Master St. Elmo's First Friends
( Originally Published Ealry 1900's )
HOW do you do, little people? Permit me to introduce myself. I am St. Elmo, a tan-colored English greyhound, and I am six years old.
I have a wide, white collar around my neck, a white shirt-front, and white stockings to the knees. On my four feet I have white " Oxford ties;" my face is the color of my body, with a white part in the center of my forehead. My eyes are light brown, to match my hair. I am going to be very personal, and talk a great deal about myself, which is not always becoming, but I wish to impress upon your minds that even a dog can reason, and, therefore, I crave your forgiveness.
I am different from you, little friends, for I am always dressed. When I get up in the morning, I shake myself, and my coat and pantaloons are on, my hair is combed and face washed. I do not need a nurse-maid to dress me, but I seem to need one to tag me around, as I never can get away without some big person's calling me, or running along to watch where I go. .
I was born way down in Texas, and when very young a man took me away from my mother, brothers, and sisters, and brought me to a town in Kansas, called Topeka, where the wind blew so hard that I could not grow any hair; it all blew off; so that is why my hair is so short. A few days after I landed in that very windy town, I was spied by a little boy named James, who told the man that he would give him two of his foxhounds for me (just think! I was worth as much as two other dogs). My! I was glad to go to live with that little boy, for the man was cross and he did not know how to play with puppies, and I felt sure that the boy was taking me for his companion; so, soon we were the best of play-fellows. I felt sorry for the other dogs that went to live with the cross man, who had taken me from my relatives (but then I've heard since that human beings sometimes give their babies away), so maybe he was not so very bad. I was only three months old when I went to live with my first little master. He kept me, in the day-time, in a yard with a wire netting around, and oh ! how I wanted to get out and play in the other dogs' yards. You know, children, other yards and other steps seem so much better than your own, no matter how nice and large yours are. I used to poke my long, pointed nose through the holes in the wire fence when the other dogs passed, the dogs that had such good times seeing the town, and finding their own food and beds. At night I slept on straw in the barn, and wanted my mother and brothers so much. Do you know that all animals' hearts nearly break when they leave their loved ones and their homes? That even the fierce lions mourn when their babies are taken from them, and when they are deprived of their freedom? I used to cry at night for my mother.
At the end of a week my little master, James, brought home another dog, and we soon became chums, and made things lively about the place. His name was Klondyke - they said he was a gold-mine. Of course I did not know what they meant by that. He was white with one black eye and a black tail. Folks said that he looked as if he had fallen into a coal-bin when coal was twelve dollars a ton, because he did not match all over. Wasn't I glad to have a bed-fellow? He was short and fat, and I was long and lean, but we snuggled together and told each other our troubles, and after a time we felt quite contented with our lot. I rather envied Klondyke, for he was so small that he could sneak out under the fence, and he used to see lots of sights and had real scraps with other dogs. What a hero I thought him when he told me about licking a dog bigger than himself. Sometimes I had to laugh when he came home with the other eye blacked, or his leg bleeding. He had found to his sorrow that he was not the only pugilist in Kansas. I hope you will pardon me for using words like " licking," but my little master said these words, and he was all right I thought, although he often got a whipping for saying such words. My ! how hungry I always was before mealtime. I had the scraps left from the table after the big people's dinner, and as there were three dogs, two cats, one cow, a pony, two rabbits, and lots of chickens, sometimes I did not get filled up. I then wished I was an only child.
The family had another dog, a dignified, well-bred fox-terrier, and his name was " REX "—that means king. He came before we did, so he felt his importance. He took possession of the house, where we were not allowed, and he, of course, got the best things to eat. I, being so thin, there was a big place to fill in my stomach, consequently I went to bed hungry many a night, and I don't know whether even now I ever get filled up.
That was a pretty good home, but not the one I have now, which I will tell you about later. My little master showed partiality (something a parent never should do). He would let Rex follow the pony, and oh! how much Klondyke and I wanted to go. Sometimes Klondyke did follow, and sometimes he came home in a hurry, too, yelping, and glad he was to cuddle down to me; that was when his master had used the whip to drive him back. Don't you think he was mean to us? I tried to be very good, for I was frightened after the first and only whipping that I ever received. Klondyke seemed to forget how the whip felt, for he got lots of wallopings. I caught on from the first who was boss, so I made up my mind to be good, thinking to myself that when the gate was left open by mistake, and my master out of sight, I would run away and go back to my dear mother. I think little boys or girls who had been stolen from their mama would run home as soon as the chance came to do so. How should you like to be stolen from your mother? Well ! we doggies have feelings, too, and our poor mothers cry for us, just the same as would yours. The time never came for me to make my escape, but a way opened for me to become an only pet, in the way of a visitor to the family. This visitor was my present mistress, who owns me (although I often hear her tell some one that I own her). When they take me out for a walk I hear them tell folks, " St. Elmo does not follow us, but we follow him." That is a mean thing to say, for a dog has to " rubber " around a little to enjoy himself, but my people want me to be a real dignified, well-bred canine, and walk in a straight line. Do you like to be so precise, boys?
I thought Topeka and that little back yard was the whole world when I was a puppy out there, and that Texas, where I was born, was another little back yard joined on (just as folks say in Chicago, that St. Louis is a suburb of Chicago). Wasn't that a joke, to think all of this big world was just Topeka? Every one makes some mistakes, and I never had studied geography nor traveled, so I want you to pardon me for not knowing better. Now I know that Chicago is all the world, and that all any one need know is, there is one great world, and that is Chicago. I feel very proud to be a citizen of this wonderful city (don't laugh, boys, I pay my taxes each year, just as all good citizens should do). At times it is a little uncomfortable for a dog, as well as for children, that is when the landlords will not take us in their flats, or hotels, or boarding-houses, or when the conductors will not let us ride in the cars, or the police-men let us play on the grass in the parks; then it is we have a hard time living, and we are greatly alike in our need of sympathy. Then that bugbear of dogs, the DOG-CATCHER " (I want that name in the biggest type the printers have), keeps us in. terror, and even if we have a tag on and are loyal citizens these cruel men will take us when they get a good chance, and then our masters have to go to the "Dog-Pound " and pay five dollars, five great, big, silver wheels, to get us out—lots of poor unlucky dogs are not taken outs then the men kill them with gas, which is said just to put them to sleep and not hurt them; and if this is so, it is a humane way to do.
How I wish every poor dog, horse, and in fact, every animal, could be killed in that way instead of being shot, for animals do not always die with the first shot, but suffer. I hope every one will try not to make us animals suffer, for we are dumb and can't tell our troubles as children can, and we are not responsible for our being here. I was talking of flats and landlords when I switched off on the humane subject, which is my mistress's hobby. I can't say that I exactly blame land-lords for refusing to have cats in their houses, for they are really so musical of nights that the other inhabitants can't sleep. They enjoy perching on their neighbor's back fence in the wee hours of a moonlight night and telling their love-songs in such long drawn-out vibratory yow's that even a dog holds his ears shut. But then I like cats most dogs do not. I would play with a cat if she would make friends with me, but she always spat at me, and puts up her back into such a hump, with her feathers all flying, that I get disgusted, and wonder if she knows how ugly she looks.
That is the way I heard a lady say that her little boy and girl looked when they were cross and humped up their rose-bud lips ; but, of course, I don't think any of my little readers do this, do you? I like to see cats run up a tree; so, sometimes when my mistress is not poking around, I chase them and stand under the tree and bark. I do this with squirrels, too, but I would not kill them, not even a rat. Why should I? I don't want to be killed, do I? Now, I will tell you how I happened to move to Chicago. While I was in Topeka there came to visit at our house a lady and a gentleman. One day while walking in the garden, the lady spied me, at the same time that I spied her. Well ! it was " love at first sight." I just ran to her, and she took me right up in her arms and squeezed me so hard that I felt my thin ribs squeak (she didn't mean to hurt me; was just loving me), and I was overjoyed at being petted. But I cannot yet forget a mean thing that she did say about me; when she put me down she said, " My! but he's all legs," and she also said, which I did not understand, that I was " A life boat on sticks." I have forgiven her, however, as I love her very dearly now. After that my life changed, and my living, too, for she wanted to fatten me up before she took me home. To my dismay, one day I heard her say, " We're going home tomorrow," and if you ever saw a dog's jaw drop and his ears droop and his tail fall between his legs, you have seen my picture at that minute. What was I to do? Poor me ! I went over in a corner and wished again for my dear mother.
That night 1 dreamed of cruel men, whips, and bones all night. I ran to the lady (I did not know her name then), in the morning, when she came out in the garden, with my ears and head down and my eyes so bloodshot from crying that she knew in a minute that I was unhappy. She read my thoughts at once, for she said, Should you like to go home with me, little dog? " (I had no name as yet.) I jumped up and licked her hand, and wagged my tail so hard that it nearly wagged off—then she knew that I had said " Yes." Turning to my little master James, she said, " Well, James, I will give you three dollars for your yellow purp." Was not that complimentary to me? How my heart thumped against my thin sides, for I knew three dollars was an awful big lot of money. My little master had only pennies to count and spend, so I thought it was a joke, for how could I be worth three big silver dollars? I decided that my days would be spent in the barn. But to my surprise the lady took out three big silver wheels and gave them to my little master, and took me up in her arms for a second time and said, ` Well, puppy, you belong to me now, and I shall name you ` St. Elmo.' "
I was as happy as the boy with his first pair of boots or pants with pockets in. I could not thank my new mistress enough, and I will tell you right here that I have never regretted being sold to her. I did have a sorry feeling in my throat when I said " good-bye " to Klondyke, for I knew he would miss me. I tried to tell the lady to buy him, too, but she did not understand me this time — maybe she did know, for I heard her say, " One dog is enough." A year later I heard that Klondyke had another good home, and that he could run and play outside the yard, so he was happy. Poor Rex, the pet of the household, ate some poisoned meat in an alley and died. He was a lovely fox-terrier, and the family all cried when he died.