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A Summer in a Canyon: A California Story by Kate Douglas Wiggin

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Hop Yet just at this moment issued from his kitchen with an immense
platter of mutton-stew and dumplings, which he deposited on the
table. On being questioned again, he answered as before, with the
greatest serenity, intimating that Dicky would come home 'heap bime-
by' when he got 'plenty hungly.' He seemed to think a lost boy or
two in a family rather a trifle than otherwise, and wound up his
unfeeling remarks with the practical one, 'Dinner all leady; you no
eat mutton, he get cold! Misser Wins', I no find pickle; you
catchum!'

'I don't believe he would care if we all died right before his eyes,'
muttered Polly, angrily. 'I should just like to see a Chinaman's
heart once, and find out whether it was made of resin, or cuttle-
fish, or what.'

'Well,' said Phil, as Dr. Winship came through the trees from the
card-room, 'we must start out this instant, and of course we can find
him somehow, somewhere; he hasn't been gone over two hours, and he
couldn't walk far, that's certain. Now, Uncle Doc, shall we all go
different ways, and leave the girls here to see if he doesn't turn
up?'

'Oh, papa,' cried Bell, do not leave us at home! We can hunt as well
as any one; we know every foot of the canyon. Let me go with Geoff,
and we'll follow the brook trail.'

'Very well. Now, mamma, Pancho and I will go down to the main road,
and you wait patiently here. Make all the noise you can, children;
and the one who finds him must come back to the camp and blow the
horn. Hop Yet, we go now; if Dicky comes back, you blow the horn
yourself, will you?'

'All light, boss. You eat um dinner now; then go bime-by; mutton
heap cold; you--'

'Dinner!' shouted Jack. 'Confound your impudence! If you say dinner
again, I'll cut the queue off your stupid head.'

'Good!' murmured Polly, giving a savage punch to her blue Tam o'
Shanter cap.

'Jack, Jack!' remonstrated Aunt Truth.

'I know, dear auntie; but the callous old heathen makes me so mad I
can't contain myself. Come, Margery, let's be off. Get your shawl;
and hurrah for the one who comes back to blow the horn first! I'll
wager you ten to one I'll have Dick in auntie's lap inside the
hour!'--at which Aunt Truth's eyes brightened, and she began to take
heart again. But as he tore past the brush kitchen and out into the
woods, dragging Madge after him at a breathless pace, he shut his
lips together rather grimly, saying, 'I'd give five hundred dollars
(s'posin' I had a cent) to see that youngster safe again.'

'Tell me one thing, Jack,' said Margery, her teeth chattering with
nervousness; 'are there any animals in this canyon that would attack
him?'

'Oh, of course it is possible that a California lion or a wild-cat
might come down to the brook to drink--they have been killed
hereabouts--but I hardly believe it is likely; and neither do I
believe they would be apt to hurt him, any way, for he would never
attack them, you know. What I am afraid of is that he has tumbled
over the rocks somewhere in climbing, or tangled himself up in the
chaparral. He couldn't have made off with a pistol, could he? He is
up to all such tricks.'

Presently the canyon began to echo with strange sounds, which I have
no doubt sent the owls, birds, and rabbits into fits of terror; for
the boys had whistles and pistols, while Polly had taken a tin pan
and a hammer. She had gone with Phil out behind the thicket of
manzanita bushes, and they both stood motionless, undecided where to
go.

'Oh, Phil, I can't help it; I must cry, I am so frightened. Let me
sit down a second. Yes, I know it's an ant-hill, and I shouldn't
care if it were a hornets' nest--I deserve to be stung. What do you
think I said to Margery this morning? That Dicky was a perfect
little marplot, and spoiled all our fun, and I wished he were in the
bottom of the Red Sea; and then I called him a k-k-k-ill-joy!' and
Polly buried her head in her blue Tam, and cried a good, honest, old-
fashioned cry.

'There, chirk up, poor little soul, and don't you fret over a
careless speech, that meant nothing at all. I've wished him in the
Red Sea more than once, but I'm blessed if I ever do it again. Come,
let's go over yonder, where we caught the young owl; Dicky may have
wanted to try that little game again.'

So they went on, calling, listening, then struggling on again, more
anxious every moment, but not so thoroughly dazed as Bell, who had
rocked her baby-brother in his cradle, and to whom he was the
embodiment of every earthly grace, if not of every heavenly virtue.

'I might have known this would happen,' she said, miserably. 'He is
so careless that, if we ever find him again, we must keep him tied to
something.'

'Take care of your steps, dear,' said Geoff, 'and munch this cracker,
or you won't have strength enough to go on with me. I wish it were
not getting so dark; the moment the sun gets behind these mountain-
tops the light seems to vanish in an instant.--Dick-y!'

'Think of the poor darling out in this darkness--hungry, frightened,
and alone,' sighed Bell. 'It's past his bed-time now. Oh, why did
we ever come to stay in this horrible place!'

'You must not blame the place, dear; we thought it the happiest in
the world this morning. Here we are by the upper pool, and the path
stops. Which way had we better go?'

'I've been here before to-day,' said Bell; 'we might follow the trail
I made. But where is my string? Light a match, Geoff, please.'

'What string? What do you mean?'

'Why, I found a beautiful spot this morning, and, fearing I shouldn't
remember the way again, I took out my ball of twine and dropped a
white line all the way back, like Ariadne; but I don't see it. Where
can it have disappeared--unless Jack or Phil took it to tease me?'

'Oh no; I've been with them all day. Perhaps a snake has swallowed
it. Come.'

But a bright idea had popped into Bell's head. 'I want to go that
way, Geoff, dear; it's as good as any other, and there are flowers
just the other side, in an open, sunny place; perhaps he found them.'

'All right; let's go ahead.'

'The trouble is, I don't know which way to go. Here is the rock; I
remember it was a spotted one, with tall ferns growing beside it.
Now I went--let me see--this way,' and they both plunged into the
thick brush.

'Bell, Bell, this is utter nonsense!' cried Geoff. 'No child could
crawl through this tangle.'

'Dicky could crawl through anything in this universe, if it was the
wrong thing; he isn't afraid of beast, bird, or fish, and he
positively enjoys getting scratched,' said Bell.

Meanwhile, what had become of this small hero, and what was he doing?
He was last seen in the hammock, playing with the long-suffering
terrier, Lubin, who was making believe go to sleep. It proved to be
entirely a make-believe; for, at the first loosening of Dicky's
strangling hold upon his throat, he tumbled out of the hammock and
darted into the woods. Dicky followed, but Lubin was fleet of foot,
and it was a desperate and exciting race for full ten minutes.

At length, as Lubin heard his little master's gleeful laugh, he
realised that his anger was a thing of the past; consequently, he
wheeled about and ran into Dicky's outstretched arms, licking his
face and hands exuberantly in the joy of complete forgiveness.

By this time the voice of conscience in Dicky's soul--and it was a
very, very still, small one on all occasions--was entirely silenced.
He strayed into a sunny spot, and picked flowers enough to trim his
little sailor hat, probably divining that this was what lost children
in Sunday-school books always did, and it would be dishonourable not
to keep up the superstition. Then he built a fine, strong dam of
stones across the brook, wading to and fro without the bother of
taking off his shoes and stockings, and filled his hat with rocks and
sunk it to the bottom for a wharf, keeping his hat-band to tie an
unhappy frog to a bit of bark, and setting him afloat as the captain
of a slave-ship. When, at length, the struggling creature freed
himself from his bonds and leaped into the pool, Dicky played that he
was a drowning child, and threw Lubin into the water to rescue him.

In these merry antics the hours flew by unnoticed; he had never been
happier in his life, and it flashed through his mind that if he were
left entirely to himself he should always be good.

'Here I've been a whole day offul good by my lone self; haven't said
one notty word or did one notty fing, nor gotted scolded a singul
wunst, did I, Lubin? I guess we better live here; bettent we, Lubin?
And ven we wunt git stuck inter bed fur wettin' our feets little
teenty mites of wet ev'ry singul night all the livelong days, will
we, Lubin?'

But this was a long period of reflection for Master Dicky, and he
capered on, farther and farther, the water sozzling frightfully in
his little copper-toed boots. At length he sat down on a stone to
rest himself, and, glancing aimlessly about, his eyes fell on a white
string, which he grasped with alacrity, pulling its end from beneath
the stone on which he sat.

'Luby Winship, the anjulls gaved me this string fur ter make an offul
splendid tight harness for you, little Luby; and you can drag big
heavy stones. Won't that be nice?'

Lubin looked doubtful, and wagged his tail dissentingly, as much as
to say that his ideas of angel ministrations were a trifle different.

But there was no end to the string! How very, very curious! Dicky
wound and wound and crept and crept along, until he was thoroughly
tired but thoroughly determined to see it through; and Lubin,
meanwhile, had seized the first convenient moment, after the mention
of the harness, to retire to the camp.

At length, oh joy! the tired and torn little man, following carefully
the leading-string, issued from the scratching bushes into a clean,
beautiful, round place, with a great restful-looking stump in the
centre, and round its base a small forest of snowy toadstools. What
could be a lovelier surprise! Dicky clapped his hands in glee as he
looked at them, and thought of a little verse of poetry which Bell
had taught him:

'Some fairy umbrellas came up to-day
Under the elm-tree, just over the way,
And as we have had a shower of rain,
The reason they came is made very plain:
To-night is the woodland fairies' ball,
And drops from the elm-tree might on them fall,
So little umbrellas wait for them here,
And under their shelter they'll dance without fear.
Take care where you step, nor crush them, I pray,
For fear you will frighten the fairies away.'

'Oh!' thought Dicky, in a trance of delight, 'now I shall go to the
fairies' ball, and see 'em dance under the cunning little teenty
umberells; and wunt they be mad at home when nobuddy can't see 'em
but just only me! And then if that potry is a big whopper, like that
there uvver one--'laddin-lamp story of Bell's--I'll just pick evry
white toadstool for my papa's Sunday dinner, and she sha'n't never
see a singul fairy dance.'

But he waited very patiently for a long, long time that seemed like
years, for Lubin had disappeared; and all at once it grew so dark in
this thickly-wooded place that Dicky's courage oozed out in a single
moment, without any previous warnings as to its intention. The
toadstools looked like the ghosts of little past-and-gone fairy
umbrellas in the darkness, and not a single fairy couple came to
waltz under their snowy canopies, or exchange a furtive kiss beneath
their friendly shadows.

Dicky thought the situation exceedingly gloomy, and, without knowing
it, followed the example of many older people, who, on being deserted
by man, experienced their first desire to find favour with God. He
was not in the least degree a saintly child, but he felt
instinctively that this was the proper time for prayer; and not
knowing anything appropriate to the occasion, he repeated over and
over again the time-worn plaint of childhood:-

'Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.'

Like older mortals of feeble faith, he looked for an immediate and
practical answer, in the shape, perhaps, of his mother, with his
little night-gown and bowl of bread and milk.

'My sakes alive!' he grumbled between his sobs, 'they're the meanest
fings I ever saw. How long do they s'pose I'm goin' to wait for 'em
in this dark? When the bears have et me up in teenty snips, then
they'll be saterfied, I guess, and wisht they'd tookened gooder care
of me--a little speck of a boy, lefted out in this dark, bear-y
place, all by his lone self. O--oo--oo--oh!' and he wound up with a
murderous yell, which had never failed before to bring the whole
family to his side.

His former prayer seeming to be in vain, he found a soft place,
brushed it as clean as possible, and with difficulty bending his
little stiff, scratched body into a kneeling position, he prayed his
nightly postscript to 'Now I lay me': 'God bless papa, 'n' mamma,
'n' Bell, 'n' Jack, 'n' Madge, 'n' Polly, 'n' Phil, 'n' Geoff, 'n'
Elsie.' Then, realizing that he was in a perilous position, and it
behoved him to be as pious as possible, he added: 'And please bless
Pancho, 'n' Hop Yet, 'n' Lubin, 'n' the goat--not the wild goat up on
the hill, but my goat, what got sick to his stummick when I painted
him with black letters.'

What a dreadful calamity, to be sure, if the wrong goat had been
blessed by mistake! His whole duty performed, he picked the
toadstools for his papa's Sunday dinner, and, leaning his head
against the lone stump, cried himself to sleep.

But relief was near, though he little suspected it as he lay in the
sound, dreamless sleep which comes only to the truly good. There was
a crashing sound in the still darkness, and Bell plunged through the
thick underbrush with a cry of delight.

'He is here! Dear, dear Geoff, he is all here! I knew it, I knew
it! Hurrah!--no, I mean--thank God!' she said softly as she stooped
down to kiss her mischievous little brother.

'But what a looking creature!' exclaimed Geoff, as he stooped over
the recovered treasure. 'See, Bell, his curls are glistening with
pitch, his dress is torn into ribbons, and his hands--ugh, how
dirty!'

'Poor little darling, he is thoroughly used up,' whispered Bell,
wiping tears of joy from her brown eyes. 'Now, I'll run home like
lightning to blow the horn; and you carry Dicky, for he is too sleepy
and stiff to walk; and, Geoff'--(here she laid an embarrassed hand on
his shoulder)--'I'm afraid he'll be awfully cross, but you'll not
mind it, will you? He's so worn-out.'

'Not I,' laughed Geoff, as he dropped a brotherly kiss on Bell's pale
cheek. 'But I've no idea of letting you go alone; you're tired to
death, and you'll miss the path. I wish I could carry you both.'

'Tired--afraid!' cried Bell, with a ringing laugh, while Dicky woke
with a stare, and nestled on Geoffrey's shoulder as if nothing had
happened. 'Why, now that this weight is lifted off my heart, I could
see a path in an untravelled forest! Good-bye, you dear, darling,
cruel boy! I must run, for every moment is precious to mamma.' And
with one strangling hug, which made Dicky's ribs crack, she dashed
off.

Oh how joyously, how sweetly and tunefully, the furious blast of the
old cracked dinner-horn fell on the anxious ears in that canyon. It
seemed clearer and more musical than a chime of silver bells.

In a trice the wandering couples had gathered jubilantly round the
camp-fire, all embracing Bell, who was the heroine of the hour--
entirely by chance, and not though superior vision or courage, as she
confessed.

It was hardly fifteen minutes when Geoff strode into the ring with
his sorry-looking burden, which he laid immediately in Aunt Truth's
lap.

'Oh my darling!' she cried, embracing him fondly. 'To think you are
really not dead, after all!'

'No, he is about as alive as any chap I ever saw.' And while the
happy parents caressed their restored darling, Geoff gathered the
girls and boys around the dinner-table, and repeated some of Dicky's
remarks on the homeward trip.

It seems that he considered himself the injured party, and with great
ingenuity laid all the blame of the mishap on his elders.

'Nobuddy takes care of me, anyhow,' he grumbled. 'If my papa wasn't
a mean fing I'd orter to have a black nurse with a white cap and
apurn, like Billy Thomas, 'n' then I couldn't git losted so offul
easy. An' you all never cared a cent about it either, or you'd a
founded me quicker 'n this--'n' I've been hungry fur nineteen hours,
'n' I guess I've been gone till December, by the feelin', but you was
too lazy to found me 'f I freezed to def--'n' there ain't but one
singul boy of me round the whole camp, 'n' 't would serveded you
right if I had got losted for ever; then I bet you wouldn't had much
fun Fourth of July 'thout my two bits 'n' my fire-crackers!'

It was an hour or two before peace and quiet were restored to the
camp. The long-delayed dinner had to be eaten; and to Hop Yet's calm
delight, it was a very bad one. Dicky's small wounds were dressed
with sweet oil, and after being fed and bathed he was tucked lovingly
into bed, with a hundred kisses or more from the whole party.

A little rest and attention had entirely restored his good-humour;
and when Dr. Paul went into the tent to see that all was safe for the
night, he found him sitting up in bed with a gleeful countenance,
prattling like a little angel.

'We had an offul funny time 'bout my gittin' losted, didn't we,
mamma?' chuckled he, with his gurgling little laugh. 'Next time I'm
goin' to get losted in annover bran'-new place where no-bud-dy can
find me! I fink it was the nicest time 'cept Fourth of July, don't
you, mamma?' And he patted his mother's cheek and imprinted an oily
kiss thereon.

'Truth,' said the Doctor, with mild severity, 'I know you don't
believe in applying the slipper, but I do think we should arrange
some plan for giving that child an idea of the solemnity of life. So
far as I can judge, he looks at it as one prolonged picnic.'

'My sentiments exactly!' cried Bell, energetically. 'I can't stand
many more of these trying scenes; I am worn to a "shadder."'

Dicky tucked his head under his mother's arm, with a sigh of relief
that there was one person, at least, whose sentiments were always
favourable and always to be relied upon.

'I love you the best of anybuddy, mamma,' whispered he, and fell
asleep.

CHAPTER IV: RHYME AND REASON

A BUDGET OF LETTERS FROM THE CAMP MAIL-BAG

'The letter of a friend is a likeness passing true.'

Our friend Polly was seated in a secluded spot whence all but her had
fled; her grave demeanour, her discarded sun-bonnet, her corrugated
brow, all bespoke more than common fixedness of purpose, the cause of
which will be discovered in what follows.

I. FROM THE COUNTESS PAULINA OLIVERA TO HER FRIEND AND CONFIDANTE,
THE LADY ELSIE HOWARD. {1}

Scene: A sequestered nook in the Valley of the Flowers.

CAMP CHAPARRAL, July 6, 188-.

The countess is discovered at her ommerlu {1a} writing-table. A
light zephyr {1b} plays with her golden locks {1c} and caresses her
Grecian {1d} nose--a nose that carries on its surface a few trifling
freckles, which serve but to call attention to its exquisite purity
of outline and the height of its ambition. Her eyes reflect the
changing shadows of moonlight, and her mouth is one fit for sweet
sounds; {1e} yet this only gives you a faint idea of the beauteous
creature whose fortunes we shall follow in our next number. {1f}

I have given that style a fair trial, my dear darling, but I cannot
stand it another minute, not being familiar with the language of what
our cook used to call the 'fuddal aristocracy' (feudal, you know).

I, your faithful Polly, am seated in the card-room, writing with a
dreadful pen which Phil gave me yesterday. Its internal organs are
filled with ink, which it disgorges when PRESSED to do so, but just
now it is 'too full for utterance,' as you will see by the blots.

We have decided not to make this a real round-robin letter, like the
last, because we want to write what we like, and not have it read by
the person who comes next.

I have been badgered to death over my part of the communication sent
to you last week, for the young persons connected with this camp have
a faculty of making mountains out of mole-hills, as you know, and I
have to suffer for every careless little speech. However, as we
didn't wish to bore you with six duplicate letters, we invented a
plan for keeping off each other's ground, and appointed Geoff a
committee of one to settle our line of march. It is to be a
collective letter, made up of individual notes; and these are Geoff's
sealed orders, which must be obeyed, on pain of dismissal from the
camp:

No. 1 (Polly) is to amuse!
No. 2 (Phil) ... inform!
No. 3 (Geoff) ... edify!!
No. 4 (Madge) ... gossip.
No. 5 (Bell) ... versify.
No. 6 (Jack) ... illustrate

So, my dear, if you get any 'information' or happen to be 'edified'
by what I write, don't mention it for worlds! (I just screamed my
fears about this matter to Jack, and he says 'I needn't fret.' I
shall certainly slap that boy before the summer is over.)

I could just tell you a lovely story about Dicky's getting lost in
the woods the day before yesterday, and our terrible fright about
him, and how we all joined in the boy-hunt, until Geoff and Bell
found him at the Lone Stump; but I suppose the chronicle belongs to
Phil's province, so I desist. But what can I say? Suppose I tell
you that Uncle Doc and the boys have been shooting innocent, TAME
sheep, skinning and cutting them up on the way home, and making us
believe for two days that we were eating venison; and we never should
have discovered the imposition had not Dicky dragged home four sheep-
skins from the upper pool, and told us that he saw the boys 'PEELING
THEM OFF A VENISON.' Perhaps Phil may call this information, and
Margery will vow that it is gossip and belongs to her; any way, they
consider it a splendid joke, and chuckle themselves to sleep over it
every night; but I think the whole affair is perfectly maddening, and
it makes me boil with rage to be taken in so easily. Such a to-do as
they make over the matter you never saw; you would think it was the
first successful joke since the Deluge. (That wasn't a DRY joke, was
it? Ha, ha!)

This is the way they twang on their harp of a thousand strings. At
breakfast, this morning, when Jack passed me the corn-bread, I said
innocently, 'Why, what have we here?' 'It is manna that fell in the
night,' answered Jack, with an exasperating snicker. 'You didn't
know mutton, but I thought, being a Sunday-school teacher, you would
know something about manna.' (N.B.--He alludes to that time I took
the infant class for Miss Jones, and they all ran out to see a
military funeral procession.) 'I wish you knew something about
manners,' snapped I; and then Aunt Truth had to warn us both, as
usual. Oh dear! it's a weary world. I'd just like to get Jack at a
disadvantage once!

[Next paragraph crossed out]
We climbed Pico Negro yesterday. Bell, Geoff, Phil, and I had quite
an experience in losing the trail. I will tell you about it. Just
as -

(Goodness me! what have I written? Oh, Elsie, pray excuse those
HORIZONTAL EVIDENCES of my forgetfulness and disobedience. I have
bumped my head against the table three times, as penance, and will
now try to turn my thoughts into right channels. This letter is a
black-and-white evidence that _I_ have not a frivolous order of mind,
and have always been misunderstood from my birth up to this date.)

We have had beautiful weather since--but no, of course Phil will tell
you about the weather, for that is scarcely an amusing topic. I do
want to be as prudent as possible, for Uncle Doc is going to read all
the letters (not, of course, aloud) and see whether we have fulfilled
our specific obligations.

(I just asked Bell whether 'specific' had a 'c' or an's in the
middle, and she answered '"c," of course,' with such an air, you
should have heard her! I had to remind her of the time she spelled
'Tophet' with an 'f' in the middle; then she subsided.)

(I just read this last paragraph to Madge, to see if she called it
gossip, as I was going to take it out if it belonged to her topic,
but she said No, she didn't call it gossip at all--that she should
call it slander!)

You don't know how we all long to see you, dear darling that you are.
We live in the hope of having you with us very soon, and meanwhile
the beautiful bedstead is almost finished, and a perfect success. (I
wish to withdraw the last three quarters of that sentence, for
obvious reasons!!)

Dear, dear! Geoffrey calls 'Time up,' and I've scarcely said
anything I should. Never, never again will I submit to this method
of correspondence; it is absolutely petrifying to one's genius. When
I am once forced to walk in a path, nothing but the whole out-of-
doors will satisfy me.

I'm very much afraid I haven't amused you, dear, -

But when I lie in the green kirkyard,
With the mould upon my breast,
Say not that 'She did well or ill,'
Only, 'She did her best.'

Now, do you think that will interfere with Bell, when it's only a
quotation? Any way, it's so appropriate that Uncle Doc will never
have the heart to strike it out. The trouble is that Geoff thinks
all the poetry in the universe is locked up in Bell's head, and if
she once allows it to escape, Felicia Hemans and the rest will be too
discouraged ever to try again! (I can't remember whether F. H. is
alive or not, and am afraid to ask, but you will know that I don't
mean to be disrespectful.)

Laura, Anne, and Scott Burton were here for the play, and Laura is
coming down again to spend the week. I can't abide her, and there
will probably be trouble in the camp.

The flame of my genius blazes high just now, but Geoff has spoken,
and it must be snuffed. So good-bye!

Sizz-z-z!! and I'm OUT!

POLLIOLIVER.

II. FROM PHILIP TO ELSIE.

CAMP CHAPARRAL, July 8, 188-.

My dear Elsie,--I believe I am to inform you concerning the daily
doings of our party, not on any account, however, permitting myself
to degenerate into 'gossip' or 'frivolous amusement.'

They evidently consider me a quiet, stupid fellow, who will fulfil
such a task with no special feeling of repression, and I dare say
they are quite right.

They call me the 'solid man' of the camp, which may not be very high
praise, to be sure, as Geoffrey carries his head in the clouds, and
Jack is--well, Jack is Jack! So, as the light of a tallow dip is
valuable in the absence of sun and moon, I am raised to a fictitious
reputation.

We fellows have had very little play so far, for the furnishing of
the camp has proved an immense undertaking, although we have plenty
of the right sort of wood and excellent tools.

We think the work will pay, however, as Dr. Paul has about decided to
stay until October, or until the first rain. He writes two or three
hours a day, and thinks that he gets on with his book better here
than at home. As for the rest of us, when we get fairly to rights we
shall have regular study hours and lose no time in preparing for the
examinations.

I suppose you know that you have a full bedroom set in process of
construction. I say 'suppose you know,' because it is a profound
secret, and the girls could never have kept it to themselves as long
as this.

The lounging-chair is my allotted portion, and although it is a
complicated bit of work, I accepted it gladly, feeling sure that you
would use it oftener than any of the other pieces of furniture. I
shall make it so deliciously easy that you will make me 'Knight of
the Chair,' and perhaps permit me to play a sort of devoted John
Brown to your Victoria. You will need one dull and prosy squire to
arrange your pillows, so that you can laugh at Jack's jokes without
weariness, and doze quietly while Geoff and Uncle Doc are talking
medicine.

Of course the most exciting event of the week was the mysterious
disappearance and subsequent restoration of the Heir-Apparent; but I
feel sure somebody else will describe the event, because it is
uppermost in all our minds.

Bell, for instance, would dress it up in fine style. She is no
historian, but in poetry and fiction none of us can touch her;
though, by the way, Polly's abilities in that direction are a good
deal underrated. It's as good as a play to get her after Jack when
he is in one of his teasing moods. They are like flint and steel,
and if Aunt Truth didn't separate them the sparks would fly. With a
girl like Polly, you have either to lie awake nights, thinking how
you'll get the better of her, or else put on a demeanour of
gentleness and patience, which serves as a sort of lightning-rod
round which the fire of her fun will play all day and never strike.
Polly is a good deal of a girl. She seems at first to have a pretty
sharp tongue, but I tell you she has a heart in which there is
swimming-room for everybody. This may not be 'information' to you,
whom we look upon as our clairvoyant, but it would be news to most
people.

Uncle Doc, Bell, Geoff, Polly, Meg, and I started for the top of Pico
Negro the other morning. Bell rode Villikins, and Polly took a mule,
because she thought the animal would be especially sure-footed. He
was; in fact, he was so sure-footed that he didn't care to move at
all, and we had to take turns in beating him up to the top. We boys
walked for exercise, which we got to our hearts' content.

It is only five or six miles from the old Mountain Mill (a picture of
which Jack will send you), and the ascent is pretty stiff climbing,
though nothing terrific. We lost the trail once, and floundered
about in the chaparral for half an hour, till Bell began to make a
poem on the occasion, when we became desperate, and dashed through a
thicket of brush, tearing ourselves to bits, but stumbling on the
trail at last. The view from the top is simply superb. The valleys
below are all yellow with grain-fields and green with vineyards, with
here and there the roofs of a straggling little settlement. The
depression in the side of the mountain (you will observe it in the
picture) Polly says has evidently been 'bitten out' by a prehistoric
animal, and it turns out to be the loveliest little canyon
imaginable.

We have had one novel experience--that of seeing a tarantula fight;
and not between two, but five, tarantulas. We were about twenty
miles from camp, loping along a stretch of hot, dusty road. Jack got
off to cinch his saddle, and so we all stopped a moment to let our
horses breathe. As I was looking about, at nothing in particular, I
noticed a black ball in the deep dust at the side of the road. It
suddenly rolled over on itself and I called to the boys to watch the
fun. We got off, hitched our horses, and approached cautiously, for
I had seen a battle of the same kind before. There they were--five
huge, hairy, dirty, black creatures, as large as the palm of Dicky's
hand, all locked in deadly combat. They writhed and struggled and
embraced, their long, curling legs fastening on each other with a
sound that was actually like the cracking of bones. It takes a
little courage to stand and watch such a proceeding, for you feel as
if the hideous fellows might turn and jump for you; but they were
doubtless absorbed in their own battle, and we wanted to see the
affair to the end, so we took the risk, if there was any. At last
they showed signs of weariness, but we prodded them up with our
riding-whips, preferring that they should kill each other, rather
than do the thing ourselves. Finally, four of them lay in the dust,
doubled up and harmless, slain, I suppose, by their own poison. One,
the conquering hero, remained, and we dexterously scooped him into a
tomato-can that Jack had tied to his saddle for a drinking-cup,
covered him up with a handkerchief, and drew lots as to who should
carry him home to Dr. Paul.

Knowing that the little beasts were gregarious, we hunted about for a
nest, which we might send to you after ousting its disagreeable
occupant. After much searching, we found a group of them--quite a
tarantula village, in fact. Their wonderful little houses are closed
on the outside by a circular, many-webbed mesh, two or three inches
across, and this web betrays the spider's den to the person who knows
the tricks of the trade. Directly underneath it you come upon the
tiny circular trap-door, which you will notice in the nest we send
with these letters. You will see how wonderfully it is made, with
its silken weaving inside, and its bits of bark and leaves outside;
and I know you will admire the hinge, which the tarantula must have
invented, and which is as pretty a bit of workmanship as the most
accomplished mechanic could turn out. We tore away the web and the
door from one of the nests, and then poured water down the hole. The
spider was at home, came out as fact as his clumsy legs would carry
him, and clutched the end of the stick Jack held out to him. Then we
tumbled him into the tomato-can just as he appeared to be making for
us. The two didn't agree at all. One of them despatched the other
on the way home--the same hero who had killed the other four; but, on
hearing his bloody record, Aunt Truth refused to have him about the
camp; so we gave him an alcohol bath, and you shall see his lordship
when you come. As Dr. Paul says, they have been known to clear
fourteen feet at a jump, perhaps you will feel happier to know that
he is in alcohol, though their bite is not necessarily fatal if it is
rightly cared for.

The girls have been patronising the landscape by naming every peak,
valley, grove, and stream in the vicinity; and as there is nobody to
object, the names may hold.

We carry about with us a collection of strong, flat stakes, which
have various names painted on them in neat black letters. Jack likes
that kind of work, and spends most of his time at it; for now that
Dr. Paul has bought a hundred acres up here, we are all greatly
interested in its improvement.

Geoff has named the mountain Pico Negro, as I told you, and the
little canyon on its side is called the Giant's Yawn. Then we have -

Mirror Pool,
The Lone Stump,
Field of the Cloth-of-Gold,
Cosy Nook,
The Imp's Wash-Bowl,
Dunce-Cap Hill,
The Saint's Rest, and
Il Penseroso Fall (in honour of Dicky, who was nearly drowned there).

If anybody fails to call these localities by their proper names he
has to pay a fine of five cents, which goes towards beautifying the
place. Dr. Paul has had to pay two fines for Bell, three for Aunt
Truth, and seven for Dicky; so he considers it an ill-judged
arrangement.

Our encampment is supposed to be in the Forest of Arden, and Jack has
begun nailing verses of poetry on the trees, like a second Orlando,
save that they are not love-poems at all, but appropriate quotations
from Wordsworth or Bryant. And this brings me to our thrilling
rendition of the play 'As You Like It,' last evening; but it is
deserving of more than the passing notice which I can give it here.

One thing, however, I must tell you, as the girls will not write it
of themselves--that, although Bell carried off first honours and
fairly captivated the actors as well as the audience, all three of
them looked bewitching and acted with the greatest spirit, much
better than we fellows did.

Of course we didn't give the entire play, and we had to 'double up'
on some of the characters in the most ridiculous fashion; but the
Burtons helped out wonderfully, Scott playing Oliver, and Laura doing
Audrey. They were so delighted with the camp that Aunt Truth has
invited them to come again on Saturday and stay a week.

At the risk of being called conceited I will also state that we boys
consider that the stage management was a triumph of inventive art; we
worked like beavers for two days, and the results were marvellous,
'if I do say so as shouldn't.'

Just consider we were 'six miles from a lemon,' as Sydney Smith would
say, and yet we transformed all out of doors, first into an elegant
interior, and then into a conventional stage forest.

A great deal of work is available for other performances, and so we
do not regret it a bit; we propose doing 'As You Like It' again when
you are down here, and meanwhile we give diversified entertainments
which Jack calls variety shows, but which in reality are very chaste
and elegant occasions.

The other night we had a minstrel show, wearing masks of black
cambric, with red mouths painted on them; you should have seen us,
all in a dusky semicircle, seated on boards supported by nail-kegs:
it was a scene better imagined than described. This is certainly the
ideal way to live in summer-time, and we should be perfectly happy
and content if you could only shake off your troublesome cough and
come to share our pleasure. We feel incomplete without you; and no
matter how large our party may grow as the summer progresses, there
will always be a vacant niche that none can fill save the dear little
Saint who is always enshrined therein by all her loyal worshippers,
and by none more reverently than her friend,

PHILIP S. NOBLE.

III. THE KNIGHT OF THE SPECTACLES TAKES THE QUILL.

This paper is writ unto her most Royal Highness, our beloved Gold
Elsie, Queen of our thoughts and Empress of all hearts.

You must know, most noble Lady, that one who is your next of kin and
high in the royal favour has laid upon us a most difficult and
embarrassing task.

In our capacity as Director of the Court Games, we humbly suggested
the subjects for the weekly bulletin which your Highness commanded to
be written; but, alas, with indifferent success; for the Courtiers
growled and the Ladies-in-waiting howled at the topics given them for
consideration.

On soliciting our own subjects from the Privy Councillor and Knight
of the Brush, Lord John Howard, he revengefully ordered me to 'edify'
your Majesty with wise utterances; as if such poor, rude words as
mine could please the ear that should only listen to the singing of
birds, the babbling of brooks, or the silvery tongue of genius!

When may your devoted subjects hope to see their gracious Sovereign
again in their midst?

The court is fast drifting into dangerous informalities of conduct.
The Princess Bell-Pepper partakes of the odoriferous onion at each
noon-day meal, so that a royal salute would be impossible; the hands
of the Countess Paulina look as if you might have chosen one of your
attendants from 'Afric's sunny fountains, or India's coral strand';
and as for the Court Chaplain, Rev. Jack-in-the-Pulpit, he has
woefully forsaken the manners of the 'cloth,' and insists upon
retaining his ancient title of Knight of the Brush; the Duchess of
Sweet Marjoram alone continues circumspect in walk and mien, for
blood will tell, and she is more Noble than the others.

In our capacity of Court Physician we have thrice relieved your
youthful page, Sir Dicky Winship, of indigestion, caused by too
generous indulgence in the flowing bowl--of milk and cherries; we
have also prescribed for his grace the Duke of Noble, whose ducal ear
was poisoned by the insidious oak leaf.

Your private box awaits you in the Princess' Theatre, and your
Majesty's special interpreters of the drama will celebrate your
arrival as gorgeously as it deserves.

The health of our dearly beloved Sovereign engages the constant
thought of all her loyal and adoring subjects; they hope ere long to
cull a wreath of laurel with their own hands and place it on a brow
which needs naught but its golden crown of hair to affirm its queenly
dignity. And as for crown jewels, has not our Empress of Hearts a
full store?--two dazzling sapphires, her eyes; a string of pearls,
her teeth; her lips two rubies; and when she opens them, diamonds of
wisdom issue therefrom!

Come! and let the sight of thy royal charms gladden the eyes of thy
waiting people! Issued under the hand of

SIR GEOFFREY STRONG, Bart.,
Court Physician and Knight of the Spectacles.

IV. MARGERY'S CONTRIBUTION.

COSY NOOK, July 11, 188- .

My own dear Elsie,--Your weekly chronicle is almost ready for
Monday's stage, and I am allowed to come in at the close with as many
pages of 'gossip' as I choose; which means that I may run on to my
heart's content and tell you all the little things that happen in the
chinks between the great ones, for Uncle Doc has refused to read this
part of the letter.

First for some commissions: Aunt Truth asks if your mother will
kindly select goods and engage Mrs. Perkins to make us each a couple
of Scotch gingham dresses. She has our measures, and we wish them
simple, full-skirted gowns, like the last; everybody thinks them so
pretty and becoming. Bell's two must be buff and pink, Polly's grey
and green, and mine blue and brown. We find that we haven't clothes
enough for a three months' stay; and the out-of-door life is so hard
upon our 'forest suits' that we have asked Mrs. Perkins to send us
new ones as soon as possible.

We have had a very busy and exciting week since Polly began this
letter, for there have been various interruptions and an unusual
number of visitors.

First, there was our mountain climb to the top of Pico Negro; Phil
says he has written you about that, but I hardly believe he mentioned
that he and the other boys worried us sadly by hanging on to the
tails of our horses as they climbed up the steepest places. To be
sure they were so awfully tired that I couldn't help pitying them;
but Uncle Doc had tried to persuade them not to walk, so that it was
their own fault after all. You cannot imagine what a dreadful
feeling it gives one to be climbing a slippery, rocky path, and know
that a great heavy boy is pulling your horse backwards by the tail.
Polly insisted that she heard her mule's tail break loose from its
moorings, and on measuring it when she got back to camp she found it
three inches longer than usual.

The mule acted like original sin all day, and Polly was so completely
worn-out that she went to bed at five o'clock; Jack was a good deal
the worse for wear too, so that they got on beautifully all day. It
is queer that they irritate each other so, for I am sure that there
is no lack of real friendship between them; but Jack is a confirmed
tease, and he seems to keep all his mischief bottled up for especial
use with Polly. I have tried to keep him out of trouble, as you
asked me; and although it gives me plenty to do, I am succeeding
tolerably well, except in his dealings with Polly. I lecture him
continually, but 'every time he opens his mouth he puts his foot in
it.'

Polly was under a cloud the first of the week. Villikins was sick,
and Dr. Winship sent her to Aunt Truth for a bottle of sweet oil.
Aunt Truth was not in sight, so Polly went to the box of stores and
emptied a whole quart bottle of salad oil into a pail, and Villikins
had to take it, WHEEL OR WHOA (Jack's joke!). Auntie went to make
the salad dressing at dinner-time, and discovered her loss and
Polly's mistake. It was the last bottle; and as we can't get any
more for a week, the situation was serious, and she was very much
tried. Poor Polly had a good cry over her carelessness, and came to
the dinner-table in a very sensitive frame of mind. Then what should
Jack do but tell Dicky to take Villikins a head of lettuce for his
supper, and ask Polly why she didn't change his name from Villikins
to Salad-in! Polly burst into tears, and left the table, while Dr.
Paul gave Jack a scolding, which I really think he deserved, though
it was a good joke. The next morning, the young gentleman put on a
pair of old white cotton gloves and his best hat, gathered her a
bouquet of wild flowers, and made her a handsome apology before the
whole party; so she forgave him, and they are friends--until the next
quarrel.

On the night before the play, Laura and Scott Burton arrived on
horseback, and the next morning the rest of the family appeared on
the scene. We had sent over to see if Laura would play Audrey on so
short notice, and bring over some odds and ends for costumes. We
actually had an audience of sixteen persons, and we had no idea of
playing before anybody but Aunt Truth and Dicky.

There were three of the Burtons, Pancho, Hop Yet, the people from the
dairy farm, and a university professor from Berkeley, with eight
students. They were on a walking tour, and were just camping for the
night when Scott and Jack met them, and invited them over to the
performance. Geoffrey and Phil were acquainted with three of them,
and Uncle Paul knew the professor.

Laura, Anne, and Scott went home the next morning, but came back in
two days for their week's visit. The boys like Scott very much; he
falls right into the camp ways, and doesn't disturb the even current
of our life; and Anne, who is a sweet little girl of twelve, has
quite taken Dicky under her wing, much to our relief.

With Laura's advent, however, a change came over the spirit of our
dreams, and, to tell the truth, we are not over and above pleased
with it. By the way, she spent last summer at the hotel, and you
must have seen her, did you not? Anyway, Mrs. Burton and Aunt Truth
were old school friends, and Bell has known Laura for two years, but
they will never follow in their mothers' footsteps. Laura is so
different from her mother that I should never think they were
relations; and she has managed to change all our arrangements in some
mysterious way which we can't understand. I get on very well with
her; she positively showers favours upon me, and I more than half
suspect it is because she thinks I don't amount to much. As for the
others, she rubs Polly the wrong way, and I believe she is a little
bit jealous of Bell.

You see, she is several months older than the rest of us, and has
spent two winters in San Francisco, where she went out a great deal
to parties and theatres, so that her ideas are entirely different
from ours.

She wants every single bit of attention--one boy to help her over the
brooks, one to cut walking-sticks for her, another to peel her
oranges, and another to read Spanish with her, and so on. Now, you
know very well that she will never get all this so long as Bell
Winship is in camp, for the boys think that Bell drags up the sun
when she's ready for him in the morning, and pushes him down at night
when she happens to feel sleepy.

We, who have known Bell always, cannot realise that any one can help
loving her, but there is something in Laura which makes it impossible
for her to see the right side of people. She told me this morning
that she thought Bell had grown so vain and airy and self-conscious
that it was painful to see her. I could not help being hurt; for you
know what Bell is--brimful of nonsense and sparkle and bright
speeches, but just as open as the day and as warm as the sunshine.
If she could have been spoiled, we should have turned her head long
ago; but she hasn't a bit of silly vanity, and I never met any one
before who didn't see the pretty charm of her brightness and
goodness--did you?

And yet, somehow, Laura sticks needles into her every time she
speaks. She feels them, too, but it only makes her quiet, for she is
too proud and sensitive to resent it. I can see that she is
different in her ways, as if she felt she was being criticised.
Polly is quite the reverse. If anybody hurts her feelings she makes
creation scream, and I admire her courage.

Aunt Truth doesn't know anything about all this, for Laura is a
different girl when she is with her or Dr. Paul; not that she is
deceitful, but that she is honestly anxious for their good opinion.
You remember Aunt Truth's hobby that we should never defend ourselves
by attacking any one else, and none of us would ever complain, if we
were hung, drawn, and quartered.

Laura was miffed at having to play Audrey, but we didn't know that
she could come until the last moment, and we were going to leave that
part out.

'I don't believe you appreciate my generosity in taking this
thankless part,' she said to Bell, when we were rehearsing. 'Nobody
would ever catch you playing second fiddle, my dear. All leading
parts reserved for Miss Winship, by order of the authors, I suppose.'

'Indeed, Laura,' Bell said, 'if we had known you were coming we would
have offered you the best part, but I only took Rosalind because I
knew the lines, and the girls insisted.'

'You've trained the girls well--hasn't she, Geoffrey?' asked Laura,
with a queer kind of laugh.

But I will leave the unpleasant subject. I should not have spoken of
it at all except that she has made me so uncomfortable to-day that it
is fresh in my mind. Bell and Polly and I have talked the matter all
over, and are going to try and make her like us, whether she wants to
or not. We have agreed to be just as polite and generous as we
possibly can, and see if she won't 'come round,' for she is perfectly
delighted with the camp, and wants to stay a month.

Polly says she is going to sing 'Home Sweet Home' to her every night,
and drop double doses of the homoeopathic cure for home-sickness into
her tea, with a view of creating the disease.

Good-bye, and a hundred kisses from your loving

MARGERY DAW.

V. THE CAMP POETESS ADDS HER STORE OF MENTAL RICHES TO THE GENERAL
FUND.

My darling,--I have a thousand things to tell you, but I cannot
possibly say them in rhyme, merely because the committee insists upon
it. I send you herewith all the poetry which has been written in
camp since last Monday, and it has been a very prosy week.

I have given them to papa, and he says that the best of my own, which
are all bad enough, is the following hammock-song.

I thought it out while I was swinging Margery, and here it is! -

To--fro,
Dreamily, slow,
Under the trees;
Swing--swing,
Drowsily sing
The birds and the bees;
Sleep--rest,
Slumber is best,
Wakefulness sad;
Rest--sleep,
Forget how to weep,
Dream and be glad!

Papa says it is all nonsense to say that slumber is best and
wakefulness sad; and that it is possible to tell the truth in poetry.
Perhaps it is, but why don't they do it oftener, then? And how was
he to know that Polly and Jack had just gone through a terrible
battle of words in which I was peacemaker, and that Dicky had been as
naughty as--Nero--all day? These two circumstances made me look at
the world through blue glasses, and that is always the time one longs
to write poetry.

I send you also Geoff's verses, written to mamma, and slipped into
the box when we were playing Machine Poetry:-

I know a woman fair and calm,
Whose shining tender eyes
Make, when I meet their earnest gaze,
Sweet thoughts within me rise.

And if all silver were her hair,
Or faded were her face,
She would not look to me less fair,
Nor lack a single grace.

And if I were a little child,
With childhood's timid trust,
I think my heart would fly to her,
And love--because it must!

And if I were an earnest man,
With empty heart and life,
I think--(but I might change my mind) -
She'd be my chosen wife!

Isn't that pretty? Oh, Elsie! I hope I shall grow old as
beautifully as mamma does, so that people can write poetry to me if
they feel like it! Here is Jack's, for Polly's birthday; he says he
got the idea from a real poem which is just as silly as his:-

A pollywog from a wayside brook
Is a goodly gift for thee;
But a milk-white steed, or a venison sheep,
Will do very well for me.

For you a quivering asphodel
(Two ducks and a good fat hen),
For me a withering hollyhock
(For seven and three are ten!).

Rose-red locks and a pug for thee
(The falling dew is chill),
A dove, a rope, and a rose for me
(Oh, passionate, pale-blue pill!).

For you a greenery, yallery gown
(Hath one tomb room for four?),
Dig me a narrow gravelet here
(Oh, red is the stain of gore!!).

I told Jack I thought it extremely unhitched, but he says that's the
chief beauty of the imitation.

I give you also some verses intended for Polly's birthday, which we
shall celebrate, when the day arrives, by a grand dinner.

You remember how we tease her about her love for tea, which she
cannot conceal, but which she is ashamed of all the same.

Well! I have printed the poem on a card, and on the other side
Margery has drawn the picture of a cross old maid, surrounded by
seven cats, all frying to get a drink out of her tea-cup. Then Geoff
is going to get a live cat from the milk ranch near here, and box it
up for me to give to her when she receives her presents at the
dinner-table. Won't it be fun?

OWED TO POLLY
BECAUSE OF HER BIRTHDAY.

She camps among the untrodden ways
Forninst the 'Mountain Mill';
A maid whom there are few to praise
And few to wish her ill.

She lives unknown, and few could know
What Pauline is to me;
As dear a joy as are to her
Her frequent cups of tea.

A birthday this dear creature had,
Full many a year ago;
She says she is but just fifteen,
Of course she ought to know.

But still this gift I bring to her,
Appropriate to her age,
Regardless of her stifled scorn,
Or well conceal-ed rage!

She smiles upon these tender lines,
As you all plainly see,
But when she meets me all alone,
How different it will be!

Now comes Geoff's, to be given with a pretty little inkstand:-

There was a young maiden whose thought
Was so airy it couldn't be caught;
So what do you think?
We gave her some ink,
And captured her light-winged thought.

Here is Jack's last on Polly:-

There's a pert little poppet called Polly,
Who frequently falls into folly!
She's a terrible tongue
For a 'creetur' so young,
But if she were dumb she'd be jolly!

I helped Polly with a reply, and we delivered it five minutes later:-

I'd rather be deaf, Master Jack,
For if only one sense I must lack,
To be rid of your voice
I should always rejoice,
Nor mourn if it never came back!

And now good-night and good-bye until I am allowed to write you my
own particular kind of letter.

The girls and boys are singing round the camp-fire, and I must go out
and join them in one song before we go to bed.

Yours with love, now and always,
BELL.

P. S--Our 'Happy Hexagon' has become a sort of 'Obstreperous
Octagon.' Laura and Scott Burton are staying with us. Scott is a
good deal of a bookworm, and uses very long words; his favourite name
for me at present is Calliope; I thought it was a sort of steam-
whistle, but Margery thinks it was some one who was connected with
poetry. We don't dare ask the boys; will you find out?

VI.

CAMP CHAPARRAL, July 13, 188-.
STUDIO RAPHAEL.

Dear Little Sis,--The enclosed sketches speak for themselves, or at
least I hope they do. Keep them in your private portfolio, and when
I am famous you can produce them to show the public at what an early
age my genius began to sprout.

At first I thought I'd make them real 'William Henry' pictures, but
concluded to give you a variety.

Can't stop to write another line; and if you missed your regular
letter this week you must not growl, for the sketches took an awful
lot of time, and I'm just rushed to death here anyway.

Love to mother and father.
Your loving brother. JACK

P.S.--Polly says you need not expect to recognise that deer by his
portrait, should you ever meet him, as no one could expect to get a
STRIKING likeness at a distance of a half-mile. But, honestly, we
have been closer than that to several deer.

CHAPTER V: THE FOREST OF ARDEN--GOOD NEWS

'From the East to western Ind,
No jewel is like Rosalind;
Her worth, being mounted on the wind,
Through all the world bears Rosalind;
All the pictures, fairest lined,
Are but black to Rosalind;
Let no face be kept in mind,
But the fair of Rosalind.'

The grand performance of 'As You Like It' must have a more extended
notice than it has yet received, inasmuch as its double was never
seen on any stage.

The reason of this somewhat ambitious selection lay in the fact that
our young people had studied it in Dr. Winship's Shakespeare class
the preceding winter, but they were actually dumb with astonishment
when Bell proposed it for the opening performance in the new theatre.

'I tell you,' she argued, 'there are not many pieces which would be
effective when played out of doors by dim candle-light, but this will
be just as romantic and lovely as can be. You see it can be played
just "as you like it."'

Philip and Aunt Truth wanted a matinee performance, but the girls
resisted this plan very strongly, feeling that the garish light of
day would be bad for the makeshift costumes, and would be likely to
rob them of what little courage they possessed.

'We give the decoration of the theatre entirely into your hands,
boys,' Polly had said on the day before the performance. 'You have
some of the hardest work done already, and can just devote yourselves
to the ornamental part; but don't expect any more ideas from us, for
you will certainly be disappointed.'

'I should think not, indeed!' cried Bell, energetically. 'Here we
have the wall decorations for the first scene, and all the costumes
besides; and the trouble is, that three or four of them will have to
be made to-morrow, after Laura comes with the trappings of war. I
hope she will get here for dinner to-night; then we can decide on our
finery, and have a rough rehearsal.'

'Well, girls!' shouted Jack, from the theatre, 'come and have one
consultation, and then we'll let you off. Phil wants to change the
location altogether.'

'Oh, nonsense!' cried Madge, as the three girls ran towards the scene
of action. 'It's the only suitable place within a mile of the camp.'

'I think it will be simply perfect, when you have done a little more
cutting,' said Bell. 'Just see our advantages: First, we have that
rising knoll opposite the stage, which is exactly the thing for
audience seats; then we have a semicircular background of trees and a
flat place for the stage, which is perfectly invaluable; last of all,
just gaze upon that madrono-tree in the centre, and the oak on the
left; why, they are worth a thousand dollars for scenery.'

'Especially in the first scene--ducal interior, or whatever it is,'
said Phil, disconsolately.

'Jingo! that is a little embarrassing,' groaned Jack.

'Not at all,' said Polly, briskly. 'There is plenty of room to set
the interior in front of those trees. It can be all fixed
beforehand, and just whisked away for good at the end of the first
act.'

'That's true,' said Geoff, thoughtfully. 'But we can't have any
Adam's cottage. We talked it over last night, and decided it
"couldn't be did."'

'Did you indeed!' exclaimed Bell, sarcastically. 'Then allow me to
remark that you three boys represent a very obtuse triangle.'

'Thanks, most acid Rosalind!' murmured Geoff, meekly. 'Could you
deign, as spokesman of the very acute triangle, to suggest
something?'

'Certainly. There is the rear of the brush kitchen in plain sight,
to convey the idea of a rustic hut. To be sure, it's a good distance
to the left, but let the audience screw round in their seats when
they hear the voices, and Adam, Oliver, and Orlando can walk out
carelessly, and go through their scene right there.'

'Admirable!' quoth Geoff. 'We bow to your superior judgment.'

'What an inspiration that was to bring those Chinese lanterns for the
Fourth of July; they have just saved us from utter ruin,' said
Margery, who was quietly making leaf-trimming.

'Yes, the effect is going to be perfectly gorgeous!' exclaimed Polly,
clasping her hands in anticipation. 'How many have we? Ten? Oh,
that's splendid; and how many candles?'

'As many as we care to use,' Phil answered, from the top of the
ladder where he was at work. 'And look at my arrangement for holding
them to these trees. Aren't they immense?'

'By the way,' said Bell, 'don't forget the mossy banks under those
trees, for stage seats; and make me some kind of a thing on the left
side, to swoon on when I sniff Orlando's gory handkerchief.'

'A couple of rocks,' suggested Jack.

'Not exactly,' replied the critical Rosalind, with great dignity. 'I
am black and blue already from practising my faint, and I expect to
shriek with pain when I fall to-morrow night.'

'St. Jacob's Oil relieves stiffened joints, smooths the wrinkles from
the brow of care, soothes lacerated feelings, and 'ushes the 'owl of
hinfancy,' remarked Geoffrey serenely, as he prepared to build the
required mossy banks.

'My dear cousin (there are times when I am glad it is only second
cousin), have you a secret contract to advertise a vulgar patent
medicine? or why this eloquence?' laughed Bell.

'And, Jack,' suggested Polly, 'you don't seem to be doing anything;
fix a stump for me to sit on while Orlando and Rosalind are making
love.'

'All right, countess. I'd like to see you stumped once in my life.
Shall we have the canvases brought for stage carpets?'

'We say no,' cried Rosalind, firmly. 'We shall be a thousand times
more awkward stumbling over stiff billows of carpet. Let's sweep the
ground as clean and smooth as possible, and let it go for all the
scenes.'

'Yes, we shall then be well GROUNDED in our parts,' remarked Phil,
hiding his head behind a bunch of candles.

'Take care, young man,' laughed Polly, 'or you may be "run to earth"
instead.'

'Or be requested by the audience to get up and dust,' cried the
irrepressible Jack, whose wit was very apt to be of a slangy
character. 'Now let us settle the interior, or I shall go mad.'

'Bell and I have it all settled,' said Geoffrey, promptly. 'The
background is to be made of three sheets hung over a line, and the
two sides will be formed of canvas carpets; the walls will have
Japanese fans, parasols, and--'

'Jupiter!' exclaimed Jack, who, as knight of the brush, felt
compelled to be artistic. 'Imagine a ducal palace, in the year so
many hundred and something, decorated with Japanese bric-a-brac! I
blush for you.'

'Now, Jack, we might as well drop the whole play as begin to think of
the 'nakkeronisms,' or whatever the word is. I have got to wear an
old white wrapper to the wrestling-match, but I don't complain,' said
Polly.

Just here Bell ran back from the kitchen, exclaiming:

'I have secured Pancho for Charles the Wrestler. Oh, he was
fearfully obstinate! but when I told him he would only be on the
stage two minutes, and would not have to speak a word, but just let
Geoff throw him, he consented. Isn't that good? Did you decide
about the decorations?'

'It will have to be just as we suggested,' answered Margery. 'Fans,
parasols, flowers, and leaves, with the madrono-wood furniture
scattered about, sheep-skins, etc.'

'A few venison rugs, I presume you mean,' said Geoffrey, slyly.
'Say, Polly, omit the cold cream for once, will you? You don't want
to outshine everybody.'

'Thank you,' she replied. 'I will endeavour to take care of my own
complexion, if you will allow me. As for yours, you look more like
Othello than Orlando.'

'Come, come, girls,' said industrious Margery, 'let us go to the tent
and sew. It is nothing but nonsense here, and we are not
accomplishing anything.'

So they wisely left the boys to themselves for the entire day, and
transformed their tent into a mammoth dressmaking establishment, with
clever Aunt Truth as chief designer.

The intervening hours had slipped quickly away, and now the fatal
moment had arrived, and everything was ready for the play.

The would-be actresses were a trifle excited when the Professor and
his eight students were brought up and introduced by Jack and Scott
Burton; and, as if that were not enough, who should drive up at the
last moment but the family from the neighbouring milk ranch, and beg
to be allowed the pleasure of witnessing the performance. Mr.
Sandford was the gentleman who had sold Dr. Winship his land, and so
they were cordially invited to remain.

All the cushions and shawls belonging to the camp were arranged
carefully on the knoll, for audience seats; it was a brilliant
moonlight night, and the stage assumed a very festive appearance with
its four pounds of candles and twelve Chinese lanterns.

Meanwhile the actors were dressing in their respective tents. Bell's
first dress was a long pink muslin wrapper of Mrs. Burton's, which
had been belted in and artistically pasted over with bouquets from
the cretonne trunk covers, in imitation of flowered satin; under this
she wore a short blue lawn skirt of her own, catching up the pink
muslin on the left side with a bouquet of wild roses, and producing
what she called a 'positively Neilson effect.'

Her bright hair was tossed up into a fluffy knot on the top of her
head; and with a flat coronet of wild roses and another great bunch
at her belt, one might have gone far and not have found a prettier
Rosalind.

'I declare, you are just too lovely--isn't she, Laura?' asked
Margery.

'Yes, she looks quite well,' answered Laura, abstractedly, being much
occupied in making herself absurdly beautiful as Audrey. 'Of course
the dress fits horridly, but perhaps it won't show in the dim light.'

'Oh, is it very bad?' sighed Bell, plaintively; 'I can't see it in
this glass. Well, the next one fits better, and I have to wear that
the longest. Shall I do your hair, Laura?'

'No--thanks; Margery has such a capital knack at hair-dressing, and
she doesn't come on yet.'

During this conversation Polly was struggling with Aunt Truth's
trained white wrapper. It was rather difficult to make it look like
a court dress; but she looked as fresh and radiant as a rose in it,
for the candle-light obliterated every freckle, and one could see
nothing but a pair of dancing eyes, the pinkest of cheeks, and a head
running over with curls of ruddy gold.

'Now, Bell, criticise me!' she cried, taking a position in the middle
of the tent, and turning round like a wax figure. 'I have torn out
my hair by the roots to give it a "done up" look, and have I
succeeded? and shall I wear any flowers with this lace surplice? and
what on earth shall I do with my hands? they're so black they will
cast a gloom over the stage. Perhaps I can wrap my handkerchief
carelessly round one, and I'll keep the other round your waist,
considerable, tucked under your Watteau pleat. Will I do?'

'Do? I should think so!' and Bell eyed her with manifest approval.
'Your hair is very nice, and your neck looks lovely with that lace
handkerchief. As for flowers, why don't you wear a great mass of
yellow and white daisies? You'll be as gorgeous as--'

'As a sunset by Turner,' said Laura, with a glance at Polly's auburn
locks. 'Seems to me this is a mutual admiration society, isn't it?'
and she sank languidly into a chair to have her hair dressed.

'Yes, it is,' cried Polly, boldly; 'and it's going to "continner."
Meg, you're a darling in that blue print and pretty hat. I'll fill
my fern-basket with flowers, and you can take it, as to have
something in your hand to play with. You look nicer than any Phoebe
I ever saw, that's a fact. And now, hurrah! we're all ready, and
there's the boys' bell, so let us assemble out in the kitchen. Oh
dear! I believe I'm frightened, in spite of every promise to the
contrary.'

When the young people saw each other for the first time in their
stage costumes there was a good deal of merriment and some honest
admiration. Geoff looked very odd without his eyeglasses and with
the yellow wig that was the one property belonging to this star
dramatic organisation.

The girls had not succeeded in producing a great effect with the
masculine costumes, because of insufficient material. But the boys
had determined not to wear their ordinary clothes, no matter what
happened; so Jack had donned one of Hop Yet's blue blouses for his
Sylvius dress, and had ready a plaid shawl to throw gracefully over
one shoulder whenever he changed to the Banished Duke.

His Sylvius attire was open to criticism, but no one could fail to
admire his appearance as the Duke, on account of a magnificent ducal
head-gear, from which soared a bunch of tall peacock feathers.

'Oh, Jack, what a head-dress for a Duke!' laughed Margery; 'no wonder
they banished you. Did you offend the court hatter?'

Phil said that at all events nobody could mistake him for anything
but a fool, in his 'Touchstone' costume, and so he was jest-er going
to be contented.

Scott Burton was arranging Pancho's toilette for the wrestling-match,
and meanwhile trying to raise his drooping spirits; and Rosalind was
vainly endeavouring to make Adam's beard of grey moss stay on.

While these antics were going on behind the scenes, the audience was
seated on the knoll, making merry over the written programmes, which
had been a surprise of Geoff's, and read as follows:-

THE PRINCESS' THEATRE.
July 10th, 188-.

APPEARANCE THE GREATEST DRAMATIC COMPANY ON EARTH (FACT).
THE COOLEST THEATRE IN THE WORLD.

A Royal Galaxy and Boyaxy of Artists in the play of
AS YOU LIKE IT,
By William Shakespeare, or Lord Bacon.

CAST.

'Alas! unmindful of their doom, the little victims play;
No sense have they of ills to come, or cares beyond to-day.'

ROSALIND The Lady Bell-Pepper.
(Her greatest creation.)
CELIA The Countess Paulina.
PHOEBE The Duchess of Sweet Marjoram.
AUDREY A talented Incognita of the Court.
ORLANDO Hennery Irving Salvini Strong.
(Late from the Blank Theatre, Oil City.)
ADAM Dr. Paul Winship.
(By kind permission of his manager,
Mrs. T. W.)
BANISHED DUKE }
SYLVIUS } Lord John Howard } Lightning
TOUCHSTONE } } Change Artists.
JACQUE } Duke of Noble }
(N.B.--The Duke of Noble has played
the 'fool' five million times.)
OLIVER Mr. Scott Burton.
(Specially engaged.)
CHARLES THE WRESTLER Pancho Muldoon Sullivan.
(His first appearance.)

The Comb Orchestra will play the Music of the Future.

The Usher will pass pop-corn between the Acts. Beds may be ordered
at 10.30.

The scene between Adam and Orlando went off with good effect; and
when Celia and Rosalind came through the trees in an affectionate
attitude, and Celia's blithe voice broke the stillness with, 'I pray
thee, Rosalind, sweet my coz, be merry,' there was a hearty burst of
applause which almost frightened them into silence.

At the end of the first act everybody was delighted; the stage-
manager, carpenter, scene-shifter, costumier, and all the stars were
called successively before the curtain.

Hop Yet declared it was 'all the same good as China theatre'; and
every one agreed to that criticism without a dissenting voice.

To be sure, there was an utter absence of stage-management, and all
the 'traditions' were remarkable for their absence; but I fancy that
the spirits of Siddons and Kemble, Macready and Garrick, looked down
with kind approval upon these earnest young actors as they recited
the matchless old words, moving to and fro in the quaint setting of
trees and moonlight, with an orchestra of cooing doves and murmuring
zephyrs.

The forest scenes were intended to be the features of the evening,
and in these the young people fairly surpassed themselves. Any one
who had seen Neilson in her doublet and hose of silver-grey, Modjeska
in her shades of blue, and Ada Cavendish in her lovely suit of green,
might have thought Bell's patched-up dress a sorry mixture; yet these
three brilliant stars in the theatrical firmament might have envied
this little Rosalind the dewy youth and freshness that so triumphed
over all deficiencies of costume.

Margery's camping-dress of grey, shortened to the knee, served for
its basis. Round the skirt and belt and sleeves were broad bands of
laurel-leaf trimming. She wore a pair of Margery's long grey
stockings and Laura's dainty bronze Newport ties. A soft grey chudda
shawl of Aunt Truth's was folded into a mantle to swing from the
shoulder, its fringes being caught up out of sight, and a laurel-leaf
trimming added. On her bright wavy hair was perched a cunning flat
cap of leaves, and, as she entered with Polly, leaning on her
manzanita staff, and sighing, 'Oh Jupiter, how weary are my spirits!'
one could not wish a lovelier stage picture.

And so the play went on, with varying fortunes. Margery was
frightened to death, and persisted in taking Touchstone's speeches
right out of his mouth, much to his discomfiture. Adam's beard
refused to stay on; so did the moustache of the Banished Duke, and
the clothes of Sylvius. But nothing could damp the dramatic fire of
the players, nor destroy the enthusiasm of the sympathetic audience.

Dicky sat in the dress-circle, wrapped in blankets, and laughed
himself nearly into convulsions over Touchstone's jokes, and the
stage business of the Banished Duke; for it is unnecessary to state
that Jack was not strictly Shakespearean in his treatment of the
part.

As for Polly, she enjoyed being Celia with all her might, and
declared her intention of going immediately on the 'regular' stage;
but Jack somewhat destroyed her hopes by affirming that her nose and
hair wouldn't be just the thing on the metropolitan boards, although
they might pass muster in a backwoods theatre.

'Hello! What's this?' exclaimed Philip, one morning. 'A visitor?
Yes--no! Why, it's Senor Don Manuel Felipe Hilario Noriega coming up
the canyon! He's got a loaded team, too! I wonder if Uncle Doc is
expecting anything.'

The swarthy gentleman with the long name emerged from one cloud of
dust and disappeared in another, until he neared the gate where
Philip and Polly were standing.

Philip opened the gate, and received a bow of thanks which would have
made Manuel's reputation at a Spanish court.

'Going up to camp?'

'Si, senor.'

'Those things for us?'

'Si, senor.'

'What are they?'

'Si, senor.'

'Exactly! Well, are there any letters?'

'Si, senor.' Whereupon he drew one from his gorgeously-decorated
leather belt.

Philip reached for it, and Polly leaned over his shoulder, devoured
with curiosity.

'It's for Aunt Truth,' she said; 'and--yes, I am sure it is Mrs.
Howard's writing; and if it is--'

Hereupon, as Manuel spoke no English, and neither Philip nor Polly
could make inquiries in Spanish, Polly darted to the cart in her
usual meteoric style, put one foot on the hub of a wheel and climbed
to the top like a squirrel, snatched off a corner of the canvas
cover, and cried triumphantly, 'I knew it! Elsie is coming! Here's
a tent, and some mattresses and pillows. Hurry! Help me down,
quick! Oh, slow-coach! Keep out of the way and I'll jump! Give me
the letter. I can run faster than you can.' And before the vestige
of an idea had penetrated Philip's head, nothing could be seen of
Polly but a pair of twinkling heels and the gleam of a curly head
that caught every ray of the sun and turned it into ruddier gold.

It was a dusty, rocky path, and up-hill at that; but Polly, who was
nothing if not ardent, never slackened her pace, but dashed along
until she came in sight of the camp, where she expended her last
breath in one shrill shriek for Aunt Truth.

It was responded to promptly. Indeed, it was the sort of shriek that
always commands instantaneous attention; and Aunt Truth came out of
her tent prepared to receive tragic news. Bell followed; and the
entire family would have done the same had they been in camp.

Polly thrust the letter into Mrs. Winship's hand, and sank down
exhausted, exclaiming, breathlessly, 'There's a mattress--and a tent-
-coming up the canyon. It's Elsie's, I know. Philip is down at the
gate--with the cart--but I came ahead. Phew! but it's warm!'

'What!' cried Bell, joyfully. 'Elsie at the gate! It can't be
true!' And she darted like an arrow through the trees.

'Come back! come back!' screamed Polly.

'Elsie is not at the gate. Don S. D. M. F. H. N. is there with a
team loaded down with things. Isn't it from Mrs. Howard, Aunt
Truth?'

'Yes, it is. Written this morning from Tacitas Rancho. Why, how is
this? Let me see!'

TACITAS RANCHO, Monday morning.

Dear Truth,--You will be surprised to receive a letter from me,
written from Tacitas. But here we are, Elsie and I; and, what is
better, we are on our way to you.

('I knew it!' exclaimed the girls.)

Elsie has been growing steadily better for three weeks. The fever
seems to have disappeared entirely, and the troublesome cough is so
much lessened that she sleeps all night without waking. The doctor
says that the camp-life will be the very best thing for her now, and
will probably complete her recovery.

('Oh, joy, joy!' cried the girls.)

I need not say how gladly we followed this special prescription of
our kind doctor's, nor add that we started at once.

('Oh, Aunt Truth, there is nobody within a mile of the camp; can't I,
PLEASE can't I turn one little hand-spring, just one little lady-like
one?' pleaded Polly, dancing on one foot and chewing her sun-bonnet
string.

'No, dear, you can't! Keep quiet and let me read.')

Elsie would not let me tell you our plans any sooner, lest the old
story of a sudden ill turn would keep us at home; and I think very
likely that she longed to give the dear boys and girls a surprise.

We arrived at the Burtons' yesterday. Elsie bore the journey
exceedingly well, but I would not take any risks, and so we shall not
drive over until day after to-morrow morning.

('You needn't have hurried quite so fast, Polly dear.')

I venture to send the tent and its belongings ahead to-day, so that
Jack may get everything to rights before we arrive.

The mattress is just the size the girls ordered; and of course I've
told Elsie nothing about the proposed furnishing of her tent.

I am bringing my little China boy with me, for I happen to think
that, with the Burtons, we shall be fourteen at table. Gin is not
quite a success as a cook, but he can at least wash dishes, wait at
table, and help Hop Yet in various ways; while I shall be only too
glad to share all your housekeeping cares, if you have not escaped
them even in the wilderness.

I shall be so glad to see you again; and oh, Truth, I am so happy, so
happy, that, please God, I can keep my child after all! The weary
burden of dread is lifted off my heart, and I feel young again. Just
think of it! My Elsie will be well and strong once more! It seems
too good to be true.

Always your attached friend,
JANET HOWARD.

Mrs. Winship's voice quivered as she read the last few words, and
Polly and Bell threw themselves into each other's arms and cried for
sheer gladness.

'Come, come, dears! I suppose you will make grand preparations, and
there is no time to lose. One of you must find somebody to help
Philip unload the team. Papa and the boys have gone fishing, and
Laura and Margery went with them, I think.' And Mrs. Winship bustled
about, literally on hospitable thoughts in-tent.

Polly tied on her sun-bonnet with determination, turned up her
sleeves as if washing were the thing to be done, and placed her arms
akimbo.

'First and foremost,' said she, her eyes sparkling with excitement,
'first and foremost, I am going to blow the horn.'

'Certainly not,' said Aunt Truth. 'Are you crazy, Polly? It is
scarcely ten o'clock, and everybody would think it was dinnertime,
and come home at once.'

'No, they'd think something had happened to Dicky,' said Bell, 'and
that would bring them in still sooner.'

'Of course! I forgot. But can't I blow it earlier than usual?
Can't I blow it at half-past eleven instead of twelve? We can't do a
thing without the boys, and they may not come home until midnight
unless we do something desperate. Oh, delight! There's Don S. D. M.
F. H. N., and Phil has found Pancho to help unload.'

'Isn't it lucky that we decided on the place for Elsie's tent, and
saved it in case she should ever come?' said Bell. 'Now Philip and
Pancho can set it up whenever they choose. And isn't it fortunate
that we three stayed at home to-day, and refused to fish? now we can
plan everything, and then all work together when they come back.'

Meanwhile Polly was tugging at an immense bundle, literally tooth and
nail, as she alternated trembling clutches of the fingers with
frantic bites at the offending knot.

Like many of her performances, the physical strength expended was out
of all proportion to the result produced, and one stroke of Philip's
knife accomplished more than all her ill-directed effort. At length
the bundle of awning cloth stood revealed. 'Oh, isn't it beautiful?'
she cried, 'it will be the very prettiest tent in camp; can't I blow
the horn?'

'Look, mamma,' exclaimed Bell, 'it is green and grey, in those pretty
broken stripes, and the edge is cut in lovely scollops and bound with
green braid. Won't it look pretty among the trees?'

Aunt Truth came out to join the admiring group.

'O-o-o-h!' screamed Polly. 'There comes a piece of the floor.
They've sent it all made, in three pieces. What fun! We'll have it
all up and ready to sleep in before we blow the horn!'

'And here's a roll of straw matting,' said Phil, depositing a huge
bundle on the ground near the girls. 'I'll cut the rope to save your
teeth!'

'Green and white plaid!' exclaimed Bell. 'Well! Mrs. Howard did
have her wits about her!'

'Oh, do let me blow the horn!' teased the irrepressible Polly.

'Here are a looking-glass and a towel-rack and a Shaker rocking-
chair,' called Philip; 'guess they're going to stay the rest of the
summer.'

'Yes, of course they wouldn't want a looking-glass if they were only
going to stay a month or two,' laughed Bell.

'Dear Aunt Truth, if you won't let me turn a single decorous little
hand-spring, or blow the horn, or do anything nice, will you let us
use all that new white mosquito-netting? Bell says that it has been
in the storehouse for two years, and it would be just the thing for
decorating Elsie's tent.'

'Why, of course you may have it, Polly, and anything else that you
can find. There! I hear Dicky's voice in the distance; perhaps the
girls are coming.'

Bell and Polly darted through the swarm of tents, and looked up the
narrow path that led to the brook.

Sure enough, Margery and Laura were strolling towards home with
little Anne and Dick dangling behind, after the manner of children.
Margery carried a small string of trout, and Dick the inevitable tin
pail in which he always kept an unfortunate frog or two. The girls
had discovered that he was in the habit of crowding the cover tightly
over the pail and keeping his victims shut up for twenty-four hours,
after which, he said, they were nice and tame--so very tame, as it
transpired, that they generally gave up the ghost in a few hours
after their release. Margery had with difficulty persuaded him of
his cruelty, and the cover had been pierced with a certain number of
air-holes.

'Guess the loveliest thing that could possibly happen!' called Bell
at the top of her voice.

'Elsie has come,' answered Margery in a second, nobody knew why; 'let
me hug her this minute!'

'With those fish?' laughed Polly. 'No! you'll have to wait until day
after to-morrow, and then your guess will be right. Isn't it almost
too good to be true?'

'And she is almost well,' added Bell, joyfully, slipping her arm
through Margery's and squeezing it in sheer delight. 'Mrs. Howard
says she is really and truly better. Oh, if Elsie Howard in bed is
the loveliest, dearest thing in the world, what will it be like to
have her out of it and with us in all our good times!'

'Has she always been ill since you knew her?' asked Laura.

'Yes; a terrible cold left her with weakness of the lungs, and the
doctors feared consumption, but thought that she might possibly
outgrow it entirely if she lived in a milder climate; so Mrs. Howard
left home and everybody she cared for, and brought Elsie to Santa
Barbara. Papa has taken an interest in her from the first, and as
far as we girls are concerned, it was love at first sight. You never
knew anybody like Elsie!'

'Is she pretty?'

'Pretty!' cried Polly, 'she is like an angel in a picture-book!'

'Interesting?'

'Interesting!' said Bell, in a tone that showed the word to be too
feeble for the subject; 'Elsie is more interesting than all the other
girls in the other world put together!'

'Popular?'

'Popular!' exclaimed Margery, taking her turn in the oral
examination, 'I don't know whether anybody can be popular who is
always in bed; but if it's popular to be adored by every man, woman,
child, and animal that comes anywhere near her, why then Elsie is
popular.'

'And is she a favourite with boys as well as girls?'

'Favourite!' said Bell. 'Why, they think that she is simply perfect!
Of course she has scarcely been able to sit up a week at a time for a
year, and naturally she has not seen many people; but, if you want a
boy's opinion, just ask Philip or Geoffrey. I assure you, Laura,
after you have known Elsie a while, and have seen the impression she
makes upon everybody, you will want to go to bed and see if you can
do likewise.'

'It isn't just the going to bed,' remarked Margery, sagely.

'And it isn't the prettiness either,' added Polly; 'though if you saw
Elsie asleep, a flower in one hand, the other under her cheek, her
hair straying over the pillow (O for hair that would stray
anywhere!), you would expect every moment to see a halo above her
head.'

'I don't believe it is because she is good that everybody admires her
so,' said Laura, 'I don't think goodness in itself is always so very
interesting; if Elsie had freckles and a snub nose'--('Don't mind
me!' murmured Polly)--'you would find that people would say less
about her wonderful character.'

'There are things that puzzle me,' said Polly, thoughtfully. 'It
seems to me that if I could contrive to be ever so good, nobody ever
would look for a halo round my head. Now, is it my turned-up nose
and red hair that make me what I am, or did what I am make my nose
and hair what they are--which?'

'We'll have to ask Aunt Truth,' said Margery; 'that is too difficult
a thing for us to answer.'

'Wasn't it nice I catched that big bull-frog, Margie?' cried Dick,
his eyes shining with anticipation. 'Now I'll have as many as seven
or 'leven frogs and lots of horned toads when Elsie comes, and she
can help me play with 'em.'

When the girls reached the tents again, the last article had been
taken from the team and Manuel had driven away. The sound of Phil's
hammer could be heard from the carpenter-shop, and Pancho was already
laying the tent floor in a small, open, sunny place, where the low
boughs of a single sycamore hung so as to protect one of its corners,
leaving the rest to the full warmth of the sunshine that was to make
Elsie entirely well again.

'I am tired to death,' sighed Laura, throwing herself down in a
bamboo lounging-chair. 'Such a tramp as we had! and after all, the
boys insisted on going where Dr. Winship wouldn't allow us to follow,
so that we had to stay behind and fish with the children; I wish I
had stayed at home and read The Colonel's Daughter.'

'Oh, Laura!' remonstrated Margery, 'think of that lovely pool with
the forests of maiden-hair growing all about it!'

'And poison-oak,' grumbled Laura. 'I know I walked into some of it
and shall look like a perfect fright for a week. I shall never make
a country girl--it's no use for me to try.'

'It's no use for you to try walking four miles in high-heeled shoes,
my dear,' said Polly, bluntly.

'They are not high,' retorted Laura, 'and if they are, I don't care
to look like a--a--cow-boy, even in the backwoods.'

'I'm an awful example,' sighed Polly, seating herself on a stump in
front of the tent, and elevating a very dusty little common-sense
boot. 'Sir Walter Raleigh would never have allowed me to walk on his
velvet cloak with that boot, would he, girls? Oh, wasn't that
romantic, though? and don't I wish that I had been Queen Elizabeth!'

'You've got the HAIR,' said Laura.

'Thank you! I had forgotten Elizabeth's hair was red; so it was.
This is my court train,' snatching a tablecloth that bung on a hush
near by, and pinning it to her waist in the twinkling of an eye,--
'this my farthingale,' dangling her sun-bonnet from her belt,--'this
my sceptre,' seizing a Japanese umbrella,--'this my crown,' inverting
a bright tin plate upon her curly head. 'She is just alighting from
her chariot, THUS; the courtiers turn pale, THUS; (why don't you do
it?) what shall be done? The Royal Feet must not be wet. "Go round
the puddle? Prit, me Lud, 'Od's body! Forsooth! Certainly not!
Remove the puddle!" she says haughtily to her subjects. They are
just about to do so, when out from behind a neighbouring chaparral
bush stalks a beautiful young prince with coal-black hair and rose-
red cheeks. He wears a rich velvet cloak, glittering with
embroidery. He sees not her crown, her hair outshines it; he sees
not her sceptre, her tiny hand conceals it; he sees naught save the
loathly mud. He strips off his cloak and floats it on the puddle.
With a haughty but gracious bend of her head the Queen accepts the
courtesy; crosses the puddle, THUS, waves her sceptre, THUS, and
saying, "You shall hear from me by return mail, me Lud," she vanishes
within the castle. The next morning she makes Sir Walter British
Minister to Florida. He departs at once with a cargo of tobacco,
which he exchanges for sweet potatoes, and everybody is happy ever
after.'

The girls were convulsed with mirth at this historical romance, and,
as Mrs. Winship wiped the tears of merriment from her eyes, Polly
seized the golden opportunity and dropped on her knees beside her.

'Please, Aunt Truth, we can't get the white mosquito-netting because
Dr. Winship has the key of the storehouse in his pocket, and so--may-
-I--blow the horn?'

Mrs. Winship gave her consent in despair, and Polly went to the oak-

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