Chapter XXV. Buena Moza
 

As soon as Peter had left her Linda took her box of candy flowers and several of her finest roses and went to Katy's room. She found Katy in a big rocking chair, her feet on a hassock, reading a story in Everybody's home. When her door opened and she saw her young mistress framed in it she tossed the magazine aside and sprang to her feet, but Linda made her resume her seat. The girl shortened the stems of the roses and put them in a vase on Katy's dresser.

"They may clash with your coloring a mite, Mother Machree," she said, "but by themselves they are very wonderful things, aren't they?"

Linda went over, and drawing her dress aside, sat down on the hassock and leaning against Katy's knee she held up the box of candy flowers for amazed and delighted inspection.

"Ah, the foine gintleman!" cried Katy. "Sure 'twas only a pape I had when ye opened the box, an' I didn't know how rare them beauties railly was."

"Choose the one you like best," said Linda.

But Katy would not touch the delicate things, so Linda selected a brushy hollyhock for her and then sat at her knee again.

"Katherine O'Donovan," she said solemnly, "it's up to a couple of young things such as we are, stranded on the shoals of the Pacific as we have been, to put our heads together and take counsel. You're a host, Katy, and while I am taking care of you, I'll be just delighted to have you go on looking after your black sheep; but it's going to be lonely, for all that. After Eileen has taken her personal possessions, what do you say to fixing up that room with the belongings that Marian kept, and inviting her to make that suite her home until such time as she may have a home of her own again?"

"Foine!" cried Katy. "I'd love to be havin' her. I'd agree to take orders from Miss Marian and to be takin' care of her jist almost the same as I do of ye, Miss Linda. The one thing I don't like about it is that it ain't fair nor right to give even Marian the best. Ye be takin' that suite yourself, lambie, and give Miss Marian your room all fixed up with her things, or, if ye want her nearer, give her the guest room and make a guest room of yours."

"I am willing to follow either of the latter suggestions for myself," said Linda; "it might be pleasant to be across the hall from Marian where we could call back and forth to each other. I wouldn't mind a change as soon as I have time to get what I'd need to make the change. I'll take the guest room for mine, and you may call in a decorator and have my room freshly done and the guest things moved into it."

Katy looked belligerent. Linda reached up and touched the frowning lines on her forehead.

"Brighten your lovely features with a smile, Katherine me dear," she said gaily. "Don't be forgetting that this is our Day of Jubilee. We are free--I hope we are free forever--from petty annoyances and dissatisfactions and little, galling things that sear the soul and bring out all the worst in human nature. I couldn't do anything to Eileen's suite, not even if I resorted to tearing out partitions and making it new from start to finish, that would eliminate Eileen from it for me. If Marian will give me permission to move and install her things in it, I think she can use it without any such feeling, but I couldn't. It's agreed then, Katy, I am to write to Marian and extend to her a welcome on your part as well as on mine?"

"That ye may, lambie," said Katy heartily. "And, as the boss used to be sabin', just to make assurance doubly sure, if YoU would address it for me I would be writing' a bit of a line myself, conveying' to her me sentiments on the subject."

"Oh, fine, Katy; Marian would be delighted!" cried Linda, springing up.

"And, Katy dear, it won't make us feel any more like mourning for Eileen when I tell you that it developed at the bank yesterday and today, that since she has been managing household affairs she has deposited in a separate account all the royalties from Father's books. I had thought the matter closed at the bank when this fund was added to the remainder of the estate, the household expenses set aside to Eileen, and the remainder divided equally between us. I didn't get the proof that she was not my sister until after I came home. I think it means that I shall have to go back to the bank, have the matter reopened, and unless she can produce a will or something proving that she is entitled to it, it seems to me that what remains of my father's estate is legally mine. Of course, if it develops that he has made any special provision for her, she shall have it; otherwise, Katy, we'll be in a position to install you as housekeeper and put some light-footed, capable young person under you for a step-saver in any direction you want to use her. It means, too, that I shall be able to repay your loan immediately and to do the things that I wanted to do about the house."

"Now I ain't in any hurry about that money, lambie," said Katy; "and you understand of course that the dress you're wearing' I am given' ye."

"Of course, old dear, and you should have seen Peter Morrison light up and admire it. He thinks you have wonderful taste, Katy."

Katy threw up both her hands.

"Oh, my Lord, lambie!" she cried, aghast. "Was you telling' him that the dress ye were wearing' was a present from your old cook?"

"Why, certainly I was," said Linda, wide eyed with astonish meet. "Why shouldn't I? I was proud to. And now, old dear, before I go, the biggest secret of all. I had a letter, Katy, from the editor of Everybody's Home, and people like our articles, KatY; they are something now and folk are letting the editor know about it, and he wants all I can send him. He likes the pictures I make; and, Katy, you won't believe it till I show you my little bank book, but for the three already published with their illustrations he pays me five hundred nice, long, smooth, beautifully decorated, paper dollars!"

"Judas praste!" cried Katy, her hands once more aloft. "Ye ain't manin' it, lambie?"

"Yes, I are," laughed Linda. "I've got the money; and for each succeeding three with their pictures I am to have that much more, and when I finish- -now steady yourself, Katy, because this is going to be a shock--when I finish, blessed old dear heart, he is going to make them into a book! That will be my job for this summer, and you shall help me, and it will be a part of our great secret. Won't it be the most fun?"

"My soul!" said Katy. "You're jist crazy. I don't belave a word you're telling' me."

"But I can prove it, because I have the letter and the bank book," said Linda.

Katy threw her arms around the girl and kissed the top of her head and cried over her and laughed at the same time and patted her and petted her and ended by saying: "Oh, lambie, if only the master could be knowin' it."

"But he does know, Katy," said Linda.

She went to her room, removed the beautiful dress and, arranging it on a hanger, left it in her closet. Slipping into an old dressing gown, she ran to her workroom and wrote a letter to Marian from herself. She tried not to tell Marian the big, vital thing that was throbbing in her heart all day concerning her work, the great secret that meant such a wonderful thing to her, the thing that was beating in her heart and fluttering behind her lips like a bird trying to escape its cage; but she could tell her in detail of Eileen's undoubted removal to San Francisco; she could tell her enough of the financial transactions of the day to make her

understand what had been happening in the past; and she could tell of her latest interview with John Gilman. Once, as she sat with her pen poised, thinking how to phrase a sentence, Linda said to herself: "I wonder in my heart if he won't try to come crawfishing back to Marian now, and if he does, I wonder, oh, how I wonder, what she will do." Linda shut her lips very tight and stared up through her skylight to the stars, as she was fast falling into a habit of doing when she wanted inspiration.

"Well, I know one thing," she said to the shining things above her, "Marian will do as she sees fit, of course, but if it were I, and any man had discarded me as John Gilman discarded Marian, in case he ever wanted to pick me up again he would find I was not there. Much as I plan in my heart for the home and the man and the little people that I hope to have some day, I would give up all of them before I would be discarded and re-sought like that; and knowing Marian as I do, I have a conviction that she will feel the same way. From the things she is writing about this Snow man I think it is highly probable that he may awake some day to learn that he is not so deeply grieved but that he would like to have Marian to comfort him in his loneliness; and as for his little girl I don't see where he could find a woman who would rear her more judiciously and beautifully than Marian would."

She finished her letter, sealed and stamped it, and then, taking out a fresh sheet, she lettered in at the top of it, "INDIAN POTATOES" and continued:

And very good potatoes they are. You will find these growing everywhere throughout California, blooming from May to July, their six long, slender, white petals shading to gold at the base, grayish on the outside, a pollen-laden pistil upstanding, eight or ten gold-clubbed stamens surrounding it, the slender brown stem bearing a dozen or more of these delicate blooms, springing high from a base of leaves sometimes nearly two feet long and an inch broad, wave margined, spreading in a circle around it. In the soil of the plains and the dry hillsides you will find an amazingly large solid bulb, thickly enwrapped in a coat of brown fiber, the long threads of which can be braided, their amazing strength making them suitable for bow strings, lariats, or rope of any kind that must needs be improvised for use at the moment. The bulbs themselves have many uses. Crushed and rubbed up in water they make a delightful cleansing lather. The extracted juice, when cooked down, may be used as glue. Of the roasted bulbs effective poultices for bruises and boils may be made. It was an Indian custom to dam a small stream and throw in mashed Amole bulbs, the effect of which was to stupefy the fish so that they could be picked out by hand; all of which does not make it appear that the same bulb would serve as an excellent substitute for a baked potato; but we must remember how our grandmothers made starch from our potatoes, used them to break in the new ironware, and to purify the lard; which goes to prove that one vegetable may be valuable for many purposes. Amole, whose ponderous scientific name is Chlorogalum pomeridiarum, is at its best for my purposes when all the chlorophyll from flower and stem has been driven back to the bulb, and it lies ripe and fully matured from late August until December.

Remove the fibrous cover down to the second or third layer enclosing the bulb. These jackets are necessary as they keep the bulbs from drying out and having a hard crust. Roast them exactly as you would potatoes. When they can easily be pierced with a silver fork remove from the oven, and serve immediately with any course with which you would use baked potatoes.

"And gee, but they're good!" commented Linda as she reread what she had written.

After that she turned her attention to drawing a hillside whitened here and there with amole bloom showing in its purity against the warm grayish-tan background. The waving green leaves ran among big rocks and overlapped surrounding growth. At the right of her drawing Linda sketched in a fine specimen of monkey flower, deepening the yellow from the hearts of the amole lilies for the almost human little monkey faces. On the left one giant specimen of amole, reared from a base of exquisitely waving leaves, ran up the side of the drawing and broke into an airy and graceful head of gold-hearted white lilies. For a long time Linda sat with poised pencil, studying her foreground. What should she introduce that would be most typical of the location and gave her the desired splash of contrasting color that she used as a distinctive touch in the foreground of all her drawings?

Her pencil flew busily a few minutes while she sketched in a flatly growing bush of prickly phlox, setting the flower faces as closely as the overlapped scales of a fish, setting them even as they grow in nature; and when she resorted to the color box she painted these faces a wonderful pink that was not wild rose, not cerise, not lilac, but it made one think of all of them. When she could make no further improvement on this sketch, she carefully stretched it against the wall and tacked it up to dry.

Afterward she cleared her mental decks of all the work she could think of in order to have Saturday free, because Saturday was the day upon which she found herself planning in the back of her mind throughout the strenuous week, to save for riding the King's Highway with Donald Whiting. Several times she had met him on the walks or in the hallways, and always he had stopped to speak with her and several times he had referred to the high hope in which he waited for Saturday. Linda already had held a consultation with Katy on the subject of the lunch basket. That matter being satisfactorily arranged, there was nothing for her to do but to double on her work so that Saturday would be free. Friday evening Linda was called from the dinner table to the telephone. She immediately recognized the voice inquiring for her as that of Judge Whiting, and then she listened breathlessly while he said to her: "You will recognize that there is very little I may say over a telephone concerning a matter to which you brought my attention. I have a very competent man looking into the matter thoroughly, and I find that your fear is amply justified. Wherever you go or whatever you do, use particular care. Don't have anything to do with any stranger. Just use what your judgment and common sense tell you is a reasonable degree of caution in every direction no matter how trivial. You understand?"

"I do," said Linda promptly. "Would you prefer that we do not go on any more Saturday trips at present?"

The length of time that the Judge waited to answer proved that he had taken time to think.

"I can't see," he said finally, "that you would not be safer on such a trip where you are moving about, where no one knows who you arc, than you would where you are commonly found."

"All right then," said Linda. "Ask the party we are considering and he will tell you where he will be tomorrow. Thank you very much for letting me know. If anything should occur, you will understand that it was something quite out of my range of fore-sight."

"I understand," said the Judge.

With all care and many loving admonitions Katy assisted in the start made early Saturday morning. The previous Saturday Linda had felt that all nature along the road she planned to drive would be at its best, but they had not gone far until she modified her decision. They were slipping through mists of early morning, over level, carefully made roads like pavilion floors. If any one objection could have been made, it would have been that the mists of night were weighting too heavily to earth the perfume from the blooming orchards and millions of flowers in gardens and along the roadside. At that hour there were few cars abroad. Linda was dressed in her outing suit of dark green. She had removed her hat and slipped it on the seat beside her. She looked at Donald, a whimsical expression on her most expressive young face.

"Please to 'scuse me," she said lightly, "if I step on the gas a mite while we have the road so much to ourselves and are so familiar with it. Later, when we reach stranger country and have to share with others, we'll be forced to go slower."

"Don't stint your speed on account of me," said Donald. "I am just itching to know what Kitty can do."

"All right, here's your chance," said Linda. "Hear her purr?"

She settled her body a trifle tensely, squared her shoulders, and gripped the steering wheel. Then she increased the gas and let the Bear Cat roll over the smooth road from Lilac Valley running south into Los Angeles. At a speed that was near to flying as a non-professional attains, the youngsters traveled that road. Their eyes were shining; their blood was racing. Until the point where rougher roads and approaching traffic forced them to go slower, they raced, and when they slowed down they looked at each other and laughed in morning delight.

"I may not be very wise," said Linda, "but didn't I do the smartest thing when I let Eileen have the touring car and saved the Bear Cat for us?"

"Nothing short of inspiration," said Donald. "The height of my ambition is to own a Bear Cat. If Father makes any mention of anything I would like particularly to have for a graduation present, I am cocked and primed as to what I shall tell him."

"You'd better save yourself a disappointment," said Linda soberly. "You will be starting to college this fall, and when you do you will be gone nine months out of the year, and I am fairly sure your father wouldn't think shipping a Bear Cat back and forth a good investment, or furnishing you one to take to school with you. He would fear you would never make a grade that would be a credit to him if he did."

"My!" laughed Donald, "you've got a long head on your shoulders!"

"When you're thrown on your own for four of the longest, lonesomest years of your life, you learn to think," said Linda soberly.

She was touching the beginning of Los Angeles traffic. Later she was on the open road again. The mists were thinning and lifting. The perfume was not so heavy. The sheeted whiteness of the orange groves was broken with the paler white of plum merging imperceptibly into the delicate pink of apricot and the stronger pink of peach, and there were deep green orchards of smooth waxen olive foliage and the lacy-leaved walnuts. Then came the citrus orchards again, and all the way on either hand running with them were almost uninterrupted miles of roses of every color and kind, and everywhere homes ranging from friendly mansions, all written over in adorable flower color with the happy invitation, "Come in and make yourself at home," to tiny bungalows along the wayside crying welcome to this gay pair of youngsters in greetings fashioned from white and purple wisteria, gold bignonia, every rose the world knows, and myriad brilliant annual and perennial flower faces gathered from the circumference of the tropical globe and homing enthusiastically on the King's Highway. Sometimes Linda lifted her hand from the wheel to wave a passing salute to a particularly appealing flower picture. Sometimes she whistled a note or cried a greeting to a mockingbird, a rosy finch, or a song sparrow.

"Look at the pie timber!" she cried to Donald, calling his attention to a lawn almost covered with red-winged blackbirds. "Four hundred and twenty might be baked in that pie," she laughed.

Then a subtle change began to creep over the world. The sun peered over the mountains inquiringly, a timid young thing, as if she were asking what degree of light and warmth they would like for the day. A new brilliancy tinged every flower face in this light, a throbbing ecstasy mellowed every bird note; the orchards dropped farther apart, meadows filled with grazing cattle flashed past them, the earthy scent of freshly turned fields mingled with flower perfume, and on their right came drifting in a cool salt breath from the sea. At mid-forenoon, as they neared Laguna, they ran past great hills, untouched since the days when David cried: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help." At one particularly beautiful range, draped with the flowing emerald of spring, decorated with beds of gold poppy, set with flowering madrona and manzanita, with the gold of yellow monkey flower or the rich red of the related species, with specimens of lupin growing in small trees, here and there adventurous streams singing and flashing their unexpected way to the mother breast of the waiting ocean very near to the road which at one surprising turn carried them to the never-ending wonder of the troubled sea, they drove as slowly as the Bear Cat would consent to travel, so that they might study great boulders, huge as many of the buildings they had passed, their faces scarred by the wrack of ages. Studying their ancient records one could see that they had been familiar with the star that rested over Bethlehem. On their faces had shone the same moon that opened the highways Journeying into Damascus. They had stood the storms that had beaten upon the world since the days when the floods subsided, the land lifted above the face of the waters in gigantic upheavals that had ripped the surface of the globe from north to south and forced up the hills, the foothills, and the mountains of the Coast Range. They had been born then, they had first seen the light of day, in glowing, molten, red-hot, high-piled streams of lava that had gushed forth in that awful evolution of birth.

Sometimes Linda stopped the car, they left it, and climbed over the faces of these mighty upheavals. Once Linda reached her hand to Donald and cried, half laughingly, half in tense earnest: "Oh, kid, we have got to hurry. Compared with the age of these, we've only a few minutes. It's all right to talk jestingly about 'the crack of doom' but you know there really was a crack of doom, and right here is where it cracked and spewed out the material that hardened into these very rocks. Beside them I feel as a shrimp must feel beside a whale, and I feel that we must hurry."

"And so we must," said Donald. "I'm hungry as Likeliest when he waited for them to find enough peacock tongues to satisfy his appetite."

"I wonder what brand of home-brew made him think of that," said Linda.

"Well, you know," said Donald, "the world was only a smallish place then. They didn't have to go far to find everything to which they had access, and it must have been rather a decent time in which to live. Awful lot of light and color and music and unique entertainment."

"You're talking," said Linda, "from the standpoint of the king or the master. Suppose you had lived then and had been the slave."

"There you go again," said Donald, "throwing a brick into the most delicate mechanism of my profound thought. You ought to be ashamed to round me up with something scientific and materialistic every time I go a-glimmering. Don't you think this would be a fine place to have lunch?"

"You wait and see where we lunch today, and you will have the answer to that," said Linda, starting back to the Bear Cat.

A few miles farther on they followed the road around the frowning menace of an overhanging rock and sped out directly to the panorama of the sea. The sun was shining on it, but, as always round the Laguna shore, the rip tide was working itself into undue fury. It came dashing up on the ancient rocks until one could easily understand why a poet of long ago wrote of sea horses. Some of the waves did suggest monstrous white chargers racing madly to place their feet upon the solid rock.

Through the village, up the steep inclines, past placid lakes, past waving yellow mustard beds, beside highways where the breastplate of Mother Earth gleamed emerald and ruby against the background of billions of tiny, shining diamonds of the iceplant, past the old ostrich tree reproduced by etchers of note the world over, with grinding brakes, sliding down the breathless declivity leading to the shore, Linda stopped at last where the rock walls lifted sheer almost to the sky. She led Donald to a huge circle carpeted with cerise sand verbena, with pink and yellow iceplant bloom, with jewelled iceplant foliage, with the running blue of the lovely sea daisy, with the white and pink of the sea fig, where the walls were festooned with ferns, lichens, studded all over with flaming Our Lord's Candles, and strange, uncanny, grotesque flower forms, almost human in their writhing turns as they twisted around the rocks and slipped along clinging to the sheer walls. Just where the vegetation met the white, sea-washed sand, Linda spread the Indian blanket, and Donald brought the lunch box. At their feet adventurous waves tore themselves to foam on the sharp rocks. On their left they broke in booming spray, tearing and fretting the base of cliffs that had stood impregnable through aeons of such ceaseless attack and repulse.

"I wonder," said Donald, "how it comes that I have lived all my life in California, and today it seems to me that most of the worthwhile things I know about her I owe to you. When I go to college this winter t.he things I shall be telling the boys will be how I could gain a living, if I had to, on the desert, in Death Valley, from the walls of Multiflores Canyon; and how the waves go to smash on the rocks of Laguna, not to mention cactus fish hooks, mescal sticks, and brigand beefsteak. It's no wonder the artists of all the world come here copying these pictures. It's no wonder they build these bungalows and live here for years, unsatisfied with their efforts to reproduce the pictures of the Master Painter of them all."

"I wonder," said Linda, "if anybody is very easily satisfied. I wonder today if Eileen is satisfied with being merely rich. I wonder if we are satisfied to have this golden day together. I wonder if the white swallows are satisfied with the sea. I wonder if those rocks are satisfied and proud to stand impregnable against the constant torment of the tide."

"I wonder, oh, Lord, how I wonder," broke in Donald, "about Katherine O'Donovan's lunch box. If you want a picture of per feet satisfaction, Belinda beloved, lead me to it!"

"Thank heaven you're mistaken," she said; "they spared me the 'Be'--. It's truly just 'Linda."'

"Well, I'm not sparing you the 'Be--'," said Donald, busy with the fastenings of the lunch basket. "Did you hear where I used it?"

"Yes, child, and I like it heaps," said Linda casually. "It's fine to have you like me. Awfully proud of myself."

"You have two members of our family at your feet," said Donald soberly as he handed her packages from the box. "My dad is beginning to discourse on you with such signs of intelligence that I am almost led to believe, from some of his wildest outbursts, that he has had some personal experience in some way."

"And why not?" asked Linda lightly. "Haven't I often told you that my father constantly went on fishing and hunting trips, that he was a great collector of botanical specimens, that he frequently took his friends with him? You might ask your father if he does not recall me as having fried fish and made coffee and rendered him camp service when I was a slip of a thing in the dawn of my teens."

"Well, he didn't just mention it," said Donald, "but I can .easily see how it might have been."

After they had finished one of Katy's inspired lunches, in which a large part of the inspiration had been mental on Linda's part and executive on Katy's, they climbed rock faces, skirted wave-beaten promontories, and stood peering from overhanging cliffs dipping down into the fathomless green sea, where the water boiled up in turbulent fury. Linda pointed out the rocks upon which she would sit, if she were a mermaid, to comb the seaweed from her hair. She could hear the sea bells ringing in those menacing depths, but Donald's ears were not so finely tuned. At the top of one of the highest cliffs they climbed, there grew a clump of slender pale green bushes, towering high above their heads with exquisitely cut blue-green leaves, lance shaped and slender. Donald looked at the fascinating growth appraisingly.

"Linda," he said, "do you know that the slimness and the sheerness and the audacious foothold and the beauty of that thing remind me of you? It is covered all over with the delicate frostbloom you taught me to see upon fruit. I find it everywhere but you have never told me what it is."

Linda laughingly reached up and broke a spray of greenish-yellow tubular flowers, curving out like clustered trumpets spilling melody from their fluted throats.

"You will see it everywhere. You will find these flowers every month of the year," she said, "and I am particularly gladsome that this plant reminds you of me. I love the bluish-green 'bloom' of its sheer foliage. I love the music these flower trumpets make to me. I love the way it has traveled, God knows how, all the way from the Argentine and spread itself over our country wherever it is allowed footing. I am glad that there is soothing in these dried leaves for those who require it. I shall be delighted to set my seal on you with it. There are two little Spanish words that it suggests to the Mexican--Buena moza--but you shall find out for yourself what they mean."

Encountering his father that night at his library door, Donald Whiting said to him: "May I come in, Dad? I have something I must look up before I sleep. Have you a Spanish lexicon, or no doubt you have this in your head."

"Well, I've a halting vocabulary," said the Judge. "What's your phrase?"

"Linda put this flower on me today," said Donald, "and she said she was pleased because I said the tall, slender bush it grew on reminded me of her. She gave me the Spanish name, but I don't know the exact significance of the decoration I am wearing until I learn the meaning of the phrase."

"Try me on it," said the Judge.

" 'Buena moza,"' quoted Donald.

The Judge threw back his head and laughed heartily.

"Son," he said, "you should know that from the Latin you're learning. You should translate it instinctively. I couldn't tell you exactly whether a Spaniard would translate 'Buena' 'fine' or 'good.' Knowing their high-falutin' rendition of almost everything else I would take my chance on 'fine.' Son, your phrase means 'a fine girl.' "

Donald looked down at the flower in his buttonhole, and then he looked straight at his father.

"And only the Lord knows, Dad," he said soberly, "exactly how fine Linda-girl is."