Collie Of The Fog-bell
( Originally Published Ealry 1900's )
One day, after some deliberation, I was taken into the dory. I must confess it was dreadfully rough when we left the mouth of the breakwater for the open bay. Our dory bobbed about like a ball on the swell and cross-currents it met. I was a badly frightened dog, and had serious thoughts of jumping over-board, swimming for the breakwater and then clambering back along the rocky wall to the shore, but the breakers foamed so threateningly about the rocks that I hardly dared risk the landing, and so sat trembling in terror at master's feet, while Tom and John pulled strong, steady strokes at their oars to bring the dory out of the treacherous cross-currents, and laughed and joked as if but three feet, instead of as many fathoms, of water lay beneath them.
Soon, however, my fears subsided somewhat. It was not so " choppy " as we went on. I began to enjoy riding over the long, gentle swells. I liked it far better than lying at anchor while they were fishing and bobbing uneasily about, and having slimy cunners flopping at my feet in the bottom of the dory, pricking my legs and sides with their sharp fins. I was very glad, however, that I endured it so patiently; otherwise, I would not have. been taken out again, and would have missed making an acquaintance on a subsequent trip which gave me unspeakable delight. There are so few dogs, you know, with whom a greyhound really cares to cultivate a friendship.
I behaved so admirably that I was allowed to go whenever there was room in the dory for me; so, when Tom and John planned one morning to row master and Mr. Morrison around Lighthouse Island, where they could get an unobstructed view of the tower and see the ugly reefs at low tide, I was allowed to go with them. There were so many trees on the little island that only the top of the tower with its lantern could be seen above them from the cottages on shore. My friends, as well as my-self, had all learned to watch for its first gleam of light at sundown, and then wait expectantly for the huge lantern to revolve and send another red glow over the tree-tops and across the bay. But, on this occasion, we were not only to see the tower and the reefs, but I was to find a new friend under most novel and thrilling circumstances. I suppose Tom must have known all about it; but he had no way of making a greyhound understand, except by bringing him out to see for himself.
We circled a spur of the island that pointed across to the opposite shore of the bay where the twin tower stood, dividing duty and honours with its mate of Lighthouse island; still farther around we rowed, until our dory lay dancing on the waves perilously near the jagged rocks that bulwarked the seaward shore at the foot of the tower. On the extreme edge of the island, between the tower and the sea, and near the keeper's cottage, a huge fog-bell was suspended. Several times we had heard its melancholy tones, as the bell moaned in muffled vibrations through the dense, white blanket of fog that now and then enveloped our pretty bay like the cloak of some malicious spirit of the sea. I had not known what it meant—that weird, unearthly voice sounding across the water. But as we rounded the island and approached the reefs, a magnificent collie came bounding down to the shore where the bell hung, and, after barking frantically at our boat for a few minutes, rushed to the big bell, seized the rope in his teeth, and, with violent jerks, sent the massive iron clapper clanging against its sides, until the keeper came running down to see what danger was threatening.
He called Collie off and shouted to master; then Tom, making a trumpet of his hands, hallooed back. I didn't know just what was said between the men, — I was too interested in the dog, --but when Collie rushed so excitedly down to the shore, he had barked out : " Keep off! Keep off! There are dangerous rocks underneath your boat. Go back, go back ! Bow, wow, wow ! Go back! Go back ! " and he would not be pacified until Tom pushed out into deeper water.
" Hello, friend! " I barked back, as soon as I could get in my bow-wow. " You are an uncommonly bright dog; I'd like to make your acquaintance. Can't you come over to the mainland to see a summer visitor? "
" No," answered Collie; " I can't leave home. I have to tend the fog-bell. But come over here to see me. Tow knows me well; it will be all right. I am a proper dog for you to associate with. Can't you comet "
" I would like to, immensely," I barked in reply ; " but it's too tough a swim. Besides, I hate water! I wish Tom would go ashore !
And presently he did. They made a difficult landing on another part of the island, — difficult, for the whole of its coast was more or less rock-bound, and, while the keeper took the men up to his cottage and the tower, I visited with Collie.
" You are a wonderful dog, Collie ! " I said, looking at him admiringly. " Lots of dogs do things — just everyday things, like watching out for thieves and swimming after sticks and nosing out rats; but it takes a most wonderful dog to ring a fog-bell and warn people away from these dreadful rocks. I am so glad to know you, Collie ! I wish you lived over on the mainland, where we could play together, I admire you so much ! I'm really a very fine dog myself, and know a fine dog when I meet one ; and you really are a very superior dog, Collie."
I put on my most dignified manner because I wished my new friend to feel that I was in every way worthy the confidence of a noble creature like himself, and he responded so graciously ,to this complimentary spirit that my call proved a delightful one in every way.
I was sorry when it was time to leave, but Tom patted " Sailor "— for we learned from the keeper that this was Collie's name — and frolicked a bit with him, and assured him I would come again; so we said a reluctant good-bye and pushed off for home.
Tom took me over to Lighthouse Island many times during the summer, and Sailor and I became very devoted friends. We chased birds and squirrels over the rocks and through the trees, snoozed in the sun under the wide mouth of the fog-bell, and exchanged stories of our various adventures. Sailor thought my life was a real fairy-story book. Sometimes I feel very like a hero, and am afraid I was tempted to swagger a bit in my growing self-esteem.
I told him of the many attempts of my old master to regain possession of me, and Sailor urged me to stay with him on his island, sure that no one would look for me there; but, fond as I had become of Sailor, the thought of Tom and Bertha and Alice was too much for me. I am sure I would not have been contented long, either, for I did not like swimming, and chasing birds is tiresome after a while. As for the fog-bell—that was Sailor's business. I knew, also, that I had pretty nearly reached the end of my stories, and Sailor's life had not been a varied one, — just watching out for care-less lobster-dories and inexperienced pleasure-boats, — so he was getting rather short of material for excitng tales, as well as myself. " No," I thought, " it were better to run the risk of the old master's plots against me, than to bury myself on a little isolated island."
" No, Sailor, your little tree-clad, rock-bound island is charming, and you have been a most delightful companion, but I have a dog's duty toward those who have been kind to me; besides, I am really afraid I might be homesick. However, I shall continue to visit you often, Sailor, you may be sure. Good-bye, old fellow ! "
Bertha and Alice never accompanied Tom and me on these trips. The landing was so rocky and difficult, I suppose he did not consider it safe for girls; but he took his camera one day, and, while Sailor rang the bell for him, -just as he rang it that first day to warn us off the rocks,—Tom took his picture and here it is.