List Of Contents | Contents of A Summer in a Canyon, by Kate Douglas Wiggin
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believe that, after Geoff's lovely story?'

'Certainly not; I only thought I'd permit you to hear both sides.  I
knew of course that you would believe the prettier story of the two--
girls always do!'

'That isn't a "pretty story"--your remark, I mean, so we won't
believe it; will we, girls?' asked Bell.

'Now, Polly, your eyes sparkle as if you couldn't wait another
minute; your turn next,' said Dr. Winship.

'I am only afraid that I can't remember my contribution, which is
really Bell's and still more really Pancho's, for he told it to us,
and Bell translated it and made it into a story.  We call it
"Valerio; or, The Mysterious Mountain Cave."'

'Begins well!' exclaimed Jack.

'Now, Jack, you must be nice.  Remember this is Bell's story, and she
is letting me tell it so that I can bear my share in the

'Pancho believes every word of it,' added Bell, 'and says that his
father told it to him; but as I had to change it from bad Spanish
into good English, I don't know whether I've caught the idea

'Oh, it will do quite nicely, I've no doubt,' said Jack,
encouragingly.  'We've often heard you do good English into bad
Spanish, and turn and turn about is only fair play.  Don't mind me,
Polly; I will be gentle!'

'Jack, if you don't behave yourself I'll send you to bed,' said
Elsie; and he ducked his head obediently into her lap, as Polly, with
her hands clasping her knees, and with the firelight dancing over her
bright face, leaned forward and told the Legend of


'A long time ago, before the settlement of Santa Barbara by the
whites, the Mission padres had a great many Indians under their
control, who were known as peons, or serfs.  They were given enough
to eat, were not molested by the outside Indians, and were entirely
peaceable.  There were so few mountain passes by which to enter Santa
Barbara that they were easily held, and of course the padres were
anxious to keep their Indians from running away, lest they should
show the wilder tribes the way to get in and commit depredations.
These peaceable Indians paid tribute to intermediary tribes to hold
the passes and do their fighting.  Those about the Mission gave corn
and cereals and hides and the products of the sea, and got in
exchange pinones (pine nuts).  One of these Indians, named Valerio,
was a strong, brave, handsome youth, whose haughty spirit revolted at
his servitude, and, after seeking an opportunity for many weeks he
finally escaped to the Santa Ynez mountains, where he found a cave in
which he hid himself, drawing himself up by a rope and taking it in
after him.  The Indians had unlimited belief in Valerio's mysterious
and wonderful powers.  Pancho says that he could make himself
invisible at will, that locks and keys were powerless against him;
and that no one could hinder his taking money, horses, or food.  All
sorts of things disappeared mysteriously by day and by night, and the
robberies were one and all laid to the door of Valerio.  But after a
while Valerio grew lonely in his mountain retreat.  He longed for
human companionship, and at length, becoming desperate, he descended
on the Mission settlement and kidnapped a young Indian boy named
Chito, took him to his cave, and admitted him into his wild and
lawless life.  But Chito was not contented.  He liked home and
comfortable slavery better than the new, strange life; so he seized
the first opportunity, and being a bright, daring little lad, and
fleet of foot, he escaped and made his way to the Mission.  Arriving
there he told wonderful stories of Valerio and his life; how his
marvellous white mare seemed to fly, rather than gallop, and leaped
from rock to rock like a chamois; and how they lived upon wheat-
bread, cheeses, wine, and other delicacies instead of the coarse fare
of the Indians.  He told them the location of the cave and described
the way thither; so the Alcalde (he was the mayor or judge, you know,
Elsie), got out the troops with their muskets, and the padres
gathered the Mission Indians with their bows and arrows, and they all
started in pursuit of the outlaw.  Among the troops were two
hechiceros (wizards or medicine-men), whose bowed shoulders and
grizzled beards showed them to be men of many years and much wisdom.
When asked to give their advice, they declared that Valerio could not
be killed by any ordinary weapons, but that special means must be
used to be of any avail against his supernatural powers.
Accordingly, one of the hechiceros broke off the head of his arrow,
cast a charm over it, and predicted that this would deal the fatal
blow.  The party started out with Chito as a guide, and, after many
miles of wearisome travel up rugged mountain sides and over steep and
almost impassable mountain trails, they paused at the base of a
cliff, and saw, far up the height, the mouth of Valerio's cave, and,
what was more, Valerio himself sitting in the doorway fast asleep.
Alas! he had been drinking too heavily of his stolen wine, or he
would never have so exposed himself to the enemy.  They fired a
volley at him.  One shot only took effect, and even this would not
have been possible save that the spell was not upon him because of
his sleep; but the one shot woke him and, half rising, he staggered
and fell from the mouth of the cave to a ledge of rocks beneath.  He
sprang to his feet in a second and ran like a deer towards a tree
where his white mare was fastened.  They fired another volley, but,
though the shots flew in every direction, Valerio passed on unharmed;
but just as he was disappearing from view the hechicero raised his
bow and the headless arrow whizzed through space and pierced him
through the heart.  They clambered up the cliffs with shouts of
triumph and surrounded him on every side, but poor Valerio had
surrendered to a more powerful enemy than they!  Wonderful to relate,
he still breathed, though the wound should have been instantly fatal.
They lifted him from the ground and tied him on his snow-white mare,
his long hair reaching almost to the ground, his handsome face as
pale as death, the blood trickling from his wound; but the mysterious
power that he possessed seemed to keep him alive in spite of his
suffering.  Finally one of the hechiceros decided that the spell lay
in the buckskin cord that he wore about his throat--a rough sort of
necklace hung with bears' claws and snake rattles--and that he never
would die until the magic cord was cut.  This, after some
consultation, was done.  Valerio drew his last breath as it parted
asunder, and they bore his dead body home in triumph to the Mission.

'But he is not forgotten.  Stories are still told of his wonderful
deeds, and people still go in search of money that he is supposed to
have hidden in his cave.  The Mexican women who tell suertes, or
fortunes, describe the location of the money; but, as soon as any one
reaches the cave, he is warned away by a little old man who stands in
the door and protects the buried treasure.  An Indian lad, who was
riding over the hills one day with his horse and his dogs, dismounted
to search for his moccasin, when he suddenly noticed that the dogs
had chased something into a cave in the rocks.  He followed, and,
peering into the darkness, saw two gleaming eyes.  He thrust his
knife between them, but struck the air; and, though he had been
standing directly in front of the opening, so that nothing could have
passed him, yet he heard the clatter of hoofs and the tinkle of
spurs, and, turning, saw a mysterious horseman, whose pale face and
streaming hair melted into the mountain mist, as it floated down from
the purple Santa Ynez peaks into the lap of the vine-covered foot-
hills below.'


'And still they watched the flickering of the blaze,
And talked together of the good old days.'

'Brava!'  'Bravissima!'  'Splendid, Polly!' exclaimed the boys.
'Bell, you're a great author!'

'Couldn't have done better myself--give you my word!' cried Jack,
bowing profoundly to Bell and Polly in turn, and presenting them with
bouquets of faded leaves hastily gathered from the ground.

'Polly covered herself with glory,' said the doctor; 'and I am very
proud of your part in it, too, my little daughter.  I have some
knowledge of Pancho's capabilities as a narrator, and I think the
"Story of Valerio" owes a good deal to you.  Now, who comes next?

'No, please,' said Margery, 'for I have another story.  Take one of
the boys, and let's have more facts.'

'Yes, something historic and profound, out of the encyclopaedia, from
Jack,' said Polly, saucily.

'Thanks, Miss Oliver.  With you for an audience any man might be
inspired; but--'

'But not a BOY?'

'Mother, dear, remove that child from my sight, or I shall certainly
shake her!  Phil, go on, just to keep Polly quiet.'

'Very well.  Being the oldest Californian present, I--'

'What about Dr. Paul?' asked the irrepressible Polly.

'He wasn't born here,' responded Philip, dryly, 'and I was.'

'I think that's a quibble,' interrupted Bell.  'Papa was here twenty
years before you were.'

'It's not my fault that he came first,' answered Philip.  'Margery
and I are not only the oldest Californians present, but the only
ones.  Isn't that so, sir?'

'Quite correct.'

'Oh, if you mean that way, I suppose you are; but still papa helped
frame the Constitution, and was here on the first Admission Day, and
was one of the Vigilantes--and I think that makes him more of a real
Californian than you.  You've just "grown up with the country."'

'Bless my soul!  What else could I do?  I would have been glad to
frame the Constitution, admit the State, and serve on the Vigilance
Committee, if they had only waited for me; but they went straight
ahead with the business, and when I was born there was nothing to do
but stand round and criticise what they had done, or, as you express
it, "grow up with the country."  Well, as I was saying when I was

'Beg pardon.'

'Don't mention it.  Uncle Doc has asked me to tell Mrs. Howard and
Elsie how they carried on the rodeos ten or fifteen years ago.  Of
course I was only a little chap'--('VERY little,' murmured his
sister)--'but never too small to stick on a horse, and my father used
often to take me along.  The rodeos nowadays are neither as great
occasions, nor as exciting ones, as they used to be; but this is the
way a rodeo is managed.  When the spring rains are mostly over, and
the grass is fine,--say in April--the ranchero of a certain ranch
sends word to all his neighbours that he will hold a rodeo on a
certain day or days.  Of course the cattle used to stray all over the
country, and get badly mixed, as there were no fences; so the rodeo
was held for the purpose of separating the cattle and branding the
calves that had never been marked.

'The owners of the various ranches assemble the night before,
bringing their vaqueros with them.  They start out very early in the
morning, having had a cup of coffee, and ride to the "rodeo-ground,"
which is any flat, convenient place where canyons converge.  Many of
the cattle on the hills round about know the place, having been there
before, and the vaqueros start after them and drive them to the

'How many vaqueros would there be?' asked Elsie.

'Oh, nine or ten, perhaps; and often from one thousand to three
thousand cattle--it depends on the number of ranches and cattle
represented.  Some of the vaqueros form a circle round the cattle
that they have driven to the rodeo-ground, and hold them there while
others go back to the ranch for breakfast and fresh horses.'

'Fresh horses so soon?' said Mrs. Howard.  'I thought the mustangs
were tough, hardy little beasts, that would go all day without

'Yes, so they are; but you always have to begin to "part out" the
cattle with the freshest and best-trained horses you have.  The
owners and their best vaqueros now go into the immense band of
cattle, and try to get the cows and the unbranded calves separated
from the rest.  You can imagine what skilful engineering this takes,
even though you never saw it.  Two work together; they start a
certain cow and calf and work them through the band of cattle until
they near the outside, and then "rush" them to a place three or four
hundred yards beyond, where other vaqueros are stationed to receive
and hold them.  Of course the cattle don't want to leave the band,
and of course they don't want to stay in the spot to which they are

'I don't blame them!' cried Bell impetuously.  'Probably the cows
remember the time when they were branded themselves, and they don't
want their dear little bossies put through the same operation.'

'Very likely.  Then more cows and calves are started in the same way;
the greatest difficulty being had with the first lot, for the cattle
always stay more contentedly together as the group grows larger.
Occasionally one "breaks" and runs off on the hills, and a vaquero
starts after him, throws the reata and lassos him, or "lass's" him,
as the California boys say.'

'There must be frightful accidents,' said Mrs. Winship.

'Yes; but not so many as you would suppose, for the horsemanship, in
its particular way, is something wonderful.  When an ugly steer is
lassoed and he feels the reata or lariat round his neck, he sometimes
turns and "makes" for the horse, and unless the vaquero is
particularly skilful he will be gored and his horse too; but he gives
a dexterous turn to the lariat, the animal steps over it, gets
tangled and thrown.  Frequently an animal breaks a horn or a leg.
Sometimes one fall is not enough; the steer jumps up and pursues the
horse.  Then the vaquero keeps a little ahead of him and leads him
back to the rodeo-ground, where another vaquero lassos him by the
hind legs and throws him, while the reata is taken off his neck.'

'There is another danger, too,' added Dr. Winship.  'The vaquero
winds the reata very tightly round the pommel of his saddle to hold
the steer, and he is likely to have his finger caught in the hair-
rope and cut off.'

'Yes, I forgot that.  Two or three of the famous old vaqueros about
Santa Barbara--Jose Maria, Jose Antonio, and old Clemente--have each
lost a finger.  Well, the vaqueros at length form in a circle round
the band of selected cattle.  The ranch owner who gives the rodeo
takes his own cattle that he has found--the ones bearing his brand,
you know--and drives them in with the ones to be branded, leaving in
the rodeo-ground the cattle bearing the brands of all the other
rancheros.  There has been much drinking of aguardiente (brandy) and
everybody by this time is pretty reckless.  Then they drive this
selected band to the home corral, the vaqueros yelling, the cattle
"calling," and the reatas whizzing and whistling through the air.  If
any unfortunate tries to escape his fate he is pursued, "lass'd," and
brought back.  By this time the cattle are pretty well heated and
angry, and when they get into the crowded corral they horn each other
and try to gore the horses.  A fire is then built in one corner of

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