“That,” observed the Captain with conviction, “is what you might call ducks.”
By now it was the middle of the afternoon. We had not thought of lunch. At the ranch lunch was either a major or a minor consideration; there was no middle ground. If possible, we ate largely of many most delicious things. If, on the other hand, we happened to be out somewhere at noon, we cheerfully omitted lunch. So, when we returned to the ranch, the Captain, after glancing at his watch and remarking that it was rather late to eat, proposed that we try out two other ponies with the polo mallets.
This we proceeded to do. After an hour’s pleasant exercise on the flat in the “Enclosure,” we jogged contentedly back into the corral.
Around the corner of the barn sailed a distracted and utterly stampeded hen. After her, yapping eagerly, came five dachshunds.
Pause and consider the various elements of outrage the situation presented. (A) Dachshunds are, as before quoted, a bunch of useless, bandylegged, snip-nosed, waggle-eared——, anyway, and represent an amiable good-natured weakness on the part of Mrs. Kitty. (B) Dachshunds in general are not supposed to run wild all over the place, but to remain in their perfectly good, sufficiently large, entirely comfortable corral, Pete and Pup excepted. (C) Chickens are valuable. (D) Confound ’em! This sort of a performance will be a bad example for Young Ben. First thing we’ll know, he’ll be chasing chickens, too!
The Captain dropped from his pony and joined the procession. The hen could run just a trifle faster than the dachshunds; and the dachshunds just a trifle faster than the Captain. I always claimed they circled the barn three times, in the order named. The Captain insists with dignity that I exaggerate three hundred per cent. At any rate, the hen finally blundered, the dachshunds fell upon her—and the Captain swung his polo mallet.
Five typical “sickening thuds” were heard; five dachshunds literally sailed through the air to fall in quivering heaps. The Captain, his anger cooled, came back, shaking his head.
“I wouldn’t have killed those dogs for anything in the world!” he muttered half to me, half to himself as we took the path to the house. “I don’t know what Mrs. Kitty will say to this! I certainly am sorry about it!” and so on, at length.
We turned the corner of the hedge. There in a row on the top step of the verandah sat five dachshunds, their mouths open in a happy smile, six inches of pink tongue hanging, their eyes half closed in good-humoured appreciation.
The Captain approached softly and looked them over with great care. He felt of their ribs. He stared up at me incredulously.
“Is this the same outfit?” he whispered.
“It is,” said I, “I know the blaze-face brute.”
“They played ’possum on you, Captain.”
The Captain arose and his wrath exploded.