But over against this shed stood a big barn of the Eastern type. Here were the private equipments.
The Captain is a horseman. He breeds polo ponies after a formula of his own; and so successfully that many of them cross the Atlantic. On the ranch are always several hundred head of beautiful animals; and of these the best are kept up for the use of the Captain and his friends. We looked at them in their clean, commodious stalls; we inspected the harness and saddle room, glistening and satiny with polished metal and well-oiled leather; we examined the half dozen or so of vehicles of all descriptions. The hostess told with relish of her one attempt to be stylish.
“We had such beautiful horses,” said she, “that I thought we ought to have something to go with them, so I sent up to the city for my brougham. It made a very neat turnout; and Tom was as proud of it as I was, but when it came to a question of proper garb for Tom I ran up against a deadlock. Tom refused point blank to wear a livery or anything approaching a livery. He was perfectly respectful about it; but he refused. Well, I drove around all that winter, when the weather was bad, in a well-appointed brougham drawn by a good team in a proper harness; and on the box sat a lean-faced cow puncher in sombrero, red handkerchief, and blue jeans!”
Tom led forth the horses one after the other—Kingmaker, the Fiddler, Pittapat, and the others. We spent a delightful two hours. The sun dropped; the shadows lengthened. From the fields the men began to come in. They drove the wagons and hay ricks into the spacious enclosure, and set leisurely about the task of caring for their animals. Chinese and Japanese drifted from the orchards, and began to manipulate the grindstone on their pruning knives. Presently a cowboy jogged in, his spurs and bit jingling. From the cook house a bell began to clang.
We turned back to the house. Before going in I faced the west. The sky had turned a light green full of lucence. The minor sounds of the ranch near by seemed to be surrounded by a sea of silence outside. Single sounds came very clearly across it. And behind everything, after a few moments, I made out a queer, monotonous background of half-croaking calling. For some time this puzzled me. Then at last my groping recollection came to my assistance. I was hearing the calling of myriads of snow geese.
THE EARLY BIRD
I was awakened rather early by Redmond, who silently entered the room, lit a kerosene stove, closed the windows, and departed. As I was now beneath two blankets and an eiderdown quilt, and my nose was cold, I was duly grateful. Mistaking the rite for a signal to arise, I did so; and shortly descended. The three fireplaces were crackling away merrily, but they had done little to mitigate the atmosphere as yet. Maids were dusting and sweeping. The table was not yet set. Inquiry telling that breakfast was more than an hour later, I took a gun from the rack, pocketed the only five shells in sight, and departed to see what I could see.