Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

poodle. And so I take leave of the Skye terrier with a caveat emptor to the purchaser who does not want to be sold while he buys. The sense of humor must surely exist in individual dogs; otherwise it would puzzle me to account for the singular practical jokes played off by a waterspaniel once possessed by me. This individual, whose name was Muff, was a rather small-sized one, of the pure Kentish blood; liver-colored, with a white ring on his neck, and white paws; closecurled, wicked-eyed, deep-chested, and remarkably powerful for his size. Professionally a retriever, — and one of great promise, although never fully tested with the gun, — his leisure hours, which included every one in the twenty-four, were passed in the invention and perpetration of curiously regulated mischiefs, with all of which he took pains to combine an element of the ludicrous. His great spree was to run amuck into a flock of small children coming out of school. If there was a dirty crossing hard by, over which they had to pass, he would wait until they had got half-way, and then, going through them like a rocket, would chuck them down into the mud, right and left, as he sped, keeping straight on in his career until far beyond range of pedagogue's rod. His trick of making a sudden rush at the heels of unsuspecting persons—and he invariably selected the right sort for his purpose — might often have got me into ugly scrapes, but for the tact with which he invariably ignored his master on such occasions. If pursued, he never came near me for protection, but fled wildly on, assuming the character of a dog "on the loose," belonging to nobody in particular, and quite able to take care of himself. He had a decided objection to street industrials in general, including Italian orlran-grinders and image-sellers. Once I saw him crouching stealthily after one of the latter, who was passing through an open square with a tray of casts upon his head; and before I could get up a whistle or call him off by name, he had darted like a javelin at the legs of the refugee, startling him so much out of the perpen dicular that the superstructure of plastic art came to the ground with a crash, topdressing the sterile soil of the Campus Martius with a coat of manufactured plaster of Paris. Marius, blubbering over the shattered chimney-stacks of Carthage, could not have displayed a more touching classical spectacle than did that modern Roman lamenting to and fro among the fragments of his collapsed martyrs and ruined saints; nor were his pangs fully assuaged even by the application of the universal panacea to an amount more than double the value of his lost wares. A great difficulty in training this dog was to bring him "to heel,"— a still greater one to keep him there when he came. If thrashed into his proper place in his master's wake, he always resented the indignity by biting him pretty severely in the legs with a savage whimper. This he invariably did on first leaving the house with me, sometimes nipping me so severely, after we had gone a short distance, that I have hesitated whether to go back for a pistol to shoot him, or forward for a pennyworth of biscuit to buy him off. When told to " hie away," the extravagance of his joy knew no bounds. He would have been as invaluable to a tailor as was to the Parisian decrotteur the poodle instructed by him to sully with his paws the shoes of the passengers; for, in the exuberance of his gladness, he but too often rent insufferably the vestments of the hapless pedestrians in his line of fire. Sometimes he would turn his assaults upon me, and, springing suddenly at my "wide-awake," take it from my head, trailing it wildly away through the mud, and dropping it in some place where it would be difficult to get at it without wading. Then I would have to conciliate him to fetch it,— a favor not to be obtained without much stratagem and diplomacy. One of this dog's abnormal qualities was the bull-dog one of holding on to his antagonist in a fight . But few dogs of

his size were able to cope with him; and I once saw hiui, when in grips with a fierce bull-terrier by a riverside, precipitate the result by drawling his adversary into the water, and dipping his head under. He would jump off the highest bridge to fetch out of the water anything thrown in for him, never failing to bring it to his master's feet, — except once, when he steadily declined to recover from the raging element a cane with which I had, some time previously, administered to him a sound thrashing for some delinquency. On the first occasion of his being accidentally left behind at a ferry across a very wide and rapid river, he swam out some distance after the boat; but, finding the enterprise a rather hopeless one, soon put back again and waited for the next boat, on board of which he took his place with a tranquil and business-like air. This he regularly did on subsequent occasions, without risking the swim; and when on board, he always seated himself on the upper deck and as fa/- forward as possible, so as to catch early glimpses of his friends in waiting. Among the gifts of this clever animal, I must not forget to reckon a perception of the truthful in Art. I had a walkingstick, upon the crooked handle of which was carved, with tolerable skill, a pointer's head. This piece of sculpture was a source of frequent anxiety to Muff,— his embarrassment apparently arising from the circumstance of his not having the gift of speech wherewith to deliver himself of an opinion on the subject He would sometimes get up from the sunny spot on the carpet where he lay, walk over to the corner in which the stick was deposited, contemplate the handle attentively, with his head on one side, for several minutes, and then, shaking his head doubtfully, return to his lair with a sigh. Philanthropist as well as critic, he once saved the life of a dissipated old sergeant of dragoons, to whom he had taken a fancy, by rushing into a house which the man had just quitted in a state of intoxication, and so rousing the inmates by his gestures, that they at once followed

him into the road, alongside of which the beery old sabreur was found prostrate in a pool of water, setting his face pertinaciously against that hostile element, even to what was very near being his last gasp.

Large dogs often appear to take a humorous view of the futile attempts of small ones to accomplish some feat beyond their strength or stature. A friend of mine once possessed a very Iar<ie animal of a cross between the Mount St Bernard dog and the English mastiff, and as remarkable for his good-nature as for his great strength and courage. Rambling out one day, accompanied by this trusty friend, they came upon a group of rustics engaged in the ignoble diversion of baiting a badger, an animal much in request among English dog-fanciers as a test for the pluck of their terriers. "Drawing a badger" is the proper sportingphrase,— the animal being chained to a barrel, from the recesses of which he contends savagely with the fierce little dogs pitted against each other to drag hiin out within a given time. Nero looked on at the sport with a majestic air of contempt, as dog after dog was withdrawn from the conflict At length, disgusted with the failures, he watched his opportunity until the badger made a dive from his den at a retreating foe, when, snapping him up by the collar, he thundered away down the road with the barrel Hying after, nor ever stopped until he reached home, nearly a mile away, where he safely deposited badger and barrel in the immediate vicinity of his private residence in the stable-yard.

One of the worst vices by which a dog can be beset is a propensity for killing sheep. It is not a common vice, but, where it exists, it appears to be inveterate and beyond all hope of reform. Shutting up the delinquent with a dangerous ram has often been recommended as a certain mode of disgusting him with mutton, should he survive the discipline inflicted on him by the avenger of the blood of his race. I can recall but one instance within my experience in which this corrective was tested. It was

in the case of a sulky dog of a breed between the red Irish setter and something larger, but less patrician, upon whom the thirst for blood fell at uncertain intervals, impelling him then to devastate the very sheepfolds of which in his capacity as watch-dog he might have been considered as ex officio the guardian. This vile malefactor had been ordered for execution, and the noose was already coiled for his caitiff neck, when a neighbor of his master's — a great raiser of sheep — begged for him a reprieve, kindly volunteering the use of a truculent, but valuable ram belonging to him, for the purpose of illustrating the homoeopathic theory above alluded to. At nightfall the ram was brought and turned into a paddock, where he was left fettered to the dog with a couple of yards of chain. At the dawn of morning the ram's master approached confidently the arena of discipline, secure of a result triumphant for his theory. But theory was a delusion in this instance; for the red dog Tanner sat there alone and surfeited with mutton, — though there was a good deal of the ram still left. It is wonderful what an amount of crime can be committed, even by a small dog, when, like the Chourineur of Eugene Sue, he is under the glamour of blood. Of this there came to my knowledge a well-authenticated instance, one for the truth of which I can vouch. A settler in a remote bush-district had been to the nearest village, which was many miles from his clearing. It was in March, and the surface of the snow—which was quite two feet deep—was frozen to a hard crust, as he travelled homewards in his cutter, accompanied by a currish dog, not nearly so large as an average pointer. About nightfall, and when some two miles from home, a herd of nine deer crossed his track, struggling away into the woods with uncertain plunges, as the treacherous crust gave way beneath them at every bound. While they were yet in sight, the dog gave chase, and they all disappeared into the dark forest to

gether; nor did the dog return to the call of his master, who, after whistling to him for a short time, proceeded on his way and drove home without him. Early next morning the cur made his appearance, glutted and gory, and looking the very picture of dissipation. Struck by his appearance, they took the back track on his trail, which led them to a hollow in the bush, where the snow was much trampled and draggled with blood, and in and around which every one of the nine deer lay dead, pulled down and throttled by one miserable cur, who had the mastery over them, because he could run on the surface of the snow, through which they sunk. The dog's master — at whose shanty I once stayed when on a fishing-excursion—was much mortified at the occurrence, as the deer-hunting season was past, and he was one of Nature's sportsmen, a game-keeper by instinct.

I have but one more anecdote of a dog, for the present; and that is one for the truth of which I distinctly decline to vouch. It was imparted to me by a calker, who owned a woolly French poodle, which remarkable animal, he informed me, used to swim out regularly once a week, — on Saturday evenings, I think he said, — with a large wisp of tow in his mouth, upon the ascension of his fleas into which place of refuge, he would "let it slide " down the current and swim back tranquilly to the shore, there to slumber away another week in comparative comfort.*

Having thus calked my Dog-Talk — bark, in fact — with this very tough bit of yarn, I now trustfully commit it to the mercies of the " Atlantic."

* The calker's dog had probably never read Olaus Magnus, though that worthy Archbishop wrote something very like dog-Latin; but, as dwellers on the margin of the " Atlantic," we have too great a respect for a prelate who believed in the kraaken and the sea-serpent, not to refer our valued Cynophilist to the Thirty-Ninth Chapter of the Eighteenth Book De Gentibut Septentrionalibiis, where he will find the same story told of the fox. — Eds. Atlantic.

THE RECKONING.

Your thought may recur with mine To a certain place in the city,
Where you sometimes have chanced to dine;If not, why, the more's the pity!Did you notice the delicate way

Whereby, with the trencher and cup, Comes a hint of the matter of pay,
In a counter laid blank side up t

Now,—not to pervert the intent Of a courtesy gentle and rare,
Or observance so civilly meant With disparaging things to compare,— By the token your messenger brings, Did such services never suggest
A likeness to manifold things Of the world, and the flesh, and — the rest?

Command whatsoever you will, To pamper your folly or pride;
You shall find, that unfailingly, still, The counter is laid beside, Silently,— seemingly fair,—

Till an angel the disk shall turn,
And the soul's great debt, the inscription there, On her vision shall burst and burn!A TRIP TO CUBA.

Matanzas. over the body. They seem to be objects of tender solicitude to those who cam

A nOT and dustyjourney of some six them; they are nursed and fondled like

hours brought us to Matanzas at high children, and at intervals are visited all

noon. Our companions were Cubans, round by a negro, who fills his mouth

Spaniards, Americans, and game-chick- with water, and squirts it into their eyes

ens, that travel extensively in these parts, and under their feathers. They are cu

sometimes in little baskets, with openings riously plucked on the back and about

for the head and tail, sometimes in the the tail, where only the long tail-feathers

hands of their owners, secured only by a are allowed to grow. Their lameness in

string fastened to one foot and passed the hands of their masters is quite re- markable; they suffer themselves to be turned and held in any direction. But when set down, at any stage of the journey, they stamp their little feet, stretch their necks, crow, and look about them for the other cock with most belligerent eyes. As we have said that the negro of the North is an ideal negro, so we must say that the game-cock of Cuba is an ideal chicken, a fowl that is too good to be killed, — clever enough to fight for people who are too indolent and perhaps too cowardly to fight for themselves,— in short, the gladiator of the tropics. Well, as we have said, we and they arrived at our journey's end in the extreme heat of the day; and having shown our paper and demanded our trunks, we beat an instantaneous retreat before the victorious monarch of the skies, and lo! the Ensor House, dirty, bare, and comfortless, was to us as a fortress and a rock of defence. Here I would gladly pause, and, giving vent to my feelings, say how lovely I found Matanzas. But ever since Byron's time, the author is always hearing the public say, " Don't be poetical," etc., etc.; and in these days both writer and reader seem to have discovered that life is too short for long descriptions,—so that, when the pen of a G. P. R. James, waiting for the inspirations of its master, has amused itself with sketching a greater or less extent of natural scenery, the rule of the novel-reader is invariably, "Skip landscape, etc., to event on thirty-second page." Nevertheless, I will say that Matanzas is lovely,—with the fair harbor on one hand and the fair hills on the other, sitting like a mother between two beautiful daughters, who looks from one to the other and wonders which she loves best. The air from the water is cool and refreshing, the sky is clear and open, and the country around seems to beckon one to the green bosom of its shades. "Oh, what a relief after Havana!" one says, drawing a full breath, and remembering with a shudder the sickening puffs from its stirring streets, which make you think that Polonius lies unburied in every house, and that you nose him as you pass the door and window-gratings. With this exclamation and remembrance, you lower yourself into one of Mr. Ensor's rocking-chairs,— twelve of which, with a rickety table and a piano, four crimson tidies and six white ones, form the furniture of the Ensor drawing-room, — you lean your head on your hand, close your eyes, and wish for a comfortable room with a bed in it. A tolerable room you shall have; but for a bed, only a cot-bedstead with a sacking bottom,— further, nothing. Now, if you are some folks that I know, you will be able to establish very comfortable repose on this slender foundation, Nature having so amply furnished you that you are your own feather-bed, bolster, sofa-cushion, and easy-chair, a moving mass of upholstery, wanting only a frame to be set down in and supported. But if you should be one of Boston's normal skeletons, pinched in every member with dyspepsia, and with the mark of the beast neuralgia on your forehead, then your skin will have a weary time of it, holding your bones, and you will be fain to entreat with tears the merciful mediation of a mattress. Now I know very well that those of my readers who intend visiting Cuba will be much more interested in statistics of hotels than in any speculations, poetical or philosophical, with which I might be glad to recompense their patience. Let me tell them, therefore, that the Ensor House is neither better nor worse than other American hotels in Cuba. The rooms are not very bad, the attendance not intolerable, the table almost commendable. The tripe, salt-fish, and plantains were, methought, much as at other places. There were stews of meat, onions, sweet pippins, and ncbra, which deserve notice. The early coffee was punctual; the tea, for a wonder, black and hot. True, it was served on a bare pine table, with the accompaniment only of a bit of dry bread,— no butter, cake, nor dulces. But Mr. Ensor has heard, no

« EdellinenJatka »