List Of Contents | Contents of A Summer in a Canyon, by Kate Douglas Wiggin
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with kind approval upon these earnest young actors as they recited
the matchless old words, moving to and fro in the quaint setting of
trees and moonlight, with an orchestra of cooing doves and murmuring

The forest scenes were intended to be the features of the evening,
and in these the young people fairly surpassed themselves.  Any one
who had seen Neilson in her doublet and hose of silver-grey, Modjeska
in her shades of blue, and Ada Cavendish in her lovely suit of green,
might have thought Bell's patched-up dress a sorry mixture; yet these
three brilliant stars in the theatrical firmament might have envied
this little Rosalind the dewy youth and freshness that so triumphed
over all deficiencies of costume.

Margery's camping-dress of grey, shortened to the knee, served for
its basis.  Round the skirt and belt and sleeves were broad bands of
laurel-leaf trimming.  She wore a pair of Margery's long grey
stockings and Laura's dainty bronze Newport ties.  A soft grey chudda
shawl of Aunt Truth's was folded into a mantle to swing from the
shoulder, its fringes being caught up out of sight, and a laurel-leaf
trimming added.  On her bright wavy hair was perched a cunning flat
cap of leaves, and, as she entered with Polly, leaning on her
manzanita staff, and sighing, 'Oh Jupiter, how weary are my spirits!'
one could not wish a lovelier stage picture.

And so the play went on, with varying fortunes.  Margery was
frightened to death, and persisted in taking Touchstone's speeches
right out of his mouth, much to his discomfiture.  Adam's beard
refused to stay on; so did the moustache of the Banished Duke, and
the clothes of Sylvius.  But nothing could damp the dramatic fire of
the players, nor destroy the enthusiasm of the sympathetic audience.

Dicky sat in the dress-circle, wrapped in blankets, and laughed
himself nearly into convulsions over Touchstone's jokes, and the
stage business of the Banished Duke; for it is unnecessary to state
that Jack was not strictly Shakespearean in his treatment of the

As for Polly, she enjoyed being Celia with all her might, and
declared her intention of going immediately on the 'regular' stage;
but Jack somewhat destroyed her hopes by affirming that her nose and
hair wouldn't be just the thing on the metropolitan boards, although
they might pass muster in a backwoods theatre.

'Hello!  What's this?' exclaimed Philip, one morning.  'A visitor?
Yes--no!  Why, it's Senor Don Manuel Felipe Hilario Noriega coming up
the canyon!  He's got a loaded team, too!  I wonder if Uncle Doc is
expecting anything.'

The swarthy gentleman with the long name emerged from one cloud of
dust and disappeared in another, until he neared the gate where
Philip and Polly were standing.

Philip opened the gate, and received a bow of thanks which would have
made Manuel's reputation at a Spanish court.

'Going up to camp?'

'Si, senor.'

'Those things for us?'

'Si, senor.'

'What are they?'

'Si, senor.'

'Exactly!  Well, are there any letters?'

'Si, senor.'  Whereupon he drew one from his gorgeously-decorated
leather belt.

Philip reached for it, and Polly leaned over his shoulder, devoured
with curiosity.

'It's for Aunt Truth,' she said; 'and--yes, I am sure it is Mrs.
Howard's writing; and if it is--'

Hereupon, as Manuel spoke no English, and neither Philip nor Polly
could make inquiries in Spanish, Polly darted to the cart in her
usual meteoric style, put one foot on the hub of a wheel and climbed
to the top like a squirrel, snatched off a corner of the canvas
cover, and cried triumphantly, 'I knew it!  Elsie is coming!  Here's
a tent, and some mattresses and pillows.  Hurry!  Help me down,
quick!  Oh, slow-coach!  Keep out of the way and I'll jump!  Give me
the letter.  I can run faster than you can.'  And before the vestige
of an idea had penetrated Philip's head, nothing could be seen of
Polly but a pair of twinkling heels and the gleam of a curly head
that caught every ray of the sun and turned it into ruddier gold.

It was a dusty, rocky path, and up-hill at that; but Polly, who was
nothing if not ardent, never slackened her pace, but dashed along
until she came in sight of the camp, where she expended her last
breath in one shrill shriek for Aunt Truth.

It was responded to promptly.  Indeed, it was the sort of shriek that
always commands instantaneous attention; and Aunt Truth came out of
her tent prepared to receive tragic news.  Bell followed; and the
entire family would have done the same had they been in camp.

Polly thrust the letter into Mrs. Winship's hand, and sank down
exhausted, exclaiming, breathlessly, 'There's a mattress--and a tent-
-coming up the canyon.  It's Elsie's, I know.  Philip is down at the
gate--with the cart--but I came ahead.  Phew! but it's warm!'

'What!' cried Bell, joyfully.  'Elsie at the gate!  It can't be
true!'  And she darted like an arrow through the trees.

'Come back! come back!' screamed Polly.

'Elsie is not at the gate.  Don S. D. M. F. H. N. is there with a
team loaded down with things.  Isn't it from Mrs. Howard, Aunt

'Yes, it is.  Written this morning from Tacitas Rancho.  Why, how is
this?  Let me see!'

TACITAS RANCHO, Monday morning.

Dear Truth,--You will be surprised to receive a letter from me,
written from Tacitas.  But here we are, Elsie and I; and, what is
better, we are on our way to you.

('I knew it!' exclaimed the girls.)

Elsie has been growing steadily better for three weeks.  The fever
seems to have disappeared entirely, and the troublesome cough is so
much lessened that she sleeps all night without waking.  The doctor
says that the camp-life will be the very best thing for her now, and
will probably complete her recovery.

('Oh, joy, joy!' cried the girls.)

I need not say how gladly we followed this special prescription of
our kind doctor's, nor add that we started at once.

('Oh, Aunt Truth, there is nobody within a mile of the camp; can't I,
PLEASE can't I turn one little hand-spring, just one little lady-like
one?' pleaded Polly, dancing on one foot and chewing her sun-bonnet

'No, dear, you can't!  Keep quiet and let me read.')

Elsie would not let me tell you our plans any sooner, lest the old
story of a sudden ill turn would keep us at home; and I think very
likely that she longed to give the dear boys and girls a surprise.

We arrived at the Burtons' yesterday.  Elsie bore the journey
exceedingly well, but I would not take any risks, and so we shall not
drive over until day after to-morrow morning.

('You needn't have hurried quite so fast, Polly dear.')

I venture to send the tent and its belongings ahead to-day, so that
Jack may get everything to rights before we arrive.

The mattress is just the size the girls ordered; and of course I've
told Elsie nothing about the proposed furnishing of her tent.

I am bringing my little China boy with me, for I happen to think
that, with the Burtons, we shall be fourteen at table.  Gin is not
quite a success as a cook, but he can at least wash dishes, wait at
table, and help Hop Yet in various ways; while I shall be only too
glad to share all your housekeeping cares, if you have not escaped
them even in the wilderness.

I shall be so glad to see you again; and oh, Truth, I am so happy, so
happy, that, please God, I can keep my child after all!  The weary
burden of dread is lifted off my heart, and I feel young again.  Just
think of it!  My Elsie will be well and strong once more!  It seems
too good to be true.

Always your attached friend,

Mrs. Winship's voice quivered as she read the last few words, and
Polly and Bell threw themselves into each other's arms and cried for
sheer gladness.

'Come, come, dears!  I suppose you will make grand preparations, and
there is no time to lose.  One of you must find somebody to help
Philip unload the team.  Papa and the boys have gone fishing, and
Laura and Margery went with them, I think.'  And Mrs. Winship bustled
about, literally on hospitable thoughts in-tent.

Polly tied on her sun-bonnet with determination, turned up her
sleeves as if washing were the thing to be done, and placed her arms

'First and foremost,' said she, her eyes sparkling with excitement,
'first and foremost, I am going to blow the horn.'

'Certainly not,' said Aunt Truth.  'Are you crazy, Polly?  It is
scarcely ten o'clock, and everybody would think it was dinnertime,
and come home at once.'

'No, they'd think something had happened to Dicky,' said Bell, 'and
that would bring them in still sooner.'

'Of course!  I forgot.  But can't I blow it earlier than usual?
Can't I blow it at half-past eleven instead of twelve?  We can't do a
thing without the boys, and they may not come home until midnight
unless we do something desperate.  Oh, delight!  There's Don S. D. M.
F. H. N., and Phil has found Pancho to help unload.'

'Isn't it lucky that we decided on the place for Elsie's tent, and
saved it in case she should ever come?' said Bell.  'Now Philip and
Pancho can set it up whenever they choose.  And isn't it fortunate
that we three stayed at home to-day, and refused to fish? now we can
plan everything, and then all work together when they come back.'

Meanwhile Polly was tugging at an immense bundle, literally tooth and
nail, as she alternated trembling clutches of the fingers with
frantic bites at the offending knot.

Like many of her performances, the physical strength expended was out
of all proportion to the result produced, and one stroke of Philip's
knife accomplished more than all her ill-directed effort.  At length
the bundle of awning cloth stood revealed.  'Oh, isn't it beautiful?'
she cried, 'it will be the very prettiest tent in camp; can't I blow
the horn?'

'Look, mamma,' exclaimed Bell, 'it is green and grey, in those pretty
broken stripes, and the edge is cut in lovely scollops and bound with
green braid.  Won't it look pretty among the trees?'

Aunt Truth came out to join the admiring group.

'O-o-o-h!' screamed Polly.  'There comes a piece of the floor.
They've sent it all made, in three pieces.  What fun!  We'll have it
all up and ready to sleep in before we blow the horn!'

'And here's a roll of straw matting,' said Phil, depositing a huge
bundle on the ground near the girls.  'I'll cut the rope to save your

'Green and white plaid!' exclaimed Bell.  'Well!  Mrs. Howard did
have her wits about her!'

'Oh, do let me blow the horn!' teased the irrepressible Polly.

'Here are a looking-glass and a towel-rack and a Shaker rocking-
chair,' called Philip; 'guess they're going to stay the rest of the

'Yes, of course they wouldn't want a looking-glass if they were only
going to stay a month or two,' laughed Bell.

'Dear Aunt Truth, if you won't let me turn a single decorous little
hand-spring, or blow the horn, or do anything nice, will you let us
use all that new white mosquito-netting?  Bell says that it has been
in the storehouse for two years, and it would be just the thing for
decorating Elsie's tent.'

'Why, of course you may have it, Polly, and anything else that you
can find.  There!  I hear Dicky's voice in the distance; perhaps the
girls are coming.'

Bell and Polly darted through the swarm of tents, and looked up the
narrow path that led to the brook.

Sure enough, Margery and Laura were strolling towards home with
little Anne and Dick dangling behind, after the manner of children.
Margery carried a small string of trout, and Dick the inevitable tin
pail in which he always kept an unfortunate frog or two.  The girls
had discovered that he was in the habit of crowding the cover tightly
over the pail and keeping his victims shut up for twenty-four hours,
after which, he said, they were nice and tame--so very tame, as it
transpired, that they generally gave up the ghost in a few hours
after their release.  Margery had with difficulty persuaded him of
his cruelty, and the cover had been pierced with a certain number of

'Guess the loveliest thing that could possibly happen!' called Bell
at the top of her voice.

'Elsie has come,' answered Margery in a second, nobody knew why; 'let
me hug her this minute!'

'With those fish?' laughed Polly.  'No! you'll have to wait until day
after to-morrow, and then your guess will be right.  Isn't it almost
too good to be true?'

'And she is almost well,' added Bell, joyfully, slipping her arm
through Margery's and squeezing it in sheer delight.  'Mrs. Howard
says she is really and truly better.  Oh, if Elsie Howard in bed is
the loveliest, dearest thing in the world, what will it be like to
have her out of it and with us in all our good times!'

'Has she always been ill since you knew her?' asked Laura.

'Yes; a terrible cold left her with weakness of the lungs, and the
doctors feared consumption, but thought that she might possibly
outgrow it entirely if she lived in a milder climate; so Mrs. Howard
left home and everybody she cared for, and brought Elsie to Santa
Barbara.  Papa has taken an interest in her from the first, and as
far as we girls are concerned, it was love at first sight.  You never
knew anybody like Elsie!'

'Is she pretty?'

'Pretty!' cried Polly, 'she is like an angel in a picture-book!'


'Interesting!' said Bell, in a tone that showed the word to be too
feeble for the subject; 'Elsie is more interesting than all the other
girls in the other world put together!'


'Popular!' exclaimed Margery, taking her turn in the oral
examination, 'I don't know whether anybody can be popular who is
always in bed; but if it's popular to be adored by every man, woman,
child, and animal that comes anywhere near her, why then Elsie is

'And is she a favourite with boys as well as girls?'

'Favourite!' said Bell.  'Why, they think that she is simply perfect!
Of course she has scarcely been able to sit up a week at a time for a
year, and naturally she has not seen many people; but, if you want a
boy's opinion, just ask Philip or Geoffrey.  I assure you, Laura,
after you have known Elsie a while, and have seen the impression she
makes upon everybody, you will want to go to bed and see if you can
do likewise.'

'It isn't just the going to bed,' remarked Margery, sagely.

'And it isn't the prettiness either,' added Polly; 'though if you saw
Elsie asleep, a flower in one hand, the other under her cheek, her
hair straying over the pillow (O for hair that would stray
anywhere!), you would expect every moment to see a halo above her

'I don't believe it is because she is good that everybody admires her
so,' said Laura, 'I don't think goodness in itself is always so very
interesting; if Elsie had freckles and a snub nose'--('Don't mind
me!' murmured Polly)--'you would find that people would say less
about her wonderful character.'

'There are things that puzzle me,' said Polly, thoughtfully.  'It
seems to me that if I could contrive to be ever so good, nobody ever
would look for a halo round my head.  Now, is it my turned-up nose

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