"And when his son had prepared all things for the journey, Tobit said, Go thou with this man, and God, which dwelleth in Heaven, prosper your journey, and the angel of God keep you company. So they went forth both, and the young man's dog with them." Tobit v. 16.
"MURPHY" A MESSAGE TO DOG-LOVERS
BY MAJOR GAMBIER-PARRY
With two drawings by the author
NEW YORK MITCHELL KENNERLEY 1913
COPYRIGHT 1913 BY MITCHELL KENNERLEY PRINTED IN AMERICA
TO THAT VAST HOST IN THE HUMAN FAMILY THAT LOVES DOGS AND THAT INCLUDES WITHIN ITS RANKS THE GOOD, THE GREAT, AND THE INSIGNIFICANT THESE PAGES ARE RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED BY ONE OF THE COMMON RANK AND FILE
"HIS DOG" Frontispiece "ALAS!" Facing p. 192
"MURPHY" A MESSAGE TO DOG-LOVERS
Yes. He was born in the first week of June, in the year 1906. Quite a short while ago, as you see—that is, as we men count time—but long enough, just as a child's life is occasionally long enough, to affect the lives—ay, more, the characters—of some who claimed to be his betters on this present earth, with certainties in some dim and distant heaven that might or might not have a corner here or there for dogs.
His parentage was that of a royal house in purity of strain and length of pedigree, and he first saw the light in the yard of a mill upon the river, where the old wheel had groaned for generations or dripped in silence, according as the water rose or fell, and corn came in to be ground.
There were others like him in appearance in the yard; on the eyot on which the mill-buildings stood, gorgeous in many-coloured tiles; round the dwelling-house, or in a large wired enclosure close by. His master, the Over-Lord, bred dogs of his kind for the nonce, not necessarily for profit, but because, with a great heart for dogs, he chose to, claiming indeed the proud boast that not a single dog of his class walked these Islands that was not of his strain—and claiming that, moreover, truly.
At one period there might have been counted, in and around this mill-yard, no less than thirty-eight dogs, young and middle-aged, and all more or less closely related. But while this number was much above the average, the congestion that arose thereby was chargeable with the single unhappy episode in Murphy's life, concerning which he often spoke to me in after days, and the effect of which he carried to the end. Of this, however, more later.
Life in the midst of such a company—Irishmen all—necessarily meant a more or less rough-and-tumble existence, where the strongest had the best of it, and the weaker ones were knocked out, when the Master was not there to interfere. Each one had to find his own level by such means as he could, and thus this great company, or school, of dogs resembled in many particulars those other schools to which We are sent Ourselves, or send those other sons of Ours. The training to be got here, as elsewhere, developed primarily, indeed, and all unconsciously, the first and greatest of requisites in life, whether for dog or man. And if, in some instances, evil characteristics, such as combativeness, selfishness, and the habit of bad language, became accentuated, in spite of the stern discipline of the place, their opposites—good temper, a light and happy disposition, and a civil tongue—received their meed of recognition even from the bigger fellows, like Pagan I. or II., or that Captain of the School, often spoken of with bated breath—Postman, Murphy's father, mated afterwards to the great beauty, Barbara, both being of the bluest of blue blood.
The young were taught their place, and that further quality, now dropping out of fashion—how to keep it. Or each one had a lesson in yet another virtue, still more out of date, being judged no longer necessary or becoming in this very modern world, and as only showing a silly deference if exhibited at all. Respect was, in truth, the chief of all virtues here inculcated—respect for age, for old dogs are no longer to be challenged; respect for strength and the great unwritten laws; respect for sex; respect for those who had shown themselves to be the better men; respect for such as neither fought nor swore but held their own by character alone.
It was, for instance, not correct for the young to approach the older members of the school and claim equality, for, strange as it may seem, equality had no place here, save that all were dogs. Nor when a bigger fellow had a bone, won, earned, or come by of his own enterprise, was it deemed fitting that the young should do more than watch at respectful distance, with ears drooped and envy curbed as well as might be. By such methods the meaning of the sacredness of property was taught; and also, that without due regard to this last there could be security for no one, or for anything that he might own.
True, some of this company here, suffering from swelled-head, the harebrained impetuosity of youth, or judging that to them alone had been bequeathed the secret of all requisite reforms, advanced theories of their own composing. Of course they found adherents, especially when gain was scented, for to profit at another's expense is not unpopular, in some directions, from the top to the bottom of the world. But, as a rule, these theories were not long-lived. The company, so to speak, found themselves, and the innate good sense they claimed to have came to their aid, before the whole school was set generally by the ears, or the Over-Lord was called upon to interfere.
Thus, where a fellow's own was concerned the cry with the really honest was, "Hands off, there!"—blood being rightly spilt, if necessary, in defence thereof, as it always will be, till the last of dogs and men lie down and die. Of course if one or other left his own unguarded, or, overcome by plethora, fell asleep, or grew fat and careless, then another of his standing came and took that property away. In such an event, he who had lost could do no more than whimper cur-like, while those lying round the yard would look up to see what the shindy was about, and then quietly remark, "That's as it should be."
Then again, when, on a sultry afternoon in this first summer of Murphy's life, some older members of the family betook themselves to such cool places on the eyot as the shadows cast by the wide eaves of the mill, it was ordered they were to be left in peace and not plagued by younger folk, however good-natured they might be. Nor were others to be followed when they stole away to the opening of the mill-race—where the water came out at speed, brown and foaming, from the dark shadows under the floors—to listen, maybe, half asleep, to the great wheel groaning its solemn music, as the dripping green paddles threw off a cool mist to refresh the jaded air.
However strange such a choice might seem to those of restless spirit, it was not more so than that of others who, careless of themselves, preferred a hole in the dust of the upper yard among the Buff Orpingtons, and the grilling heat of the midsummer sun. There must be differences of taste here as elsewhere. The spot chosen must be respected, not only because it was the home for the time, however short, but also because here was privacy, and it was not right that such should be at any time invaded, if rightly and obviously sought—at least, so was it judged by those who inhabited the island at this period.
That Murphy noticed all these things goes without saying. He kept them mostly to himself, after the manner of his kind; but he watched nevertheless closely, his black eyebrows moving continually just above his eyes, as he lay in the rough grass in the shade of the pollard willows, or beneath the whispering aspens.
At this time he had not long emerged from the limp stage, when hind-quarters would continually give way, and there was nothing to be done but rest on one haunch and try to look wise, being continually bothered by the flies. After a while he began to grow stronger and more comely, his ears darkened, and his eyes—put in, as they say, with a dirty thumb—grew larger, taking on that exceeding brightness that made passers-by look and look again. He was also allowed further afield when his turn came. There were walks along the river-banks, in company with half-a-dozen of the others; and before he was six months old he could run a good distance with a horse and trap, ere he would come to the step and look up with a laugh, saying, "Here, take me up; I'm blown!" The old horse in the shafts knew the ways of the dogs well, and would shorten his pace, and indeed pull up altogether, if a thoughtless one was likely to be injured. It was probably from this that Murphy suffered all his life from a mistaken notion that it was the duty of horses, as well as drivers of all kinds, to get out of his way, and not he necessarily out of theirs.
It was a happy life in a land of happiness and freedom, though discipline was stern, and all had to pass their period of training. Sooner or later each one was judged upon his merits, as well by his comrades as by the great, tall Over-Lord, to whom primarily they owed allegiance. And if such judgment was occasionally fallacious, as it frequently is, the world over, when based upon such points alone, it worked out fairly when the time arrived for an estimate to be made of the character that every one here was entitled to—when the first home had to be left behind, and the world faced in town or country, up or down the greater river of a common life.
For such a temperament as Murphy's, a life like this was happiness itself. He was sociable, and loved company intensely, though preferably the company of Man. Solitude he abhorred; games were his delight; for killing things, even were it a rat from one of the thousand holes he met with when walking by the river, he never cared, and indeed appeared never quite to understand. "Live and let live" was his motto, while playing always the game of "catch-who-catch-can."
There was no reason to bring pain into the field at all. Life to him was a condition full of smiles, or to be made so, though there was snarling round the corner, as well as folk of difficult temperament to remain puzzlers to the end. Those about, therefore, were to be reckoned friends, and to be met in such way as better dogs themselves lay down. Their society obviously had its rules, which, if occasionally broken, were yet to be known and recognised, just as they themselves, though dogs, were able to discern that the members of that other society, on to which they were apparently grafted, had theirs.
These last and they themselves were nothing less than partners—so it seemed to him—in a great game, to be played always in good heart and with the spirit of true sportsmanship. Both moved according to law, the only difference between the two being that Men held the power of the Veto—and exercised it too often, he would add in his perfect, well-bred manner, in a way that declared their ignorance. Men, he averred, would always insist on assuming that their laws were right at all times, and, furthermore, were always applicable to dogs, forgetting that, more often even than themselves, dogs were moved by laws imperious.
Had he been as the majority of dogs, he would, when such thoughts occupied his brain, have joined no doubt unhesitatingly in Puck's song—
"Lord, what fools these mortals be!"
But, then, this is where he differed from that majority. Man was his friend. Friendship meant loyalty, and loyalty should be unstained.
There was much in what he said. On many an occasion a dog will show that he knows better than a man, and can do things that transcend Man's boasted powers. We all know that—or should do so—for the moment may arrive when we find ourselves dependent on the judgment of a dog. To fail to recognise it then is to create difficulties and to blunder badly, causing the most tractable of our friends to look up with a puzzled expression in their eyes, and the more head-strong and outspoken to go ahead, with this sentence, flung back over the shoulder—"You fools, you; when will you understand!"
And the fun of it all is that Man with his self-assurance, and that limited vision of his of which he seems sometimes completely unaware, thinks that he is training the dog, whereas the dog is perfectly capable, as will be shown, of at least in some directions training him. Thus, where differences arise, Man jumps to his conclusions and claims his prerogative. It is a sorry business when an all-too-hasty punishment follows, as it often does, for Man—so Murphy used to say—would find himself very frequently to be wrong. But then Murphy, when he talked like this in the after days, showing how easily We might make mistakes, and explaining so much that was not wholly realised before, caused sundry folk to wonder whether in some previous life he had in his spare time studied Bentham. For dogs or men to make mistakes is not necessarily for them to do wrong. "To trace errors to their source is often to refute them."
He often quoted that; but on the only occasion on which he was asked about his previous studies he remained silent. He and his Master were sitting on the hillside, far away from the hum of men—as, in fact, they mostly were. His eyes were ranging over the valley to the skyline. "That's the way to look, my dear master," he appeared to be saying—"that's the way to look. Never run heel way. For you and me there is a future. Look ahead, and cast forward; never look behind!"
His remarks often, in this way, touched lightly on great questions.
To look ahead in the hey-day of youth is to look forward to unclouded happiness. And, no doubt, to Murphy and those of his own age, the fact that the summer waned and that autumn followed, when leaves fell mysteriously from the trees and there were sporting scents in the air, made little difference to their outlook. Happiness had no relation to the seasons: they were all good in their turn. Jolly times ranged from spring to winter. And, perhaps, winter after all was best.
It was on a winter day, in fact, that Murphy first made a mark in the mind of his Over-Lord, and it came about like this.
The day before had been typical of late January. The sun had not shone since daybreak. The sky to the north was lead colour, and the wind was blowing through snow. If it froze on the north side of the hedgerows, it thawed on the south—the coldest condition of all.
There were covered places for the dogs of the mill, with plenty of straw, and when one or two who had been out for a walk came in and said there would be snow before another morning dawned, those who heard the remark curled themselves tighter or drew closer to their more intimate friends. And as they slept and woke, and slept again, they saw the lights go out one by one, save those in the mill itself, for barges had come with loads of grain, and the mill was working all night. They could hear the steady "throb," "throb" of the great mill-wheel and the plash of the distant waters; but just before the new dawn these sounds gave way to a hum that played a muffled music in the trees. The men's footsteps never sounded at all, till they were close at hand; and then the mill slowly stopped as though tired, and silence reigned supreme in the cold. Dogs and men slept firmly for a little: Nature was at work putting a new face upon the world.
And after all that there followed the joyousness of a cloudless morning, as the stars faded out, and the pale sun lit up a world that was now pure white. Snow lay everywhere to the depth of three inches—not more—for it had spread itself evenly in the stillness, and covered the ground, and the roofs, and the barges that had come with the grain, making everything look strange, even to the waters that were licking the banks, and that somehow or other had turned the colour of green bottle-glass.
Then, by-and-by, came the Over-Lord, and called this name and that; and the last that he called was "Murphy."
Here were games indeed! Here was something new to play with; to be skipped and rolled and gambolled in to heart's content; to be even bitten at, and swallowed till forbidden. Why, this new material that the younger ones had never seen before called even the limpest to forget his limpness, as though new blood flowed in his veins and he were endowed with a new life!
They were soon out of the yard, and away down the lane. And then the Over-Lord turned into the fields and struck a right-of-way that led in direction of a hamlet two miles distant. Here many of the meadows were thirty acres and over in extent, flat as any floor, with great elm trees in their hedgerows. They were untenanted now by sheep or cattle, for these had been driven off the night before to higher ground, by men who kept an eye upon the weather. The virgin surface of the snow lay glittering gold and silver in the early morning sun, with here and there, as a contrast, the long shadows of the limbs of a great oak or elm, cast as though some one had traced its pattern for fun with a brushful of the purest cobalt.
There were only five dogs out that morning. Three were now fastened to a leash; one other was very old, and he and Murphy were allowed what latitude they liked. So presently it chanced that Murphy found himself some way from the rest, and suddenly called upon to show what he could do. As he went, he came upon a slight rise in the snow, as though something lay beneath. The more experienced would have known what that was, for their noses would have told them in a trice. When snow falls and a hare finds itself being gradually covered by the flakes, it does what it can to bury itself deeper; but always with this eye on life—that it assiduously keeps a hole open that it may breathe, and always to the leeward. Such is one of many evidences of clever instinct to be met with for ever in the fields.
Thus, before this young dog knew well what had happened, there sprang, as if by magic, from the snow a beauteous animal, strong of scent and fleet of foot, and heading straight away from him at top speed.
He heard a voice calling many names, and at the same time the crack of a whip. But his name was not among the rest; and he just had time to notice that the Over-Lord stood still, with the other dogs about him. Then he was off in pursuit, straight as a line for the river. There the hare made its first turn, Murphy being twenty yards in rear. He was running mute now, and both hare and dog were settling to their work—the one to escape if it could, the other to catch, if so it might be. They were through the far fence a moment later, and disappeared, only, however, quickly to return and take a line straight down this thirty-acre piece. It was a stretch of nearly a quarter of a mile, and ere they reached the further fence Murphy was gaining ground. The hare doubled at the boundary, and then doubled again, making the figure of a giant eight on the glittering golden surface of the snow.
Was the dog really gaining? It was a fine course. The hare was evidently a late leveret of the previous season; the dog was scarcely more than seven months old. How would it end? The Over-Lord stood and watched, determined that none should interfere. There should be fair play in a fair field, if he could only keep a grip upon these others that were whimpering and shivering and straining at the leash. He had passed the thong of his whip through the collar of the old dog, so all were really well within control.
Would the young dog last? That was the crucial question. The hare had had many a run before this to save her skin, and was hardened by the life of the breezy downs and the wide fields. But the dog had never previously been tried in such a way: his life had been more or less an artificial one, and he had never been called upon to lay himself out, or been put to such a strain as these almost maddening moments entailed. Catch this thing somehow he must. Were not his comrades looking on? Did not the very silence of the Over-Lord seem to demand of him his very best? There appeared, however, to be no getting level with this animal of surprising fleetness of foot, that seemed to glide over the ground with perfect ease, and that responded gamely to every effort that he made.
The group of lookers-on watched the more intently. Now the hare by a clever turn increased her lead; then once again the dog made good the ground lost. The hare had come back by this time almost to the starting-point. Closer and closer drew the dog: the hare seemed to be swaying in her stride. The dog's tongue was out at any length, and his pant was clearly audible. Once again the hare doubled, and the dogs with the Over-Lord gave tongue, as though they cheered their comrade. Then with a fling and a dash Murphy was into it: there was a scuffle in the snow, and the next instant the young dog was seen to be holding the hare down.
Making his way to the two, taking the dogs upon leash and thong short by the head, and keeping them back by the free use of his feet, the Over-Lord seized the hare and rescued it; Murphy being too beat now to do more than lie stretched out, panting.
"Well, I'm...!"—The Over-Lord was passing a hand as well as he could over the frightened hare, holding it high to his chest.—"Run to a standstill, and not so much as harmed. Well, I'm...!"
He had let go the other dogs now. They were barking and jumping round him, and to avoid risk he was covering up the hare beneath his coat. His face was a study as he looked at Murphy lying in the snow. No fault was to be found with the dog; that was very certain. He had been given an opportunity of showing what he could do. The snow had equalised the race. And this was the end—the hare not hurt at all. He would look again at her presently. It had been a pretty sight: Nature's working; no real cruelty in any of it. Such were the thoughts that were passing in the tall man's mind.
All turned homeward after that, the Over-Lord's feet scrunching the snow as he took great strides, a smile lighting up his face. Four of his dogs were close to his heels, as though they expected something; a yard or two behind followed a younger one, with his tongue out level with his chest.
* * * * *
Later on in the day, when all the dogs were kennelled up, the Over-Lord might have been seen leaving the mill-yard, with something he carried in a bag, taking long draws at his pipe, and still with a smile upon his face. He was making his way alone to the open fields, and across these to where there was shelter under a hedge. Having reached his point, he stooped to the ground; and then there sped from him, as he rose, a hare, unharmed in wind and limb.
He looked long after it, to make sure. Then he rubbed his chin with his pipe in his hand, and remarked aloud, "Run to a standstill, and never harmed. Well, I'm...!" And once again that day he checked himself from using a bad, if sometimes almost pardonable, word.
The general company naturally viewed Murphy's performance from many standpoints. Among his contemporaries his reputation went up with a bound, though there was not wanting a leaven of jealous ones even amidst those who crowded most closely round him. Among those a little older than himself, the best-natured commended him outspokenly and in honest generosity of heart. Others, with more mundane outlook, judged his achievement reflected lustre on the kennel, and therefore—this with a sniff and the chuck of the chin—also on themselves. A few more vowed, in true sporting spirit, that they would do their level best to go one better if such a chance as that should come their way. To these last, the puzzle was why, with such results, the whole of those present had not tasted blood; and among themselves they voted the action of the Over-Lord incomprehensible, certainly womanly, very certainly misjudged. If the young dog had gone up therefore in their estimation, the Man had correspondingly gone down.
As for the older generation, some spoke patronisingly, as if they wished to convey that the deed was nothing more than they could easily have achieved, and in fact ended by talking so much that they persuaded themselves, to their own satisfaction, that they were in the habit in their younger days of doing things of the kind not less infrequently than once a week. The moralists wagged their heads as the fountain of all truths, and asserted that such success was a very bad thing for the young. The swaggerers, who held somewhat aloof, but who had never done anything in their lives, put on more side than usual and endeavoured to carry matters off that way, oblivious, as ever, of the laughter round the corner. Lastly, there was that other class, the crabbed and the crusty, who would, had they belonged to Us, have retired behind their papers in the Club windows, but as it was, and being dogs, merely made off out of earshot, with their ruffs up, grumbling to themselves and crabbing all things.
There were some of all classes here as elsewhere. It is indeed surprising how closely the dog family approximates to the human. The same counterparts are to be found in both. We mostly hunt in packs. And if dogs are wont to bark and bite and rend, We, on our part, are often not behind in practising the same strange arts, though not always with the same sportsmanship and generosity.
As for Murphy, he took the whole matter with a skip and a laugh, as if it was all part of the jolly fun of life, and as not in any way reflecting credit on himself. By nature he was modest and shy, and if he did things occasionally that were out of the common, he never seemed to grasp the fact, invariably looking puzzled and impatient at all praise. "Never mind all that; let's come on and look for something else," was what he said, exhibiting in this way, perhaps, one of those traits of character that made him so lovable, and that grew to such fair proportions as he advanced in years. His disposition was happy and generous, and though essentially manly—if such a term, without offence, is applicable to dogs—there was also about him a peculiar gentleness that was exemplified in all his actions, right down to his inability to use his teeth. He was never known to fight; and, what was still more strange, bones were to him altogether negligible things.
For a character such as this to meet with harsh treatment, much less cruelty, was, if not to ruin it completely, at least to undermine all confidence. Yet this, sad to relate, was now precisely what befell. Up to this, life had been without a cloud. Of course, as in every other society, there had been the necessity of fending for oneself—of picking up a scrap, for instance, quickly, if you wanted it at all. Such things are good, and make for progress and development. But harshness and unkindness, like injustice, had been altogether foreign to the mill and all who lived or worked there. Life sped on in that favoured spot with as even a surface as that of the river, whose waters flowed sluggishly up to the mill, barring the dam, and then went bubbling down the race, revivified and having done its spell, for the time.
How it came about is not now exactly discoverable; but just at this period of Murphy's life a decree was issued that several of the family were to be boarded out; and the next day the young dog found himself moved to the home of one of the mill-hands, half a mile and more away.
The cottage stood alone, and the family inhabiting it consisted of a man and his wife, and a daughter just finishing her schooling. Once there had been a son; but he, like many another in our villages, had gone out—all honour to them!—to strike a blow for his country some five or six years before, and had in quite a short while found a soldier's death. His photograph hung crookedly just above the mantelpiece, with another of a group of his regiment by which he had once set much store, and yet another of the girl whom he had hoped some day to make his wife.
When the glow fell, and the bald, laconic message was delivered one winter evening at the door, the mother bent her head low; and later, when she found speech and had dropped the corner of her apron, was heard to whisper to herself, "'Twas the Almighty's will." Then the tears welled up afresh, as she rocked herself in her chair, gazing at the fire.
The effect upon the father was different. "What...!" he cried, as though some one had struck him. A single candle flickered on the table; his lips were drawn tight across his teeth; his fingers clutched the table-lid convulsively, and he leant across in the direction of his wife.
"What...!" he exclaimed again.
"They've killed un," repeated the wife, the candle-light reflected in her staring eyes. "Seth, Seth," she continued, following her husband, who had taken up his hat, and was making for the door—"oh, Seth, Seth—'tis the Almighty's will, man; I do know for sure it be;—Seth, Seth...!"
But Seth Moby had gone out into the night; and from that time forward he walked as one suffering some injustice. He had always been a man of uncertain temper, but this blow appeared to sour him. It is well to remember that once at least in his life he had loved deeply.
* * * * *
The Over-Lord brought Murphy to the door, and arranged matters with Martha Moby, just as he had often done with others in the same way. The day had been wet; the lane on to which the garden-gate opened was muddy; the dog had dirty feet. "You'll take care of him, I know. He's a good dog—a good dog," he repeated, when he left.
It was after dark when Moby returned. "Wants for us to kep the dog, do 'e? There be a sight too many on 'em about; and for what he do want to kep such a lot o' such curs, nobody can't think. A-bringin' a' the dirt into our housen too. Err ... I'll warm yer!" he added, making as though he would fling something at the dog.
Murphy looked puzzled, and crept into a corner.
"Don't carry on like that, Seth; don't do it, man. The dog's a poor, nervous little thing with we, and don't mean to do no hurt."
But it was of no avail. Seth Moby looked upon Murphy as an interloper, and when he could do anything to frighten him he did, and by any brutal means in his power. Even the mill-hands remarked to one another that their mate, Moby, was a changed man. "'Twas like that wi' some," they said. "Trouble sowered 'em, like, and made 'em seem as though they 'ould throw the Almighty o' one side. And once folk got on a downward grade, same as that, it wasn't often as they was found on the mending hand—no, it wasn't for sure."
On one occasion, after the first week was over, Murphy escaped, and appeared at the mill with a foot or more of rope trailing from his collar, for latterly he had been kept tied up. Seth chanced at that moment to be leaving work, and brought the dog up short by the head, by putting his foot upon the rope end almost before the dog knew that he was there. He half hanged him taking him back, and flung him into the house with an oath that frightened his child, and made her run to the back kitchen that she might not hear what followed; while the dog crept on his stomach to the corner, his tail between his legs: he always moved in this way now, though it is said he never whimpered.
"Oh, Seth, if you goes on like this," said Mrs. Moby reproachfully, "there'll be murder, and then trouble to follow: the Master is not one to put up with cruelty to any dog. Bless the man—you're gettin' like a mad thing. Leave the dog alone, I tell yer." Seth had taken off his boots, and flung them at the dog before going up to bed: Mrs. Moby had been engaged trying to disconcert his aim.
That night another foot was heard on the stairs; there was whispering in the kitchen; and for several succeeding weeks, and unknown to others, the dog slept happily with the child, though not without serious risks of trouble being thereby made for both.
At the end of that time the Over-Lord called. He had been away. He had heard on his return that all was not well with the dog, and had come to see for himself. Murphy had been lying curled up on a sack in his corner, but when he heard the well-known footstep he crawled out, hugging the wall nervously till he reached the door.
"Murphy, lad!" exclaimed the Over-Lord, looking intently at the dog—"Murphy, my little man; that you...!" The dog was fawning on him, saying as plain as speech, "Take me away with you; take me away."
The Over-Lord put his hand down and patted him. He did not say another word, as Murphy followed him out, save "It's not you, Mrs. Moby; it's not you." He had a great heart for dogs, and began to blame himself on his way home for what had evidently occurred. "If the man did not want the dog," he muttered, "he had only got to say so; besides it was his rent to him: it was not done on the cheap—that never does in any line."
When he reached his own house, he took the young dog in with him—a thing almost unprecedented, so far as the rest of the outside company were able to recall. They judged their former companion spoilt, or on the high road to being so.
"It was all that hare," remarked the middle-aged.
"Yes," agreed the moralists—"success is always pernicious to the young!"
Lookers-on generally misjudge, though they claim to see most of the game.
The next morning, by strange coincidence, a letter was delivered at the mill, destined to alter Murphy's future altogether.
Daniel was one of those dogs that die famous, though belonging to a small circle; not famous in the sense in which the dogs of history are so, but because he possessed individuality and stamped himself upon the memories of all who ever met him. And these last were not few, for Dan had travelled widely and had gathered multitudes of friends. Then, again, he possessed those two almost indispensable adjuncts of popularity—delightful manners and a beautiful face. It was his invariable custom to get up when any one came into a room; and when he advanced to meet them, it might certainly have been said that, in his case, the tail literally wagged the dog, for his hind-quarters were moved from the middle of his back and went in rhythm with the tail. His looks were perfect. Being by Pagan I., he possessed not only eyes set in black and a coal-black snout, but also that further characteristic of dogs of his date, the blackest of black ears—a feature now entirely lost in the case of Irish terriers, and never, it is said, to be regained.
Apart from a liberal education and the miscellaneous knowledge he had picked up for himself, to say nothing of a wonderful series of clever tricks, the instinct known as the sense of direction was in his case developed to an altogether abnormal extent. Definite traces of this were noticeable when he was still a puppy; but it was at all times impossible for him to lose his way. As he grew older, this instinct became so marked, that it set others wondering whether or not there existed among dogs a sixth, and perhaps a seventh, sense, lying far beyond the grasp of human, limited intelligence.
Dogs, as we all know, are not the only animals, that possess this mysterious instinct. They share it with many other classes, such as those of the feline tribe, and also with the birds and a number of insects. In fact, all animals appear to possess it in varying degree; they are all more or less able to find their way home. Yet, study it how we may, we are at fault when we try to account for it. In many cases, the homing instinct is apparently governed by sight; but many scientific observers entertain the idea that the sense of smell, in the majority of instances, will be found to lie at the root of the matter. Possibly they are right.
When, however, we are brought face to face with an exceptional exhibition of the sense, we have to confess that we are left unconvinced by any of the theories that have at present been advanced. It is no unusual thing for a dog to find its way home along a road it had not previously travelled, going with the wind, and in the dark. One case is known to the writer where a dog found the ship it had come out in in a foreign port to which it had been taken, and made a voyage by sea, as well as a considerable journey by land on its return to this country, in order to reach its home. A cat also, within the writer's knowledge, found its way back to its home, though it had been brought some distance in a sack lying at the bottom of a farmer's gig, and though the return journey entailed traversing the streets of a busy town. Any one may test a bee's powers in the same way, by affixing to it a small particle of cotton-wool. When liberated, it will take a perfectly straight or bee line to its hive, though this lie at a considerable distance. It is unnecessary to refer to the achievements of carrier-pigeons, when set free after a long journey and the lapse of many hours, or to the way in which rooks, especially, as well as starlings, will find their way to their usual roosting-places across wide valleys shrouded in dense November fogs.
Nor must we succumb here to the temptations offered by the very mention of migrants, though we may well ask, what is the power that enables a swallow to leave the banks of the Upper Nile and arrive at the nest it left the year before, beneath the eaves of a cottage standing on the banks of the Upper Thames? Or what directs the turtle-dove, year by year, from the oleander-grown banks of the streams of Morocco to the more grateful shade of our English woodlands? Yet marked birds have proved the truth of these and still more wonderful achievements.
Instinct, the dire necessity of obtaining proper food, the perpetuation of the tribe—Nature's most imperious laws—lie no doubt at the back of many mysteries. Yet to say this is not to account for the sense before us, any more than it is to solve those innumerable problems that are scattered all along our several roads, and that we stumble over every step we take. Leaving out of count such systematic, and apparently scientific, labours as those of the ants, bees, and wasps, we constantly find in the animal kingdom powers being exercised, as, for instance, in the case of the earthworms and the moles, that are not to be explained by the use of the words instinct, intelligence, and necessity. The humblest of animals appears often to be handling forces with ease and familiarity, the range of which it must apparently, if not obviously, be unaware. But if this last is true, and these animals that are blind walk blind, what are we to say of ourselves, when we are frequently doing the same, and handling forces that we are totally unable to define?
The digression is a lengthy one; but even now a further step must be taken. The man has, in the dog, his one real intimate in the whole animal world. It will be generally admitted that the dog depends exceptionally upon the man and the man often largely also upon the dog, and that in this we have yet another instance of that interdependence that is to be found throughout Nature and wheresoever we look. This, however, is not the chief point in considering the relationship existing between the two. There is something much deeper, and that goes much further.
Man, we are told, holds supreme dominion on Earth. He is King over all things living, both great and small; and this constitutes at once his endowment and his responsibility. Yet this supreme power is being perpetually modified, not only by the forces he seeks to control—whose so-called laws he has to obey, if they are to be subjected to his use—but also by those very creatures to whom he stands in the relation of a King. It is here, in the animal kingdom, that the action of the dog once again stands first; for what powers of modification and influence can transcend those which effect a frequent and practical impression upon the actions of this so-called King,—by appealing, as the dog often does, to man's moral sense; by claiming love outside man's own circle, in return for love given without stint; by calling for a wider self-sacrifice, in the light of a trustfulness and loyalty that is exhibited here and nowhere else in Nature in the same unfaltering degree?
The dog does all this and more, as will be shown, and by ways and instincts that are as unfathomable as the one to which reference has just been made.
It is time to return to the more homely matter of Dan, that instances may be given of how, on one occasion out of many, he exhibited the possession of the sense of direction, and also of the eye he had for country.
The writer had to make a journey to a neighbouring town by rail. The distance as the crow flies was not more than six miles, but the railway journey took the best part of an hour and entailed a change and waiting at a junction. Daniel accompanied him, having never made the journey before, or visited the junction, or the station of the town referred to. On arrival, the writer elected to walk. Now Daniel was almost entirely strange to towns, and, though all went well at first, he finally succumbed to the fascinations of the streets, and disappeared. Every means were at once taken to find him; the police station was visited, the cab-drivers were warned, and a reward was offered. In the end, the writer had to return without the dog, and face the reproaches of the family. A gloom fell upon the house for the rest of the evening. But soon after ten o'clock a bark was heard, the front door was thrown open, and Daniel entered; in a state, it may be added, that bordered on hysterics, and with the tail wagging the dog more violently than ever. It was seven hours from the time he had been missed, and no light was ever thrown on how he had accomplished the journey.
A dog's memory is proverbial. There is ample reason for believing that many dogs, when once they have smelt your hand, never forget you. But they also often appear to make mental notes of what they see, and to retain these in their minds. A retriever that has worked long on an estate will be found to know the position of almost every gate and stile in every field, and will use his knowledge instantly as occasions arise. He equally appears to know the rides of the woods within his beat, and where they lead. In other words, he has, in hunting parlance, an eye for country; and here is an instance from Daniel's life by way of illustration.
To reach a neighbouring village on one occasion, the writer used a tricycle. There was only one road to this village, distant five miles, and this was bounded on one side by woods and on the other by the river Thames, which it was necessary to cross at the outset. Here and there between the road and the river were houses, the gardens and grounds of which were surrounded by walls and fencing extending to the river-banks. The tow-path was on the further side. It chanced that after three miles had been traversed, another tricycle caught up the writer and passed him. Dan was ahead, mistook this machine for his own, and went on out of sight. The weather looking threatening, the writer decided to return home, feeling confident that the dog would discover his mistake and follow. A bicycle now overtook the writer, the rider of which, in answer to inquiries, said that he had seen an Irish terrier entering the village he had left, three miles back, cantering in front of a tricycle. There was nothing to be done but to go leisurely home, waiting every now and then to see if the dog was coming, while growing always more and more uneasy at his non-appearance. At last the home was reached—and on the front-door mat sat Daniel!
The dog was perfectly dry, and had still the dust of the road on him. He could not therefore have swum the river; moreover, he had no taste for water. Equally, he had not come along the only road; while it was impossible for him to have travelled through the woods or along the land lying between the road and the river. There was only one solution of the difficulty, and this was undoubtedly correct. In his walks along the hills the dog must have noticed a railway in the valley and its bridge across the river. He had certainly never been along this railway or over this bridge. But he remembered its existence when he was lost, made his way to it, got over the river without the necessity of swimming, and reached home across country in time to meet his master, and with an expression on his face of, "Well—what do you say to that?"
One more story of him must be given, showing his extraordinary sagacity as well as his determination. When he had set his mind on anything, brick walls were well-nigh powerless to stop him. He obeyed one man, if he were by; in his absence, he acted solely in furtherance of the plans he had in mind, and always with a knowing expression on his face.
He was paying a visit in the West of England, and had quickly found his way about. One day at luncheon some one was rash enough to remark in Dan's hearing that the carriage was going out. To run with the carriage was strictly forbidden, and this Dan never failed to resent, as he did also being shut up before the carriage came round. "Carriage" was one of the thirty-eight words with which he was intimately acquainted, and when he heard it used on this occasion he may have made mental notes concerning plans to which he vowed he would be no party. However this may have been, shortly before the hour arrived for the carriage to start Dan could nowhere be found.
The road leading from the house branched into three at the end of about a mile; and, as this point opened to view on the afternoon in question, a yellow figure was seen to be standing there motionless, evidently waiting to see which of the three ways the carriage would take. Needless to say it was Dan, and that of course he had his run.
But an end must be made of chronicling the further remarkable achievements of this wholly remarkable dog—his sage comments as he grew older, his faithful discharge of his duties as he roamed the passages at night, his intense love of sport and his deeds in that field in spite of his being hopelessly gun-shy, his large heart, and those beautiful manners which he still made pathetic efforts to show, even when he moved with great difficulty and was both deaf and almost blind. He was just a high-bred gentleman; and he had about him something of the courtesy of the old school, which will still be discernible in some dogs when we have finally and altogether lost the art ourselves.
Daniel was now growing old, if indeed he had not already done so. It was obvious that he could not last much longer—perhaps a year; not more—and it was necessary, therefore, to find an understudy. Irish terriers had been a part of the household for many years. Yet another must be discovered, though, as all agreed, there could never be another like Dan.
Thus it came about that inquiries were made in likely quarters, and a letter was despatched to one who could be trusted, and who was known the country over for the dogs he owned.
"Yes," came the answer; "I think I have just the dog to suit you. With an old dog in the house such as you describe, every dog would not do; but the one I speak of is a good dog, with good manners and a very gentle disposition. You know that I do not make a practice of selling my dogs, but you shall have this one for —— guineas, and I will send him along any day that may suit you.
"I forgot to say he is well-bred; Postman-Barbara. He is entered as Murphy."
Two days later a dog's travelling-box was put out on to the platform of a little country station, and there and then duly opened by the writer. Lying at the bottom in some hay was a poor, cringing little animal, that had to be lifted out, and then lay flat upon the platform. In such terror was he that nothing would induce him to move; and the only way out of the difficulty was to take him up, while others smiled, and walk out of the station with him.
At a quiet turn of the road the dog was put down, being somewhat heavy, when once again he could not be persuaded to walk, or even to stand upon his feet. Again and again he acted in this way, till at length the house was reached and he was deposited on a mat by the fire, close to a bowl of good food.
And this poor little abject was Murphy!—Murphy, the dog with the pedigree of kings and even emperors; the dog that had run a hare to a standstill; the dog of the happiest disposition of any one in the kennel, and that had been the favourite and playmate of the whole great company. If this was what pedigrees were likely to produce, better to make a clean sweep of the hereditary principle at once; if this was a picture of a happy disposition, better to try what chronic depression had to show. A sorry favourite this. Up to now a suspicion had been entertained that a playmate should at least be gay. It was all evidently a mistake.
"Murphy!"—Why, this half-starved-looking thing that refused to stir or eat did not even know his name. If a move was made in his direction, he hugged the ground closer than before, shifting his chin backwards and forwards on the rug in abject terror. The coast had purposely been left clear, and Dan was out with the rest of the family.
Presently one looked in, and passed sentence without more ado: "Oh, you poor, miserable, shrunken little thing. We can't keep a dog like that—it is impossible!"
Later, Dan appeared. The young dog got up, went respectfully towards him, and licked him deliberately upon the lips. Dan wagged his tail. They were friends. Then once again the newcomer crept on his stomach to the corner of the hearthrug, and remained there cringing when any one went near. What did it all mean?
Nor were matters any better when the household retired for the night: in truth, they were much worse. The most mysterious sounds ascended from the lower floor, and grew steadily in volume. They woke one and then another, till at last they drew some one from her bed. Such unearthly groans had rarely before been heard from throat of living thing. Of course it was the "new dog," as he had already come to be called, for he surely was not worthy of a name.
A conference was held next day as to what could possibly be done, though with the usual result that some said one thing, some another, and nothing was definitely decided on. Had the matter been put to the vote, the dog would almost certainly have been forthwith returned from whence he came, in spite of a remark from one quarter that such a course might result in something serious.
"'Give a dog a bad name...' We all know the rest. To return this dog is for him almost certainly to be shot—at least, I wouldn't give a penny for his life."
Murphy meanwhile lay curled up tight on his corner of the hearthrug, with his eyes wide open, watching every movement intently. Dan said nothing, and went his way, voting the house to be upside down.
That day passed without improvement, though every effort was made and a walk was taken in the fields: the night, the stranger spent in company, for he appeared to have a dread of being left alone. The day following matters were unfortunately made worse. It is the fate of many who are down to find themselves trodden on: the lucky meet with luck; the unlucky, more often, with misfortune. The world is full of remarkably strange ordinances; or rather, it might be said, life is replete with incidents that are often the last wished for. From him that hath not shall be taken away, not alone that which he hath, but even that also which "he seemeth to have." So be it. No doubt, in the majority of instances, he deserves to be so made bereft. On some, however, such things come hard.
The room in which Murphy had taken up his abode was part library, part studio, and part a good many other things. A large picture—the canvas measured six feet—was being worked upon on this second morning after the young dog's arrival; and, as was perversely ruled, it was just here that an accident occurred that might well have been judged impossible. The easel, in fact, with its huge canvas, was overset, carrying many things into limbo as they fell; and with the fate that too often pursues the unfortunate, Murphy therefore found himself suddenly buried beneath a mixed assortment of articles to which he had hitherto been strange. To add to the rest, a whole string of cattle and sheep bells, brought from various parts of the world, were set ringing, and others were dislodged; and for the moment it appeared that the dog must certainly have been killed. The only good thing subsequently gathered from the strange proceedings was that the dog had uttered no whimper. But if he was frightened before, he was terror-stricken now; and matters had therefore gone from bad to worse.
There is little need to describe what followed. On the one hand, it was judged that this was the proverbial last straw; that the dog would assuredly never recover now; and that therefore the only thing to be done was to send him back, with an earnest appeal for his life to be spared. Yet, once again, cooler judgments in the end prevailed. The dog had not whimpered. There was something in that. Moreover, by what had now occurred, an injury had been done to his already unhappy spirit, and, unless all honour had ceased to find a place between man and dog, reparation was certainly his due. In one quarter a sense of pity had furthermore been generated—a fact, though unsuspected at the time, that was to prove the hub round which Murphy's whole future was destined to revolve. An appeal to the heart, if such once gets home, can never really fail—unless, as Murphy's countrymen might say, the person appealed to proves heartless.
Thus it was that a sheet of paper that left the house the same evening contained words to this effect:
"I ought to have written to you before about Murphy, as also to have sent you the enclosed cheque. But, to tell you the truth, I have been so much puzzled by this dog that I have purposely waited a day or two before writing to you. I have owned dogs for a great many years and of many breeds and temperaments; but never, in the whole of my experience, have I come across any dog as nervous as this one: it is pitiful to see him. Even my old dog's presence does not help him; and really, so far, I have been able to make nothing of him. Perhaps he may get better; but I almost doubt it. I wonder if, without you knowing it yourself, the dog has been cruelly treated. I keep looking at him and wondering, for I cannot, somehow, link this dog lying in front of me, and never closing his eyes, with the description you wrote of him. The journey would not account for it. However, we must hope for the best."
To this came answer:
"In face of what you tell me of the dog, I cannot of course accept your cheque, and therefore return it. But do please keep the dog for a month or six weeks, or as long as you like, and write to me again then. I assure you the dog is a good dog. Perhaps his surroundings are strange to him. They must be. The old dog will help him to come round, I feel sure."
A few days later the door opened, and a stranger was announced. Murphy was on the hearthrug, as usual; the canvas and easel had been banished to a corner, and an effort was being made to accustom Murphy to the clicking of a typewriter—a sound concerning which he was evidently doubtful.
"Ah, Murphy; you're a nice dog, aren't you?" The dog had gone to the door, and the great figure of the Over-Lord was stooping to notice him. "I always like to see where my dogs go, if possible," he added; "and I wanted to hear from you, as well as to see for myself, what was the matter, for this is a good dog—a nice dog: I know he is. He'll come all right. Just please give him time; and then, if you don't like him, send him back. He is as good a dog—gentle, you know, gentle—as I've bred. Why, I can assure you, I refused (mentioning several hundred pounds)—I refused that sum for a pair of his relations, only last year; so you will judge he is well enough in the matter of class."
"Why did you refuse? Most people would have jumped at such an offer."
"Well—I'll tell you. I didn't like the man's face that wanted them; nothing else: I always like to see where my dogs go and the people they go to; and, after getting your letter, I determined to make the journey here, as soon as ever I could get the time. He's a nice dog; a good dog—I'm sure of it."
"You don't think there is anything in the suggestion I made to account for his extreme nervousness, do you?"
"Well—I know now that there is. I only got to the bottom of it, though, this morning. These things aren't arrived at in a minute, you know. One working-man very rarely splits upon another."
Then followed the whole story. "It was cruel—cruel," he jerked out at the end, finishing with, "I may as well tell you, I never liked the man. Latterly his work was anyhow—went from bad to worse, and I discharged him."
There was silence. Two great big men were sitting looking at the dog lying between them. The dog's eyebrows moved continually: his brilliant eyes travelled from one to the other; and presently he heaved a deep sigh, as much as to say, "It's all quite true—quite true."
If there had been hesitation about keeping Murphy before, there was an end to it now. Here was a dog—a young life—that had once, and not so long ago, been the delight of the kennel, the very embodiment of light-hearted fun and happiness; the most promising of all the younger lot, and one that had never been guilty of wrong. Send him back! Give him up! What might his fate be if he went elsewhere? Death? Look at him. Look at his large brilliant eyes. They betoken nervousness, of course—inherent nervousness, probably. A cruel injustice had been done by this dumb thing, and by one of Us. Give him up! Clearly everything most prized was at stake, and claimed the exact opposite.
Why should a different justice be the lot of a dog to that meted out to a man? Is the superiority all one way? Each man knows in his heart that it is not; that the dog is often the better of the two.
How the thoughts raced through the brain!
"Murphy?" It was his new master that called him now.
Perhaps the presence of the Over-Lord had given the young dog confidence: he, at least, had been linked with happy times. Murphy got up hesitatingly and came to his new master's chair, with his ears drooping. He even suffered himself to be taken into this new master's lap, though not without great nervousness.
And after that the Over-Lord rose and said good-bye.
"No, Murphy, we won't part," were the last words he heard as he left the door; and this was the last time the generous Over-Lord was destined ever to set eyes on Murphy.
Others laughed when they heard the final verdict, and called the undertaking hopeless and sentimental. The hopelessness remained to be proved; and, as to the sentimental part of the business, some one averred that sentiment lay at the bottom of most things. It might be unpractical from a philosophic point of view, as well as often fitting matter for a jibe; but sentiment, all the same, was generally a source of strength! Without it neither nation nor man would be likely to get far; it reflected the noblest part of man's nature, and touched a nation at its quick, if flags meant anything, and were to be followed and set store by.
There was quite a bandying of words over the matter. This dog was so different to Dan. It was not a matter of argument, certainly not on abstruse points. The dog had been broken in nerve, and admittedly by ill-usage. Probably he had been nervous from the first, and there was therefore all the less chance of his recovery.
To this was interposed the fact that many well-bred dogs are constitutionally nervous, and continue to be so all their lives, their condition in this respect being probably largely due to their brain development and increased powers of imagination.
That might be the case, came the answer; but all the same—how about the tail? The nervous organisation of this dog and his imagination had to do with his brain, which his eyes showed to be capable of development. These points had to do with the head. What about the other end? The index to a dog's character, as well as to his immediate proceedings, lies, as we all know, in his tail—the angle at which it is held, the way it moves or remains stiff and immovable; its position before a fight, its twist to one side when stalking, its confident carriage when the owner has "got his tail up." All these are so many signals, generally recognised by man and other dogs alike. Granting all this, what was to be said here? This dog had now been several days in the house, and no one had apparently seen his tail: it had been kept firmly down, and in such a way as to suggest that had it been long enough it would have been well between his legs.
At this, some one said that he had seen it once, and it was bushy; the only effect of this remark being to elicit the rejoinder that "then it wanted pulling." Another averred that, of course, nothing could be hoped for till he got his tail up: the job was how to set about securing so essential a condition in the case of the tail of this particular dog. No doubt the first thing to be done was to win him to the habit of standing on his feet: it was obviously impossible to attempt anything with the tail till this was achieved. So far, his attitude had been best describable as that of the prone position. If anybody moved, he crouched still lower; if he was persuaded to enter another room than the one he had particularly taken to, he grovelled; if there was any sudden movement or noise, he was terror-stricken; and, added to all this, it was obvious that he could never be a watch-dog, for he refused to sleep alone.
Of course he ought to have gone back; and all these notions about "bringing him round," giving him another chance and a happy life, were so much high faluting rubbish.
In the face of such arguments, based, as they obviously were, on universal testimony, even the faith of the person most nearly concerned and wholly responsible must, it was judged, eventually give way.
But if counsels and opinions alike failed to alter the decision that had been come to, they equally also supplied no answer to the momentous question—how, seeing he was to be kept, was the confidence of this dog to be won? There was hope in Dan, of course. He would teach him plenty of things, and tell him much besides. A good deal of faith was placed in this direction. But, even then, what about the general training? This dog would run riot, be disobedient and unruly, hunt when and where he should not, like other dogs before him, or even run sheep. If these things happened, what was to be done? To thrash him would be almost an act of cruelty by a dog of such a temperament: it might make him more nervous than ever, even if he could be caught for the purpose and made to understand the rudiments of cause and effect. Dan had learnt to "come and be thrashed," when such was necessary and he was summoned in those most ominous of words. It might be possible to teach Murphy in the same way: dogs, somehow or other, were almost universally capable of differentiating between justice and injustice, and bore no resentment. The reflection gave relief. Yet what would be the effect upon this dog if Dan was in trouble and took to shouting "Murder," as he usually did long before he felt the stick?
The problems were many, and grew in number the more the whole matter was considered. Two things shaped themselves from the first: there must be absolute fairness and justice; and, what was of no less importance, there must never be any trace of loss of temper in what had to be done, however trying the case might be. To show anger, to give an extra stroke when the stick was up, to be hasty for an instant, would be to fail ignominiously, to the mutual unhappiness of both.
The whole enterprise was thus obviously full of pitfalls. Yet faith declared this way: by kindness, sympathy, and self-control the end might be attained, confidence won back, the young life put into touch with happiness again.
As the further aspect of the question was considered, it looked rather as if, while the man was trying to train the dog, the dog might equally be all the time training the man. Here was one none too strong, whose nervous organisation had been shattered, and whose confidence had been wholly undermined. To win back what had been lost would be difficult enough in the case of a man; how would it be in the case of a dog? Oddly enough, too, the conditions of life of neither party here were of the normal kind—in one case never could be so. Yet here were these two, and by the merest chance, placed in juxtaposition. A strange link was forging itself apparently, quite unknown to both, and coupling the one firmly to the other, though neither was aware of it.
It was not until some time had passed that the position took a more definite form, and the question repeated itself—what if sympathy grew up and blossomed into something fair, with love and mutual confidence as its accompaniments? Such might result, perhaps. The thought added interest to the problem as it floated through the mind and was lost again.
There was nothing uncommon in the possible situation; it had occurred again and again. History furnished innumerable instances. Folklore, with its roots in truth, told endless stories of similar complexion. The Dog and the Man; the interdependence of both: living things of like passions—sharers of like passions; fellow-helpers, the advancement of the one having kept pace with that of the other, right up from the days when, in prehistoric times and the Neolithic age, as is shown by the bones that are found, the dog shared the home of the man and partook of his food—right up from the days when the Egyptians, though they dubbed him unclean, worshipped this animal, and, because of his fidelity and courage, gave him a place as one among three who were to share with them the joys of Paradise.
The same story is to be traced through all the ages. Even Ulysses could shed a tear for Argus, hiding the fact as well as he might from Eumaeus; and Tristrem and Ysolde, in the legend, took Hodain to be their intimate companion, because he had once shared with them "the drink of might." So, too, the great Theron walked as the close companion of the Gothic king; and Cavall became the trusty servant and liegeman of King Arthur. The huge white hound Gorban sat ever at the side of the Welsh bard Ummad as he sang his songs; and the beautiful Bran was the friend for life of Fingal. Most men have heard of William the Silent's spaniel, who saved his master's life; and many may have seen the form of the dog, fashioned in white marble, lying at his master's feet on the well-known tomb at Delft. We have each read of Scott's Maida. And if some, perhaps, have made a pilgrimage to that long and narrow mound in the vale of Gwyant which, according to tradition, marks the resting-place of the immortal Gelert, others have read of the faithful Vigr who never again tasted food when he learnt that Olaf, his master, lay dead.
The stories are without end; and romance knows no limits when dealing with the subject. The lives of the Man and the Dog are found to be ever intertwined. Yet is there always this besides—the rift in the lute and the familiar refrain, that the life of the dog shall be short, and that Man shall go on his way with his head bent, till such time as he shall become rich once more in the love of a new-found friend—if that be always possible.
No man, it has been well said, can be deemed unhappy who possesses the love of a dog; and none are too poor to win it, as none are too high to rejoice and grow glad in it. The dog, at least, knows no difference of class or place in his attachments. To him his home is his home; his master, his master and friend, whether his lot be to follow the tramp on the road, or to walk behind a king to the tomb. And perhaps it may be due to the mystery lying at the back of this wonderful intimacy and connection, stretching far back into an altogether hidden past, that to strike another man's dog unjustly is equivalent to striking him; that to hurt a dog with intent is to earn the worst of characters and to stain one's kind; and that for a dog to be in trouble and claim aid is for him to claim also the man's heart—even, as has many a time occurred, the man's life—to the infinite glory of both.
Nor has it been only on man's side that such deeds of heroism have been exhibited. The man, the woman, and the child have undoubtedly gone to the dog's help at the risk of their own lives on many an occasion; but so also has the dog risked his for the sake of the man—not from any moral claim, not because life is a precious thing and must be saved, not because of that power which impels, and whose chief gift is the sense of after-satisfaction that comes even to the most disinterested; such things lie necessarily beyond the reach of the dog mind. What the dog does is done for love, because of his faith, and because, unlike any other living animal, he thinks, in his unselfishness, more of his friend than he ever does about himself.
On the shores of a lake in Travancore, not far from the remote cantonment of Quillon, stands a monument to the memory of a dog. He was left to watch his master's clothes while bathing. Presently he was seen to be doing everything in his power to attract attention, by barking and running excitedly backwards and forwards on the shore. An advancing ripple was then discerned on the smooth surface of the lake, and the next instant the meaning of this flashed home. A crocodile had got between the swimmer and the landing-place, and was coming out to seize his prey. Hope might well have been stricken dead in the face of such a situation. But the dog did not hesitate. Plunging into the water, he swam out to get between the horrid reptile and his master, and thus to head him off. It meant his own certain death; but the saving of his master's life. A moment later there was a violent agitation of the water, and the dog had disappeared for ever. Thus there stands to record his splendid action this well-known monument, erected by his master in deepest gratitude, and that passers-by might learn of what a dog is capable.
The incident is not the only one of its kind, and may be left to speak for itself. But the influence of that one act has probably been world-wide; and it is because of the exhibition of such qualities that the moral power of the dog reaches to greater lengths than is generally supposed. There is indeed ample evidence for believing that the beauties often traceable in the character of the dog re-act unconsciously, and for infinite good, upon the roughest of our own kind—by claiming unselfishness from those who otherwise may lay claim to possessing little; by showing what love may be under stress and strain, hardship and rough fare; by the exhibition of patience and faithfulness; by those instincts that make the most depraved of lookers-on pause and think, and ask the question sharply—"Whence that?"
In Kingsley's Hypatia, Raphael Ben Azra, his head filled with a false philosophy, is made again and again to act otherwise than he would by the mastiff Bran.
The "dog looks up in his face as only a dog can," and causes him to follow her and to retrace his steps against his will. There are her puppies. Is she to leave them to their fate? He tells her to choose between the ties of family and duty: it is a specious form of appeal. To her, duties begin with the family; the puppies cannot be left behind. Nor can she carry them herself. She takes Raphael by the skirt, after bringing the puppies to him one by one. He must carry them, she tells him; and once again he finds himself doing the opposite of what he would: the puppies are transferred to his blanket, and he and his dog go forward together.
"After all," he says to himself, "these have as good a right to live as I have.... Forward! whither you will, old lady. The world is wide. You shall be my guide, tutor, queen of philosophy, for the sake of this mere common-sense of yours."
He tramps on after that, "trying to get the dog's lessons by heart." He catches himself asking the dog's advice, till he exclaims irritably, "Hang these brute instincts! They make one very hot."
At last, by the dog's means and the example of energy that she sets, he is instrumental in effecting the rescue of Victoria's father. Then, as the distracted girl throws herself at his feet, and calls him "her saviour and deliverer sent by God," even Ben Azra has to admit that the credit is not in reality his. "Not in the least, my child," he exclaims. "You must thank my teacher, the dog, not me."
The experiences of the philosopher in the novel are only those of many in real life. Man is not the only civilising agent in this world of many mysteries. And if we often exclaim, "Bother the dog!" we have still very frequently to follow where he leads, and often to our most definite enrichment in the end.
It was four months before any improvement was discernible: it was a year before confidence could really be said to have grown at all. In some directions it never grew. For instance, of labouring men, gardeners, and the like, Murphy always remained shy. It was in no spirit of unforgivingness, for he was perfectly civil; neither did he owe them any grudge, grudges being forbidden usually by dog law and only entertained by the poorest characters of all. Thus he never became familiar, even with those he met daily: his memory was phenomenal, and by passing by on the other side he showed that his associations in this direction were unhappy.
It fell to this dog's lot to live a very quiet life and to be thrown with few—either dogs or men. His days were regulated by his master's doings, and these again were regulated, of necessity, by method. The weeks came, and ran their course, and did not vary very greatly one from the other. There was the daily round of work—almost incessant work, life being supportable that way and in no other. There was the break, half-way through the morning, of a run of a quarter of an hour, wet or shine. There was the walk across country in the afternoon, also totally irrespective of the weather. There was the turn at night under similar conditions. That was the dog's day in winter-time; perhaps also the man's. In spring and summer both lived under the sky, and regarded a house only as a place to sleep in. Habit is second nature. Interests were many, and in some directions ran parallel—sporting instincts, especially, being quite ineradicable. Life for both was thus exceeding happy; and life grew always happier with friendship: that is as it should be.
With those he met Murphy was genial, if shy. He grew to love the members of his little home circle; though three of the quartet ever averred that, in reality, he only loved one wholly and altogether, and clung to him in a way that others noticed—folk on the land always referring to them, the country over, as "Him and his dog."
Were they not always together? The shepherds on the downs recognised them at great distances, for shepherds see far. The shepherds' dogs knew them equally well, and they see furthest. The ploughmen in the hollows caught sight of them against the skyline in the waning winter day, when the team grew weary as they themselves—which last fact, too, made these best of men shout with full lungs, "Please, will you tell us the time!" The man with the hand-drill sowing the spring seeds; the poorer folk, men and women with their buckets, stone-picking in the chill, autumnal weather; the stockmen as they drove the cattle home, or called them from the lush fields with the crack of a whip—spring-time and harvest, all the seasons through; in wind and rain, in the great heat, in the snow and the blizzard, it was always the same. And thus, in this unenclosed country, where there were great woods, but where hedges were almost non-existent, the men of the land would look up and pass the remark to their mates, with a jerk of the head, "Ther's 'im an' 'is dog; see?"
Outside the home circle—though, to be sure, a dog is, or should always be considered, a part of the family—Murphy's passion was for Dan. He invariably got up when Dan entered the room, and often licked him many times upon the lips: he paid him every kind of attention; bullied him to play when out of doors; woke him when he judged it was not fitting he should be asleep; and, in fact, made a young dog of him again for a time, though Dan was really old. He already owed Dan a good deal, for Dan had initiated him into many things concerning rabbits, rats, and the rest, that all self-respecting dogs should know. Thus the old dog being an inveterate sportsman, Murphy followed suit—and both were, at all risks, encouraged so to be.
As Murphy furnished and grew stronger he naturally became more handsome, till passers-by would turn and remark upon the pair—the old dog and the young, lying on the bank of the river, patiently, while some one did mysterious things with paints; or they were seen returning together in the evening, sitting side by side in the stern of a boat. They were certainly a very uncommon pair.
Dan's character had been, of course, fully formed long ago, and a truly wonderful character it was, as has already been related. Murphy's was still in the making. If the whole of the first year was a period of difficulty, the first four months might well have staggered any one undertaking a self-imposed task of such a nature. The ideal aimed at was never suffered to be out of sight, but, like most ideals, it had a trick at times of receding almost beyond the range of hope. It was not that the dog was continually doing wrong. Perhaps it would have been better if he had been, for then there would have been something tangible. The difficulty consisted in conveying to the dog what he should not do, without frightening him, and without getting cross and losing temper. To train a dog that takes his thrashing, shakes himself, lays his ears back, and prepares for the next, oblivious of consequences, is not beyond the wit of man, though possibly a gift. But what is to be done in the case of a dog that is terror-stricken, even if the voice is raised? The position forms as fine a period of probation in its way as any that wilful man could desire; and at that the matter may be left.
The philosopher tells us that we advance more surely by making mistakes than we do by lines more usually held to be right. Murphy took the former and apparently correct course, like others before him. The first real stride he made was thus in connection with an error, and it did him a world of good. It came about like this.
By way of preface—what can possibly be more irritating to a dog than sheep? Master and dog were coming home together, and were persistently mobbed by a party of a dozen. Both agreed that if any real pluck lay at the back of the attentions so freely bestowed, the view entertained of the proceedings might be somewhat modified. But both were well aware that there was nothing of the kind; that the bold front was a sham, that inquisitiveness was the origin of it all, and that funk in reality filled every one of those dozen hearts, however much their owners hustled forward or lifted up their heads and stamped.
How long would Murphy stand such gross effrontery? That was the question of the moment. So far, he had followed close to heel, with his tail down—though it is fair to him to say that latterly he had come to carry it erect. Possibly the sheep approached closer than any dog of spirit could endure, or one frightened the others and they began to run away. In a moment it was all over; the sheep had turned tail, and Murphy was after them, and had even found his voice.
The field was one of five-and-thirty acres, so there was plenty of room for him to turn them this way and that. To continue calling was, of course, useless. Time was better employed in taking a grip of the feelings and deciding on what was to be done. To make matters worse, the farmer himself was seen to be viewing the proceedings from a distant gateway. He would undoubtedly expect the law to be carried out, and dogs that ran sheep to be either broken to better ways or shot. It made no difference that the sheep were not his but "on tack" in his fields. What was the lot of these might be the lot of his another day. A thrashing was, therefore, now imperative. But how was this to be administered, when the only weapon was a shooting-stick, and the site was the middle of a large grass field? The best thing to do was to sit down, and be patient.
A part of the dog's education had already been that he was to stop when his master stopped, and when the latter sat or lay down he was to come in. He had already responded in a small way to this training, and now he dropped his games with the sheep, left them, and came slowly back. He guessed that something was about to happen by his master's solemn silence, and therefore approached with caution. It is never necessary in the case of ordinary offences and with ordinary dogs to be over severe with the stick—if a suitable one is handy, which it generally is not. A lecture and a shaking does as well, with a tap or two with a stick to show it is there. Provoking as the incident had been, this last is what Murphy duly received. The shooting-stick was much brandished in the air, and the dog called "Murder," long and loudly. The delinquent was evidently catching it, judged the farmer; and he waved his arm and disappeared.
That was gained, any way: what about the dog? He had learnt what the rattle of the shooting-stick meant. He had also learnt that sheep were to be suffered in their stupid, irritating ways, and not chased. For a short while he took the matter to heart, being always woefully depressed when he even thought he had done wrong. But he soon recovered, and showed contrition in the winning way he had now begun to acquire—by coming up shyly from behind, and endeavouring to reach the fingers of his master's hand.
The whole episode proved a success—from the man's point of view, at least; in the case of the dog and the sheep no doubt it was coloured. Murphy had certainly acquired confidence by what had happened, just as a boy may, when he gets his first fall out hunting, and finds himself less hurt than he fancied would be the case in turning a somersault. Added to this, there was also gain in the fact that from that day forward he was immaculate with sheep, as will be seen.
Though Murphy was quickly judged as one who had been "born good," and continued to be so regarded all his life, it is not to be supposed that he never transgressed, and thereby never incurred the punishment of a shaking. He was canine, as men are human; the two terms are equally synonymous with error, and faults, one way or the other, have to suffer correction. But in his case, the faults of which he was guilty were almost invariably confined to those of a petty and irritating description—exhibition of nervousness when there was no need, failure in the recognition of his name, lifelong inability to get out of the way of traffic on the roads, which made walks along roads very rare occurrences indeed, and many others of a like nature. Had it been otherwise, where would have been the training for both? On the one hand, there was always the ideal of enabling this dog to regain confidence in the human being, and making him the merry, happy fellow he had once been; on the other, there was the test as to whether this could be done without loss of hope in the face of repeated and almost continuous failure, and without the exhibition of irritability or loss of temper when provocations arose at first a score of times on every day.
Of his pluck there was never the slightest question. Again and again he would charge, for instance, into a quickset hedge when his nose told him a rat was there, and come out a mass of thorns, and with the rat fixed to his lip or cheek. He would then simply knock the rat off with a fore-paw without whimpering, and hold it down that some one else might come and kill it, for he seemed unable, or unwilling, to kill anything himself. Then, again, he habitually went straight up to the most savage of dogs—several times at the risk of his life, in the case of well-known fighters twice the size of himself—and by his manner or his charm invariably came away harmless.