A lame dogs diary, p.7
A Lame Dog's Diary, p.7S. Macnaughtan
Have I ever mentioned that Palestrina is engaged to be married? If Ihave not done so, it is because it seems an obvious fact that allPalestrinas are engaged to be married. Her _fiance_, who is calledThomas, is stationed with his regiment in Ireland. A few weeks ago hesent her, as a token of his affection, a yellow dog with long hair.Palestrina does not like dogs, but she is trying to love Down-Jock forThomas's sake. She says his name is Jock. The dog is a curiouscreature, with a passion for hurling himself at those who wear cleanflannel trousers or light skirts. Thomas says he is full ofintelligence. He appears to be quite a young animal, but he can affectthe airs of extreme old age, sleeping in a basket a great part of theday, or standing on the doorstep to bark at visitors in an asthmaticalmanner, as though he would say, "I am too old and too feeble to givechase, but while I am alive this house shall not lack a defender." Atother times he is wildly juvenile, and rolls himself over and over inan exuberance of youthful fun. This is chiefly on Sundays, when (hisbest joke) he pretends he wants to come to church with us. Sunday isDown-Jock's happiest day in all the week. No Christian in the landloves it more than he does. He begins his religious exercises early inthe morning by barking outside the doors of all those people who havedetermined to take an extra half-hour's rest, and he continues barkingwithout ceasing until the sleeper awakes and gets out of bed to openthe door for him. He bustles in and wags his tail cheerfully, sayingas plainly as a dog can say it, "I am an early riser, you see--and ateetotaler," he adds, trotting across the room to the water-jug, andlapping full red tonguefuls of its contents. Then he stands in themiddle of the room and barks at you; runs to the door and barks at it;barks at the servants as they go downstairs, promising--the littletell-tale!--that their lateness shall be reported in the properquarter. Finally, he climbs on to the bed, and goes to sleep upon yourfeet.
During breakfast he is attentive to every one, and sits on the skirtsof those ladies who most dislike dogs, and pulls them downuncomfortably from the waist. He watches every mouthful of food thatis eaten, and grudges it to the eater; and his eyes are saying all thetime, "How can you be so greedy?" After breakfast his most boisterousjuvenile mood begins. He jumps on every one, or rolls himself over andover under every one's feet. He wags his tail, barks in a piercingmanner--the bark of the gay young dog--and madly rushes after imaginaryrats. All gloves and shoes become his playthings, and he frolicsblithely with the hat-brush.
On weekdays he pleads old age as an excuse, and refuses to comeanywhere with us; but on the Sabbath morning who so ready as Down-Jockto take his walks abroad? He flies after us to the gate, his long hairstreaming in the wind, and his short legs racing like a clockwork dog.
Palestrina says: "Oh dear, what shall we do? Down-Jock! down, sir!Oh, he has spoilt my dress! Good doggie, mustn't go to church! Gohome! go home! Oh, Jock, do get down!--Look, he is following us still,and the church door is always open; he is sure to come in in the middleof the service, and trot up to us in our pew. Do you think Thomaswould mind if I were to look as if he didn't belong to us?"
Jock flies back with an old bone in his mouth and deposits it atPalestrina's feet, dares her to touch it, and makes flying snatches ather shoes when she kicks the treasure aside.
"I must take him back," says Palestrina. "It will make me late ofcourse, but I must go and shut him up."
"He won't follow you," I say. "He is quite determined to go to church."
Palestrina lifts the heavy beast in her arms, and in an exuberance ofjoy Down-Jock makes a doormat of her dress, and rubs his pawsaffectionately against it and licks her hand.
Of course he escapes presently and runs after us; that is his best andmost killing joke. Inwardly one feels he is in a state ofhardly-suppressed laughter as he tears down the road again, barkingwith glee. And then he gets a sober fit, walks demurely in front of usin the narrow field-path, changes his mind suddenly about going tochurch, stops dead short, and trips us up; thinks after all he ought togo to the morning service as an example to the servants; toddles onagain, and stops to say (with the air of extreme old age again assumed)that, after all, he is not up to the exertion, and would have to sitdown at the Psalms, so perhaps it really would be better to stayquietly at home. Another stop. A rapid toilet performed by scratchinghis head with his hind-leg, "just in case I meet any one coming out ofchurch whom I know;" and then Down-Jock meets a boy friend strollingoff to the fields, and running up to him, says: "One must conform toconventionalities, but between you and me I never had the remotestintention of going to church."
Down-Jock, in his moments of most restless activity, always reminds meof a servant of ours who has occasional fits of the most intenseenergy. It begins quite early in the morning, when she gets up somehours before her usual time, and gives a sort of surprise party to therest of the household. These parties take place two or three times ayear, and we do not get over them for weeks afterwards. Every room inthe house is visited in turn, and delinquencies of a twelvemonth arelaid bare. During the morning cupboards are turned out in amagisterial sort of way, and dusty corners are triumphantly displayed.The most cherished rubbish is freely consigned to the waste-paperbaskets, and collections of all sorts are contemptuously swept away.We hastily gather up books and precious oddments, and hurry off withthem to my den, where we take refuge till the whirlwind is past.Curtains and tablecloths are shaken with a sort of vindictive energy atthe back-door; all windows are flung open, and rugs are rolled up,making a sort of obstacle race in every passage and room. Down-Jock,who never recognizes a superior in any one, is the only member of theparty who is not rendered an abject coward. He unrolls rugs, and runsaway with dusters, and snaps at the heels of the housemaid in a waythat provokes one's wonder at his temerity. My sister and I, havinglocked away our most cherished possessions, generally contrive to beout of the house as much as possible on one of these tempestuous days.And following the line of reasoning, not of the highest order, whichsuggests that if one cannot be happy one had better try and be good,Palestrina always visits her old women at the workhouse on these days.
"I wish," she said to me, "that you would walk into the village andmeet me on my way home. I don't think anybody is coming up to see youthis afternoon, and the house is so uncomfortable when Janet is in oneof her whirlwind moods. Come as far as the corner, and go in and sitdown at old Pettifer's if you get tired."
"Shadrach Pettifer tells me," I said, "that his affection for you isbased on the fact that you are so like his poor old mother. Perhapswhile I am waiting at his cottage he may give me further interestingfacts about you."
Shadey is an old man with a bent back and curious bright eyes thatgleam under a heavy thatch of eyebrow. His wife is the very thinnestold woman that I have ever seen; her cheeks have fallen in and are sovery wrinkled that they always remind me of a toy balloon that a childhas pricked with a pin. She is always ill and never complaining. Anyexpression of sympathy seems foreign to her comprehension, and the"Poor thing!" or "I am so sorry," so eagerly accepted by more fortunatefolk, is received by her with a certain air of independence. Lastwinter Mrs. Pettifer was dangerously ill with internal gout, butexpressions of condolence were always met with the rather curiousreply, "Well, you see, sir, we must have something to bring us to ourend." There is a whole world of philosophy in this.
To-day the old couple spent the time while I waited for Palestrina intheir cottage in describing to me the last days in the life of theirtortoise, an old friend, and an animal of evidently strange and unusualqualities. Towards the close of its life it was, on the testimony ofthe Pettifers, taken with screaming fits, and, it even had to be helddown "when the high-strikes was wuss." Later it used to run round andround as never was. And at last Shadey determined to release it fromthis earthly tabernacle. He asked his friend Bridgeman, AnthonyCrawshay's head-keeper, to come round some evening and administerpoison to the unfortunate beast, and the effect of the dose was asstrange as it was unexpected. The pois
We returned home to find the house smelling of furniture polish, andpermeated with a certain cold primness which succeeds a tidying-up, andwhich can only be dispelled by a glowing fire. One by one things werebrought back to the hall, and we felt like snails creeping out in theevening after a day of rain. Banished property strewed the tablesagain, and Palestrina opened the piano and spread it with music. Itwas an act of defiance, but comfortable nevertheless, to collect thecushions which had been dotted primly about in clean muslin covers, andto pile them all on to the sofa before the fire. But Down-Jock, whoalways goes one better than any one else, contributed still morecompletely to the systematized disorganization of the house. He gailywiped his muddy feet on clean paint, and tore blithely round afterimaginary rats wherever order reigned. Finally, in an exuberance ofjoy, he made a hearty supper of Palestrina's manuscript book of music,and barked with glee.
And yet some people say that dogs are not intelligent!
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