Chapter IV. Linda Starts a Revolution
 

The last glimpse Marian Thorne had of Linda was as she stood alone, waving her hand, her cheeks flushed, her eyes shining, her final word cheery and encouraging. Marian smiled and waved in return until the train bore her away. Then she sat down wearily and stared unseeingly from a window. Life did such very dreadful things to people. Her girlhood had been so happy. Then came the day of the Black Shadow, but in her blackest hour she had not felt alone. She had supposed she was leaning on John Gilman as securely as she had leaned on her father. She had learned, with the loss of her father, that one cannot be sure of anything in this world least of all of human life. Yet in her darkest days she had depended on John Gilman. She had every reason to believe that it was for her that he struggled daily to gain a footing in his chosen profession. When success came, when there was no reason that Marian could see why they might not have begun life together, there had come a subtle change in John, and that change had developed so rapidly that in a few weeks' time, she was forced to admit that the companionship and loving attentions that once had been all hers were now all Eileen's.

She sat in the train, steadily carrying her mile after mile farther from her home, and tried to think what had happened and how and why it had happened. She could not feel that she had been wrong in her estimate of John Gilman. Her valuation of him had

been taught her by her father and mother and by Doctor and Mrs. Strong and by John Gilman himself. Dating from the time that Doctor Strong had purchased the property and built a home in Lilac Valley beside Hawthorne House, Marian had admired Eileen and had loved her. She was several years older than the beautiful girl she had grown up beside. Age had not mattered; Eileen's beauty had not mattered. Marian was good looking herself.

She always had known that Eileen had imposed upon her and was selfish with her, but Eileen's impositions were so skillfully maneuvered, her selfishness was so adorably taken for granted that Marian in retrospection felt that perhaps she was responsible for at least a small part of it. She never had been able to see the inner workings of Eileen's heart. She was not capable of understanding that when John Gilman was poor and struggling Eileen had ignored him. It had not occurred to Marian that when the success for which he struggled began to come generously, Eileen would begin to covet the man she had previously disdained. She had always striven to find friends among people of wealth and distinction. How was Marian to know that when John began to achieve wealth and distinction, Eileen would covet him also?

Marian could not know that Eileen had studied her harder than she ever studied any book, that she had deliberately set herself to make the most of every defect or idiosyncrasy in Marian, at the same time offering herself as a charming substitute. Marian was prepared to be the mental, the spiritual, and the physical mate of a man.

Eileen was not prepared to be in truth and honor any of these. She was prepared to make any emergency of life subservient to her own selfish desires. She was prepared to use any man with whom she came in contact for the furtherance of any whim that at the hour possessed her. What she wanted was unbridled personal liberty, unlimited financial resources.

Marian, almost numbed with physical fatigue and weeks of mental strain, came repeatedly against the dead wall of ignorance when she tried to fathom the change that had taken place between herself and John Gilman and between herself and Eileen. Daniel Thorne was an older man than Doctor Strong. He had accumulated more property. Marian had sufficient means at her command to make it unnecessary for her to acquire a profession or work for her living, but she had always been interested in and loved to plan houses and help her friends with buildings they were erecting. When the silence and the loneliness of her empty home enveloped her, she had begun, at first as a distraction, to work on the drawings for a home that an architect had made for one of her neighbors. She had been able to suggest so many comforts and conveniences, and so to revise these plans that, at first in a desultory way, later in real earnest, she had begun to draw plans for houses. Then, being of methodical habit and mathematical mind, she began scaling up the plans and figuring on the cost of building, and so she had worked until she felt that she was evolving homes that could be built for the same amount of money and lived in with more comfort and convenience than the homes that many of her friends were having planned for them by architects of the city.

To one spot in the valley she had gone from childhood as a secret place in which to dream and study. She had loved that retreat until it had become a living passion with her. The more John Gilman neglected her, the more she concentrated upon her plans, and when the hour came in which she realized what she had lost and what Eileen had won, she reached the decision to sell her home, go to the city, and study until she knew whether she really could succeed at her chosen profession.

Then she would come back to the valley, buy the spot she coveted, build the house of which she dreamed, and in it she would spend the remainder of her life making homes for the women who knew how to hold the love of men. When she reached the city she had decided that if one could not have the best in life, one must be content with the next best, and for her the next best would be homes for other people, since she might not materialize the home she had dreamed for John Gilman and herself. She had not wanted to leave the valley. She had not wanted to lose John Gilman. She had not wanted to part with the home she had been reared in. Yet all of these things seemed to have been forced upon her. All Marian knew to do was to square her shoulders, take a deep breath, put regrets behind her, and move steadily toward the best future she could devise for herself.

She carried letters of introduction to the San Francisco architects, Nicholson and Snow, who had offered a prize for the best house that could be built in a reasonable time for fifteen thousand dollars. She meant to offer her plans in this competition. Through friends she had secured a comfortable place in which to live and work. She need undergo no hardships in searching for a home, in clothing herself, in paying for instruction in the course in architecture she meant to pursue.

Concerning Linda she could not resist a feeling of exultation. Linda was one of the friends in Lilac Valley about whom Marian could think wholeheartedly and lovingly. Sometimes she had been on the point of making a suggestion to Linda, and then she had contented herself with waiting in the thought that very soon there must come to the girl a proper sense of her position and her rights. The experience of the previous night taught Marian that Linda had arrived. She would no longer be the compliant little sister who would run Eileen's errands, wait upon her guests and wear disreputable clothing. When Linda reached a point where she was capable of the performance of the previous night, Marian knew that she would proceed to live up to her blue china in every ramification of life. She did not know exactly how Linda would follow up the assertion of her rights that she had made, but she did know that in some way she would follow it up, because Linda was a very close reproduction of her father.

She had been almost constantly with him during his life, very much alone since his death. She was a busy young person. From Marian's windows she had watched the business of carrying on the wild-flower garden that Linda and her father had begun. What the occupation was that kept the light burning in Linda's room far into the night Marian did not know. For a long time she had supposed that her studies were difficult for her, and when she had asked Linda if it were not possible for her to prepare her lessons without so many hours of midnight study she had caught the stare of frank amazement with which the girl regarded her and in that surprised, almost grieved look she had realized that very probably a daughter of Alexander Strong, who resembled him as Linda resembled him, would not be compelled to overwork to master the prescribed course of any city high school. What Linda was doing during those midnight hours Marian did not know, but she did know that she was not wrestling with mathematics and languages--at least not all of the time. So Marian knowing Linda's gift with a pencil, had come to the conclusion that she was drawing pictures; but circumstantial evidence was all she had as a basis for her conviction. Linda went her way silently and alone. She was acquainted with everyone living in Lilac Valley, frank and friendly with all of them; aside from Marian she had no intimate friend. Not another girl in the valley cared to follow Linda's pursuits or to cultivate the acquaintance of the breeched, booted girl, constantly devoting herself to outdoor study with her father during his lifetime, afterward alone.

For an instant after Marian had boarded her train Linda stood looking at it, her heart so heavy that it pained acutely. She had not said one word to make Marian feel that she did not want her to go. Not once had she put forward the argument that Marian's going would leave her to depend entirely for human sympathy upon the cook, and her guardian, also administrator of the Strong estate, John Gilman. So long as he was Marian's friend Linda had admired John Gilman. She had gone to him for some measure of the companionship she had missed in losing her father. Since Gilman had allowed himself to be captivated by Eileen, Linda had harbored a feeling concerning him almost of contempt. Linda was so familiar with every move that Eileen made, so thoroughly understood that there was a motive back of her every action, that she could not see why John Gilman, having known her from childhood, should not understand her also.

She had decided that the time had come when she would force Eileen to give her an allowance, however small, for her own personal expenses, that she must in some way manage to be clothed so that she was not a matter of comment even among the boys of her school, and she could see no reason why the absolute personal liberty she always had enjoyed so long as she disappeared when Eileen did not want her and appeared when she did, should not extend to her own convenience as well as Eileen's.

Life was a busy affair for Linda. She had not time to watch Marian's train from sight. She must hurry to the nearest street car and make all possible haste or she would be late for her classes. Throughout the day she worked with the deepest concentration, but she could not keep down the knowledge that Eileen would have things to say, possibly things to do, when they met that evening, for Eileen was capable of disconcerting hysteria. Previously Linda had remained stubbornly silent during any tirade in which Eileen chose to indulge. She had allowed herself to be nagged into doing many things that she despised, because she would not assert herself against apparent injustice. But since she had come fully to realize the results of Eileen's course of action for Marian and for herself, she was deliberately arriving at the conclusion that hereafter she would speak when she had a defense, and she would make it her business to let the sun shine on any dark spot that she discovered in Eileen.

Linda knew that if John Gilman were well acquainted with Eileen, he could not come any nearer to loving her than she did. Such an idea as loving Eileen never had entered Linda's thoughts. To Linda, Eileen was not lovable. That she should be expected to love her because they had the same parents and lived in the same home seemed absurd. She was slightly disappointed, on reaching home, to find that Eileen was not there.

"Will the lady of the house dine with us this evening? she asked as she stood eating an apple in the kitchen.

"She didn't say," answered Katy. "Have ye had it out about last night yet?"

"No," answered Linda. "That is why I was asking about her. I want to clear the atmosphere before I make my new start in life."

"Now, don't ye be going too far, lambie," cautioned Katy "Ye young things make such an awful serious business of life these days. In your scramble to wring artificial joy out of it you miss all the natural joy the good God provided ye."

"It seems to me, Katy," said Linda slowly, "that you should put that statement the other way round. It seems that life makes a mighty serious business for us young things, and it seems to me that if we don't get the right start and have a proper foundation life Is going to be spoiled for us. One life is all I've got to live in this world, and I would like it to be the interesting and the beautiful kind of life that Father lived."

Linda dropped to a chair.

"Katy," she said, leaning forward and looking intently into the earnest face of the woman before her, "Katy, I have been thinking an awful lot lately. There is a question you could answer for me if you wanted to."

"Well, I don't see any raison," said Katy, "why I shouldn't answer ye any question ye'd be asking me."

Linda's eyes narrowed as they did habitually in deep thought She was looking past Katy down the sunlit spaces of the wild garden that was her dearest possession, and then her eyes strayed higher to where the blue walls that shut in Lilac Valley ranged their peaks against the sky. "Katy," she said, scarcely above her breath, "was Mother like Eileen?"

Katy stiffened. Her red face paled slightly. She turned her back and slowly slid into the oven the pie she was carrying. She closed the door with more force than was necessary and then turned and deliberately studied Linda from the top of her shining black head to the tip of her shoe.

"Some," she said tersely.

"Yes, I know 'some'," said Linda, "but you know I was too young to pay much attention, and Daddy managed always to make me so happy that I never realized until he was gone that he not only had been my father but my mother as well. You know what I mean, Katy."

"Yes," said Katy deliberately, "I know what ye mean, lambie, and I'll tell ye the truth as far as I know it. She managed your father, she pampered him, but she deceived him every day, just about little things. She always made the household accounts bigger than they were, and used the extra money for Miss Eileen and herself--things like that. I'm thinkin' he never knew it. I'm thinking he loved her deeply and trusted her complete. I know what ye're getting at. She was not enough like Eileen to make him unhappy with her. He might have been if he had known all there was to know, but for his own sake I was not the one to give her away, though she constantly made him think that I was extravagant and wasteful in me work."Linda's eyes came back from the mountains and met Katy's straightly.

"Katy," she said, "did you ever see sisters as different as Eileen and I are?"

"No, I don't think I ever did," said Katy.

"It puzzles me," said Linda slowly. "The more I think about it, the less I can understand why, if we are sisters, we would not accidentally resemble each other a tiny bit in some way, and I must say I can't see that we do physically or mentally."

"No," said Katy, "ye were just as different as ye are now when I came to this house new and ye were both little things."

"And we are going to be as different and to keep on growing more different every day of our lives, because red war breaks out the minute Eileen comes home. I haven't a notion what she will say to me for what I did last night and what I am going to do in the future, but I have a definite idea as to what I am going to say to her."

"Now, easy; ye go easy, lambie," cautioned Katy.

"I wouldn't regret it," said Linda, "if I took Eileen by the shoulders and shook her till I shook the rouge off her cheek, and the brilliantine off her hair, and a million mean little subterfuges out of her soul. You know Eileen is lovely when she is natural, and if she would be straight-off-the-bat square, I would be proud to be her sister. As it is, I have my doubts, even about this sister business."

"Why, Linda, child, ye are just plain crazy," said Katy. "What kind of notions are you getting into your head?"

"I hear the front door," said Linda, "and I am going to march straight to battle. She's going up the front stairs. I did mean to short-cut up the back, but, come to think of it, I have served my apprenticeship on the back stairs. I believe I'll ascend the front myself. Good-bye, darlin', wish me luck."

Linda swung Katy around, hugged her tight, and dropped a kiss on the top of her faithful head.

"Ye just stick right up for your rights," Katy advised her. "Ye're a great big girl. 'Tain't going to be long till ye're eighteen. But mind your old Katy about going too far. If ye lose your temper and cat-spit, it won't get ye anywhere. The fellow that keeps the coolest can always do the best headwork."

"I get you," said Linda, "and that is good advice for which I thank you."