List Of Contents | Contents of A Summer in a Canyon, by Kate Douglas Wiggin
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New England boys affirm that they wouldn't live in a country where it
couldn't rain any day it felt like it, and California lads retort
that they are glad their dispositions are not ruined by the freaks of
New England weather.  At all events, it is a paradise for would-be
campers, and any one who should assert the contrary would meet with
energetic opposition from the loyal dwellers in Camp Chaparral.

Bell returned one day from a walk which she had taken by herself,
while the other girls were off on some errand with the Doctor.  After
luncheon she drew them mysteriously into the square tent, and lowered
the curtains.

'What is it?' Polly whispered, with an anxious expression of
countenance.  'Have you lost your gold thimble again, or your temper,
or have you discovered a silver mine?'

'I have found,' she answered mysteriously, 'the most beautifully
secret place you ever beheld.  It will be just the spot for us to
write and study in when we want to be alone; or it will even do for a
theatre; and it is scarcely more than half a mile up the canyon.'

'How did you find it?' asked Margery.

'As I was walking along by the brookside, I saw a snake making its
way through the bushes, and--'

'Goodness!' shrieked Polly, 'I shall not write there, thank you.'

'Goose!  Just wait a minute.  I looked at it, and followed at a
distance; it was a harmless little thing; and I thought, for the fun
of it, I would just push blindly on and see what I should find,
because we are for ever walking in the beaten path, and I long for
something new.'

'A bad instinct,' remarked Madge, 'and one which will get you into
trouble, so you should crush it in its infancy.'

'Well, I took up my dress and ploughed through the chaparral, until I
came, in about three minutes of scratching and fighting, to an open
circular place about as large as this tent.  It was exactly round,
which is the curious part of it; and in the centre was one stump,
covered with moss and surrounded by great white toadstools.  How any
one happened to go in there and cut down a single tree I can't
understand, nor yet how they managed to bring out the tree through
the tangled brush.  It is so strange that it seems as if there must
be a mystery about it.'

'Certainly,' said Margery promptly.  'A tragedy of the darkest kind!
Some cruel wretch has cut down, in the pride and pomp of it beauty,
one sycamore-tree; its innocent life-blood has stained the ground,
and given birth to the white toadstools which mark the spot and
testify to the purity of the victim.'

'Well,' continued Bell, impressively, 'I knew I could never find it
again; and I wanted so much you should see it that I took the ball of
twine we always carry, unrolled it, and dropped the thread all the
way along to the brookside, like Phrygia, or Melpomene, or Anemone,
or whatever her name was.'

'Or Artesia, or Polynesia, or Euthanasia,' interrupted Polly.  'I
think the lady you mean is Ariadne.'

'Exactly.  Now we'll take papa to see it, and then we'll fit it up as
a retreat.  Won't it be charming?  We'll call it the Lone Stump.'

'Oh, I like that; it makes me shiver!' cried Polly.  'I'm going to
write an ode to it at once.  Ahem!  It shall begin--let me see -

'O lonely tree,
What cruel "he"
Did lay thee low?
Tell us the facts;
Did cruel axe
Abuse thee so?'

'Sublime!  Second verse,' said Bell slowly, with pauses between the

'Or did a gopher,
The wicked loafer,
Gnaw at thy base,
And, doing so,
Contrive to go,
And leave no trace?'

'Oh dear!' sighed Margery; 'if you will do it, wait a minute.

'O toadstools white,
Pray give us light
Upon the question.
Did gopher gnaw,
And live in awe
Of indigestion?'

'Good!' continued Bell:-

'Or did a man
Malicious plan
The good tree's ruin,
And leave it so
Convenient low,
A seat for Bruin?

For travelling grizzlies, you know.  We may go there and see a hungry
creature making a stump-speech, while an admiring audience of
grasshoppers and tarantulas seat themselves in a circle on the

'Charming prospect!' said Madge.  'I don't think I care to visit the
Lone Stump or pass my mornings there.'

'Nonsense, dear child; it is just like every other part of the
canyon, only a little more lonely.  It is not half a mile from camp,
and hardly a dozen steps from the place where the boys go so often to
shoot quail.'

'Very well,' said the girls.  'We must go there to-morrow morning;
and perhaps we'd better not tell the boys,--they are so peculiar.
Jack will certainly interfere with us in some way, if he hears about

'Now let us take our books and run down by the pool for an hour or
two,' said Bell.  'Papa and the boys are all off shooting, and mamma
is lying down.  We can have a cool, quiet time; the sunshine is so
hot here by the tents.'

Accordingly, they departed, as they often did, for one of the
prolonged chats in which school-girls are wont to indulge, and which
so often, too, are but idle, senseless chatter.

These young people, however, had been fortunate in having the wisest
and most loving guardianship, so that all their happy young lives had
been spent to good purpose.  They had not shirked study, and so their
minds were stocked with useful information; they had read carefully
and digested thoroughly whatever they had read, so that they
possessed a good deal of general knowledge.  The girls were bright,
sensible, industrious little women, who tried to be good, too, in the
old-fashioned sense of the word; and full of fun, nonsense, and
chatter as they were among themselves, they never forgot to be modest
and unassuming.

The boys were pretty well in earnest about life, too, with good
ambitions and generous aspirations.  They had all been studying with
Dr. Winship for nearly two years; and that means a great deal, for he
was a real teacher, entering into the lives of his pupils,
sympathising with them in every way, and leading them, through the
study of nature, of human beings, and of God, to see the beauty and
meaning of life.

Geoffrey Strong, of course, was older than the rest, having completed
his junior year at college; but Dr. Winship, who was his guardian,
thought it wiser for him to rest a year and come to him in
California, as his ambition and energy had already led him into
greater exertions than his age or strength warranted.  He was now
studying medicine with the good Doctor, but would go back to the
'land of perpetual pie' in the fall and complete his college course.

A splendid fellow he was,--so earnest, thoughtful, and wise; so
gravely tender in all his ways to Aunt Truth, who was the only mother
he had ever known; so devoted to Dr. Winship, who loved him as his
own elder son.

What will Geoffrey Strong be as a man?  The twig is bent, and it is
safe to predict how the tree will incline.  His word will be as good
as his bond; he will be a good physician, for his eye is quick to see
suffering, and his hand ready to relieve it; little children with
feverish cheeks and tired eyes will love to clasp his cool, strong
sand; he will be gentle as a woman, yet thoroughly manly, as he is
now, for he has made the most of his golden youth, and every lad who
does that will have a golden manhood and a glorious old age.

As for Philip Noble, he was a dear, good, trustworthy lad too;
kindly, generous, practical, and industrious; a trifle slow and
reserved, perhaps, but full of common sense,--the kind of sense
which, after all, is most uncommon.

Bell once said:  'This is the difference between Philip and
Geoffrey,--one does, and the other is.  Geoff is the real Simon-pure
ideal which we praise Philip for trying to be,'--a very good
description for a little maiden whose bright eyes had only looked
into life for sixteen summers.

And now we come to Jack Howard, who never kept still long enough for
any one to write a description of him.  To explain how he differed
from Philip or Geoffrey would be like bringing the Equator and the
Tropic of Cancer together for purposes of comparison.

If there were a horseback ride, Jack rode the wildest colt, was
oftenest thrown and least often hurt; if a fishing-party, Jack it was
who caught all the fish, though he made more noise than any one else,
and followed no rules laid down in The Complete Angler.

He was very often in trouble; but his misdemeanours were those of
pure mischief, and were generally atoned for when it was possible.
He excelled in all out-of-door sports.  And indeed, if his prudence
had at all kept pace with his ability, he might have done remarkable
things in almost any direction; but he constantly overshot the mark,
and people looked to him for the dazzling brilliancy and uncertainty
of a meteor, but never for the steady glow of a fixed star.

Just now, Jack was a good deal sobered, and appeared at his very
best.  The teaching of Dr. Paul and the companionship of Geoffrey had
done much for him, while the illness of his sister Elsie, who was the
darling of his heart, acted constantly as a sort of curb upon him;
for he loved her with all the ardour and passion which he gave to
everything else.  You might be fearful of Jack's high spirits and
riotous mirth, of his reckless actions and heedless jokes, but you
could scarcely keep from admiring the boy; for he was brave and
handsome and winsome enough to charm the very birds off the bush, as
Aunt Truth acknowledged, after giving him a lecture for some

The three girls made their way a short distance up the canyon to a
place which they called Prospect Pool, because it was so entirely
shut in from observation.

'Dear old Geoff!' said Bell, throwing her shawl over a rock and
opening her volume of Carlyle.  'He has gone all through this for me,
and written nice little remarks on the margin,--explanations and
things, and interrogations where he thinks I won't know what is meant
and had better find out,--bless his heart!  What have you brought,
Margery?  By the way, you must move your seat away from that clump of
poison-oak bushes; we can't afford to have any accidents which will
interfere with our fun.  We have all sorts of new remedies, but I
prefer that the boys should experiment with them.'

'It's the softest seat here, too,' grumbled Margery.  'We must get
the boys to cut these bushes down.  Why, you haven't any book, you
lazy Polly.  Are you going to sleep, or shall you chatter and prevent
our reading?'

'Neither,' she answered.  'Here is a doughnut which I propose to send
down the red pathway of fate; and here a pencil and paper with which
I am going to begin our round-robin letter to Elsie.'

'That's good!  She has only had notes from Jack and one letter from
us, which, if I remember right, had nothing in it.'

'Thanks!  I wrote it,' sniffed Bell.

'Well, I meant it had no news--no account of things, you know.'

'No, I wouldn't descend to writing news, and I leave accounts to the

'Stop quarrelling, girls!  This is my plan:  I will begin in my usual
rockety style, sometimes maliciously called the Pollyoliver method;
Margery will take up the thread sedately; Bell will plunge in with a
burst of enthusiasm and seventeen adjectives, followed by a verse of
poor poetry; Geoff will do the sportive or instructive, just as he
happens to feel; and Phil will wind up the letter by some practical
details which will serve as a key to all the rest.  Won't it be a box
of literary bonbons for her to read in bed, poor darling!  Let me
see!  I represent the cayenne lozenges, sharp but impressive; Margery
will do for jujube paste, which I adore,--mild, pleasant, yielding,

'Sticky and insipid!' murmured Madge, plaintively.

'Not at all, my dear.  Bell stands for the peppermints; Jack for
chocolates, "the ladies' delight"; Geoffrey for a wine-drop,
altogether good, but sweetest in its heart; Phil--let me see!  Phil
is like--what is he like?'

'No more like candy than a cold boiled potato,' said his sister.

'He is candid,' suggested Bell.  'Let us call him rock-candy, pure,
healthful, and far from soft.'

'Or marshmallow,' said Margery, 'good, but tough.'

'Or caramel,' laughed Polly; 'it always sticks to a point.'

'Thanks, gentle creatures,' said a voice from the bushes on the other
side of the pool, and Phil stalked out from his covert, like a
wounded deer.

'How long have you been in there, villain?' cried Bell.

'Ever since lunch; but I only waked from a sound sleep some twenty
minutes ago.  I've heard a most instructive conversation--never been
more amused in my life; don't know whether I prefer being a cold
boiled potato or a ladies'-delight!'

'You haven't any choice,' snapped Polly, a trifle embarrassed at
having been overheard.

'I'm glad it was my own sister who called me a c. b. p. (the most
loathsome thing in existence, by the way), because sisters never
appreciate their brothers.'

'I didn't call you a c. b. p.,' remonstrated Margery.  'I said you
were no more like candy than a c. b. p.  There is a difference.'

'Is there?  My poor brain fails to grasp it.  But never mind; I'll
forgive you.'

'Listeners never hear good of themselves,' sighed Polly.

'Are you writing a copy-book, Miss Oliver?  I didn't want to listen;
it was very painful to my feelings, but I was too sleepy to move.'

'And now our afternoon is gone, and we have not read a word,' sighed
little Margery.  'I never met two such chatterboxes as you and

'And to hear us talk is a liberal education,' retorted Polly.

'Exactly,' said Philip, dryly, 'Come, I'll take the books and shawls.
It's nearly five o'clock, and we shall hear Hop Yet blowing his lusty
dinner-horn presently.'

'Why didn't you go off shooting with the others?' asked Margery.

'Stayed at home so they'd get a chance to shoot.'

'Why, do you mean you always scare the game away?' inquired Polly,

'No; I mean that I always do all the shooting, and the others get

'Clasp hands over the bloody chasm,' said Bell, 'and let us smoke the
pipe of peace at dinner.'

Philip and Bell came through the trees, and, as they neared the camp,
saw Aunt Truth sitting at the door of Tent Chatter, looking the very
picture of comfort, as she drew her darning-needle in and out of an
unseemly rent in one of Dicky's stockings.  Margery and Polly came up
just behind, and dropped into her lap some beautiful branches of wild

'Did you have a pleasant walk, dears?' she asked.

'Yes, indeed, dear auntie.  Now, just hold your head perfectly still,
while we decorate you for dinner.  We will make Uncle Doc's eyes
fairly pop with admiration.  Have you been lonely without us?'

'Oh, not a bit.  You see there has been a good deal of noise about
here, and I felt as if I were not alone.  Hop Yet has been pounding
soap-root in the kitchen, and I hear the sound of Pancho's axe in the
distance,--the Doctor asked him to chop wood for the camp-fire.  Was
Dicky any trouble?  Where is he?'

'Why, darling mother, are you crazy?' asked Bell.  'If you think a
moment, he was in the hammock and you were lying down in the tent

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