ADVENTURES OF A DOG,
AND A GOOD DOG TOO
BY ALFRED ELWES
ADVENTURES OF A DOG,
AND A GOOD DOG TOO.
BY ALFRED ELWES,
AUTHOR OF "THE ADVENTURES OF A BEAR," "OCEAN AND HER RULERS," ETC., ETC.
WITH EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS BY HARRISON WEIR.
LONDON: GEORGE ROUTLEDGE AND CO., FARRINGDON STREET, AND 18, BEEKMAN STREET, NEW YORK.
LONDON: THOMAS HARRILD, PRINTER, 11, SALISBURY SQUARE, FLEET STREET.
PAGE INTRODUCTION BY MISS MINETTE GATTINA 7 EARLY DAYS 12 CHANGES 18 UPS AND DOWNS 25 THE INUNDATION 37 PAINS AND PLEASURES 46 DUTY 55
PAGE A FAMILY PARTY (FRONTISPIECE) 8 LADY BULL 17 GOOD DOG! 22 A CANINE BUTCHER 36 AFLOAT 45 A WORTHY SUBJECT 54 A SEVERE BLOW 60 CONSOLATION 62
I love dogs. Who does not? It is a natural feeling to love those who love us; and dogs were always fond of me. Thousands can say the same; and I shall therefore find plenty of sympathy while unfolding my dog's tale.
This attachment of mine to the canine family in general, and their affection towards myself, have induced me, like the Vizier in the "Arabian Nights," of happy memory, to devote some time to the study of their language. Its idiom is not so difficult as many would suppose. There is a simplicity about it that often shames the dialects of man; which have been so altered and refined that we discover people often saying one thing when they mean exactly the reverse. Nothing of the sort is visible in the great canine tongue. Whether the tone in which it is uttered be gruff or polished, sharp or insinuating, it is at least sincere. Mankind would often be puzzled how to use it.
Like many others, its meaning is assisted by gestures of the body, and, above all, by the expression of the eye. If ever language had its seat in that organ, as phrenologists pretend, it lies in the eye of the dog. Yet, a good portion finds its way to his tail. The motion of that eloquent member is full of meaning. There is the slow wag of anger; the gentle wag of contentment; the brisker wag of joy: and what can be more mutely expressive than the limp states of sorrow, humility, and fear?
If the tongue of the dog present such distinctive traits, the qualities of the animal himself are not less striking. Although the dispositions of dogs are as various as their forms—although education, connections, the society they keep, have all their influence—to the credit of their name be it said, a dog never sullies his mouth with an untruth. His emotions of pleasure are genuine, never forced. His grief is not the semblance of woe, but comes from the heart. His devotion is unmixed with other feelings. It is single, unselfish, profound. Prosperity affects it not; adversity cannot make it swerve. Ingratitude, that saddest of human vices, is unknown to the dog. He does not forget past favours, but, when attached by benefits received, his love endures through life. But I shall have never done with reciting the praises of this noble animal; the subject is inexhaustible. My purpose now has narrower limits.
From the archives of the city of Caneville, I lately drew the materials of a Bear's Biography. From the same source I now derive my "Adventures of a Dog." My task has been less that of a composer than a translator, for a feline editoress, a Miss Minette Gattina, had already performed her part. This latter animal appears, however, to have been so learned a cat—one may say so deep a puss—that she had furnished more notes than there was original matter. Another peculiarity which distinguished her labours was the obscurity of her style; I call it a peculiarity, and not a defect, because I am not quite certain whether the difficulty of getting at her meaning lay in her mode of expressing herself or my deficiency in the delicacies of her language. I think myself a tolerable linguist, yet have too great a respect for puss to say that any fault is attributable to her.
The same feeling has, naturally, made me careful in rendering those portions which were exclusively her own. I have preferred letting her say little to allowing her to express anything she did not intend. Her notes, which, doubtless, drew many a purr of approval from her own breast, and many a wag of approbation from the tails of her choice acquaintance, I have preferred leaving out altogether; and I have so curtailed the labours of her paw, and the workings of her brain, as to condense into half-a-dozen pages her little volume of introduction. The autobiography itself, most luckily, required no alteration. It is the work of a simple mind, detailing the events of a simple but not uneventful life. Whether I have succeeded in conveying to my readers' intelligence the impression which this Dog's Adventures made on mine, they alone can decide.
LYNDHURST ROAD, PECKHAM.
BY MISS MINETTE GATTINA.
It may seem peculiar to any but an inhabitant of this renowned city of Caneville, that one of our nation should venture on the task of bringing to the notice of the world the memoir I have undertaken to edit. But, besides that in this favoured place animals of all kinds learn to dwell in tolerable harmony together, the subject of this biography had so endeared himself to all classes and to every tribe by his kindness of heart, noble devotion, and other dog-like qualities, that there was not a cat, in spite of the supposed natural antipathy existing between the great feline and canine races, who would not have set up her back and fought to the last gasp in defence of this dear old fellow.
Many a time has he saved me from the rough treatment of rude and ill-conducted curs, when I have been returning from a concert, or tripping quietly home after a pleasant chat with a friend. Often and often, when a kitten, has he carried me on his back through the streets, in order that I might not wet my velvet slippers on a rainy day: and once, ah! well do I remember it, he did me even greater service; for a wicked Tom of our race, who had often annoyed me with his attentions, had actually formed a plan of carrying me off to some foreign land, and would have succeeded too, if dear Doggy had not got scent of the affair, and pounced on that treacherous Tom just as he was on the point of executing his odious project.
I can speak of these things now without the slightest fear of being accused of vanity. If I say my eyes were beautifully round and green, they are so no longer. If I boast of the former lightness of my step, it drags, alas! but too heavily now. If I dwell on the sweetness of my voice and melody of my purr at one period, little can be said in their favour at the present day, and I feel therefore less scruple in dilating on the elegance of my figure, and the taste of my toilette, as, when speaking of them, I seem to be referring to another individual Puss, with whom the actual snuffy old Tabby has little or no connection.
But, it will be said, these last matters have not much to do with the object I have in hand. I must not attempt to palm off on my readers any adventures of my own under the shadow of a dog. I must rather allow my Cat's-paw to perform the office for which it has become noted, namely, that of aiding in the recovery of what its owner is not intended to participate. I must endeavour to place before the world of Caneville, to be thence transmitted to the less civilized portions of the globe, those incidents in our Dog's life which he has been too modest to relate himself, in order that after-generations may fully appreciate all the goodness of his character. To greatness, he had no pretension, although few animals are aware how close is the relation between these two qualities.
I think I see the dear old Dog now, as it has been often my privilege to behold him, seated in his large arm-chair, his hair quite silvered with age, shading his thoughtful, yet kindly face, his pipe in his paw, his faithful old friend by his side, and surrounded by a group of attentive listeners of both sexes, who seemed to hang upon every word of wisdom as it dropped from his mouth; all these spring to my mind when I recal his image, and if I were a painter I think I should have no difficulty in presenting to my readers this pleasant "family party." The very room in which these meetings were held comes as strongly to my recollection as the various young and old dogs who were wont to assemble there. Plainly furnished, it yet boasted some articles of luxury; works of statuary and painting, presented to old Job by those who admired his goodness, or had been the objects of his devotion.
One of these, a statuette representing a fast little dog upon a tasteful pedestal, used often to excite my curiosity, the more because Job showed no inclination to gratify it. I managed, however, at last to get at the incident which made Job the possessor of this comical little figure, and as the circumstance worthily illustrates his character, I will relate it as the anecdote was told to me.
It was once a fashion in Caneville, encouraged by puppies of the superior classes, to indulge in habits of so strange a nature as to meet on stated occasions for the express purpose of trying their skill and strength in set combats; and although the most frightful consequences often ensued, these assemblies were still held until put down by the sharp tooth of the law. The results which ensued were not merely dangerous to life, but created such a quarrelsome disposition, that many of these dogs were never happy but when fighting; and the force granted them by nature for self-defence was too often used most wantonly to the annoyance of their neighbours. It one day happened that Job was sitting quietly on a steep bank of the river where it runs into the wood at some distance from the city, at one moment watching the birds as they skimmed over the water, at another following the movements of a large fish, just distinguishable from the height, as it rose at the flies that dropped upon the stream; when three dogs, among the most celebrated fighters of the time, passed by that way. Two of them were of the common class, about the size and weight of Job; the other was a young puppy of good family, whose tastes had unfortunately led him into such low society. Seeing the mild expression of Job's face, and confident in their own prowess, they resolved to amuse themselves at his expense, and to this end drew near to him. Unobserved by their intended victim, with a rapid motion they endeavoured to push him head foremost into the river, Master Puppy having dexterously seized hold of his tail to make the somersault more complete. Job, although thus unexpectedly set upon from behind, was enabled, by the exertion of great strength, to defeat the object of his assailants. In the struggle which ensued, his adversaries discovered that, in spite of their boasted skill, they had more than found their match. One of them got rolled over into the stream, out of which he managed to crawl with considerable difficulty half a mile lower down; the second took to his heels, with his coat torn, and his person otherwise disordered; and the fashionable Pup, to his great horror, found himself seized in the formidable jaws of the unoffending but own angry dog. Imagine how much his terror was increased when Job, carrying him, as I would a mouse, to the edge of the precipitous bank, held him sheer over the roaring river. The poor fellow could not swim, he had a perfect antipathy to the water, and he felt himself at that moment on the point of being consigned to certain death without a chance of safety. But he did not know the noble heart of the animal he had offended. Job let him feel for a few dreadful seconds the danger to which he had been so thoughtlessly and in joke about to consign himself, and then placed him in safety on the bank, with the admonition to reflect for the future on the probable result of his diversions before he indulged in them, and to consider whether, although amusing to himself, such games might not be fatal to the animals on whom they were played off. The shivering puppy was too much alarmed at the time to attend either to the magnanimity of his antagonist or the wisdom of his advice, but they were evidently not lost upon him. Many can bear testimony to the change which that hour wrought in his character; and some weeks after the event, Job received that statue of his little adversary, which had so often struck me, executed by a native artist, with a long letter in verse, a beautiful specimen of doggrel; indeed, gifts both equally creditable to the sculptor and the writer, and most honourable to the animal in whose favour they had been executed.
My task will scarce be thought complete without a few words concerning the personal appearance of my old friend; although, perhaps, few things could be more difficult for me to describe. Dogs and cats are apt to admire such very different forms of beauty, that the former often call beautiful what we think just the reverse. He was tall, strong, and rather stout, with a large bushy tail, which waved with every emotion of his mind, for he rarely disguised his feelings. His features were considered regular, though large, his eyes being particularly bright and full, and the upper part of his head was broad and high.
But none who knew Job ever thought of his being handsome or otherwise. You seemed to love him for something more than you could see, something which had little to do with face, or body, or tail, and yet appeared in them all, and shone clearly out of his eyes; I mean the spirit of goodness, which made him so remarkable, and was so much a part of Job, that I do believe a lock of his hair worn near one's own heart would help to make it beat more kindly to one's fellow creatures. This idea may be considered too fanciful, too cat-like, but I believe it notwithstanding.
Such was the Dog whose autobiography I have great pleasure in presenting to the world. Many may object to the unpolished style in which his memoirs are clothed, but all who knew him will easily pardon every want of elegance in his language; and those who had not the honour of his acquaintance, will learn to appreciate his character from the plain spirit of truth which breathes in every line he wrote. I again affirm that I need make no apology for attaching my name to that of one so worthy the esteem of his co-dogs, ay, and co-cats too; for in spite of the differences which have so often raised up a barrier between the members of his race and ours, not even the noblest among us could be degraded by raising a "mew" to the honour of such a thoroughly honest dog.
THE UPPER MEWS, CANEVILLE.
I was not born in this city of Caneville, but was brought here at so young an age, that I have no recollection of any other place. I do not remember either my father or my mother. An old doggess,[A] who was the only creature I can recal to mind when I was a pup, took care of me. At least, she said she did. But from what I recollect, I had to take most care of myself. It was from her I learnt what I know about my parents. She has told me that my father was a foreign dog of high rank; from a country many, many miles away, called Newfoundland, and that my mother was a member of the Mastiff family. But how I came to be under the care of herself, and how it happened, if my parents were such superior animals, that I should be forced to be so poor and dirty, I cannot tell. I have sometimes ventured to ask her; but as she always replied with a snarl or a bite, I soon got tired of putting any questions to her. I do not think she was a very good temper; but I should not like to say so positively, because I was still young when she died, and perhaps the blows she gave me, and the bites she inflicted, were only intended for my good; though I did not think so at the time.
[Footnote A: I have preferred adopting this word in speaking of female dogs, as it comes nearer to the original, zaiyen.]
As we were very poor, we were forced to live in a wretched kennel in the dampest part of the town, among dogs no better off than ourselves. The place we occupied overhung the water, and one day when the old doggess was punishing me for something I had done, the corner in which I was crouched being rotten, gave way, and I fell plump into the river. I had never been in the water before, and I was very frightened, for the stream was so rapid that it carried me off and past the kennels I knew, in an instant. I opened my mouth to call out for help; but as I was almost choked with the water that got into it, I shut it again, and made an effort to reach the land. To my surprise I found that, by moving my paws and legs, I not only got my head well above the water, but was able to guide myself to the bank, on to which I at length dragged myself, very tired and out of breath, but quite recovered from my fear. I ran over the grass towards the town as fast as I could, stopping now and then to shake my coat, which was not so wet, however, as you would suppose; but before I had got half way home I met the doggess, hopping along, with her tongue out of her mouth, panting for breath, she having run all the way from the kennel, out of which I had popped so suddenly, along the bank, with the hope of picking me up somewhere. She knew, she said, that I should never be drowned. But how she could know that was more than I could then imagine.
When we met, after I had escaped so great a danger, I flew to her paws, in the hope of getting a tender lick; but as soon as she recovered breath, she caught hold of one of my ears with her teeth, and bit it till I howled with pain, and then set off running with me at a pace which I found it difficult to keep up with. I remember at the time thinking it was not very kind of her; but I have since reflected that perhaps she only did it to brighten me up and prevent me taking cold.
This was my first adventure, and also my first acquaintance with the water. From that day I often ventured into the river, and in the end became so good a swimmer, that there were few dogs in Caneville who could surpass me in strength and dexterity afloat.
Many moons came and passed away, and I was getting a big dog. My appetite grew with my size, and as there was little to eat at home, I was forced to wander through the streets to look after stray bones; but I was not the only animal employed thus hunting for a livelihood, and the bits scattered about the streets being very few and small, some of us, as may be imagined, got scanty dinners. There was such quarrelling and fighting, also, for the possession of every morsel, that if you were not willing to let go any piece you had seized upon, you were certain to have half-a-dozen curs upon your back to force you to do so; and the poor weakly dog, whose only hope of a meal lay in what he might pick up, ran a sad chance of being starved.
One of the fiercest fights I have ever been engaged in occurred upon one of these occasions. I had had no breakfast, and it was already past the hour when the rich dogs of Caneville were used to dine. Hungry and disconsolate, I was trotting slowly past a large house, when a side-door opened, and a servant jerked a piece of meat into the road. In the greatest joy I pounced upon the prize, but not so quickly but that two ragged curs, who were no doubt as hungry as myself, managed to rush to the spot in time to get hold of the other end of it. Then came a struggle for the dainty; and those who do not know how hard dogs will fight for their dinner, when they have had no breakfast, should have been there to learn the lesson. After giving and receiving many severe bites, the two dogs walked off—perhaps they did not think the meat was worth the trouble of contending for any longer—and I was left to enjoy my meal in peace. I had scarcely, however, squatted down, with the morsel between my paws, than a miserable little puppy, who seemed as if he had had neither dinner nor breakfast for the last week, came and sat himself at a little distance from me, and without saying a word, brushed the pebbles about with his ragged tail, licked his chops, and blinked his little eyes at me so hopefully, that, hungry as I was, I could not begin my meat. As I looked at him, I observed two tears gather at the side of his nose, and grow bigger and bigger until they would no longer stop there, but tumbled on to the ground. I could bear it no longer. I do not know even now what ailed me; but my own eyes grew so dim, that there seemed a mist before them which prevented my seeing anything plainly. I started up, and pushing to the poor whelp the piece of meat which had cost me three new rents in my coat and a split ear, I trotted slowly away. I stopped at the corner to see whether he appeared to enjoy it, and partly to watch that no other dog should take it from him. The road was quite clear, and the poor pup quite lost in the unusual treat of a good meal; so I took my way homewards, with an empty stomach but a full heart. I was so pleased to see that little fellow enjoy his dinner so thoroughly.
This sort of life, wherein one was compelled either to fight for every bit one could get to eat or go without food altogether, became at last so tiresome to me that I set about for some other means of providing for my wants. I could not understand how the old doggess used to manage, but though she never had anything to give me, she did not seem to be without food herself. She was getting so much more cross and quarrelsome, perhaps on account of her age and infirmities, that I now saw but little of her, as I often, on a fine night, preferred curling myself up under a doorway or beneath a tree, to returning to the kennel and listening to her feeble growls. She never seemed to want me there, so I had less difficulty in keeping away from her.
Chance assisted me in the choice of my new attempt at getting a living. I was walking along one of the narrow streets of Caneville, when I was stopped by an old dog, who was known to be very rich and very miserly. He had lately invented a novel kind of match for lighting pipes and cigars, which he called "a fire-fly," the composition of which was so dangerous that it had already caused a good deal of damage in the town from its exploding; and he wanted some active young dogs to dispose of his wares to the passers-by according to the custom of Caneville. As he expected a good deal of opposition from the venders of a rival article, it was necessary to make choice of such agents as would not be easily turned from their purpose for fear of an odd bite or two. I suppose he thought I was well fitted for the object he had in view. I was very poor—one good reason, for his employing me, as I would be contented with little; I was strong, and should therefore be able to get through the work; I was willing, and bore a reputation for honesty—all sufficient causes for old Fily (that was his name) to stop me this fine morning and propose my entering his service. Terms are easily arranged where both parties are willing to come to an agreement. After being regaled with a mouldy bone, and dressed out in an old suit of clothes belonging to my new master, which, in spite of a great hole in one of the knees, I was not a little proud of, with a bundle of wares under my arm and a box of the famous "fire-flies" in my paw, I began my commercial career.
But, alas! either the good dogs of Caneville were little disposed to speculate that day, or I was very awkward in my occupation, but no one seemed willing to make a trial of my "fire-flies." In vain I used the most enticing words to set off my goods, even going so far as to say that cigars lighted with these matches would have a very much finer flavour, and could not possibly go out. This I said on the authority of my employer, who assured me of the fact. It was of no use; not a single "fire-fly" blazed in consequence, and I began to fear that I was not destined to make my fortune as a match-seller.
At length there came sweeping down the street a party which at once attracted me, and I resolved to use my best efforts to dispose, at least, of one of my boxes, if it were only to convince my master that I had done my best. The principal animal of the group was a lady doggess, beautifully dressed, with sufficient stuff in her gown to cover a dozen ordinary dogs, a large muff to keep her paws from the cold, and a very open bonnet with a garden-full of flowers round her face, which, in spite of her rich clothes, I did not think a very pretty one. A little behind her was another doggess, not quite so superbly dressed, holding a puppy by the paw. It was very certain that they were great animals, for two or three dogs they had just passed had taken off their hats as they went by, and then put their noses together as if they were saying something about them.
I drew near, and for the first time in my life was timid and abashed. The fine clothes, no doubt, had something to do with making me feel so, but—I was still very young. Taking courage, I went on tiptoe to the great lady, and begged her to buy a box of "fire-flies" of a poor dog who had no other means of gaining his bread. Now, you must know that these matches had not a pleasant smell—few matches have; but as they were shut up in the box, the odour could not have been very sensible. However, when I held up the article towards her ladyship, she put her paw to her nose—as though to shut out the odour—uttered a low howl, and, though big enough and strong enough to have sent me head over heels with a single blow, seemed on the point of falling to the ground. But at the instant, two male servants, whom I had not seen, ran to her assistance, while I, who was the innocent cause of all this commotion, stood like a silly dog that I was, with my box in the air and my mouth wide open, wondering what it all meant. I was not suffered to remain long in ignorance; for the two hounds in livery, turning to me, so belaboured my poor back that I thought at first my bones were broken; while the young puppy, who, it appears, was her ladyship's youngest son, running behind me, while I was in this condition, gave my tail such a pull as to cause me the greatest pain. They then left me in the middle of the road, to reflect on my ill success in trade, and gather up my stock as I best could.
I do not know what it was which made me so anxious to learn the name and rank of the lady doggess who had been the cause of my severe punishment, but I eagerly inquired of a kind mongrel, who stopped to help me collect my scattered goods, if he knew anything about her. He said, she was called Lady Bull; that her husband. Sir John Bull, had made a large fortune somehow, and that they lived in a splendid house, had about thirty puppies, little and big, had plenty of servants, and spent a great deal of money. He could hardly imagine, he said, that it was the odour of the "fire-flies" which had occasioned me to be knocked down for upsetting her ladyship, as she had been a butcher's daughter, and was used to queer smells, unless her nose had perhaps got more delicate with her change of position.
He said much more about her and her peculiarities than I either remember or care to repeat; but, imagining he had some private reasons for saying what he did, I thanked him for his trouble, and bid him good day.
Whatever the cause of my failure, it seemed that I was not fitted for the match-business. At all events, the experience of that morning did not encourage me sufficiently to proceed. So, returning the unsold "fire-flies" to old Fily, I made him a present of the time I had already spent in his service, and, with a thoughtful face and aching bones, took my way towards the kennel by the water-side.
The sun was just going down as I came in sight of the river and the row of poor kennels which stood on the bank, many of them, like our own, projecting half over the water. I could not help wondering at the pretty effect they made at a distance, with the blue river dancing gaily by their side, the large trees of the wood on the opposite bank waving in beauty, and the brilliant sun changing everything that his rays fell upon into gold. He made the poor kennels look so splendid for the time, that no one would have thought the animals who lived in them could ever be poor or unhappy. But when the rich light was gone,—gone with the sun which made it to some other land,—it seemed as if the whole place was changed. The trees shivered as though a cold wind was stirring them. The river ran dark and sullenly by the poor houses; and the houses themselves looked more wretched, I thought, than they had ever appeared before. Yet, somehow, they were more homelike in their dismal state than when they had a golden roof and purple sides, so, resuming my walk, for I had stopped to admire the pretty picture, I soon came near the door.
It was open, as usual. But what was not usual, was to hear other sounds from within than the voice of the old doggess, making ceaseless moans. Now it seemed as if all the doggesses of the neighbourhood had met in the poor hut to pass the evening, for there was such confusion of tongues, and such a rustling sound, as told me, before I peeped inside, that there was a large party got together, and that tails were wagging at a fearful rate.
When I stood before the open door, all the scene broke upon me. On her bed of straw, evidently at the point of death, lay my poor doggess. Her eyes had almost lost their fierce expression, and were becoming fixed and glassy—a slight tremor in her legs and movement of her stumpy tail, were all that told she was yet living; not even her breast was seen to heave.
I had not much reason to bear love to the old creature for any kindness she had ever shown me, but this sight overcame me at once. Springing to her aide, and upsetting half a dozen of the gossips by the movement, I laid my paw on hers; and, involuntarily raising my head in the air, I sent forth a howl which shook the rotten timbers of the old kennel, and so frightened the assembled party as to make them scamper out of the place like mad things. The sound even called back the departing senses of the dying doggess. She drew me to her with her paws, and made an effort to lick me. The action quite melted me. I put down my head to hers and felt a singular pleasure mixed with grief whilst I licked and caressed her, I could not help thinking then, as I have often thought since, of how much happiness we had lost by not being more indulgent to each other's faults, forgiving and loving one another. She also seemed to be of this opinion, if I might judge by the grateful look and passive manner in which she received my attentions. Perhaps the near approach of her end gave a softness to her nature which was unusual to her; it is not unlikely; but, of a certainty, I never felt before how much I was losing, as when I saw that poor doggess's life thus ebbing away.
Night had come on while I sat watching by her side. Everything about the single room had become more and more indistinct, until all objects were alike blended in the darkness. I could no longer distinguish the shape of my companion, and, but that I knew she was there, I could have thought myself alone. The wind had fallen; the water seemed to run more gently than it was wont to do; and the noises which generally make themselves heard in the streets of Caneville appeared to be singularly quieted. But once only, at another period of my life, which I shall speak of in its proper place, do I ever remember to have been so struck by the silence, and to have felt myself so entirely alone.
The moon appeared to rise quicker that night, as though it pitied the poor forlorn dog. It peeped over an opposite house, and directly after, shone coldly but kindly through the open door. At least, its light seemed to come like the visit of a friend, in spite of its showing me what I feared, that I was indeed alone in the world. The poor doggess had died in the darkness between the setting of the sun and the moon's rise.
I was sure that she was dead, yet I howled no more. My grief was very great; for it is a sad, sad thing when you are young to find you are without friends; perhaps sadder when you are old; but that, I fortunately do not myself know, for I am old, and have many friends. I recollect putting my nose between my paws, and lying at full length on the floor, waiting till the bright sun should come again, and thinking of my forlorn condition. I must have slept and dreamed—yet I thought I was still in the old kennel with the dead doggess by my side. But everything seemed to have found a voice, and to be saying kind things to me.
The river, as it ran and shook the supports of the old kennel, appeared to cry out in a rough but gay tone: "Job, Job, my dog, cheer up, cheer up; the world is before you, Job, cheer up, cheer up." The light wind that was coming by that way stopped to speak to me as it passed. It flew round the little room, and whispered as it went: "Poor dog, poor dog, you are very lonely; but the good need not be so; the good may have friends, dear Job, however poor!" The trees, as they waved their heads, sent kindly words across the water, that made their way to my heart right through the chinks of the old cabin; and when morning broke, and a bright sky smiled beautifully upon the streets of Caneville, I woke up, sad indeed, but full of hope.
Some ragged curs arrived, and carried the old doggess away. She was very heavy, and they were forced to use all their strength. I saw her cast into the water, which she disliked so much alive; I watched her floating form until the rapid current bore it into the wood, and I stayed sitting on the brink of the river wondering where it would reach at last, and what sort of places must lie beyond the trees. I had an idea in my own mind that the sun rested there all night, only I could not imagine how it came up again in the morning in quite an opposite quarter; but then I was such a young and ignorant puppy!
After thinking about this and a good many other matters of no importance to my story, I got upon my legs, and trotted gently along the bank, towards a part of the city which I did not remember to have seen before. The houses were very few, but they were large and handsome, and all had pretty gardens in nice order, with flowers which smelt so sweet, that I thought the dogs who could always enjoy such advantages must be very happy. But one of the houses, larger than all the rest, very much struck me, for I had never an idea of such a splendid place being in Caneville. It was upon a little hill that stood at some distance from the river, and the ground which sloped down from the house into the water was covered with such beautiful grass, that it made one long to nibble and roll upon it.
While I was quietly looking at this charming scene, I was startled by a loud noise of barking and howling higher up the river, and a confused sound, as if a great many dogs were assembled at one place, all calling out together. I ran at once in the direction of the hubbub, partly out of curiosity and in part from some other motive, perhaps the notion of being able to render some help.
A little before me the river had a sudden bend, and the bank rose high, which prevented me seeing the cause of the noise; but when I reached the top, the whole scene was before me. On my side of the river a great crowd had assembled, who were looking intently upon something in the water; and on the opposite bank there was a complete stream of dogs, running down to the hill which belonged to the beautiful house I had been admiring. Every dog, as he ran, seemed to be trying to make as much noise as he could; and those I spoke to were barking so loudly, and jumping about in such a way, that I could at first get no explanation of what was the matter. At last I saw that the struggling object in the water was a young puppy, which seemed very nicely dressed, and at the same moment the mongrel, who had helped me to pick up my matches the day before, came alongside of me, and said: "Ah, young firefly, how are you? Isn't this a game? That old Lady Bull who got you such a drubbing yesterday, is in a pretty mess. Her thirty-second pup has just tumbled into the water, and will certainly be drowned. Isn't she making a fuss? just look!"
One rapid glance showed me the grand lady he spoke of, howling most fearfully on the other side of the stream, while two pups, about the same size as the one in the water, and a stout dog, who looked like the papa, were sometimes catching hold of her and then running about, not knowing what to do.
I stopped no longer. I threw off my over-coat, and running to a higher part of the bank, leapt into the water, the mongrel's voice calling after me: "What are you going to do? Don't you know its the son of the old doggess who had you beat so soundly? Look at your shoulder, where the hair has been all knocked off with the blows?" Without paying the least attention to these words, which I could not help hearing they were called out so loudly, I used all my strength to reach the poor little pup, who, tired with his efforts to help himself, had already floated on to his back, while his tiny legs and paws were moving feebly in the air. I reached him after a few more efforts, and seizing his clothes with my teeth, I got his head above the water, and swam with my load slowly towards the bank.
As I got nearer, I could see Lady Bull, still superbly dressed, but without her bonnet, throw up her paws and nose towards the sky, and fall back into the arms of her husband; while the two pups by her side expressed their feelings in different ways; for one stuffed his little fists into his eyes, and the other waved his cap in the air, and broke forth into a succession of infantile bow-wows.
On reaching, the bank, I placed my load at the feet of his poor mother, who threw herself by his side and hugged him to her breast, in a way which proved how much tenderness was under those fine clothes and affected manners. The others stood around her uttering low moans of sympathy, and I, seeing all so engaged and taken up with the recovered dog, quietly, and, as I thought, unseen by all, slid back into the water, and permitted myself to be carried by the current down the river. I crawled out at some short distance from the spot where this scene had taken place, and threw myself on to the grass, in order to rest from my fatigue and allow the warm sun to dry my saturated clothes. What I felt I can scarce describe, although I remember so distinctly everything connected with that morning. My principal sensation was that of savage joy, to think I had saved the son of the doggess who had caused me such unkind treatment. I was cruel enough, I am sorry to say, to figure to myself her pain at receiving such a favour from me—but that idea soon passed away, on reflecting that perhaps she would not even know to whom she owed her son's escape from death.
In the midst of my ruminations, a light step behind me caused me to raise my head. I was positively startled at the beautiful object which I beheld. It was a lady puppy about my own age, but so small in size, and with such an innocent sweet look, that she seemed much younger. Her dress was of the richest kind, and her bonnet, which had fallen back from her head, showed her glossy dark hair and drooping ears that hung gracefully beside her cheeks. Poorly as I was dressed, and wet as I still was from my bath, she sat herself beside me, and putting her little soft paw upon my shoulder, said, with a smile—
"Ah, Job!—for I know that's your name—did you think you could get off so quietly without any one seeing you, or stopping you, or saying one single 'thank you, Job,' for being such a good noble dog as you are? Did you think there was not one sharp eye in Caneville to watch the saver, but that all were fixed upon the saved? That every tongue was so engaged in sympathizing with the mother, that not one was left to praise the brave? If you thought this, dear Job, you did me and others wrong, great wrong. There are some dogs, at least, who may forget an injury, but who never forget a noble action, and I have too great a love for my species to let you think so. I shall see you again, dear Job, though I must leave you now. I should be blamed if it were known that I came here to talk to you as I have done; but I could not help it, I could not let you believe that a noble heart was not understood in Caneville. Adieu. Do not forget the name of Fida."
She stooped down, and for a moment her silky hair waved on my rough cheek, while her soft tongue gently licked my face. Before I could open my mouth in reply—before, indeed, I had recovered from my surprise, and the admiration which this beautiful creature caused me, she was gone. I sprang on to my legs to observe which way she went, but not a trace of her could I see, and I thought it would not be proper to follow her. When I felt certain of being alone, I could hardly restrain my feelings. I threw myself on my back, I rolled upon the grass, I turned head over heels in the boisterousness of my spirit, and then gambolled round and round like a mad thing.
Did I believe all the flattering praises which the lovely Fida had bestowed on me? I might perhaps have done so then, and in my inexperience might have fancied that I was quite a hero. Time has taught me another lesson. It has impressed upon me the truth, that when we do our duty we do only what should be expected of every dog; only what every dog ought to do. Of the two, Fida had done the nobler action. She had shown not only a promptness to feel what she considered good, but she had had the courage to say so in private to the doer, although he was of the poorest and she of the richest class of Caneville society. In saving the little pup's life, I had risked nothing; I knew my strength, and felt certain I could bring him safely to the shore. If I had not tried to save the poor little fellow I should have been in part guilty of his death. But she, in bestowing secret praise and encouragement upon a poor dog who had no friends to admire her for so doing, while her action would perhaps bring blame upon her from her proud friends, did that which was truly good and noble.
The thought of returning to my solitary home after the sad scene of the night before, and particularly after the new feelings just excited, was not a pleasant one. The bright sky and fresh air seemed to suit me better than black walls and the smell of damp straw. Resolving in my mind, however, to leave it as soon as possible, I re-crossed the river, and, with a slower step than usual, took the road which led thither.
UPS AND DOWNS.
I should not probably have spoken of these last incidents in my life, as the relation of them savours rather too much of vanity, but for certain results of the highest importance to my future fortunes.
When I reached the old kennel I found, waiting my return, two terrier dogs in livery, with bulls' heads grinning from such a quantity of buttons upon their lace coats that it was quite startling. They brought a polite message from Sir John and Lady Bull, begging me to call upon them without delay. As the servants had orders to show me the road, we set off at once.
I was very silent on the journey, for my companions were so splendidly dressed that I could not help thinking they must be very superior dogs indeed; and I was rather surprised, when they spoke to each other, to find that they talked just like any other animals, and a good deal more commonly than many that I knew. But such is the effect of fine clothes upon those who know no better.
We soon reached the grounds of the mansion, having crossed the river in a boat that was waiting for us; and after passing through a garden more beautiful than my poor dog's brain had ever imagined, we at last stood before the house itself. I need not describe to you, who know the place so well, the vastness of the building or the splendour of its appearance. What struck me more even than the palace, was the number of the servants and the richness of their clothes. Each of them seemed fine enough to be the master of the place, and appeared really to think so, if I could judge by the way they strutted about and the look they gave at my poor apparel. I was much abashed at first to find myself in such a company and make so miserable a figure; but I was consoled with the thought that not one of them that morning had ventured, in spite of his eating his master's meat and living in his master's house, to plunge into the water to save his master's son. Silly dog that I was! it did not enter my head at the same time to inquire whether any of them had learnt to swim.
If the outside of the mansion had surprised me by its beauty, the interior appeared of course much more extraordinary to my ignorant mind. Every thing I was unused to looked funny or wonderful; and if I had not been restrained by the presence of such great dogs, I should have sometimes laughed outright, and at others broken forth into expressions of surprise.
The stout Sir John Bull was standing in the middle of the room when I entered it, while the stouter Lady Bull was lying on a kind of sofa, that seemed quite to sink beneath her weight. I found out afterwards that it was the softness of the sofa which made it appear so; for sitting on it myself, at my Lady's request, I jumped up in the greatest alarm, on finding the heaviest part of my body sink lower and lower down, and my tail come flapping into my face.
Sir John and Lady Bull now thanked me very warmly for what I had done, and said a great many things which it is not worth while to repeat. I remember they were very pleasing to me then, but I am sure cannot be interesting to you now. After their thanks, Sir John began to talk to me about myself—about my parents—my wishes—what I intended to do—and what were my means? To his great surprise he learnt that parents I had none; that my only wishes were the desire to do some good for myself and others, and earn my meat; that I had no notion what I intended doing, and had no means whatever to do anything with. It may be believed that I willingly accepted his offer to watch over a portion of his grounds, to save them from the depredations of thieves, on condition of my receiving good clothes, plenty of food, and a comfortable house to live in. It was now my turn to be thankful. But although my heart was full at this piece of good fortune, and I could think of a great many things to say to show my gratitude, not a single word could I find to express it in, but stood before them like a dumb dog, with only the wave of my tail to explain my thanks. They seemed, however, to understand it, and I was at once ordered a complete suit of clothes and everything fitted for my new position. I was also supplied with the most abundant supper I had ever had in my life, and went to rest upon the most delightful bed; so that before I went to sleep, and I do believe afterwards too, I kept saying to myself, "Job, Job, you have surely got some other dog's place; all this good luck can't be meant for you; what have you done, Job, that you should eat such meat, and sleep on so soft a bed, and be spoken to so kindly? Don't forget yourself, Job; there must be some mistake." But when I got up in the morning, and found a breakfast for me as nice as the supper, and looked at my clothes, which, if not so smart as some of the others, were better and finer than any I could ever have thought I should have worn, I was at last convinced, that although I was poor Job, and although I did not, perhaps, deserve all the happiness I felt, that it was not a dream, but real, plain truth. "As it is so," I said again, "I must do my duty as well as I am able, for that is the only way a poor dog like me can show his gratitude."
After breakfast, I accompanied Sir John to the place of my future home. A quarter of an hour's walk brought us to a gentle hill, which, similar to the one whereon the mansion itself was situated, sloped downwards to the water. One or two trees, like giant sentinels, stood near the top, and behind them waved the branches of scores more, while beyond for many a mile spread the dark mass of the thick forest of which I have more than once made mention. Nearly at the foot of the hill, beneath a spreading oak, was a cottage, a very picture of peace and neatness; and as we paused, Sir John pointed out the peculiarities of the position and explained my duties. It appeared that this part of his grounds was noted for a delicate kind of bird, much esteemed by himself and his family, and which was induced to flock there by regular feeding and the quiet of the situation. This fact was, however, perfectly well known to others besides Sir John; and as these others were just as fond of the birds as himself, they were accustomed to pay nightly visits to the forbidden ground, and carry off many of the plumpest fowl. The wood was known to shelter many a wandering fox, who, although dwelling so near the city, could not be prevailed on to abandon their roguish habits and live in a civilised manner. These birds were particularly to their taste, and it required the greatest agility to keep off the cunning invaders, for, though they had no great courage, and would not attempt to resist a bold dog, they frequently succeeded in eluding all vigilance and getting off with their booty. Often, too, a stray cur, sometimes two or three together, from the lowest classes of the population, would, when moved by hunger, make a descent on the preserves, and battles of a fierce character not seldom occurred, for, unlike the foxes, they were never unwilling to fight, but showed the utmost ferocity when attacked, and were often the aggressors. But those were not all. The grounds were exactly opposite that part of the city of Caneville known as the "Mews," and occupied by the cat population, who have a general affection for most birds, and held these preserved ones in particular esteem. Fortunately, the water that interposed was a formidable barrier for the feline visitors, as few pussies like to wet their feet; but, by some means or other, they frequently found their way across, and by their dexterity, swiftness, and the quiet of their movements, committed terrible ravages among the birds. When Sir John had told me all this, he led the way down the hill to the small house under the tree. It had two rooms, with a kennel at the back. The front room was the parlour, and I thought few places could have been so neat and pretty. The back was the sleeping-room, and the windows of both looked out upon the soft grass and trees, and showed a fine view of the river.
"This," said Sir John, "is your house, and I hope you will be happy in it yourself, and be of service to me. You will not be alone, for there"—pointing to the kennel at the back—"sleeps an old servant of the family, who will assist you in your duties."
He then called out "Nip," when a rumbling noise was heard from the kennel, and directly after a lame hound came hopping round to the door. The sight of this old fellow was not pleasant at first, for his hair was a grizzly brown and his head partly bald; his eyes were sunk, and, indeed, almost hidden beneath his bushy brows, and his cheeks hung down below his mouth and shook with every step he took. I soon found out that he was as singular in his manners as in his looks, and had such a dislike to talking that it was a rare thing for him to say more than two or three words at one time. Sir John told him who I was, and desired him to obey my orders; commanded us both to be good friends and not quarrel, as strange dogs were rather apt to do; and after some more advice left us to ourselves, I in a perfect dream of wonderment, and "Nip" sitting winking at me in a way that I thought more funny than agreeable.
After we had sat looking at one another for some time, I said, just to break the silence, which was becoming tiresome—
"A pretty place this!"
"Have you been here long?" I asked.
"Think so," said Nip.
"All alone?" I inquired.
"Almost," Nip replied.
"Much work to do, eh?" I asked.
The only answer Nip gave to this was by winking first one eye and then the other, and making his cheeks rise and fall in a way so droll that I could not help laughing, at which Nip seemed to take offence, for without waiting for any farther questions he hopped out of the room, and I saw him, soon after, crawling softly up the hill, as if on the look out for some of the thieves Sir John had spoken of.
I, too, went off upon the watch. I took my way along the bank, I glided among the bushes, ran after a young fox whose sharp nose I spied pointed up a tree, but without catching him, and finally returned to my new home by the opposite direction. Nip came in shortly after, and we sat down to our dinner.
Although this portion of my life was, perhaps, the happiest I have ever known, it has few events worth relating. The stormy scenes which are so painful to the dog who suffers them, are those which are most interesting to the hearer; while the quiet days, that glide peacefully away, are so like each other, that an account of one of them is a description of many. A few hours can be so full of action, as to require volumes to describe them properly, and the history of whole years can be written on a single page.
I tried, as I became fixed in my new position, to do what I had resolved when I entered it; namely, my duty. I think I succeeded; I certainly obtained my master's praise, and sometimes my own; for I had a habit of talking to myself, as Nip so rarely opened his mouth, and would praise or blame myself just as I thought I deserved it. I am afraid I was not always just, but too often said, "Well done, Job; that's right, Job;" when I ought to have called out, "You're wrong, Job; you ought to feel, Job, that you're wrong;" but it is not so easy a thing to be just, even to ourselves.
One good lesson I learned in that little cottage, which has been of use to me all my life through; and that was, to be very careful about judging dogs by their looks. There was old Nip: when I first saw him, I thought I had never beheld such an ugly fellow in my life, and could not imagine how anything good was to be expected from so cross a looking, ragged old hound. And yet nothing could be more beautiful, more loveable than dear old Nip, when you came to know him well. All the misfortunes he had suffered, all the knocks he had received in passing through the world, seemed to have made his heart more tender; and he was so entirely good-natured, that in all the time we were together, I never heard him say an unkind thing of living or dead animal. I believe his very silence was caused by the goodness of his disposition; for as he could not help seeing many things he did not like, but could not alter, he preferred holding his tongue to saying what could not be agreeable. Dear, dear Nip! if ever it should be resolved to erect a statue of goodness in the public place of Caneville, they ought to take you for a model; you would not be so pleasant to look on as many finer dogs, but when once known, your image would be loved, dear Nip, as I learned to love the rugged original.
It can be of no interest to you to hear the many fights we had in protecting the property of our master during the first few moons after my arrival. Almost every night we were put in danger of lives, for the curs came in such large numbers that there was a chance of our being pulled to pieces in the struggle. Yet we kept steady watch; and after a time, finding, I suppose, that we were never sleeping at our post, and that our courage rose with every fresh attack, the thieves gradually gave up open war, and only sought to entrap the birds by artifice; and, like the foxes and cats, came sneaking into the grounds, and trusted to the swiftness of their legs rather than the sharpness of their teeth when Nip or I caught sight of them.
And thus a long, long time passed away. I had, meanwhile, grown to my full size, and was very strong and active: not so stout as I have got in these later years, when my toes sometimes ache with the weight which rests on them, but robust and agile, and as comely, I believe, as most dogs of my age and descent.
The uniformity of my life, which I have spoken of as making me so happy, was interrupted only by incidents that did not certainly cause me displeasure. I renewed my acquaintance with "Fida," no longer little Fida, for she had grown to be a beautiful lady-dog. Our second meeting was by chance, but we talked like old friends, so much had our first done to remove all strangeness. I don't think the next time we saw each other was quite by accident. If I remember rightly, it was not; and we often met afterwards. We agreed that we should do all we could to assist one another, though what I could do for so rich and clever a lady-dog I could not imagine, although I made the promise very willingly. On her part, she did for me what I can never sufficiently repay. She taught me to read, lending me books containing strange stories of far-off countries, and beautiful poetry, written by some deep dogs of the city; she taught me to write; and in order to exercise me, made me compose letters to herself, which Nip carried to her, bringing me back such answers as would astonish you; for when you thought you had got to the end, they began all over again in another direction. Besides these, she taught me to speak and act properly, in the way that well-behaved dogs ought to do; for I had been used to the company of such low and poor animals, that it was not surprising if I should make sad blunders in speech and manners. I need not say that she taught me to love herself, for that you will guess I had done from the first day I saw her, when I was wet from my jump in the river, and she spoke to me such flattering words. No; she could not teach me more love for herself than I already knew. That lesson had been learnt by heart, and at a single sitting.
Our peaceful days were drawing to a close. Sir John died. Lady Bull lived on for a short time longer. Many said, when she followed, that she ate herself to death; but I mention the rumour in order to deny it, for I am sure it was grief that killed her. It is a pity some dogs will repeat everything they hear, without considering the mischief such tittle-tattle may occasion—although it has been asserted by many that in this case the false intelligence came from the Cats, who had no great affection for poor Lady Bull. Whatever the cause, she died, and with her the employment of poor Nip and myself. The young Bulls who came into possession of the estate, sold the preserves to a stranger; and as the new proprietor intended killing off the birds, and did not require keepers, there being no longer anything for them to do, we were turned upon the world.
The news came upon us so suddenly, that we were quite unprepared for it; and we were, besides, so far from being rich, that it was a rather serious matter to find out how we should live until we could get some other occupation. I was not troubled for myself; for, though I had been used to good feeding lately, I did not forget the time when I was often forced to go the whole day with scarce a bit to eat; but the thought of how poor old Nip would manage gave me some pain.
Having bid adieu to the peaceful cottage, where we had spent such happy times, we left the green fields and pleasant trees and proceeded to the town, where, after some difficulty, we found a humble little house which suited our change of fortune. Here we began seriously to muse over what we should do. I proposed making a ferry-boat of my back, and, stationing myself at the waterside near the "Mews," swim across the river with such cats as required to go over and did not like to walk as far as where the boat was accustomed to be. By these means I calculated on making enough money to keep us both comfortably. Nip thought not. He said that the cats would not trust me—few cats ever did trust the dogs—and then, though he did not dislike cats, not at all, for he knew a great many very sensible cats, and very good ones too, he did not like the idea of seeing his friend walked over by cats or dogs, or any other animal, stranger or domestic. Besides, there were other objections. Strong as I was, I could not expect, if I made a boat of myself, that I could go on and on without wanting repair any more than a real boat; but where was the carpenter to put me to rights, or take out my rotten timbers and put in fresh ones. No; that would not do; we must think of something else.
It must not be imagined that Nip made all this long speech in one breath, or in a dozen breaths. It took him a whole morning to explain himself even as clearly as I have tried to do; and perhaps I may still have written what he did not quite intend, for his words came out with a jump, one or two at a time, and often so suddenly that it would have startled a dog who was not used to his manner.
Nip himself made the next proposal, and though I did not exactly like it, there seemed so little choice, that I at once agreed to do my part in the scheme. Nip was the son of a butcher, and though he had followed the trade but a short time himself, he was a very good judge of meat. He, therefore, explained that if I would undertake to become the seller, he would purchase and prepare the meat, and he thought he could make it look nice enough to induce the dogs to come and buy.
Our stock of money being very small, a house-shop was out of the question, so there was no chance of getting customers from the better class,—a thing which I regretted, as I had little taste for the society of the vulgar; but, again, as it could not be helped, the only thing to do was to make the best of it. A wheelbarrow was therefore bought by Nip, with what else was necessary to make me a complete "walking butcher," and having got in a stock of meat the day before, Nip cut, and contrived, and shaped, and skewered, in so quiet and business-like a way as proved he knew perfectly well what he was about. With early morning, after Nip had arranged my dress with the same care as he had bestowed upon the barrow and its contents, I wheeled my shop into the street, and amid a great many winks of satisfaction from my dear old friend, I went trudging along, bringing many a doggess to the windows of the little houses by my loud cry of "Me-eet! Fresh me-eet!"
As I was strange in my new business, and did not feel quite at my ease, I fancied every dog I met, and every eye that peeped from door and casement, stared at me in a particular manner, as if they knew I was playing my part for the first time, and were watching to see how I did it. The looks that were cast at my meat, were all, I thought, intended for me, and when a little puppy leered suspiciously at the barrow as he was crossing the road, no doubt to see that it did not run over him, I could only imagine that he was thinking of the strange figure I made, and my awkward attempt at getting a living. Feelings like these no doubt alarm every new beginner; but time and habit, if they do not reconcile us to our lot, will make it at least easier to perform, and thus, after some two hours' journeying through the narrow lanes of Caneville, I did what my business required of me with more assurance than when I first set out.
One thing, however, was very distasteful to me, and I could so little bear to see it, that I even spoke of it aloud, and ran the risk of offending some of my customers. I mean the way in which several of the dogs devoured the meat after they had bought it. You will think that when they had purchased their food and paid for it, they had a right to eat it as they pleased: I confess it; nothing can be more true; but still, my ideas had changed so of late, that it annoyed me very much to see many of these curs, living as they did in the most civilized city in this part of the world, gnawing their meat as they held it on the ground with their paws, and growling if any one came near as though there was no such thing as a police in Caneville. I forgot when I was scolding these poor dogs, that perhaps they had never been taught better, and deserved pity rather than blame. I forgot too that I had myself behaved as they did before I had been blessed with happier fortune, and that, even then, if I had looked into my own conduct, I should have found many things more worthy of censure than these poor curs' mode of devouring their food.
The lane I was passing along was cut across by a broad and open street, the favourite promenade of the fashionables of Caneville. There might be seen about mid-day, when the sun was shining, troops of well-dressed dogs and a few superior cats, some attended by servants, others walking alone, and many in groups of two or three, the male dogs smoking cigars, the ladies busily talking, while they looked at and admired one another's pretty dresses and bonnets.
By the time I had got thus far, I had become tolerably used to my new work, and could imagine that when the passers-by cast their eyes on my barrow, their glances had more to do with the meat than with myself. But I did not like the idea of crossing the road where such grand dogs were showing off their finery. After a little inward conversation with myself, which finished with my muttering between my teeth, "Job, brother Job, I am ashamed of you! where is your courage, brother Job? Go on; go on;" I went on without further delay.
I had got half-way across, and was already beginning to praise myself for the ease with which I turned my barrow in and out of the crowd without running over the toes of any of the puppies, who were far too much engaged to look after them themselves when a dirty little cur stopped me to buy a penn'orth of meat. I set down my load just in time to avoid upsetting a very fat and splendidly dressed doggess, who must, if I had run the wheel into her back, and it was very near it, have gone head foremost into the barrow. This little incident made me very hot, and I did not get cooler when my customer squatted down in the midst of the well-dressed crowd, and began tearing his meat in the way I have before described as being so unpleasant. At the same moment another dog by his side, with a very ragged coat, and queer little face, held up his paw to ask for "a little bit," as he was very hungry, "only a little bit." I should, probably, have given him a morsel, as I remembered the time when I wanted it as much as he seemed to do, but for an unexpected meeting. Turning my head at a rustling just behind me, I saw a well-dressed dog, with a hat of the last fashion placed so nicely on his head that it seemed to be resting on the bridge of his nose, the smoke from a cigar issuing gracefully from his mouth, and his head kept in an upright posture by a very stiff collar which ran round the back of his neck, and entirely prevented his turning round his head without a great deal of care and deliberation, while a tuft of hair curled nicely from beneath his chin, and gave a fine finish to the whole dog. But though I have spoken of this Caneville fashionable, it was not he who caused the rustling noise, or who most attracted my attention. Tripping beside him, with her soft paw beneath his, was a lady-dog, whose very dress told her name, at least in my eyes, before I saw her face. I felt sure that it was Fida, and I wished myself anywhere rather than in front of that barrow with an ill-bred cur at my feet gnawing the penn'orth of meat he had just bought of me. Before I had time to catch up my load and depart, a touch on my shoulder, so gentle that it would not have hurt a fly, and yet which made me tremble more than if it had been the grip of a giant animal, forced me again to turn. It was Fida; as beautiful and as fresh as ever, who gave me a sweet smile of recognition and encouragement as she passed with her companion, and left me standing there as stupid and uncomfortable as if I had been caught doing something wrong.
You will say that it was very ridiculous in me to feel so ashamed and disconcerted at being seen by her or any other dog or doggess in my common dress, and following an honest occupation. I do not deny it. And in telling you these things I have no wish to spare myself, I have no excuse to offer, but only to relate events and describe feelings precisely as they were.
That evening it seemed as if Nip and I had changed characters. It was he who did all the talking, while I sat in a corner, full of thought, and answered yes or no to everything he said, and sometimes in the wrong place, I am sure; for once or twice he looked at me very attentively, and winked in a way which proved that he was puzzled by my manner.
The reason of his talkativeness was the success I had attained in my first morning's walk, for I had sold nearly all the meat, and brought home a pocket full of small money. The cause of my silence was the unexpected meeting with Fida, and the annoyance I felt at having been seen by her in such a position. This was the first time I had set eyes on her for several days. When we left our pretty country lodging, I wrote her a letter, which Nip carried as usual to her house, but he was told that she had gone on a visit to some friends at a distance, but that the letter should be given to her on her return. I had not, therefore, been able to inform her of what we had been compelled to do, as I would have wished; but thus, without preparation, quite unexpectedly, I had been met by her in the public street, acting the poor dogs' butcher, with the implements of my business before me, and a dirty cur growling and gnawing his dinner at my feet. What made the matter more serious, for serious it seemed to me, though I can but smile now to think why such a thing should have made me uncomfortable, was, that the whole scene had taken place in so open a part, with so many grand and gay dogs all round, to be witnesses of my confusion. I did not reflect that, of all the puppies who were strutting past, there was probably not one who could have remembered so common an event as the passing of a butcher's barrow; and if they looked at me at all, it was, doubtless, for no other reason than to avoid running against my greasy coat and spoiling their fine clothes. These confessions will prove to you that I was very far from being a wise dog or even a sensible one; all the books I had read had, as yet, served no other purpose than that of feeding my vanity and making me believe I was a very superior animal; and you may learn from this incident, that those who wish to make a proper figure in the world, and play the part they are called on to perform in a decent manner, must study their lesson in the world itself, by mingling with their fellows, for books alone can no more teach such knowledge than it can teach a dog to swim without his going into the water.
Nip and I had our dinner; and when it was over, my old friend went out to procure a supply of meat for the next day's business. I sat at the window with my nose resting on the ledge, at times watching some heavy clouds which were rolling up the sky, as if to attend a great meeting overhead; at another moment, looking at the curs in the streets, who were playing all sorts of games, which generally turned into a fight, and often staring at the house opposite without seeing a single stone in the wall, but in their place, Fidas, and puppies with stiff collars, and barrows with piles of meat, ready cut and skewered. I was awoke from this day-dream by the voice of an old, but very clean doggess, inquiring if my name was Mr. Job? I answered that I was so called, when she drew from her pocket and gave me a pink-coloured note, which smelt like a nice garden, and even brought one to my view as plainly as if it had suddenly danced before me, and saying there was no reply, returned by the way she had come.
I did not require to be told by whom it was sent. I knew the writing too well. The neat folding, the small but clean address assured me that a lady's paw had done it all, and every word of the direction—
- MASTER JOB, In the Little Dogs' Street, F. LOWER CANEVILLE. -
spoke to me of Fida, and did not even need the F. in the corner to convince me of the fact. With her permission, I here give you the contents:—
"MY DEAR JOB,
"I am sorry I was away from home when your letter arrived, and would have told you I was going, but that I thought the news might cause you pain, as I, by some mischance, had got my tail jammed in a door, and was forced to leave home in order to visit a famous doctor, who lives at some distance. He fortunately cured me after a few days' illness, and the tail wags now as freely as ever, although it was very annoying, as well as ridiculous, to see me walking up and down the room with that wounded member so wrapped up that it was as thick as my whole body, and was quite a load to drag about.
"But, dear Job, I do not write this to talk about myself, though I am forced to give you this explanation of my silence: what I wish is to say something about you. And to begin, as you have always been a good, kind dog, and listened to me patiently when I have praised, you must now be just as kind and good, and even more patient, because I am going to scold.
"Dear Job, when I met you this morning in your new dress and occupation, I had not then read your letter. I had but just returned, and was taking a walk with my brother, who had arrived from abroad during my absence. I knew you at once, in spite of your change of costume, and though I did not particularly like the business you had chosen, I felt certain you had good reasons for having selected it. But when I looked in your face, instead of the smile of welcome which I expected from you, I could read nothing but shame, confusion, and annoyance. Why? dear Job, why? If you were ashamed of your occupation, why had you chosen it? I suppose when you took it up, you resolved to do your duty in it properly; then why feel shame because your friend sees you, as you must have thought she would one day see you, since the nature of your new business carries you into different parts of the city?
"But, dear Job, I feel certain, and I would like you to be equally sure, that there is no need of shame in following any busines which is honest, and which can be carried on without doing injury to others. It is not the business, believe me, dear Job, which lowers a dog; he himself is alone capable of lowering himself, and one dog may be truly good and noble, though he drive a meat-barrow about the streets, while another may be a miserable, mean animal, though living in a palace and never soiling his paws.
"I have a great deal more to say, my dear Job, upon this subject, but I must leave the rest till I see you. I have already crossed and recrossed my note, and may be most difficult to understand where I most want to be clear. Here is a nice open space, however, in the corner, which I seize on with pleasure to write myself most distinctly,
A variety of feelings passed through my mind as I read these lines. But they were all lost in my wonder at Fida's cleverness in being able to read my face, as if it had been a book. I was grateful to her for the good advice she gave me, and now felt ashamed for having been ashamed before. The best way I thought to prove my thankfulness would be to act openly and naturally as Fida had pointed out, for I could not help confessing, as my eyes looked again and again over her note, that she was quite right, and that I had acted like a very silly animal.
I was interrupted during my reflections by the bursting of rain upon the house-roofs, and the stream which rose from the streets as the large drops came faster and faster down. I went to the door to look for my old friend, but not a dog was to be seen. I was surprised at the sight of the sky where I had observed the clouds rising a little while before, for now those same clouds looked like big rocks piled one above another, with patches of light shining through great caverns.
As I stared eagerly down the street, torrents of water poured from above, which, instead of diminishing, seemed to be growing more terrible every moment. I had never seen so fearful a storm. It did not appear like mere rain which was falling; the water came down in broad sheets, and changed the road into a river. I got more and more anxious about old Nip. It was getting dark, and I knew he was not strong. My hope was that he had taken shelter somewhere; but I could not rest, for I was sure he would try and get home, if only to quiet me. While running in and out in my anxiety—the water having meanwhile risen above the sill of the door, and poured into our little house, where it was already above my paws—I spied a dark figure crawling along the street, and with great difficulty making way against the beating of the storm. I at once rushed out, and swimming rather than running towards the object, I found my poor friend almost spent with fatigue, and scarcely able to move, having a heavy load to carry besides his own old limbs, which were not fit to battle with such a tempest. I caught up his package; and assisting him as well as I was able, we at length got to our cottage, though we were forced to get upon the bench that stood by the wall to keep our legs out of the water. The rain had now become a perfect deluge. A stream of water went hissing down the street, and rushed in and out of the houses as if they had been baths.
When Nip recovered breath, he told me that terrible things were happening in the parts of the city by the waterside. The river had swollen so much, that some kennels had been carried away by the current, and it was impossible to learn how many poor dogs had been drowned. This news made me jump again from the bench where I had been sitting.
"What is it?" said Nip.
"I am going out, Nip," replied I. "I must not be idle here, when I can, perhaps, be of use somewhere else."
"That is true," said Nip; "but, Job, strong as you are, the storm is stronger."
"Yes, Nip," answered I; "but there are dogs weaker than myself who may require such assistance as I can give them, and it is not a time for a dog to sit with his tail curled round him, when there are fellow-creatures who may want a helping paw. So good-bye, old friend; try and go to sleep; you have done your duty as long as your strength let you, it is now for me to do mine." Without waiting for a reply, I rushed out at the door.
It did not need much exertion to get through our street or the next, or the next after that, for as they all sloped downwards, the water more than once took me off my legs, and carried me along. Sad as Nip's news had been, I was not prepared for the terrible scene which met my eyes when I got near the river. The houses at the lower part of the street I had reached had been swept away by the torrent, and a crowd of shivering dogs stood looking at the groaning river as it rolled past in great waves as white as milk, in which black objects, either portions of some kennel or articles of furniture, were floating. Every now and then, a howl would break from a doggess in the crowd, as a dead body was seen tossed about by the angry water; and the same dolorous cries might be heard from different quarters, mixed up with the roar of the river.
While standing with a group of three or four, staring with astonishment at the frightful scene, uncertain what to do, a howl was heard from another direction, so piercing that it made many of us run to learn the cause. The pale light showed us that the torrent had snapped the supports of a house at some distance from the river's bank, but which the swollen stream had now reached, and carried away at least half the building. By some curious chance, the broken timbers had become fixed for the moment in the boiling water, which, angry at the obstruction, was rushing round or flying completely over them; and it was easy to see that in a very short time the mass would be swept away. Upon the timbers thus exposed were three little pups scarce two months old, yelping most dismally as they crouched together, or crawled to the edge of their raft; while on the floor of the ruin from which this side had been torn away, was their poor mother, whose fearful howl had attracted us thither, and who was running from side to side of the shattered hut as if she was frantic.
Great as the danger was, I could not bear to think the wretched mother should see her little ones swallowed up by the stormy water, before her very eyes, without a single attempt being made to save them. Although I could scarcely hope even to reach them in safety, and in no case could bring more than one of them to land at once, if I even got so far, I resolved to make the trial. Better save one, I thought, than let all die.
Holding my breath, I launched into the current in the direction of the raft, and soon found that I had not been wrong in calculating the difficulties and dangers of the undertaking. It was not the water alone which made the peril so great, though the eddies seemed at every moment to be pulling me to the bottom, but there were so many things rushing along with the stream as to threaten to crush me as they flew by; and had they struck me, there is no doubt there would have been an end of my adventures. Avoiding them all, though I know not how, I was getting near the spot where the little pups were crying for their mother, when I felt myself caught in an eddy and dragged beneath the water. Without losing courage, but not allowing myself to breathe, I made a strong effort, and at last, got my head above the surface again; but where was the raft? Where were the helpless puppies? All had gone—not a trace was left to tell where they had been—the river foamed over the spot that had held them for a time, and was now rushing along as if boasting of its strength.
Seeing my intentions thus defeated, I turned my head towards the shore, resolving to swim to land. To my surprise, I found that I made no progress. I put out all my strength—I fought with the water—I threw myself forward—it was in vain—I could not move a paw's breadth against the current. I turned to another point—I again used every exertion—all was useless—I felt my tired limbs sink under me—I felt the stream sweeping me away—my head turned round in the agony of that moment, and I moaned aloud.
My strength was now gone—I could scarce move a paw to keep my head down the river. A dark object came near—it was a large piece of timber, probably a portion of some ruined building. Seizing it as well as my weakness would permit me, I laid my paws over the floating wood, and, dragging my body a little more out of the water, got some rest from my terrible labours.
Where was I hurrying to? I knew not. Every familiar object must have been long passed, but it was too obscure to make out anything except the angry torrent. On, on I went, in darkness and in fear—yes, great fear, not of death, but a fear caused by the strangeness of my position, and the uncertainty before me; on, on, till the black shores seemed to fly from each other, and the river to grow and grow until all land had disappeared, and nothing but the water met my aching eyes. I closed them to shut out the scene, and tried to forget my misery.
Had I slept? And what was the loud noise which startled me so that I had nearly let go my hold? I roused myself—I looked around—I was tossing up and down with a regular motion, but could see nothing clearly, I was no longer carried forward so swiftly as before, but the dim light prevented me making out the place I was now in.
Suddenly, a flash broke from the black clouds, and for a single moment shed a blue light over everything. What a spectacle! All around, for miles and miles and miles, was nothing but dancing water, like shining hills with milky tops, but not a living creature beside myself to keep me company, or say a kind word, or listen to me when I spoke, or pity me when I moaned! Oh! who could tell what I then felt, what I feared, and what I suffered! Alone! alone!
When I think, as I often do now, of that terrible scene, and figure to myself my drenched body clinging to that piece of timber, I seem to feel a strange pity for the miserable dog thus left, as it seemed, to die, away from all his fellows, without a friendly howl raised, to show there was a single being to regret his loss—and I cannot help at such times murmuring to myself, as if it were some other animal, "Poor Job! poor dog!"