A Dog On His Travels
( Originally Published Ealry 1900's )
ONCE decided, it was evident that the sooner I set off the better; because the road not being familiar to me, it was important that I should travel it again before all traces of our former journey were lost. As yet, we had not been so long in London that I had reason to think I should recognise the principal turnings, besides various objects on the road. I had been asleep during part of the journey, it is true; but I hoped that my sense of smell would come to my help when eyesight failed.
And here I reflected upon the many advantages I had over my master in travelling. First, what a much better nose mine was! His seemed of very little use to him up in the air, out of reach of the ground.
If he had not been able to ask his way, I am sure he could never have found it out by smelling. Then, how inconvenient to be obliged to carry so many things with him ! He could not move without a portmanteau or a suitcase full of clothes, instead of being contented with one good coat on his back. I never could understand why anybody should want more than one coat. Mine was al-ways new, always comfortable, suited to all seasons, and fitting beautifully, having adapted itself to my growth at all stages of my life, without any attention from me. I never had any trouble with tailors, snipping and measuring; trying on and altering. My coat would dry on me, too; whereas my poor master could not even jump into the river without taking his off. If it rained, he wanted an umbrella. Then, he never seemed able to run any distance. For a few hundred yards it was all very well, but after that he began to walk; and if he made a single day's journey, he was obliged to be helped by a horse. Poor man! I pitied him; and yet I never for a moment hesitated to acknowledge him as my master, for, with all his defects, I felt that he was in possession of some faculty incomprehensible to me, but which overpowered a thousand times my animal superiority.
But to return to my own adventures. I determined to find my way to my native village as a dog best might, without delay. So the next morning I set off, following my nose, which was my best guide, through the intricacies of the London streets. More than once I took a wrong turn; but after going a little way up the street I always discovered my mistake, and retraced my steps.
Once I met two gentlemen whom I knew. One asked the other if I was not my master's dog; the other looked round and called, ' Captain ! Captain ! ' I came very near wagging my tail and looking up at the familiar sound, but I fortunately recollected myself in time. As he was not my master, I was not bound to be obedient; so by a strong determination I kept my ears and tail still, and trotted on, taking no notice.
Another time, as I was sniffing the ground where several streets branched off, I heard a voice say, `There's a dog that has lost his master.'
Fine dog, too,' said another; ` there will be a good re-ward advertised for him.'
Humph, there's more to be made by him than that,' replied the first; and as I looked up at him, I recognised the very man whom I had formerly prevented from breaking into my master's country house. I growled fiercely; and if he had attempted to approach me, I was prepared for a spring at his throat.
`He seems to have a spite against you; better leave him alone,' said the other. And the two turned away, evidently aware that it would not. be safe to meddle with me ; and I once more pursued my journey unmolested.
Having my own reasons for not wishing to attract attention, I jostled against as few passengers as possible, and did my utmost to keep clear of inquisitive dogs or arrogant horses, so that I met with few obstacles, and be-fore mid-day arrived safely at the outskirts of London. Then my way became much plainer; a country road, with hedges and fields on each side, was easily tracked; and I could hold up my head in comfort as I ran along at a good pace, instead of keeping my nose close to the ground for fear of losing my way.
I came to a place where four roads met, and there I was perplexed, though but for a few moments. There was a sign-post, but that was nothing to me; it might have been useful to my poor master, but to me it was only one of his many encumbrances, which were superseded by my nose.
So I followed my nose up one of the roads; it would not do. Up a second and a third; still my nose refused assent. As there was but one road besides I had no further choice; so I troubled my nose no more, but gal-loped joyfully ahead without any difficulty, wondering whether my master would have found the way by his reason as surely as I had done by my instinct.
As the day went on, I began to grow uncommonly hungry; that is to say, hungry for me, who had never yet known what it was to want a meal. Accustomed to regular daily food as often as I required it, I do not suppose that in my comfortable life I ever knew what real hunger was, — such hunger as is felt by poor creatures with but scanty food for one day, and uncertain even of that for the next. But I felt that I should like to have my dinner, and, for the first time in my life, was called upon to find it for myself.
And really, when one has been accustomed to have set before him every day, at his own hour, on his own platter, a supply of bread and meat nicely mixed, with perhaps some pudding to finish with, and no trouble required on his part but to eat it tidily, and say, ' Thank you ' after his fashion, it is no small puzzle suddenly to be obliged to provide one's own dinner from beginning to end — catch-big, cooking, and serving it up. There are more in the world than I who would know how to do nothing but eat it. If I had been a wild dog, used to the habits of savage life, I might have hunted down some smaller animal as wild as myself, torn it to pieces, and devoured it raw; but I was a civilised dog, so altered by education, that in my hunting days I always brought the game to my master instead of eating it myself ; and here, on the highroad, there was not even game to be caught. I was quite at a loss what to do.
In the course of time I came up with a traveller sitting under a hedge, eating bread and cheese. I would not have accepted bread and cheese at home if it had been offered me, but now I stopped in front of the man, and began to beg for some, licking my lips, and wagging my tail in my most insinuating manner.
He threw me a scrap of coarse bread, saying, ` There's for you; but I daresay you are too well fed to eat it.'
His supposition would have been true enough the day before; .but hunger cures daintiness, and now I was glad of such a mouthful. I bolted it in an instant, and looked for more. He threw me one other crust, saying that was all he could spare, and, finishing the rest himself, went on his way, leaving me as hungry as ever.
By and by, in passing through a village, I came to a butcher's shop. The butcher was not in sight, and meat was spread in the most tempting manner on the board.
How easily,' thought I, ` could I steal that nice raw chop, and run away with it ! Nobody could see me, and I do not believe anybody could catch me.'
Steal it — the thought startled me. Brought up from my earliest puppyhood in the strictest principles of honesty—able, as I imagined, to see the best-stocked larder, or the most amply supplied table, without even wishing to touch what was not my own, was I now, on the very first temptation, the first time in my life that I had ever been really hungry, to forget all I had been taught, and to become a thief? Was it only the fear of blows that had kept me honest? Was my honesty worthy the name, if I was honest only when I had no temptation to be otherwise? I was ashamed of myself, and, turning from the shop, passed on with drooping ears.
Presently I met a dog so fat as to show plainly that he had never gone without his dinner, and yet he was growling over a bone as if he were starving. Looking more closely at him, I perceived that he was in possession of two bones, either of them enough for one dog; but he was unable to make use of one, for fear of the other's being taken from him. So there he lay, with his paws upon both, growling instead of enjoying himself. Ile was a larger dog than I, but not nearly so strong, being helpless and unwieldy through long habits of greediness and laziness. I saw that I could easily master him, and take one of his bones by force, and at first I felt inclined to help myself by this means. I thought I had a good right so to do. I actually wanted the necessaries of life, while he was revelling in superfluous luxury. Was I not justified, nay, more, was I not bound in common sense and justice to take from him what he did not want, and give it to myself who did want it' Even if I robbed him of one of his bones, I should leave him as much as I took away.
Robbed—another awkward word ! I paused again. Assault and robbery were perhaps not so mean as sneaking theft, but were they more allowable? The bones were his own property, given to him by some one who had a right to dispose of them; and though at this moment I might wish for a more equal distribution, I had sense enough to know that it would be a bad state of things if every dog were to seize upon every other dog's bones at his own discretion. It might suit me at this moment, but tomorrow a stronger dog might think that I had too much, and insist upon my relinquishing half of my dinner. Who was to be the judge? Every dog would differ in opinion as to how much was his own fair share, and how much might be left to his neighbour. No large dog would allow another to dine while he himself was hungry; and it would end by the strongest getting all the bones, while the poor, inferior dogs were worse off than ever. So I determined to respect the rights of property, for the sake of small dogs as well as for my own.
After all, starvation was not inevitable. It might be possible to get a dinner without fighting for it. I sat down opposite my new acquaintance, and entered into civil conversation with him. I found him much more friendly than I expected. He had certainly been accustomed to more indulgence and idleness than was good for him, but his natural disposition was not entirely spoiled. He was the peculiar pet of a lady, who thought it kindness to give him food that disagreed with him, to provide him with no occupation, and to deprive him of healthy exercise, so that no wonder he had grown lazy and selfish ; but his native spirit was not entirely extinguished, and he assured me that a bare bone to growl over, and a little comfortable rain and mud to disport himself in like a dog, were still the greatest treats that could be offered to him. His temper had been further soured by the spite and envy of dogs around him, who, less petted themselves, and not aware how little his petting contributed to his comfort, grudged him everything that he possessed, and lost no opportunity of snapping and snarling at him.
While I reflected on the difference between his circumstances and my own, I felt more inclined to pity than to blame him; but though I condoled with him, I took care to give him the best advice in my power, and to suggest such changes in his own conduct as might tend to better his lot.
He listened with patience and showed his gratitude by treating me with the most cordial hospitality. He gave me an excellent bone, and offered to share his kennel with me; but after my dinner and a nap I was so thoroughly refreshed, that I preferred continuing my journey. He pressed me to call on him on my way back, and we parted excellent friends.
I met with no more adventures or difficulties. Even my night's lodging gave me no trouble, for when it was growing dark, and I felt too tired to run any farther, I espied a heap of straw thrown out by the stable-door of a roadside inn, and I soon scratched and smoothed it into as comfortable a bed as dog need wish. By break of day I was on my travels again; and being now near my native village, on a road of which I knew every step, I had no further perplexity, and by breakfast-time arrived at my old home.