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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Valley Of The Moon - BOOK III - Chapter XXI
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The Valley Of The Moon - BOOK III - Chapter XXI Post by :SEOtop10 Category :Long Stories Author :Jack London Date :March 2011 Read :2777

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The Valley Of The Moon - BOOK III - Chapter XXI

It was on a bright June morning that Billy told Saxon to put on
her riding clothes to try out a saddle-horse.

"Not until after ten o'clock," she said "By that time I'll have
the wagon off on a second trip."

Despite the extent of the business she had developed, her
executive ability and system gave her much spare time. She could
call on the Hales, which was ever a delight, especially now that
the Hastings were back and that Clara was often at her aunt's. In
this congenial atmosphere Saxon Burgeoned. She had begun to read-
-to read with understanding; and she had time for her books, for
work on her pretties, and for Billy, whom she accompanied on many
expeditions.

Billy was even busier than she, his work being more scattered and
diverse. And, as well, he kept his eye on the home barn and
horses which Saxon used. In truth he had become a man of affairs,
though Mrs. Mortimer had gone over his accounts, with an eagle
eye on the expense column, discovering several minor leaks, and
finally, aided by Saxon, bullied him into keeping books. Each
night, after supper, he and Saxon posted their books. Afterward,
in the big morris chair he had insisted on buying early in the
days of his brickyard contract, Saxon would creep into his arms
and strum on the ukelele; or they would talk long about what they
were doing and planning to do. Now it would be:

"I'm mixin' up in politics, Saxon. It pays. You bet it pays. If
by next spring I ain't got a half a dozen teams workin' on the
roads an' pullin' down the county money, it's me back to Oakland
an' askin' the Boss for a job."

Or, Saxon: "They're really starting that new hotel between
Caliente and Eldridge. And there's some talk of a big sanitarium
back in the hills."

Or, it would be: "Billy, now that you've piped that acre, you've
just got to let me have it for my vegetables. I'll rent it from
you. I'll take your own estimate for all the alfalfa you can
raise on it, and pay you full market price less the cost of
growing it."

"It's all right, take it." Billy suppressed a sigh. "Besides, I
'm too busy to fool with it now. "

Which prevarication was bare-faced, by virtue of his having just
installed the ram and piped the land.

"It will be the wisest, Billy," she soothed, for she knew his
dream of land-spaciousness was stronger than ever. "You don't
want to fool with an acre. There's that hundred and forty. We'll
buy it yet if old Chavon ever dies. Besides, it really belongs to
Madrono Ranch. The two together were the original quarter
section."

"I don't wish no man's death," Billy grumbled. "But he ain't
gettin' no good out of it, over-pasturin' it with a lot of scrub
animals. I've sized it up every inch of it. They's at least forty
acres in the three cleared fields, with water in the hills behind
to beat the band. The horse feed I could raise on it'd take your
breath away. Then they's at least fifty acres I could run my
brood mares on, pasture mixed up with trees and steep places and
such. The other fifty's just thick woods, an' pretty places, an'
wild game. An' that old adobe barn's all right. With a new roof
it'd shelter any amount of animals in bad weather. Cook at me
now, rentin' that measly pasture back of Ping's just to run my
restin' animals. They could run in the hundred an' forty if I
only had it. I wonder if Chavon would lease it."

Or, less ambitious, Billy would say: "I gotta skin over to
Petaluma to-morrow, Saxon. They's an auction on the Atkinson
Ranch an' maybe I can pick up some bargains."

"More horses!"

"Ain't I got two teams haulin' lumber for the new winery? An'
Barney's got a bad shoulder-sprain. He'll have to lay off a long
time if he's to get it in shape. An' Bridget ain't ever goin' to
do a tap of work again. I can see that stickin' out. I've
doctored her an' doctored her. She's fooled the vet, too. An'
some of the other horses has gotta take a rest. That span of
grays is showin' the hard work. An' the big roan's goin' loco.
Everybody thought it was his teeth, but it ain't. It's straight
loco. It's money in pocket to take care of your animals, an'
horses is the delicatest things on four legs. Some time, if I can
ever see my way to it, I 'm goin' to ship a carload of mules from
Colusa County--big, heavy ones, you know. They'd sell like hot
cakes in the valley here--them I didn't want for myself."

Or, in lighter vein, Billy: "By the way, Saxon, talkin' of
accounts, what d'you think Hazel an' Hattie is worth?-- fair
market price,"

"Why?"

"I 'm askin' you."

"Well, say, what you paid for them--three hundred dollars."

"Hum." Billy considered deeply. "They're worth a whole lot more,
but let it go at that. An' now, gettin' back to accounts, suppose
you write me a check for three hundred dollars."

"Oh! Robber!"

"You can't show me. Why, Saxon, when I let you have grain an' hay
from my carloads, don't you give me a check for it? An' you know
how you're stuck on keepin' your accounts down to the penny," he
teased. "If you're any kind of a business woman you just gotta
charge your business with them two horses. I ain't had the use of
'em since I don't know when."

"But the colts will be yours," she argued. "Besides, I can't
afford brood mares in my business. In almost no time, now, Hazel
and Hattie will have to be taken off from the wagon--they're too
good for it anyway. And you keep your eyes open for a pair to
take their place. I'll give you a check for THAT pair, but no
commission."

"All right," Billy conceded. "Hazel an' Hattie come back to me;
but you can pay me rent for the time you did use 'em."

"If you make me, I'll charge you board," she threatened.

"An' if you charge me board, I'll charge you interest for the
money I've stuck into this shebang."

"You can't," Saxon laughed. "It's community property."

He grunted spasmodically, as if the breath had been knocked out
of him.

"Straight on the solar plexus," he said, "an' me down for the
count. But say, them's sweet words, ain't they.-- community
property." He rolled them over and off his tongue with keen
relish. "An' when we got married the top of our ambition was a
steady job an' some rags an' sticks of furniture all paid up an'
half-worn out. We wouldn't have had any community property only
for you."

"What nonsense! What could I have done by myself? You know very
well that you earned all the money that started us here. You paid
the wages of Gow Yum and Chan Chi, and old Hughie, and Mrs. Paul,
and--why, you've done it all."

She drew her two hands caressingly across his shoulders and down
along his great biceps muscles.

"That's what did it, Billy."

"Aw hell! It's your head that done it. What was my muscles good
for with no head to run 'em,--sluggin' scabs, beatin' up lodgers,
an' crookin' the elbow over a bar. The only sensible thing my
head ever done was when it run me into you. Honest to God, Saxon,
you've been the makin' of me."

"Aw hell, Billy," she mimicked in the way that delighted him,
"where would I have been if you hadn't taken me out of the
laundry? I couldn't take myself out. I was just a helpless girl.
I'd have been there yet if it hadn't been for you. Mrs. Mortimer
had five thousand dollars; but I had you."

"A woman ain't got the chance to help herself that a man has," he
generalized. "I'll tell you what: It took the two of us. It's
been team-work. We've run in span. If we'd a-run single, you
might still be in the laundry; an', if I was lucky, I'd be still
drivin' team by the day an' sportin' around to cheap dances."


Saxon stood under the father of all madronos, watching Hazel and
Hattie go out the gate, the full vegetable wagon behind them,
when she saw Billy ride in, leading a sorrel mare from whose
silken coat the sun flashed golden lights.

"Four-year-old, high-life, a handful, but no vicious tricks,"
Billy chanted, as he stopped beside Saxon. "Skin like tissue
paper, mouth like silk, but kill the toughest broncho ever
foaled--look at them lungs an' nostrils. They call her
Ramona--some Spanish name: sired by Morellita outa genuine Morgan
stock."

"And they will sell her?" Saxon gasped, standing with hands
clasped in inarticulate delight.

"That's what I brought her to show you for."

"But how much must they want for her?" was Saxon's next question,
so impossible did it seem that such an amazement of horse-flesh
could ever be hers.

"That ain't your business," Billy answered brusquely. "The
brickyard's payin' for her, not the vegetable ranch. She's yourn
at the word. What d'ye say?"


"I'll tell you in a minute."

Saxon was trying to mount, but the animal danced nervously away.

"Hold on till I tie," Billy said. "She ain't skirt-broke, that's
the trouble."

Saxon tightly gripped reins and mane, stepped with spurred foot
on Billy's hand, and was lifted lightly into the saddle.

"She's used to spurs," Billy called after. "Spanish broke, so
don't check her quick. Come in gentle. An' talk to her. She's
high-life, you know."

Saxon nodded, dashed out the gate and down the road, waved a hand
to Clara Hastings as she passed the gate of Trillium Covert, and
continued up Wild Water canyon.

When she came back, Ramona in a pleasant lather, Saxon rode to
the rear of the house, past the chicken houses and the
flourishing berry-rows, to join Billy on the rim of the bench,
where he sat on his horse in the shade, smoking a cigarette.
Together they looked down through an opening among the trees to
the meadow which was a meadow no longer. With mathematical
accuracy it was divided into squares, oblongs, and narrow strips,
which displayed sharply the thousand hues of green of a truck
garden. Gow Yum and Chan Chi, under enormous Chinese grass hats,
were planting green onions. Old Hughie, hoe in hand, plodded
along the main artery of running water, opening certain laterals,
closing others. From the work-shed beyond the barn the strokes of
a hammer told Saxon that Carlsen was wire-binding vegetable
boxes. Mrs. Paul's cheery soprano, lifted in a hymn, doated
through the trees, accompanied by the whirr of an egg-beater. A
sharp barking told where Possum still waged hysterical and
baffled war on the Douglass squirrels. Billy took a long draw
from his cigarette, exhaled the smoke, and continued to look down
at the meadow. Saxon divined trouble in his manner. His rein-hand
was on the pommel, and her free hand went out and softly rested
on his. Billy turned his slow gaze upon her mare's lather,
seeming not to note it, and continued on to Saxon's face.

"Huh!" he equivocated, as if waking up. "Them San Leandro
Porchugeeze ain't got nothin' on us when it comes to intensive
farmin'. Look at that water runnin'. You know, it seems so good
to me that sometimes I just wanta get down on hands an' knees an'
lap it all up myself."

"Oh, to have all the water you want in a climate like this!"
Saxon exclaimed.

"An' don't be scared of it ever goin' back on you. If the rains
fooled you, there's Sonoma Creek alongside. All we gotta do is
install a gasolene pump."

"But we'll never have to, Billy. I was talking with 'Redwood'
Thompson. He's lived in the valley since Fifty-three, and he says
there's never been a failure of crops on account of drought. We
always get our rain."

"Come on, let's go for a ride," he said abruptly. "You've got the
time."

"All right, if you'll tell me what's bothering you."

He looked at her quickly.

"Nothin'," he grunted. "Yes, there is, too. What's the
difference? You'd know it sooner or later. You ought to see old
Chavon. His face is that long he can't walk without bumpin' his
knee on his chin. His gold-mine's peterin' out."

"Gold mine!"

"His clay pit. It's the same thing. He's gettin' twenty cents a
yard for it from the brickyard."

"And that means the end of your teaming contract." Saxon saw the
disaster in all its hugeness. "What about the brickyard people?"

"Worried to death, though they've kept secret about it. They've
had men out punchin' holes all over the hills for a week, an'
that Jap chemist settin' up nights analyzin' the rubbish they've
brought in. It's peculiar stuff, that clay, for what they want it
for, an' you don't find it everywhere. Them experts that reported
on Chavon's pit made one hell of a mistake. Maybe they was lazy
with their borin's. Anyway, they slipped up on the amount of clay
they was in it. Now don't get to botherin'. It'd come out
somehow. You can't do nothin'."

"But I can, " Saxon insisted. "We won't buy Ramona."

"You ain't got a thing to do with that," he answered. "I 'm
buyin' her, an' her price don't cut any figure alongside the big
game I 'm playin'. Of course, I can always sell my horses. But
that puts a stop to their makin' money, an' that brickyard
contract was fat."

"But if you get some of them in on the road work for the county?"
she suggested.

"Oh, I got that in mind. An' I 'm keepin' my eyes open. They's a
chance the quarry will start again, an' the fellow that did that
teamin' has gone to Puget Sound. An' what if I have to sell out
most of the horses? Here's you and the vegetable business. That's
solid. We just don't go ahead so fast for a time, that's all. I
ain't scared of the country any more. I sized things up as we
went along. They ain't a jerk burg we hit all the time on the
road that I couldn't jump into an' make a go. An' now where d'you
want to ride?"

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The Valley Of The Moon - BOOK III - Chapter XXII
They cantered out the gate, thundered across the bridge, andpassed Trillium Covert before they pulled in on the grade of WildWater Canyon. Saxon had chosen her field on the big spur ofSonoma Mountains as the objective of their ride."Say, I bumped into something big this mornin' when I was goin'to fetch Ramona," Billy said, the clay pit trouble banished forthe time. "You know the hundred an' forty. I passed young Chavonalong the road, an'--I don't know why--just for ducks, I guess--Iup an' asked 'm if he thought the old man would lease the hundredan' forty to me. An' what d 'you
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The Valley Of The Moon - BOOK III - Chapter XX The Valley Of The Moon - BOOK III - Chapter XX

The Valley Of The Moon - BOOK III - Chapter XX
"I'm not done with you children," had been Mrs. Mortimer'sparting words; and several times that winter she ran up toadvise, and to teach Saxon how to calculate her crops for thesmall immediate market, for the increasing spring market, and forthe height of summer, at which time she would be able to sell allshe could possibly grow and then not supply the demand. In themeantime, Hazel and Hattie were used every odd moment in haulingmanure from Glen Ellen, whose barnyards had never known such athorough cleaning. Also there were loads of commercial fertilizerfrom the railroad station, bought under Mrs. Mortimer'sinstructions.The convicts paroled
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