List Of Contents | Contents of A Summer in a Canyon, by Kate Douglas Wiggin
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by Kate Douglas Wiggin

SCENE:  A Camping Ground in the Canyon Las Flores.


DR. PAUL WINSHIP            Mine Host
MRS. TRUTH WINSHIP          The Guardian Angel
DICKY WINSHIP               A Small Scamp of Six Years
BELL WINSHIP                The Camp Poetess
POLLY OLIVER                A Sweet but Saucy Lass
MARGERY NOBLE               A Nut-Brown Mayde
PHILIP NOBLE                The Useful Member
GEOFFREY STRONG             A Harvard Boy
JACK HOWARD                 Prince of Mischief
HOP YET                     A Heathen Chinee.
PANCHO GUTIERREZ            A Mexican man-of-all-work.


'One to make ready, and two to prepare.'

It was nine o'clock one sunny California morning, and Geoffrey Strong
stood under the live-oak trees in Las Flores Canyon, with a pot of
black paint in one hand and a huge brush in the other.  He could have
handled these implements to better purpose and with better grace had
not his arms been firmly held by three laughing girls, who pulled not
wisely, but too well.  He was further incommoded by the presence of a
small urchin who lay on the dusty ground beneath his feet, fastening
an upward clutch on the legs of his trousers.

There were three large canvas tents directly in front of them, yet no
one of these seemed to be the object of dissension, but rather a
redwood board, some three feet in length, which was nailed on a tree
near by.

'Camp Frolic!  Please let us name it Camp Frolic!' cried Bell
Winship, with a persuasive twitch of her cousin's sleeve.

'No, no; not Camp Frolic,' pleaded Polly Oliver.  'Pray, pray let us
have Camp Ha-Ha; my heart is set upon it.'

'As you are Strong, be merciful,' quoted Margery Noble, coaxingly;
'take my advice and call it Harmony Camp.'

At this juncture, a lovely woman, whose sweet face and smile made you
love her at once, came up the hill from the brookside.  'What, what!
still quarrelling, children?' she asked, laughingly.  'Let me be
peacemaker.  I've just asked the Doctor for a name, and he suggests
Camp Chaparral.  What do you say?'

Bell released one coat-tail.  'That isn't wholly bad,' she said,
critically, while the other girls clapped their hands with approval;
for anything that Aunt Truth suggested was sure to be quite right.

'Wait a minute, good people,' cried Jack Howard, flinging his
fishing-tackle under a tree and sauntering toward the scene of
action.  'Suppose we have a referee, a wise and noble judge.  Call
Hop Yet, and let him decide this all-important subject.'

His name being sung and shouted in various keys by the assembled
company, Hop Yet appeared at the door of the brush kitchen, a broad
grin on his countenance, a plucked fowl in his hand.

Geoffrey took the floor.  'Now, Hop Yet, you know I got name, you got
name, everybody got name.  We want name this camp:  you sabe?  Miss
Bell, she say Camp Frolic.  Frolic all same heap good time' (here he
executed a sort of war-dance which was intended to express wild joy).
'Miss Pauline, she say Camp Ha-Ha, big laugh:  sabe?  Ha! ha! ha! ha!
ha! ha!' (chorus joined in by all to fully illustrate the subject).
'Miss Madge, she say Camp Harmony.  Harmony all same heap quiet time,
plenty eat, plenty drink, plenty sleep, no fight, no too muchee talk.
Mrs. Winship, she say Camp Chaparral:  you sabe?  Chaparral, Hop Yet.
Now what you say?'

Hop Yet seemed to regard the question with mingled embarrassment and
amusement, but being a sharp and talkative Chinaman gave his answer
promptly:  'Me say Camp Chap-lal heap good name; plenty chap-lal all
lound; me hang um dish-cloth, tow'l, little boy's stockin', on chap-
lal; all same clo'se-line velly good.  Miss Bell she folic, Miss
Polly she ha! ha! allee same Camp Chap-lal.'

And so Camp Chaparral it was; the redwood board flaunted the
assertion before the eyes of the public (which was a rather limited
one, to be sure) in less than half an hour, and the artist, after
painting the words in rustic letters a foot long, cut branches of the
stiff, ungracious bushes and nailed them to the tree in confirmation
and illustration of the fact.  He then carefully deposited the paint-
pot in a secret place, where it might be out of sight and touch of a
certain searching eye and mischievous hand well known and feared of
him; but before the setting sun had dropped below the line of purple
mountain tops, a small boy, who will be known in these annals as
Dicky Winship, might have been seen sitting on the empty paint-pot,
while from a dingy pool upon the ground he was attempting to paint a
copy of the aforesaid inscription upon the side of a too patient
goat, who saw no harm in the operation.  He was alone, and very, very

And now I must tell you the way in which all this began.  You may not
realise it, dear young folks, but this method of telling a story is
very much the fashion with grown-up people, and of course I am not to
blame, since I didn't begin it.

The plan is this:  You must first write a chapter showing all your
people, men, women, children, dogs, and cats, in a certain place,
doing certain things.  Then you must go back a year or two and
explain how they all happen to be there.  Perhaps you may have to
drag your readers twenty-five years into the regions of the past, and
show them the first tooth of your oldest character; but that doesn't
matter a bit,--the further the better.  Then, when everybody has
forgotten what came to pass in the first chapter, you are ready to
take it up again, as if there had never been any parenthesis.
However, I shall not introduce you to the cradles, cribs, or trundle-
beds of my merry young campers, but merely ask you to retrace your
steps one week, and look upon them in their homes.

On one of the pleasantest streets of a certain little California town
stood, and still stands for aught I know, a pretty brown cottage,
with its verandahs covered with passion-vine and a brilliant rose-
garden in front.  It is picturesque enough to attract the attention
of any passer-by, and if you had chosen to peep through the crevices
in the thick vines and look in at the open window, you might have
thought it lovelier within than without.

It was a bright day, and the gracious June sunshine flooded the room
with yellow light.  Three young girls, perhaps fourteen or fifteen
years old, were seated in different parts of the large room, plying
industrious crochet needles and tatting shuttles.  Three pairs of
bright eyes were dancing with fun and gladness; and another pair, the
softest and clearest of all, looked out from a broad white bed in the
corner,--tired eyes, and oh, so patient, for the health-giving
breezes wafted in from the blue ocean and carried over mountain tops
and vine-covered slopes had so far failed to bring back Elsie
Howard's strength and vigour.

The graceful, brown-haired girl with the bright, laughter-loving
face, was Bell Winship.  She of the dancing blue eyes, pink cheeks,
and reckless little sun-bonnet was Pauline, otherwise Polly Oliver.
Did you ever know a Polly without some one of these things?  Well, my
Polly had them all, and, besides, a saucy freckled nose, a crown of
fluffy, reddish-yellow hair, and a shower of coaxing little pitfalls
called dimples round her pretty mouth.  She made you think of a
sunbeam, a morning songbird, a dancing butterfly, or an impetuous
little crocus just out after the first spring shower.  Dislike her?
You couldn't.  Approve of her?  You wouldn't always.  Love her?  Of
course; you couldn't help yourself,--I defy you.

To be sure, if you prefer a quiet life, and do not want to be led
into exploits of all kinds, invariably beginning with risk, attended
with danger, and culminating in despair, you had better not engage in
an intimate friendship with Miss Pauline Oliver, but fix your
affections on the quiet, thoughtful, but not less lovable girl who
sits by the bedside stroking Elsie Howard's thin white hand.
Nevertheless, I am obliged to state that Margery Noble herself,
earnest, demure, and given to reflection, was Polly's willing slave
and victim.  However, I've forgotten to tell you that Polly was as
open and frank as the daylight, at once torrid and constant in her
affections, brave, self-forgetting as well as self-willed; and that
though she did have a tongue just the least bit saucy, she used it
valiantly in the defence of others.  'She'll come out all right,'
said a dear old-fashioned grandfather of hers whom she had left way
back in a Vermont farmhouse.  'She's got to be purged o' considerable
dross, but she'll come out pure gold, I tell you.'

Pretty, wise, tender Margery Noble, with her sleek brown braids, her
innocent, questioning eyes, her soft voice, willing hands, and shy,
quiet manners!  'She will either end as the matron of an orphan
asylum or as head-nurse in a hospital.'  So Bell Winship often used
to say; but then she was chiefly celebrated for talking nonsense, and
nobody ever paid much attention to her.  But if you should crave a
breath of fresh air, or want to believe that the spring has come,
just call Bell Winship in, as she walks with her breezy step down the
street.  Her very hair seems instinct with life, with its flying
tendrils of bronze brightness and the riotous little curls on her
brow and temples.  Then, too, she has a particularly jaunty way of
putting on her jacket, or wearing a flower or a ribbon; and as for
her ringing peal of laughter, it is like a chime of silver bells.

Elsie Howard, the invalid friend of the girls, was as dear to them as
they were to each other.  She kept the secrets of the 'firm'; mourned
over their griefs and smiled over their joys; was proud of their
talents and tenderly blind to their faults.  The little wicker
rocking-chair by the bedside was often made a sort of confessional,
at which she presided, the tenderest and most sympathetic little
priestess in the universe; and every afternoon the piazza, with its
lattice of green vines, served as a mimic throne-room, where she was
wont to hold high court, surrounded by her devoted subjects.  Here
Geoffrey Strong used often to read to the assembled company David
Copperfield, Alice in Wonderland, or snatches from the magazines,
while Jack Howard lazily stretched himself under the orange-trees and
braided lariats, a favourite occupation with California boys.  About
four o'clock Philip Noble would ride up from his father's fruit
ranch, some three miles out on the San Marcos road, and, hitching his
little sorrel mare Chispa at the gate, stay an hour before going to
the post-office.

This particular afternoon, however, was not one of Elsie's bright
ones, and there was no sign of court or invalid queen on the piazza.
The voices of the girls floated out from Elsie's bedroom, while the
boys, too, seemed to be somewhere in the vicinity, for there was a
constant stirring about as of lively preparation, together with noise
of hammering and sawing.

'If you were only going, Elsie, our cup of happiness would be full,'
sighed Bell.

'Not only would it be full, Bell, but it would be running over, and
we should positively stand in the slop,' said Polly.  'No, you
needn't frown at me, miss; that expression is borrowed from no less a
person than Sydney Smith.'

'Don't think any more about me,' smiled Elsie.  'Perhaps I can come
down in the course of the summer.  I know it will be the happiest
time in the world, but I don't envy you a bit; in fact, I'm very glad
you're going, because you'll have such a lovely budget of adventures
to tell me when you come back.'

'When we come back, indeed!' exclaimed Bell.  'Why, we shall write
long round-robin letters every few days, and send them by the team.
Papa says Pancho will have to go over to the stage station at least
once a week for letters and any provisions we may need.'

'Oh, won't that be delightful,--almost as good as being there myself!
And, Margery dear, you must make them tell me every least little
thing that happens.  You know they are such fly-aways that they'll
only write me when they learn to swim, or shoot a wildcat, or get
lost in the woods.  I want to know all the stupid bits:  what you
have for dinner, how and where you sleep, how your camp looks, what
you do from morning till night, and how Dicky behaves.'

'I can tell you that beforehand,' said Bell, dolefully.  'Jack will
shoot him by mistake on Thursday; he will be kicked by the horses
Friday, and bitten by tarantulas and rattlesnakes Saturday; he will
eat poison oak on Sunday, get lost in the canyon Monday, be eaten by
a bear Tuesday, and drowned in the pool Wednesday.  These incidents
will complete his first week; and if they produce no effect on his
naturally strong constitution, he will treat us to another week,
containing just as many mishaps, but no duplicates.'

By the time this dismal prophecy was ended the other girls were in a
breathless fit of laughter, though all acknowledged it was likely to
be fulfilled.

'I went over the camping-ground last summer,' said Margery.  'You
know it is quite near papa's sheep ranch, and it is certainly the
most beautiful place in California.  The tents will be pitched at the
mouth of the canyon, where there is a view of the ocean, and just at
the back will be a lovely grove of wild oaks and sycamore-trees.'

'Oh, won't it be delicious!' sighed Elsie.  'I feel as if I could
sniff the air this minute.  But there!  I won't pretend that I'm
dying for fresh air, with the breath of the sea coming in at my south
window, and a whiff of jasmine and honeysuckle from the piazza.  That
would be nonsense.  Are your trunks packed?'

'Trunks!' exclaimed Polly.  'Would you believe it, our clothes are
packed in gunny-sacks!  We start in our camping-dresses, with ulsters
for the steamer and dusters for the long drive.  Then we each have--
let me see what we have:  a short, tough riding-skirt with a jersey,
a bathing-dress, and some gingham morning-gowns to wear about the
camp at breakfast-time.'

'And flannel gowns for the night, and two pairs of boots, and a
riding-cap and one hat apiece,' added Margery.

'But oh, Elsie, my dear, you should see Dicky in his camping-suits,'
laughed Bell.  'They are a triumph of invention on mamma's part.
Just imagine! one is of some enamelled cloth that was left over from
the new carriage cushions; it is very shiny and elegant; and the
other, truly, is of soft tanned leather, and just as pretty as it can
be.  Then he has hob-nailed, copper-toed boots, and a hat that ties
under his chin.  Poor little man, he has lost his curls, too, and
looks rather like a convict.'

Mrs. Howard came in the door while Bell was speaking, and laughed
heartily at the description of Dicky's curious outfit.  'What time do
you start?' she asked, as she laid a bunch of mignonette on Elsie's

'At eleven to-morrow morning,' Bell answered.  'Everything is packed.
We are to start in the steamer, and when we come to our old landing,
about forty miles down the coast, we are to get off and take a three-

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