5:1 The Big House


The Lanthier House at Milakale, which everyone on that part of the island simply called the Big House, lounged atop the ridge overlooking a verdant sloping valley running all the way down to the ocean. The dazzling white two-story main structure was surrounded with expansive lanais, or porches, that allowed residents and guests a shady sanctuary at any time of day. The feature that usually caught the attention of visitors, however, were the two windows of the attic level that shone like the eyes of a predatory cat—also at all times of day—or so it seemed.

What helped give the Big House carry off its impression of a jungle feline in repose was the single-story wing of the servant areas that the house seemed to curl along side of it. It wasn’t too much of a stretch to imagine the whole structure leaping into action lest unwary prey wandered too close without a proper invitation.

Anias Lanthier, the matron of Milakale, made it her business to rise early enough to watch the sun rise out of the Pacific Ocean to the east every morning. It made her feel less isolated to know that it had just kissed the brown hills of California and inspired the morning birds of the distant country of her girlhood. No matter how early she got out of bed, however, Anias always found her husband Alexander already taking his coffee on the lanai.

“Good morning dear,” she said, pulling up one of the wicker chairs beside him to watch the sunrise. “Are you well this morning?”

“Couldn’t be better if I was rolled in butter,” Alexander stated as a plain fact. “I thought I might take Lucifer out for a ride down to the beach this morning. It’ll be good for us both to get some exercise.”

“Do be careful, darling,” she entreated. “I don’t like how spirited that animal still is. I do wish you had named it something else.”

“Well, my dear,” Alexander laughed, “that is exactly why I love that horse. He keeps me on my toes! It makes me feel young again.”

Anias didn’t grace her husband’s willful injudiciousness with further comment, opting instead to fully take in the dazzling show put on by the dawning sun.

“I almost forgot,” Alexander interrupted his wife’s reverie. “There is a wire from Wells Fargo in California. We are to have visitors.”

“Visitors?” Anias turned her attention from the solar display. “More of your politicians drawn like fruit flies by the talk of annexation?”

“Not this time,” Alexander laughed, knowing how tired his wife had become of hearing about all the wonderful things the United States was itching to bring to the sovereign island nation. “I think you will be delighted by this guest! The Good Reverend Fox has finally answered our invitation. He and a young charge are steaming out of San Francisco as we speak.”

“Oh, Alexander!” Anias jumped up and embraced her husband. “That is glorious news! I shall go ready some guest rooms now! Tell me, who is traveling with him?”

“A young girl,” Alexander grinned. “The wire mentions the Reverend is coming out with his daughter.”

“His daughter?” Anias practically choked. “Well now, this will be an interesting visit!”

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