meek as Moses. Now there's Margery, the dear, darling mouse! People look at her two sleek braids, every hair doing just what it ought to do and lying straight and smooth, and ask, "Who is that sweet girl?" There's something wrong somewhere. I ought not to suffer because of one small, simple, turned-up nose and a head of hair which reveals the glowing tints of autumn, as Jack gracefully says.' 'Here they come!' shouted Jack from the group on the Howards' piazza. 'Christopher Columbus, what gorgeousness! The Flamingo, the Dove, and the Blue-jay! Good-morning, young ladies; may we be allowed to travel in the same steamer with your highnesses?' 'You needn't be troubled,' laughed Bell. 'We shall not disclose these glories until we reach the camp. But you are dressed as usual. What's the matter?' 'Why, the fact is,' answered Geoffrey, 'our courage failed us at the last moment. We donned our uniforms, and looked like brigands, highway robbers, cowboys, firemen,--anything but modest young men; and as it was too warm for ulsters, we took refuge in civilised raiment for to-day. When we arrive, you shall behold our dashing sombreros fixed up with peacock feathers, and our refulgent shirts, which are of the most original style and decoration.' 'Aboriginal, in fact,' said Jack. 'We have broad belts of alligator skin, pouches, pistols, bowie-knives, and tan-coloured shoes; but we dislike to flaunt them before the eyes of a city public.' 'Here they are!' cried Geoffrey, from the gate. 'Uncle, and aunt, and Dicky, and--good gracious! Is he really going to take that wretched tan terrier?' 'Won't go without him,' said Bell, briefly. 'There are cases where it is better to submit than to fight.' So the last good-byes were said, and Elsie bore up bravely; better, indeed, than the others, who shed many a furtive tear at leaving her. 'Make haste and get well, darling,' whispered the girls, lovingly. 'Pray, pray, dear Mrs. Howard, bring her down to us as soon as possible. We'll take such good care of her,' teased Bell, with one last squeeze, and strong signs of a shower in both eyes. 'Come, girls and boys,' said kind Dr. Paul, 'the steamer has blown her first whistle, and we must be off.' Oh, how clear and beautiful a day it was, and how charmingly gracious Dame Ocean looked in her white caps and blue ruffles! Even the combination steamboat smell of dinner, oil, and close air was obliterated by the keen sea-breeze. The good ship Orizaba ploughed her way through the sparkling, sun-lit waves, traversing quickly the distance which lay between the young people and their destination. They watched the long white furrow that stretched in her wake, the cloud of black smoke which floated like a dark shadow above the laughing crests of the waves, and the flocks of sea-gulls sailing overhead, with wild shrill screams ever and anon swooping down for some bit of food flung from the ship, and then floating for miles on the waves. How they sung 'Life on the Ocean Wave,' 'Bounding Billow,' and 'Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep!' How Jack chanted, - 'I wish I were a fish, With a great long tail; A tiny little tittlebat, A wiggle or a whale, In the middle of the great blue sea. Oh, my!' 'Oh, how I long to be there!' exclaimed Philip, 'to throw aside all the formal customs of a wicked world I abhor, and live a free life under the blue sky!' 'Why, Philip Noble! I never saw you inside of a house in my life,' cried Polly. 'Oh, yes; you're mistaken. I've been obliged to eat most of my meals in the house, and sleep there; but I don't approve of it, and it's a trial to be borne with meekness only when there's no remedy for it.' 'Besides,' said Jack, 'even when we are out-of-doors we are shelling the reluctant almond, poisoning the voracious gopher, pruning grape- vines, and "sich." Now I am only going to shoot to eat, and eat to shoot!' 'Hope you've improved since last year, or you'll have a low diet,' murmured Phil, in an undertone. 'The man of genius must expect to be the butt of ridicule,' sighed Jack, meekly. 'But you'll not repine, although your heartstrings break, will you?' said Polly, sympathisingly; 'especially in the presence of several witnesses who have seen you handle a gun.' 'How glad I am that I'm too near-sighted to shoot,' said Geoffrey, taking off the eye-glasses that made him look so wise and dignified. 'I shall lounge under the trees, read Macaulay, and order the meals.' 'I shall need an assistant about the camp,' said Aunt Truth, smilingly; 'but I hardly think he'll have much time to lounge; when everything else fails, there's always Dicky, you know.' Geoffrey looked discouraged. 'And, furthermore, I declare by the nose of the great Tam o' Shanter that I will cut down every tree in the vicinity ere you shall lounge under it,' said Jack. 'Softly, my boy. Hill's blue-gum forest is not so very far away. You'll have your hands full,' laughed Dr. Paul. Here Margery and Bell joined the group after a quick walk up and down the deck. 'Papa,' said Bell, excitedly, 'we certainly are nearing the place. Do you see that bend in the shore, and don't you remember that the landing isn't far below?' 'Bell's bump of locality is immense. There are nineteen bends in the shore exactly like that one before we reach the landing. How many knots an hour do you suppose this ship travels, my fair cousin?' asked Geoffrey. 'I could tell better,' replied Bell calmly, 'if I could ever remember how many knots made a mile, or how many miles made a knot; but I always forget.' 'Oh, see! There's a porpoise!' cried Jack. 'Polly, why is a porpoise like a water-lily?' But before he could say 'Guess,' Phil, Geoff, and the girls had drawn themselves into a line, and, with a whispered 'One, two, three,' to secure a good start, replied in concert, 'We-give-it-up!' 'What a deafening shout!' cried Aunt Truth, coming out of the cabin. 'What's the matter, pray?' 'Nothing, aunty,' laughed Polly. 'But we have formed a society for suppressing Jack's conundrums, and this is our first public meeting. How do you like the watchword?' Aunt Truth smiled. 'It was very audible,' she said. 'Yours is evidently not a secret society.' 'I wish I could find out who originated this plan,' quoth Jack, murderously. 'But I suppose it's one of you girls, and I can't revenge myself. Oh, when will this barrier between the sexes be removed!' 'I trust not in your lifetime,' shuddered Polly, 'or we might as well begin to "stand round our dying beds" at once.' CHAPTER II: THE JOURNEY 'Away, away, from men and towns, To the wild wood and the downs, To the silent wilderness.' Whatever the distance was in reality, the steamer had consumed more time than usual, and it was quite two o'clock, instead of half-past twelve, as they had expected, before they were landed on the old and almost forgotten pier, and saw the smoke of the Orizaba as she steamed away. After counting over their bags and packages to see if anything had been forgotten, they looked about them. There was a dirty little settlement, a mile or two to the south, consisting of a collection of tumble-down adobe houses which looked like a blotch on the brown hillside; a few cattle were browsing near by, and the locality seemed to be well supplied with lizards, which darted over the dusty ground in all directions. But the startling point of the landscape was that it showed no sign of human life, and Pancho's orders had been to have Senor Don Manuel Felipe Hilario Noriega and his wood-cart on hand promptly at half-past twelve. 'Can Pancho have forgotten?' 'Can he have lost his way and never arrived here at all?' 'Can Senor Don Manuel Felipe Hilario Noriega have grown tired of waiting and gone off?' 'Has Senor Don Manuel Felipe Hilario Noriega been drinking too much aguardiente and so forgotten to come?' 'Has Pancho been murdered by highway robbers, and served up into stew for their evening meal?' 'With Hop Yet for dessert! Oh, horrible!' These were some of the questions and exclamations that greeted the ears of the lizards, and caused them to fly over the ground in a more excited fashion than ever. 'One thing is certain. If Pancho has been stupid enough to lose his way coming fifty miles down the coast, I'll discharge him,' said Dr. Winship, with decision. 'When you find him,' added Aunt Truth, prudently. 'Of course. But really, mamma, this looks discouraging; I am afraid we can't get into camp this evening. Shall we go up to the nearest ranch house for the night, and see what can be done to-morrow?' 'Never!' exclaimed the young people, with one deafening shout. 'Never,' echoed Philip separately. 'I have vowed that a bed shall not know me for three months, and I'll keep my vow.' 'What do you say to this, Uncle Doc?' said Geoffrey. 'Suppose you go up to the storehouse and office,--it's about a mile,--and see if the goods are there all right, and whether the men saw Pancho on his way up to the canyon. Meanwhile, Phil and I will ride over here somewhere to get a team, or look up Senor Don Manuel Felipe Hilario Noriega. Jack can stay with Aunt Truth and the girls, to watch developments.' 'But, papa, can't we pitch the camp to-night, somehow?' asked Bell, piteously. 'I don't see how. We are behindhand already; and if we get started within an hour we can't reach the ground I selected before dark and we can't choose any nearer one, because if Pancho is anywhere in creation he is on the identical spot I sent him to.' 'But, Dr. Paul, I'll tell you what we could do,' suggested Jack. 'If we get any kind of a start, we can't fail to reach camp by seven or eight o'clock at latest. Now it's bright moonlight, and if we find Pancho, he'll have the baggage unloaded, and Hop Yet will have a fire lighted. What's to prevent our swinging the hammocks for the ladies? And we'll just roll up in our blankets by the fire, for to-night. Then we'll get to housekeeping in the morning.' This plan received a most enthusiastic reception. 'Very well,' replied the Doctor. 'If you are all agreed, I suppose we may as well begin roughing it now as at any time.' You may have noticed sometimes, after having fortified yourself against a terrible misfortune which seemed in store for you, that it didn't come, after all. Well, it was so in this case; for just as Dr. Winship and the boys started out over the hillside at a brisk pace, an immense cloud of dust, some distance up the road, attracted their attention, and they came to a sudden standstill. The girls held their breath in anxious expectation, and at length gave an irrepressible shout of joy and relief when there issued from the dense grey cloud the familiar four-horse team, with Daisy, Tule Molly, Villikins, and Dinah, looking as fresh as if they had not been driven a mile, tough little mustangs that they were. A long conversation in Spanish ensued, which, being translated by Dr. Winship, furnished all necessary information concerning the delay. S. D. M. F. H. N. stated that Pancho was neither faithless nor stupid, but was waiting for them on the camping-ground, and that as the goods were already packed in his wood-cart he would follow them immediately. So the whole party started without more delay; Dr. and Mrs. Winship, Master Paul, Jack Howard, and the three girls riding in the wagon, while Geoffrey and Philip galloped ahead on horseback. It was a long, dusty, tiresome ride; and Dicky, who had been as good all day as any saint ever carved in marble and set in a niche, grew rather warm, cross, and hungry, although he had been consuming ginger-snaps and apricots since early morning. After asking plaintively for the fiftieth time how long it would be before dinner, he finally succumbed to his weariness, and dropping his yellow head, that was like a cowslip ball, in his mother's lap, he fell asleep. But the young people, whose eyes were not blinded by hunger and sleep, found more than enough to interest them on this dusty California road, winding as it did through grand old growths of trees, acres and acres of waving grain, and endless stretches of gorgeous yellow mustard, the stalks of which were five or six feet high, almost hiding from view the boys who dashed into the golden forest from time to time. At the foot of the hill they passed an old adobe hut, with a crowd of pretty, swarthy, frowzy Mexican children playing in the sunshine, while their mother, black-haired and ample of figure, occupied herself in hanging great quantities of jerked beef on a sort of clothes-line running between the eucalyptus-trees. The father, a wild-looking individual in a red shirt and enormous hat, came from behind the hut, unhitched the stout little broncho tied to the fence, gave the poor animal a desperately tight 'cinch,' threw himself into the saddle without touching his foot to the lumbering wooden stirrups, and, digging his spurs well into the horse's sides, was out of sight in an instant, leaving only a huge cloud of dust to cover his disappearance. 'How those fellows do ride!' exclaimed Dr. Winship, savagely. 'I wish they were all obliged to walk until they knew how to treat a horse.' 'Then they'd walk straight into the millennium,' said Jack, sagely, 'for their cruelty seems to be an instinct.' 'But how beautifully they ride, too!' said Polly. 'Mamma and I were sitting on the hotel piazza the other day, watching two young Spaniards who were performing feats of horsemanship. They dropped four-bit pieces on the dusty road, and riding up to them at full speed clutched them from the ground in some mysterious way that was perfectly wonderful. Then Nick Gutierrez mounted a bucking horse, and actually rolled and lighted a cigarette while the animal bucked with all his might.' 'See that cunning, cunning muchachita, mamma!' cried Bell; for, as they stopped at the top of the hill to let the horses breathe, one of the little Mexican children ran after them, holding out a handful of glowing yellow poppies. She was distractingly pretty, with a beauty that is short-lived with the people of her race. The afternoon sun shone down fiercely on her waving coal-black locks, and brought a rich colour to her nut-brown cheek; she had one little flimsy, ragged garment, neither long, broad, nor thick, which hung about her picturesquely; and, with her soft, dark, sleepy eyes, the rows of little white teeth behind her laughing red mouth, and the vivid yellow blossoms in her tiny outstretched hand, she was a very charming vision. 'Como te llamas, muchachita?' (What is your name, little one?) asked Bell, airing her Spanish, which was rather good. 'Teresita,' she answered, with a pretty accent, as she scratched a set of five grimy little toes to and fro in the dusty ground. 'Throw her a bit, papa,' whispered Bell; and, as he did so, Teresita caught the piece of silver very deftly, and ran excitedly back to the centre of the chattering group in front of the house.
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