List Of Contents | Contents of A Summer in a Canyon, by Kate Douglas Wiggin
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'How intense everything is in California!  Do you know what I mean,
mamma?' said Bell.  'The fruit is so immense, the canyons so deep,
the trees so big, the hills so high, the rain so wet, and the drought
so dry.'

'The fleas so many, the fleas so spry,' chanted Jack, who had
perceived that Bell was talking in rhyme without knowing it.
'California is just the place for you, Bell; it gives you a chance
for innumerable adjectives heaped one on the other.'

'I don't always heap up adjectives,' replied Bell, with dignity.
'When I wish to describe you, for instance, I simply say "that
hateful boy," and let it go at that.'

Jack retired to private life for a season.

'I'd like to paint a picture of Teresita,' said Margery, who had a
pretty talent for sketching, 'and call it The Summer Child, or some
such thing.  I should think the famous old colour artists might have
loved to paint this gorgeous flame-tinted poppy.'

'Not poppy,--eschscholtzia,' corrected Jack, coming rapidly to the
surface again, after Bell's rebuke, and delivering himself of the
tongue-confusing word with a terrible grimace.

'I'm not writing a botany,' retorted Margery; 'and I can never
remember that word, much less spell it.  I don't see how it grows
under such an abominable Russian name.  It's worse than
ichthyosaurus.  Do you remember that funny nonsense verse? -

"I is for ichthyosaurus,
Who lived when the world was all porous;
   But he fainted with shame
   When he first heard his name,
And departed a long while before us."'

'The Spaniards are more poetic,' said Aunt Truth, 'for they call it
la copa de oro, the golden cup.  Oh, see them yonder!  It is like the
Field of the Cloth of Gold.'

The sight would have driven a royal florist mad with joy:  a hillside
that was a swaying mass of radiant bloom, a joyous carnival of vivid
colour, in which the thousand golden goblets, turned upward to the
sun, were dancing, and glowing, and shaming out of countenance the
purple and blue and pink masses which surrounded them on every side.

'You know Professor Pinnie told us that every well-informed young
girl should know at least the flora of her own State,' said Jack,
after the excitement had subsided.

'Well, one thing is certain:  Professor Pinnie never knew the STATE
of his own flora, or at least he kept his wife sorting and arranging
his specimens all the time; and I think he's a regular old frump,'
said Polly, irreverently, but meeting Aunt Truth's reproving glance,
which brought a blush and a whispered 'Excuse me,' she went on,
'Well, what I mean is, he doesn't know any more than other people,
after all; for he cares for nothing but bushes and herbs and seeds
and shrubs and roots and stamens and pistils; and he can't tell
whether a flower is lovely or not, he is so crazy to find out where
it belongs and tie a tag round it.'

'I must agree with Polly,' laughed Jack.  'Why, I went to ride with
him one day in the Cathedral Oaks, and he made me get off my horse
every five minutes to dig up roots and tie them to the pommel of his
old saddle, so that we came into town looking like moving herbariums.
The stable-man lifted him on to his horse when he started, I suppose,
and he would have been there yet if he hadn't been helped off.  Bah!'
For Jack had a supreme contempt for any man who was less than a

By this time they had turned off the main thoroughfare, and were
travelling over a bit of old stage road which was anything but easy
riding.  There they met some men who were driving an enormous band of
sheep to a distant ranch for pasture, which gave saucy Polly the
chance to ask Dr. Winship, innocently, why white sheep ate so much
more than black ones.

He fell into the trap at once, and answered unsuspectingly, in a
surprised tone, 'Why, do they?' giving her the longed-for opportunity
to respond, 'Yes, of course, because there are so many more of 'em;
don't you see?'

'You are behind the times, Dr. Paul,' said Jack.  'That's an ancient
joke.  Just look at those sheep, sir.  How many are there?  Eight
hundred, say?'

'Even more, I should think,--a thousand, certainly; and rather thin
they look, too.'

'I should imagine they might,' said Bell, sympathetically.  'When I
first came to California I never could see how the poor creatures
found anything to eat on these bare, brown hillsides, until the
farmers showed me the prickly little burr clover balls that cover the
ground.  But see, mamma! there are some tiny lambs, poor, tired,
weak-legged little things; I wonder if they will live through the

'Which reminds me,' said Jack, giving Villikins a touch of the whip,
'that nothing is so calculated to disturb your faith in and love for
lambs as life on a sheep ranch.  Innocent!  Good gracious!  I never
saw such--such--'

'Gasping, staggering, stuttering, stammering tom-fools,' interposed
Bell.  'That's what Carlyle called ONE Lamb,--dear Mr. "Roast Pig"
Charles; and a mean old thing he was, too, for doing it.'

'Well, it is just strong enough to apply to the actual lamb; not the
lamb of romance, but the lamb of reality.  You can't get him
anywhere; he doesn't know enough.  He won't drive, he can't follow;
he's too stupid.  Why, I went out for a couple of 'em once, that were
lost in the canyon.  I found them,--that was comparatively easy; but
when I tried to get them home, I couldn't.  At last, after infinite
trouble, I managed to drive them up on to the trail, which was so
narrow there was but one thing for a rational creature to do, and
that was to go ahead.  Then, if you'll believe me, those idiots kept
bleating and getting under the horse's fore-feet; finally, one of
them, the champion simpleton, tumbled over into the canyon, and I
tied the legs of the other one together, and carried him home on the
front of my saddle.'

'They are innocent, any way,' insisted Margery.  'I won't believe
they're not.  I can't bear these people who interfere with all your
cherished ideas, and say that Columbus didn't discover America, and
Shakespeare wasn't Shakespeare, and William Tell didn't shoot the

'Nevertheless, I claim that the lamb is not half so much an emblem of
innocence as he is of utter and profound stupidity.  There is that
charming old lyric about Mary's little lamb; I can explain that.
After he came to school (which was an error of judgment at the very
beginning), he made the rumpus, you know -

"And then the teacher turned him out,
   But still he lingered nee-ar,
And waited patiently about
   Till Mary did appee-ar."

Of course he did.  He didn't know enough to go home alone.

"And then he ran to her and laid
   His head upon her arr-um,
As if to say, 'I'm not afraid;
   You'll keep me from all harr-um.'"

As if a lamb could be capable of that amount of reasoning!  And then

"'What makes the lamb love Mary so?
   The eager children cry;
'Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know,'
   The teacher did reply."

And might have added that as Mary fed the lamb three times a day and
twice on Sundays, he probably not only knew on which side his daily
bread was buttered, but also who buttered it.'

'Dreadful boy!' laughed Bell.  'Polly, pray lower the umbrella; we
are going to meet some respectable people, and we actually are too
dirty to be seen.  I have really been eating dust.'

'They must be equally dusty,' said Polly, sagely.  'Why, it is the
Burtons, from Tacitas ranch!'

The Burton ranch wagon was drawn up, as its driver recognised Dr.
Winship, and he proceeded to cheer the spirits of the party by
telling them that he had passed Pancho two hours before, and that he
was busily clearing rubbish from the camping-ground.  This was six
o'clock, and by a little after eight the weary, happy party were
seated on saddle-blankets and carriage-cushions round a cheery camp-
fire, eating a frugal meal, which tasted sweeter than nectar and
ambrosia to their keen appetites.

The boys expressed their intention of spending the night in unpacking
their baggage and getting to rights generally, but Dr. Winship placed
a prompt and decisive veto on this proposition, and they submitted
cheerfully to his better judgment.

Getting to bed was an exciting occupation for everybody.  Dicky was
first tucked up in a warm nest of rugs and blankets, under a tree,
and sank into a profound slumber at once, with the happy
unconsciousness of childhood.  His father completed the preparations
for his comfort by opening a huge umbrella and arranging it firmly
over his head, so that no falling leaf might frighten him and no
sudden gust of air blow upon his face.

Bell stood before her hammock, and meditated.  'Well,' she said,
'going to bed is a simple matter after all, when you have shorn it of
all useless formalities.  Let me see:  I generally walk to and fro in
the room, eating a bunch of grapes or an orange, look out of the
window five or ten minutes, brush my hair, read my chapter in the
Bible, take my book and study Spanish five minutes, on the principle
of that abnormal woman who learned ninety-six languages while she was
waiting for the kettle to boil in the morning--'

'Must have been a slow boiler,' interrupted Polly, wickedly.  'Seems
to me it would have been economy to sell it and buy a new one.'

'Oh, Polly! you are so wilfully stupid!  The kettle isn't the point--
but the languages.  Besides, she didn't learn all the ninety-six
while the kettle was boiling once, you know.

'Oh, didn't she?  That alters the case.  Thank you,' said Polly,

'Now observe me,' said Bell.  'I have made the getting into a hammock
a study.  I first open it very wide at the top with both hands; then,
holding it in that position, I gracefully revolve my body from left
to right as upon an imaginary swivel; meantime I raise my right foot
considerably from mother earth, with a view to passing it over the
hammock's edge.  Every move is calculated, you perceive, and produces
its own share of the perfect result; the method is the same that
Rachel used in rehearsing her wonderful tragic poses.  I am now
seated in the hammock, you observe, with both hands extending the net
from side to side and the right foot well in position; I now raise
the left foot with a swift but admirably steady movement, and I am--
Help!  Help!!  Murder!!!'

'In short, you are not in, but out,' cried Polly, in a burst of
laughter; for Bell had leaned too far to the right, and on bringing
the other foot in, with its 'swift but admirably steady' motion, she
gave a sudden lurch, pulled the hammock entirely over herself and
fell out head first on the other side, leaving her feet tangled in
its meshes.  'Shall we help her out, Meg?  She doesn't deserve it,
after that pompous oration and attempt to show off her superior
abilities.  Nevertheless, she always accepts mercy more gracefully
than justice.  Heave ahoy, my hearties!'

Bell was extricated, and looked sufficiently ashamed.

'We are much obliged for the lesson,' said Margery, 'but the method
is open to criticism; so I think we'll manage in our ordinary savage
way.  We may not be graceful or scientific, but we get in, which is
the main point.'

The hammocks did not prove the easiest of nests, as the girls had
imagined.  In fact, to be perfectly candid about the matter, the
wicked flea of California, which man pursueth but seldom catcheth, is
apt, on many a summer night, to interfere shamelessly with slumber.
On this particular night he was fairly rampant, perhaps because sweet
humanity on which to feed was very scarce in that canyon.

'Good-night, girls!' called Jack, when matters seemed to be finally
settled for sleep.  'Bell, you must keep one eye open, for the
coyotes will be stealing down the mountain in a jiffy, and yours is
the first hammock in the path.'

'Of course,' moaned Bell,--'that's why the girls gave me this one;
they knew very well that one victim always slakes the animals' thirst
for blood.  Well, let them come on.  I shiver with terror, but my
only hope is that I may be eaten in my sleep, if at all.'

'There was a young party named Bell,
Who slept out of doors for a spell;
   When asked how she fared,
   She said she was scared,
But otherwise doing quite well.

'How's that?' asked Jack.  'I shall be able to drive Bell off her own
field, with a little practice.'

'Go to sleep!' roared Dr. Paul.  'In your present condition of mind
and body you are not fit for poetry!'

'That's just the point, sir,' retorted Jack, slyly, 'for, you
remember, poets are not FIT, but nascitur,--don't you know?' and he
retired under his blanket for protection.

But quiet seemed to be impossible:  there were all sorts of strange
sounds; and the moon, too, was so splendid that they almost felt as
if they were lying beneath the radiance of a calcium light; while in
the dark places, midst the branches of thick foliage, the owls hooted
gloomily.  If you had happened to be an owl in that vicinity, you
might have heard not only the feverish tossing to and fro of the
girls in the hammocks, but many dismal sighs and groans from Dr.
Winship and the boys; for the bare ground is, after all, more
rheumatic than romantic, and they too tumbled from side to side,
seeking comfort.

But at midnight quiet slumber had descended upon them, and they
presented a funny spectacle enough to one open-eyed watcher.  A long
slender sycamore log was extended before the fire, and constituted
their pillow; on this their heads reposed, each decorated with a
tightly fitting silk handkerchief; then came a compact, papoose-like
roll of grey blanket, terminated by a pair of erect feet, whose
generous proportions soared to different heights.  There was a little
snoring, too; perhaps the log was hollow.

At midnight you might have seen a quaintly despondent little figure,
whose curly head issued from a hooded cloak, staggering hopelessly
from a hammock, and seating herself on a mossy stump.  From the
limpness of her attitude and the pathetic expression of her eyes, I
fear Polly was reviewing former happy nights spent on spring-beds;
and at this particular moment the realities of camping-out hardly
equalled her anticipations.  Whatever may have been her feelings,
however, they were promptly stifled when a certain insolent head
reared itself from its blanket-roll, and a hoarse voice cackled,
'Pretty Polly!  Polly want a canyon?'  At this insult Miss Oliver
wrapped her drapery about her and strode to her hammock with the air
of a tragedy queen.


'Know'st thou the land where the lemon-trees bloom,
Where the gold orange glows in the green thicket's gloom;
Where the wind, ever soft, from the blue heaven blows,
And groves are of myrtle, and olive, and rose?'

On the next morning, as we have seen, they named their summer home
Camp Chaparral, and for a week or more they were the very busiest
colony of people under the sun; for it takes a deal of hard work and
ingenuity to make a comfortable and beautiful dwelling-place in the

The best way of showing you how they accomplished this is to describe

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