Chapter XXII. The End of Marian's Contest
 

Coming from school a few days later on an evening when she had been detained, Linda found a radiant Katy awaiting her.

"What's up, old dear?" cried Linda. "You seem positively illumined."

"So be," said Katy. "It's a good time I'm havin'. In the first place the previous boss of this place ain't nowise so bossy as sue used to be, an' livin' with her is a dale aisier. An' then, when Miss Eileen is around these days, she is beginning to see things, and she is just black with jealousy of ye. Something funny happened here the afternoon, an' she was home for once an' got the full benefit of it. I was swapin' the aist walk, but I know she was inside the window an' I know she heard. First, comes a great big loaded automobile drivin' up, and stopped in front with a flourish an' out hops as nice an' nate a lookin' lad as ever you clapped your eyes on, an' up he comes to me an' off goes his hat with a swape, an' he hands me that bundle an' he says: 'Here's something Miss Linda is wantin' bad for her wild garden.' "

Katy handed Linda a bundle of newspaper, inside which, wrapped in a man's handkerchief, she found several plants, carefully lifted, the roots properly balled, the heads erect, crisp, although in full flower.

"Oh, Katy!" cried Linda. "Look, it's Gallito, 'little rooster'!" "Now ain't them jist yellow violets?" asked Katy dubiously.

"No," said Linda, "they are not. They are quite a bit rarer. They are really a wild pansy. Bring water, Katy, and help me."

"But I've something else for ye," said Katy.

"I don't care what you have," answered Linda. "I am just compelled to park these little roosters at once."

"What makes ye call them that ungodly name?" asked Katy.

"Nothing ungodly about it," answered Linda. "It's funny. Gallito is the Spanish name for these violets, and it means 'little rooster.' "

Linda set the violets as carefully as they had been lifted and rinsed her hands at the hydrant.

"Now bring on the remainder of the exhibit," she ordered.

"It's there on the top of the rock pile, which you notice has incrased since ye last saw it."

"So it has!" said Linda. "So it has! And beautifully colored specimens those are too. My fern bed will lift up its voice and rejoice in them. And rocks mean Henry Anderson. The box I do not understand."

Linda picked it up, untied the string, and slipped off the wrapping. Katy stared in wide-mouthed amazement.

"I was just tickled over that because Miss Eileen saw a good- looking and capable young man leave a second package, right on the heels of young Whiting," she said. "Whatever have ye got, lambie? What does that mean?"

Linda held up a beautiful box of glass, inside of which could be seen swarming specimens of every bug, beetle, insect, and worm that Henry Anderson had been able to collect in Heaven only knew what hours of search. Linda opened the box. The winged creatures flew, the bettles tumbled, the worms went over the top. She set it on the ground and laughed to exhaustion. Her eyes were wet as she looked up at Katy.

"That first night Henry Anderson and Peter Morrison were here to dinner, Katy," she said, "Anderson made a joke about being my bug-catcher when I built my home nest, and several times since he has tried to be silly about it, but the last time I told him it was foolishness to which I would listen no more, so instead of talking, he has taken this way of telling me that he is fairly expert as a bug-catcher. Really, it is awfully funny, Katy."

Katy was sober. She showed no appreciation of the fun.

"Ye know, lambie," she said, her hands on her hips, her elbows wide-spread, her jaws argumentative, "I've done some blarneying with that lad, an' I've fed him some, because he was doin' things that would help an' please ye, but now I'm tellin' ye, just like I'll be tellin' ye till I die, I ain't strong for him. If ever the day comes when ye ask me to take on that Whiting kid for me boss, I'll bow my head an' I'll fly at his bidding, because he is real, he's goin' to come out a man lots like your pa, or hisn. An' if ever the day comes when ye will be telling me ye want me to serve Pater Morrison, I'll well nigh get on my knees to him. I think he'd be the closest we'd ever come to gettin' the master back. But I couldn't say I'd ever take to Anderson. They's something about him, I can't just say what, but he puts me back up amazin'."

"Don't worry, ancient custodian of the family," said Linda. "That same something in Henry Anderson that antagonizes you, affects me in even stronger degree. You must not get the foolish notion that any man has a speculative eye on me, because it is not true. Donald Whiting is only a boy friend, treating me as a brother would, and Peter Morrison is much too sophisticated and mature to pay any serious attention to a girl with a year more high school before her. I want to be decent to Henry Anderson, because he is Peter's architect, and I'm deeply interested in Peter's house and the lady who will live in it. Sometimes I hope it will be Donald's sister, Mary Louise. Anyway, I am going to get acquainted with her and make it my business to see that she and Peter get their chance to know each other well. My job for Peter is to help run his brook at the proper angle, build his bridge, engineer his road, and plant his grounds; so don't be dreaming any foolish dreams, Katy."

Katy folded her arms, tilted her chin at an unusually aspiring angle, and deliberately sniffed.

"Don't ye be lettin' yourself belave your own foolishness," she said. "I ain't done with me exhibit yet. On the hall table ye will find a package from the Pater Morrison man that Miss Eileen had the joy of takin' in and layin' aside for ye, an atop of it rists a big letter that I'm thinkin' might mean Miss Marian."

"Oh," cried Linda. "Why are you wasting all this time? If there is a letter from Marian it may mean that the competition is decided; but if it is, she loses, because she was to telegraph if she won."

Linda rushed into the house and carried her belongings to her workroom. She dropped them on the table and looked at them.

"I'll get you off my mind first," she said to the Morrison package, which enclosed a new article entitled "How to Grow Good Citizens." With it was a scrawled line, "I'm leaving the head and heels of the future to you."

"How fine!" exulted Linda. "He must have liked the head and tail pieces I drew for his other article, so he wants the same for this, and if he is well paid for his article, maybe in time, after I've settled for my hearth motto, he will pay me something for my work. Gal-lum-shus!"

As she opened the letter from Marian she slowly shook her head.

"Drat the luck," she muttered, "no good news here."

Slowly and absorbedly she read:

DEAREST LINDA:

No telegram to send. I grazed the first prize and missed the second because Henry Anderson wins with plans so like mine that they are practically duplicates. I have not seen the winning plans. Mr. Snow told me as gently as he could that the judges had ruled me out entirely. The winning plans are practically a reversal of mine, more

professionally drawn, and no doubt the specifications are far ahead of mine, as these are my weak spot, although I have worked all day and far into the night on the mathematics of house building. Mr. Snow was very kind, and terribly cut up about it. I made what I hope was a brave fight, I did so believe in those plans that I am afraid to say just how greatly disappointed I am. All I can do is to go to work again and try to find out how to better my best, which I surely put into the plans I submitted. I can't see how Henry Anderson came to hit upon some of my personal designs for comforts and conveniences. I had hoped that no man would think of my especial kitchen plans. I rather fancied myself as a benefactor to my sex, an emancipator from drudgery, as it were. I had a concealed feeling that it required a woman who had expended her strength combating the construction of a devilish kitchen, to devise some of my built-in conveniences, and I worked as carefully on my kitchen table, as on any part of the house. If I find later that the winning plans include these things I shall believe that Henry Anderson is a mind reader, or that lost plans naturally gravitate to him. But there is no use to grouch further. I seem to be born a loser. Anyway, I haven't lost you and I still have Dana Meade.

I have nothing else to tell you except that Mr. Snow has waited for me two evenings out of the week ever since I wrote you, and he has taken me in his car and simply forced me to drive him for an hour over what appeals to me to be the most difficult roads he could select. So far I have not balked at anything but he has had the consideration not to direct me to the mountains. He is extremely attractive, Linda, and I do enjoy being with him, but I dread it too, because his grief is so deep and so apparent that it constantly keeps before me the loss of my own dear ones, and those things to which the hymn books refer as "aching voids" in my own life.

But there is something you will be glad to hear. That unknown correspondent of mine is still sending letters, and I am crazy about them. I don't answer one now until I have mulled over it two or three days and I try to give him as good as he sends.

I judge from your letters that you are keeping at least even with Eileen, and that life is much happier for you. You seem to be broadening. I am so glad for the friendship you have formed with Donald Whiting. My mother and Mrs. Whiting were friends. She is a charming woman and it has seemed to me that in her daughter Louise she has managed a happy compound of old-fashioned straightforwardness and unswerving principle, festooned with happy trimmings of all that is best in the present days. I hope that you do become acquainted with her. She is older than you, but she is the kind of girl I know you would like.

Don't worry because I have lost again, Linda dear. Today is my blue day. Tomorrow I shall roll up my sleeves and go at it again with all my might, and by and by it is written in the books that things will come right for me. They cannot go wrong for ever. With dearest love,

MARIAN.

Linda looked grim as she finished the letter.

"Confound such luck," she said emphatically. "I do not understand it. How can a man like Henry Anderson know more about comforts and conveniences in a home than a woman with Marian's experience and comprehension? And she has been gaining experience for the past ten years. That partner of his must be a six-cylinder miracle."

Linda went to the kitchen, because she was in pressing need of someone to whom to tell her troubles, and there was no one except Katy. What Katy said was energetic and emphatic, but it comforted Linda, because she agreed with it and what she was seeking at the minute was someone who agreed with her. As she went back upstairs, she met Eileen on her way to the front door. Eileen paused and deliberately studied Linda's face, and Linda stopped and waited quietly until she chose to speak.

"I presume," said Eileen at last, "that you and Katy would call the process through which you are going right now, 'taking the bit in your teeth,' or some poetic thing like that, but I can't see that you are getting much out of it. I don't hear the old laugh or the clatter of gay feet as I did before all this war of dissatisfaction broke out. This minute if you haven't either cried, or wanted to, I miss my guess."

"You win," said Linda. "I have not cried, because I make it a rule never to resort to tears when I can help it; so what you see now is unshed tears in my heart. They in no way relate to what you so aptly term my 'war of dissatisfaction'; they are for Marian. She has lost again, this time the Nicholson and Snow prize in architecture."

"Serves her right," said Eileen, laughing contemptuously. "The ridiculous idea of her trying to compete in a man's age-old occupation! As if she ever could learn enough about joists and beams and girders and installing water and gas and electricity to build a house. She should have had the sense to know she couldn't do it."

"But," said Linda quietly, "Marian wasn't proposing to be a contractor, she only wants to be an architect. And the man who beat her is Peter Morrison's architect, Henry Anderson, and he won by such a narrow margin that her plans were thrown out of second and third place, because they were so very similar to his. Doesn't that strike you as curious?"

"That is more than curious," said Eileen slowly. "That is a very strange coincidence. They couldn't have had anything from each other, because they only met at dinner, before all of us, and Marian went away the next morning; it does seem queer." Then she added with a flash of generosity and justice, "It looks pretty good for Marian, at that. If she came so near winning that she lost second and third because she was too near first to make any practical difference, I must be wrong and she must be right."

"You are wrong," said Linda tersely, "if you think Marian cannot make wonderful plans for houses. But going back to what my 'war of dissatisfaction' is doing to me, it's a pale affair compared with what it is doing to you, Eileen. You look a debilitated silhouette of the near recent past. Do you feel that badly about giving up a little money and authority?"

"I never professed to have the slightest authority over you," said Eileen very primly, as she drew back in the shadows. "You have come and gone exactly as you pleased. All I ever tried to do was to keep up a decent appearance before the neighbors and make financial ends meet."

"That never seemed to wear on you as something seems to do now," said Linda. "I am thankful that this week ends it. I was looking for you because I wanted to tell you to be sure not to make any date that will keep you from meeting me at the office of the president of the Consolidated Bank Thursday afternoon. I am going to arrange with John to be there and it shouldn't take fifteen minutes to run through matters and divide the income in a fair way between us. I am willing for you to go on paying the bills and ordering for the house as you have been."

"Certainly you are," sneered Eileen. "You are quite willing for all the work and use the greater part of my time to make you comfortable."

Linda suddenly drew back. Her body seemed to recoil, but her head thrust forward as if to bring her eyes in better range to read Eileen's face.

"That is utterly unjust, Eileen," she cried.

Then two at a time she rushed the stairs in a race for her room.