But if perchance the Captain and I wished to get up before anybody else could be hired to get up, the Dingbat could be so loaded as to give down an automatic breakfast. The evening before the maid charged the affair as usual, and at the last popped four eggs into the glass dome. After the mysterious alchemical perturbations had ceased, we fished out those eggs soft boiled to the second! One day the maid mistook the gasoline bottle for the alcohol bottle. That is a sad tale having to do with running flames, and burned table pieces, not to speak of a melted-down connection or so on the Dingbat. We did not know what was the matter; and our attitude was not so much that of alarm, as of grief and indignation that our good old tried and trained Dingbat should in his old age cut up any such didoes. Especially as there were new guests present.
After breakfast we wandered out on the verandah. Nobody seemed to be in any hurry to start anything. The hostess made remarks to Pollymckittrick; the General read a newspaper; the Captain sauntered about enjoying the sun. After fifteen minutes, as though the notion had just occurred, somebody suggested that we go shooting.
“How about it?” the Captain asked me.
“Surely,” I agreed, and added with some surprise out of my other experience, “Isn’t it a little late?”
But the Captain misunderstood me.
“I don’t mean blind shooting,” said he, “just ram around.”
He seized a megaphone and bellowed through it at the stables.
“Better get on your war paint,” he suggested to me.
I changed hastily into my shooting clothes, and returned to the verandah. After some few moments the Captain joined me. After some few moments more a tremendous rattling came from the stable. A fine bay team swung into the driveway, rounded the circle, and halted. It drew the source of the tremendous rattling.
Thus I became acquainted with the Liver Invigorator. The Invigorator was a buckboard high, wide, and long. It had one wide seat. Aft of that seat was a cage with bars, in which old Ben rode. Astern was a deep box wherein one carried rubber boots, shells, decoys, lunch, game, and the like. The Invigorator was very old, very noisy, and very able. With it we drove cheerfully anywhere we pleased—over plowed land, irrigation checks, through brush thick enough to lift our wheels right off the ground, and down into and out of water ditches so steep that we alternately stood the affair on its head and its tail, and so deep that we had to hold all our belongings in our arms, while old Ben stuck his nose out the top bars of his cage for a breath of air. It could not be tipped over; at least we never upset it. To offset these virtues it rattled like a runaway milk wagon; and it certainly hit the high spots and hit them hard. Nevertheless, in a long and strenuous sporting career the Invigorator became endeared through association to many friends. When the Captain proposed a new vehicle with easier springs and less noise, a wail of protest arose from many and distant places. The Invigorator still fulfills its function.