Chapter V. Enter the Kaiser

The Winnebagos streamed out after her, and in the moonlight they could see her running around the side of the house, brandishing the umbrella at a large white goat which was prancing before her on his hind legs. Sahwah picked up a good-sized stone from the driveway and rushed to Nyoda's side, ready to hurl it at the creature, under the impression that Nyoda was on the verge of being killed, but at that instant Nyoda suddenly opened the umbrella and the rampant Capricorn dropped to all fours and fled hastily in the direction of the stable.

Nyoda, flushed and laughing, returned to the girls, who were picking up the broken pieces of the white wooden trellis which had supported the rose vine over the front door. "Is there anything left?" she inquired, ruefully regarding the heap of kindling wood to which the slender laths had been reduced by the battering ram force of the Kaiser's onslaught.

"What was it?" asked Migwan, peering fearfully into the shadows behind the house. Migwan had not caught a clear glimpse of the creature and was still uncertain whether the house had been bombed or a wild elephant had broken loose.

"That," announced Nyoda in a tone both humorous and tragic, and flinging out her hands in a helpless gesture, "is Bill the Kaiser."

"What is he, a rhinocerous?" asked Migwan.

"Would that he were!" exclaimed Nyoda fervently. "A rhinocerous, a wild rhinocerous, with an ivory toothpick on his nose, would be a simple problem compared to Kaiser Bill. No, my dears, Kaiser Bill is a goat, a William goat, with the disposition of a crab, the soul of a monkey and the constitution of a battle tank. We named him Kaiser Bill for reasons too numerous to mention. His diet is varied and fearful, and his motto, like Lord Nelson's, is 'a little more grape.' He ate the whole grape vine, roots, tendrils and all, and then he ate the grape arbor for good measure. He has also consumed two hammocks, a tennis racket and the tar paper roof of the auto shed. He is fond of launching offensives, and his favorite method of warfare is a sudden attack from the rear. He is bomb proof, bullet proof and gas proof, and the only thing in the universe he is afraid of is an open umbrella. Not a few worthy members of this stately community have gained the impression that I am not quite right mentally, because I never go abroad in the street without an umbrella, never knowing at what moment that goat is going to escape from the confines of the stable yard, follow my trail, and come charging down upon me.

"One day I was sure he was out, and was walking along the street carrying my umbrella open, ready for instant emergency, when I met Mr. Carrington, the frigid rector of St. John's, the church to which all the leading families in Oakwood belong. It was a perfect day, not a cloud in the sky, nor was the sun so hot that protection from it was necessary. Mr. Carrington asked, 'Why the umbrella?' and I replied, 'Oh, I always carry that, because I'm afraid I might meet the Kaiser!' Whereupon he looked at me severely and walked off abruptly, and it didn't occur to me until later that he didn't know who the Kaiser was, and how absolutely idiotic my answer must have sounded."

"Oh, Nyoda, how screamingly funny!" cried the Winnebagos, laughing until they cried.

"But why do you keep the goat if he is such a nuisance?" asked Gladys wonderingly.

"I can't help myself," replied Nyoda with another tragic gesture. "I inherited him along with the house, and like the crown jewels, while I am to have full enjoyment of possession during lifetime, I can't dispose of him."

"How queer!" said Sahwah. "I never heard of a will like that! What a strange man your uncle must have been!"

"Oh, Uncle Jasper had nothing whatever to do with it," replied Nyoda. "He never even mentioned the Kaiser in his will."

"Then why can't you get rid of him?" asked Sahwah, mystified.

"Because it would break old Hercules' heart," answered Nyoda. "Hercules was Uncle Jasper's coachman all his life and grew old and white-haired in his service. When Uncle Jasper died he provided in his will that Hercules was to be retired on full wages and to continue living in the room over the stable that had been his home for fifty years. Hercules owned this goat, which he had brought up 'by hand,' and it was the delight of his heart. He begged me with tears in his eyes to let him keep it, so what could I do but give them both my blessing and submit meekly to the outrages of the beast? My poor rose vine!" she finished ruefully, looking at the torn twigs and branches which lay on the ground in the ruins of the trellis.

Then she suddenly threw back her head and laughed loud and long. "I was born under the sign of Capricornus, the Goat," she said, overcome with amusement. "It's sheer fatality that I should be tied up to the Kaiser. Who shall dispute the will of the gods?

"Come, Veronica, give us some music on the violin before we go to bed."

They returned to the long parlor where the mellow candle light shone softly on the harp and on an old-fashioned picture which hung above it. It was an oil painting, a portrait of a young girl in a short-waisted white satin dress, clasping in her hands a red rose. The face was small and vivacious, and the bright brown eyes seemed to look straight into the eyes of the girls as they stood before the picture.

"Who is the girl in the picture, Nyoda?" asked Sahwah, whose eyes had been drawn irresistibly to the portrait ever since she had been in the room.

"That is the portrait of Elizabeth Carver," replied Nyoda. "She was the daughter of Alexander Carver, the man who built this house. I was named after her. That harp was hers, likewise the bed in which you are going to sleep, Sahwah. She was a young girl at the time of the Revolution, and her father and both her brothers fought in the war, as well as the man she was to marry. There is a story about her in Uncle Jasper's history of the Carver family, how she saved her lover from the Indians. This valley was the scene of many skirmishes between the Colonial troops and the Indians, who had taken sides with the British. He had come to pay her a visit when his horse was shot under him by an Iroquois scout, and, stunned by the fall, he lay motionless on the ground, when a whole band of Iroquois, returning from the massacre of Wyoming, poured over the hilltop directly above them. Elizabeth took one look at the approaching Indians and then she lifted her Paul on to her own horse and galloped away to safety with the whole pack whooping at her heels. That is the tale of Elizabeth Carver, my namesake."

"Oh, Nyoda, how splendid!" cried Sahwah, with sparkling eyes. "Oh, dear, why can't things like that happen now? Life in America is so tame and uneventful, compared to what it used to be in the early days." And she fell to musing discontentedly upon the vast advantage of frontier life over her own humdrum, modern existence.

Then Veronica began to play on her violin, and Sahwah's discontented thoughts took wing, and she went floating out on a magic sea of music, and sat with closed eyes drinking in those wild, seraphic melodies that flowed from Veronica's enchanted bow until it seemed as if it could be no mere violin making that music, it was the Angel Israel, playing on his own heart strings. As Sahwah sat and listened there suddenly came over her a great feeling of sadness, and unrest, a sense of the vastness and seriousness of life, and she felt desperately unhappy. She had never felt so before. All her life she had been happy-go-lucky, and scatterbrained, and life had stretched out before her as one vast picnic, without a single solemn note in it. And now, while she listened to Veronica's playing she was suddenly plunged into the depths of world sorrow! She was so sad she didn't know what to do, tears gathered in her eyes and stole down her cheeks; she didn't know what she was sad about, but she was so sorrowful that her heart was breaking!

The sound of applause brought her to herself with a start. Veronica had stopped playing, and the girls were expressing their enraptured appreciation. Sahwah's sadness left her and she applauded wildly, then sighed regretfully when Veronica put the violin back into its case and announced it was time to go to bed.

After they had gone upstairs and were preparing to retire, Hinpoha suddenly exclaimed in a dismayed tone: "My locket! It's gone!"

"Are you sure you didn't leave it at home?" asked Nyoda.

"I know I wore it," replied Hinpoha, "I remember having it on in the train. My hair caught in it and I had to take it off to get it loose. Then I put it on again, and I never thought of it since."

"Was it the one your mother gave you, with her picture in?" asked Migwan, sympathetically.

"No," replied Hinpoha. "It was the Roman gold one Aunt Phoebe gave me for Christmas last year and I had Sahwah's picture in it, that little head she had taken when she graduated."

Search was made through all of Hinpoha's belongings, in the hope that it might have dropped into some of her numerous frills, but it could not be found.

"I suppose I lost it in the scramble when we got out of the train," Hinpoha sighed regretfully, "and that's the end of it. Oh, dear, will I ever learn not to be so careless with my things?" And thoroughly impatient with herself, Hinpoha marched off to bed.