The Dog Of Montargis
( Originally Published 1918 )
THE dog is much attached to its master; if it loses him it remembers him for a long time. I am going to give you an example so striking that it has been recorded in history.
"In the year 1371 there lived at the court of King Charles V a nobleman, the Chevalier Macaire, who, envious of the favor one of his companions, Aubry de Montdidier, enjoyed with the king, one day came upon his rival by surprise, when the latter was accompanied only by his dog, in a deserted corner of the forest of Montargis. Finding the occasion opportune for gratifying his odious rancor, he suddenly threw himself upon Aubry, killed him, and buried his body in the forest. The ill deed accomplished, he returned to court, where he bore himself as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred."
"Oh, the hateful wretch!" cried Jules.
"In the meantime the dog couched on its master's grave, where night and day it howled with grief. When the pangs of hunger pressed too hard it returned to Paris, scratched at the door of its master's friends, hastily ate what was given it, and immediately went back to the wood to lie down again on the grave. Seeing it thus come and go alone, always oppressed with care and manifesting by doleful barks some deep grief, people followed it into the forest, watched its actions, and saw that it stopped on a mound of freshly turned earth, where its lamentations became still more plaintive."
"No doubt they dug and the crime was discovered?"
"Struck with the fresh mound of earth and the dog's howls at this spot, they dug and found the dead man, to whom a more honorable burial was then given; but there was nothing to make them suspect the author of the murder. "
"And what became of the dog?" asked Emile.
"After having thus apprized Aubry's friends and relatives that its master had been miserably assassinated, there remained a more difficult task for it to accomplish; namely, to expose the murderer. A relative of the dead man had adopted the dog and was in the habit of taking the animal out with him when he went to walk. One day the dog chanced to spy the assassin, Macaire, in company with other gentle-men. To leap at his throat for the purpose of biting and strangling him, was the affair of an instant."
Bravo ! Good dog ! Strangle the rascal !" cried Emile in great excitement.
"You are going too fast, my friend," his uncle remonstrated. "No one as yet suspected that Macaire was the author of the horrible crime. They draw off the dog, beat it, and drive it away. The animal keeps returning in a rage, and as it is not allowed to come near it struggles, barks from a distance, and directs its threats toward the quarter where Macaire has disappeared.
"This performance is repeated again and again, and on each occasion the dog, perfectly gentle toward every other person, is seized with violent rage at the sight of the murderer and recommences its assaults. It is against Macaire alone that it nurses a grudge which neither threats nor blows can appease. Such is the creature's fury that finally the query arises whether the dog may not be actuated by a desire to avenge the death of its first master."
Ha ! now we are coming to it. Suspicion is aroused."
"They speak to the king about the affair; they tell him that a nobleman of his court was found buried, victim of an unknown assassin; they further inform him that the dead man's dog, with indomitable per sistence, springs at the Chevalier Macaire every time it sees him. The king has the suspected person brought before him and orders him to remain hid-den in the midst of a throng of other bystanders. Then the dog is brought in. Its sense of smell immediately warns it of the presence of the murderer. With its accustomed fury it spots its victim in the crowd and springs at him. As if reassured by the king's presence, it attacks with more boldness than ever, and by its plaintive barks seems to ask that justice be done it. There is hasty intervention, without which Macaire would be devoured by the animal."
"And it would have served him right."
"Wait: punishment will come. The dog's strange conduct, together with other suspicious circumstances, had made an impression on the king. Some days later Charles V had Macaire appear before him and pressed him by his questions to confess the truth. What foundation was there for the suspicions current in regard to him? How explain, if he were not guilty, the dog's repeated attacks and furious barking at sight of him? Seized with the fear of a shameful punishment, Macaire obstinately denied the crime.
"At this epoch, characterized by manners and customs little above barbarism, when the accuser affirmed and the accused denied, with no sufficient proof on either side, it was customary to decide the question by a mortal combat between the two. The one that succumbed was held to be in the wrong."
"But to be the weaker proves nothing against right," objected Jules. "One might be a thousand times right and yet be beaten by one's adversary."
`That is undeniably true, and I hope you will from day to day become more firmly convinced of this noble truth. In our lamentable age-you will learn this later, my friend—in our lamentable age it is a current maxim, a maxim of savagery, that might makes right ! In the days of Charles V, rude as that period was, no one would have dared to say such a horrible thing; but nevertheless, under the influence of superstition, men really believed that the vanquished was in the wrong, because, they maintained, right can never succumb, upheld as it is by God. Therefore a judicial combat was called a judgment of God. Alas, alas, my friend, how far they were from sanity of mind! How far from it we ourselves are, with our duel, relic of ancient barbarism! What does a well-directed shot prove in favor of him who pulled the trigger? Nothing, unless it be that he is more adept in the use of firearms than his adversary, or that chance has been on his side. Thus it is, however, that men decide disputes involving our most precious possession, honor.
"The king, then, ordered the affair to be brought to an end and the truth determined by a combat between the man and the dog. A large field was laid out with seats for the king, all his court, and a numerous company besides. In the middle of the field were the two champions the man with a large and heavy stick, the dog with the weapons that nature had given it, and with nothing but a leaky cask for a refuge and a sally-port."
"This cask was to serve it as shelter against the blows of the stick?" asked Emile.
"It was the citadel where, if the attack became too pressing, it could take refuge in order to escape the cudgel's blows. But the, brave animal did not once make use of it. As soon as it was let loose it rushed at Macaire. But the nobleman's stick was big enough to fell his adversary with a single blow; so the dog began to run this way and that around the man to avoid the crushing descent of the club. Then, seizing its opportunity, with one bound it jumped at its enemy's throat and gripped it so firmly as to throw Macaire over backward. Half strangled, he cried for pity and begged to be freed from the animal, promising to confess everything. The guards drew off the dog and, the judges approaching by royal command, Macaire confessed his crime to them."
"And the assassin got off with nothing but a bite from the dog?"
"Macaire was hanged like the scoundrel that he was."
"That time, at least, might decided right," Jules declared with much satisfaction.