CAT AND DOG;
Memoirs of Puss and the Captain.
A Story founded on Fact.
By the Author of
"The Doll and Her Friends," "Letters from Madras," "Historical Acting Charades," Etc.
With Illustrations by Harrison Weir.
London: Griffith and Farran, Late Grant and Griffith, Successors to Newbery and Harris, Corner of St. Paul's Churchyard. MDCCCLVIII.
The Author begs to assure her young readers that the principal circumstances on which this little story is founded are true. The friendship between the two animals, the dog's journey home, and return in company with his friend, are facts which occurred within her own knowledge.
LONDON: SAVILL AND EDWARDS, PRINTERS, CHANDOS STREET.
CAT AND DOG;
PUSS AND THE CAPTAIN.
I am going to relate the history of a pleasant and prosperous life; for though a few misfortunes may have befallen me, my pleasures have far exceeded them, and especially I have been treated with such constant cordiality and kindness as would not fail to ensure the happiness of man or beast. But though I have no reason to complain of my destiny, it is a remarkable fact, that my principal happiness has been produced by conforming myself to unfavourable circumstances, and reconciling myself to an unnatural fate.
Nature herself did well by me. I am a fine setter, of a size that a Newfoundland dog could not despise, and a beauty that a Blenheim spaniel might envy. With a white and brown curly coat, drooping ears, bushy tail, a delicate pink nose, and good-natured brown eyes, active, strong, honest, gentle, and obedient, I have always felt a conscious pride and pleasure in being a thoroughly well-bred dog.
My condition in life was peculiarly comfortable. I was brought up in an old manor-house inhabited by a gentleman and his daughter, with several respectable and good-natured servants. My education was conducted with care, and from my earliest youth I had the advantage of an introduction into good society. I was not, indeed, allowed to come much into the drawing-room, as my master said I was too large for a drawing-room dog; but I had the range of the lower part of the house, and constant admittance to his study, where I was welcome to share his fireside while he read the newspapers or received visitors. I took great interest in his friends; and by means of listening to their conversation, watching them from under my eyelids while they thought I was asleep, and smelling them carefully, I could form a sufficiently just estimate of their characters to regulate my own conduct towards them. Though a polite dog both by birth and breeding, I was too honest and independent to show the same respect and cordiality towards those whom I liked and those whom I despised; and though very grateful for the smallest favours from persons I esteemed, no flattery, caresses, or benefactions could induce me to strike up an intimacy with one who did not please me. If I had been able to speak, I should have expressed my opinions without ceremony; and it often surprised me that my master, who could say what he pleased, did not quarrel with people, and tell them all their faults openly. I thought, if I had been he, I would have had many a fight with intruders, to whom he was not only civil himself, but compelled me to be so too. I have often observed that it appears proper for human beings to observe a kind of respect even towards persons they dislike; a line of conduct which brutes cannot understand.
However, I was not without my own methods of showing my sentiments. If I felt indifferent or contemptuous towards a person entering the room, I merely opened one eye and yawned at him. If he attempted any compliments, calling me "Good Captain," "Fine Dog," and trying to pat me, I shook off his hand, and rising from my rug, turned once round, and curling my tail under me, sank down again to my repose without taking any further notice of him. But occasionally my master admitted visitors whom I considered as such highly improper acquaintances for him, that I could scarcely restrain my indignation. I knew I must not bite them, though, in my own opinion, it would have been by far the best thing to do; I did not dare so much as to bark at them, for my master objected even to that expression of feeling: but I could not resist receiving them with low growls; during their visit I never took my eyes off them for a moment, and I made a point of following them to the door, and seeing them safe off the premises. Others, on the contrary, I regarded with the highest confidence and esteem. Their visits gave almost as much pleasure to me as to my master, and I took pains to show my friendship by every means in my power; leaving the fireside to meet them, wagging my tail, shaking a paw with them the moment I was asked, and sitting with my nose resting on their lap.
But I took no unwelcome liberties; for I was gifted with a particular power of discriminating between those who really liked me, and those who only tolerated me out of politeness. Upon the latter I never willingly intruded, though I have been sometimes obliged to submit to a hypocritical pat bestowed on me for the sake of my young mistress; but a real friend of dogs I recognised at a glance, whether lady or gentleman, so that I could safely place my paw in the whitest hand, or rest my head against the gayest dress, without fear of a repulse.
The person I loved best in the world was my master; or rather, I should say, he was the person for whom I had the highest respect. My love was bestowed in at least an equal degree upon my young mistress, his daughter Lily, in whose every action I took a deep interest.
She was a graceful, gentle little creature, whom I could have knocked down and trampled upon in a minute; but though my strength was so superior to hers, there was no one whom I was so ready to obey. A word or look from Lily managed me completely; and her gentle warning of "Oh, Captain," has often recalled me to good manners when I was on the point of breaking out into fury against some obnoxious person. Willing subject as I was, I yet looked upon myself in some manner as her guardian and protector, and it would have fared ill with man or beast who had attempted to molest her.
As I mentioned before, I was not allowed to come much into the drawing-room; but Lily found many opportunities of noticing me. I always sat at the foot of the stairs to watch for her as she came down to the breakfast-room, when she used to pat my head and say, "How do you do, good Captain? Nice dog," as she passed. Then I wagged my tail, and was very happy. I think I should have moped half the day if I had missed Lily's morning greeting. After breakfast she came into the garden, and brought me pieces of toast, and gave me lessons in what she considered clever ways of eating. I should have preferred snapping at her gifts and bolting them down my own throat in my own way; but, to please Lily, I learned to sit patiently watching the most tempting buttered crust on the ground under my nose, when she said, "Trust, Captain!" never dreaming of touching it till she gave the word of command, "Now it is paid for;" when I ate it in a genteel and deliberate manner. Having achieved such a conquest over myself, I thought my education was complete; but Lily had further refinements in store. She made me hold the piece of toast on my very nose while she counted ten, and at the word ten I was to toss it up in the air, and catch it in my mouth as it came down. I was a good while learning this trick, for I did not at all see the use of it. I could smell the bread distinctly as it lay on my nose, and why I should not eat it at once I never could understand. I have often peeped in at the dining-room window to see if my master and mistress ate their food in the same manner; but though I have sometimes seen them perform my first feat of sitting quietly before their plates, I never once saw them put their meat on their noses and catch it. However, it was Lily's pleasure, and that was enough for me.
She also taught me to shut the door at her command. This was rather a noisy performance, as I could only succeed by running against the door with my whole weight; but it gave Lily so much satisfaction, that she used to open the door a dozen times a day, on purpose for me to bang it.
Another favourite amusement of hers was making me look at myself in the glass. I grew used to this before long; but the first time that she set a mirror before me on the ground, I confess that I was a good deal astonished and puzzled. At the first glance, I took the dog in the glass for an enemy and rival, intruding upon my dominions, so I naturally prepared for a furious attack upon him. He appeared equally ready, and I perceived that he was quite my match. But when, after a great deal of barking and violence, nobody was hurt, I fancied that the looking-glass was the barrier which prevented our coming to close quarters, and that my adversary had entrenched himself behind it in the most cowardly manner. Determined that he should not profit by his baseness, I cleverly walked round behind the glass, intending to seize him and give him a thorough shaking; but there I found nothing! I dashed to the front once more; there he stood as fierce as ever. Again behind his battlements—nobody! till after repeated trials, I began to have a glimmering of the state of the case; and feeling rather ashamed of having been so taken in, I declined further contest, and lay down quietly before the mirror to contemplate my own image, and reflect upon my own reflection.
Lily took great pains with me; but after all, hers were but minor accomplishments, and I was not allowed to devote my whole attention to mere tricks or amusements. I was not born to be a lap-dog, and it was necessary that I should be educated for the more important business of life. Under my master's careful training, my natural talents were developed, and my defects subdued, till I was pronounced by the best judges to be the cleverest setter in the country. My master himself was a capital sportsman, and I was as proud of him as he was of me. When I had become sufficiently perfect to be his companion, we used to range together untired "over hill, over dale, through bush, through brier," he doing his part and I mine, and bringing home between us such quantities of game as no one else could boast. This was my real business, but it was no less my pleasure. I entered into it thoroughly. To point at a bird immovably till my master's never-failing shot gave the signal for my running to fetch the foolish thing and lay it at his feet, was to my mind the greatest enjoyment and the first object in life. And if anybody should be inclined to despise me on that account, I would beg them to recollect that it was the work given me to do, and I did it well. Can everybody say as much? The causes or the consequences of it, I was not capable of understanding. As to how the birds liked it, that never entered my head. I thought birds were meant to be shot, and I never supposed there was any other use in them.
The only thing that distressed me in our shooting excursions was, that my master would sometimes allow very indifferent sportsmen to accompany us. I whined, grumbled, and remonstrated with him to the best of my power when I heard him give an invitation to some awkward booby who scarcely knew how to hold his gun, but it was all in vain; my master's only fault was his not consulting my judgment sufficiently in the choice of his acquaintances, and many a bad day's sport we had in consequence.
Once my patience was tired beyond what any clever dog could be expected to bear. A young gentleman had arrived at our house whom my master and mistress treated much better than I thought he deserved. At the first glance I penetrated into his state of mind, and should have liked to hear my master growl, and my mistress bark at him; instead of which they said they were glad to see him, and hoped he had had a pleasant journey.
He immediately began a long string of complaints, blaming everything he mentioned. He was cold; there never was such weather for the time of year; he was tired; the roads were bad, the country dull, he had been obliged to come the last twenty miles cramped up inside a coach. Such a shame that the railroad did not go the whole way! He was very glad to get to his journey's end, but it seemed to be more for the sake of his own comfort than for the pleasure of seeing his friends. His troubles had not hurt his appetite, as I plainly perceived, for I peeped into the room several times during dinner to watch him, and listen to his conversation. It was all in the same style, some fault to be found with everything. Even Lily could not put him in good humour, though she seemed to be trying to talk about everything likely to please him. After the failure of various attempts to find a fortunate topic, she asked if he had had much shooting this season.
"Plenty of it," he answered; "only so bad. My brother's dogs are wretched. There is no doing any thing with such brutes."
Lily coloured a little, and said that she thought Rodolph's dogs beautiful, and that it was very unlike him to have any thing wretched belonging to him.
"Oh," replied the other, "he is the greenest fellow in the world. He is always satisfied. I assure you his dogs are good for nothing. I did not bring down a single bird any time I went out with them."
"Well," said my master, "I hope we shall be able to make amends for that misfortune. To-morrow you shall go out with the best dog in the country."
I whined, for I knew he meant me; and I did not like the idea of a sportsman who began by finding fault with his dogs. I suspected that the dogs were not to blame. But nobody listened to me.
Next day, while Lily and I were playing in the garden, my master appeared at the usual time in his shooting-jacket.
"Where is Craven?" he inquired of Lily; "I told him to be ready."
"He is dressing again," answered she, laughing; "his boots had done something wrong, or his waistcoat was naughty; I forget which."
"Pshaw!" exclaimed my master; "he will waste half the day with his nonsense. I cannot wait for him. Tell him I am gone on, and he must follow with John. Go back, Captain," continued he, for I was bounding after him in hopes of escaping my threatened companion; "go back. You must do your best this morning, for I suspect you will know more about the matter than your commander."
Most reluctantly I obeyed, and stayed behind, looking wistfully after him as he strode away. I consoled myself with Lily's praises, which I almost preferred to the biscuits she bestowed upon me in equal profusion. After various compliments, she took a graver tone. "Now, Captain," she said, "listen to me."
I sat upright, and looked her full in the face.
"You know you are the best of dogs."
I wagged my tail, for I certainly did know it. She told me so every day, and I believed every thing she said.
"Here is another biscuit for you: catch!"
I caught, and swallowed it at one gulp.
"Good boy. Now that is enough; and I have something to say to you. You are going out shooting with Craven. He is not his brother, but that cannot be helped. I hope he will be good-natured to you, but I am not sure. Now mind that you behave well, and set him a good example. Do your own work as well as you can, and don't growl and grumble at other people. And if you are angry, you must not bark, nor bite him, but take it patiently."
What more she might have added I do not know, for her harangue was interrupted by old John the groom, who was, like myself, waiting for the gentleman in question. John's wife had been Lily's nurse, and he himself taught her to ride and helped her to garden, and had a sort of partnership with me in taking care of her; so that there was a great friendship between us all three. He had been listening to our conversation, and now observed, while he pointed towards the house with a knowing jerk of his head, "There are those coming, Miss Lily, who need your advice as much as the poor animal; and I guess it wouldn't be of much more use."
The last words he said to himself, in an undertone, while Lily went forward to meet Craven, who now appeared in full costume. He was so hung about with extra shooting-pouches, belts, powder-flasks, and other things dangling from him in all directions, that I wondered he could move at all. Old John shook his head as he looked at him, and muttered, "Great cry and little wool."
Lily began to explain her father's absence; but Craven did not listen to what she said, he seemed intent upon making her admire his numerous contrivances. Lily said he had plenty of tools, and that he would be very clever if he did work to match, but that in her opinion such variety was rather puzzling.
"Of course, girls know nothing of field-sports," he answered; "I can't expect you to understand the merits of these things."
"Oh, no, to be sure," answered Lily, good-humouredly; "I dare say they are all very clever; only papa sometimes tells me that one wants but few tools if one knows one's work; but perhaps he only means girls' work. Very likely you are right about yours."
Old John now came forward very respectfully, but with a particular twinkle in his eye which I understood. Said he, "As you are encumbered with so many traps, master, maybe I had best take your gun. You can't carry every thing useful and not useful."
Craven handed him the gun without any objection, and we set off. From the moment that I saw him relinquish his gun, his real weapon, for the sake of all those unnecessary adjuncts, I gave up any lingering hope of him, and followed in very low spirits. Once in the fields, the prospect of rejoining my master a little revived me; but even in this I was disappointed: he had gone over the open country, while Craven preferred remaining in the plantations. Still, old John's company was a comfort to me, and when the first bird was descried, I made a capital set at it. Craven took back his gun; but while he was looking in the wrong pocket for the right shot, John brought down the partridge.
"A fine bird," said Craven. "If it had not been for this awkward button, I should have had him."
"You'll soon have another opportunity," said John; "suppose you get loaded first."
Craven loaded; but something else was wrong about his contrivances, and before he was ready, John had bagged the pheasant. At last Craven got a shot, and missed it. He said it was John's fault for standing in the way of his seeing me.
"Well, I shan't be in the way any longer," said John; "for I was to go back to my work if I was not wanted, after having shown you the plantations. So good morning, master, and good luck next time."
The next time, and the next, and the next, no better success. Bird after bird rose, and flew away before our noses, as if in sheer ridicule of such idle popping, till I felt myself degraded in the eyes of the very partridges. Half the morning we passed in this way, wasting time and temper, powder and shot; and the birds, as I well knew, despising us for missing them, till my patience was quite exhausted, and I longed to go home. Still, I remembered Lily's parting injunctions, and resolved to be game to the last myself, even if we were to have no other game that day. I also reflected that no one was born with a gun in his hand, and that Craven might not have had opportunity of acquiring dexterity; that there was a beginning to everything, and that it was the business of the more experienced to help the ignorant. So I continued to be as useful to him as I possibly could.
Suddenly, after a particularly provoking miss, Craven exclaimed: "It is all your fault, you stupid dog; you never turn the bird out where one expects it. If you knew your business, I could have bagged dozens."
Highly affronted, I now felt that I had borne enough, and that it was hopeless to attempt being of use to a creature as unjust and ungrateful as he was ignorant and conceited. I, therefore, turned round, and in a quiet but dignified and decided manner took my way towards home. Craven called, whistled, shouted, but I took no notice. I was too much disgusted to have anything more to do with him; and I never turned my head nor slackened my pace till I arrived at my own kennel, when I curled myself round in my straw, and brooded over my wrongs till I went to sleep.
I kept rather out of sight during the rest of the day, for more reasons than one. An inferior creature cannot at once rise superior to an affront, and clear it off his mind like a man; we are slaves to our impressions, and till they are forgotten we cannot help acting upon them; and I am afraid I rather took pleasure in nursing my wrath. Then I did not wish to see Craven; and perhaps I might feel a little ashamed of myself, and not quite sure what my master and mistress might think of my running away. But I happened to hear John chuckling over the affair, and saying that my master had been very much amused with the story; so I regained confidence enough next morning to present myself once more, though in rather a shy way, to Lily at the foot of the stairs.
"Oh, come in to breakfast, you capital dog," exclaimed she; so I followed her, delighted to find that I was in the same favour as ever. But, alas! how little did I foresee the misfortune that was coming upon me! I had better have stayed in my kennel and fancied the whole world affronted with me for a few days longer.
Craven and I met on the rug, my rug, as I considered it; for it was one of my principal pleasures to sit on that rug with my feet on the fender, warming my nose. I sometimes toasted myself all over, till my coat was so hot that Lily squeaked when she touched me. She would have barked, I suppose, if she had known how. Now Craven stood in my place, with one of his hind paws on my fender. He looked scornfully at me, and I returned his glance with one of equal contempt, though I longed to snap at his shining heel, and teach him sense and manners.
But Lily, who never was angry with any body, did not perceive how much we disliked each other, and exclaimed in her innocent way, "Craven, here is Captain come to make friends with you, and to beg pardon for deserting you yesterday. Shake a paw, Captain."
Shaking a paw with Craven was a thing I would not do; and my master, a good sportsman himself, entered into my feelings.
"The dog was thoroughly provoked by your bad shooting, Craven," said he, "and you will never make either him or me believe it was his fault. But try again. There is no necessity for you to be a sportsman; but if you choose to do a thing at all, you had better do it properly; and you may learn as well as any body else, if you will not fancy yourself perfect. We will all go out together to-day."
And so we all went out together on that fatal day. I did myself credit, and my master did me justice, and I was happy in my ignorance of coming events. Craven shot and missed, and shot and missed again; but my master's laugh stopped him whenever he was beginning to lay the blame on dog or gun.
"Bad workmen always find fault with their tools, Craven," said my master. "Take better aim."
John tried to teach him, but he would listen to no advice.
It is seldom that a person's fault or folly injures himself alone, and, alas for me! I was the victim of Craven's conceit and obstinacy. At his next fire I felt a pang that I never can forget. His ill-directed shot had entered my shoulder, and I sank down howling with agony. My companions instantly surrounded me, uttering exclamations of alarm, regret, and pity, Craven himself being the foremost and loudest. He never should forgive himself, he said; it was all his awkwardness and stupidity; he was never so sorry for any thing in his life.
He ran to a neighbouring cottage for a shutter, while my master and John bound up the wound. They then placed me carefully on the shutter, and carried me home, Craven reproaching himself and pitying me every time he opened his lips. I scarcely knew him for the same person who had been so conceited and supercilious half an hour before; and even my master, who was extremely angry with him, grew softened by his penitence.
They carried me two at a time, in turn; and when Craven was walking by my side, he stroked my head, saying, "Poor Captain, how I wish I could do any thing to relieve you! if you could but understand how grieved and ashamed I am, I think you would forgive me."
Though suffering greatly, I could not but be touched by his sorrow; and when I heard the kind tones of his voice, and saw tears standing in his eyes, my anger quite melted away, and I licked his hand to show that I bore no malice.
My accident confined me to the kennel for a considerable time, but every care and attention was paid me. My master and John doctored my wound, and Lily brought me my food every day with her own hands. As long as Craven remained in the house, he never failed to accompany her, repeating his regret and good-will towards me; and after he had left us I heard old John observe: "I always thought there was some good in Master Craven; and his brother is as fine a fellow as ever lived, and won't let it drop. The boy is quite changed now. Between Captain and Miss Lily, I reckon he has had a lesson he'll not forget."
In due time I recovered, and was as strong and handsome as ever; but, strange to say, I no longer felt like the same dog. My own sufferings had suggested some serious reflections as to whether being shot might not be as unpleasant to the birds as to me; and I really began quite to pity them. So far the change was for the better; but it did not stop there: not only was my love for field-sports extinguished, but it had given place to a timidity which neither threats nor caresses could overcome. I shuddered at the very sight of a gun, and no amount either of reward or punishment could induce me again to brave its effects. Under all other circumstances I was as courageous as before: I would have attacked a wild beast, or defended the house against a robber, without the slightest fear; but I could not stand fire; and the moment I saw a gun pointed, there was no help for it, I fairly turned tail and ran off.
"The poor beast is spoilt, sir," said John to my master. "It is cruel to force him, and he'll never be good for any thing again."
"It is of no use taking him out," replied my master; "but he is far from good for nothing. He has plenty of spirit still, and we must make a house-dog of him."
So I was appointed house-dog. At first I certainly felt the change of life very unpleasant; but I reflected that it was my own doing, though not exactly my own fault; and I determined to make the best of it, and adapt myself to my new employments. At the beginning of that summer, if any body had told me that I should be content to stay in the court and garden, sometimes even tethered to a tree on the lawn,—that my most adventurous amusement would he a quiet walk over the grounds, and my most exciting occupation the looking-out for suspicious characters,—I should have sneered, perhaps even growled at the prediction; but so it was, and before long I grew reconciled to my new station, and resolved to gain more credit as a guard than even as a sporting dog.
We were not much troubled with thieves, for we lived in a quiet country place, where we knew every body and every body knew us, and no one was likely to wish us any harm; but it did once happen that my vigilance was put to the proof.
There was a fair in our neighbourhood, attended by all the villages near. During the morning I amused myself by watching the people in their smart dresses passing our gate, laughing and talking merrily. I had many acquaintances among them, who greeted me with good-natured speeches, which I answered by polite wags of my tail.
John, and others of our servants, went to the fair, and seemed to enjoy themselves as much as any body. They returned home before dark, and all the respectable persons who had passed our gate in the morning re-passed it at an early hour in the evening, looking as if they had spent a pleasant day, but perfectly quiet and sober; and I was much pleased at seeing them so well behaved.
But among the crowd of passengers in the morning, I had noticed several men whose appearance I highly disapproved. Some of them scowled at me as they passed, and I felt sure they were bent upon no good; but one, the worst-looking of all, stopped, and whistled to me, holding out a piece of meat. I need scarcely say that I indignantly rejected his bribe—for such I knew it was—meant to entice me in some way or other to neglect my duty; so I growled and snarled, and watched him well as he passed on. No fear of my not knowing him again by sight or smell. Several of these ill-looking men returned intoxicated, to my great disgust; for I had a peculiar objection to persons in that condition, and never trusted a man who could degrade himself below my own level. I watched them all, every moment expecting the one who had tried to curry favour with me, for I had an instinctive assurance that I had not seen the last of him. Night drew on while I was still on the look-out, and yet he did not appear. The rest of the family went calmly to bed, taking no notice of my disquietude; but nothing could have induced me to curl myself round and shut my eyes. I was sure danger was near, and it was my part as a faithful guardian to be prepared for it. So I alternately paced cautiously round the court, or sat up in my kennel with my head out listening for every sound. By degrees the returning parties of revellers dwindled to now and then a solitary pedestrian; and the hum of voices gradually subsided, till all was silent, and the whole country seemed asleep. Still I watched on, with unabated vigilance, deep into the night. At last I thought I heard outside the wall a very cautious footstep, accompanied by an almost inaudible whisper. I pricked up my ears; the footstep came nearer, and a hand was upon the lock of the courtyard-gate. I sniffed the air; there was no mistake; I smelt the very man whom I expected. Others might be with him, but there was he. Without a moment's delay, I set up an alarum that might have wakened the whole village; at any rate, it woke our whole house. Down stairs came my master in his dressing-gown; down came old John, lantern in hand, and red nightcap on head. Lily peeped out of her bedroom window, with a shawl over her shoulders; and seeing her papa in the court, ran down to help him,—as if she could have been any help against robbers, poor little darling! The servants assembled in such strange attire, that they looked to me like a herd of animals who had got into each other's coats by mistake. But the maids had kept their own voices at any rate, for they screamed almost as loud as I barked. It was a proud moment for me; and the greater everybody's fright, and the more noise and confusion they made, the prouder I was. It was all my doing. It was I who had called them all in the middle of the night. Their confidence in me was such, that at the sound of my voice they had all left their beds, and assembled in the courtyard in their night-gowns. How clever and careful they must think me! And how clever and careful I thought myself! I danced round Lily, and bounded about in all directions, till I knocked down the sleepy stable-boy, and got into every body's way. I never was in such glee in my life. But my master and John were quiet enough, and they examined the gate, and the footsteps outside, and decided that there certainly had been an attempt to break into the house, but that the robbers had been frightened away by me.
"It has been a narrow escape for them, sir," said John; "for if they had succeeded in getting in, the dog would have pinned them."
"Captain has done his duty well," said my master, "and no one can call him useless any more."
"It is a good thing no one was hurt," added Lily; "but I am glad they were frightened. Perhaps the fright will cure them."
After this adventure I was treated with great respect. By night I watched the house, and by day I was Lily's constant companion. We were allowed to take long rambles together, as her father knew she was safe under my care. I learnt to carry her basket or parasol for her, and to sit faithfully guarding them while she scrambled up banks or through bushes, looking for flowers. I was also an excellent swimmer, and could fetch sticks which she had thrown to the very middle of the stream. I could not make out why she wanted the sticks, as she never took them home with her; but we were quite of one mind about fetching them out of the water. Often I accompanied her to the village, and lay at the cottage-doors while she paid visits to the people inside. Then the little children used to gather round me, and pat me, and pull my ears; and even if they pulled a little too hard, I scorned to complain, or hurt them in return; and when Lily came out, I was rewarded by her praise of me as the best and gentlest dog in the world.
At other times she used to establish herself to read or work under a tree on the lawn, while I lay at her feet, or sat upright by her side. I was careful not to interrupt her when she was busy, but she often left off reading to speak to me, and sometimes let me keep my front paw in hers as we sat together. These were happy days, and I should have liked them to last for ever. But this state of tranquillity was to be disturbed, and I am sorry to say by my own folly.
I had insensibly imbibed a notion, or rather a feeling, that I was Lily's only pet and favourite, and that nothing else had a right to attract her notice. Of course I allowed her to pay proper attention to human beings; I knew that I could not come into competition with them, and therefore I never was jealous of them; but a word or a look bestowed upon an inferior animal appeared to me an affront which proper self-respect required me to resent.
One day Lily appeared in the garden carrying a little white kitten in her arms. I should have liked to have it to worry, and as Lily was very good-natured, I thought she had brought it for that purpose; so I sat watching ready to snap at it the moment she should toss it at me. After a time, I began to think she ought not to tantalise me by keeping me waiting so long, and I tried to show my impatience by various signs that she could understand. But to my surprise she was not only insensible to my hints, but took upon herself to reprove me, saying, "No, Captain, that is not being a good dog; you must not want to hurt the poor little kitten. Go farther off."
If ever I was affronted in my life it was then. I turned round, and shaking my ears, sat down with my back to Lily and her disgusting kitten, and absolutely refused even to look round when she spoke to me.
This was the beginning of a period in my life to which I always recur with shame and regret. I continued in a state of unmitigated sulks. Even Lily could not appease me. If she came to see me by herself, indeed, or with only human beings in her train, I brightened up for the moment; but if she appeared with the kitten in her arms, my surliness was disgraceful. Nobody knows how I detested the kitten. I thought it a misfortune to the universe that that kitten should exist.
On thinking it over at this distance of time, I honestly confess that I had no right to be jealous; Lily remitted none of her kindness, and gave me every proof of much higher regard and esteem than she bestowed on the kitten. She fed me, patted me, took me out walking, and talked to me just as usual; and as soon as she perceived my objection to her new pet, she left off bringing it with her, and was careful to keep it out of my sight. But I saw it in spite of all her pains. It was incessantly intruding itself upon my notice, sometimes on the roof of the house, sometimes jumping from a window-ledge; now perched upon a paling, now climbing the pillars of the verandah; and always looking clean and white and pretty, with a bit of blue ribbon which Lily had tied round its neck, as if on purpose to provoke me. Even when I did not see it, I heard it mew; and when I did not hear it, I thought about it.
I was miserable. To be sure I had no right to expect Lily to like nobody but me, and I had nothing to complain of; every pleasure and comfort in life was mine. Indeed, I think a real grievance would have been rather pleasant to me. I should have liked an injustice. I was determined to sulk, and should have been glad to have something to sulk at. But no; people would persevere in being kind to me. I might be as ill-tempered as I pleased; nobody punished, or even scolded me; and whenever I chose to be in good humour, my friends were always ready to meet me half-way. Indeed, I never was quite sure whether they noticed my ill-temper or not. But I did not try to come round, though certainly sulking did not conduce to my comfort. I once heard my master remark, in reference to some disagreeable human being, that ill-tempered people made themselves more unhappy than they made others; so I suppose sulking does not always agree even with men; I know it does not with dogs. It was a wretched time.
I continued to brood over my imaginary grievances, little thinking how soon they would be exchanged for real troubles. I had been discontented while every enjoyment was at my command, and now I was to wish in vain for the happiness I had neglected. And yet, in the point which I considered most important, I had my own way. I one day thought that if I were never again to see Lily caressing that kitten, I should be quite happy. I never again saw Lily caressing the kitten, and from that day my real sorrows began.
There was a bustle in the house. Every thing seemed in confusion. Every body was doing something different from usual. Furniture and trunks were carried up and down stairs. My master's study was full of great chests; and he and Lily, instead of reading the books, spent all their time in hiding them in these chests. Next, my friend John came and nailed covers on the chests. After the first was nailed down, I jumped upon it, and sat watching John while he hammered the others; switching my tail, and winking my eyes at every stroke of his hammer, rather surprised at all that went on, but yet liking the bustle.
"Ah, poor old boy," said John, "I wonder how you'll take it."
"Take what?" thought I, and wondered too.
One day, John and another man went out with the horses, each riding on one and leading another. Thinking they were going to exercise them, I followed as I often did; but when we came to the end of the village John ordered me home, saying, "Good bye, Captain. Don't forget us, old fellow." I returned according to his command, but felt very much puzzled, as John had never before sent me home.
On arriving at the house, a waggon was standing at the door, piled up to a great height with chests and packages; and on the top of all was perched an ugly cur, barking as if he considered himself the master of everything. I was willing to make a civil acquaintance with him, but the little mongrel had the audacity to bark at me,—me in my own dominions! I did not think he was worth touching, besides which, I could not get at him; but I growled fiercely; and his master, who was loading the waggon, desired me to "get out of the way."
Thus rejected on all sides, I betook myself to the court, and rolled myself round in the straw of my own kennel, where nobody could affront me. There I remained till I heard Lily's sweet voice at a distance calling, "Captain, Captain!" I bounded forth once more at the sound, and met my pretty mistress in her walking dress, with the basket in her hand which I had so often carried. But she did not invite me to accompany her. "Poor Captain," said she, "I am come to bid you good bye. I am afraid you will miss us sadly; but I hope they will take good care of you. Good bye, best of dogs."
"Come, Lily, make haste," I heard my master call from the gate, and Lily and I ran towards him. He was standing by a carriage, with the door open and the steps let down. The gardener and his wife were near; he with his hat in his hand, and she wiping her eyes with the corner of her apron. Lily jumped into the carriage, her papa followed her; the gardener wished them a pleasant journey, "and a happy return," added his wife, and they drove off, Lily keeping her head at the window, and kissing her hand to us till she was out of sight.
At first I had no idea that they were not coming back. Though I heard the gardener say that they were "gone for good," it did not occur to me that that meant harm to us. They often went out for a day and returned in the evening; so at the usual time I expected their ring at the bell, and went to the gate to meet them. But no bell rang; no carriage drove up; no sound of horses' hoofs was to be heard in the distance, though I listened till the gardener came to lock up for the night, and ordered me to the court, where it was my business to keep guard.
Next morning there was a strange stillness and idleness. No master taking his early walk over the grounds. No Lily gathering her flowers before breakfast. No John to open the stable door, and let me in to bark good morning to the horses. No horses; a boy sweeping the deserted stable, and rack and manger empty. No carriage; the coach-house filled with lumber, and the shutters closed in the loft. No servants about. I rather congratulated myself upon the disappearance of Lily's maid, who had a habit of making uncivil speeches if I crossed her path in running to meet Lily. That maid and I had never been friends since I once had the misfortune to shake myself near her when coming out of the water. I confess I did wet her, and I did dirty her; but I did not know that water would hurt her coat,—it never hurt mine; and she need not have borne malice for ever; I should have forgiven her long ago if she had dirtied me. But whenever she saw me she took the opportunity of saying something mortifying, as, "Out of the way; don't come nigh me with that great mop of yours!" or, "Get along with you! I wonder what Miss Lily can see to like in such a great lumbering brute." I kept out of her way as much as I could, and it was now some consolation that she did not come in mine.
But it was a dull day. In due time the gardener's wife called, and gave me my breakfast, setting it down outside the kitchen door. It was a comfortable breakfast, for she was a good-natured woman, not likely to neglect Lily's charge to take care of me. I wagged my tail, and looked up in her face to thank her, but she was already gone without taking farther notice of me. She had done her work of giving me the necessaries of life, and my feelings were nothing to her. How I remembered my pretty Lily, and wished for her pleasant welcome.
After breakfast I went on an expedition to the flower-garden, thinking I might have a chance of finding some trace of my mistress in that favourite haunt. The gate was shut, but I heard steps, and scratched to be let in. I scratched and whined for some time; Lily would not have kept me half so long. At last the gardener looked over the top of the gate:
"Oh, it's you," said he; "I thought so. But you had best go and amuse yourself in places proper for you; you are not coming to walk over my flowerbeds any more."
He did not speak unkindly, and I had often heard him tell Lily that I was "best out of the flower-garden;" so I could not reasonably grumble; but his speech showed the change in my position, and I walked away from the closed gate with my mind much oppressed, and my tail between my legs.
I intended to go and meditate in the boat, but here again I was disappointed; the boat-house was locked; I had no resource but to jump into the water and swim to a little island in which Lily had a favourite arbour. There in a summer's day she often rested, hidden in jessamine and honeysuckle; and there I now took refuge, attracted to the spot by its strong association with herself.
I scarcely know whether I sought the arbour with the hope of finding her present, or the intention of mourning her absent; but I went to think about her. Alas! that was all I could do. She was not there. A book of hers had been left unheeded on the ground, and I laid down and placed my paws upon it to guard it, as I had often done before. In this position I fell asleep, and remained unconscious of fortunes or misfortunes, till I was awakened by dreaming of dinner. That dream could be realised. I jumped up, shook myself, and yawned more comfortably than I had done all day.
On moving my paws from Lily's book, it struck me that it would be right to carry it home to her; and then once more the hope revived of finding her at home herself. It was the most likely thing in the world that she should come home to dinner. Everybody did, I supposed; I was going home to dinner myself.
With the book in my mouth, I swam across the water. Perhaps I did not keep it quite dry, but I carried it into the house, and laid it down before the gardener and his wife, who were the only persons I could see on the premises.
"Well, that is sensible, I must confess," said the gardener. "The dumb animal has found missy's book, and brought it back. Miss Lily would like to hear that."
"Ah, she always thought a deal of the creature," replied his wife; "and for her sake he shan't be neglected. Here's your dinner, Captain."
"Give him that bone," said the gardener; "that's what he'll like."
So they gave me a charming bone, quite to my taste; and for a time I forgot all my anxieties in the pleasure of turning it round, sucking, biting, pawing, and growling over it. I cared for no other dinner; indeed I never could understand how people could trouble themselves to eat anything else as long as there was a bone to gnaw. But it is fortunate there are various tastes in the world; and the strange preference of men for other food is convenient for us dogs, as it leaves us in more undisputed possession of the bones than if our masters liked gnawing them too.
But the pleasure of a bone does not last for ever, and among the nobler races of animals Thought cannot be entirely kept under by eating. I have heard that greedy human beings sometimes reduce themselves to the condition of pigs, who are entirely devoted to cramming; but I should not choose to degrade myself to that level. So I soon began meditating, and cogitating, and speculating again.
My life now grew every day more and more dismal. Dinner-time brought its bone, but bones soon failed to comfort me. The gardener said I was "off my feed," and his wife feared I should mope to death. All day I wandered about looking for Lily, and at night retired to my kennel, under the sad impression that she was farther off than ever. The gardener himself once invited me into the flower-garden in hopes of amusing me, and I explored all the gravel-walks, carefully avoiding the borders; but there was no trace of my lost Lily, and I never cared to visit it again.
One day I thought I would search the house. It was thrown open to me. There were no forbidden drawing-rooms now; I prowled about as I pleased. If the doors were shut, I might scratch as long as I liked; nobody answered. If open, I walked round and round the room, brushing the wainscot with my tail. There were no china ornaments to be thrown down now, and I might whisk it about as I would. Formerly I had often wished for free entrance to those rooms; now I should have welcomed a friendly hand that shut me out of them. In passing before a large mirror, I marvelled at my own forlorn and neglected appearance. Once, I was worth looking at in a glass; now, what a difference! Sorrow had so changed my whole aspect, that I stared with dismay at the gaunt spectre which stared at me in return, and we howled at each other for company.
Lying down before the blank mirror, which had formerly thrown back so many pleasant images, and now reflected only my solitary figure in the deserted room, I silently pondered on the past. In a half-wakeful, half-dozing state, my eyes alternately opening and shutting, now winking and blinking at the glass, now for a moment losing sight of every thing, the events of my life seemed to pass before me in a dream; the persons with whom I had been connected rose up again as shadows, and I myself seemed another shadow gliding about among them, but a shadow whose behaviour I had acquired a new faculty of observing.
I saw myself now as others saw me,—an uncommon condition either for dogs or men,—and I watched my own deportment in all my states of mind and stages of life. I saw myself first a mere puppy, not worth notice. The puppy grew, and I saw it as a dog; a fine, well-bred, and certainly a fortunate dog. Then as a clever, knowing, useful dog; a gentle, patient, obedient dog. Sometimes perhaps an awkward or foolish dog; but those were pardonable faults, while I was certainly a brave, honest, and faithful dog. But at last I saw myself as a jealous dog; and I paused, startled at the strange light in which my conduct appeared. How silly, unreasonable, and fractious I had been! I plainly perceived that what I had taken for injured dignity and wounded affection was nothing but pride and envy; that I had not a single ground of complaint, but that my own ill-temper might have justly given offence to my best friends; and while I had fancied myself setting so high a value upon Lily's regard, I was recklessly running the risk of losing it altogether. Happily I had been spared that punishment, however well deserved. Lily's friendship had never failed me. She had either excused or not perceived my faults, and we had parted on the best possible terms.
Now that I could view matters more justly, I was quite out of patience with myself for fancying that I should be happy if I no longer saw Lily nursing that kitten. Happy indeed! There was no chance of my being troubled with such a sight, and I was miserable! I would have put up with all the cats and kittens that were met coming from St. Ives; I would have tried to settle the quarrel between the Kilkenny cats who ate each other up, all but the tips of their tails;—any thing to see Lily once more, even if she chose to nurse all the kittens of "Catland."
But it was too late; my regrets were all in vain; and the only course that seemed left for me now was to give up the rest of my days to brooding over my sorrows and my faults. But before I had quite devoted myself to this line of life, I gave a glance at my shadow in the glass doing the same. There I saw him moping away all his time; making no amends for his bad conduct, no attempts at behaving better; utterly useless, sulky, and disagreeable; in fact, more foolish than ever.
"No," thought I, as I jumped up and shook myself all over, "I will not have this distressing experience for nothing; I will make good use of it; I cannot recall the past, but I will act differently for the future;" and down I lay again to make plans for the future. Coming events cast no shadows before, either in the glass or in my dreams. I knew nothing about what I might, could, would, or should do. The Past I had lost, the Future was not in my power; and what remained to me? Perhaps I might never have an opportunity of behaving well again.
I was fast relapsing into despondency, when suddenly I was aroused from my dreams by a sound once odious to me. I raised myself upon my front paws and listened. There was no mistake, I heard it again; a thin and timid mew, dying away in the distance, and sounding as if it proceeded from the mere shadow of a cat. But faint and shadowy as it was, I recognised it; it recalled me to realities, and the conviction of my right line of conduct flashed across my mind. The Present—the present moment was mine. I could only take warning by the past, and hope for the future, but I must act now. I have but to take every opportunity when it offers itself, and there would be no fear of not having opportunities enough. Here was one ready at hand. Instead of worrying that kitten, who was now in my power, I would magnanimously endure her existence. I would do more; I would let her know that she had nothing any longer to fear from me; and in pursuance of this kind intention, I walked about the room in search of her.
I soon descried her, perched upon the top of a high bookcase, not daring to come down for fear of me. She was altered by recent events, though not so much as I. She looked forlorn and uncomfortable, but not shaggy, haggard, or dirty. The regard to her toilette which had characterised her in better days still clung to her, and made her neat and tidy in misfortune. The blue ribbon round her neck was indeed faded, but in other respects she looked as clean and white and sleek as Lily herself. She had evidently licked herself all over every day, instead of moping in the dirt. She and Lily had always been somewhat alike in point of cleanliness. Indeed, I once imagined that Lily must lick herself all over in order to look so clean; but on further consideration I had reason to believe that she commonly attained her object by plunging into cold water, more after my own fashion.
But to return to the kitten. There she stood, the very picture of fear; her legs stretched, her tail arched, her back raised, trying to assume the best posture of defence she could, but evidently believing it of no use. She mewed louder at every step I took nearer. Even if I had been inclined to harm her, she was safe enough on the top of that high bookcase; but she did not know that. In her inexperience, she fancied me able to spring about the world as she did, and expected every moment that I should perch on the carved oak crown, and seize her in my mouth, jump down again and crunch her as she would a mouse.
She began running backwards and forwards on the top of her bookcase, mewing piteously at every turn. I understood her language: it meant, "Oh, what shall I do? Mew, mew! Pray, my lord, have pity upon an unfortunate kitten! Mew, mew, mew! If you will let me run away this time, I will keep out of your lordship's sight all the rest of my life. Mew, mew, mew! Oh dear, I had not the least intention of intruding on your highness; I thought your majesty was in the stable. I wish I was in the coal-cellar myself. Oh, oh, pray! oh, mew!"
So she went on for a long time, in too great a fright to observe the encouragement and condescension which I threw into my countenance and manner. I sat down in front of the bookcase, and holding my head on one side, looked up at her with an expression of gentle benevolence, which I thought must re-assure the most timid spirit. It had some effect. She ceased running from side to side, and stopped opposite me, her yellow eyes fixed on mine. I returned her gaze, and wagged my tail. She lowered hers, which bad been held up like a peacock's, and reduced to its natural dimensions. After a sufficient amount of staring, we began to understand one another, and Pussy's mews were in a very different tone, and one much more satisfactory to me.
Though every animal makes use of a dialect of its own, so different as to appear to men a distinct language for each race,—for instance, the barking of a dog, the mewing of a cat, the bellowing of a bull, &c.,—still, a general mode of expression is common to all, and all can understand and be understood by one another. The reason of this is, that the universal language is that of feeling only, which is alike to every one, and can be made evident by the most inarticulate sounds. Moans, murmurs, sighs, whines, growls, roars, are sufficient to express our feelings: our thoughts, when we have any, we must keep to ourselves; for they cannot be made intelligible by mere sound without speech, and speech we know belongs to man alone. In fact, I suppose it is the power of thinking and speaking which makes him our master; without it, I am not at all sure that he would have so much the upper hand of us, for we are often the strongest. But a man can always know what he means to do, and why he means to do it; and he can tell others, and consult them about it; which, of course, gives him an immense advantage over us, who only act upon the spur of the moment, without knowing whether we are right or wrong.
Good-nature was all that Pussy and I wanted to express just now, and that is always easy to show, with or without words. Mews in various tones from her were met by small, good-humoured half-barks and agreeable grunts from me, till at last she fairly left off mewing, and began to purr. Much pleased with my success so far, I now lay down, stretching out my front paws to their full length before, and my tail behind, brushing the floor in a half-circle with the latter. Then I yawned in a friendly way, and finally laid my head down on my paws to watch my little protegee quietly, in hopes of enticing her from her fortress.
This last insinuating attitude decided her. She gently placed first one little white paw, and then another, on projecting ornaments of the bookcase, one step on the lion, and the next on the unicorn; and without hurting either herself or the delicate carved work which she chose to use as her staircase, she alighted harmless and unharmed within my reach. Then she mewed once more; but that was her last expression of doubt or dread. I soon reassured her; and that moment was the first of a confidence and intimacy seldom seen between our uncongenial races.
We had now, in our way, a long conversation, during which we became pretty well acquainted with each other's dispositions; and in due time we descended the stairs together in perfect amity; I gravely walked step by step, and looking up benignly at the gambols of little Pussy, who, now in high spirits, had no idea of coming down in a regular way, but must scramble up the banisters, hang by her claws from the hand-rail, recover herself instantaneously when within an inch of falling headlong into the hall, and play a hundred other wild tricks. A short time before, I should have thought all this a most despicable waste of time and strength; but now I could see that it did her good and made her happy, and I looked on rather with approbation.
I shall never forget the surprise of the gardener's wife when Puss and I entered the kitchen side by side. She screamed as if we had been a couple of wild beasts.
"Oh," cried she, "there's that poor little kitten just under Captain's nose! He'll be the death of her. What shall I do?"
She seized a broom, and held it between us, ready to beat me if I ventured to attack the kitten. But I wagged my tail, and Puss jumped over the broomstick.
"Well to be sure!" said Mrs. Gardener, letting fall the broom, and holding up her hands; "did any body ever see the like of that!"
She placed a saucer of milk on the floor, and I sat quietly and let the kitten drink it. The kitten herself was a little surprised at this, and hesitated before beginning, not knowing exactly what it might be proper for her to do; indeed, I could scarcely expect her to understand the etiquette of so unusual a circumstance; but she had a great deal of tact, and soon perceived that I wished her to go on naturally; so she began lapping, though looking round at me between every two or three mouthfuls, to make sure that she was not taking a liberty. But meeting with nothing but encouragement, she finished her repast with great satisfaction, and we both laid ourselves down by the kitchen-fire, as if we had been friends all our lives.
"Well to be sure!" exclaimed the gardener's wife again. It was her favourite phrase; she seemed never to tire of it, and to have little else to say; but I understood what she meant, and took a comfortable nap in consequence.
By and by came dinner, and a pleasant little meal it was. Instead of flying at the kitten for presuming to eat at all, I quite enjoyed having a companion. My platter stood, as usual, in the yard, and Pussy's in a corner of the kitchen; but by mutual consent we began dragging our respective bones along the ground to eat in company; and the gardener's wife seeing the proceeding, carried our plates for us, and placed them side by side outside the door, and we finished our meal in the most sociable manner.
Times were now altered: but I need not give a detailed account of every day. The good understanding between Pussy and me continued to increase, till it ripened into the warmest friendship. Uncongenial companion as she appeared, I grew by degrees fonder of her than I had ever been of any of my own tribe; and although our habits were by nature totally dissimilar, we learned to understand, and even to take pleasure in accommodating ourselves to each other's little peculiarities.
I confess this was not done in a moment. At first I certainly was occasionally annoyed by Pussy's inconsistencies. She would profess to be so refined, that a speck of dirt on her white coat made her unhappy; so delicate, that she could not endure to wet her feet; so modest, that she could not bear to be looked at while she was eating; while at the same time she would scamper into the dirtiest hole after a mouse, and then devour the nasty vermin with a satisfaction quite disgusting to a well-bred sporting dog like myself.
I wished to educate her in the sentiments and habits of my own nobler race, but I found it a hopeless task. If I took her out for a walk, and tried to impress her with the pleasure of a good healthy swim in the pond, she listened politely; but in spite of all my arguments, when we arrived at the water's edge, and I plunged in, she never could be induced to follow; there she stood, mewing and shivering on the brink, not daring even to wet her claws. If I objected to her mice, she argued that they were her natural food, and agreed with her; and so on through all my attempts to reform her.
The little creature had generally an answer ready; and what was peculiarly provoking to a person unused to contradiction, like myself, she often disputed points upon which I had supposed there could be but one opinion. When I was trying to shame her into being more like a dog, she actually told me that she doubted whether mine really was the nobler race, for that the lion was her chief, and she challenged me to show his equal. This was the more irritating because I could not answer it; and I take some credit to myself for having kept my temper on the occasion, as I did feel tempted to give her a shake. Luckily it occurred to me that quarrelling with people for being in the right would not put them in the wrong, and that shaking them might not be the way to shake their opinions. So I was silent, and pretended to be indulgent.
After all, the little cat had received an education extremely suitable to her character and circumstances. Lily had made an in-door companion of her, as she had made an out-door one of me, and had taken great pains to cultivate her natural talents. Her manners were perfect. It was impossible to be more gentle, graceful, and courteous than Puss. Always at hand, but never in the way; quick in observing, but slow in interfering; active and ready in her own work, but quiet and retiring when not required to come forward; affectionate in her temper, and regular in her habits,—she was a thoroughly feminine domestic character.
She had her own ideas about me, which she communicated to me when we were sufficiently intimate for her to speak openly. Perhaps she did not admire me quite so much as I admired myself; but perhaps she was right—who knows? I have heard that even among men, lookers-on are sometimes the best judges. She did full justice to my strength and courage, and applauded my daring way of rushing upon an enemy, without regard to his size or position, instead of running into a corner and spitting at him. She admitted, without hesitation, that mine was the superior proceeding; but she suggested, that perhaps it might be as well not to be quite so ready to attack other dogs before they had given me any offence: also that it was unnecessary to suppose that every man who came to the house must have bad intentions, whether he gave me just cause for suspicion or not. In fact, she hinted that it was good to be brave, but bad to be quarrelsome. Then as to my personal appearance, she acknowledged that I was larger and handsomer than she, and that my rough, shaggy coat was far from unbecoming; but when I laughed at her finical cleanliness, and called her affected for not keeping her own white fur as rough and muddy as mine, she reminded me that it was that very neatness, so despised by me, which had procured her entrance into Lily's drawing-room, while I, with all my good qualities, was never allowed to come up stairs.
I had always thought it rather grand to bang about in a careless manner; and if I knocked any thing down, I supposed it was the thing's fault. I once swept down with my tail a whole trayful of crockery; and when I was scolded for doing mischief, I thought it quite sufficient excuse to say to myself, "I did not do it on purpose; what is the use of making such a fuss?" But I now saw clearly that Pussy's care not to do any mischief at all was both more agreeable to others and more advantageous to herself.
For instance, the gardener's wife turned me out in the cold while she was washing the china, whereas she let Pussy walk about on the very table among the cups and saucers, stepping so carefully with her soft little paws that there was no danger of any breakage. I have seen her walk along the edge of every shelf on the dresser, without disarranging a single plate. Then, while I was despising Puss for catching mice, I heard the gardener's wife giving her the highest praise for being an excellent mouser; and to my surprise, I found out that it was the regular work for which she was kept in the house.
So, as time went on, we learnt to understand each other better and better, and our companionship was useful in teaching us to be less narrow-minded in our estimation of each other and things in general. I discovered that it was not necessary for every body to be exactly alike; that cats and dogs, and perhaps also men and women, had a right each to his own character; and that people must be mutually accommodating, every body giving up a little, and no one expecting to make his own way the rule for every body. And Pussy learnt herself, and taught me another lesson, that every body is one's superior in something, so that any body may improve by taking pattern by any body else; I mean, by looking for and imitating their good qualities, instead of picking out and snarling over their faults.
Time slipped away very happily and imperceptibly. There were few changes in our mode of life; though Pussy, from a kitten, in due time became a full-grown cat, who left off running after her tail and climbing up the banisters, and walked up and down stairs as steadily as I did myself. In other respects our relations remained the same; I was the patron and protector, she the friend and companion, sharing the same kennel and the same platter, and both metamorphosed from the bitterest enemies into the comfort and delight of each other's lives.
One day while we were basking in the sunshine, with our eyes half shut, and Pussy purring pleasantly, I heard the sound of wheels at a distance. Supposing it to be the baker's cart, I roused myself, and ran to the gate, according to custom, to see him give in the bread. But long before the vehicle came in sight, I smelt the difference between it and the baker's cart. It came nearer; I felt in a state of uncommon agitation; old recollections and associations returned with extraordinary vividness, and my eagerness was intense till the carriage stopped at the door. No wonder I had been so much excited; for who should be on the box but my old friend John? and who should get out of the carriage but my master himself.
Was I not in raptures! And did I not jump and tear about the court in my joy! Pussy sat at the window watching my vagaries with astonishment. When she understood the state of the case, she was very glad to see our master, but expressed her pleasure in a more moderate way than I.
My master and John were cordial in their greetings to every body, but they seemed very busy, and spent the rest of the day in walking over the place and giving a number of orders. I followed close at their heels, very happy to be in their company once more. The gardener and his wife made many inquiries about Lily, as I would have done myself if I could; and I listened eagerly to my master's replies, though I was rather puzzled by some of them. He said she was quite well and very happy, but that he missed her sadly.
"I can understand that," thought I, as I looked up at him in sympathy.
I believe he understood me, for he patted my head, saying, "Poor Captain, she was very fond of you."
The gardener and his wife said that they had been "quite proud to hear the news, for that if any body deserved her it was Sir Rodolph;" and my master answered, "True, true; I must not complain of giving her up to him."
Although I could not make out her history very accurately; but on discussing it with Puss, and putting together everything that we heard my master say in the garden, and John say in the kitchen, we came to the conclusion that Lily was gone to live at some distance in a home of her own; that Craven's good elder brother was her companion there; and that her papa was much pleased with the arrangement, though he lost her company. It seemed an odd affair to Pussy and me, and we purred and pondered over it. Puss confessed that she could not understand a person's leaving the house in which she was born. My views were larger. I could imagine being contented in any place, provided my friends were there too; but the separation from friends seemed an unnatural proceeding. However, John had distinctly said that her papa was very much pleased; so we decided that human beings were gifted with greater powers than ourselves of bearing change, and making themselves happy and useful under a variety of circumstances. For we had no doubt of Lily's being happy and useful wherever she might be. I could as soon have fancied myself encouraging my thieves, or Puss neglecting her mice, as Lily idle or out of spirits.
In the course of the next day, John brought the carriage to the door again, and invited me to take a drive. Much flattered, I scrambled to the box, and sat by his side as steadily as I could, though the movement of the carriage was not much to my taste. Several times I could not resist trying to get down and run by the side; but John scolded me and held me fast, only indulging me with an occasional scamper when we were going up hill.
I had not omitted a good-humoured bark to Pussy when we started, by way of farewell; for she came to see us off, though she was too humble to expect an invitation to join the party. I fully supposed that we should return in an hour or two, and that I should have the pleasure of telling her my morning's adventures. But we travelled up hill and down hill, through strange villages and an unknown country, and still we went on and on, without any symptoms of turning.
In time we stopped at an inn, where my master had his dinner; and I went with John to the stables, and saw him feed the horses, and then followed him to the kitchen, where he too ate his dinner, and gave some to me. Then we set off on our journey again. Now I thought we were surely going home; but no; still straight on through new roads all day till the sun went down and the evening grew so dark that I could not see the country; and yet no talk of returning. John stopped the carriage, and lighted the lamps; and then on again, at the same steady pace, through the unknown land.
Tired of travelling in the wrong direction, as it appeared to me, and without any object, I curled myself round at John's feet and took a long nap. On waking, I found myself in a scene altogether strange to me. We were passing through the streets of a city. I sat up and turned my head from side to side, quite bewildered by the difference between such a place and the country villages in which I had passed my life.
"Ah, you may well look about you," said John; "you are not the only one that hasn't known what to make of London."
The noise and confusion were astonishing. Though it was now so late that every body ought to have been asleep in their kennels, the innumerable lights in the houses made the night as bright as day. The streets were swarming with people; men and women, carriages and horses, even dogs and cats, met us every moment. I supposed they must be a kind of savages, who came out in the night like wild beasts, and I tried barking at them to frighten them back to their dens; but it had no effect, and John bade me be quiet. Indeed, I myself perceived that it would be a hopeless task to bark at everybody that went by. Their numbers were like the autumn leaves falling from the trees in our avenue during a high wind, and I could only suppose that next day I should find them all swept up in heaps at the side of the road.
At last we stopped before a house; and very glad I was to be ordered to jump down and go in, and not at all sorry for the good supper that was presently given me. I was too tired even to wonder where I was, or to do or think of anything that night except going to sleep; and that I did thoroughly, after my long journey.
But next day I was myself again, and up early to explore the premises. What I saw at first was not much to my taste. I did not admire my kennel; it was decidedly dull, fixed in the corner of a small courtyard surrounded by high walls. No trees, no river, no garden; nothing to be seen but a square patch of sky above the walls; nothing to be heard but a continual heavy rumbling outside. I soon grew tired of watching the clouds, and pacing round the little court; and as soon as the house was open, I found my way to the street door. There I could certainly not complain of being dull. If London had seemed bustling the night before, what was it now by broad daylight, with the full sun shining on the countless passengers! I could scarcely keep still myself, with the excitement of watching such incessant movement.
To my great disappointment, before long, John called me in, fearing that I might stray from the house and be lost or stolen. Of course, I obeyed him directly; but he perceived my vexation, and good-naturedly showed me a locker under the hall-window, where I might sit and study the humours of London at my pleasure. I thought I should never be tired of looking out of that window. The scene was so new and charming, that it reconciled me at once to my present situation, and even to the hours which might necessarily be passed in my ugly kennel. I really preferred it to the Manor.
There, even while my master and Lily were living with me, we were a good deal left to ourselves. A few foot passengers and carts might come by in the course of the day, carriages and horses perhaps once in a week. Visitors, if they came, stayed for hours, so that I had ample time to make myself master of their characters, as well as those of their horses and dogs. Every body whom I knew at all, I knew intimately; and notwithstanding Pussy's hints about rash judgments, I doubt whether I was ever really in danger of mistaking an honest man for a thief. But if my old home was more favourable to tranquil reflection, certainly this place had the advantage of amusement and variety. Here there was no time for studying character, nor doing anything else leisurely. I scarcely caught a glimpse of any one, before he was out of sight. A quiet nap was out of the question; if I so much as winked, I lost the view of something. The stream of comers and goers was ever flowing. Nobody stood still, nobody turned back; nobody walked up and down, as my master and his visitors used on the terrace, while I observed their manners; here, as soon as one had passed, his place was taken by another. I watched for hours, expecting that some time or other they would all have gone by, and the street be left to silence and to me. But nothing of the sort happened; they were still going on and on, crossing each other in every direction; and for as many as went by, there seemed always twice as many yet to come.
In time I grew less confused, and I went out walking with my master or John until I knew my way about the streets, so that I could be trusted to go out by myself and come safe home again.
The care of the house also devolved once more upon me; and it was a more responsible charge than at home, on account of the immense variety of characters which I was obliged to understand. As to bribery, whether in town or country, I was always incorruptible; but I found it necessary to quicken my powers of observation, in order to be up to my duty in London. I used sometimes to single out a suspicious individual in the crowd, and follow him through two or three streets, till I had thoroughly smelt out his character; and before long, I saw all I wanted so quickly and accurately, that John himself was ready to submit his judgment to mine. I learned to know my man, and to make him know me too; and it would have required a daring thief to attempt our house.
I own I soon thoroughly enjoyed London and its ways, and quite left off wishing to return to the monotony of the Manor. But though my life was pleasant, let nobody do me the injustice to imagine that either its novelty or its occupation could banish from my memory the dear little companion who had formed my happiness at home. Forget my Pussy I never did, though for a time I seemed contented without her. But, for the first few days, I constantly expected to see her arrive. I took it for granted that she would be brought to London just as I had been myself; and every evening, at the hour of our own arrival, I went to the hall-door, and sat patiently on the mat for a considerable time, fully expecting every moment that a carriage would stop, and that I should be the first to welcome my friend.
But day after day passed without bringing her. Plenty of other cats were clambering about the roof of the house, or showing themselves against the sky on the top of the wall; but they were all cross and spiteful, setting up their backs and snarling at me if I only looked at them. I had no wish to make their acquaintance, for there was but one cat in the world that I cared for. My love was for the individual, not the race. Dogs were numerous in the neighbourhood, and among them were several intelligent, cultivated animals with whom I could be on pleasant barking terms; but friendship is not made in a day, and these new acquaintances could not make up for the want of my cat.
As I grew weary of watching for her in vain, I left off waiting at the hall-door, and passed my evenings in thinking about her, sometimes by the kitchen fire, sometimes in the study, on the rug at my master's feet. But the more I thought about her, the more I missed her, till at last I quite lost all my spirits. I could not eat my food without her to partake of it; I scarcely cared to growl, and took no pleasure in barking. In short, I pined for her as I had once done for Lily; and John and my master asked each other every day what could be the matter with me.
At last, finding it impossible to bear such a life any longer, I began to consider whether there was no remedy in my power. I knew that if my master objected to any thing, he did not lie on the rug and mope, but he worked hard to set it to rights. The more I thought about it, the more I perceived that mere thinking would not do; I must set to work and help myself. So I took my resolution, and determined to risk every thing rather than go on in this dawdling way, fretting my heart out.
But how? Why, how did I come here myself? People had tried to bring me, and succeeded; why should not I try to bring Pussy? I might not succeed, for I did not conceal from myself the difficulties of the undertaking; but what great enterprise was ever accomplished without danger or difficulty? At any rate, it was worth the trial; and if I did succeed, Pussy was worth every thing. So, as she would not come, I would go and fetch her.
This once decided, it was evident that the sooner I set off the better; because the road not being familiar to me, it was important that I should travel it again before all traces of our former journey were lost. As yet, we had not been so long in London but that I had reason to think I should recognise the principal turnings, besides various objects on the road. I had been asleep during part of the journey, it is true; but I hoped that my acute sense of smell would come to my help when eyesight failed.
And here I reflected with satisfaction upon the many advantages I had over my master in travelling. First, what a much better nose mine was! His seemed of very little use to him up in the air, out of reach of the ground. If he had not been able to ask his way, I am sure he could never have found it out by smelling. Then, how inconvenient to be obliged to carry so many things with him! He could not move without a portmanteau or a carpet-bag full of strange clothes, instead of being contented with one good coat on his back. I never could understand why any body should want more than one coat. Mine was always new, always comfortable, suited to all seasons, and fitting beautifully, having adapted itself to my growth at all stages of my life, without any attention from me. I never had any trouble with tailors, snipping and measuring, trying on and altering. My coat would dry on me too, whereas my poor master could not even jump into the river without taking his off; if it so much as rained, he wanted an umbrella. Then, he never seemed able to run any distance. For a few hundred yards it was all very well, but after that he began to walk; and if he made a single day's journey, he was obliged to be helped by a horse. Poor man! I pitied him; and yet I never for a moment hesitated to acknowledge him as my master; for, with all his detects, I felt that he was in possession of some faculty incomprehensible to me, but which overpowered a thousand and a thousand times the utmost animal superiority.
But to return to my own adventures. I determined to find my way to my native village as a dog best might, without delay. So the next morning I set off, following my nose, which was my best guide, through the intricacies of the London streets. More than once I took a wrong turn; but after going a little way up the street, I always discovered my mistake, and retraced my steps.
Once I met two gentlemen whom I knew. One asked the other if I was not my master's dog; the other looked round and called, "Captain! Captain!" I was very near wagging my tail and looking up at the familiar sound, but I fortunately recollected myself in time. As he was not my master, I was not bound to be obedient; so I held my ears and tail still by a strong determination, and trotted on, taking no notice.
Another time, as I was sniffing the ground where several streets branched off, I heard an ill-toned voice say, "There's a dog that has lost his master."
"Fine dog, too," said another; "there will be a good reward advertised for him."
"Humph, there's more to be made by him than that," replied the first; and as I looked up at him, I recognised the very man whom I had formerly prevented from breaking into my master's country house. I growled fiercely; and if he had attempted to approach me, I was prepared for a spring at his throat.
"He seems to have a spite against you; best leave him alone," said the other. And the two turned away, evidently aware that it would not be safe to meddle with me; and I once more pursued my journey in quiet.
Having my own reasons for not wishing to attract attention, I jostled against as few passengers as possible, and did my utmost to keep clear of inquisitive dogs or arrogant horses, so that I met with few obstacles, and before mid-day arrived safely at the outskirts of London. Then my way became much plainer; a country road, with hedges and fields on each side, was easily tracked; and I could hold up my head in comfort as I ran along at a good pace, instead of keeping my nose close to the ground for fear of losing my way.
I came to a place where four roads met, and there, though but for a few moments, I was perplexed. There was a sign-post, but that was nothing to me; it might have been useful to my poor master, but to me it was only one of his many encumbrances, which were superseded by my nose.
So I followed my nose up one of the roads; it would not do. Up a second and a third; still my nose refused assent. As there was but one road more, I had no further choice; so I troubled my nose no more, but galloped joyfully ahead without any difficulty on the subject, wondering whether my master would have found the way by his reason as surely as I by my instinct.
As the day went on, I began to grow uncommonly hungry; that is to say, hungry for me, who had never yet known what it was to want a meal. Accustomed to regular daily food as often as I required it, I do not suppose that in my comfortable life I ever knew what real hunger was, such hunger as is felt by poor creatures with but scanty food for one day, and uncertain even of that for the next. But I felt that I should like my dinner; and, for the first time in my life, was called upon to find it for myself.
And, really, when a person has been accustomed to see set before him every day, at his own hour, on his own platter, a supply of bread and meat nicely mixed, with perhaps some pudding to finish it, and no trouble required on his part but to eat it tidily, and say "Thank you" after his fashion, it is no small puzzle suddenly to be obliged to provide his own dinner from beginning to end—catching, cooking, and serving it up. There are more in the world than I who would know how to do nothing but eat it. If I had been a wild dog, used to the habits of savage life, I might have hunted down some smaller animal as wild as myself, torn it to pieces, and devoured it raw; but I was a civilised creature, so altered by education, that in my hunting days I always brought the game to my master instead of eating it myself; and here, on the London high road, there was not even game to be caught. I really was quite at a loss what to do.
In course of time I came up with a traveller sitting under a hedge, eating a lump of bread and cheese. I would not have accepted bread and cheese at home if it had been offered me, but now I stopped in front of the eater and began to beg for some, licking my lips, and wagging my tail in my most insinuating manner.
He threw me a scrap of coarse bread, saying, "There's for you; but I dare say you are too well fed to eat it."
His supposition would have been true enough the day before; but hunger cures daintiness, and now I was glad of such a mouthful. I bolted it in an instant, and looked for more. He threw me one other crust, saying that was all he could spare; and, finishing the rest himself, went on his way, leaving me as hungry as ever.
By and by, in passing through a village, I came to a butcher's shop. The butcher was not in sight, and meat was spread in the most tempting manner on the board.
"How easily," thought I, "I could steal that nice raw chop, and run away with it! Nobody could see me, and I do not believe any body could catch me."
Steal it—the thought startled me. Brought up from my earliest puppyhood in the strictest principles of honesty; able, as I imagined, to see the best-stocked larder, or the most amply-supplied table, without even wishing to touch what was not my own;—was I now, on the very first temptation, the first time in my life that I had ever been really hungry, to forget all I had been taught, and to become a thief? Was it only the fear of blows that had kept me honest? Was my honesty worthy the name, if I was only honest when I had no temptation to be otherwise? I was ashamed of myself, and turning from the shop, passed on with drooping ears.
Presently I met with a dog so extra fat as to show plainly that he had never gone without his dinner, and yet he was growling over a bone as if he had been starving. On looking more closely at him, I perceived that he was in possession of two bones, either of them enough for one dog; but he was unable to make use of one, for fear of the other's being taken from him. So there he lay, with his paws upon both, growling instead of enjoying himself. He was a larger dog than I, but not nearly so strong, being grown helpless and unwieldly through long habits of greediness and laziness. I saw that I could easily master him and take one of his bones by brute force, and at first I felt inclined to help myself by this means. I thought I had a good right so to do. I actually wanted the necessaries of life, while he was revelling in superfluous luxury. Was I not justified, nay more, was I not bound in common sense and justice to take from him what he did not want, and give it to myself who did want it? Even if I robbed him of one of his bones, I should leave him as much as I took away.
Robbed—another awkward word! I paused again. Assault and robbery were perhaps not so mean as sneaking theft, but were they more allowable? The bones were his own, his property; given to him by some one who had a right to dispose of them; and though at this moment I might wish for a more equal distribution, I had sense enough to know that it would be a bad state of things if every dog were to seize upon every neighbouring dog's bones at his own discretion. It might suit me at this moment, but to-morrow a stronger dog might think that I had too much, and insist upon my relinquishing half of my dinner. Who was to be the judge? Every dog would differ in opinion as to how much was his own fair share, and how much might be left to his neighbour. No large dog would allow another to dine while he himself was hungry; and it would end by the strongest getting all the bones, while the poor, inferior curs were worse off than ever. So I determined to respect the rights of property, for the sake of small dogs as well as for my own.
After all, starvation was not inevitable. It might be possible to get a dinner without fighting for it. I sat down opposite my new acquaintance, and entered into civil conversation with him. I found him much more friendly than I expected. He had certainly been accustomed to more indulgence and idleness than was good for him, but his natural disposition was not entirely spoilt. He was the peculiar pet of a lady, who thought it kindness to cram him from morning till night with food that disagreed with him, to provide him with no occupation, and to deprive him of healthy exercise, so that no wonder he had grown lazy and selfish; but his native spirit was not entirely extinguished, and he assured me that a bare bone to growl over, and a little comfortable rain and mud to disport himself in like a dog, were still the greatest treats that could be offered to him. His temper had been farther soured by the spite and envy of dogs around him, who, less petted themselves, and not aware how little his petting contributed to his comfort, grudged him every thing that he possessed, and lost no opportunity of snapping and snarling at him.
When I reflected on the difference between his circumstances and my own, I felt more inclined to pity than to blame him; but though I condoled with him kindly, and whined in sympathy, I took care to give him the best advice in my power, and to suggest such changes in his own conduct as might tend to better his lot.
He listened with patience and candour, and showed his gratitude by treating me with the most cordial hospitality. He gave me an excellent bone, and offered to share his kennel with me; but after my dinner and a nap I was so thoroughly refreshed, that I preferred continuing my journey. He pressed me to call on him in my way back, provided I returned alone; but honestly confessed that if I was accompanied by a cat, he feared that the force of habit might be too strong to allow of his being as polite to her as he could wish. Remembering my own early prejudices, I had no right to blame him; and we parted excellent friends, though I declined his invitation.
I met with no more adventures or difficulties. Even my night's lodging gave me no trouble; for when it was growing dark, and I felt too tired to run any farther, I espied a heap of straw thrown out by the stable-door of a roadside inn, and I soon scratched and smoothed it into as comfortable a bed as dog need wish. By break of day I was on my travels again; and being now near my native village, in a road of which I knew every step, I had no further perplexity, and by breakfast-time arrived at my old home.
It had never occurred to me that any body would be surprised to see me. Having always met with a hearty welcome, I expected one as a matter of course; but I certainly never anticipated being received with a shout of astonishment, and to this day I cannot understand why they were all so amazed. But so it was. When the gardener opened the gate and saw me sitting outside, he started as if I had been a strange dog going to fly at him; and instead of speaking to me, began calling as loud as he could to his wife: