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.”