Infomotions, Inc.The Smiling Hill-Top And Other California Sketches / Sloane, Julia M.

Author: Sloane, Julia M.
Title: The Smiling Hill-Top And Other California Sketches
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): california; motor; southern california
Contributor(s): Winslow, Carleton M. [Illustrator]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
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Identifier: etext17901
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Smiling Hill-Top, by Julia M. Sloane

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Title: The Smiling Hill-Top
       And Other California Sketches

Author: Julia M. Sloane

Illustrator: Carleton M. Winslow

Release Date: March 2, 2006 [EBook #17901]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII


Produced by jjz, Suzanne Shell and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at


The Smiling Hill-Top
and Other California Sketches



Illustrated by



Copyright, 1919, by
Charles Scribner's Sons

_Published October, 1919_




Introduction                                         1
The Smiling Hill-Top                                 5
A California Poppy                                  19
Gardeners                                           35
Thorns                                              55
The Gypsy Trail                                     77
An Adventure in Solitude                            94
A Sabine Farm                                      116
The Land of "Whynot"                               132
Where the Trade Wind Blows                         155
Sunkist                                            176



The following sketches are entirely informal. They do not cover the
subject of Southern California in any way. In fact, they contain no
information whatever, either about the missions or history--a little,
perhaps, about the climate and the fruits and flowers of the earth, but
that has crept in more or less unavoidably. They are the record of what
happened to happen to a fairly light-hearted family who left New England
in search of rest and health. There are six of us, two grown-ups, two
boys, and two dogs. We came for a year and, like many another family,
have taken root for all our days--or so it seems now.

The reactions of more or less temperamental people, suddenly
transplanted from a rigorous climate to sunshine and the beauty and
abundance of life in Southern California, perhaps give a too highly
colored picture, so please make allowance for the bounce of the ball. I
mean to be quite fair. It doesn't rain from May to October, but when it
does, it can rain in a way to make Noah feel entirely at home.
Unfortunately, that is when so many of our visitors come--in February!
They catch bad colds, the roses aren't in bloom, and altogether they
feel that they have been basely deceived.

We rarely have thunder-storms, or at least anything you could dignify by
that name, but we do have horrid little shaky earthquakes. We don't have
mosquitoes in hordes, such as the Jersey coast provides, but we do
sometimes come home and hear what sounds like a cosy tea-kettle in the
courtyard, whereupon the defender of the family reaches for his gun and
there is one rattlesnake less to dread.

On our hill-top there are quantities of wild creatures--quail, rabbits,
doves, and ground squirrels and, unfortunately, a number of social
outcasts. Never shall I forget an epic incident in our history--the head
of the family in pajamas at dawn, in mortal combat with a small
black-and-white creature, chasing it through the cloisters with the
garden hose. Oh, yes, there is plenty of adventure still left, even
though we don't have to cross the prairies in a wagon.

People who know California and love it, I hope may enjoy comparing notes
with me. People who have never been here and who vaguely think of it as
a happy hunting-ground for lame ducks and black sheep, I should like to
tempt across the Rockies that they might see how much more it is than
that. It may be a lotus land to some, to many it truly seems the
promised land.

"Shall we be stepping westward?"



No one should attempt to live on top of an adobe hill one mile from a
small town which has been brought up on the Declaration of Independence,
without previously taking a course in plain and fancy wheedling. This is
the mature judgment of a lady who has tried it. Not even in California!

When we first took possession of our hill-top early one June, nothing
was farther from my thoughts. "Suma Paz," "Perfect Peace," as the place
was called, came to me from a beloved aunt who had truly found it that.
With it came a cow, a misunderstood motor, and a wardrobe trunk. A
Finnish lady came with the cow, and my brother-in-law's chauffeur
graciously consented to come with the motor. The trunk was empty. It was
all so complete that the backbone of the family, suddenly summoned on
business, departed for the East, feeling that he had left us comfortably
established for the month of his absence. The motor purred along the
nine miles to the railroad station without the least indication of the
various kinds of internal complications about to develop, and he boarded
the train, beautifully composed in mind, while we returned to our

It is a most enchanting spot. A red-tiled bungalow is built about a
courtyard with cloisters and a fountain, while vines and flowers fill
the air with the most delicious perfume of heliotrope, mignonette, and
jasmine. Beyond the big living-room extends a terrace with boxes of deep
and pale pink geraniums against a blue sea, that might be the Bay of
Naples, except that Vesuvius is lacking. It is so lovely that after
three years it still seems like a dream. We are only one short look from
the Pacific Ocean, that ocean into whose mists the sun sets in flaming
purple and gold, or the more soft tones of shimmering gray and
shell-pink. We sit on our terrace feeling as if we were in a proscenium
box on the edge of the world, and watch the ever-varying splendor. At
night there is the same sense of infinity, with the unclouded stars
above, and only the twinkling lights of motors threading their way down
the zigzag of the coast road as it descends the cliffs to the plain
below us. These lights make up in part for the fewness of the harbor
lights in the bay. The Pacific is a lonely ocean. There are so few
harbors along the coast where small boats can find shelter that yachts
and pleasure craft hardly exist. Occasionally we see the smoke of a
steamer on its way to or from ports of Lower California, as far south as
the point where the curtain drops on poor distracted Mexico, for there
trade ceases and anarchy begins. There is a strip of land, not belonging
to the United States, called Lower California, controlled by a handsome
soldierly creature, Governor Cantu, whose personal qualities and motives
seem nicely adapted to holding that much, at least, of Mexico in
equilibrium. Only last summer he was the guest of our small but
progressive village at a kind of love feast, where we cemented our
friendship with whale steaks and ginger ale dispensed on the beach, to
the accompaniment of martial music, while flags of both countries shared
the breeze. Though much that is picturesque, especially in the way of
food--enciladas, tamales and the like--strays across the border, bandits
do not, and we enjoy a sense of security that encourages basking in the
sun. Just one huge sheet of water, broken by islands, lies between us
and the cherry blossoms of Japan! There is a thrill about its very
emptiness, and yet since I have seen the Golden Gate I know that that
thrill is nothing to the sensation of seeing a sailing ship with her
canvas spread, bound for the far East. From the West to the East the
spell draws. First from the East to the West; from the cold and storms
of New England to our land of sun it beckons, and then unless we hold
tight, the lure of the South Seas and the glamour of the Far East calls
us. I know just how it would be. Perhaps my spirit craves adventuring
the more for the years my body has had to spend in a chaise longue or
hammock, fighting my way out of a shadow. Anyway, I have heard the call,
but I have put cotton in my ears and am content that life allows me
three months out of the twelve of magic and my hill-top.

There is a town, of course--there has to be, else where would we post
our letters. It's as busy as a beehive with its clubs and model
playgrounds, its New Thought and its "Journal," but I don't have to be
of it. There are only so many hours in the day. I go around "in circles"
all winter; in summer I wish to invite my soul, and there isn't time for
both. I think I am regarded by the people in the village as a mixture of
recluse and curmudgeon, but who cares if they can live on a hill?

One flaw there was in the picture, and that is where the first
experiment in wheedling came in. A large telegraph pole on our property
line bisected the horizon like one of the parallels on a map. It seemed
to us at times to assume the proportions of the Washington Monument. I
firmly made up my mind to have it down if I did nothing else that
summer, and I succeeded, though I began in July and it was not till
October that it finally fell crushing into the sage brush, and for the
first time we saw the uninterrupted curve of beach melting into the pale
greenish cliffs beyond.

The property on which the pole stood belonged to a real-estate man. He
was pleasant and full of rosy dreams of a suburban villa resort, the gem
of the Pacific Coast. That part was easy. He and I together visited the
offices of the corporations owning the wires on that pole. As they had
no legal right of way they had to promise to remove it and many others,
to the tune of several hundred dollars. Nothing was left them but the
game of delay. They told me their men were busy, that all the copper
wire was held up by a landslide in the Panama Canal, that the
superintendent was on a vacation, etc. However, the latter gentleman had
to come back some time, and when he did I plaintively told him my
troubles. I said I had had a very hard and disappointing summer, and
that it would soothe me enormously to have one look at that view as the
Lord intended it to be, before I had to go away for the winter, that it
was in his power to give me that pleasure, etc.

Perhaps it was an unusual method, but it worked so well that I have
often employed it since. I may say incidentally that it is of no use
with the ice man. Perhaps dealing with merchandise below zero keeps his
resistance unusually good. I have never been able to extract a pound of
ice from him, even for illness, except on his regular day and in my
proper turn. I think I should also except the fish man, who always
promises to call Fridays and never does; much valuable time have I lost
in searching the highways and byways for his old horse and white wagon.

Next to the execution of the telegraph pole I felt a little grass lawn
to be of the utmost importance. Nothing could better show how short a
time I had been in California than not to realize that even if you can
afford to dine on caviar, pate de fois gras, and fresh mushrooms, grass
may be beyond your means. I bravely had the ground prepared and sown.
First, the boys' governess watered it so hard that it removed all the
seed, so we tried again. Then the water was shut off while pipes were
being laid on the highway below, and only at dawn and after dark could
we get a drop. I did the watering in my night-gown, and was soon
rewarded by a little green fuzz. Then all the small rabbits for miles
around gathered there for breakfast. They were so tame you could hardly
drive them away, so I invited the brothers who kept the hardware store
in the village to come up and shoot them. They came gladly and brought
their friends, but were so very anxious to help that I thought they were
going to shoot the children too, and had politely to withdraw my
invitation. The gardener and I then made a luscious compound of bacon
grease and rough-on-rats, which we served on lettuce leaves and left
about the edges of the grass plot. Did you ever hear a rabbit scream?
They do. I felt like Lucretia Borgia, and decided that if they wanted
the lawn they could have it. Oddly enough, a lot of grass came up in
quite another part of the garden. I suppose it was the first planting
that Fraeulein had blown away with the hose! We often have surprises like
that in gardening. We once planted window-boxes of mignonette and they
came up petunias--volunteer petunias at that. Of course, it all adds to
the interest and adventure of life.

After the water-pipes were laid the gas deserted us, and we had a few
meals cooked on all the little alcohol lamps we could muster. Then the
motor fell desperately ill, and from then on was usually to be found
strewed over the floor of the garage. Jerome K. Jerome says about
bicycles, that if you have one you must decide whether you will ride it
or overhaul it. This applies as well to motors. We decided to overhaul
ours with a few brief excursions, just long enough to give an
opportunity for having it towed home. One late afternoon we were
hurrying across the mesa to supper, when our magneto flew off into the
ditch, scattering screws in all directions. Fortunately, a kind of
Knight Errant to our family appeared just in the nick of time to take us
home and send help to the wreck. I once kept a garage in San Diego open
half an hour after closing time by a Caruso sob in my voice over the
telephone, while my brother-in-law's miserable chauffeur hurried over
for an indispensable part.

Poppy, the cow, contributed her bit--it wasn't milk, either--to this
complicated month, but deserves a chapter all to herself.

The backbone of the family found my letters "so entertaining" at first,
but gradually a note of uneasiness crept into his replies after I had
told him that Joedy had fallen out of the machine and had just escaped
our rear wheels, and that the previous night we had had three
earthquakes. I had never felt an earthquake before, and it will be some
time before I develop the nonchalance of a seasoned Californian, whose
way of referring to one is like saying, "Oh, yes, we did have a few
drops of rain last night." One more little tremble and I should have
gathered the family for a night in the garden.

After an incendiary had set fire to several houses in town, and Fraeulein
had had a peculiar seizure that turned her a delicate sea-green, while
she murmured, "I am going to die," I sat down and took counsel with
myself. What next? I bought a rattlesnake antidote outfit--that, at
least, I could anticipate, and then I went out with the axe and hacked
out the words "Suma Paz" from the pergola. We are now "The Smiling
Hill-Top," for though peace does not abide with us, we keep right on



It would doubtless be the proper thing for me to begin by quoting

    "The friendly cow, all red and white,
     I love with all my heart," etc.

but I'd rather not. In the first place she wasn't, and in the second
place I didn't. The only thing about it that fits is the color scheme;
Poppy was a red-and-white cow, but I'd rather not. In the first place
she wasn't, and in the second place I didn't. The only thing about it
that fits is the color scheme; Poppy was a red-and-white cow, or rather
a kind of strawberry roan. Perhaps she didn't like being inherited (she
came to us with "The Smiling Hill-Top"), or maybe she was lonely on the
hillside and felt that it was too far from town. Almost all the natives
of the village feel that way; or perhaps she took one of those aversions
to me that aren't founded on anything in particular. At any rate, I
never saw any expression but resentment in her eye, so that no warm
friendship ever grew up between us.

The only other cow we ever boarded--I use the word advisedly--did not
feel any more drawn to me than Poppy. Evidently I am not the type that
cows entwine their affections about. She was Pennsylvania Dutch and
shared Poppy's sturdy appetite, though it all went to figure. Two quaint
maiden ladies next door took care of her and handed the milk over our
fence, while it was still foaming in the pail. Miss Tabitha and Miss
Letitia--how patient they were with me in my abysmal ignorance of the
really vital things of life, such as milking, preserving, and pickling!
They undertook it all for me, but in the end I had a small laugh at
their expense. I gave them my grandmother's recipes for brandied peaches
and pickled peaches, and though rigidly temperance, they consented to do
a dozen jars of each. Alas! they mingled the two--now as I write it down
I wonder if perhaps they did it on purpose, on the principle that drug
stores now put a dash of carbolic in our 95 per cent alcohol. In which
case, of course, the joke is on me.

To return to Poppy. At first I was delighted with the thought of
unlimited milk, bought a churn and generally prepared to enjoy being a
dairymaid. I soon found out my mistake. Poppy was "drying up" just as
the vegetation was. The Finn woman who milked her morning and night, and
who seemed to be in much closer sympathy with her than I ever hoped to
be, said that what she must have was green food. Having no lawn, for
reasons previously stated, that was a poser. My brother-in-law's
chauffeur, who was lent to me for a month, unbent sufficiently to go to
town and press a bill into the hand of the head gardener of "The Place"
of the village, so that we might have the grass mowed from that lawn.
Alas for frail human nature! It seems that he disappeared from view
about once in so often, and that his feet at that moment were trembling
on the brink. So he slid over the edge, and the next man in charge had
other friends with other cows. I tried the vegetable man next. He was a
pleasant Greek, and promised me all his beet-tops and wilted lettuce.
That was good as far as it went, but Poppy would go through a crate of
lettuce as I would a bunch of grapes, and I couldn't see that we got any
more milk. The Finn woman said that the flies annoyed her and that no
cow would give as much milk if she were constantly kicking and stamping
to get them off. She advised me to get some burlap for her. That seemed
simple, but it wasn't. Nothing was simple connected with that cow. I
found I could only get stiff burlap, such as you put on walls, in art
green, and I couldn't picture Poppy in a kimono of that as being
anything but wretched. Finally, in a hardware store, the proprietor took
an interest in my sad tale, and said he'd had some large shipments come
in lately wrapped in burlap, and that I could have a piece. He
personally went to the cellar for it and gave it to me as a present.

Much cheered, I hurried home and we put Poppy into her brown jacket,
securing it neatly with strings. By morning, I regret to say, she had
kicked it to shreds. Also the Finn woman decided that she needed higher
pay and more milk as her perquisite. Since we were obviously "city
folks" she thought she might as well hold us up, and she felt sure that
I couldn't get any one in her place. I surprised her by calmly replying
that she could go when her week was up, and I would get some one else.
It was a touch of rhetoric on my part, for I didn't suppose that I could
any more than she did, though I was resolved to make a gallant fight,
even if I had to enlist the services of the dry cleaner, who was the
only person who voluntarily called almost daily to see if we had any
work to be done.

The joke of it was that I had no trouble at all. A youth of sixteen, who
viewed me in the light of "opportunity knocking at the door," gladly
accepted my terms. He was the son of the foreman at a dairy in the
neighborhood, and rode over night and morning on a staid old mare loaned
him by the dairyman.

Donald was bright and willing, and eventually was able to get near
enough to Poppy to milk her, though she never liked him. The Finn woman
was the only person with whom she was in sympathy. I think they were
both Socialists. Donald said we must do something about the flies. I
told him about my attempts to dress her in burlap, and we concluded that
a spray was the thing. Donald brought a nice antiseptic smelling
mixture, and we put it on her with the rose sprayer. Probably we were
too impulsive; anyway, the milk was very queer. Did you ever eat saffron
cake in Cornwall? It tasted like that. The children declined it firmly,
and I sympathized with them. After practice we managed to spray her in a
more limited way.

By this time we were having sherbet instead of ice-cream for Sunday
dinner, and my ideas of a private cow had greatly altered.

I have a black list that has been growing through life; things I wish
never to have again: tapioca pudding, fresh eggs if I have to hear the
hen brag about it at 5 A.M., tripe, and home-grown milk, and to this
list I have lately added cheese. Every one is familiar with the maxim
that rest is a change of occupation. J----, being tired of Latin verbs,
Greek roots, and dull scholars generally, took up some interesting
laboratory work after we emigrated to California. Growing Bulgarian
bacilli to make fermented milk that would keep us all perennially
amiable while we grew to be octogenarians, was one thing, but when the
company, lured by the oratory of a cheese expert, were beguiled into
making cream cheese--just the sort of cheese that Lucullus and Ponce de
Leon both wanted but did not find--our troubles began. The company is
composed of one minister with such an angelic expression that no one can
refuse to sign anything if he holds out a pen; one aviator with youth,
exuberant spirits, and a New England setness of purpose; one
schoolmaster--strong on facing facts and callous to camouflage, and one
temperamental cheese man. (It turned out afterward, however, that the
janitor could make the best cheese of them all.) Developing a cheese
business is a good deal like conducting a love affair--it blows hot and
cold in a nerve-racking way. It is "the Public." You never can tell
about the Public! Sometimes it wants small packages for a small sum, or
large packages for more, but mostly, what it frankly wants is a large
package for a small sum! Some dealers didn't like the trade-mark. It was
changed. It then turned out that the first trade-mark was really what
was wanted. Then the cheese man fell desperately ill, which was a
calamity, as neither the Book of Common Prayer, an aeroplane, nor a
Latin Grammar is what you need in such a crisis.

J---- waded dejectedly about in whey until a new cheese man took the
helm. He also fell ill. I always supposed that making cheese was a kind
of healthful, bucolic occupation, but I was wrong. Apparently every one
that tries it steers straight for a nervous break-down. I have gotten to
a point myself where, if any one quotes "Miss Muffet" to me, I emit a
low, threatening growl.

However, I'm digressing, for our life was not complicated by cheese or
Bulgarian bacilli till much later (and when you think of what the Bulgos
have done to the Balkans we can't really complain).

That first summer Poppy seemed care enough. A neighbor across the
canyon, who had known her in her girlhood, took too vital an interest
in her daily life. It was maddening to be called on the telephone at
all hours and told that Poppy had had no fresh drinking water since such
and such an hour, or to have Donald waylaid and admonished to give
her plenty to eat. That she had, as my bills at the feed and fuel store
can prove.

At this juncture the backbone of the family fell desperately ill, and I
flew to the hospital where he was, leaving Poppy to kick and stamp and
lose tethering pins and dry up at her own sweet will. After the danger
and strain were over, I found myself also tucked into a hospital bed,
while a trained nurse watched over the children and Poppy. One morning a
frantic letter arrived. Poppy _had_ dried up! According to what lights
we had to guide us, it was far too soon, but reasoning did not alter the
fact. There was no milk for the boys, and the dairyman had always
declined to deliver milk on our hill, it was outside his route! Two
helpless persons flat on their backs in a hospital are at a disadvantage
in a crisis like that. However, one must always find a way. I think I
have expressed myself elsewhere as to the value of wheedling. It seemed
our only hope. I wrote a letter to the owner of that dairy, in which I
frankly recognized the fact that our hill was steep and the road bad,
that it was out of his way and probably he had no milk to spare, anyway,
but that Billie and Joe had to have milk, and that their parents were
both down and out, and that it was his golden opportunity to do, not a
stroke of business, but an act of kindness! It worked. He has been
serving us with milk ever since, and I'd like to testify that his heart
is in the right place.

Before I leave the subject of wheedling, I might add that if it is a
useful art in summer, in winter it is priceless. After a week of rain,
such as we know how to have in these parts, adobe becomes very slippery.
This hill is steep, and I have spent a week on its top in February,
feeling like the princess in the fairy tale, who lived on a glass hill
ready to marry the first suitor who reached the top; only in my case
there were no suitors at all; even the telegraph boy declined to try
his luck.

Speaking of telegrams, I think that as a source of interest we have been
a boon to this village. One departing friend telegraphed in Latin,
beginning "Salve atque vale." This was a poser. The operator tried to
telephone it, but gave that up. He said, "It's either French or a code."
The following season he referred to it again, remarking, "A telegram
like that just gets my goat."

But to return to the now thoroughly dry Poppy. We determined to sell
her, in spite of the fact that we never are very successful in selling
anything. Things always seem at their bottom price when we have
something to dispose of, while we usually buy when the demand outruns
the supply. Still, I once conducted several quite successful
transactions with an antique dealer in Pennsylvania. I think I was said
to be the only living woman who had ever gotten the best of a bargain
with him, so I was unanimously elected by the family as the one to open
negotiations. A customer actually appeared. We gradually approached a
price by the usual stages, I dwelling on his advantage in having the
calf and trying not to let him see my carking fear that we might be the
unwilling godparents of it if he didn't hurry up and come to terms. At
last the matter was settled. I abandoned my last five-dollar ditch,
thinking that the relief of seeing the last of Poppy would be cheap at
the price. There were four of us, and we would not hesitate to pay two
dollars each for theatre tickets, which would be eight dollars, so
really I was saving money.

A nice little girl with flaxen pigtails brought her father's check. She
and her brother tied Poppy behind their buggy and slowly disappeared
down the hill. There was the flutter of a handkerchief from the other
side of the canyon, and that was all.

In the words of that disturbing telegram:

"Salve atque vale."



    "Venite agile, barchetta mia
     Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!"

accompanied by the enchanting fragrance of burning sage-brush, is wafted
up to my sleeping-porch, and I know that Signor Constantino Garibaldi is
early at work clearing the canyon side so that our Matilija poppies
shall not be crowded out by the wild. It is a pleasant awakening to a
pleasant world as the light morning mist melts away from a bay as
"bright and soft and bloomin' blue" as any Kipling ever saw. It seems
almost too good to be true, that in a perfect Italian setting we should
have stumbled on an Italian gardener, who whistles Verdi as he works.
True, he doesn't know the flowers by name, and in his hands a pair of
clippers are as fatal as the shears in the hands of Atropos, but he is
in the picture. When I see gardeners pruning I realize that that lady of
destiny shows wonderful restraint about our threads of fate--the
temptation to snip seems so irresistible.

Signor Garibaldi is a retired wine merchant driven out-of-doors by
illness, a most courteous and sensitive soul, with a talent for
letter-writing that is alone worth all the plumbago blossoms that he cut
away last year. The following letter was written to J---- while
Garibaldi was in charge of our hill-top, the bareness of which we strove
to cover with wild flowers until we could make just the kind of garden
we wanted:

    March 15.


    The last time I had the pleasure of see you in your place, Villa
    Collina Ridente, you exclaimed with a melancholic voice, "Only
    poppies and mignonette came out of the wild flower seeds." "So it
    is," said I in the same tune of voice. Time proved we was both
    wrong; many other flowers made their retarded appearance, so
    deserving the name of wild flower garden....

    Your place (pardon _me_ as I am not a violet) could look better,
    also could look worse; consequently I consider myself entitled to be
    placed between hell and paradise--to have things as one wishes is an
    insolvable problem--that era has not come yet.

    Many people come over to the Smiling hills, some think it is not
    necessary to go any farther to collect flower to make a bouquet.
    With forced gentle manner I reproached some of them, ordering to
    observe the rule, "vedere e non toccare." It go in force while I am
    present, not so in my absence. Those that made proverbs, their names
    ought to be immortal. Here for one, "When the cat is gone, the rats
    dance." How much true is in the Say. Every visitor like the place
    profane or not profane in artistic matter.

    A glorious rain came last night to the great content of the farmers
    and gardeners--others not so. While I am writing from my
    Observatorio I can't see any indication of stopping. I don't think
    it will rain as much as when we had the universal deluge, but if the
    cause of said deluge was in order to get a better generation, it
    may. I don't think the actual generation is better than it was the
    anti-deluge, pardon me if you can't digest what I say. I am a
    pessimist to the superlative grade, and it is not without reason
    that I say so. I had sad experience with the World. Thank God for
    having doted me with a generous dose of philosophic! Swimming
    against the tide, not me, not such a fool I am!

    Here is another pardon that I have to ask and it is to take the
    liberty of decorate the Smiling hill with the American flag. La
    Bandiera Stellata (note: I am not an American legally, no; to say I
    renounce to my country, impossible, but I am an American by heart if
    U. Sam can use me. I was not trained to be a soldier, but in matter
    of shooting very seldom I fail to get a rabbit when I want it, more
    so lately that a box of shells from 60 cents jumped to $1.00). As a
    rule the ridents colline are very monotonous, but when I am home,
    more so the Sunday, the "Marseillaise" no where is heard more than
    here; no animosity against nobody; Cosmopolitan, ardent admirer of
    C. Paine! The world is my country; to do good is my religion!

    With fervent wishes of not having need of doctors or lawyers; with
    best regards to you and family, I am

        Yours respectfully,

Unquestionably he has humor. After receiving more or less mixed orders
from me, I have heard him softly singing in the courtyard, "Donna e
mobile." I only regret that as a family we aren't musical enough to
assist with the "Sextette" from "Lucia!"

Ever since we came to California we have been lucky about gardeners. I
don't mean as horticulturists, but from the far more important standard
of picturesqueness. Of course no one could equal Garibaldi with the
romance of a distant relationship to the patriot and the grand manner no
rake or hoe could efface, but Banksleigh had his own interest. He was an
Englishman with pale blue eyes that always seemed to be looking beyond
our horizon into space. There was something rather poetic and ethereal
about him. Perhaps he didn't eat enough, or it may have been the effect
of "New Thought," in one of the fifty-seven varieties of which he was a
firm believer. He told me that his astral colors were red and blue, and
that a phrenologist had told him that a bump on the back of his head
indicated that he ought never to buy mining stock. With the same
instinct that undid Bluebeard's and Lot's wives he had tried it, and
is once more back at his job of gardening with an increased respect
for phrenology.

I have a grudge against phrenologists myself. I had a relative who
went to one when he was a young man, and was told that he had a
wonderful baritone voice that he ought to cultivate. Up to that time
he had only played the flute, but afterwards he sang every evening
through a long life.

It distressed Banksleigh to see me lying about in hammocks on the
verandah. He usually managed to give the vines in my neighborhood extra
attention--like Garibaldi, he was a confirmed pruner. He told me that he
wished I would take up New Thought, and was sure that if I thought
strong I'd be strong. I wonder? One summer, lying in bed in a hospital
where the heat was terrific, I found myself repeating over and over:

    "Sabrina fair,
     Listen where thou art sitting,
     Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave,"

and finding it far more cooling than iced orange juice. Was not I
proving Banksleigh's contention? I was thinking cool and I was cool. In
his own case New Thought seemed to work. He always looked ready to give
up forever, and yet he never did.

California is full of people with queer quirks and they aren't confined
to gardeners. I haven't had a hair-dresser who wasn't occult or psychic
or something, from the Colonial Dame with premonitions to the last one,
who had both inspirations and vibrations, and my hair keeps right on
coming out.

I don't quite understand why gardeners should be queer. They say that
cooks invariably become affected in time by so much bending over a hot
stove, and that is easy to understand, but bending over nature ought to
have quite the opposite effect, but it doesn't always. The lady gardener
who laid out the garden that finally replaced our wild-flower tangle,
proved that. She had a voice that would be wonderful in a shipyard, a
firmness and determination that would be an asset to Congress and a very
kind heart, also much taste and infinite knowledge of the preferences
and peculiarites of California plants. Her right-hand man, "Will," was
also odd. Unfortunately, his ideas were almost the opposite of hers.
Before they arrived at our gate sounds of altercation were only too
plain. She liked curves in the walks, he preferred corners; she liked
tangles, he liked regular beds. What we liked seemed to be going to cut
very little figure. All that was lacking was our architect friend, who
had made the sketches and offered various suggestions of "amusing"
things we might do. He also is firm, though his manner is mild, so the
situation would have been even more "amusing" for the family on the side
lines, had he been present. Owing to the placing of the house, we are
doomed to have a lopsided garden whatever we do, but we want it to look
wayward rather than eccentric. After a battle fought over nearly every
inch of the ground the lady was victorious, for Will said to me as he
watched her motor disappear: "I might as well do what she says or she'll
make me do it over." In this J---- and I heartily concurred, for the
simplest of arithmetical calculations would show that it would otherwise
prove expensive.

Will had a worker whose unhappy lot it was to dig up stumps, apply the
pick to the adobe parts of the soil, and generally to toil in the sweat
of his brow. As a team they made some progress, and I began to have some
hope of enjoying what I had always been led to believe was the treat
of one's life--making a garden. I felt entirely care-free--the lady
gardener was the boss and there was only room for one--directions
were a drug on the market. This state of affairs was short-lived. Will
failed to appear the third day out, and the lady gardener's pumping
system for her nurseries blew up or leaked or lay down on the job in
some way, so that the worker and I confronted each other, ignorant and
unbossed. I will not dwell on the week that followed. The lady gardener
gave almost vicious orders by telephone and the worker did his best, but
it is not a handy way to direct a garden. When the last rosebush is in,
including some that Will is gloomily certain will never grow, I think I
shall go away for a rest to some place where there is only cactus and
sage and sand.

J---- arrived on the scene in time to save the day, and the garden is
very lovely. Next year it will be worth going a long way to see, for in
this part of the world planting things is like playing with Japanese
water flowers. A wall of gray stucco gently curves along the canyon
side, while a high lattice on the other shows dim outlines of the hills
beyond. In the wall are arches with gates so curved as to leave circular
openings, through which we get glimpses of the sea. It makes me think of
King Arthur's castle at Tintagel. In the lattice there is a wicket gate.
There is something very alluring about a wicket gate--it connotes a
Robin. Unfortunately, my Robin can only appear from Friday to Monday,
but I'm not complaining. Any one is fortunate who can count on romance
two days out of seven. At the far end of the garden is a screen designed
to hide the peculiarites of the garage. The central panel is concrete
with a window with green balusters; below is a wall fountain. The window
suggests a half-hidden senorita. It really conceals a high-school boy
who is driving the motor for me in J----'s absence, but that is
immaterial. The fountain is set with sapphire-blue tiles and the water
trickles from the mouth of the most amiable lion I ever saw. He was
carved from Boise stone by one "Luigi" from a sketch by our architect
friend. He has Albrecht Duerer curls--the lion I mean--four on a side
that look like sticks of peppermint candy and we call him "Boysey."

The pool below him is a wonderful place for boat sailing. It fairly
bristles with the masts of schooners and yachts, and the guns of torpedo
destroyers, and while the architect and the grown-ups did not have a
naval base in mind when the sketch was made, I do appreciate the
feelings of my sons.

    "There's a fountain in our garden,
     With the brightest bluest tiles
     And the pleasantest stone lion
     Who spits into it and smiles!
     It's shaded by papyrus
     And reeds and grasses tall,
     Just a little land-locked harbor
     Beside the garden wall.

    "They talked of water-lilies
     And lotus pink and white--
     We didn't dare to say a word
     But we _wished_ with all our might,
     For how could we manoeuvre
     The submarine we've got,
     If they go and clutter up the place
     With all that sort of rot.

    "But mother said she thought perhaps
     We'd wait another year,
     'It's such a lovely place to play,
     We ought to keep it clear.'
     So there's nothing but a goldfish
     Who has to be a Hun,
     I don't suppose he likes it,
     But gee, it's lots of fun!"

Some day we are going to have a sun dial. J---- thought of a wonderful
motto in the best Latin, and now he can't remember it, which is
harrowing, because it would be so stylish to have a perfectly original
one. It was something about not wanting to miss the shady hours for the
sake of having all sunny ones. At any rate, we are resolved not to have
"I count none but sunny hours."

There are all kinds of responsibilities in life, and picking the right
shade of paint for a house you have to live in is a most wearing one.
Painting the trimming of ours in connection with the garden was very
agitating. I had sample bits of board painted and took them about town,
trying them next to houses I liked, and at last decided on a wicked
Spanish green that the storms of winter are expected to mellow. As I saw
it being put on the house I felt panic-stricken. For a nice fresh
vegetable or salad, yes, but for a house--never! And yet it is a great
success! I don't know whether it has "sunk in," as the painter consoled
me by predicting, or whether it is that we are used to it; at any rate,
every one likes it so much that I have cheerfully removed smears of it
from the clothing of all the family, including the puppies' tails.

As to ourselves in the role of gardeners--there were not two greener
greenhorns when we first resolved to stay in California; we still are,
though I think I do J---- an injustice in classing him with me. We can
make geraniums grow luxuriantly, but we don't want to. I wish they would
pass a law in Southern California making the growing of red geraniums a
criminal offense. So many people love to combine them with bougainvillia
and other brilliant pink or purple flowers, and the light is hard enough
on eyes without adding that horror. We are resolved to progress from the
geranium age to the hardy perennial class, and are industriously
studying books and magazines with that end in view. The worst of garden
literature is that it is nearly all written for an Eastern climate. Once
I subscribed for a garden magazine, lured by a bargain three months'
offer. Never again! At the end of the time, when no regular subscription
came in from me, letters began to arrive. Finally one saying, "You
probably think this is another letter urging you to subscribe. It is
not; it is only to beg that you will confidentially tell us why you do
not." I told him that all our conditions here are so different from
those in the East. People want Italian and Spanish gardens, and there is
the most marvellous choice of flowers, shrubs, and vines with which to
get them, but we want to be told how, and added to this, it is
heart-breaking to love a fountain nymph in the advertisements and to
find that her travelling expenses would bankrupt you.

One marvellous opportunity we have--the San Diego Exposition, whose
gardens are more lovely than ever, though soldiers and sailors are
feeding the pigeons in the Plaza de Panama instead of tourists. The real
intention of that exposition was to show people in this part of the
world what they could do with the great variety of plants and shrubs
that thrive here.

I used to wonder why so little has been written about gardeners when
there are shelves and shelves of volumes on gardens. There are no famous
gardeners in literature that occur to me at the moment except Tagore's,
and the three terrified ones in _Alice's Adventures in Wonderland_, who
were hurriedly painting the white roses red. I should love to read the
diary of the one who trimmed the borders while Boccaccio's gay company
were occupying that garden; or to hear what the head gardener of the
d'Este's could tell us, but I know now why it is so. With the best of
intentions I haven't been able to avoid the pitfall myself.



There may be a more smiling hill-top than "La Collina Ridente" somewhere
on the Southern California edge of the Pacific Ocean, but deep down in
my heart I don't believe that there is. It is just the right size
hill-top--except when I first began to drive the motor, and then it
seemed a trifle small for turning around. It's just high enough above
the coast highway and the town to give us seclusion, and it's just far
enough from the waves to be peaceful. It used to be called "Suma
Paz"--perfect peace--but we changed the name, that being so unpleasantly
suggestive of angels, and, anyway, there isn't such a thing. If "The
Smiling Hill-Top" were everything it seems on a blue and green day like
to-day, for instance, it would be a menace to my character. I should
never leave, I should exist beautifully, leading the life of a
cauliflower or bit of seaweed floating in one of the pools in the rocks,
or to be even more tropically poetic, a lovely lotus flower! I should
not bother about the children's education or grieve over J----'s
bachelor state of undarned socks and promiscuous meals, or the various
responsibilities I left behind in town, so it is fortunate that there
are thorns. Every garden, from Eden down, has produced them.

I haven't catalogued mine, I have just put them down "higgledy-piggledy,"
as we used to say when we were children. J----'s having to work in town,
too far to come home except for an occasional week-end, the neighbors'
dogs, servants, Bermuda grass, tenants, ants, the eccentricities of an
adobe road during the rains, and the lapses of the delivery system of
the village. Of course they are of varying degrees of unpleasantness.
J----'s absence is horrid but the common lot, so I have accepted it
and am learning "to possess, in loneliness, the joy of all the earth."
Truth compels me to add that it isn't always loneliness, either, as,
for example, one week-end that was much cheered by a visit from our
architect friend, who rode down from Santa Barbara in his motor, and
made himself very popular with every member of the household. He brought
home the laundry, bearded the ice man in his lair, making ice-cream
possible for Sunday dinner, mended the garden lattice, and drew
entrancing pictures of galleons sailing in from fairy shores with
all their canvas spread, for the boys. As we waved our handkerchiefs
to him from the Good-by Gate on Monday, Joedy turned to me:

"I wish he didn't have to go!" A little pause.

"Muvs, if you weren't married to Father, how would you like--" but here
I interrupted by calling his attention to a rabbit in the canyon.

One thing I do not consider a part of the joy of all the earth--the
neighbors' dogs. On the next hill-top is an Airedale with a voice like a
fog-horn. He is an ungainly creature and thoroughly disillusioned,
because his family keep him locked up in a wire-screened tennis-court,
where he barks all day and nearly all night. He can watch the motors on
the coast road from one corner of his cage, and that seems to drive him
almost wild. He ought to realize how much better off he is than the Lady
of Shalott, who only dared to watch the highway to Camelot in a mirror!
Sometimes he has a bad attack of lamentation in the night--he is quite
Jeremiah's peer at that--and then we all call his house on the
telephone. You can see the lights flash on in the various cottages and
hear the tinkle of the bell, as we each in turn voice our indignation.
Once I even saw a white-robed figure in the road across the canyon, and
heard a voice borne on the night wind, "For heaven's sake, shut that dog
up." We all bore it with Christian resignation when his family decided
to take a motor camping trip, Prince to be included in the party. He is
probably even now waking the echoes on Lake Tahoe, or barking himself
hoarse at the Bridal Veil Falls in the Yosemite, but thank goodness we
can't hear him quite as far away as that.

I dare say that he might be a perfectly nice, desirable dog if he had
had any early training. Our own "pufflers," as the boys call "Rags" and
"Tags," their twin silver-haired Yorkshire terriers, could tell him what
a restraining influence the force of early training has on them, even on
moonlight nights.

Prince is the worst affliction we have had, but not the only one. The
people on the mountain-slope above us acquired a yellowish collie-like
dog to scare away coyotes. He ought to have been a success at it, though
I don't know just what it takes to scare a coyote. At any rate, he used
to bark long and grievously about dawn in the road across the canyon.
One morning I was almost frantic with the irregularity of his outbursts.
It was like waiting for the other shoe to drop. Suddenly a rifle shot
rang out; a spurt of yellow dust, a streak of yellow dog, and silence!
I rushed to J----'s room, to find him with the weapon, still smoking,
in his hands. I begged him not to start a neighborhood feud, even if
we never slept after dawn. I even wept. He laughed at me. "I didn't
shoot at him," he said. "I shot a foot behind him, and I've given him
a rare fright!" He had, indeed. The terror of the coyotes never came
near us again.

As to servants, the subject is so rich that I can only choose.
Unfortunately, the glory of the view does not make up to them for the
lack of town bustle and nightly "movies," so it isn't always easy to
make comfortable summer arrangements. As you start so you go on, for
changing horses in mid-stream has ever been a parlous business. A
temperamental high-school boy who came to drive the motor and water the
garden, though he appeared barefooted to drive me to town, and took
French leave for a day's fishing, pinning a note to the kitchen door,
saying, "Expect me when you see me and don't wait dinner," afflicted me
one entire summer. I tried to rouse his ambition by pointing out the
capitalists who began by digging ditches--California is full of
them--and assuring him that there were no heights to which he might not
rise by patient application, etc. It was no use. He watered the garden
when I watched him; otherwise not. I came to the final conclusion that
he was in love. Love is responsible for so much.

Another summer I decided to try darkies and carefully selected two of
contrasting shades of brown. The cook was a slim little quadroon, with
flashing white teeth and hair arranged in curious small doughnuts all
over her head. She was a grass widow with quite an assortment of
children, though she looked little more than a child herself. "Grandma"
was taking care of them while the worthless husband was supposed to be
running an elevator in New Orleans. Essie had quite lost interest in
him, I gathered, for I brought her letters and candy from another swain,
who used such thin paper that I couldn't avoid seeing the salutation,
"Oh, you chicken!"

Mandy was quite different. She was a rich seal brown, large and
determined, and had left a husband on his honor, in town. We had hardly
washed off the dust of our long motor-ride before trouble began. A
telegram for Mandy conveyed the disquieting news that George had been
arrested on a charge of assault at the request of "grandma." It appeared
that after seeing wifey off for the seashore he felt the joy of bachelor
freedom so strongly that he dropped in to see Essie's mother, who gave
him a glass of sub rosa port, which so warmed his heart that he tried to
embrace her. Grandma was only thirty-four and would have been pretty
except for gaps in the front ranks of her teeth. She had spirit as well
as spirits, and had him clapped into jail. Telegrams came in--do you say
droves, covies, or flocks? Night letters especially, and long-distance
telephone calls--all collect. The neighbors, the Masons, the lawyer, and
various relatives all went into minute detail. Grandma, being the
injured party, prudently confined herself to the mail. As we have only
one servant's room and that directly under my sleeping-porch, it made it
very pleasant! The choicest telegram J---- took down late one night. It
was from one of Mandy's neighbors, and ended with the illuminating
statement: "George never had a gun or a knife on him; he was soused at
the time!" Mandy emerged from bed, clad in a red kimono and a pink
boudoir cap, to receive this comforting message. She wept; Essie, who
had followed in order to miss nothing, scowled, while J---- and I wound
our bath-robes tightly about us and gritted our teeth, in an effort to
preserve a proper solemnity. Of course we had to let her go back to the
trial, which she did with the dignity of one engaged in affairs of
state. She and the judge had a kind of mother's meeting about George,
and decided that a touch of the law might be just the steadying
influence he needed.

The sentence was for three months, which suited me exactly, as I
calculated that his release and our return to town would happily
synchronize. Mandy really stood the gaff pretty well and returned to her
job, and an armed neutrality ensued, varied by mild outbreaks. Essie was
afraid of Mandy. She said that she would never stay in the house with
her alone; Mandy wouldn't stay in the house alone after dark, so it
became rather complicated. We apparently had to take them or else find
them weeping on the hillside, when we came back from a picnic. In
justice to the darky heart I must say that when Billie was taken very
ill they buried the hatchet for the time, and helped us all to pull
him through.

The summer was almost over when I began to suffer from a strange
hallucination. I kept seeing a colored gentleman slipping around corners
when I approached. As Mandy was usually near said corner, I certainly
thought of George, but calmed myself with the reflection that he was
safe in jail. Not so. George had experienced a change of heart and had
behaved in so exemplary a manner that his sentence had been shortened
two weeks, and what more natural than that he should join his wife? It
wasn't that I was afraid of George; I was afraid for George. I did not
want him to meet Essie, for if Grandma's smile had cost him so dearly, I
hated to think of the effect of Essie's black eyes and unbroken set of
white teeth. I needn't have worried, for George was apparently "sick of
lies and women," and never let go his hold on the apron-string to which
he was in duty bound.

This summer I am unusually fortunate, owing to a moment of clear vision
that I had forty-eight hours before leaving town. I had a Christian
Science cook, a real artist if given unlimited materials, and she didn't
mind loneliness, as she said that God is everywhere; to which I heartily
agreed. I know that He is on this hill-top. So far so good, but her idea
of obeying Mr. Hoover's precepts was not to mention that any staple was
out until the last moment. At about six o'clock she usually came
pussy-footing to my door in the tennis shoes she always wore, to tell me
that there wasn't a potato in the house, or any butter. Not so bad in
Pasadena, with a man to send to the store, but very trying on a smiling
hill-top, one mile from town, with me the only thing dimly suggestive of
a chauffeur on the place. At 3 A.M. I resolved to bounce her, heavenly
disposition and all. I did, and engaged a cateress for what I should
call a comfortable salary, rather than wages. She can get up a very
appetizing meal from sawdust and candle-ends, when necessary, and that
is certainly what is needed nowadays. Also, she has launched a wonderful
counter-offensive against the ants. There was a time when we ate our
meals surrounded by a magic circle like Brunhilde, but ours was not of
flames, but of ant powder. Not that they mind it much. I'm told that
they rather dislike camphor, but do you know the present price of that
old friend?

There are singularly few pests or blights in the garden itself. Bermuda
or devil grass is one of our Western specialties, though it may have
invaded the East, too, since we left. It is an unusually husky plant,
rooting itself afresh at every joint with new vigor, and quite choking
out the aristocratic blue grass with which we started our lawn. At first
you don't notice it as it sneaks along the ground, some time above and
some time below, as it feels disposed, and then suddenly you see it's
cobwebby outlines as plainly as the concealed animals in a newspaper
puzzle. If you begin to pull it out you can't stop. It reminds me of the
German system of espionage, and that adds zest to my weeding. The other
day I laboriously uprooted an intricate network of tentacles, all
leading to one big root, which I am sure must have been Wilhelmstrasse
itself. Being able to do so little to help win the war, this is a
valuable imaginative outlet to me!

Everything about the place, as well as the lawn, seems to get out of
order when we have tenants. No one likes tenants any more than we like
"Central." There is a prejudice against them. They do the things they
ought not to do and leave undone the things they ought to do, and there
is no health in them. I have more often been one than had one, and I
hate to think of the language that was probably used about us, though we
meant well.

I am not going to tell all I know about tenants after all. I have
changed my mind. I am also going to draw a veil over the adobe road
during the rains, because we really do like to rent the place to help
pay for the children's and the motor's shoes, and it wouldn't be
good business.

The village delivery system enrages and entertains me by turns. I was
frankly told by the leading grocery store that they did not expect to
deliver to people who had their own motors, and when I occasionally
insist on a few necessities being sent up to my house, they arrive
after dark conveyed by an ancient horse, as the grocery manager is
conservative. A horse doesn't get a puncture or break a vital part often
(if he does, you bury him and get another) and it is about a toss-up
between hay and gasoline.

Every now and then I am marooned on my hill, if the motor is "hors de
combat," and then I get my neighbour to let me join her in her morning
marketing trip, sometimes with disastrous results. One day the boys and
I sat down to dinner with fine sea-air appetites, to be confronted by a
small, crushed-looking fish. I sent out to ask the cook for more. She
said there was no more, and as no miracle was wrought in our behalf, we
filled up the void with mashed potatoes as best we could. Just as the
plates were being removed the telephone rang, and my neighbor's agitated
voice asked if I had her cat's dinner! Light flooded in on my
understanding. We had just eaten her cat's dinner. She went on to say
that the fish-man had picked out a little barracuda (our household fish
in California) from his scraps and made her a present of it. I faintly
asked if she thought it was a very old one, visions of ptomaine
poisoning rising vividly. Oh, no, she said, "it wasn't old at all, he
had merely stepped on it." My own perfectly good dinner was at her
house. I told her to take off a portion for her cat, and I would send
the boys for the rest. I heaved a sigh of relief--a fresh young fish,
even if crushed, would not have fatal results.

I will pass rapidly on to my last thorn, which isn't on the list because
I'm not quite sure that it is one. It is a small, second-hand, rather
vicious little motor, which I have learned to drive as a war measure.
After the first time I ever tried to turn it around, and it flew at our
lovely rose-garlanded lattice fence at one hundred miles an hour, I
christened it "the little fury." I missed the fence by revolving the
steering wheel as though I were playing roulette. I almost went round
twice, but J---- rescued me by kicking my foot off the throttle. Since
then I have sufficiently mastered it to drive to town for the laundry
and the newspaper. I am like a child learning to walk by having an
orange rolled in front of it. I must know how far the Allies have driven
the Germans, so I set my teeth and start for town in the "little fury."
Every one told me that I'd have to break something before I really got
the upper hand. I have. I bravely drove out to a Japanese truck garden
for vegetables and came to grief. One of the boys tersely expressed it
in his diary, "Muvs ran into a Japanese barn and rooked the bumper!" Now
that that is over, I begin to feel a certain sense of independence that
is not unpleasant. It is some time since I have stalled the engine or
tried to climb a hill with the emergency brake set. The boys and the
"pufflers" are game and keep me company; we live or die together.

After all, the loveliest rose in my garden, the Sunburst, lifts its
fragrant flower of creamy orange on a stalk bristling with
wicked-looking mahogany spikes. If I'm very careful about cutting it, I
don't prick my fingers and the thorns really add to the effect.



A friend of mine once wrote an article on motoring in Southern
California for one of the smart Eastern magazines. In it she said that
often a motor would be followed by a trailer loaded with a camp outfit.
What was her surprise and amusement to read her own article later,
dressed for company, so to speak. "A trailer goes ahead with the
servants and outfit, so that when the motoring party arrives on the
scene all is in readiness for their comfort." Great care must be taken
that the sensibilities of the elect should not be offended by the horrid
thought that ladies and gentlemen actually do make their own camp at
times! So the trailer has to go ahead, and that is just where the lure
and magic of Southern California slips through the fingers.

Most of us have a few drops, at least, of gypsy blood in us, and in
this land of sunshine and the open road we all become vagabonds as far
as our conventional upbringing will let us. When you know that it won't
rain from May to October, and the country is full of the most lovely
and picturesque spots, how can you help at least picnicking whenever
you can?

Trains are becoming as obsolete in our family as the horse. We wish to
take a trip: out purrs the motor; in goes the family lunch-box, a
thermos bottle, and a motor-case of indispensables, and we are off. No
fuss about missing the train, no baggage, no tickets, no cinders--just
the open road.

I had heard that every one deteriorated in Southern California, and
after the first year I began earnestly searching my soul for signs of
slackening. Perhaps my soul is naturally easy-going, for somehow I can't
feel that the things we let slip matter so greatly.

This much I will admit. There is no deadlier drug habit than fresh air!
The first summer on our Smiling Hill-Top kind ladies used to ask me to
tea-parties and card-parties, but I could never come indoors long enough
to be anything but a trial to my partners at bridge, so now I don't even
make believe I'm a polite member of society. Of course, there are people
who carry it further than I do, and can't be quite happy except in their
bathing-suits. I'm not as bad as that. I can still enjoy the sea breezes
and the colors and the sound of the waves with my clothes on. I don't
even wear my bathing-suit to market, which is one of the customs of the
place. It is a picturesque little village; half the houses are mere
shacks, a kind of compromise between dwelling and bath-houses, everyone
being much too thrifty to pay money to the Casino when they can drip
freely on their own sitting-room floor, without the least damage to the
furnishings. Life for many consists largely of a prolonged bath and bask
on the beach, with dinner at a cafeteria and a cold bite for supper at
home or on the rocks. It is surely an easy life and yet a great deal of
earnest effort and strenuous thinking goes on, too, women's clubs, even
an "open forum," and there are many delightful people who live there all
the year for the sake of the perfect climate. Also, there are a few
charming houses perched on the cliffs, most suggestive of Sorrento and
Amalfi. An incident J---- is fond of telling gives the combined
interests of the place. He was on his way to the post-office when he met
two women in very scanty jersey bathing-suits with legs bare, wearing,
to be sure, law-fulfilling mackintoshes, but which, being unbuttoned,
flapped so in the breeze that they were only a technical covering. The
ladies were in earnest conversation as he passed. J---- heard one say,
"I grant all you say about the charm of his style, but I consider his
writing very superficial!"

It is a wonderful life for small boys. My sons are the loveliest shades
of brown with cheeks of red, and in faded khaki and bare legs are as
good an example of protective coloring on the hillside as any zebra in a
jungle. Quite naturally they view September and the long stockings of
the city with dislike.

There is a place on the beach by the coast road between Pasadena and San
Diego where we always have lunch on our journeys to and from town. Just
after you leave the picturesque ruins of the Capistrano Mission in its
sheltered valley, you come out suddenly on the ocean, and the road runs
by the sand for miles. With a salt breeze blowing in your face you can't
resist the lunch box long. With a stuffed egg in one hand and a sandwich
in the other, Joedy, aged eight, observed on our last trip south, "This
is the bright side of living." I agree with him.

One late afternoon a friend of ours was driving alone and offered a lift
to two young men who were swinging along on foot. "Your price?" they
asked. "A smile and a song," was the reply. So in they got, and those
last fifty miles were gay. That is the sort of thing which fits so
perfectly into the atmosphere of this land. Perhaps it is the orange
blossoms, perhaps it is that we have extra-sized moons, perhaps it is
the old Spanish charm still lingering. All I know is that it is a land
of glamour and romance. J---- said he was going to import a pair of
nightingales. I said that if he did he'd have a lot to answer for.

Places are as different as people. The East, and by that I mean the
country east of the Alleghanies and not Iowa and Kansas, which are
sometimes so described out here, has reached years of discretion and is
set in its way. California has temperament, and it is still very young
and enthusiastic and is having a lot of fun "growing up." I love the
stone walls, huckleberry pies, and johnny cakes of Rhode Island, and I
love the associations of my childhood and my family tree, but there is
something in the air of this part of the world that enchants me. It is a
certain "Why not?" that leads me into all sorts of delightful
experiences. Conventionality does not hold us as tightly as it does in
the East, and a certain tempting feeling of unlimited possibilities in
life makes waking up in the morning a small adventure in itself. It
isn't necessary to point out the dangers of an unlimited "Why not?"
cult--they are too obvious. "Why not?" is a question that one's
imagination asks, and imagination is one of the best spurs to action. I
will give an example of what I mean: When war was declared J----
suggested putting contribution boxes with red crosses on the collars
of "Rags" and "Tags," the boys' twin Yorkshire terriers, and coaxing
them to sit up on the back of the motor. I never had begged on a
street corner, but I thought at once, "Why not?" The result was much
money for the Red Cross, an increased knowledge of human nature for me,
as well as some delightful new friends. I should never have had the
courage to try it in New York--let us say; I should have been afraid
I'd be arrested.

At first to an Easterner the summer landscape seems dry and dusty, but
after living here one grows to love the peculiar soft tones of tan and
bisque, with bright shades of ice plant for color, and by the sea the
wonderful blues and greens of the water. No one can do justice to the
glory of that. Sky-blue, sea-blue, the shimmer of peacocks' tails and
the calm of that blue Italian painters use for the robes of their
madonnas, ever blend and ever change. Trees there are few, the graceful
silhouette of a eucalyptus against a golden sky, occasional clumps of
live oaks, and on the coast road to San Diego the Torry pines, relics of
a bygone age, growing but one other place in the world, and more
picturesque than any tree I ever saw. One swaying over a canyon is the
photographer's joy. It has been posing for hundreds of years and will
still for centuries more, I have no doubt.

Were I trying to write a sort of sugar-coated guide-book, I could make
the reader's mouth water, just as the menu of a Parisian restaurant
does. The canyons through which we have wandered, the hills we have
circled, Grossmont--that island in the air--Point Loma, the southern tip
of the United States, now, alas, closed on account of the war (Fort
Rosecrans is near its point), and further north the mountains and orange
groves--snow-capped Sierras looming above orchards of blooming

Even the names add to the fascination, the Cuyamaca Mountains meaning
the hills of the brave one; Sierra Madre, the mother mountains; even Tia
Juana is euphonious, if you don't stop to translate it into the plebeian
"Aunt Jane," and no names could be as lovely as the places themselves.
So much beauty rather goes to one's head. For years in the East we had
lived in rented houses, ugly rented houses, always near the station, so
that J---- could catch the 7.59 or the 8.17, on foot. To find ourselves
on a smiling hill-top--our own hill-top, with "magic casements opening on
the foam"--seemed like a dream. After three years it still seems too
good to be true.

They say that if you spend a year in Southern California you will never
be able to leave it. I don't know. We haven't tried. The only possible
reason for going back would be that you aren't in the stirring heart of
things here as you are in New York, and the _Times_ is five days old
when you get it. Your friends--they all come to you if you just wait
a little. What amazes them always is to find that Southern California
has the most perfect summer climate in the world, if you keep near the
sea. No rain--many are the umbrellas I have gently extracted from the
reluctant hands of doubting visitors; no heat such as we know it in the
East. We have an out-of-door dining-room, and it is only two or three
times in summer that it is warm enough to have our meals there. In the
cities or the "back country" it is different. I have felt heat in
Pasadena that made me feel in the same class with Shadrach, Meshach
and Abednego, but never by the sea.

One result of all this fresh air is that we won't even go indoors to be
amused. Hence the outdoor theatre. Why go to a play when it's so lovely
outside? But to go to a play out-of-doors in an enchanting Greek theatre
with a real moon rising above it--that's another matter. I shall never
forget "Midsummer Night's Dream" as given by the Theosophical Society at
Point Loma. Strolling through the grounds with the mauve and amber domes
of their temples dimly lighted I found myself murmuring: "In Xanadu did
Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree." In a canyon by the sea we
found a theatre. The setting was perfect and the performance was worthy
of it. Never have I seen that play so beautifully given, so artistically
set and delightfully acted, though the parts were taken by students
in the Theosophical School. After the last adorable little fairy had
toddled off--I hope to bed--we heard a youth behind us observe, "These
nuts sure can give a play." We echoed his sentiments.

I should make one exception to my statement that people won't go indoors
to be amused. They go to the "movies"--I think they would risk their
lives to see a new film almost as recklessly as the actors who make
them. The most interesting part of the moving-picture business is
out-of-doors, however. You are walking down the street and notice an
excitement ahead. Douglas Fairbanks is doing a little tightrope walking
on the telegraph wires. A little farther on a large crowd indicates
further thrills. Presently there is a splash and Charley Chaplin has
disappeared into a fountain with two policemen in pursuit. Once while we
were motoring we came to a disused railway spur, and were surprised to
find a large and fussy engine getting up steam while a crowd blocked
the road for some distance. A lady in pink satin was chained to the
rails--placed there by the villain, who was smoking cigarettes in the
offing, waiting for his next cue. The lady in pink satin had made a
little dugout for herself under the track, and as the locomotive
thundered up she was to slip underneath--a job that the mines of
Golconda would not have tempted me to try. Moving-picture actors have a
very high order of courage. We could not stay for the denouement, as we
had a nervous old lady with us, who firmly declined to witness any such
hair-raising spectacle. I looked in the paper next morning for railway
accidents to pink ladies, but could find nothing, so she probably pulled
it off successfully.

Every year new theatres are built. We have seen Ruth St. Denis at the
Organ Pavilion of the San Diego Exposition, and Julius Caesar with an
all-star cast in the hills back of Hollywood, where the space was
unlimited, and Caesar's triumph included elephants and other beasts,
loaned by the "movies," and Brutus' camp spread over the hillside as
it might actually have done long ago. There is a place in the back
country near Escondido, where at the time of the harvest moon an
Indian play with music is given every year. At Easter thousands
of people go up Mount Rubidoux, near Riverside, for the sunrise
service. Some celebrated singer usually takes part and it is very
lovely--quite unlike anything else.

So we have come to belong to what the French would call the school
of "pleine air." I once knew an adorable little boy who expressed
it better than I can:

    "Sun callin' me, sky callin' me,
     Comin' sun--comin' sky."



My windows were all wide open one lovely April day, the loveliest time
of all the year in Southern California, filling the house with the
sweetness of wistaria and orange blossoms, but also, truth compels me to
add, with so many noises of such excruciating kinds that I followed
Ulysses' well-known plan and then tried to find quiet for my siesta in
the back spare-room. The worst of this house is that it really has no
back--it has various fronts, like the war. The spinster next door but
one has a parrot--a cynical, tired parrot, but still fond of the sound
of his own voice. The lady across the street is raising Pekinese
puppies, who apparently bitterly regret being born outside of Pekin. She
puts them in baskets on the roof in the sun and lets them cry it out, in
that hard-hearted modern method applied to babies.

A sight-seeing car had paused while the gentleman with the megaphone
explained to a few late tourists the Arroyo Seco, that great river-bed
with only a trickle of water at the bottom, on whose brink our house
perches. At home two plumbers were playfully tossing bricks about our
courtyard in a half-hearted endeavor to find out why our cellar was
flooded. Hence the back bedroom. No amount of cotton wool in one's ears,
however, could camouflage a telephone bell.

"The Red Cross Executive Committee will meet at ten on Wednesday."

A short interval followed. "Will Mr. S---- make a 'four-minute' speech
on Friday at the Strand Theatre for the Liberty Bond Campaign?"

Another interval during which I began to feel drowsy. "Will Mr. S----
say a few words of appreciation and present a wrist watch to the Chapter
Secretary just starting for France?" etc. Just here I made a resolve.
Escape I would, for one week, to my lovely hill-top by the sea, and
leave J----, the two boys, the two dogs, the two white mice, the Red
Cross, the Red Star, Food Conservation and Liberty Bonds to manage
beautifully without me. I even had the reckless idea of trying to forget
that there was a war going on! I was furnished with a perfectly good
excuse; we had rented "The Smiling Hill-Top" for two months, and it must
be put in order. Hence my "Adventure in Solitude."

Everything is called an adventure nowadays, and to me it was a most
exciting one, as I had not gone forth independently for many years. One
chauffeur, one smiling Helen to clean house for the tenants and cook for
me, my worst clothes and my best picnic lunch went into the motor, and I
followed. I think my family expected me back next day, when I bade them
a loving farewell. Not I! My spirit was craving silence. I wanted not to
curl my hair or be neat or polite or a good mother, or any of the things
I usually try to be, for just one week. Longer, and I would be lonely
and homesick.

It was a lovely day. The coast road to San Diego runs through orange
groves for miles, and the perfume of the blossoms hung about us till we
came to the sea, where a salt breeze blew away the heavy sweetness. I
lunched on the sand and watched the waves for an hour. There, at least,
are endless re-enforcements! As fast as the front ranks break more come
always to fill their places.

I felt no hurry, as the Smiling Hill-Top is some fifteen miles nearer
Pasadena than San Diego--an easy day's run--and I had no engagements,
but at last my impatience to see how much our garden had grown started
me once more on my way, and we arrived at our wicket gate in the late
afternoon. There were twenty-seven keys on the ring the real-estate
agent gave me--twenty more than caused so much trouble at Baldpate--but
none fitted, so I had the chauffeur lift the gate bodily from its hinges
and I was at home!

In California things grow riotously. Grandparents who haven't seen their
grandsons for years, and find that they have shot up from toddling
babies to tall youths, must feel as I did when I saw the vines and
shrubs, especially the banana trees planted only six months before! The
lawn over which I had positively wept lay innocent and green--almost
English in its freshness. The patio was entrancing with blooming vines.
The streptasolen, which has no "little name," as the French say, was
like a cascade of flame over one end of the wall. The place was ablaze
with it. The three goldfish in the fountain seemed as calm as ever, and
apparently have solved the present problem of the high cost of living,
for they don't have to be fed at all. The three had picked up what they
needed without human aid. I really felt like patting them on the head,
but that being out of the question, I was moved to rhyme:

    "I wish I were a goldfish,
     All in a little bowl;
     I wouldn't worry whether
     I really had a soul.
     I'd glide about through sun and shade
     And snatch up little gnats,
     My heaven would be summer
     My hell--well, call it cats!"

All this time the chauffeur had been wrestling with the key ring, and
finally had our bare necessities in the way of doors open. I had
telegraphed our agent that I was coming only long enough before for
the house to have what is vulgarly known as "a lick and a promise,"
but it looked just as comfortable and pleasant as I knew that it
would, and the terrace--no need to bother about that. The south
wind does the housework there.

That night I went to sleep between sheets fragrant with lavender from my
own garden, while the ocean boomed gently on the beach below the hill.
In the week that followed I abolished a number of things. First of all,
meal hours. I had my meals when I felt like it; in fact, I didn't wind
the clock till I was leaving. I only did it then on account of the
tenants, as some people find the ticking of a clock and the chirping of
a cricket pleasant and cosy sounds. I don't. Then I cut out the usual
items from my bill of fare, and lived on young peas, asparagus, eggs,
milk, and fruit, with just a little bread and butter--not enough to
agitate Mr. Hoover. I never had had as much asparagus as I really wanted
before. I wore an old smock and a disreputable hat, and I pruned and dug
in my garden till I was tired, and then I lay on the terrace and watched
the waves endlessly gather and glide and spread. Counting sheep jumping
over a wall is nothing to compare with waves for soothing rasped nerves.

My first solitary day was so clear that the Pasadena Mountains, as we
call that part of the Sierra Madre, rose soft over the water on the far
horizon, so that I couldn't feel lonely with home in sight. Long unused
muscles expostulated with me, but smoothed-out nerves more than balanced
their twinges. Of course I couldn't forget the war. Who could,
especially with flocks of aeroplanes flying over me as I lay on a chaise
longue on the terrace, listening to the big guns of Camp Kearny roaring
behind the hills; but it no longer gave me the sensation of sand-paper
in my feelings. I thought about it all more calmly and realized a little
of what it is doing to us Americans--to our souls!--that is worth the
price; and in addition, how much it is teaching us of economy,
conservation, and efficiency, as well as more spiritual things.

It has also brought home to me the beauty of throwing away. In a fever
of enthusiasm to make every outgrown union suit and superfluous berry
spoon tell, I have ransacked my house from garret to cellar, and I bless
the Belgians, Servians, and Armenians, the Poles and the French orphans
for ridding me of a suffocating mass of things that I didn't use, and
yet felt obliged to keep.

My wardrobe is now the irreducible minimum, the French Relief has the
rest, and at last I have more than enough hangers in my closet to
support my frocks. The shoes that pinched but looked so smart that they
kept tempting me into one more trial have gone to the Red Cross Shop. No
more concerts will be ruined by them. The hat that made me look ten
years older than I like to think I do, accompanied them. It was a good
hat, almost new, and it cost--more than I pay for hats nowadays. I do
not need to wear it out. My large silver tea-pot given me by my maid of
honor did good work for the Belgians--I hope if she ever finds out about
its fate that she will be glad that it is now warm stockings for many
thin little Belgian legs. Nora, from Ireland, viewed its departure with
satisfaction--it made one less thing to polish. Many odds and ends of
silver followed, and were put into the melting-pot, being too homely to
survive--I'm saving enough for heirlooms for my grandchildren, of
course. One must not allow sentiment to go by the board; we need it
especially now that we have lost such quantities of it out of the world.
So much was "made in Germany," that old Germany of the fairy tales and
Christmas trees which seems to be gone forever.

I need not go on enumerating my activities. Every one has been doing the
same thing, and in all probability is now enjoying the same sense of
orderliness and freedom that I feel. Even the children have caught the
spirit. I was just leaving my house the other day when a palatial
automobile stopped at the gate and a very perfect chauffeur alighted and
touched his cap. "Madam," he said, "I have come for a case of empty
bottles that Master John says your little boy promised him for the Red
Cross." There was a trace of embarrassment in his manner, but there was
none in mine as I led him to the cellar and watched with satisfaction
while he clasped a cobwebby box of--dare I whisper it?--empty beer
bottles to his immaculate chest and eventually stowed it in the
exquisite interior of the limousine. How wonderful of the Red Cross to
want my bottles, and how intelligent of my "little boy" to arrange the
matter so pleasantly!

To do away with the needless accumulations of life, or better still, not
to let them accumulate, what a comfort that would be! Letters? The fire
as rapidly as possible! No one ought to have a good time reading over
old letters--there's always a tinge of sadness about them, and it's
morbid to conserve sadness, added to which, in the remote contingency of
one's becoming famous, some vandalish relative always publishes the ones
that are most sacred.

J---- has the pigeon-hole habit. He hates to see anything sink into the
abyss of the waste-basket, but I am training him to throw away something
every morning before breakfast. After a while he'll get so that he can
dispose of several things at once, and the time may come when I'll have
to look over the rubbish to be sure that nothing valuable has gone,
because throwing away is just as insidious a habit as any other.

If only one could pile old bills on top of the old letters, what a
glorious bonfire that would make! But that will have to wait until
the millennium; as things are now, it would mean paying twice for
the motor fender of last year, and never feeling sure of your
relations with the butcher.

It isn't only things that I am disposing of. I've rid myself of a lot
of useless ideas. We don't have to live in any special way. It isn't
necessary to have meat twice a day, and there is no law about chicken
for Sunday dinner. Butter does not come like the air we breathe.
Numerous courses aren't necessary even for guests. New clothes aren't
essential unless your old ones are worn out--and so on.

And so I'm stepping forth on a road leading, even the graybeards can't
say where, with surprises behind every hedge and round every corner.
There hasn't been so thrillingly interesting an age to be alive since
that remote time when the Creation was going on. Except for moments of
tired nerves, like this, it is very stimulating, and I find myself
stepping out much more briskly since I threw my extra wraps and bundles
beside the road. Here on my hill-top I have even enjoyed a little of
that charm of unencumberedness that all vagabonds know--and later if I
come to some steep stretches I shall be more likely to make the top, for
I'm resolved to "travel light."

There is usually one serpent in Eden, if it is only a garter snake. Ours
was a frog in the fountain. He had a volume of sound equal to Edouard de
Reske in his prime. I set the chauffeur the task of catching him, but
after emptying out all the water one little half-inch frog skipped off,
and John assured me that he could never be the offender. But he was
"Edouard" in spite of appearances, for he returned at dusk and took up
the refrain just where he had left off. I decided to hunt him myself. It
was like the game of "magic music" that we used to play as children:
loud and you are "warm"; soft and you are far away. I never caught him.
He was ready to greet the tenants instead of the cosy cricket, and may
have been the reason why they suddenly departed after only a three
weeks' stay, but as it was a foggy May, as it sometimes is on this
coast, that is an open question. J---- tersely put it, "Frog or fog?"

The smiling Helen smiled more beamingly every day, but the chauffeur
hated it. He was a city product and looked as much at home on that
hill-top as a dancing-master in a hay-field. He smoked cigarettes and
read the sporting page of the paper in the garage, where gasoline rather
deadened the country smells of flowers and hay, and tried to forget his
degrading surroundings, but he was overjoyed when the day to start for
home arrived. I did not share his feelings, and yet I was ready to go.
It had been a great success, and the only time I had felt lonely was in
a crowded restaurant in San Diego, where J---- and I had had many jolly
times in past summers. On the Smiling Hill-Top who could be lonely with
the ever-changing sea and sky and sunsets. I dare not describe the
picture, as I don't wish to be put down as mad or a cubist. Scent of the
honeysuckle, the flutter of the breeze, the song of pink-breasted
linnets and their tiny splashings in the birds' pool outside my
sleeping-porch, the velvet of the sky at night, with its stars and the
motor lights on the highway like more stars below--how I love it all! I
was taking enough of it home with me, I hoped, to last through some
strenuous weeks in Pasadena, until I could come back for the summer,
bringing my family.

Much bustling about on the part of the smiling Helen and me, much
locking of gates and doors by the bored chauffeur, and we were off for
home! After all is said and done, "home is where the heart is,"
irrespective of the view.

The first part of the way we made good time, but just out of one of the
small seaside towns something vital snapped in the motor's insides. It
happened on a bridge at the foot of a hill, and we were very lucky to
escape an accident. I will say for the chauffeur that while, as a
farmer, he would never get far, as a driver he knew his business. One
slight skid and we stopped short, "never to go again," like
grandfather's clock. It resulted in our having to be towed backwards to
the nearest garage, while the chauffeur jumped on a passing motor bound
for Pasadena, and was snatched from my sight like Elijah in the
chariot--he was off to get a new driving shaft. The smiling Helen
followed in a Ford full of old ladies. I elected to travel by train and
sat for hours in a small station waiting for the so-called "express." In
a hasty division of the lunch I got all the hard-boiled eggs, and of
course one can eat only a limited number of them, though I will say that
a few quite deaden one's appetite.

I had an amazing collection of bags, coats, and packages, and was
dreading embarking on the train. However, I have a private motto, "There
is a way." There was. The only occupant of the waiting-room besides
myself was a very dapper gentleman of what I should call lively middle
age, with very upstanding gray mustaches. I took him to be a marooned
motorist, also. He was well-dressed, with the added touch of an orange
blossom in his button-hole, and he had a slightly roving eye. His
hand-baggage was most "refined." I had noticed him looking my way at
intervals, and wondered if he craved a hard-boiled egg; I could easily
have spared him one! While I am certainly not in the habit of seeking
conversation with strange gentlemen, there are always exceptions to
everything, and I concluded that this was one. I smiled! We chatted on
the subject of the flora and fauna of California in a perfectly
blameless way till my train whistled, when he said, "I am going to carry
those bags for you, if you will allow me!" I thanked him aloud and
inwardly remarked, "I have known that for a long time!"

What made it especially pleasant was that I was going north and he was
going south. So ended my Adventure--not all Solitude, if you like, but
as near it as one can achieve with comfort. The amazing thing about it
was how well I got on with myself, for I don't think I'm particularly
easy to live with. I must ask J----. Probably it was the novelty.



I once remarked that I thought New York City a most friendly and
neighborly place, and was greeted with howls of derision. I suppose I
said it because that morning a dear old lady in an oculist's office had
patted me, saying, "My dear, it would be a pity to put glasses on you,"
and an imposing blonde in a smart Fifth Avenue shop had sold me a hat
that I couldn't afford either to miss or to buy, for half price, because
she said I'd talked to her like a human being, the year before--all of
which had warmed my heart. I think perhaps my statement was too
sweeping. Since we have changed oceans I notice that the atmosphere
of the West has altered my old standards somewhat. There is an
easy-going fellowship all through every part of life on this side
of the Rocky Mountains.

Take banks, for instance. Can you picture a dignified New York Trust
Company with bowls of wild flowers placed about the desks and a general
air of hospitality? In one bank I have often had a pleasant half-hour
very like an afternoon tea, where all the officers, from the president
down, came to shake hands and ask after the children. Of course, that is
a rather unusually pleasant and friendly bank, even for California.
Always I am carefully, tenderly almost, escorted to my motor. At first
this flattered me greatly, till I discovered that there is a law in
California that if you slip and hurt yourself on any one's premises,
they pay the doctor's bill. Hence the solicitude. I was not to be
allowed to strain my ankle, even if I wanted to.

Probably the same geniality existed in the East fifty years ago. I have
been told that it did. It is a very delightful stage of civilization
where people's shells are still soft, if they have shells at all. There
is an accessibility, a breeziness and camaraderie about even the
prominent men--the bulwarks of business and public life. We are accused
of bragging and "boosting" in the West. I am afraid it is true. They are
the least pleasant attributes of adolescence.

Banking isn't the only genial profession. There is real estate. Of
course about half the men in California are in real estate for reasons
too obvious to mention. Providence was kind in putting us into the hands
of an honest man, better still, one with imagination, when we came to
look for a winter bungalow. He saw that we had to have something with
charm, even if the furniture was scarce, and took as much pains over
realizing our dream as if we had been hunting for a palace. It was he
who found our "Sabine Farm," which brought us three of the best gifts of
the gods--health, happiness, and a friend. We had almost decided to take
a picturesque cot that I named "The Jungle," from its tangle of trees
and flowers, even though the cook could reach her abode only by an
outside staircase. The boys had volunteered to hold an umbrella over her
during the rainy season, but I wasn't quite satisfied with this
arrangement. Just then we saw an enchanting bungalow set in a garden of
bamboos, roses and bananas, and looked no further! It belonged to an
English woman who raised Toggenburg goats, which made it all the more
desirable for us as the goats were to stay at the back of the garden,
and provide not only milk but interest for the boys.

J---- dubbed it "El rancho goato" at once. Our friends in the East were
delighted with the idea, and many were their gibes. One in particular
always added something to the address of his letters for the guide or
diversion of the R. F. D. postman: "Route 2, Box so-and-so, you can tell
the place by the goats"; or during the spring floods this appeared in
one corner of the envelope: "Were the goats above high water?"

It wasn't just an ordinary farm. There was a certain something--I think
the names of the goats had a lot to do with it--Corella, Coila, Babette,
Elfa, Viva, Lorine, and so on, or perhaps it was the devotion of their
mistress, who expended the love and care of a very large heart on a
family that I think appreciated it as far as goats are capable of
appreciation. If she was a little late coming home (she had a tiny shack
on one corner of the place) they would be waiting at the gate calling
plaintively. There is a plaintive tone about everything a goat has to
say. In his cot on the porch J---- composed some verses one morning
early--I forget them except for two lines:

    "The plaintive note of a querulous goat
     Over my senses seems to float."

Of course that was the difficulty--creatures of one kind or another
do not lie abed late. Our Sabine Farm was surrounded by others and
there was a neighborhood hymn to the dawn that it took us some time
to really enjoy--if we ever did. Sopranos--roosters; altos--pigeons,
and ducks; tenors--goats; bassos--cows, and one donkey. There was
nothing missing to make a full, rich volume of sound. Of course
there is no place where it is so difficult to get a long, refreshing
night's sleep as the country.

One rarely comes through any new experience with all one's preconceived
ideas intact. Our first season on the Sabine Farm shattered a number of
mine. I had always supposed that a mocking-bird, like a garden, was "a
lovesome thing, God wot." Romantic--just one step below a nightingale!

There was a thicket of bamboos close to my window, and every night all
the young mocking-birds gathered there to try out their voices. It was
partly elocutionary and partly vocal, but almost entirely
exercises--rarely did they favor me with a real song. This would go on
for some time, then just as I dared to hope that lessons were over,
another burst of ill-assorted trills and shrills would rouse me to fury.
I kept three pairs of boots in a convenient place, and hurled them into
the bamboos, paying the boys a small reward for retrieving them each
morning. Sometimes, if my aim was good, a kind of wondering silence
lasted long enough for me to fall asleep. There is an old song--we all
know it--that runs:

    "She's sleeping in the valley, etc., etc.,
     And the mocking-bird is singing where she lies."

That, of course, would be impossible if the poor little thing hadn't
been dead.

By day I really enjoyed them. To sit in the garden, which smelled
like a perpetual wedding, reading Lafcadio Hearn and listening to
mocking-birds and linnets, would have undermined my New England
upbringing very quickly, had I had time to indulge often in such
a lotus-eating existence.

Then there was "Boost." He was a small bantam rooster, beloved of our
landlady, which really proves nothing because she was such a
tender-hearted person that she loved every dumb creature that wandered
to her door. Had Boost been dumb I might have loved him too. He had a
voice like the noise a small boy can make with a tin can and a resined
string. He had a malevolent eye and knew that I detested him, so that he
took especial pains to crow under my windows, generally about an hour
after the mocking-birds stopped. I think living with a lot of big hens
and roosters told on his nervous system, and he took it out on me. Great
self-restraint did I exercise in not wringing his neck, when help came
from an unexpected quarter. Boost had spirit--I grant him that--and one
day he evidently forgot that he wasn't a full-sized bird, and was
reproved by the Sultan of the poultry-yard in such a way that he was
found almost dead of his wounds. Dear Miss W----'s heart was quite
broken. She fed him brandy and anointed him with healing lotions, but
to no avail. He died. I had felt much torn and rather doublefaced in
my inquiries for the sufferer, because I was so terribly afraid he
might get well, so it was a great relief when he was safely buried
in the back lot.

Though I love animals I have had bloodthirsty moments of feeling that
the only possible way to enjoy pets was to have them like those wooden
Japanese eggs which fit into each other. If you have white mice or a
canary, have a cat to contain the canary, and a dog to reckon with the
cat. Further up in the scale the matter is more difficult, of course.
One of our "best seller" manufacturers, in his early original days,
wrote a delightful tale. In it he said: "A Cheetah is a yellow streak
full of people's pet dogs," so perhaps that is the answer. The ultimate
cheetah would, of course, have to be shot and stuffed, as it would
hardly be possible to have a wild-cat lounging about the place. I think
the idea has possibilities. So many of our plans are determined by pets.
"No, we can't close the house and go motoring for a week, because there
is no one with whom to leave the puppies." "Yes, we rented our house to
Mrs. S---- for less than we expected to get for it, because she is so
fond of cats and promised to take good care of Pom Pom"--which recalls
to my mind a dear little girl who had a white kitten that she was
entrusting to a neighbor. The neighbor, a busy person with eight
children, received the kitten without demonstration of any kind. Little
Lydia looked at her for a few moments and then said, "Mrs. F----, that
kitten must be loved." That is really the trouble, not only must they be
loved, but they are loved and then the pull on your heart-strings
begins. We have a pair of twin silver-haired Yorkshire terriers, who are
an intimate part of our family circle. I sometimes feel like a friend of
mine in San Francisco, who has a marvellous Chinese cook, and says she
hopes she will die before Li does. I hope "Rags" and "Tags" will live as
long as I do--and yet they are a perfect pest. If they are outdoors they
want to come in, or vice versa. It is practically impossible to sneak
off in the motor without their escort and they bark at my best callers.
Since they made substantial sums of money begging for the Red Cross,
they have added a taste for publicity to their other insistent qualities
and come into the drawing-room, and sit up in front of whoever may be
calling, with a view to sugar and petting. And the worst of it is I
can't maintain discipline at all. Rags has had to be anointed with a
salve compounded of tar and sulphur. It is an indignity and quite
crushes his spirit, so that after it has been put on he wishes to sit
close to me for comfort. The result is that I become like a winter
overcoat just emerging from moth-balls rather than hurt his feelings. Of
course it makes some difference whether the pet that is annoying you
belongs to you or a neighbor. I doubt whether I could have loved Boost,
however, even if I had known him from the shell.

In spite of these various drawbacks we led a most happy life. It was so
easy. The bungalow was so attractively furnished; our own oranges and
limes grew at the door. There was just room for us with nothing to
spare, that had to be kept in order, and our landlady was as different
from the cold-hearted ones we had known as the bankers and real-estate
men. She seemed to be always trying to think of what we might need, and
to provide it. Dear Miss W----, she will never be a good business woman
from the world's point of view; she is too generous and too unselfish!
We all loved her. Many were the hours I inveigled her into wasting while
we sat on bales of the goats' hay and discussed life and the affairs of
the country--but mostly life with its curious twists and turns--its
generosities and its stinginesses. The boys spent their time in the
goat-pen making friends of the little kids, whose various advents added
so much interest to the spring, and learning much from Miss W----, whose
attitude towards life was so sane and wholesome for them to know.

"Buckaboo," the only buck on the ranch when we came, was a dashing young
creature, prancing about and kicking up his heels for the pure joy of
living. Joedy informed J---- that he reminded him of him, "only in a
goat way, father"--a tribute to the light-heartedness that California
had already brought to at least one member of the family.

If our Sabine Farm's vocation was goats, its avocation was surely roses.
We were literally smothered in them. A Cecil Brunner with its perfect
little buds, so heavily perfumed, covered one corner of the house. The
Lady Bankshire, with its delicate yellow blossoms, roofed our porch, and
the glorious Gold of Ophir, so thorny and with little fragrance,
concealed our laundry from the road. There was a garden of bush roses of
all kinds to cut for the house, and the crowning glory of all was a
hedge of "Tausend Schoen," growing luxuriantly, and a blaze of bloom in
May. After years of illness and worry, it was good to feel life coming
back joyously in a kind of haven--or heaven--of roses.



When Alice stepped through the looking-glass and ran out into that most
alluring garden, she must have felt much as I did long ago when I
stepped off the Santa Fe Limited and found myself in Southern California
for the first time! It isn't just the palm trees and the sunshine,
though they are part of the charm. It isn't even the mocking-birds and
the orange blossoms altogether. It is something you can't really put
your finger on, that lures you from your old habits and associations. At
first you are simply glad that you have left the cold and snow behind
you, and that the earth is so sweet with flowers, and then you begin to
find a new world of possibilities. There are all sorts of little garden
gates with golden keys on glass tables, and you set about growing
shorter or taller, as the case may be, to make yourself a proper height
to reach the key and slip through the door. You don't even need to
hurry, if you are firm about not grasping the hand of any Red Queen that
may come your way, and yet it isn't a land of manana; it's a land of
"Why Not?" The magic has nothing to do with one's age; I feel it now
even more than I did twenty years ago, and Grandmother felt it at eighty
just as I did at eighteen. Ulysses could have himself lashed to the mast
and snap his fingers at the Sirens, but I know of no protection against
the Southwest except to somehow close the shutters of your imagination.
However, let me not be a Calvinist; because it is enchanting, why should
I fear it?

I shall never forget my first experience of the spell. I was invited by
my Grandmother to go to California for several months. There were four
of us, and we were all tired, for one reason or another; Grandmother
because she was eighty, and it's a strenuous matter to live eighty
years; my Aunt because she had been desperately ill; C. C. because she
had nursed my Aunt back to comparative health, and I because I had been
a debutante that winter, and every one knows that that is the hardest
work of all. We went as far south as the train would take us, and
settled ourselves at Coronado to bask in the sunshine until the
tiredness was gone and we became a band of explorers, with the world
before us! A pair of buggies drawn by nags of unblemished reputation for
sagacity and decorum, driven by C. C. and me, carried us over many a
picturesque and rough road. It invariably took us all day to get
anywhere and back, irrespective of what the distance was supposed to be.
The outfit was so old that I often had to draw up my steed and mend the
harness with a safety-pin. Trailing Ramona was our favorite game.
Fortunately for that part of the country, she and Allessandro managed to
be born, or sleep, or marry, or die in pretty nearly every little
settlement, ranch, or mission in San Diego County, and it's a great boon
to the country. Now, of course, with a motor you can cover the ground in
a day, but then, with a guaranteed horse and a safety-pinned harness,
Ramona was good for weeks.

We usually took a picnic lunch, and it was on one of these trips that I
first saw the Smiling Hill-Top and knew it not for my later love. How
often that happens! Jogging home, with the reins slack on the placid
mare's back, Grandmother liked me to sing "Believe Me If All Those
Endearing Young Charms" and "Araby's Daughter," showing that she was a
good deal under the spell of the palm trees and the sunset, for I have
the voice of a lost kitten. It also shows the perfect self-control of
the horse, for no accidents occurred.

It was a very different Coronado from the present day, with its motors
on earth and water, and in air. I liked ours better and hated to leave
it, but after six weeks of its glory of sunshine I was deputed to go
north to Pasadena to rent a bungalow for two months. It was my first
attempt of the kind, and aided by a cousin into whose care I had been
confided, I succeeded in reducing the rent twenty-five dollars a month
for a pretty cottage smothered in roses and heliotropes and well
supplied with orange and lemon trees. I was rather pleased with myself
as a business woman. Not so Grandmother. She was thoroughly indignant
and announced her firm intention of paying the original rent asked, a
phenomenon that so surprised our landlord, when I told him, that he
insisted on scrubbing the kitchen floor personally, the day of her
arrival. Thus did Raleigh lay down his cloak for the Queen!

Everything was lovely. It only rained once that spring--the morning
after we had gone up Mount Lowe to see the sun rise, to be sure, but it
would be a carping creature who would complain when only one expedition
had been dampened. For twenty years I cherished the illusion that this
was a land of endless sunshine. I don't know where I thought the
moisture came from that produces the almost tropical luxuriance of the
gardens and the groves. I know better now and, strange to say, I have
come to love a rain in its proper time and place, if it isn't too
boisterous. We discovered a veteran of the Civil War turned liveryman,
who for a paltry consideration in cash was ours every afternoon, and
showed us something new each day, from racing horses on the Lucky
Baldwin Ranch to the shadow of a spread eagle on a rock. Grandmother's
favorite excursion was to a picturesque winery set in vineyards and
shaded by eucalyptus trees. She was what I should call a wine-jelly,
plum-pudding prohibitionist, and she included tastes of port and fruit
cordials as part of the sight-seeing to be done. You can be pretty at
eighty, which is consoling to know. Grandmother, with a little curl over
each ear and the pink born of these "tastes" proved it, and she wouldn't
let us tease her about it either. It was an easy life, and so
fascinating that I even said to myself, "Why not learn to play the
guitar?" for nothing seemed impossible. It shows how thoroughly drugged
I was by this time, for my Creator wholly omitted to supply me with a
musical ear. I always had to have my instrument tuned by the young man
next door, but I learned to play "My Old Kentucky Home" so that every
one recognized it. Now, if years had not taught me some fundamental
facts about my limitations, I should probably render twilight hideous
with a ukelele, for a ukelele goes a guitar one better, and Aloha oee
wailed languorously on that instrument would make even a Quaker relax.

It was in the late spring that the Great Idea came to Aunty and me. I
don't know which of us was really responsible for it, and there was a
time when neither of us would own it. A course in small "Why Nots?" made
it come quite naturally at the last. Why shouldn't we drive into the
Yosemite Valley before we went home? By the end of May it would be at
its loveliest, with the melted snows from the mountains filling its
streams and making a rushing, spraying glory of its falls. It did seem a
pity to be so near one of the loveliest places on earth and to miss
seeing it. Aunty and I discussed the matter dispassionately under a palm
tree in the back yard. We honestly concluded that it wouldn't hurt
Grandmother a bit, that it might even do her good, so we began to put
out a few conversational feelers, and the next thing we knew she was
claiming the idea as her own and inviting us to accompany her! In her
early married life she was once heard to say to Grandfather, "Edwin, I
have made up our minds." So you can see that Aunty and I were as clay in
her hands! Where we made our great mistake was in writing to the rest of
the family about our plans until after we had started. They became quite
abusive in their excitement. Were we crazy? Had we forgotten
Grandmother's age? What was C. C., a trained nurse, about, to let a
little delicate old lady take such a trip? They were much shocked. We
had to admit her age, but Aunty and I weren't so sure about her
delicacy, and anyway her mind was made up, so we burned their telegrams
and packed the bags.

It happened twenty years ago, but I can see her sitting in a
rocking-chair on the piazza of Leidig's Hotel in Raymond, surrounded by
miners, all courteously editing their conversation and chewing tobacco
as placidly as a herd of cows, while Grandmother, the only person whose
feet were not elevated to the railing, rocked gently and smiled. Of
course we planned to make the trip as easy as possible, and had engaged
a spring wagon so that we could take more time than the stage, which
naturally had to live up to a Bret Harte standard. We made an early
start from Raymond after a rather troubled night at Leidig's Hotel. You
hear strange sounds in a mining camp after dark. Every one in town saw
us off, as Grandmother was already popular, and looked on as rather a
sporting character. Al Stevens, who drove us, was a bitter
disappointment to me, not looking in the least romantic or like the hero
of a Western story. I shan't even describe him, except to say that he
smoked most evil-smelling cigars, the bouquet of which blew back into
our faces and spoiled the pure mountain air, but we didn't dare say a
word, for fear that he might lash his horses round some hair-pin curve
and scare us to death, even if we didn't actually go over the edge. I
don't think he would really have rushed to extremes, for he turned out
to be distinctly amiable, and our picnic lunches, eaten near some
mountain spring, were partaken of most sociably and Al Stevens didn't
always smoke. How good everything tasted! I don't believe I have ever
really enjoyed apple pie with a fork as I enjoyed it sitting on a log
with a generous wedge in one hand and a hearty morsel of mouse-trap
cheese in the other.

We spent three days driving into the valley, staying at delightful inns
over night, and stopping when we pleased, to pick flowers, for wonderful
ones grow beside the road; Mariposa tulips with their spotted butterfly
wings, fairy lanterns, all the shades of blue lupin, and on our detour
to see the big trees I found a snow-plant, which looks like a blossom
carved out of watermelon--pink and luscious! It is hard to realize how
big the big trees are! Like St. Peter's, they are so wonderfully
proportioned you can't appreciate their height, but I do know that they
would be just a little more than my tree-climbing sons would care to
tackle. Stevens was a good driver and approved of our appreciation of
"his" scenery, and I think he was proud of Grandmother, who really stood
the trip wonderfully well. At last came the great moment when a bend in
the road would disclose the valley with its silver peaks, its
golden-brown river, and its rainbow-spanned falls. We had never
suspected it, but Stevens was an epicure in beauty. He insisted on our
closing our eyes till we came to just the spot where the view was most
perfect, and then he drew in his horses, gave the word, and we looked on
a valley as lovely as a dream. I am glad that we saw it as we did, after
a long prelude of shaded roads and sentinel trees. Nowadays you rush to
it madly by train and motor. Then it was a dear secret hidden away in
the heart of the forest.

We spent five days at the hotel by the Merced River, feasting on beauty
and mountain trout, and lulled by the murmur of that gentle stream.
Moonlight illumined the whiteness of the Yosemite Falls in full view of
the hotel verandah as it makes the double leap down a dark gorge. We
could see a great deal with very little effort, but after a day or two I
began to look longingly upward toward the mountain trails. At last a
chance came, and "Why Not" led me to embrace it. A wholesale milliner
from Los Angeles invited me to join his party. We had seen him at
various places along our way, so that it was not entirely out of a clear
sky. He was wall-eyed--if that is the opposite of cross-eyed--which gave
him so decidedly rakish a look that it was some time before I could
persuade my conservative relatives that it would be safe for me to
accept the invitation, but as the party numbered ten, mostly female,
they finally gave me their blessing. Being the last comer, and the mules
being all occupied, I had to take a horse, which I was sorry for, as
they aren't supposed to be quite as sure-footed on the trail. The party
all urged me to be cautious, with such emphasis that I began to wonder
if I had been wise to come, when Charley, our guide, told me not to pay
any attention to them, that I had the best mount of the whole train.
Charley, by the way, was all that Al Stevens was not, and added the note
of picturesqueness and romance which my soul had been craving. He was
young, blond, and dressed for the part, and would have entranced a
moving-picture company! The wholesale milliner called me "Miss Black
Eyes," and was so genial in manner that I joined Charley at the end of
the parade and heard stories of his life which may or may not have been
true. Every now and then Jesse James, an especially independent mule,
would pause, and with deliberation and vigor kick at an inaccessible fly
on the hinder parts of his person, while his rider shrieked loudly for
help, and the procession halted till calm was restored. At last we
reached the end of the trail. Somewhere I have a snap-shot of myself
standing on Glacier Point, that rock that juts out over the valley,
clinging to Charley's hand, for I found that standing there with the
snow falling, looking down thousands of feet, made me crave a hand to
keep the snowflakes from drawing me down. The wholesale milliner and the
rest considered me a reckless soul, and many were the falsetto shrieks
they emitted if I went within ten feet of the edge of the precipice.
They did not realize the insurance and assurance of Charley's hand.

Of course I endured the anguish of a first horseback ride for the next
day or two, but it was worth it, and by the time we were ready to start
for home I could sit down quite comfortably. The trip was accomplished
without a jolt or jog sufficient to disarrange Grandmother's curls.
Aunty and I were always so thankful that we defied the family and
let her have her last adventure, for soon afterward her mind began
to grow dim. For myself, I treasure the memory both for her sake,
and because I can't climb trails myself any more, and that is
something I didn't miss. Was it Schopenhauer or George Ade who
said, "What you've had you've got"?

Twenty years later another party of four, consisting of a husband and
two boys, were led by a lady Moses into the promised land, and were met
by an old friend, the Civil War veteran, with a motor instead of his
pair of black horses! He was too old to drive, but he had come to
welcome me back. Billie and Joedy were thrilled. They adored the tales
of his twelve battles and the hole in his knee, even more than their
mother had before them, being younger and boys. It was as lovely a land
as I had remembered it, only, of course, there were changes. The motor
showed that. I should not say that the tempo of life had been quickened
so much as that its radius had been widened, or that the focus was
different; the old spell was the same. To reconcile the past and the
present, I have thought of a beautiful compromise. Why not a motor van?
The family jeered at me when I first suggested that we spend J----'s
next vacation meandering up the coast in one. Of course, the boys adored
the idea at first, but sober second thoughts for mother made them pause.

Billie: "But, Muvs, you'd hate it, you couldn't have a box spring!"

Joedy: "And you don't like to wash dishes."

Quite true. I had thought of all that myself. I don't like to wash
dishes, but we use far more than we really need to use, and anyway I had
rather decided that I wouldn't wash them. As to the bed-spring, I could
have an air mattress, for while it's a little like sleeping on a captive
balloon, it doesn't irritate your bones like a camp cot.

The family distrust of me, as a vagabond, dates from a camping trip last
August to celebrate Billie's twelfth birthday. It lasted only one night,
so "trip" is a large word to apply to it, but I will say that for one
night it had all the time there could be squeezed into it. We selected a
site on the beach almost within hallooing distance of the Smiling
Hill-Top, borrowed a tent and made camp. I loved the fire and frying the
bacon and the beat of the waves, but I did not like the smell of the
tent. It was stuffy. I had been generously given that shelter for my
own, while the male members of the party slept by a log (not like one,
J---- confessed to me) under a tarpaulin--I mean "tarp"--with stars
above them except when obscured by fog. My cot was short and low and I
am not, so that I spent the night tucking in the blankets. The puppies
enjoyed it all thoroughly. Though they must have been surprised by the
sudden democratic intimacy of the situation, they are opportunists and
curled themselves in, on, and about my softer portions, so that I had to
push them out every time I wanted to turn over, which was frequently. I
urged them to join the rest of the party under the "tarp," but they were
firm, as they weren't minding the hardness of the cot, and they don't
care especially about ventilation. I greeted the dawn with heartfelt
thanksgiving, and yet I'm as keen about my vacation idea as ever. I have
simply learned what to do and what not to do, and it won't matter to me
in the least whether my ways are those of a tenderfoot or not. Why not
be comfortable physically as well as spiritually? Think of the
independence of it! To be able to sit at the feet of any view that you
fancy till you are ready to move on! Doesn't that amount to "free will"?
Yes, I am resolved to try it out and Billie says if I make up my mind to
something I generally get my way (being descended from Grandmother
probably accounts for it), so if you should see a rather fat, lazy green
van with "Why not?" painted over the back door, you may know that two
grown vagabonds, two young vagabonds, and two vagabond pups, are on the
trail following the gypsy patteran.



Mr. Jones meets his friend, Mr. Brown:

"Surprised to see that your house is for sale, Brown."

"Oh--er--yes" replies Brown; "that is, I don't know. I keep that sign up
on the lawn." Then with a burst of confidence: "Mrs. Brown meets so many
nice people that way, don't you know!"

So it is that we have a reputation for being willing to sell anything in
California, even our souls. Of course, it isn't at all necessary to have
a sign displaying "For Sale" to have constant inquiries as to the price
of your place. After the days of "The Sabine Farm" were only a lovely
memory, we bought a bungalow in Pasadena, or, rather, we are buying it
on the instalment plan. It is really an adorable little place with a
very flowery garden, surrounded by arbors covered with roses, wistaria,
and jasmine (I think I should say we have been very fortunate in our
dwelling-places since we emigrated), and passers-by usually stop and
comment favorably. Young men bring their girls and show them the sort of
little place they'd like to own, and often they ring the door-bell for
further inquiries. Driven to bay, I have put a price of half a million
on our tiny estate. When I mention this, the investigators usually
retreat hastily, looking anxiously over their shoulders to see if my
keeper is anywhere in sight. As to the real-estate men, they are more in
number than the sands of the sea, and the competition is razor-edged. If
you have the dimmest idea of ever buying a lot or house, or if you are
comfortably without principle, you won't need to keep a motor at all.
The real-estate men will see that you get lots of fresh air, and they
are most obliging about letting you do your marketing on the way home.
We have an especial friend in the business. He never loses hope, or his
temper. It was he that originally found us "The Sabine Farm." He let us
live there in peace till we were rested, for which we are eternally
grateful, and then he began to throw out unsettling remarks. The boys
ought to have a place to call home where they could grow up with
associations. Wasn't it foolish to pay rent when we might be applying
that money toward the purchase of a house? Of course it told on us in
time and we began to look about. "The Sabine Farm" would not do, as it
was too far from J----'s business, and the lotus-flower existence of our
first two years was ours no longer. Every lot we looked at had
irresistible attractions, and insurmountable objections. At last,
however, we settled on a piece of land looking toward the mountains,
with orange trees on either hand, paid a part of the price, and supposed
it was ours for better or worse. Just then the war darkened and we felt
panicky, but heaven helped us, for there was a flaw in the title, and
our money came trotting back to us, wagging its tail. It was after this
that we stumbled on the arbored bungalow, and bought it in fifteen
minutes. I asked Mr. W---- if he liked bass fishing, and whether he'd
ever found one gamier to land than our family. He will probably let us
live quietly for a little while, and then he will undoubtedly tell us
that this place is too small for us. I know him!

In case of death or bankruptcy the situation is much more intense. Every
mouse hole has its alert whiskered watcher, and after a delay of a few
days for decency, such pressure is brought to bear that surviving
relatives rarely have the courage to stand pat. Probably a change of
surroundings _is_ good for them.

If people can't be induced to sell, often they will rent. There is an
eccentric old woman in town who owns a most lovely lot, beautifully
planted, that is the hope and snare of every real-estate man, but,
though poor, she will not part with it. She has a house, however, that
she rents in the season. One day some Eastern people were looking at it,
and timidly said that one bath-room seemed rather scant for so large a

"Oh, do you think so?" said Mrs. Riddle. "It is enough for us. Mr.
Riddle and I aren't what you'd call bathers. In fact, Mr. Riddle doesn't
bathe at all; I sponge!"

Real estate isn't the only interest of the West. We all read the
advertising page of the local paper just as eagerly as we do the foreign
news. If I feel at all lonely or bored I generally advertise for
something. Once I wanted a high-school boy to drive the motor three
afternoons a week. The paper was still moist from the press when my
applicants began to telephone. I took their names and gave them
appointments at ten-minute intervals all the following morning, only
plugging the telephone when J---- and I felt we must have some sleep. In
the morning, forgetting the little wad of paper we had placed in the
bell, I took down the receiver to call the market, when a tired voice
started as if I had pressed a button:

"I saw your 'ad' in the paper last night, etc." When they arrived they
ranged in age from sixteen to sixty. The latter was a retired clergyman,
the Rev. Mr. Bain, who said he drove for his wife, but (here he fitted
his finger-tips together, and worked them back and forth in a manner
that was a blend of jauntiness and cordiality) he thought he could fit
us both in!

I blush to state that I selected a younger chauffeur! Emboldened by the
success of my first advertising venture, I decided to try again. This
time I wished to sell our superfluous old furniture. The war has made me
dislike anything about the place that isn't really in use. Having lived
some years in Pennsylvania, and having amassed quite a collection of
antique mahogany furniture, I felt justified in thinning out a few
tables and odd pieces that our desirable bungalow is too small to hold.
The results weren't as pronounced as before, but they quite repaid me. I
sold my best table to a general, which gave me a lot of confidence, but
my greatest triumph was a hat-rack. It was a barren, gaunt-looking
affair, like a leafless tree in winter, but it was mahogany, and it was
old. Two ladies who were excitedly buying tables spied it, and exclaimed
in rapture. I rose to the occasion:

"That is the most unusual piece I have," I unblushingly gushed. "It is
solid mahogany and very old. I never saw another like it. Yes, I would
sell it for twenty-five dollars."

They both wanted it--I was almost afraid it might make feeling between
them, till I soothed the loser by selling her an old brass tea-kettle
that I had picked up in a curiosity shop in Oxford years ago. It was so
old that it had a hole in it, which seemed to clinch the matter. I sent
for the packer the moment they were out of the house, and had the things
boxed and away before they could change their minds. When I showed
J---- the money, he said I was wasting my time writing, that he was sure
I had a larger destiny.

Speaking of having furniture boxed carries me back to the time when we
lived in Pennsylvania and I bought many things of a pleasant old rascal
who just managed to keep out of jail. One time he showed me a lovely old
table of that ruddy glowing mahogany that adds so much to a room. I said
I would take it, but told him not to send it home till afternoon. I
wanted time to break it to J---- after a good luncheon. J---- was very
amiable and approving, and urged me to have it sent up, so I went down
to the shop to see about it. To my dismay I found it neatly crated and
just being loaded into a wagon. I called frantically to my rascally
friend, who tried to slip out of the back door unobserved, but in vain.
I fixed him with an accusing eye.

"What are you doing with my table?" I demanded.

"Did you really want it?" he queried.

"Of course I want it. Didn't I say I'd take it?" I was annoyed.

"Oh, well," to his men, "take it off, boys." "You see," turning to me,
"a man from Seattle was in after you left, and he said he'd take that
round table over there if I'd sell him this one too. I showed him
another one every bit as good as this, but he wouldn't look at it;
still, I guess I'll box it up in that crate with his round one, and when
it gets to Seattle I reckon he won't want to send it way back. It's a
long way to Seattle!"

"That's your business, not mine," I remarked coldly, though I felt an
unholy desire to laugh. "Just send mine home before any one else tempts

I still sleep in a Hepplewhite four-poster that he wheedled out of an
old Pennsylvania Dutch woman for a mere song. The posts at the head were
sawed off so that the bed could stand in a room with a sloping ceiling,
but, fortunately, the thrifty owner had saved the pieces instead of
using them for firewood, so I have had them neatly stuck on again.

I think perhaps a subconscious recollection of his methods was what made
me so successful with the hat-rack.

War work has brought out much latent ability of this kind. Lilies of the
field, who had never needed to toil or spin for themselves, were glad to
do so for the Red Cross. In Pasadena we had a small Spanish street
(inside a building), with tiny shops on either side, where you could buy
anything from an oil painting to a summer hat. In front was a gay little
plaza with vines and a fountain, where lunch and tea were served by the
prettiest girls in town in bewitching frilled caps with long black
streamers and sheer lawn aprons over blue and green frocks. The Tired
Business Men declined to lunch anywhere else, and there was a moment
when we feared it might have to be given up, as there was some feeling
in town on account of the vacant stools at their old-time counters! It
all went to prove that you don't need to be brought up in "trade" to be
a great success at it.

No one has stuck to his or her usual role in the past two years, which
has added a piquancy to life. We have all wanted to do our bit and the
"Why not?" that I feel so strongly in California has spread over the
whole country. In order to make the most efficient use of the newly
discovered talents on every side, the Red Cross sent out cards with
blanks to be filled by all those ready to work, asking what they felt
themselves fitted to do, when could they work, and how long. One card
read "willing but nervous, might possibly pray."

Our Red Cross Street brought in many people full of enthusiasm and
energy, who might never have rolled a bandage. I shan't soon forget the
strenuous days of its opening. J---- and another diplomat, who also has
a talent for pouring oil on troubled waters, were in charge of the
financial part of the enterprise, and theirs was the task of seeing that
none of the chapter funds were used, so that no possible criticism could
arise. A pretty young actress offered to give a premiere of a comedy
which she was about to take on the road, for the benefit of the street,
and every one was delighted until they saw a rehearsal. It was one of
those estranged-husband-one-cocktail-too-many farces, full of innuendo
and profanity. J---- and his partner were much upset, but it was too
late to withdraw. The company, in deference to the Red Cross, agreed to
leave out everything but the plain damns. Even then it wasn't what they
would have chosen, and two very depressed "angels" met in the hall of
the High School Auditorium, on the night of the performance. Nothing had
gone right. The tickets were late coming from the printer, the
advertising man had had tonsilitis, every one was "fed up" with Red
Cross entertainments, and it was pouring in torrents. There was a
sprinkling of gallant souls on the first floor of the big hall, and that
was all. The fact that they wouldn't make much money wasn't what was
agitating the "angels" nearly as much as the wrath of the pink-and-white
lady about to appear. Then came the inspiration. I wish I could say it
was J----'s idea, but it was Mr. M----'s. A night school of several
hundred is in session in that building every evening, and a cordial
invitation to see a play free brought the whole four hundred in a body
to fill the auditorium, if not completely, at least creditably. They
loved it and were loud in their applause. The "damns" didn't bother them
a bit. They encored the lady, which, combined with a mammoth bouquet,
provided by the "management," gave the whole thing quite a triumphant
air. When we all went behind the scenes after the play, the atmosphere
was really balmy. The lady expressed herself as greatly pleased and
gratified by so large and enthusiastic an audience. ("On such a bad
night, too!") I retired behind a bit of scenery and pinched myself
till I felt less hilarious. One thing I know, and that is that if
J---- should ever change his business it won't be to go into any
theatrical enterprise. I don't think even the "movies" could lure
him, and yet she was a very pretty actress!

It is a far cry from blonde stars to funerals, but J---- feels no change
of subject, however abrupt, is out of place when talking of his "first
night," so I would like to say a few words about that branch of
California business. In the first place, no one ever dies out here until
they are over eighty, unless they are run over or meet with some other
accident. J---- says that old ladies in the seventies, driving
electrics, are the worst menace to life that we have. When our
four-score years and ten have been lived--probably a few extra for good
measure--an end must come, but a California funeral is so different! A
Los Angeles paper advertises "Perfect Funerals at Trust Prices." We
often meet them bowling gayly along the boulevards, the motor hearse
maintaining a lively pace, which the mourners are expected to follow.
The nearest J---- ever came to an accident was suddenly meeting one on
the wrong side of the road, and the funeral chauffeur's language was not
any more scriptural than J----'s. As we were nowhere near eighty, we
felt we had a lot of life still coming to us and gave grateful thanks
for our escape.

Life is a good thing. I maintain it in the face of pessimists, but it is
a particularly good thing in California, with its sunshine and its
possibilities. I shan't go on because I believe I have said something of
this same sort before. It makes you ready for the next thing, whatever
that may be, and you feel pretty sure that it will be interesting. It's
a kind of perpetual "night before Christmas" feeling. Some time ago when
I picked up my evening paper my eye fell on this advertisement:

"Wanted: A third partner in a well-established trading business in the
South Seas. Schooner now fitting out in San Francisco to visit the
Islands for cargo of copra, pearls, sandalwood, spices, etc. Woman of
forty or over would be considered for clerical side of enterprise, with
headquarters on one of the islands. This is a strictly business
proposition--no one with sentiment need apply."

When I read it first I couldn't believe it. I rubbed my eyes and read it
again. There it was next to the Belgian hares, the bargains in orange
groves and the rebuilt automobiles. It was fairly reeking with romance.
I felt like finding an understudy for my job at home, boarding the
schooner and sailing blithely out of the Golden Gate. The South Seas is
the next stop beyond Southern California. I think I could keep their old
books, though I never took any prizes in arithmetic at school. How
amusing it would be to enter in my ledger instead of "two dozen eggs"
and "three pounds of butter," "two dozen pearls at so much a dozen" (or
would they be entered by ounces?) and "fifty pounds of sandalwood," or
should I reckon that by cords? I could find out later. I would wear my
large tortoise-shell spectacles (possibly blinders in addition), and I
should attend strictly to business for a while, but when a full moon
rose over a South Sea lagoon, and the palm trees rustled and the
phosphorescence broke in silver on the bow of the pearl schooner, where
she rode at anchor in our little bay, could I keep my contract and avoid
sentiment? How ridiculous to suppose that stipulating that the lady
should be forty or over would make any difference! What is forty? If
they had said that she must be a cross-eyed spinster with a hare-lip, it
would have been more to the point. I'm not a spinster or cross-eyed, but
why go on? I don't intend to commit myself about the age limit. I don't
have to, because I am not going to apply for the position, after all. I
have a South Sea temperament but as it is securely yoked to a New
England upbringing, the trade wind will only blow the sails of my
imagination to that sandalwood port.



We saw a most amusing farce some time ago which contained much
interesting information concerning the worth of advertising. I forget
the fabulous figure at which "The Gold Dust Twins" trade-mark is valued,
but I know that it easily puts them into Charley Chaplin's class. I am
sure that "Sunkist" cannot be far behind the "Twins," for no single word
could possibly suggest a more luscious, delectable, and desirable fruit
than that. It would even take the curse off being a lemon to be a
"Sunkist" lemon. It contains no hint of the perilous early life of an
orange. Truly that life is more chancey than an aviator's. They say that
in the good old days there were no frosts, but that irrigation is
gradually changing the climate of Southern California. We would not dare
to express an opinion on this much discussed point, as we have never
gone to any new place where the climate has been able to stand the
shock. It is always an unusual season. I do know, however, that bringing
up a crop of oranges is as anxious an undertaking as "raising" a family.
Little black smudge pots stand in rows in the groves, ready to be
lighted at the first hint of frost. The admonition of the hymn applies
to fruit growers as well as to foolish virgins:

    "See that your lamps are burning,
     Your vessels filled with oil."

On sharp mornings the valleys are full of a gray haze still lingering
protectingly over the ranches. Then there are blights. I don't pretend
to know all the ills the orange is heir to. Sometimes it grows too fat
and juicy and cracks its skin, and sometimes it is attacked by scale.
Every tree has to be swathed in a voluminous sheet and fumigated once a
year at great expense. After living out here some time, I began to
understand why even in the heart of the orange country we sometimes pay
fifty cents a dozen for the large fruit. There is a way, however, of
getting around the high cost of living in this particular--you can go to
a packing house and buy for thirty-five cents an entire box of what are
called culls--oranges too large or too small for shipping, or with some
slight imperfection that would not stand transportation, but are as good
for most purposes as the "Sunkist" themselves.

In California, Orange Day is next in importance to Washington's Birthday
and the Fourth of July. I shall never forget our first experience of its
charms. We were motoring, taking a last jaunt in an old machine which we
had just sold for more than we ever had expected to get for it. It was a
reckless thing to do, for we had no spare tire and it is very like
speculating in oil stocks to start for a run of any length under those
circumstances. It worked out about as it would have done if we had been
trifling with the stock market. A rear tire blew out, and we were put
under the disagreeable necessity of giving our purchaser more nearly his
money's worth. This was a poor start for a holiday, but being near a
delightful inn, we crept slowly to town on our rim and found a fete
awaiting us. We also found friends from the East who asked us all to
lunch, thereby, as one member of the party put it in Pollyanna's true
spirit, much decreasing the price of the new tire. The inn is built in
Spanish style and we lunched in a courtyard full of gaudy parrots,
singing birds in wicker cages and singing senoritas as gay as the
parrots, on balconies above us. The entire menu was orange, or at least
colored orange. It was really charming, and our spirits rose to almost a
champagne pitch, though orange juice--diluted at that--was the only
beverage served. (I believe that there is a Raisin Day, also, but on
account of its horrid association with rice and bread puddings we have
let that slip by unnoticed.)

Our California color scheme is the very latest thing in decorative art.
There is nothing shrinking about us, for we come boldly forth in orange
and yellows in true cigar-ribbon style--even our motor licenses of last
year had poppies on them. Speaking of poppies, I heard the other day of
a lady who voiced her opinion in all seriousness in the paper, that Mr.
Hoover should have California poppy seeds sent to him for distribution
among the Belgians to sow over the ruins of their country. Of course
there is something in the power of suggestion, and I suppose it would
brighten up the landscape. Joedy is strong on the color idea. We had a
neighbor who had a terrible attack of jaundice, which turned her the
color of a daffodil. I was saying what a pity it was, then Joedy
observed: "Well, Muvs, I think she makes a nice bright spot of color!"

There is a road leading toward the San Fernando Valley, with fruit
stalls on both sides, very gay with oranges, grape-fruit, and lemons.
One particularly alluring stand is presided over by a colored mammy in
bandana shades, turban and all.

All this profusion makes one feel that it is no trick to get a living
out of this very impulsive soil, but before buying a plot of one's own,
it is wise to see the seasons through. California is a very unexpected
country. You see a snug little ranch, good soil, near a railroad, just
what you were looking for, but three months of the year it may be under
water. After the spring rains we once went for a change of air to one of
the beaches, which we particularly disliked, because it was the only
place that we could get to, bridges being out in all directions. For the
same reason it was so packed with other visitors, maybe as unwilling as
we, that we had a choice of sleeping in the park or taking a small
apartment belonging to a Papa and Mama Dane. It was full of green plush
and calla lilies, but we chose it in preference to the green grass and
calla lilies of the park. We passed an uneasy and foggy week there. I
slept in a bed which disappeared into a bureau and J---- on a lounge
that curled up like a jelly roll by day. Mama Dane gave us breakfast in
the family sitting-room where a placard hung, saying, "God hears all
that you say." J---- and I took no chances, and ate in silence. Anyway,
the eggs were fresh. We explored the country as well as we could in the
fog, and found quite a large part of it well under water. On one ranch
we met a morose gentleman in hip boots, wading about his property, which
looked like a pretty lake with an R. F. D. box sticking up here and
there like a float on a fishing line, while a gay party of boys and
girls were rowing through an avenue of pepper trees in an old boat. The
gentleman in the hip boots had bought his place in summer! J---- and I
decided then and there that if we ever bought any property in
California, it would be in the midst of the spring rains, but we know
now that even that wouldn't be safe--another element has to be reckoned
with besides water--fire.

Of course Rain in California is spelled with a capital R. Noah spelled
it that way, but we didn't before we came West. It swells the streams,
which in summer are nothing but trickles, to rushing torrents in no
time. Bridges snap like twigs, dams burst, telegraph lines collapse;
rivers even change their courses entirely, if they feel like it, so that
it would really be a good idea to build extra bridges wherever it seemed
that a temperamental river might decide to go. I have heard of a farmer
who wrote to one of the railroads, saying, "Will you please come and
take your bridge away from my bean-field? I want to begin ploughing."

This adds natural hazards to the real-estate game. There are
others--Fire, as I said a moment ago. I have a very profound respect for
the elements since we have come West to live. A forest fire is even more
terrifying than a flood, and in spite of the eagle eyes of the foresters
many are the lovely green slopes burned over each year. I have seen a
brush fire marching over a hill across the canyon from us, like an army
with banners--flying our colors of orange and yellow--driving terrified
rabbits and snakes ahead of it, and fought with the fervor of Crusaders
by the property owners in its path.

The very impulsiveness of the climate seems to give the most wonderful
results in the way of vegetables and fruit. Around Pasadena there are
acres and acres of truck gardens, developed with Japanese efficiency. I
love al fresco marketing. If I can find time once a week to motor up the
valley and fill the machine with beautiful, crisp, fresh green things of
all kinds, it makes housekeeping a pleasure. The little Japanese women
are so smiling and pleasant, with their "Good-by, come gen," the melons
are so luscious, the eternal strawberry so ripe and red, the orange
blossom honey so delectable, and everything is so cheap compared to what
we had been used to in the East! I think that in San Diego one can live
better on a small income than anywhere in the country. Once some
intimate friends of ours gave us a dinner there in January that could
not have been surpassed in New York. The menu included all the
delicacies in season and out of season, fresh mushrooms, alligator pears
and pheasants. J---- and I looked at one another in mingled enjoyment
and dismay that so much was being done for us. Finally our host could
not help telling us how much for each person this wonderful meal was
costing, including some very fetching drinks called "pink skirts." You
wouldn't believe me if I told how little!

One more delicacy of which we make rather a specialty: I should call it
a climate sandwich. If you live in the invigorating air of the
foothills, to motor to the sea, a run of some thirty miles from where we
live in winter, spend several hours on the sand, and before dark turn
"Home to Our Mountains" gives a mountain air sandwich with sea-breeze
filling--a singularly refreshing and satisfying dainty.

Perhaps my enthusiasm for California sounds a little like cupboard love.
There is a certain type of magazine which publishes the most alluring
pictures of food, salads and desserts, even a table with the implements
laid out ready for canning peaches, that holds a fatal fascination for
me. I have even noticed J---- looking at one with interest. When my
father comes out to visit us every spring, the truck gardens, the
packing houses, and the cost of living here, I think, affect him in much
the same way that those magazines do me, and I wonder if every one,
except a dyspeptic, doesn't secretly like to hear and see these very
things! Could it be the reason people used to paint so much still
life?--baskets of fruit, a hunter's game-bag, a divided melon, etc. I
frankly own that they would thrill me more if I knew their market price,
so that I might be imagining what delightful meals I could offer my
family without straining the household purse, which is my excuse for the
intimate details concerning food and prices which I have given.

Surely human beings ought to respond as the fruits do to this climate,
in spirit as well as in body, and become a very mellow, amiable,
sweet-tempered lot of people, and I think they do. Even the "culls" are
almost as good as the rest, though they won't bear transportation. It is
the land of the second chance, of dreams come true, of freshness and
opportunity, of the wideness of out-of-doors--"Sunkist!"


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