List Of Contents | Contents of A Summer in a Canyon, by Kate Douglas Wiggin
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the camp after it was nearly finished.

The two largest bedroom tents were made of bright awning cloth, one
of red and white, the other of blue and white, both gaily decorated
with braid.  They were pitched under the same giant oak, and yet were
nearly forty feet apart; that of the girls having a canvas floor.
They were not quite willing to sleep on the ground, so they had
brought empty bed-sacks with them, and Pancho's first duty after his
arrival had been to drive to a neighbouring ranch for a great load of

In a glorious tree near by was a 'sky parlour,' arranged by a few
boards nailed high up in the leafy branches, and reached from below
by a primitive ladder.  This was the favourite sitting-room of the
girls by day, and served for Pancho's bedroom at night.  It was
beautiful enough to be fit shelter for all the woodland nymphs, with
its festoons of mistletoe and wild grape-vines; but Pancho was rather
an unappreciative tenant, even going so far as to snore in the sacred

Just beyond was a card-room,--imagine it--in which a square board,
nailed on a low stump, served for a table, where Dr. Paul and the
boys played many a game of crib, backgammon, and checkers.  Here,
too, all Elsie's letters were written and Bell's nonsense verses, and
here was the identical spot where Jack Howard, that mischievous
knight of the brush, perpetrated those modern travesties on the
'William Henry pictures,' for Elsie's delectation.

The dressing-room was reached by a path cut through bushes to a
charming little pool.  Here were unmistakable evidences of feminine
art:  looking-glasses hanging to trees, snowy wash-cloths, each
bearing its owner's initials, adorning the shrubs, while numerous
towels waved in the breeze.  Between two trees a thin board was
nailed, which appeared to be used, as nearly as the woodpeckers could
make out, as a toothbrush rack.  In this, Philip, the skilful
carpenter, had bored the necessary number of holes, and each one
contained a toothbrush tied with a gorgeous ribbon.

In this secluded spot Bell was wont to marshal every morning the
entire force of 'the toothbrush brigade'; and, conducting the drill
with much ingenuity, she would take her victims through a long series
of military manoeuvres arranged for the toothbrush.  Oh, the
gaspings, the chokings and stranglings, which occurred when she
mounted a rock by the edge of the pool, and after calling in tones of

'Brush, brothers, brush with care!
Brush in the presence of the commandaire!'

ordered her unwilling privates to polish their innocent molars to the
tune of 'Hail, Columbia,' or 'Auld Lang Syne'!  And if they became
mutinous, it was Geoffrey who reduced them to submission, and ordered
them to brush for three mornings to the tune of 'Bluebells of
Scotland' as a sign of loyalty to their commander.

As for the furnishing of the camp, there were impromptu stools and
tables made of packing-boxes and trunks, all covered with bright
Turkey-red cotton; there were no less than three rustic lounges and
two arm-chairs made from manzanita branches, and a Queen Anne
bedstead was being slowly constructed, day by day, by the ambitious
boys for their beloved Elsie.

One corner of each tent was curtained off for a bath-room, another
for a clothes-press, and there were a dozen devices for comfort, as
Dr. Winship was opposed to any more inconvenience than was strictly
necessary.  Dr. and Mrs. Winship and little Dicky occupied one tent,
the boys another, and the girls a third.

When Bell, Polly, and Margery emerged from their tent on the second
morning, they were disagreeably surprised to see a large placard over
the front entrance, bearing the insolent inscription, 'Tent Chatter.'
They said nothing; but on the night after, a committee of two stole
out and glued a companion placard, 'Tent Clatter,' over the door of
their masculine neighbours.  And to tell the truth, one was as well
deserved as the other; for if there was generally a subdued hum of
conversation in the one, there never failed to be a perfect din and
uproar in the other.

Under a great sycamore-tree stood the dining-table, which consisted
of two long, wide boards placed together upon a couple of barrels;
and not far away was the brush kitchen, which should have been a work
of art, for it represented the combined genius of American, Mexican,
and Chinese carpenters, Dr. Winship, Pancho, and Hop Yet having
laboured in its erection.  It really answered the purpose admirably,
and looked quite like a conventional California kitchen; that is, it
was ten feet square, and contained a table, a stove, and a Chinaman.

The young people, by the way, had fought bitterly against the stove,
protesting with all their might against taking it.  Polly and Jack
declared that they would starve sooner than eat anything that hadn't
been cooked over a camp-fire.  Bell and Philip said that they should
stand in front of it all the time, for fear somebody would ride
through the canyon and catch them camping out with a stove.  Imagine
such a situation; it made them blush.  Margery said she wished people
weren't quite so practical, and wouldn't ruin nature by introducing
such ugly and unnecessary things.  She intended to point the moral by
drawing a picture of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden,--Eve bending
over a cook-stove and Adam peeling apples with a machine.  Geoffrey
scoffed at Margery's sentimentalism, put on his most trying air, and
declared that if he had his pork and onions served up 'hot and
reg'lar,' he didn't care how she had her victuals cooked.

They were all somewhat appeased, however, when they found that Dr.
Winship was as anxious as they for an evening camp-fire, and merely
insisted upon the stove because it simplified the cookery.
Furthermore, being an eminently just man, he yielded so far as to
give them permission to prepare their own meals on a private camp-
fire whenever they desired; and this effectually stopped the
argument, for no one was willing to pay so heavy a price for effect.

The hammocks, made of gaily-coloured cords, were slung in various
directions a short distance from the square tent, which, being the
family sitting-room, was the centre of attraction.  It was arranged
with a gay canopy, twenty feet square.  Three sides were made by
hanging full curtains of awning cloth from redwood rods by means of
huge brass rings.  These curtains were looped back during the day and
dropped after dark, making a cosy and warm interior from which to
watch the camp-fire on cool evenings.

As for the Canyon de Las Flores itself, this little valley of the
flowers, it was beautiful enough in every part to inspire an artist's
pencil or a poet's pen; so quiet and romantic it was, too, it might
almost have been under a spell,--the home of some sleepy, enchanted
princess waiting the magic kiss of a princely lover.  It reached from
the ocean to the mountains, and held a thousand different pictures on
which to feast the eye; for Dame Nature deals out beauty with a
lavish hand in this land of perpetual summer, song, and sunshine.
There were many noble oak-trees, some hung profusely with mistletoe,
and others with the long, Spanish greybeard moss, that droops from
the branches in silvery lines, like water spray.  Sometimes, in the
moonlight, it winds about the oak like a shroud, and then again like
a filmy bridal veil, or drippings of mist from a frozen tree.

Here and there were open tracts of ground between the clumps of
trees, like that in which the tents were pitched,--sunny places,
where the earth was warm and dry, and the lizards blinked sleepily
under the stones.

Farther up the canyon were superb bay-trees, with their glossy leaves
and aromatic odour, and the madrono, which, with its blood-red skin,
is one of the most beautiful of California trees, having an open
growth, like a maple, bright green lustrous leaves, and a brilliant
red bark, which peels off at regular seasons, giving place to a new
one of delicate pea-green.

There were no birches with pure white skin, or graceful elms, or
fluffy pussy willows, but so many beautiful foreign things that it
would seem ungrateful to mourn those left behind in the dear New
England woods; and as for flowers, there are no yellow and purple
violets, fragile anemones, or blushing Mayflowers, but in March the
hillsides are covered with red, in April flushed with pink and blue,
in May brilliant with yellow blossoms; and in the canyons, where the
earth is moist, there are flowers all the year.

And then the girls would never forgive me if I should forget the
superb yucca, or Spanish bayonet, which is as beautiful as a tropical
queen.  Its tall, slender stalk has no twigs or branches, but its
leaves hang down from the top like bayonet-blades; and oh, there
rises from the centre of them such a stately princess of a flower,
like a tree in itself, laden with cream-white, velvety, fragrant

The boys often climbed the hillsides and brought home these splendid
treasures, which were placed in pails of water at the tent doors, to
shed their luxuriant beauty and sweetness in the air for days
together.  They brought home quantities of Spanish moss, and wild
clematis, and manzanita berries too, with which to decorate the
beloved camp; and even Dicky trotted back with his arms full of
gorgeous blossoms and grasses, which he arranged with great taste and
skill in mugs, bottles, and cans on the dining-table.

Can't you see what a charming place it was?  And I have not begun to
tell you the half yet; for there was always a soft wind stirring the
leaves in dreamy music, and above and through this whispered sound
you heard the brook splashing over its pebbly bed,--splashing and
splashing and laughing all it possibly could, knowing it would
speedily be dried up by the thirsty August sun.  Every few yards part
of the stream settled down contentedly into a placid little pool,
while the most inquisitive and restless little drops flowed noisily
down to see what was going on below.  The banks were fringed with
graceful alders and poison-oak bushes, vivid in crimson and yellow
leaves, while delicate maiden-hair ferns grew in miniature forests
between the crevices of the rocks; yet, with the practicality of
Chinese human nature, Hop Yet used all this beauty for a dish-pan and

Now, confess that, after having seen exactly how it looks, you would
like to rub a magic lamp, like Aladdin, and wish yourself there with
our merry young sextette.  For California is a lovely land and a
strange one, even at this late day, when her character has been
nearly ruined by dreadful stories, or made ridiculous by foolish

When you were all babies in long clothes, some people used to believe
that there were nuggets of gold to be picked up in the streets, and
that in the flowery valleys, flowing with milk and honey, there grew
groves of beet-trees, and forests of cabbages, and shady bowers of
squash-vines; and they thought that through these fertile valleys
strode men of curious mien, wild bandits and highway robbers, with
red flannel shirts and many pockets filled with playing-cards and
revolvers and bowie-knives; and that when you met these frightful
persons and courteously asked the time of day, they were apt to turn
and stab you to the heart by way of response.

Now, some of these things were true, and some were not, and some will
never happen again; for the towns and cities no longer conduct
themselves like headstrong young tomboys out on a lark, but have
grown into ancient and decorous settlements some twenty-five or
thirty years old.

Perhaps California isn't really so interesting since she began to
learn manners; but she is a land of wonders still, with her sublime
mountains and valleys; her precious metals; her vineyards and
orchards of lemons and oranges, figs, limes, and nuts; her mammoth
vegetables, each big enough for a newspaper story; her celebrated
trees, on the stumps of which dancing-parties are given; her
vultures; her grizzly bears; and her people, drawn from every nook
and corner of the map--pink, yellow, blue, red, and green countries.
And though the story of California is not written, in all its
romantic details, in the school-books of to-day, it is a part of the
poetry of our late American history, full of strange and thrilling
scenes, glowing with interest and dramatic fire.

I know a little girl who crossed the plains in that great ungeneraled
army of fifteen or twenty thousand people that made the long and
weary journey to the land of gold in 1849.  She tells her children
now of the strange, long days and months in the ox-team, passing
through the heat and dust of alkali deserts, fording rivers, and
toiling over steep mountains.  She tells them how at night she often
used to lie awake, curled up in her grey blanket, and hear the men
talking together of the gold treasures they were to dig from the
ground--treasures, it seemed to her childish mind, more precious than
those of which she read in The Arabian Nights.  And from a little
hole in the canvas cover of the old emigrant wagon she used to see
the tired fathers and brothers, worn and footsore from their hard
day's tramp, some sleeping restlessly, and others guarding the cattle
or watching for Indians, who were always expected, and often came;
and the last thing at night, when her eyes were heavy with sleep, she
peered dreamily out into the darkness to see the hundreds of gleaming
camp-fires, which dotted the plain as far as the eye could reach.

You will have noticed that this first week of camp-life was a quiet
one, spent mostly by the young people in getting their open-air home
comfortably arranged, making conveniences of all kinds, becoming
acquainted with the canyon so far as they could, and riding once or
twice to neighbouring ranches for hay or provisions.

Dr. Winship believed in a good beginning; and, as this was not a
week's holiday, but a summer campaign, he wanted his young people to
get fully used to the situation before undertaking any of the
exciting excursions in prospect.  So, before the week was over, they
began to enjoy sound, dreamless sleep on their hard straw beds, to
eat the plain fare with decided relish, to grow a little hardy and
brown, and quite strong and tough enough for a long tramp or
horseback ride.

After a religious devotion to cold cream for a few nights, Polly had
signified her terrible intention of 'letting her nose go.'  'I disown
it!' she cried, peeping in her tiny mirror, and lighting up her too
rosy tints with a tallow candle.  'Hideous objick, I defy thee!  Spot
and speckle, yea, burn to a crisp, and shed thy skin afterwards!  I
care not.  Indeed, I shall be well rid of thee, thou--h'm--thou--
well, leopard, for instance.'

One beautiful day followed another, each the exact counterpart of the
one that had preceded it; for California boys and girls never have to
say 'wind and weather permitting' from March or April until November.
They always know what the weather is going to do; and whether this is
an advantage or not is a difficult matter to settle conclusively.

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