Tải bản đầy đủ

The girl from hollywood


TheGirlFromHollywood
byEdgarRiceBurroughs
PublishedbyMacaulayCo.,1923


CHAPTERONE
Thetwohorsespickedtheirwaycarefullydownwardoverthelooseshaleofthe
steephillside.Thebigbaystallionintheleadsidledmincingly,tossinghishead
nervously,andfleckingtheflannelshirtofhisriderwithfoam.Behindtheman
onthestallionagirlrodeaclean-limbedbayoflightercolour,whosemethodof
descent,whilelessshowy,wassafer,forhecamemoreslowly,andinthevery
badplaceshebracedhisfourfeetforwardandsliddown,sometimesalmost
sittingupontheground.
Atthebaseofthehilltherewasanarrowlevelstrip;thenaneight-footwash,
withsteepbanks,barredthewaytotheoppositesideofthecanyon,whichrose
gentlytothehillsbeyond.Atthefootofthedescentthemanreinedinand
waiteduntilthegirlwassafelydown;thenhewheeledhismountandtrotted
towardthewash.Twentyfeetfromithegavetheanimalitsheadandaword.
Thehorsebrokeintoagallop,tookoffattheedgeofthewash,andcleareditso
effortlesslyasalmosttogivetheimpressionofflying.

Behindthemancamethegirl,butherhorsecameatthewashwitharush—not
theslow,steadygallopofthestallion—andattheverybrinkhestoppedtogather
himself.Thedrybankcavedbeneathhisfrontfeet,andintothewashhewent,
headfirst.
Themanturnedandspurredback.Thegirllookedupfromhersaddle,makinga
wryface.
“Nodamage?”heasked,anexpressionofconcernuponhisface.
“Nodamage,”thegirlreplied.“Senatorisclumsyenoughatjumping,butno
matterwhathappenshealwayslightsonhisfeet.”
“Ridedownabit,”saidtheman.“There’saneasywayoutjustbelow.”
Shemovedoffinthedirectionheindicated,herhorsepickinghiswayamongthe
loosebouldersinthewashbottom.
“Mothersayshe’spartcat,”sheremarked.“Iwishhecouldjumplikethe
Apache!”


Themanstrokedtheglossyneckofhisownmount.
“Heneverwill,”hesaid.“He’safraid.TheApacheisabsolutelyfearless;he’dgo
anywhereI’dridehim.He’sbeenmiredwithmetwice,butheneverrefusesa
wetspot;andthat’satest,Isay,ofahorse’scourage.”
Theyhadreachedaplacewherethebankwasbrokendown,andthegirl’shorse
scrambledfromthewash.
“Maybehe’slikehisrider,”suggestedthegirl,lookingattheApache;“brave,
butreckless.”
“Itwasworsethanreckless,”saidtheman.“Itwasasinine.Ishouldn’thaveled
youoverthejumpwhenIknowhowbadlySenatorjumps.”
“Andyouwouldn’thave,Custer,”—shehesitated—“if—”
“IfIhadn’tbeendrinking,”hefinishedforher.“Iknowwhatyouweregoingto
say,Grace;butIthinkyou’rewrong.Ineverdrinkenoughtoshowit.Noone
eversawmethatway—notsothatitwasnoticeable.”
“Itisalwaysnoticeabletomeandtoyourmother,”shecorrectedhimgently.
“Wealwaysknowit,Custer.Itshowsinlittlethingslikewhatyoudidjustnow.
Oh,itisn’tanything.Iknow,dear;butwewholoveyouwishyoudidn’tdoit
quitesooften.“
“It’sfunny,”hesaid,“butInevercaredforituntilitbecameariskythingtoget
it.Oh,well,what’stheuse?I’llquititifyousayso.Ithasn’tanyholdonme.”
Involuntarilyhesquaredhisshoulders—anunconscioustributetothestrengthof
hisweakness.
Together,theirstirrupstouching,theyrodeslowlydownthecanyontrailtoward
theranch.Oftentheyrodethus,intherestfulsilencethatisabirthrightof


comradeship.Neitherspokeuntilaftertheyreinedintheirsweatinghorses
beneaththecoolshadeofthespreadingsycamorethatguardsthejunctionofEl
CaminoLargoandthemaintrailthatwindsupSycamoreCanyon.
Thegirlpointedupintothecloudlesssky,whereseveralgreatbirdscircled
majestically,risingandfallinguponmotionlesswings.


“Thevulturesareback,”shesaid.“Iamalwaysgladtoseethemcomeagain.”
“Yes,”saidtheman.“Theyarebullyscavengers,andwedon’thavetopay‘em
wages.”
Thegirlsmiledupathim.
“I’mafraidmythoughtsweremorepoeticthanpractical,”shesaid.“Iwasonly
thinkingthattheskylookedlesslonelynowthattheyhavecome.Whysuggest
theirdiet?”
“Iknowwhatyoumean,”hesaid,“Ilikethemtoo.Malignedastheyare,they
arereallywonderfulbirds,andsortofmysterious.Didyoueverstoptothinkthat
youneverseeaveryyoungoneoradeadone?Wheredotheydie?Wheredo
theygrowtomaturity?Iwonderwhatthey’vefoundupthere!Let’srideup.
MartinsaidhesawanewcalfupbeyondJackknifeCanyonyesterday.That
wouldbejustaboutunderwherethey’recirclingnow.”
Theyguidedtheirhorsesaroundalarge,flatslabofrockthatsomecamperhad
contrivedintoatablebeneaththesycamore,andstartedacrossthetrailtoward
theoppositesideofthecanyon.
Theywereinthemiddleofthetrailwhenthemandrewinandlistened.
“Someoneiscoming,”hesaid,“Let’swaitandseewhoitis.Ihaven’tsentany
onebackintothehillstoday.”
“Ihaveanidea,”remarkedthegirl,“thatthereismoregoingonupthere”—she
noddedtowardthemountainsstretchingtothesouthofthem—thanyouknow
about.”
“Howisthat?”heasked.
“Sooftenrecentlywehaveheardhorsemenpassingtheranchlateatnight.If
theyweren’tgoingtostopatyourplace,thosewhorodeupthetrailmusthave
beenheadedintothehighhills;butI’msurethatthosewhomweheardcoming
downweren’tcomingfromtheRanchodelGanado.”
“No,”hesaid,“notlateatnight—ornotoften,atanyrate.”


Thefootstepsofacanteringhorsedrewrapidlycloser,andpresentlytheanimal
anditsridercameintoviewaroundaturninthetrail.
“It’sonlyAllen,”saidthegirl.
Thenewcomerreinedinatsightofthemanandthegirl.Hewasevidently
surprised,andthegirlthoughtthatheseemedillatease.
“Justgivin’Baldyawork-out,”heexplained.“Heain’tbeenoutforthreeorfour
days,an’youtoldmetowork‘emoutifIhadtime.”
CusterPenningtonnodded.
“Seeanystockbackthere?”
“No.How’stheApachetoday—forgin’asbadasusual?”
Penningtonshookhisheadnegatively.
“ThatfellowshodhimyesterdayjustthewayIwanthimshod.Iwishyou’dtake
agoodlookathisshoes,Slick,soyoucanseethathe’salwaysshodthissame
way.”HiseyeshadbeentravellingoverSlick’smount,whoseheavingsides
werecoveredwithlather.“Baldy’sprettysoft,Slick;Iwouldn’tworkhimtoo
hardallatonce.Gethimuptoitgradually.”
Heturnedandrodeoffwiththegirlathisside.SlickAllenlookedafterthemfor
amomentandthenmovedhishorseoffataslowwalktowardtheranch.Hewas
alean,sinewyman,ofmediumheight.Hemighthavebeenacavalrymanonce.
Hesathishorse,evenatawalk,likeonewhohassweatedandbledunderadrill
sergeantinthedaysofhisyouth.
“Howdoyoulikehim?”thegirlaskedofPennington.
“He’sagoodhorseman,andgoodhorsemenaregettingrarethesedays,”replied
Pennington;“butIdon’tknowthatI’dchoosehimforaplaymate.Don’tyou
likehim?”
“I’mafraidIdon’t.Hiseyesgivemethecreeps—they’relikeafish’s.”
“Totellthetruth,GraceIdon’tlikehim,”saidCuster.“He’soneofthoserare


birds—agoodhorsemanwhodoesn’tlovehorses.Iimaginehewon’tlastlong
ontheRanchodelGanado;butwe’vegottogivehimafairshake—he’sonly
beenwithusafewweeks.”
Theywerepickingtheirwaytowardthesummitofasteephogback.Theman,
wholed,wasseekingcarefullyforthesafestfooting,shamedoutofhisrecent
recklessnessbythethoughtofhowclosethegirlhadcometoaseriousaccident
throughhisthoughtlessness.Theyrodealongthehogbackuntiltheycouldlook
downintoatinybasinwhereasmallbunchofcattlewasgrazing,andthen,
turninganddippingovertheedge,theydroppedslowlytowardtheanimals.
Nearthebottomoftheslopetheycameuponawhite-facedbullstandingbeneath
thespreadingshadeofaliveoak.Heturnedhiswoollyfacetowardthem,hisredrimmedeyesobservingthemdispassionatelyforamoment.Thenheturnedaway
againandresumedhiscud,disdainingfurthernoticeofthem.
“That’stheKingofGanado,isn’tit?”askedthegirl.
“Lookslikehim,doesn’the?Butheisn’t.He’stheKing’slikeliestson,and
unlessI’mmistakenhe’sgoingtogivetheoldfellowamightytoughtimeofit
thisfall,iftheoldboywantstohangontothegrandchampionship.We’venever
shownhimyet.It’sanideaoffather’s.He’salwayswantedtospringanew
championatagreatshowandsurprisetheworld.He’skeptthisfellowhidden
awayeversincehegavethefirstindicationthathewasgoingtobeafinebull.
Atleastahundredbreedershavevisitedtheherdinthepastyear,andnotoneof
themhasseenhim.Fathersayshe’sthegreatestbullthateverlived,andthathis
firstshowisgoingtobetheInternational.”
“Ijustknowhe’llwin,”exclaimedthegirl.“Whylookathim!Isn’thea
beauty?”
“Gotabacklikeabilliardtable,”commentedCusterproudly.
Theyrodedownamongtheheifers.Therewereadozenbeauties—three-yearolds.Hiddentooneside,behindasmallbush,theman’squickeyesdiscerneda
littlebundleofredandwhite.
“Thereitis,Grace,”hecalled,andthetworodetowardit.
Oneoftheheiferslookedfearfullytowardthem,thenatthebush,andfinally


walkedtowardit,lowingplaintively.
“We’renotgoingtohurtit,littlegirl,”themanassuredher.
Astheycamecloser,therearoseathingoflong,wobblylegs,bigjoints,and
great,darkeyes,itsspotlesscoatofredandwhiteshiningwithhealthandlife.
“Thecunningthing!”criedthegirl.“HowI’dliketosqueezeit!Ijustlove‘em,
Custer!”
Shehadslippedfromhersaddle,and,droppingherreinsontheground,was
approachingthecalf.
“Lookoutforthecow!”criedtheman,ashedismountedandmovedforwardto
thegirl’sside,withhisarmthroughtheApache’sreins.“Shehasn’tbeenup
much,andshemaybealittlewild.”
Thecalfstooditsgroundforamoment,andthen,withtailerect,cavortedmadly
foritsmother,behindwhomittookrefuge.
“Ijustlove‘em!Ijustlove‘em!repeatedthegirl.
“Yousaythesamethingaboutthecoltsandthelittlepigs,”themanreminded
her.
“Ilove‘emall!”shecried,shakingherhead,hereyestwinkling.
“Youlovethembecausethey’relittleandhelpless,justlikebabies,”hesaid.
“Oh,Grace,howyou’dloveababy!”
Thegirlflushedprettily.Quitesuddenlyheseizedherinhisarmsandcrushed
hertohim,smotheringherwithalongkiss.Breathless,shewriggledpartially
away,buthestillheldherinhisarms.
“Whywon’tyou,Grace?”hebegged.“There’llneverbeanybodyelseformeor
foryou.FatherandmotherandEvaloveyoualmostasmuchasIdo,andon
yoursideyourmotherandGuyhavealwaysseemedtotakeitasamatterof
coursethatwe’dmarry.Itisn’tthedrinking,isit,dear?”
“No,it’snotthat,Custer.OfcourseI’llmarryyou—someday;butnotyet.Why,


Ihaven’tlived,yet,Custer!Iwanttolive.Iwanttodosomethingoutsideofthe
humdrumlifethatIhavealwaysledandthehumdrumlifethatIshallliveasa
wifeandmother.Iwanttolivealittle,Custer,andthenI’llbereadytosettle
down.YoualltellmethatIambeautiful,anddown,awayinthedepthofmy
soul,IfeelthatIhavetalent.IfIhave,IoughttousethegiftsGodhasgiven
me.”
Shewasspeakingveryseriously,andthemanlistenedpatientlyandwithrespect,
forherealizedthatshewasrevealingforthefirsttimeasecretyearningthatshe
musthavelongheldlockedinherbosom.
“Justwhatdoyouwanttodo,dear?”heaskedgently.
“I—oh,itseemssillywhenItrytoputitinwords,butindreamsitisvery
beautifulandveryreal.”
“Thestage?”heasked.
“Itisjustlikeyoutounderstand!”Hersmilerewardedhim.“Willyouhelpme?I
knowmotherwillobject.”
“Youwantmetohelpyoutakeallthehappinessoutofmylife?”heasked.
“Itwouldonlybeforalittlewhilejustafewyears,andthenIwouldcomeback
toyou—afterIhadmadegood.”


CHAPTERTWO
THEmanbenthislipstohersagain,andherarmsstoleabouthisneck.Thecalf,
inthemeantime,perhapsdisgustedbysuchabsurdities,hadscamperedofftotry
hisbrand-newlegsagain,withtheresultthatheranintoalowbush,turneda
somersault,andlandedonhisback.Themother,stilldoubtfuloftheintentions
ofthenewcomers,towhosemalevolentpresenceshemayhaveattributedthe
accident,voicedaperturbedlow;whereupontherebrokefromthevicinityofthe
liveoakadeepnote,notunliketherumblingofdistantthunder.
Themanlookedup.
“Ithinkwe’llbegoing,”hesaid.“TheEmperorhasissuedanultimatum.”
“Orabull,perhaps,”Gracesuggested,astheywalkedquicklytowardherhorse.
“Awful!”hecommented,asheassistedherintothesaddle.
Thenheswungtohisown.
TheEmperormovedmajesticallytowardthem,hisnoseclosetotheground.
Occasionallyhestopped,pawingtheearthandthrowingdustuponhisbroad
back.
“Doesn’thelookwicked?”criedthegirl.“Justlookatthoseeyes!”
“He’sjustanoldbluffer,”repliedtheman.“However,I’dratherhaveyouinthe
saddle,foryoucan’talwaysbesurejustwhatthey’lldo.Wemustcallhisbluff,
though;itwouldneverdotorunfromhim—mightgivehimbadhabits.”
Herodetowardtheadvancinganimal,breakingintoacanterashedrewnearthe
bull,andstrikinghisbootedlegwithaquirt.
“Hi,there,youoldreprobate!Beatit!”hecried.
Thebullstoodhisgroundwithloweredheadandrumbledthreatsuntilthe
horsemanwasalmostuponhim;thenheturnedquicklyasideastheriderwent
past.


“That’sbetter,”remarkedCuster,asthegirljoinedhim.
“You’renotabitafraidofhim,areyou,Custer?You’renotafraidofanything.”
“Oh,Iwouldn’tsaythat,”hedemurred.“Ilearnedalongtimeagothatmost
encountersconsistprincipallyofbluff.MaybeI’vejustgrowntobeagood
bluffer.Anyhow,I’mabetterblufferthantheEmperor.Iftherascalhadonly
knownit,hecouldhaverunmeragged.”
Astheyrodeupthesideofthebasin,theman’seyesmovedconstantlyfrom
pointtopoint,nownotingtheconditionofthepasturegrasses,oragain
searchingthemoredistanthills.Presentlytheyalighteduponathin,wavering
lineofbrown,whichzigzaggeddowntheoppositesideofthebasinfroma
clumpofheavybrushthatpartiallyhidasmallravine,andcrossedthemeadow
aheadofthem.
“There’sanewtrail,Grace,anditdon’tbelongthere.Let’sgoandtakealookat
it.”
Theyrodeaheaduntiltheyreachedthetrail,atapointwhereitcrossedthe
bottomofthebasinandstartedupthesidetheyhadbeenascending.Theman
leanedabovehishorse’sshoulderandexaminedthetrampledturf.
“Horses,”hesaid.“Ithoughtso,andit’sbeenusedalotthiswinter.Youcansee
evennowwheretheanimalsslippedandflounderedaftertheheavyrains.”
“Butyoudon’trunhorsesinthispasture,doyou?”askedthegirl.
“No;andwehaven’trunanythinginitsincelastsummer.Thisistheonlybunch
init,andtheywerejustturnedinaboutaweekago.Anywaythehorsesthat
madethistrailweremostlyshod.Nowwhatintheworldisanybodygoingup
therefor?”Hiseyeswanderedtotheheavybrushintowhichthetrail
disappearedupontheoppositerimofthebasin.“I’llhavetofollowthatup
tomorrow—it’stoolatetodoitto-day.”
“Wecanfollowittheotherway,towardtheranch,”shesuggested.
Theyfoundthetrailwoundupthehillsideandcrossedthehogbackinheavy
brush,which,inmanyplaces,hadbeencutawaytoallowtheeasierpassageofa
horseman.


“Doyousee,”askedCuster,astheydrewreinatthesummitoftheridge,“that
althoughthetrailcrosseshereinplainsightoftheranchhouse,thebrushwould
absolutelyconcealahorsemanfromtheviewofanyoneatthehouse?Itmust
runrightdownintoJackknifeCanyon.Funnynoneofushavenoticedit,for
there’sscarcelyaweekthatthattrailisn’triddenbysomeofus!”
Astheydescendedintothecanyon,theydiscoveredwhythatendofthenewtrail
hadnotbeennoticed.Itrandeepandwellmarkedthroughtheheavybrushofa
gullytoaplacewherethebrushcommencedtothin,andthereitbranchedintoa
dozendimtrailsthatjoinedandblendedwiththeold,wellworncattlepathsof
thehillside.
“Somebody’smightfoxy,”observedtheman;“butIdon’tseewhatit’sallabout.
Thedaysofcattlerunnersandbanditsareover.”
“Justimagine!”exclaimedthegirl.“Arealmysteryinourlazy,oldhills!”
Themanrodeinsilenceandinthought.Aherdofpure-bredHerefords,whose
valuewouldhaveransomedhalfthecrownedheadsremaininginEurope,grazed
intheseveralpasturesthatranfarbackintothosehills;andbackthere
somewherethattrailled,butforwhatpurpose?Nogoodpurpose,hewassure,
orithadnotbeensocleverlyhidden.
AstheycametothetrailwhichtheycalledtheCaminoCorto,whereit
commencedatthegateleadingfromtheoldgoatcorral,themanjerkedhis
thumbtowardthewestalongit
“Theymustcomeandgothisway,”hesaid.
“Perhapsthey’retheonesmotherandIhaveheardpassingatnight,”suggested
thegirl.“Iftheyare,theycomerightthroughyourproperty,belowthehouse—
notthisway.”
Heopenedthegatefromthesaddle,andtheypassedthrough,crossingthe
barranco,andstoppingforamomenttolookatthepigsandtalkwiththe
herdsman.Thentheyrodeontowardtheranchhouse,ahalfmilefartherdown
thewideningcanyon.Itstooduponthesummitofalowhill,thedecliningsun
transformingitsplasteredwalls,itscupolas,thesturdyarchesofitsarcades,into
thesemblanceofaMoorishcastle.


Atthefootofthehilltheydismountedatthesaddlehorsestable,tiedtheir
horses,andascendedthelongflightofroughconcretestepstowardthehouse.
Astheyroundedthewildsumacbushatthesummit,theywereespiedbythose
sittinginthepatio,aroundthreesidesofwhichthehousewasbuilt.
“Oh,heretheyarenow!”exclaimedMrs.Pennington.“Weweresoafraidthat
Gracewouldriderightonhome,Custer.WehadjustpersuadedMrs.Evansto
stayfordinner.Guyiscoming,too.”
“Mother,youhere,too?”criedthegirl.“Howniceandcoolitisinhere.Itwould
savealotoftroubleifwebroughtourthings,mother.”
“Wearehopingthatatleastoneofyouwill,verysoon,”saidColonel
Pennington,whohadrisen,andnowputanarmaffectionatelyaboutthegirl’s
shoulders.
“That’swhatI’vebeentellingheragainthisafternoon,”saidCuster;“butinstead
shewantsto—”
Thegirlturnedtowardhimwithalittlefrownandshakeofherhead.
“You’dbetterrundownandtellAllenthatwewon’tusethehorsesuntilafter
dinner,”shesaid.
Hegrimacedgood-naturedlyandturnedaway.
“I’llhavehimtakeSenatorhome,”hesaid.“Icandriveyouandyourmother
downinthecar,whenyouleave.”
Ashedescendedthestepsthatwoundamongtheumbrellatrees,takingontheir
newfoliage,hesawAllenexaminingtheApache’sshoes.Ashenearedthem,the
horsepulledawayfromtheman,hissuddenlyloweredhoofstrikingAllen’s
instep.Withanoaththefellowsteppedbackandswungaviciouskicktothe
animal’sbelly.Almostsimultaneouslyahandfellheavilyuponhisshoulder.He
wasjerkedroughlyback,whirledabout,andsentspinningadozenfeetaway,
wherehestumbledandfell.Ashescrambledtohisfeet,whitewithrage,hesaw
theyoungerPenningtonbeforehim.
“Gototheofficeandgetyourtime,”orderedPennington.


“I’llgetyoufirst,yousonofa—”
Ahardfistconnectingsuddenlywithhischinputapainfulperiodtohissentence
beforeitwascompleted,andstoppedhismadrush.
“I’dbemorecarefulofmyconversation,Allen,ifIwereyou,”saidPennington
quietly.“Justbecauseyou’vebeendrinkingisnoexcuseforthat.Nowgoonup
totheofficeasItoldyouto.”
Hehadcaughttheodourofwhiskyashejerkedthemanpasthim.
“Yougoin’tocanmefordrinkin’—you?”demandedAllen.
“YouknowwhatI’mcanningyoufor.Youknowthat’stheonethingthatdon’t
goonGanado.YououghttogetwhatyougavetheApache,andyou’dbetter
beatitbeforeIlosemytemperandgiveittoyou!”
Themanroseslowlytohisfeet.Inhismindhewasrevolvinghischancesof
successfullyrenewinghisattack;butpresentlyhisjudgmentgotthebetterofhis
desireandhisrage.Hemovedoffslowlyupthehilltowardthehouse.Afew
yards,andheturned.
“Iain’tagoin’tofergetthis,you—you—”
“Becareful!”Penningtonadmonished.
“Noryouain’tgoin’tofergetit,neither,youfoxtrottin’dude!”
Allenturnedagaintotheascentofthesteps.PenningtonwalkedtotheApache
andstrokedhismuzzle.
“Oldboy,”hecrooned,“theredon’tanybodykickyouandgetawaywithit,does
there?”
Halfwayup,Allenstoppedandturnedagain.
“Youthinkyou’rethewholecheese,youPenningtons,don’tyou?”hecalled
back.“Withallyourmoneyan’yourfinefriends!Finefriends,yah!Icanput
oneof‘emwherehebelongsanytimeIwant—thedarnbootlegger!That’swhat
heis.Youwait—you’llsee!”


“A—ahbeatit!”sighedPenningtonwearily.
MountingtheApache,heledGrace’shorsealongthefootofthehilltowardthe
smallerranchhouseoftheirneighbour,somehalfmileaway.Hummingalittle
tune,heunsaddledSenator,turnedhimintohiscorral,sawthattherewaswater
inhistrough,andemptiedameasureofoatsintohismanger,forthehorsehad
cooledoffsincetheafternoonride.AsneitheroftheEvansranchhands
appeared,hefoundapieceofragandwipedofftheSenator’sbit,turnedthe
saddleblanketswetsideuptodry,andthen,leavingthestable,crossedtheyard
tomounttheApache.
Ayoungmaninridingclothesappearedsimultaneouslyfromtheinteriorofthe
bungalow,whichstoodahundredfeetaway.Crossingthewideporch,hecalled
toPennington.
“Hellothere,Penn!Whatareyoudoing?”hedemanded.
“JustbroughtSenatorin—Graceisupatthehouse.You’recomingupthere,too,
Guy.”
“Sure,butcomeinhereasecond.I’vegotsomethingtoshowyou.”
PenningtoncrossedtheyardandenteredthehousebehindGrace’sbrother,who
conductedhimtohisbedroom.HereyoungEvansunlockedacloset,and,after
rummagingbehindsomeclothing,emergedwithabottle,theshapeand
dimensionsofwhichwereonceasfamiliarinthelandofthefreeasthebenign
countenanceofLydiaE.Pinkham.
“It’sthegenuinestuff,Penn,too!”hedeclared.
Penningtonsmiled.
“Thanks,oldfellow,butI’vequit,”hesaid.
“Quit!”exclaimedEvans.
“Yep.”
“Butthinkofit,managedeightyearsinthewood,andbottledinbondbefore
July1,1919.Therealthing,andascheapasmoonshine—onlysixbeansaquart.


Canyoubelieveit?”
“Icannot,”admittedPennington.“Yourconversationlistensphoney.”
“Butit’struth.Youmayhavequit,butonelittlesnifterofthiswon’thurtyou.
Here’sthisbottlealreadyopenjusttryit”;andheprofferedthebottleandaglass
totheother.
“Well,it’sprettyhardtoresistanythingthatsoundsasgoodasthisdoes,”
remarkedPennington.“Iguessonewon’thurtmeany.”Hepouredhimselfa
drinkandtookit.“Wonderful!”heejaculated.
“Here,”saidEvans,divingintotheclosetoncemore.“Igotyouabottle,too,and
wecangetmore.”
Penningtontookthebottleandexaminedit,almostcaressingly.
“Eightyearsinthewood!”hemurmured.“I’vegottotakeit,Guy.Musthave
somethingtohanddowntoposterity.”Hedrewabillfoldfromhispocketand
countedoutsixdollars.
“Thanks,”saidGuy.“You’llneverregretit.”


CHAPTERTHREE
Asthetwoyoungmenclimbedthehilltothebighouse,afewminuteslater,they
foundtheelderPenningtonstandingattheedgeofthedrivewaythatcircledthe
hilltop,lookingouttowardthewidecanyonandthedistantmountains.Inthe
nearerforegroundlaythestableandcorralsofthesaddlehorses,thehenhouse
withitstwolongalfalfarunways,andthesmalldairybarnaccommodatingthe
littleherdofGuernseysthatsuppliedmilk,cream,andbutterfortheranch.A
quarterofamilebeyond,amongthetrees,wasthered-roofed“cabin”wherethe
unmarriedranchhandsateandslept,nearthemaincorralswiththeirbarns,
outhouses,andsheds.
Thetwoyoungmenjoinedtheolder,andCusterputanarmaffectionatelyabout
hisfather’sshoulders.
“Younevertireofit,”saidtheyoungman.
“Ihavebeenlookingatitfortwenty-twoyears,myson,”repliedtheelder
Pennington,“andeachyearithasbecomemorewonderfultome.Itnever
changes,andyetitisnevertwicealike.Seethepurplesageawayoffthere,and
thelighterspacesofwildbuckwheat,andhereandthereamongthescruboak
thebeautifulpalegreenofthemanzanitascintillantjewelsinthediademofthe
hills!Andthefainthazeofthemountainsthatseemtothrowthemjustalittle
outoffocus,tomakethemaperfectbackgroundforthebeautifulhillswhichthe
SupremeArtistisplacingonhiscanvastoday.AnhourfromnowHewillpaint
anothermasterpiece,andtonightanother,andforeverothers,withnevertwo
alike,noreveronethatmortalmancanduplicate;andallforus,boy,allforus,if
wehavetheheartsandthesoulstosee!”
“Howyouloveit!”saidtheboy.
“Yes,andyourmotherlovesit;anditisourgreathappinessthatyouandEva
loveit,too.”
Theboymadenoreply.Hedidloveit;buthiswastheheartofyouth,andit
yearnedforchangeandforadventureandforwhatlaybeyondthecirclinghills
andthebroad,untroubledvalleythatspreaditslevelfieldsbelow“thecastleon
thehill.”


“Thegirlsaredressingforaswim,”saidtheolderman,afteramomentof
silence.“Aren’tyouboysgoingin?”
“Thegirls”includedhiswifeandMrs.Evans,aswellasGrace,forthecolonel
insistedthatyouthwaspurelyaphysicalandmentalattribute,independentof
time.Ifonecouldfeelandactinaccordwiththespiritofyouth,onecouldnotbe
old.
“Areyougoingin?”askedhisson.
“Yes.Iwaswaitingforyoutwo.”
“IthinkI’llbeexcused,sir,”saidGuy.“Thewateristoocoldyet.Itriedit
yesterday,andnearlyfrozetodeath.I’llcomeandwatch.”
ThetwoPenningtonsmovedofftowardthehouse,togetintoswimmingthings,
whileyoungEvanswandereddownintothewatergardens.Ashestoodthere,
idlycontentinthequietbeautyofthespot,Allencamedownthesteps,his
chequeinhishand.Atsightoftheboyhehaltedbehindhim,anunpleasant
expressionuponhisface.
Evans,suddenlyawarethathewasnotalone,turnedandrecognizedtheman.
“Oh,hello,Allen!”hesaid.
“YoungPenningtonjustcannedme,”saidAllen,withnootherreturnofEvan’s
greeting.
“I’msorry,”saidEvans.
“Youmaybesorrier!”growledAllen,continuingonhiswaytowardthecabinto
gethisblanketsandclothes.
ForamomentGuystaredaftertheman,apuzzledexpressionknittinghisbrows.
Thenheslowlyflushed,glancingquicklyabouttoseeifanyonehadoverheard
thebriefconversationbetweenSlickAllenandhimself.
Afewminuteslaterheenteredtheinclosurewestofthehouse,wherethe
swimmingpoollay.Mrs.Penningtonandherguestswerealreadyinthepool,
swimmingvigorouslytokeepwarm,andamomentlaterthecolonelandCuster


ranfromthehouseanddivedinsimultaneously.Thoughtherewastwenty-six
years’differenceintheirages,itwasnotevidencedbyanylesservitalityor
agilityonthepartoftheolderman.
ColonelCusterPenningtonhadbeenborninVirginiafiftyyearsbefore.
GraduatedfromtheVirginiaMilitaryInstituteandWestPoint,hehadtakena
commissioninthecavalrybranchoftheservice.CampaigninginCuba,hehad
beenshotthroughonelung,andshortlyafterthecloseofthewarhewasretired
fordisability,withrankoflieutenant-colonel.In1900hehadcometoCalifornia,
ontheadviceofhisphysicianintheforlornhopethathemightprolonghis
sufferingsafewyearsmore.
AndsoPenningtonhadcomeWestwithMrs.PenningtonandlittleCuster,Jr.,
andhadfoundtheRanchodelGanadorundown,untenantedandforsale.
HejudgedfromthesoilandthewaterthatGanadowasnotwellsuitedtoraise
thetypeofhorsethatheknewbest,andthatheandhisfatherandhis
grandfathersbeforethemhadbredinVirginia;buthesawotherpossibilities.
Moreover,helovedthehillsandthecanyonsfromthefirst;andsohehad
purchasedtheranch,moretohavesomethingthatwouldtemporarilyoccupyhis
minduntilhisperiodofexilewasendedbyareturntohisnativeState,orby
death,thanwithanyideathatitwouldproveapermanenthome.


CHAPTERFOUR
WORKandplaywereinextricablyentangleduponGanado,theplaybeingofa
naturethatfittedthembetterfortheirwork,whilethework,alwaysintheopen
andusuallyfromthesaddle,theyenjoyedfullyasmuchastheplay.Whilethe
tiredbusinessmanofthecitywasexpendingaday’svitalityandnervousenergy
inanefforttoescapefromtheturmoilofthemadrush-hourandfindastrap
fromwhichtodanglehomewardamidthetoxiceffluviaofthemeltingpot,
ColonelPenningtonplungedandswaminthecold,invigoratingwatersofhis
pool,afteradayoflabourfullyasconstructiveandprofitableastheirs.
“Onemoredive!”hecalled,balancingupontheendofthespringboard,“and
thenI’mgoingout.Evaoughttobeherebythetimewe’redressed,hadn’tshe?
I’maboutfamished.”
“Ihaven’theardthetrainwhistleyet,thoughitmustbedue,”repliedMrs.
Pennington.“YouandBoymakesomuchnoiseswimmingthatwe’llmiss
Gabriel’strumpetifwehappentobeinthepoolatthetime!”
Theywerestillbanteringastheyenteredthehouseandsoughttheirseveral
roomstodress.
GuyEvansstrolledfromthewalledgardenoftheswimmingpooltotheopen
archthatbrokethelongpergolabeneathwhichthedrivewayranalongthenorth
sideofthehouse.Herehehadanunobstructedviewofthebroadvalley
stretchingawaytothemountainsinthedistance.Downthecentreofthevalleya
toytrainmovednoiselessly.Ashewatchedit,hesawapuffofwhiterisefrom
thetinyengine.Itroseandmeltedintheeveningairbeforethethin,clearsound
ofthewhistlereachedhisears.Thetraincrawledbehindthegreenoftreesand
disappeared.
Heknewthatithadstoppedatthestation,andthataslender,girlishfigurewas
alighting,withasmilefortheporterandagaywordfortheconductorwhohad
carriedherbackandforthforyearsuponheroccasionalvisitstothecitya
hundredmilesaway.Nowthechauffeurwastakingherbagandcarryingittothe
roadsterthatshewoulddrivehomealongthewide,straightboulevardthat
crossedthevalley—utterlyruininganumberofperfectlygoodspeedlaws.


Theheadlightsofamotorcarturnedinatthedriveway.Guywenttotheeast
porchandlookedinatthelivingroomdoor,wheresomeofthefamilyhad
alreadycollected.“Eva’scoming!”heannounced.
Witharushthecartoppedthehill,swungupthedriveway,andstoppedatthe
cornerofthehouse.Adoorflewopen,andthegirlleapedfromthedriver’sseat.
“Hello,everybody!”shecried.
Snatchingakissfromherbrotherasshepassedhim,shefairlyleapeduponher
motherhugging,kissing,laughing,dancing,andtalkingallatonce.Espyingher
father,sherelinquishedadishevelledandlaughingmotheranddivedforhim.
“Mostadorablepops!”shecried,ashecaughtherinhisarms.“Areyougladto
haveyourlittlenuisanceback?I’llbetyou’renot.Doyouloveme?Youwon’t
whenyouknowhowmuchI’vespent,butoh,popsy,Ihadsuchagoodtime!
That’salltherewastoit,andoh,momsie,who,who,whodoyousupposeImet?
Oh,you’dneverguess—never,never!”
“Whomdidyoumeet?”askedhermother.
“Yes,littleone,whomdidyoumeet?”inquiredherbrother.
“Andhe’sperfectlygorgeous,”continuedthegirl,asiftherehadbeenno
interruption;“andIdancedwithhim—oh,suchdivinedancing!Oh,GuyEvans!
Whyhowdoyoudo?Ineversawyou.”
Theyoungmannoddedglumly.
“Howareyou,Eva?”hesaid.
“Mrs.Evansishere,too,dear,”hermotherremindedher.
Thegirlcurtsiedbeforehermother’sguest,andthenthrewherarmaboutthe
olderwoman’sneck.
“Oh,AuntMae!”shecried.“I’msoexcited;butyoushouldhaveseenhim,and,
momsie,Igotthecutestridinghat!”Theyweremovingtowardthelivingroom
door,whichGuywasholdingopen.“Guy,Igotyouthesplendiferousest
Christmaspresent!”


“Help!”criedherbrother,collapsingintoaporchchair.“Don’tyouknowthatI
haveaweakheart?DoyourChristmasshoppingearly—doitinApril!Oh,Lord,
canyoubeatit?”hedemandedoftheothers.“Canyoubeatit?”
ThecolonelwasglancingovertheheadlinesofanafternoonpaperthatEvahad
broughtfromthecity.
“What’snew?”askedCuster.
“Sameoldrot,”repliedhisfather.“Murders,divorces,kidnappers,bootleggers,
andtheyhaven’teventheoriginalitytomaketheminterestingbyevolvingnew
methods.Oh,holdon—thisisn’tsobad!‘Twohundredthousanddollars’worth
ofstolenwhiskylandedoncoast,”heread.‘Prohibitionenforcementagents,
togetherwithspecialagentsfromtheTreasuryDepartment,areworkingona
uniquetheorythatmayrevealthewhereaboutsofthefortuneinbondedwhisky
stolenfromagovernmentwarehouseinNewYorkayearago.Allthatwas
knownuntilrecentlywasthatthewhiskywasremovedfromthewarehousein
trucksinbroaddaylight,compassingoneoftheboldestrobberiesever
committedinNewYork.Now,fromasourcewhichtheyrefusetodivulge,the
governmentsleuthshavereceivedinformationwhichleadsthemtobelievethat
theliquidlootwasloadedaboardasailingvessel,andafteralongtriparoundthe
Horn,islyingsomewhereoffthecoastofsouthernCalifornia.Thatitisbeing
lighteredashoreinlaunchesandtransportedtosomehidingplaceinthe
mountainsisonetheoryuponwhichthegovernmentisworking.Thewhiskyis
elevenyearsold,wasbottledinbondthreeyearsago,justbeforetheEighteenth
Amendmentbecameaharrowingreality.Itwillgohardwiththetraffickersin
thisparticularparcelofwetgoodsiftheyareapprehended,sincethetheftwas
directlyfromagovernmentbondedwarehouse,andallgovernmentofficials
concernedinthesearchareanxioustomakeanexampleoftheguiltyparties.’
“Elevenyearsold!”sighedthecolonel.“Itmakesmymouthwater!I’vebeen
subsistingonhome-madegrapewineforoverayear.Thinkofit—aPennington!
WhymyancestorsmustbewrithingintheirVirginiagraves!”
“Onthecontrary,they’reprobablylaughingintheirsleeves.Theydiedbefore
July1,1919,”interposedCuster.”“Elevenyearsold—eightyearsinthewood,”
hemusedaloud,shootingaquickglanceinthedirectionofGuyEvans,who
suddenlybecamedeeplyinterestedinanovellyingonatablebesidehischair,
notwithstandingthefactthathehadreaditsixmonthsbeforeandhadn’tlikedit.


“Anditwillgohardwiththetraffickers,too,”continuedyoungPennington.
“Well,Ishouldhopeitwould.They’llprobablyhang‘em,thevilemiscreants!”
Guyhadrisenandwalkedtothedoorwayopeninguponthepatio.
“IwonderwhatiskeepingEva,”heremarked.
“Gettinghungry?”askedMrs.Pennington.“Well,Iguessweallare.Supposewe
don’twaitanylonger?Evawon’tmind.”
TheyhadfinishedtheirsoupbeforeEvajoinedthem,andafterthemenwere
reseatedtheytookuptheconversationwhereithadbeeninterrupted.
Duringabriefmomentwhenshewasnotengagedinconversation,Guyseized
theopportunitytowhispertoEva,whosatnexttohim.
“WhowasthatbirdyoumetinL.A.?”heasked.
“Whichone?”
“Whichone!Howmanydidyoumeet?”
“Oodlesofthem.”
“Imeantheoneyouwererantingabout.”
“WhichonewasIrantingabout?Idon’tremember.”
“You’reenoughtodriveanybodytodrink,EvaPennington!”criedtheyoung
mandisgustedly.
“Radiantman!”shecooed.“What’sthedapperlittleideainthattalentedbrain
jealous?”
“Iwanttoknowwhoheis,”demandedGuy.
“Whowhois?”
“YouknowperfectlywellwhoImean—thepoorfishyouwereravingabout
beforedinner.Yousaidyoudancedwithhim.Whoishe?That’swhatIwantto
know.”


“Idon’tlikethewayyoutalktome;butifyoumustknow,hewasthemost
dazzlingthingyoueversaw.He—”
“Ineversawhim,Idon’twantto,andIdon’tcarehowdazzlingheis.Ionly
wanttoknowhisname.”
“Well,whydidn’tyousaysointhefirstplace?Hisname’sWilsonCrumb.”Her
tonewasasofonewhosays:“BeholdAlexandertheGreat!”
“WilsonCrumb!Who’she?”
“Doyoumeantositthereandtellmethatyoudon’tknowwhoWilsonCrumb
is,GuyEvans?”shedemanded.
“Neverheardofhim,”heinsisted.
“NeverheardofWilsonCrumb,thefamousactor-director?Suchignorance!”
“DidyoueverhearofhimbeforethistriptoL.A?”inquiredherbrotherfrom
acrossthetable.“Ineverheardyoumentionhimbefore.”
“Well,maybeIdidn’t,”admittedthegirl;“buthe’sthemostdazzlingdanceryou
eversaw—andsucheyes!Andmaybehe’llcomeouttotheranchandbringhis
company.Hesaidtheywereoftenlookingforsuchlocations.”
“AndIsupposeyouinvitedhim?”demandedCusteraccusingly.
“Andwhynot?Ihadtobepolite,didn’tI?”
“Youknowperfectlywellthatfatherhasneverpermittedsuchathing,”insisted
herbrother,lookingtowardthecolonelforsupport.
“Hedidn’taskfather—heaskedme,”returnedthegirl.
“Yousee,”saidthecolonel,“howsimplyEvasolveseverylittleproblem.”
“Butyouknow,popsy,howperfectlysuperbitwouldbetohavethemtakesome
picturesrighthereonourveryownranch,wherewecouldwatchthemallday
long.”
“Yes,”growledCuster;“watchthemwreckthefurnitureanddemolishthelawns!


Why,onebirdofadirectorranatroopofcavalryoveroneofthefinestlawnsin
Hollywood.Thenthey’llgoupinthehillsandchasethecattleoverthetopinto
theocean.I’veheardallaboutthem.I’dneverallowoneof‘emontheplace.”
“Maybethey’renotallinconsiderateandcareless,”suggestedMrs.Pennington.
“Youremembertherewasacompanytookafewscenesatmyplaceayearorso
ago,”interjectedMrs.Evans.“Theywereveryniceindeed.”
“Theywerejustwonderful,”saidGraceEvans.“Ihopethecolonelletsthem
come.Itwouldbepilesoffun!”
“Youcan’ttellanythingaboutthem,”volunteeredGuy.“Iunderstandtheypick
upallsortsofriffraffforextrapeople—I.W.‘sandallsortsofpeoplelikethat.
I’dbeafraid.”
Heshookhisheaddubiously.
“Thetroublewithyoutwois,”assertedEva,“thatyou’reafraidtoletusgirlssee
anynice-lookingactorsfromthecity.That’swhat’sthematterwithyou!”
“Yes,they’rejealous,”agreedMrs.Pennington,laughing.
“Well,”saidCuster,“ifthereareleadingmenthereareleadingladies,andfrom
whatI’veseenofthemtheleadingladiesarebetter-lookingthantheleading
men.Byallmeans,nowthatIconsiderthematter,letthemcome.Invitethemat
once,foramonth—wirethem!”
“Silly!”criedhissister.“Hemaynotcomehereatall.Hejustmentionedit
casually.”
“Andallthistempestinateapotfornothing,”saidthecolonel.
WilsonCrumbwasforthwithdroppedfromtheconversationandforgottenby
all,evenbyimpressionablelittleEva.
AstheyoungpeoplegatheredaroundMrs.Penningtonatthepianointheliving
room,Mrs.EvansandColonelPenningtonsatapart,carryingonadesultory
conversationwhiletheylistenedtothesinging.


Tài liệu bạn tìm kiếm đã sẵn sàng tải về

Tải bản đầy đủ ngay

×