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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Summer In A Canyon: A California Story - Chapter 4. Rhyme And Reason
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A Summer In A Canyon: A California Story - Chapter 4. Rhyme And Reason Post by :Tom_Brownsword Category :Long Stories Author :Kate Douglas Wiggin Date :May 2012 Read :1033

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A Summer In A Canyon: A California Story - Chapter 4. Rhyme And Reason



'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.


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}

{1} Foot-notes by a rival of the Countess.

{1a} Is that spelled right?
{1b} Fifty miles an hour, Jack says.
{1c} Poetic licence.
{1d} Gone back to cold cream.
{1e} And pie.
{1f} For sale at all bookstores, ten cents a copy.


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!




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,




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

Court Physician and Knight of the Spectacles.



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




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! -

Dreamily, slow,
Under the trees;
Drowsily sing
The birds and the bees;
Slumber is best,
Wakefulness sad;
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?


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,

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?


CAMP CHAPARRAL, July 13, 188-.

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.

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.

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