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My Doggie and I

My Doggie and I

Author:R. M. Ballantyne


I possess a doggie--not a dog, observe, but a doggie. If he had been a dog I would not have presumed to intrude him on your notice. A dog is all very well in his way--one of the noblest of animals, I admit, and pre-eminently fitted to be the companion of man, for he has an affectionate nature...
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  I possess a doggie--not a dog, observe, but a doggie. If he had been adog I would not have presumed to intrude him on your notice. A dog isall very well in his way--one of the noblest of animals, I admit, andpre-eminently fitted to be the companion of man, for he has anaffectionate nature, which man demands, and a forgiving disposition,which man needs--but a dog, with all his noble qualities, is not to becompared to a doggie.

  My doggie is unquestionably the most charming, and, in every way,delightful doggie that ever was born. My sister has a baby, about whichshe raves in somewhat similar terms, but of course that is ridiculous,for her baby differs in no particular from ordinary babies, except,perhaps, in the matter of violent weeping, of which it is fond; whereasmy doggie is unique, a perfectly beautiful and singular specimen of--ofwell, I won't say what, because my friends usually laugh at me when Isay it, and I don't like to be laughed at.

  Freely admit that you don't at once perceive the finer qualities, eithermental or physical, of my doggie, partly owing to the circumstance thathe is shapeless and hairy. The former quality is not prepossessing,while the latter tends to veil the amiable expression of his countenanceand the lustre of his speaking eyes. But as you come to know him hegrows upon you; your feelings are touched, your affections stirred, andyour love is finally evoked. As he resembles a door-mat, or rather ascrap of very ragged door-mat, and has an amiable spirit, I have calledhim "Dumps." I should not be surprised if you did not perceive anyconnection here. You are not the first who has failed to see it; Inever saw it myself.

  When I first met Dumps he was scurrying towards me along a sequesteredcountry lane. It was in the Dog Days. Dust lay thick on the road; thecreature's legs were remarkably short though active, and his hair beinglong he swept up the dust in clouds as he ran. He was yelping, and Iobserved that one or two stones appeared to be racing with, or after,him. The voice of an angry man also seemed to chase him, but the ownerof the voice was at the moment concealed by a turn in the lane, whichwas bordered by high stone-walls.

  Hydrophobia, of course, flashed into my mind. I grasped my stick anddrew close to the wall. The hairy whirlwind, if I may so call it, camewildly on, but instead of passing me, or snapping at my legs as I hadexpected, it stopped and crawled towards me in a piteous; supplicatingmanner that at once disarmed me. If the creature had lain still, Ishould have been unable to distinguish its head from its tail; but asone end of him whined, and the other wagged, I had no difficulty.

  Stooping down with caution, I patted the end that whined, whereupon theend that wagged became violently demonstrative. Just then the owner ofthe voice came round the corner. He was a big, rough fellow, in raggedgarments, and armed with a thick stick, which he seemed about to flingat the little dog, when I checked him with a shout--

  "You'd better not, my man, unless you want your own head broken!"

  You see I am a pretty well-sized man myself, and, as I felt confidencein my strength, my stick, and the goodness of my cause, I was bold.

  "What d'you mean by ill-treating the little dog?" I demanded sternly,as I stepped up to the man.

  "A cove may do as he likes with his own, mayn't he?" answered the man,with a sulky scowl.

  "A `cove' may do nothing of the sort," said I indignantly, for crueltyto dumb animals always has the effect of inclining me to fight, though Iam naturally of a peaceable disposition. "There is an Act ofParliament," I continued, "which goes by the honoured name of Martin,and if you venture to infringe that Act I'll have you taken up andprosecuted."

  While I was speaking I observed a peculiar leer on the man's face, whichI could not account for. He appeared, however, to have been affected bymy threats, for he ceased to scowl, and assumed a deferential air as hereplied, "Vell, sir, it do seem raither 'ard that a cove should beblowed up for kindness."

  "Kindness!" I exclaimed, in surprise.

  "Ay, kindness, sir. That there hanimal loves me, it do, like a brother,an the love is mootooal. Ve've lived together now--off an' on--for thematter o' six months. Vell, I gits employment in a factory aboutfifteen miles from here, in which no dogs is allowed. In coorse, Ican't throw up my sitivation, sir, can I? Neither can my doggie give uphis master wot he's so fond of, so I'm obleeged to leave 'im in chargeof a friend, with stric' orders to keep 'im locked up till I'm fairlygone. Vell, off I goes, but he manages to escape, an' runs arter me.Now, wot can a feller do but drive 'im 'ome with sticks an' stones,though it do go to my 'eart to do it? but if he goes to the factory he'ssure to be shot, or scragged, or drownded, or somethink; so you see,sir, it's out o' pure kindness I'm a peltin' of 'im."

  Confess that I felt somewhat doubtful of the truth of this story; but,in order to prevent any expression of my face betraying me, I stoopedand patted the dog while the man spoke. It received my attentions withevident delight. A thought suddenly flashed on me:--

  "Will you sell your little dog?" I asked.

  "Vy, sir," he replied, with some hesitation, "I don't quite like to dothat. He's such a pure breed, and--and he's so fond o' me."

  "But have you not told me that you are obliged to part with him?"

  I thought the man looked puzzled for a moment, but only for a moment.Turning to me with a bland smile, he said, "Ah, sir I that's just whereit is. I am obleeged to part with him, but I ain't obleeged to sellhim. If I on'y part with 'im, my friend keeps 'im for me, and we maymeet again, but if I sell 'im, he's gone for ever! Don't you see?Hows'ever, if you wants 'im wery bad, I'll do it on one consideration."

  "And that is?"

  "That you'll be good to 'im."

  I began to think I had misjudged the man. "What's his name?" I asked.

  Again for one moment there was that strange, puzzled look in the man'sface, but it passed, and he turned with another of his bland smiles.

  "His name, sir? Ah, his name? He ain't got no name, sir!"

  "No name!" I exclaimed, in surprise.

  "No, sir; I object to givin' dogs names on principle. It's too muchlike treatin' them as if they wos Christians; and, you know, theycouldn't be Christians if they wanted to ever so much. Besides, wotevername you gives 'em, there must be so many other dogs with the same name,that you stand a chance o' the wrong dog comin' to 'e ven you calls."

  "That's a strange reason. How then do you call him to you?"

  "Vy, w'en I wants 'im I shouts `Hi,' or `Hallo,' or I vistles."

  "Indeed," said I, somewhat amused by the humour of the fellow; "and whatdo you ask for him?"

  "Fi' pun ten, an' he's dirt cheap at that," was the quick reply.

  "Come, come, my man, you know the dog is not worth that."

  "Not worth it, sir!" he replied, with an injured look; "I tell you he'scheap at that. Look at his breedin', and then think of his affectionatenatur'. Is the affections to count for nuffin'?"

  Admitted that the affections were worth money, though it was generallyunderstood that they could not be purchased, but still objected to theprice, until the man said in a confidential tone--

  "Vell, come, sir, since you do express such a deal o' love for 'im, andpromise to be so good to 'im, I'll make a sacrifice and let you 'ave 'imfor three pun ten--come!"

  Gave in, and walked off, with my purchase leaping joyfully at my heels.

  The man chuckled a good deal after receiving the money, but I took nonotice of that at the time, though I thought a good deal about itafterwards.

  Ah! little did I think, as Dumps and I walked home that day, of thedepth of the attachment that was to spring up between us, the variedexperiences of life we were destined to have together, and the importantinfluence he was to exercise on my career.

  Forgot to mention that my name is Mellon--John Mellon. Dumps knows myname as well as he knows his own.

  On reaching home, Dumps displayed an evidence of good breeding, whichconvinced me that he could not have spent all his puppyhood in companywith the man from whom I had bought him. He wiped his feet on thedoor-mat with great vigour before entering my house, and also refused topass in until I led the way.

  "Now, Dumps," said I, seating myself on the sofa in my solitary room

Iwas a bachelor at the time--a medical student, just on the point ofcompleting my course

, "come here, and let us have a talk."

  To my surprise, the doggie came promptly forward, sat down on hishind-legs, and looked up into my face. I was touched by this display ofready confidence. A confiding nature has always been to me powerfullyattractive, whether in child, cat, or dog. I brushed the shaggy hairfrom his face in order to see his eyes. They were moist, and intenselyblack. So was the point of his nose.

  "You seem to be an affectionate doggie, Dumps."

  A portion of hair--scarce worthy the name of tail--wagged as I spoke,and he attempted to lick my fingers, but I prevented this by patting hishead. I have an unconquerable aversion to licking. Perhaps havingreceived more than an average allowance, in another sense, at school,may account for my dislike to it--even from a dog!

  "Now, Dumps," I continued, "you and I are to be good friends. I'vebought you--for a pretty large sum too, let me tell you--from a man who,I am quite sure, treated you ill, and I intend to show you what goodtreatment is; but there are two things I mean to insist on, and it iswell that we should understand each other at the outset of our unitedcareer. You must never bark at my friends--not even at my enemies--whenthey come to see me, and you must not beg at meals. D'you understand?"

  The way in which that shaggy creature cocked its ears and turned itshead from side to side slowly, and gazed with its lustrous eyes while Iwas speaking, went far to convince me it really did understand what Isaid. Of course it only wagged its rear tuft of hair in reply, andwhimpered slightly.

  Refer to its rear tuft advisedly, because, at a short distance, mydoggie, when in repose, resembled an elongated and shapeless mass; but,when roused by a call or otherwise, three tufts of hair instantly sprangup--two at one end, and one at the other end--indicating his ears andtail. It was only by these signs that I could ascertain at any time hisexact position.

  I was about to continue my remarks to Dumps when the door opened and mylandlady appeared bearing the dinner tray.

  "Oh! I beg parding, sir," she said, drawing back, "I didn't 'ear yourvoice, sir, till the door was open, an' I thought you was alone, but Ican come back a--"

  "Come in, Mrs Miff. There is nobody here but my little dog--one that Ihave just bought, a rather shaggy terrier--what do you think of him?"

  "Do 'e bite, sir?" inquired Mrs Miff, in some anxiety, as she passedround the table at a respectful distance from Dumps.

  "I think not. He seems an amiable creature," said I, patting his head."Do you ever bite, Dumps?"

  "Well, sir, I never feel quite easy," rejoined Mrs Miff in a doubtfultone, as she laid my cloth, with, as it were, one eye ever on the alert:"you never knows w'en these 'airy creatures is goin' to fly at you. Ifyou could see their heyes you might 'ave a guess what they was athinkin' of; an' then it is so orkard not knowin' w'ich end of the 'airybundle is the bitin' end, you can't help bein' nervish a little."

  Having finished laying the cloth, Mrs Miff backed out of the room afterthe manner of attendants on royalty, overturning two chairs with herskirts as she went, and showing her full front to the enemy. But theenemy gave no sign, good or bad. All the tufts were down flat, and hestood motionless while Mrs Miff retreated.

  "Dumps, what do you think of Mrs Miff?"

  The doggie ran to me at once, and we engaged in a little furtherconversation until my landlady returned with the viands. To my surpriseDumps at once walked sedately to the hearth-rug, and lay down thereon,with his chin on his paws--at least I judged so from the attitude, for Icould see neither chin nor paws.

  This act I regarded as another evidence of good breeding. He was not abeggar, and, therefore, could not have spent his childhood with the manfrom whom I had bought him.

  "I wish you could speak, Dumps," said I, laying down my knife and fork,when about half finished, and looking towards the hearth-rug.

  One end of him rose a little, the other end wagged gently, but as I madeno further remark, both ends subsided.

  "Now, Dumps," said I, finishing my meal with a draught of water, whichis my favourite beverage, "you must not suppose that you have got agreedy master; though I don't allow begging. There, sir, is yourcorner, where you shall always have the remnants of my dinner--come."

  The dog did not move until I said, "come." Then, with a quick rush hemade for the plate, and very soon cleared it.

  "Well, you have been well trained," said I, regarding him with interest;"such conduct is neither the result of instinct nor accident, and suream I, the more I think of it, that the sulky fellow who sold you to mewas not your tutor; but, as you can't speak, I shall never find out yourhistory, so, Dumps, I'll dismiss the subject."

  Saying this, I sat down to the newspaper with which I invariably solacedmyself for half an hour after dinner, before going out on my afternoonrounds.

  This was the manner in which my doggie and I began our acquaintance, andI have been thus particular in recounting the details, because they bearin a special manner on some of the most important events of my life.

  Being, as already mentioned, a medical student, and having almostcompleted my course of study, I had undertaken to visit in one of thepoorest districts in London--in the neighbourhood of Whitechapel; partlyfor the purpose of gaining experience in my profession, and partly forthe sake of carrying the Word of Life--the knowledge of the Saviour--into some of the many homes where moral as well as physical disease isrife.

  Leanings and inclinations are inherited not less than bodilypeculiarities. My father had a particular tenderness for poor old womenof the lowest class. So have I. When I see a bowed, aged, wrinkled,white-haired, feeble woman in rags and dirt, a gush of tender pityalmost irresistibly inclines me to go and pat her head, sit down besideher, comfort her, and give her money. It matters not what herantecedents may have been. Worthy or unworthy, there she stands now,with age, helplessness, and a hopeless temporal future, pleading moreeloquently in her behalf than could the tongue of man or angel. True,the same plea is equally applicable to poor old men, but, reader, Iwrite not at present of principles so much as of feelings. My weaknessis old women!

  Accordingly, on my professional visiting list--I had at that time aconsiderable number of these. One of them, who was uncommonly small,unusually miserable, and pathetically feeble, lay heavy on my spiritjust then. She had a remarkably bad cold at the time, which betrayeditself chiefly in a frequent, but feeble, sneeze.

  As I rose to go out, and looked at my doggie--who was, or seemed to be,asleep on the rug--a sudden thought occurred to me.

  "That poor old creature," I muttered, "is very lonely in her garret; alittle dog might comfort her. Perhaps--but no. Dumps, you are toolively for her, too bouncing. She would require something feeble andaffectionate, like herself. Come, I'll think of that. So, my doggie,you shall keep watch here until I return."