boisterous. She had attracted attention and comment which no well-bred woman would have done.

The growing discontent in John's soul had increased under Linda's direct attack. He had known Linda since she was four years old and had been responsible for some of her education. He had been a large influence in teaching Linda from childhood to be a good sport, to be sure she was right and then go ahead, and if she hurt herself in the going, to rub the bruise, but to keep her path.

A thing patent to the eye of every man who turned an appraising look upon Linda always had been one of steadfast loyalty. You could depend upon her. She was the counterpart of her father; and Doctor Strong had been loved by other men. Wherever he had gone he had been surrounded. His figure had been one that attracted attention. When he had spoken, his voice and what he had to say had commanded respect. And then there had emanated from him that peculiar physical charm which gives such pleasing and distinguished personality to a very few people in this world. This gift too had descended to Linda. She could sit and look straight at you with her narrow, interested eyes, smile faintly, and make you realize what she thought and felt without opening her lips. John did not feel very well acquainted with the girl who had dominated the recent dinner party, but he did see that she was attractive, that both Peter Morrison and Henry Anderson had been greatly amused and very much entertained by her. He had found her so interesting himself that he had paid slight attention to Eileen's pouting.

Tonight he was forced to study Eileen, for the sake of his own comfort to try to conciliate her. He was uncomfortable because he was unable to conduct himself as Eileen wished him to, without a small sickening disgust creeping into his soul. Before the evening was over he became exasperated, and ended by asking flatly: "Eileen, what in the dickens is the matter with you?"

It was a new tone and a new question on nerves tensely strung.

"If you weren't blind you'd know without asking," retorted Eileen hotly.

"Then I am 'blind,' for I haven't the slightest notion. What have I done?"

"Isn't it just barely possible," asked Eileen, "that there might be other people who would annoy and exasperate me? I have not hinted that you have done anything, although I don't know that it's customary for a man calling on his betrothed to stop first for a visit with her sister."

"For the love of Mike!" said John Gilman. "Am I to be found fault with for crossing the lawn a minute to see how Linda's wild garden is coming on? I have dug and helped set enough of those plants to justify some interest in them as they grow."

"And the garden was your sole subject of conversation?" inquired Eileen, implied doubt conveyed nicely.

"No, it was not," answered Gilman, all the bulldog in his nature coming to the surface.

"As I knew perfectly," said Eileen. "I admit that I'm not feeling myself. Things began going wrong recently, and everything has gone wrong since. I think it all began with Marian Thorne's crazy idea of selling her home and going to the city to try to ape a man."

"Marian never tried to ape a man in her life," said John, instantly yielding to a sense of justice. "She is as strictly feminine as any woman I ever knew."

"Do you mean to say that you think studying architecture is a woman's work?" sneered Eileen.

"Yes, I do," said Gilman emphatically. "Women live in houses. They're in them nine tenths of the time to a man's one tenth. Next to rocking a cradle I don't know of any occupation in this world more distinctly feminine than the planning of comfortable homes for homekeeping people."

Eileen changed the subject swiftly. "What was Linda saying to you?" she asked.

"She was showing me a plant, a rare Echeveria of the Cotyledon family, that she tobogganed down one side of Multiflores Canyon and delivered safely on the roadway without its losing an appreciable amount of 'bloom' from its exquisitely painted leaves."

Eileen broke in rudely. "Linda has missed Marian. There's not a possible thing to make life uncomfortable for me that she is not doing. You needn't tell me you didn't see and understand her rude forwardness the other night!"

"No, I didn't see it," said John, "because the fact is I thought the kid was positively charming, and so did Peter and Henry because both of them said so. There's one thing you must take into consideration, Eileen. The time has come when she should have clothes and liberty and opportunity to shape her life according to her inclinations. Let me tell you she will attract attention in georgette and laces."

"And where are the georgette and laces to come from?" inquired Eileen sarcastically. "All outgo and no income for four years is leaving the Strong finances in mighty precarious shape, I can tell you."

"All right," said Gilman, "I'm financially comfortable now. I'm ready. Say the word. We'll select our location and build our home, and let Linda have what there is of the Strong income till she is settled in life. You have pretty well had all of it for the past four years."

"Yes," said Eileen furiously, "I have 'pretty well' had it, in a few little dresses that I have altered myself and very frequently made entirely. I have done the best I could, shifting and skimping, and it's not accomplished anything that I have really wanted. According to men, the gas and the telephone and the electric light and the taxes and food and cook pay for themselves. All a woman ever spends money on is clothes!"

"Eileen," chuckled John Gilman, "this sounds exactly as if we were married, and we're not, yet."

"No," said Eileen, "thank heaven we're not. If it's come to the place where you're siding with everybody else against me, and where you're more interested in what my kid sister has to say to you than you are in me, I don't think we ever shall be."

Then, from stress of nerve tension and long practice, some big tears gushed up and threatened to overflow Eileen's lovely eyes. That never should happen, for tears are salt water and they cut little rivers through even the most carefully and skillfully constructed complexion, while Eileen's was looking its worst that evening. She hastily applied her handkerchief, and John Gilman took her into his arms; so the remainder of the evening it was as if they were not married. But when John returned to the subject of a home and begged Eileen to announce their engagement and let him begin work, she evaded him, and put him off, and had to have time to think, and she was not ready, and there were many excuses, for none of which Gilman could see any sufficient reason. When he left Eileen that night, it was with a heavy heart.