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 straw. 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 place! 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 thunder, '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 blossoms. 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 refrigerator! 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 ones. 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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