The door was flung open from within, I could see the sparkle and leap of a fine big grate fire. The Captain stood in the doorway, a broad smile on his face; my hostess smiled another welcome behind him; the General roared still another from somewhere behind her.
Now I had never met the Captain. He held out both hands in greeting. One of those hands was for me to shake. The other held a huge glass of hot scotch. The hot scotch was in the right hand!
THE PEOPLE AND THE PLACE
They warmed me through, and then another old soldier named Redmond took me up to show me where I lived. We clambered up narrow boxed stairs that turned three ways; we walked down a narrow passage; turned to the right; walked down another narrow passage, climbed three steps to open a door; promptly climbed three steps down again; crossed a screened-in bridge to another wing; ducked through a passageway, and so arrived. The ranch house was like that. Parts of it were built out on stilts. Five or six big cottonwood trees grew right up through the verandahs, and spread out over the roof of the house. There are all sorts of places where you hang coats, or stack guns, or store shells, or find unexpected books; passageways leading to outdoor upstairs screened porches, cubby holes and the like. And whenever you imagine the house must be quite full of guests, they can always discover to you yet another bedroom. It may, at the last, be a very tiny bedroom, with space enough only for a single bed and not much else; and you may get to it only by way of out of doors; and it may be already fairly well occupied by wooden decoys and shotgun shells, but there it is, guests and guests after you thought the house must be full.
Belonging and appertaining unto the house were several fixtures. One of these was old Charley, the Chinese cook. He had been there twenty-five years. In that time he had learned perfect English, acquired our kind of a sense of humour, come to a complete theoretical understanding of how to run a ranch and all the people on it, and taught Pollymckittrick what she knew.
Pollymckittrick was the bereaved widow of the noble pair of yellow and green parrots Noah selected for his ark. At least I think she was that old. She was certainly very wise in both Oriental and Occidental wisdom. Her chief accomplishments, other than those customary to parrots, were the ability to spell, and to sing English songs. “After the Ball” and “Daisy Bell” were her favourites, rendered with occasional jungle variations. She considered Charley her only real friend, though she tolerated some others. Pollymckittrick was a product of artificial civilization. No call of the wild in hers! She preferred her cage, gilded or otherwise. Each afternoon the cage was placed out on the lawn so Pollymckittrick could have her sun bath. One day a big redtail hawk sailed by. Pollymckittrick fell backward off her perch, flat on her back. The sorrowing family gathered to observe this extraordinary case of heart failure. After an interval Pollymckittrick unfilmed one yellow eye.