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The Scarlet Pimpernel epub free

 

Before beginning our homeward trek to Los Angeles, we decided to return to San Francisco and once there it occurred to us that we must visit old Fort Ross to familiarize ourselves with another colorful chapter of Golden State history. This tiny hamlet is on the sea coast about one hundred miles (by wagon road) north of the metropolis and may be reached by either of two routes, so we determined to go by one and return by the other. The briefest possible outlines of the story of Fort Ross may serve to illustrate the motives of our "little journey" into the northern hills:

The settlement was founded in 1812 by Russian traders. The fact that it was a military post whose crude fortifications were defended by forty cannons lends color to the supposition that the Czar may have entertained dreams of conquest in the weakly defended Spanish territory on the Pacific Coast. The Spaniards themselves thought so, for in 1818 the Governor at Monterey received orders to organize an expedition to capture Fort Ross-a mandate which he declared he was unable to carry out "for lack of men, transport and equipment." The Russians spread from Fort Ross into the surrounding territory and many names such as Sebastopol, Bodega, Mt. St. Helena and Russian River persist to-day as reminders of the Muscovite occupation.

Their traders came from time to time and carried on more or less traffic with the Spaniards despite their deep distrust of the Czar's intentions. There were many romantic incidents with this intercourse. The pathetic story of Rezanov, the noble commander of the Russian fleet, and Donna Concepcion, daughter of the Spanish governor, will always survive as one of the famous romances of early California. It was made the subject of Gertrude Atherton's novel of "Rezanov"-a colorful picture of the times, a story really savoring more of history than fiction. The Russian colonies never prospered sufficiently to become a menace even to the weak dominion of Spain, and when Mexico threw off the yoke of the mother country, Russia formally pledged herself against the acquisition of any territory in California. Seventeen years later the settlement had so declined that the Russians were glad to sell their property to Col. John A. Sutter, founder of Sacramento, and to retire permanently from California.

It seemed to us that a memorial of events that might have changed the course of history on our Pacific Coast was worthy of a pilgrimage, and our knowledge of the beauty of the hills of Marin and Sonoma was an additional lure. And so we crossed by the Sausalito Ferry and were soon away on the fine highway to Santa Rosa-now familiar ground to us. It was late in May and by all the weather man's rules the rainy season was past, but the unusual (as usual in California) happened; a sharp little shower caught us as we left Sausalito and fitfully followed us as we coursed swiftly over the fine road. It had its compensations, however, in the wonderful effects of cloud and mist on the Marin hills-a perfect symphony of blues, grays and purples. At Petaluma we recalled that the town was the prototype of Rosewater in Mrs. Atherton's "Ancestors"-the home of her very unconventional heroine who, naturally enough, owned a poultry ranch, the poultry industry being the outstanding occupation of the inhabitants.

The rain had ceased by the time we reached Santa Rosa, where we paused for lunch. Here we branched from the main highway, coursing through a lovely green valley to Forestville, where we entered the wooded hill range. We covered several miles of easy mountain road before reaching Guerneville, winding through groves of redwood and many other varieties of conifers and deciduous trees. At Guerneville we dropped down into the Russian River Valley, famous as a summer playground for San Francisco. We crossed the river over a high, spider-web bridge which afforded a vantage point for extensive views up and down the wooded valley. The emerald-green river lay far beneath us in deep, still reaches, for there is little fall to the valley here. Beyond the river we began the ascent of a long, winding grade over the second range. The road climbed through a dense forest and there were many sharp turns and steep pitches, somewhat the worse for the lately fallen showers, but the magnificent panoramas that occasionally burst on our vision as we continued the ascent made the effort well worth while. The valley was diversified with well-groomed fruit ranches and scattered grain fields; groups of oaks with velvety glades beneath, straggled over the rounded foothills, all combining to make a scene of wonderful sylvan charm. As we approached Cazadero we had an enchanting view of the deep valley and the village far below. But distance lent enchantment to the view of Cazadero, for we found it a rather mean-looking little place-a station for the motor busses that run over this road, its principal sign of life being the huge repair shops.

Beyond Cazadero there was still more climbing through the "forest primeval," whose increasing greenness and luxuriance called forth more than one exclamation of delight. The madrona, horse-chestnut, dogwood and locust were in full bloom and huge ferns grew riotously everywhere underneath the trees. The road was wet and dangerous in places, making our progress slow, but at last we came out on the clifflike headland above Fort Ross and the ocean, silver-white in the declining sun, flashed into view. Far beneath, directly on the shore, we could see the little hamlet, the object of our pilgrimage, nestling among the green hillocks. A very steep, narrow road, wet from the recent rain, plunged down the almost precipitous bank and we narrowly escaped disastrous collision with a tree from a vicious "skid" in the descent, which has several pitches of twenty-five per cent.


The Scarlet Pimpernel epub free