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The Smiling Hill-Top And Other California Sketches

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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 hill-top....