Chapter 7 The Girl from Hollywood by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Beneath the cool shadows of the north porch the master of Ganado, booted and spurred, rested after a long ride in the hot sun, sipping a long, cool glass of peach brandy and orange juice, and talking with his wife. A broad barley field lay below them, stretching to the State highway half a mile to the north. The yellowing heads of the grain stood motionless beneath the blazing sun. Inside the myriad kernels the milk was changing into dough. It would not be long now, barring fogs, before that gorgeous pageant of prosperity would be falling in serried columns into the maw of the binder.

“We’re going to have a bully crop of barley this year, Julia,” remarked the colonel, fishing a small piece of ice from his glass. “Do you know, I’m beginning to believe this is better than a mint julep!”

“Heavens, Custer—whisper it!” admonished his wife. “Just suppose the shades of some of your ancestors, or mine, should overhear such sacrilege!”

The colonel chuckled.

“Is it old age, or has this sunny land made me effeminate?” he queried. “It’s quite a far cry from an old-fashioned mint julep to this home-made wine and orange juice. You can’t call it brandy—it hasn’t enough of what the boys call ‘kick’ to be entitled to that honor; but I like it. Yes, sir, that’s bully barley—there isn’t any better in the foothills!”

“The oats look good, too,” said Mrs. Pennington. “I haven’t noticed the slightest sign of rust.”

“That’s the result of the boy’s trip to Texas last summer,” said the colonel proudly. “Went down there himself and selected all the seed—didn’t take anybody’s word for it. Genuine Texas rustproof oats was what he went for and what he got. I don’t know what I’d do without him, Julia. It’s wonderful to see one’s dreams come true! I’ve been dreaming for years of the time when my boy and I would work together and make Ganado even more wonderful than it ever was before; and now my dream’s a reality. It’s great, I tell you—it’s great! Is there another glass of this Ganado elixir in that pitcher, Julia?”

They were silent then for a few minutes, the colonel sipping his “elixir,” and Mrs. Pennington, with her book face down upon her lap, gazing out across the barley and the broad valley and the distant hills—into the future, perhaps, or back into the past.

It had been an ideal life that they had led here—a life of love and sunshine and happiness. There had been nothing to vex her soul as she reveled in the delight of her babies, watching them grow into sturdy children and then develop into clean young manhood and womanhood. But growing with the passing years had been the dread of that day when the first break would come, as come she knew it must.

She knew the dream that her husband had built, and that with it he had purposely blinded his eyes and dulled his ears to the truth which the mother heart would have been glad to deny, but could not. Some day one of the children would go away, and then the other. It was only right and just that it should be so, for as they two had built their own home and their own lives and their little family circle, so their children must do even as they.

It was going to be hard on them both, much harder on the father, because of that dream that had become an obsession. Mrs. Pennington feared that it might break his spirit, for it would leave him nothing to plan for and hope for as he had planned and hoped for this during the twenty-two years that they had spent upon Ganado.

Now that Grace was going to the city, how could they hope to keep their boy content upon the ranch? She knew he loved the old place, but he was entitled to see the world and to make his own place in it—not merely to slide spinelessly into the niche that another had prepared for him.

“I am worried about the boy,” she said presently.

“How? In what way?” he asked.

“He will be very blue and lonely after Grace goes,” she said. “Don’t talk to me about it!” cried the colonel, banging his glass down upon the table and rising to his feet. “It makes me mad just to think of it. I can’t understand how Grace can want to leave this beautiful world to live in a damned city! She’s crazy! What’s her mother thinking about, to let her go?”

“You must remember, dear,” said his wife soothingly, “that every one is not so much in love with the country as you, and that these young people have their own careers to carve in the way they think best. It would not be right to try to force them to live the way we like to live.”

“Damned foolishness, that’s what it is!” he blustered. “An actress! What does she know about acting?”

“She is beautiful, cultured, and intelligent. There is no reason why she should not succeed and make a great name for herself. Why shouldn’t she be ambitious, dear? We should encourage her, now that she has determined to go. It would help her, for she loves us all—she loves you as a daughter might, for you have been like a father to her ever since Mr. Evans died.”

“Oh, pshaw, Julia!” the colonel exclaimed. “I love Grace—you know I do. I suppose it’s because I love her that I feel so about this. Maybe I’m jealous of the city, to think that it has weaned her away from us. I don’t mean all I say, sometimes; but really I am broken up at the thought of her going. It seems to me that it may be just the beginning of the end of the beautiful life that we have all led here for so many years.”

“Have you ever thought that some day our own children may want to go?” she asked.

“I won’t think about it!” he exploded.

“I hope you won’t have to,” she said; “but it’s going to be pretty hard on the boy after Grace goes.”

“Do you think he’ll want to go?” the colonel asked. His voice sounded suddenly strange and pleading, and there was a suggestion of pain and fear in his eyes that she had never seen there before in all the years that she had known him. “Do you think he’ll want to go?” he repeated in a voice that no longer sounded like his own.

“Stranger things have happened,” she replied, forcing a smile, “than a young man wanting to go out into the world and win his spurs!”

“Let’s not talk about it, Julia,” the colonel said presently. “You are right, but I don’t want to think about it. When it comes will be time enough to meet it. If my boy wants to go, he shall go—and he shall never know how deeply his father is hurt!”

“There they are now,” said Mrs. Pennington. “I hear them in the patio. Children!” she called. “Here we are on the north porch!”

They came through the house together, brother and sister, their arms about each other.

“Cus says I am too young to get married,” exclaimed the girl.

“Married!” ejaculated the colonel. “You and Guy talking of getting married? What are you going to live on, child?”

“On that hill back there.”

She jerked her thumb in a direction that was broadly south by west.

“That will give them two things to live on,” suggested the boy, grinning.

“What do you mean—two things?” demanded the girl.

“The hill and father,” her brother replied, dodging.

She pursued him, and he ran behind his mother’s chair; but at last she caught him, and, seizing his collar, pretended to chastise him, until he picked her up bodily from the floor and kissed her.

“Pity the poor goof she ensnares!” pleaded Custer, addressing his parents. “He will have three avenues of escape—being beaten to death, starved to death, or talked to death.”

Eva clapped a hand over his mouth.

“Now listen to me,” she cried. “Guy and I are going to build a teeny, weeny bungalow on that hill, all by ourselves, with a white tile splash board in the kitchen, and one of those broom closets that turn into an ironing board, and a very low, overhanging roof, almost flat, and a shower, and a great big living room where we can take the rugs up and dance, and a spiffy little garden in the back yard, and chickens, and Chinese rugs, and he is going to have a study all to himself where he writes his stories, and—”

At last she had to stop and join in the laughter.

“I think you are all mean,” she added. “You always laugh at me!”

“With you, little jabberer,” corrected the colonel; “for you were made to be laughed with and kissed.”

“Then kiss me,” she exclaimed, and sprang into his lap, at the imminent risk of deluging them both with “elixir”—a risk which the colonel, through long experience of this little daughter of his, was able to minimize by holding the glass at arm’s length as she dived for him.

“And when are you going to be married?” he asked.

“Oh, not for ages and ages!” she cried.

“But are you and Guy engaged?”

“Of course not!”

“Then why in the world all this talk about getting married?” he inquired, his eyes twinkling.

“Well, can’t I talk?” she demanded.

“Talk? I’ll say she can!” exclaimed her brother.