The little lady of the big house (chapter 2) by jack london


When Forrest went through the French windows from his sleeping-porch,
he crossed, first, a comfortable dressing room, window-divaned, many-
lockered, with a generous fireplace, out of which opened a bathroom;
and, second, a long office room, wherein was all the paraphernalia of
business — desks, dictaphones, filing cabinets, book cases, magazine
files, and drawer-pigeonholes that tiered to the low, beamed ceiling.

Midway in the office room, he pressed a button and a series of book-
freightened shelves swung on a pivot, revealing a tiny spiral stairway
of steel, which he descended with care that his spurs might not catch,
the bookshelves swinging into place behind him.

At the foot of the stairway, a press on another button pivoted more
shelves of books and gave him entrance into a long low room shelved
with books from floor to ceiling. He went directly to a case, directly
to a shelf, and unerringly laid his hand on the book he sought. A
minute he ran the pages, found the passage he was after, nodded his
head to himself in vindication, and replaced the book.

A door gave way to a pergola of square concrete columns spanned with
redwood logs and interlaced with smaller trunks of redwood, all rough
and crinkled velvet with the ruddy purple of the bark.

It was evident, since he had to skirt several hundred feet of concrete
walls of wandering house, that he had not taken the short way out.
Under wide-spreading ancient oaks, where the long hitching-rails,
bark-chewed, and the hoof-beaten gravel showed the stamping place of
many horses, he found a pale-golden, almost tan-golden, sorrel mare.
Her well-groomed spring coat was alive and flaming in the morning sun
that slanted straight under the edge of the roof of trees. She was
herself alive and flaming. She was built like a stallion, and down her
backbone ran a narrow dark strip of hair that advertised an ancestry
of many range mustangs.

"How's the Man-Eater this morning?" he queried, as he unsnapped the
tie-rope from her throat.

She laid back the tiniest ears that ever a horse possessed — ears that
told of some thoroughbred's wild loves with wild mares among the
hills — and snapped at Forrest with wicked teeth and wicked-gleaming

She sidled and attempted to rear as he swung into the saddle, and,
sidling and attempting to rear, she went off down the graveled road.
And rear she would have, had it not been for the martingale that held
her head down and that, as well, saved the rider's nose from her
angry-tossing head.

So used was he to the mare, that he was scarcely aware of her antics.
Automatically, with slightest touch of rein against arched neck, or
with tickle of spur or press of knee, he kept the mare to the way he
willed. Once, as she whirled and danced, he caught a glimpse of the
Big House. Big it was in all seeming, and yet, such was the vagrant
nature of it, it was not so big as it seemed. Eight hundred feet
across the front face, it stretched. But much of this eight hundred
feet was composed of mere corridors, concrete-walled, tile-roofed,
that connected and assembled the various parts of the building. There
were patios and pergolas in proportion, and all the walls, with their
many right-angled juts and recessions, arose out of a bed of greenery
and bloom.

Spanish in character, the architecture of the Big House was not of the
California-Spanish type which had been introduced by way of Mexico a
hundred years before, and which had been modified by modern architects