The Girl from Hollywood - Edgar Rice Burroughs - ebook

The Girl from Hollywood ebook

Edgar Rice Burroughs



The Girl from Hollywood“ is a novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, an American fiction writer, who created such great characters as Tarzan and John Carter of Mars.

The story alternates between the all-American Pennington family on their remote California ranch and a young Hollywood actress.

The Penningtons have a beautiful estate, and affectionate relationships with their children, Custer and Eva. Custer has had an "understanding" with neighbor and childhood friend Grace Evans for a long time, but she finally confides that she wants to try being an actress before she agrees to settle down on the ranch.

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Edgar Rice Burroughs

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ISBN: 978-83-8226-433-3
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The two horses picked their way carefully downward over the loose shale of the steep hillside. The big bay stallion in the lead sidled mincingly, tossing his head nervously, and flecking the flannel shirt of his rider with foam. Behind the man on the stallion a girl rode a clean-limbed bay of lighter color, whose method of descent, while less showy, was safer, for he came more slowly, and in the very bad places he braced his four feet forward and slid down, sometimes almost sitting upon the ground.

At the base of the hill there was a narrow level strip; then an eight-foot wash, with steep banks, barred the way to the opposite side of the cañon, which rose gently to the hills beyond. At the foot of the descent the man reined in and waited until the girl was safely down; then he wheeled his mount and trotted toward the wash. Twenty feet from it he gave the animal its head and a word. The horse broke into a gallop, took off at the edge of the wash, and cleared it so effortlessly as almost to give the impression of flying.

Behind the man came the girl, but her horse came at the wash with a rush—not the slow, steady gallop of the stallion—and at the very brink he stopped to gather himself. The dry bank caved beneath his front feet, and into the wash he went, head first.

The man turned and spurred back. The girl looked up from her saddle, making a wry face.

“No damage?” he asked, an expression of concern upon his face.

“No damage,” the girl replied. “Senator is clumsy enough at jumping, but no matter what happens he always lights on his feet.”

“Ride down a bit,” said the man. “There’s an easy way out just below.”

She moved off in the direction he indicated, her horse picking his way among the loose bowlders in the wash bottom.

“Mother says he’s part cat,” she remarked. “I wish he could jump like the Apache!”

The man stroked the glossy neck of his own mount.

“He never will,” he said. “He’s afraid. The Apache is absolutely fearless; he’d go anywhere I’d ride him. He’s been mired with me twice, but he never refuses a wet spot; and that’s a test, I say, of a horse’s courage.”

They had reached a place where the bank was broken down, and the girl’s horse scrambled from the wash.

“Maybe he’s like his rider,” suggested the girl, looking at the Apache; “brave, but reckless.”

“It was worse than reckless,” said the man. “It was asinine. I shouldn’t have led you over the jump when I know how badly Senator jumps.”

“And you wouldn’t have, Custer”—she hesitated—“if—”

“If I hadn’t been drinking,” he finished for her. “I know what you were going to say, Grace; but I think you’re wrong. I never drink enough to show it. No one ever saw me that way—not so that it was noticeable.”

“It is always noticeable to me and to your mother,” she corrected him gently. “We always know it, Custer. It shows in little things like what you did just now. Oh, it isn’t anything, I know, dear; but we who love you wish you didn’t do it quite so often.”

“It’s funny,” he said, “but I never cared for it until it became a risky thing to get it. Oh, well, what’s the use? I’ll quit it if you say so. It hasn’t any hold on me.”

Involuntarily he squared his shoulders—an unconscious tribute to the strength of his weakness.

Together, their stirrups touching, they rode slowly down the cañon trail toward the ranch. Often they rode thus, in the restful silence that is a birthright of comradeship. Neither spoke until after they reined in their sweating horses beneath the cool shade of the spreading sycamore that guards the junction of El Camino Largo and the main trail that winds up Sycamore Cañon.

It was the first day of early spring. The rains were over. The California hills were green and purple and gold. The new leaves lay softly fresh on the gaunt boughs of yesterday. A blue jay scolded from a clump of sumac across the trail.

The girl pointed up into the cloudless sky, where several great birds circled majestically, rising and falling upon motionless wings.

“The vultures are back,” she said. “I am always glad to see them come again.”

“Yes,” said the man. “They are bully scavengers, and we don’t have to pay ’em wages.”

The girl smiled up at him.

“I’m afraid my thoughts were more poetic than practical,” she said. “I was only thinking that the sky looked less lonely now that they have come. Why suggest their diet?”

“I know what you mean,” he said. “I like them, too. Maligned as they are, they are really wonderful birds, and sort of mysterious. Did you ever stop to think that you never see a very young one or a dead one? Where do they die? Where do they grow to maturity? I wonder what they’ve found up there! Let’s ride up. Martin said he saw a new calf up beyond Jackknife Cañon yesterday. That would be just about under where they’re circling now.”

They guided their horses around a large, flat slab of rock that some camper had contrived into a table beneath the sycamore, and started across the trail toward the opposite side of the cañon. They were in the middle of the trail when the man drew in and listened.

“Some one is coming,” he said. “Let’s wait and see who it is. I haven’t sent any one back into the hills to-day.”

“I have an idea,” remarked the girl, “that there is more going on up there”—she nodded toward the mountains stretching to the south of them—“than you know about.”

“How is that?” he asked.

“So often recently we have heard horsemen passing the ranch late at night. If they weren’t going to stop at your place, those who rode up the trail must have been headed into the high hills; but I’m sure that those whom we heard coming down weren’t coming from the Rancho del Ganado.”

“No,” he said, “not late at night—or not often, at any rate.”

The footsteps of a cantering horse drew rapidly closer, and presently the animal and its rider came into view around a turn in the trail.

“It’s only Allen,” said the girl.

The newcomer reined in at sight of the man and the girl. He was evidently surprised, and the girl thought that he seemed ill at ease.

“Just givin’ Baldy a work-out,” he explained. “He ain’t been out for three or four days, an’ you told me to work ’em out if I had time.”

Custer Pennington nodded.

“See any stock back there?”

“No. How’s the Apache to-day—forgin’ as bad as usual?”

Pennington shook his head negatively.

“That fellow shod him yesterday just the way I want him shod. I wish you’d take a good look at his shoes, Slick, so you can see that he’s always shod this same way.” His eyes had been traveling over Slick’s mount, whose heaving sides were covered with lather. “Baldy’s pretty soft, Slick; I wouldn’t work him too hard all at once. Get him up to it gradually.”

He turned and rode off with the girl at his side. Slick Allen looked after them for a moment, and then moved his horse off at a slow walk toward the ranch. He was a lean, sinewy man, of medium height. He might have been a cavalryman once. He sat his horse, even at a walk, like one who has sweated and bled under a drill sergeant in the days of his youth.

“How do you like him?” the girl asked of Pennington.

“He’s a good horseman, and good horsemen are getting rare these days,” replied Pennington; “but I don’t know that I’d choose him for a playmate. Don’t you like him?”

“I’m afraid I don’t. His eyes give me the creeps—they’re like a fish’s.”

“To tell the truth, Grace, I don’t like him,” said Custer. “He’s one of those rare birds—a good horseman who doesn’t love horses. I imagine he won’t last long on the Rancho del Ganado; but we’ve got to give him a fair shake—he’s only been with us a few weeks.”

They were picking their way toward the summit of a steep hogback. The man, who led, was seeking carefully for the safest footing, shamed out of his recent recklessness by the thought of how close the girl had come to a serious accident through his thoughtlessness. They rode along the hogback until they could look down into a tiny basin where a small bunch of cattle was grazing, and then, turning and dipping over the edge, they dropped slowly toward the animals.

Near the bottom of the slope they came upon a white-faced bull standing beneath the spreading shade of a live oak. He turned his woolly face toward them, his red-rimmed eyes observing them dispassionately for a moment. Then he turned away again and resumed his cud, disdaining further notice of them.

“That’s the King of Ganado, isn’t it?” asked the girl.

“Looks like him, doesn’t he? But he isn’t. He’s the King’s likeliest son, and unless I’m mistaken he’s going to give the old fellow a mighty tough time of it this fall, if the old boy wants to hang on to the grand championship. We’ve never shown him yet. It’s an idea of father’s. He’s always wanted to spring a new champion at a great show and surprise the world. He’s kept this fellow hidden away ever since he gave the first indication that he was going to be a fine bull. At least a hundred breeders have visited the herd in the past year, and not one of them has seen him. Father says he’s the greatest bull that ever lived, and that his first show is going to be the International.”

“I just know he’ll win,” exclaimed the girl. “Why look at him! Isn’t he a beauty?”

“Got a back like a billiard table,” commented Custer proudly.

They rode down among the heifers. There were a dozen beauties—three-year-olds. Hidden to one side, behind a small bush, the man’s quick eyes discerned a little bundle of red and white.

“There it is, Grace,” he called, and the two rode toward it. One of the heifers looked fearfully toward them, then at the bush, and finally walked toward it, lowing plaintively.

“We’re not going to hurt it, little girl,” the man assured her.

As they came closer, there arose a thing of long, wabbly legs, big joints, and great, dark eyes, its spotless coat of red and white shining with health and life.

“The cunning thing!” cried the girl. “How I’d like to squeeze it! I just love ’em, Custer!”

She had slipped from her saddle, and, dropping her reins on the ground, was approaching the calf.

“Look out for the cow!” cried the man, as he dismounted and moved forward to the girl’s side, with his arm through the Apache’s reins. “She hasn’t been up much, and she may be a little wild.”

The calf stood its ground for a moment, and then, with tail erect, cavorted madly for its mother, behind whom it took refuge.

“I just love ’em! I just love ’em!” repeated the girl.

“You say the same thing about the colts and the little pigs,” the man reminded her.

“I love ’em all!” she cried, shaking her head, her eyes twinkling.

“You love them because they’re little and helpless, just like babies,” he said. “Oh, Grace, how you’d love a baby!”

The girl flushed prettily. Quite suddenly he seized her in his arms and crushed her to him, smothering her with a long kiss. Breathless, she wriggled partially away, but he still held her in his arms.

“Why won’t you, Grace?” he begged. “There’ll never be anybody else for me or for you. Father and mother and Eva love you almost as much as I do, and on your side your mother and Guy have always seemed to take it as a matter of course that we’d marry. It isn’t the drinking, is it, dear?”

“No, it’s not that, Custer. Of course I’ll marry you—some day; but not yet. Why, I haven’t lived yet, Custer! I want to live. I want to do something outside of the humdrum life that I have always led and the humdrum life that I shall live as a wife and mother. I want to live a little, Custer, and then I’ll be ready to settle down. You all tell me that I am beautiful, and down, away down in the depth of my soul, I feel that I have talent. If I have, I ought to use the gifts God has given me.”

She was speaking very seriously, and the man listened patiently and with respect, for he realized that she was revealing for the first time a secret yearning that she must have long held locked in her bosom.

“Just what do you want to do, dear?” he asked gently.

“I—oh, it seems silly when I try to put it in words, but in dreams it is very beautiful and very real.”

“The stage?” he asked.

“It is just like you to understand!” Her smile rewarded him. “Will you help me? I know mother will object.”

“You want me to help you take all the happiness out of my life?” he asked.

“It would only be for a little while—just a few years, and then I would come back to you—after I had made good.”

“You would never come back, Grace, unless you failed,” he said. “If you succeeded, you would never be contented in any other life or atmosphere. If you came back a failure, you couldn’t help but carry a little bitterness always in your heart. It would never be the same dear, care-free heart that went away so gayly. Here you have a real part to play in a real drama—not make-believe upon a narrow stage with painted drops.” He flung out a hand in broad gesture. “Look at the setting that God has painted here for us to play our parts in—the parts that He has chosen for us! Your mother played upon the same stage, and mine. Do you think them failures? And both were beautiful girls—as beautiful as you.”

“Oh, but you don’t understand, after all, Custer!” she cried. “I thought you did.”

“I do understand that for your sake I must do my best to persuade you that you have as full a life before you here as upon the stage. I am fighting first for your happiness, Grace, and then for mine. If I fail, then I shall do all that I can to help you realize your ambition. If you cannot stay because you are convinced that you will be happier here, then I do not want you to stay.”

“Kiss me,” she demanded suddenly. “I am only thinking of it, anyway, so let’s not worry until there is something to worry about.”


The man bent his lips to hers again, and her arms stole about his neck. The calf, in the meantime, perhaps disgusted by such absurdities, had scampered off to try his brand-new legs again, with the result that he ran into a low bush, turned a somersault, and landed on his back. The mother, still doubtful of the intentions of the newcomers, to whose malevolent presence she may have attributed the accident, voiced a perturbed low; whereupon there broke from the vicinity of the live oak a deep note, not unlike the rumbling of distant thunder.

The man looked up.

“I think we’ll be going,” he said. “The Emperor has issued an ultimatum.”

“Or a bull, perhaps,” Grace suggested, as they walked quickly toward her horse.

“Awful!” he commented, as he assisted her into the saddle.

Then he swung to his own.

The Emperor moved majestically toward them, his nose close to the ground. Occasionally he stopped, pawing the earth and throwing dust upon his broad back.

“Doesn’t he look wicked?” cried the girl. “Just look at those eyes!”

“He’s just an old bluffer,” replied the man. “However, I’d rather have you in the saddle, for you can’t always be sure just what they’ll do. We must call his bluff, though; it would never do to run from him—might give him bad habits.”

He rode toward the advancing animal, breaking into a canter as he drew near the bull, and striking his booted leg with a quirt.

“Hi, there, you old reprobate! Beat it!” he cried.

The bull stood his ground with lowered head and rumbled threats until the horseman was almost upon him; then he turned quickly aside as the rider went past.

“That’s better,” remarked Custer, as the girl joined him.

“You’re not a bit afraid of him, are you, Custer? You’re not afraid of anything.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” he demurred. “I learned a long time ago that most encounters consist principally of bluff. Maybe I’ve just grown to be a good bluffer. Anyhow, I’m a better bluffer than the Emperor. If the rascal had only known it, he could have run me ragged.”

As they rode up the side of the basin, the man’s eyes moved constantly from point to point, now noting the condition of the pasture grasses, or again searching the more distant hills. Presently they alighted upon a thin, wavering line of brown, which zigzagged down the opposite side of the basin from a clump of heavy brush that partially hid a small ravine, and crossed the meadow ahead of them.

“There’s a new trail, Grace, and it don’t belong there. Let’s go and take a look at it.”

They rode ahead until they reached the trail, at a point where it crossed the bottom of the basin and started up the side they had been ascending. The man leaned above his horse’s shoulder and examined the trampled turf.

“Horses,” he said. “I thought so, and it’s been used a lot this winter. You can see even now where the animals slipped and floundered after the heavy rains.”

“But you don’t run horses in this pasture, do you?” asked the girl.

“No; and we haven’t run anything in it since last summer. This is the only bunch in it, and they were just turned in about a week ago. Anyway, the horses that made this trail were mostly shod. Now what in the world is anybody going up there for?” His eyes wandered to the heavy brush into which the trail disappeared upon the opposite rim of the basin. “I’ll have to follow that up to-morrow—it’s too late to do it to-day.”

“We can follow it the other way, toward the ranch,” she suggested.

They found the trail wound up the hillside and crossed the hogback in heavy brush, which, in many places, had been cut away to allow the easier passage of a horseman.

“Do you see,” asked Custer, as they drew rein at the summit of the ridge, “that although the trail crosses here in plain sight of the ranch house, the brush would absolutely conceal a horseman from the view of any one at the house? It must run right down into Jackknife Cañon. Funny none of us have noticed it, for there’s scarcely a week that that trail isn’t ridden by some of us!”

As they descended into the cañon, they discovered why that end of the new trail had not been noticed. It ran deep and well marked through the heavy brush of a gully to a place where the brush commenced to thin, and there it branched into a dozen dim trails that joined and blended with the old, well worn cattle paths of the hillside.

“Somebody’s mighty foxy,” observed the man; “but I don’t see what it’s all about. The days of cattle runners and bandits are over.”

“Just imagine!” exclaimed the girl. “A real mystery in our lazy, old hills!”

The man rode in silence and in thought. A herd of pure-bred Herefords, whose value would have ransomed half the crowned heads remaining in Europe, grazed in the several pastures that ran far back into those hills; and back there somewhere that trail led, but for what purpose? No good purpose, he was sure, or it had not been so cleverly hidden.

As they came to the trail which they called the Camino Corto, where it commenced at the gate leading from the old goat corral, the man jerked his thumb toward the west along it.

“They must come and go this way,” he said.

“Perhaps they’re the ones mother and I have heard passing at night,” suggested the girl. “If they are, they come right through your property, below the house—not this way.”

He opened the gate from the saddle and they passed through, crossing the barranco, and stopping for a moment to look at the pigs and talk with the herdsman. Then they rode on toward the ranch house, a half mile farther down the widening cañon. It stood upon the summit of a low hill, the declining sun transforming its plastered walls, its cupolas, the sturdy arches of its arcades, into the semblance of a Moorish castle.

At the foot of the hill they dismounted at the saddle horse stable, tied their horses, and ascended the long flight of rough concrete steps toward the house. As they rounded the wild sumac bush at the summit, they were espied by those sitting in the patio, around three sides of which the house was built.

“Oh, here they are now!” exclaimed Mrs. Pennington. “We were so afraid that Grace would ride right on home, Custer. We had just persuaded Mrs. Evans to stay for dinner. Guy is coming, too.”

“Mother, you here, too?” cried the girl. “How nice and cool it is in here! It would save a lot of trouble if we brought our things, mother.”

“We are hoping that at least one of you will, very soon,” said Colonel Pennington, who had risen, and now put an arm affectionately about the girl’s shoulders.

“That’s what I’ve been telling her again this afternoon,” said Custer; “but instead she wants to—”

The girl turned toward him with a little frown and shake of her head.

“You’d better run down and tell Allen that we won’t use the horses until after dinner,” she said.

He grimaced good-naturedly and turned away.

“I’ll have him take Senator home,” he said. “I can drive you and your mother down in the car, when you leave.”

As he descended the steps that wound among the umbrella trees, taking on their new foliage, he saw Allen examining the Apache’s shoes. As he neared them, the horse pulled away from the man, his suddenly lowered hoof striking Allen’s instep. With an oath the fellow stepped back and swung a vicious kick to the animal’s belly. Almost simultaneously a hand fell heavily upon his shoulder. He was jerked roughly back, whirled about, and sent spinning a dozen feet away, where he stumbled and fell. As he scrambled to his feet, white with rage, he saw the younger Pennington before him.

“Go to the office and get your time,” ordered Pennington.

“I’ll get you first, you son of a—”

A hard fist connecting suddenly with his chin put a painful period to his sentence before it was completed, and stopped his mad rush.

“I’d be more careful of my conversation, Allen, if I were you,” said Pennington quietly. “Just because you’ve been drinking is no excuse for that. Now go on up to the office, as I told you to.”

He had caught the odor of whisky as he jerked the man past him.

“You goin’ to can me for drinkin’— you?” demanded Allen.

“You know what I’m canning you for. You know that’s the one thing that don’t go on Ganado. You ought to get what you gave the Apache, and you’d better beat it before I lose my temper and give it to you!”

The man rose slowly to his feet. In his mind he was revolving his chances of successfully renewing his attack; but presently his judgment got the better of his desire and his rage. He moved off slowly up the hill toward the house. A few yards, and he turned.

“I ain’t a goin’ to ferget this, you—you—”

“Be careful!” Pennington admonished.

“Nor you ain’t goin’ to ferget it, neither, you fox-trottin’ dude!”

Allen turned again to the ascent of the steps. Pennington walked to the Apache and stroked his muzzle.

“Old boy,” he crooned, “there don’t anybody kick you and get away with it, does there?”

Halfway up, Allen stopped and turned again.

“You think you’re the whole cheese, you Penningtons, don’t you?” he called back. “With all your money an’ your fine friends! Fine friends, yah! I can put one of ’em where he belongs any time I want—the darn bootlegger! That’s what he is. You wait—you’ll see!”

“A-ah, beat it!” sighed Pennington wearily.

Mounting the Apache, he led Grace’s horse along the foot of the hill toward the smaller ranch house of their neighbor, some half mile away. Humming a little tune, he unsaddled Senator, turned him into his corral, saw that there was water in his trough, and emptied a measure of oats into his manger, for the horse had cooled off since the afternoon ride. As neither of the Evans ranch hands appeared, he found a piece of rag and wiped off the Senator’s bit, turned the saddle blankets wet side up to dry, and then, leaving the stable, crossed the yard to mount the Apache.

A young man in riding clothes appeared simultaneously from the interior of the bungalow, which stood a hundred feet away. Crossing the wide porch, he called to Pennington.

“Hello there, Penn! What you doing?” he demanded.

“Just brought Senator in—Grace is up at the house. You’re coming up there, too, Guy.”

“Sure, but come in here a second. I’ve got something to show you.”

Pennington crossed the yard and entered the house behind Grace’s brother, who conducted him to his bedroom. Here young Evans unlocked a closet, and, after rummaging behind some clothing, emerged with a bottle, the shape and dimensions of which were once as familiar in the land of the free as the benign countenance of Lydia E. Pinkham.

“It’s the genuine stuff, Penn, too!” he declared.

Pennington smiled.

“Thanks, old fellow, but I’ve quit,” he said.

“Quit!” exclaimed Evans.


“But think of it, man—aged eight years in the wood, and bottled in bond before July 1, 1919. The real thing, and as cheap as moonshine—only six beans a quart. Can you believe it?”

“I cannot,” admitted Pennington. “Your conversation listens phony.”

“But it’s the truth. You may have quit, but one little snifter of this won’t hurt you. Here’s this bottle already open—just try it”; and he proffered the bottle and a glass to the other.

“Well, it’s pretty hard to resist anything that sounds as good as this does,” remarked Pennington. “I guess one won’t hurt me any.” He poured himself a drink and took it. “Wonderful!” he ejaculated.

“Here,” said Evans, diving into the closet once more. “I got you a bottle, too, and we can get more.”

Pennington took the bottle and examined it, almost caressingly.

“Eight years in the wood!” he murmured. “I’ve got to take it, Guy. Must have something to hand down to posterity.” He drew a bill fold from his pocket and counted out six dollars.

“Thanks,” said Guy. “You’ll never regret it.”


As the two young men climbed the hill to the big house, a few minutes later, they found the elder Pennington standing at the edge of the driveway that circled the hill top, looking out toward the wide cañon and the distant mountains. In the nearer foreground lay the stable and corrals of the saddle horses, the hen house with its two long alfalfa runways, and the small dairy barn accommodating the little herd of Guernseys that supplied milk, cream, and butter for the ranch. A quarter of a mile beyond, among the trees, was the red-roofed “cabin” where the unmarried ranch hands ate and slept, near the main corrals with their barns, outhouses, and sheds.

In a hilly pasture farther up the cañon the black and iron gray of Percheron brood mares contrasted with the greening hillsides of spring. Still farther away, the white and red of the lordly figure of the Emperor stood out boldly upon the summit of the ridge behind Jackknife Cañon.

The two young men joined the older, and Custer put an arm affectionately about his father’s shoulders.

“You never tire of it,” said the young man.

“I have been looking at it for twenty-two years, my son,” replied the elder Pennington, “and each year it has become more wonderful to me. It never changes, and yet it is never twice alike. See the purple sage away off there, and the lighter spaces of wild buckwheat, and here and there among the scrub oak the beautiful pale green of the manzanita—scintillant jewels in the diadem of the hills! And the faint haze of the mountains that seem to throw them just a little out of focus, to make them a perfect background for the beautiful hills which the Supreme Artist is placing on his canvas to-day. An hour from now He will paint another masterpiece, and to-night another, and forever others, with never two alike, nor ever one that mortal man can duplicate; and all for us, boy, all for us, if we have the hearts and the souls to see!”

“How you love it!” said the boy.

“Yes, and your mother loves it; and it is our great happiness that you and Eva love it, too.”

The boy made no reply. He did love it; but his was the heart of youth, and it yearned for change and for adventure and for what lay beyond the circling hills and the broad, untroubled valley that spread its level fields below “the castle on the hill.”

“The girls are dressing for a swim,” said the older man, after a moment of silence. “Aren’t you boys going in?”

“The girls” included his wife and Mrs. Evans, as well as Grace, for the colonel insisted that youth was purely a physical and mental attribute, independent of time. If one could feel and act in accord with the spirit of youth, one could not be old.

“Are you going in?” asked his son.

“Yes, I was waiting for you two.”

“I think I’ll be excused, sir,” said Guy. “The water is too cold yet. I tried it yesterday, and nearly froze to death. I’ll come and watch.”

The two Penningtons moved off toward the house, to get into swimming things, while young Evans wandered down into the water gardens. As he stood there, idly content in the quiet beauty of the spot, Allen came down the steps, his check in his hand. At sight of the boy he halted behind him, an unpleasant expression upon his face.

Evans, suddenly aware that he was not alone, turned and recognized the man.

“Oh, hello, Allen!” he said.

“Young Pennington just canned me,” said Allen, with no other return of Evans’s greeting.

“I’m sorry,” said Evans.

“You may be sorrier!” growled Allen, continuing on his way toward the cabin to get his blankets and clothes.

For a moment Guy stared after the man, a puzzled expression knitting his brows. Then he slowly flushed, glancing quickly about to see if any one had overheard the brief conversation between Slick Allen and himself.

A few minutes later he entered the inclosure west of the house, where the swimming pool lay. Mrs. Pennington and her guests were already in the pool, swimming vigorously to keep warm, and a moment later the colonel and Custer ran from the house and dived in simultaneously. Though there was twenty-six years’ difference in their ages, it was not evidenced by any lesser vitality or agility on the part of the older man.

Colonel Custer Pennington had been born in Virginia fifty years before. Graduated from the Virginia Military Institute and West Point, he had taken a commission in the cavalry branch of the service. Campaigning in Cuba, he had been shot through one lung, and shortly after the close of the war he was retired for disability, with rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1900 he had come to California, on the advice of his physician in the forlorn hope that he might prolong his sufferings a few years more.

For two hundred years the Penningtons had bred fine men, women, and horses upon the same soil in the State whose very existence was inextricably interwoven with their own. A Pennington leave Virginia? Horrors! Perish the thought! But Colonel Custer Pennington had had to leave it or die, and with a young wife and a two-year-old boy he couldn’t afford to die. Deep in his heart he meant to recover his health in distant California and then return to the land of his love; but his physician had told a mutual friend, who was also Pennington’s attorney, that “poor old Cus” would almost undoubtedly be dead inside of a year.

And so Pennington had come West with Mrs. Pennington and little Custer, Jr., and had found the Rancho del Ganado run down, untenanted, and for sale. A month of loafing had left him almost ready to die of stagnation, without any assistance from his poor lungs; and when, in the course of a drive to another ranch, he had happened to see the place, and had learned that it was for sale, the germ had been sown.

He judged from the soil and the water that Ganado was not well suited to raise the type of horse that he knew best, and that he and his father and his grandfathers before them had bred in Virginia; but he saw other possibilities. Moreover, he loved the hills and the cañons from the first; and so he had purchased the ranch, more to have something that would temporarily occupy his mind until his period of exile was ended by a return to his native State, or by death, than with any idea that it would prove a permanent home.

The old Spanish American house had been remodeled and rebuilt. In four years he had found that Herefords, Berkshires, and Percherons may win a place in a man’s heart almost equal to that which a thoroughbred occupies. Then a little daughter had come, and the final seal that stamps a man’s house as his home was placed upon “the castle on the hill.”

His lung had healed—he could not tell by any sign it gave that it was not as good as ever—and still he stayed on in the land of sunshine, which he had grown to love without realizing its hold upon him. Gradually he had forgotten to say “when we go back home”; and when at last a letter came from a younger brother, saying that he wished to buy the old place in Virginia if the Custer Penningtons did not expect to return to it, the colonel was compelled to face the issue squarely.

They had held a little family council—the colonel and Julia, his wife, with seven-year-old Custer and little one-year-old Eva. Eva, sitting in her mother’s lap, agreed with every one. Custer, Jr., burst into tears at the very suggestion of leaving dear old Ganado.

“And what do you think about it, Julia?” asked the colonel.

“I love Virginia, dear,” she had replied; “but I think I love California even more, and I say it without disloyalty to my own State. It’s a different kind of love.”

“I know what you mean,” said her husband. “Virginia is a mother to us, California a sweetheart.”

And so they stayed upon the Rancho del Ganado.


Work and play were inextricably entangled upon Ganado, the play being of a nature that fitted them better for their work, while the work, always in the open and usually from the saddle, they enjoyed fully as much as the play. While the tired business man of the city was expending a day’s vitality and nervous energy in an effort to escape from the turmoil of the mad rush-hour and find a strap from which to dangle homeward amid the toxic effluvia of the melting pot, Colonel Pennington plunged and swam in the cold, invigorating waters of his pool, after a day of labor fully as constructive and profitable as theirs.

“One more dive!” he called, balancing upon the end of the springboard, “and then I’m going out. Eva ought to be here by the time we’re dressed, hadn’t she? I’m about famished.”

“I haven’t heard the train whistle yet, though it must be due,” replied Mrs. Pennington. “You and Boy make so much noise swimming that we’ll miss Gabriel’s trump if we happen to be in the pool at the time!”

The colonel, Custer, and Grace Evans dived simultaneously, and, coming up together, raced for the shallow end, where Mrs. Evans and her hostess were preparing to leave the pool. The girl, reaching the hand rail first, arose laughing and triumphant.

“My foot slipped as I dived,” cried the younger Pennington, wiping the water from his eyes, “or I’d have caught you!”

“No alibis, Boy!” laughed the colonel. “Grace beat you fair and square.”

“Race you back for a dollar, Grace!” challenged the young man.

“You’re on,” she cried. “One, two, three—go!”

They were off. The colonel, who had preceded them leisurely into the deep water, swam close to his son as the latter was passing, a yard in the lead. Simultaneously the young man’s progress ceased. With a Comanche-like yell he turned upon his father, and the two men grappled and went down. When they came up, spluttering and laughing, the girl was climbing out of the pool.

“You win, Grace!” shouted the colonel.

“It’s a frame-up!” cried Custer. “He grabbed me by the ankle!”

“Well, who had a better right?” demanded the girl. “He’s referee.”

“He’s a fine mess for a referee!” grumbled Custer good-naturedly.

“Run along and get your dollar, and pay up like a gentleman,” admonished his father.

“What do you get out of it? What do you pay him, Grace?”

They were still bantering as they entered the house and sought their several rooms to dress.

Guy Evans strolled from the walled garden of the swimming pool to the open arch that broke the long pergola beneath which the driveway ran along the north side of the house. Here he had an unobstructed view of the broad valley stretching away to the mountains in the distance.

Down the center of the valley a toy train moved noiselessly. As he watched it, he saw a puff of white rise from the tiny engine. It rose and melted in the evening air before the thin, clear sound of the whistle reached his ears. The train crawled behind the green of trees and disappeared.

He knew that it had stopped at the station, and that a slender, girlish figure was alighting, with a smile for the porter and a gay word for the conductor who had carried her back and forth for years upon her occasional visits to the city a hundred miles away. Now the chauffeur was taking her bag and carrying it to the roadster that she would drive home along the wide, straight boulevard that crossed the valley—utterly ruining a number of perfectly good speed laws.

Two minutes elapsed, and the train crawled out from behind the trees and continued its way up the valley—a little black caterpillar with spots of yellow twinkling along its sides. As twilight deepened, the lights from ranch houses and villages sprinkled the floor of the valley. Like jewels scattered from a careless hand, they fell singly and in little clusters; and then the stars, serenely superior, came forth to assure the glory of a perfect California night.

The headlights of a motor car turned in at the driveway. Guy went to the east porch and looked in at the living room door, where some of the family had already collected.

“Eva’s coming!” he announced.

She had been gone since the day before, but she might have been returning from a long trip abroad, if every one’s eagerness to greet her was any criterion. Unlike city dwellers, these people had never learned to conceal the lovelier emotions of their hearts behind a mask of assumed indifference. Perhaps the fact that they were not forever crowded shoulder to shoulder with strangers permitted them an enjoyable naturalness which the dweller in the wholesale districts of humanity can never know; for what a man may reveal of his heart among friends he hides from the unsympathetic eyes of others, though it may be the noblest of his possessions.

With a rush the car topped the hill, swung up the driveway, and stopped at the corner of the house. A door flew open, and the girl leaped from the driver’s seat.

“Hello, everybody!” she cried.

Snatching a kiss from her brother as she passed him, she fairly leaped upon her mother, hugging, kissing, laughing, dancing, and talking all at once. Espying her father, she relinquished a disheveled and laughing mother and dived for him.

“Most adorable pops!” she cried, as he caught her in his arms. “Are you glad to have your little nuisance back? I’ll bet you’re not. Do you love me? You won’t when you know how much I’ve spent, but oh, popsy, I had such a good time! That’s all there was to it, and oh, momsie, who, who, who do you suppose I met? Oh, you’d never guess—never, never!”

“Whom did you meet?” asked her mother.

“Yes, little one, whom did you meet?” inquired her brother.

“And he’s perfectly gorgeous,” continued the girl, as if there had been no interruption; “and I danced with him—oh, such divine dancing! Oh, Guy Evans! Why how do you do? I never saw you.”

The young man nodded glumly.

“How are you, Eva?” he said.

“Mrs. Evans is here, too, dear,” her mother reminded her.

The girl curtsied before her mother’s guest, and then threw her arm about the older woman’s neck.

“Oh, Aunt Mae!” she cried. “I’m so excited; but you should have seen him, and, momsie, I got the cutest riding hat!” They were moving toward the living room door, which Guy was holding open. “Guy, I got you the splendiferousest Christmas present!”

“Help!” cried her brother, collapsing into a porch chair. “Don’t you know that I have a weak heart? Do your Christmas shopping early—do it in April! Oh, Lord, can you beat it?” he demanded of the others. “Can you beat it?”

“I think it was mighty nice of Eva to remember me at all,” said Guy, thawing perceptibly.

“What is it?” asked Custer. “I’ll bet you got him a pipe.”

“How ever in the world did you guess?” demanded Eva.

Custer rocked from side to side in his chair, laughing.

“What are you laughing at? Idiot!” cried the girl. “How did you guess I got him a pipe?”

“Because he never smokes anything but cigarettes.”

“You’re horrid!”

He pulled her down onto his lap and kissed her.

“Dear little one!” he cried. Taking her head between his hands, he shook it. “Hear ’em rattle!”

“But I love a pipe,” stated Guy emphatically. “The trouble is, I never had a really nice one before.”

“There!” exclaimed the girl triumphantly. “And you know Sherlock Holmes always smoked a pipe.”

Her brother knitted his brows.

“I don’t quite connect,” he announced.

“Well, if you need a diagram, isn’t Guy an author?” she demanded.

“Not so that any one could notice it—yet,” demurred Evans.

“Well, you’re going to be!” said the girl proudly.

“The light is commencing to dawn,” announced her brother. “ Sherlock Holmes, the famous author, who wrote Conan Doyle!”

A blank expression overspread the girl’s face, to be presently expunged by a slow smile.

“You are perfectly horrid!” she cried. “I’m going in to dapper up a bit for dinner—don’t wait.”

She danced through the living room and out into the patio toward her own rooms.

“Rattle, rattle, little brain; rattle, rattle round again,” her brother called after her. “Can you beat her?” he added, to the others.

“She can’t even be approximated,” laughed the colonel. “In all the world there is only one of her.”

“And she’s ours, bless her!” said the brother.

The colonel was glancing over the headlines of an afternoon paper that Eva had brought from the city.

“What’s new?” asked Custer.

“Same old rot,” replied his father. “Murders, divorces, kidnapers, bootleggers, and they haven’t even the originality to make them interesting by evolving new methods. Oh, hold on—this isn’t so bad! ‘Two hundred thousand dollars’ worth of stolen whisky landed on coast,’ he read. ‘Prohibition enforcement agents, together with special agents from the Treasury Department, are working on a unique theory that may reveal the whereabouts of the fortune in bonded whisky stolen from a government warehouse in New York a year ago. All that was known until recently was that the whisky was removed from the warehouse in trucks in broad daylight, compassing one of the boldest robberies ever committed in New York. Now, from a source which they refuse to divulge, the government sleuths have received information which leads them to believe that the liquid loot was loaded aboard a sailing vessel, and after a long trip around the Horn, is lying somewhere off the coast of southern California. That it is being lightered ashore in launches and transported to some hiding place in the mountains is one theory upon which the government is working. The whisky is eleven years old, was bottled in bond three years ago, just before the Eighteenth Amendment became a harrowing reality. It will go hard with the traffickers in this particular parcel of wet goods if they are apprehended, since the theft was directly from a government bonded warehouse, and all government officials concerned in the search are anxious to make an example of the guilty parties.’

“Eleven years old!” sighed the colonel. “It makes my mouth water! I’ve been subsisting on home-made grape wine for over a year. Think of it—a Pennington! Why, my ancestors must be writhing in their Virginia graves!”

“On the contrary, they’re probably laughing in their sleeves. They died before July 1, 1919,” interposed Custer. “Eleven years old—eight years in the wood,” he mused aloud, shooting a quick glance in the direction of Guy Evans, who suddenly became deeply interested in a novel lying on a table beside his chair, notwithstanding the fact that he had read it six months before and hadn’t liked it. “And it will go hard with the traffickers, too,” continued young Pennington. “Well, I should hope it would. They’ll probably hang ’em, the vile miscreants!”

Guy had risen and walked to the doorway opening upon the patio.

“I wonder what is keeping Eva,” he remarked.

“Getting hungry?” asked Mrs. Pennington. “Well, I guess we all are. Suppose we don’t wait any longer? Eva won’t mind.”

“If I wait much longer,” observed the colonel, “some one will have to carry me into the dining room.”

As they crossed the library toward the dining room the two young men walked behind their elders.

“Is your appetite still good?” inquired Custer.

“Shut up!” retorted Evans. “You give me a pain.”

They had finished their soup before Eva joined them, and after the men were reseated they took up the conversation where it had been interrupted. As usual, if not always brilliant, it was at least diversified, for it included many subjects from grand opera to the budding of English walnuts on the native wild stock, and from the latest novel to the most practical method of earmarking pigs. Paintings, poems, plays, pictures, people, horses, and home-brew—each came in for a share of the discussion, argument, and raillery that ran round the table.

During a brief moment when she was not engaged in conversation, Guy seized the opportunity to whisper to Eva, who sat next to him.

“Who was that bird you met in L.A.?” he asked.

“Which one?”

“Which one! How many did you meet?”

“Oodles of them.”

“I mean the one you were ranting about.”

“Which one was I ranting about? I don’t remember.”

“You’re enough to drive anybody to drink, Eva Pennington!” cried the young man disgustedly.

“Radiant man!” she cooed. “What’s the dapper little idea in that talented brain—jealous?”

“I want to know who he is,” demanded Guy.

“Who who is?”

“You know perfectly well who I mean—the poor fish you were raving about before dinner. You said you danced with him. Who is he? That’s what I want to know.”

“I don’t like the way you talk to me; but if you must know, he was the most dazzling thing you ever saw. He—”

“I never saw him, and I don’t want to, and I don’t care how dazzling he is. I only want to know his name.”

“Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place? His name’s Wilson Crumb.” Her tone was as of one who says: “Behold Alexander the Great!”

“Wilson Crumb! Who’s he?”

“Do you mean to sit there and tell me that you don’t know who Wilson Crumb is, Guy Evans?” she demanded.

“Never heard of him,” he insisted.

“Never heard of Wilson Crumb, the famous actor-director? Such ignorance!”

“Did you ever hear of him before this trip to L.A.?” inquired her brother from across the table. “I never heard you mention him before.”

“Well, maybe I didn’t,” admitted the girl; “but he’s the most dazzling dancer you ever saw—and such eyes! And maybe he’ll come out to the ranch and bring his company. He said they were often looking for just such locations.”

“And I suppose you invited him?” demanded Custer accusingly.

“And why not? I had to be polite, didn’t I?”

“You know perfectly well that father has never permitted such a thing,” insisted her brother, looking toward the colonel for support.

“He didn’t ask father—he asked me,” returned the girl.

“You see,” said the colonel, “how simply Eva solves every little problem.”

“But you know, popsy, how perfectly superb it would be to have them take some pictures right here on our very own ranch, where we could watch them all day long.”

“Yes,” growled Custer; “watch them wreck the furniture and demolish the lawns! Why, one bird of a director ran a troop of cavalry over one of the finest lawns in Hollywood. Then they’ll go up in the hills and chase the cattle over the top into the ocean. I’ve heard all about them. I’d never allow one of ’em on the place.”

“Maybe they’re not all inconsiderate and careless,” suggested Mrs. Pennington.

“You remember there was a company took a few scenes at my place a year or so ago,” interjected Mrs. Evans. “They were very nice indeed.”

“They were just wonderful,” said Grace Evans. “I hope the colonel lets them come. It would be piles of fun!”

“You can’t tell anything about them,” volunteered Guy. “I understand they pick up all sorts of riffraff for extra people—I.W.W.’s and all sorts of people like that. I’d be afraid.”

He shook his head dubiously.

“The trouble with you two is,” asserted Eva, “that you’re afraid to let us girls see any nice-looking actors from the city. That’s what’s the matter with you!”

“Yes, they’re jealous,” agreed Mrs. Pennington, laughing.

“Well,” said Custer, “if there are leading men there are leading ladies, and from what I’ve seen of them the leading ladies are better-looking than the leading men. By all means, now that I consider the matter, let them come. Invite them at once, for a month—wire them!”

“Silly!” cried his sister. “He may not come here at all. He just mentioned it casually.”

“And all this tempest in a teapot for nothing,” said the colonel.

Wilson Crumb was forthwith dropped from the conversation and forgotten by all, even by impressionable little Eva.

As the young people gathered around Mrs. Pennington at the piano in the living room, Mrs. Evans and Colonel Pennington sat apart, carrying on a desultory conversation while they listened to the singing.

“We have a new neighbor,” remarked Mrs. Evans, “on the ten-acre orchard adjoining us on the west.”

“Yes—Mrs. Burke. She has moved in, has she?” inquired the colonel.

“Yesterday. She is a widow from the East—has a daughter in Los Angeles, I believe.”

“She came to see me about a month ago,” said the colonel, “to ask my advice about the purchase of the property. She seemed rather a refined, quiet little body. I must tell Julia—she will want to call on her.”

“I insisted on her taking dinner with us last night,” said Mrs. Evans. “She seems very frail, and was all worn out. Unpacking and settling is trying enough for a robust person, and she seems so delicate that I really don’t see how she stood it all.”

Then the conversation drifted to other topics until the party at the piano broke up and Eva came dancing over to her father.

“Gorgeous popsy!” she cried, seizing him by an arm. “Just one dance before bedtime—if you love me, just one!”

Colonel Pennington rose from his chair, laughing.

“I know your one dance, you little fraud—five fox-trots, three one-steps, and a waltz.”

With his arms about each other they started for the ballroom—really a big play room, which adjoined the garage. Behind them, laughing and talking, came the two older women, the two sons, and Grace Evans. They would dance for an hour and then go to bed, for they rose early and were in the saddle before sunrise, living their happy, care-free life far from the strife and squalor of the big cities, and yet with more of the comforts and luxuries than most city dwellers ever achieve.


The bungalow at 1421 Vista del Paso was of the new school of Hollywood architecture, which appears to be a hysterical effort to combine Queen Anne, Italian, Swiss chalet, Moorish, Mission, and Martian. Its plaster walls were of a yellowish rose, the outside woodwork being done in light blue, while the windows were shaded with striped awnings of olive and pink. On one side of the entrance rose a green pergola—the ambitious atrocity that marks the meeting place of landscape gardening and architecture, and that outrages them both. Culture has found a virus for the cast iron dogs, deer, and rabbits that ramped in immobility upon the lawns of yesteryear, but the green pergola is an incurable disease.

Connecting with the front of the house, a plaster wall continued across the narrow lot to the property line at one side and from there back to the alley, partially inclosing a patio—which is Hollywood for back-yard. An arched gateway opened into the patio from the front. The gate was of rough redwood boards, and near the top there were three auger holes arranged in the form of a triangle—this was art. Upon the yellow-rose plaster above the arch a design of three monkeys was stenciled in purple—this also was art.

As you wait in the three-foot-square vestibule you notice that the floor is paved with red brick set in black mortar, and that the Oregon pine door, with its mahogany stain, would have been beautiful in its severe simplicity but for the little square of plate glass set in the upper right hand corner, demonstrating conclusively the daring originality of the artist architect.

Presently your ring is answered, and the door is opened by a Japanese “schoolboy” of thirty-five in a white coat. You are ushered directly into a living room, whereupon you forget all about architects and art, for the room is really beautiful, even though a trifle heavy in an Oriental way, with its Chinese rugs, dark hangings, and ponderous, overstuffed furniture. The Japanese schoolboy, who knows you, closes the door behind you and then tiptoes silently from the room.