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R. M. Ballantyne
My Doggie and I

Chapter One
Explains Itself

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, which man demands, and a forgiving disposition, which man needs—but a dog, with all his noble qualities, is not to be compared 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 which she 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; whereas my doggie is unique, a perfectly beautiful and singular specimen of—of well, I won’t say what, because my friends usually laugh at me when I say it, and I don’t like to be laughed at.

Freely admit that you don’t at once perceive the finer qualities, either mental or physical, of my doggie, partly owing to the circumstance that he is shapeless and hairy. The former quality is not prepossessing, while the latter tends to veil the amiable expression of his countenance and the lustre of his speaking eyes. But as you come to know him he grows upon you; your feelings are touched, your affections stirred, and your love is finally evoked. As he resembles a door-mat, or rather a scrap of very ragged door-mat, and has an amiable spirit, I have called him “Dumps.” I should not be surprised if you did not perceive any connection here. You are not the first who has failed to see it; I never saw it myself.

When I first met Dumps he was scurrying towards me along a sequestered country lane. It was in the Dog Days. Dust lay thick on the road; the creature’s legs were remarkably short though active, and his hair being long he swept up the dust in clouds as he ran. He was yelping, and I observed 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 owner of the voice was at the moment concealed by a turn in the lane, which was bordered by high stone-walls.

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

Stooping down with caution, I patted the end that whined, whereupon the end that wagged became violently demonstrative. Just then the owner of the voice came round the corner. He was a big, rough fellow, in ragged garments, and armed with a thick stick, which he seemed about to fling at 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 confidence in 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 cruelty to dumb animals always has the effect of inclining me to fight, though I am naturally of a peaceable disposition. “There is an Act of Parliament,” I continued, “which goes by the honoured name of Martin, and if you venture to infringe that Act I’ll have you taken up and prosecuted.”

While I was speaking I observed a peculiar leer on the man’s face, which I could not account for. He appeared, however, to have been affected by my threats, for he ceased to scowl, and assumed a deferential air as he replied, “Vell, sir, it do seem raither ’ard that a cove should be blowed 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 the matter o’ six months. Vell, I gits employment in a factory about fifteen miles from here, in which no dogs is allowed. In coorse, I can’t throw up my sitivation, sir, can I? Neither can my doggie give up his master wot he’s so fond of, so I’m obleeged to leave ’im in charge of a friend, with stric’ orders to keep ’im locked up till I’m fairly gone. 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’s sure 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 stooped and patted the dog while the man spoke. It received my attentions with evident 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 do that. 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 where it is. I am obleeged to part with him, but I ain’t obleeged to sell him. If I on’y part with ’im, my friend keeps ’im for me, and we may meet 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’s face, 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 much like treatin’ them as if they wos Christians; and, you know, they couldn’t be Christians if they wanted to ever so much. Besides, wotever name 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 what do 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’s cheap at that. Look at his breedin’, and then think of his affectionate natur’. Is the affections to count for nuffin’?”

Admitted that the affections were worth money, though it was generally understood that they could not be purchased, but still objected to the price, until the man said in a confidential tone—

“Vell, come, sir, since you do express such a deal o’ love for ’im, and promise to be so good to ’im, I’ll make a sacrifice and let you ’ave ’im for 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 no notice of that at the time, though I thought a good deal about it afterwards.

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

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

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

“Now, Dumps,” said I, seating myself on the sofa in my solitary room (I was a bachelor at the time—a medical student, just on the point of completing my course), “come here, and let us have a talk.”

To my surprise, the doggie came promptly forward, sat down on his hind-legs, and looked up into my face. I was touched by this display of ready confidence. A confiding nature has always been to me powerfully attractive, whether in child, cat, or dog. I brushed the shaggy hair from his face in order to see his eyes. They were moist, and intensely black. 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 his head. I have an unconquerable aversion to licking. Perhaps having received 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’ve bought 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 good treatment is; but there are two things I mean to insist on, and it is well that we should understand each other at the outset of our united career. You must never bark at my friends—not even at my enemies—when they 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 its head from side to side slowly, and gazed with its lustrous eyes while I was speaking, went far to convince me it really did understand what I said. Of course it only wagged its rear tuft of hair in reply, and whimpered slightly.

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

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

“Oh! I beg parding, sir,” she said, drawing back, “I didn’t ’ear your voice, sir, till the door was open, an’ I thought you was alone, but I can come back a—”

“Come in, Mrs Miff. There is nobody here but my little dog—one that I have just bought, a rather shaggy terrier—what do you think of him?”

“Do ’e bite, sir?” inquired Mrs Miff, in some anxiety, as she passed round 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 doubtful tone, 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. If you could see their heyes you might ’ave a guess what they was a thinkin’ of; an’ then it is so orkard not knowin’ w’ich end of the ’airy bundle is the bitin’ end, you can’t help bein’ nervish a little.”

Having finished laying the cloth, Mrs Miff backed out of the room after the manner of attendants on royalty, overturning two chairs with her skirts as she went, and showing her full front to the enemy. But the enemy gave no sign, good or bad. All the tufts were down flat, and he stood 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 further conversation until my landlady returned with the viands. To my surprise Dumps 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 I could see neither chin nor paws.

This act I regarded as another evidence of good breeding. He was not a beggar, and, therefore, could not have spent his childhood with the man from 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 made no further remark, both ends subsided.

“Now, Dumps,” said I, finishing my meal with a draught of water, which is my favourite beverage, “you must not suppose that you have got a greedy master; though I don’t allow begging. There, sir, is your corner, 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 he made 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 sure am I, the more I think of it, that the sulky fellow who sold you to me was not your tutor; but, as you can’t speak, I shall never find out your history, so, Dumps, I’ll dismiss the subject.”

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

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

Being, as already mentioned, a medical student, and having almost completed my course of study, I had undertaken to visit in one of the poorest districts in London—in the neighbourhood of Whitechapel; partly for the purpose of gaining experience in my profession, and partly for the 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 is rife.

Leanings and inclinations are inherited not less than bodily peculiarities. My father had a particular tenderness for poor old women of 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 pity almost irresistibly inclines me to go and pat her head, sit down beside her, comfort her, and give her money. It matters not what her antecedents may have been. Worthy or unworthy, there she stands now, with age, helplessness, and a hopeless temporal future, pleading more eloquently in her behalf than could the tongue of man or angel. True, the same plea is equally applicable to poor old men, but, reader, I write not at present of principles so much as of feelings. My weakness is old women!

Accordingly, on my professional visiting list—I had at that time a considerable number of these. One of them, who was uncommonly small, unusually miserable, and pathetically feeble, lay heavy on my spirit just then. She had a remarkably bad cold at the time, which betrayed itself 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; a little dog might comfort her. Perhaps—but no. Dumps, you are too lively for her, too bouncing. She would require something feeble and affectionate, like herself. Come, I’ll think of that. So, my doggie, you shall keep watch here until I return.”


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My Doggie and I

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