A story of a man who had a dog, a man who coveted a dog, and a dog that loved a man
T. MORRIS LONGSTRETH
“I’ll tell you before Tim comes,” said Mrs. Barney. “It’s got to be told,”
SERGEANT WARRINER was a Mounted Policeman of the old school, and at the time when he took charge of the Scarsdale district, down in the lower left-hand corner of Alberta, he was thirty-eight and unmarried The intelligentsia of Hollywood were never likely to cast him as hero in the usual tale by some homicidal novelist. He lacked a profitable profile. He had never shot a soul in his life. Instead of capering from romance to romance on a handsome horse, he patrolled his extensive district in a flivver, seeking not criminals but to prevent crime. He had been wellseasoned by life, and his theory of it was that men can act badly at times without being so much worse than other men. His quiet success as a policeman had come from carrying the theory into practice. Like most of his fellows he liked to read, and in winter he rose above the humdrum existence of Scarsdale village on the wings of biography or belles lettres. There was more to Sergeant Warriner than caught the eye, Hollywood notwithstanding.
This non-commissioned officer’s twenty years of Mounted Police life had pretty well estranged him from material interests. Endurance had given a permanent expression to his features, a mask between strength and sternness; but underneath the mask the man was still painfully human, lonely, even sensitive. When it bebecame more practicable for him to patrol the wide foothills over which he reigned by car, the separation from his horse filled him with that ache which passes the understanding of others. When his dog had been mutilated in a bear-trap and had to be killed, Warriner suffered silently but deeply, and increased the number of his quiet kindnesses to the district. Friends offered
him dogs, but he thought that he did not want one yet. About this time he was ordered to extend his oversight into the Saskadale Canyon which runs into the thinly settled Pass. There he met Pup.
T_TE HAD been driving his Ford through the summer glare for hours, when he perceived by heat waves from its brow that it needed water, and stopped at the first house. It was a roomy but ill-cared-for cabin, painted a sort of chicken-salad color; and when nobody answered his knock, he started to step inside for a pail, as is the privilege still in the less civilized regions, when he was stopped by a growl.
It was a courteous growl, but firm; in fact, hardly more than the rehearsal of one, and it came from the most magnificent Airedale that Warriner had ever seen. There he stood, as big as a pointer, weighing easily fifty pounds, and exhibiting just enough of teeth to remind the sergeant of the price of breeches. His dark, serious eyes, small ears, long head, short back and straight leg all spoke the authentic breed. Even at that moment Warriner noticed his forelegs, as straight as gun-barrels, and the rare black of his upper coat. But the man was conscious of something else catching at his feelings, an emanation of personality which in human beings is called magnetism, but which in dogs goes without a name. On Warriner’s part it was love at sight, or at
least the desire for ownership which has nothing to do with value. The dog did not reciprocate.
“Well, son,” said Warriner, “can’t you tell an honest man from a thief without tasting him?”
The dog acknowledged the sergeant’s tone by moderating his expression, but refused entrance. Warriner was amused at being browbeaten so politely by a dog. He now noticed that the Airedale’s ribs could be counted and his flanks were drawn as if systematically underfed. Warriner fancied his eyes showed that he had been underloved as well. There was a blur to their proper fire. It stirred something in the deeps of the man who had no tie or affection to call his own.
A step on the chips cluttering the yard broke the deadlock, and Warriner saw the dog’s eyes light, soberly, yet with unmistakable joy, as a man rounded the corner. But such a man ! Though probably not much older than Warriner, he was worn, sag-shouldered, slovenly in dress and manner, a human mongrel at first glance, compared to whom the Airedale shone out as pure aristocrat. Yet the dog had slid past Warriner and gone over to him, was doing worship before him, Warriner went warm to hear him rebuff the dog with a “Git out of the way, or I’ll kick ye out,” and in the same tone of permanent ill-humor he growled to the sergeant, “What d’ye want?”
“Water for my Ford, when your dog is willing.” “Him? He’ll be willing or look sick. You can find a pail in there on the bench, I reckon.” He stooped to pick up a few chips.
The condition of the cabin, to Warriner’s notion of regimental neatness, was disgusting. An untidy pile of bedclothes lay on a wide home-made bed; cobwebs
curtained the meagre window. One board in the floor had already given way. Some feminine relics, and an improvised baby-coach, intimated that the man was no bachelor, but a mound of unwashed dishes showed that woman had long been absent. Filth and the smell of stale smoke brought Warriner outside to the living air with relief. How, he wondered, did that pedigreed dog endure it? As the sergeant returned the pail he said: “That’s a fine Airedale you’ve got.”
“Yeh, Pup’s all right. Quite comprehendin’.”
“You don’t see that quality every day, even in the Old Country,” and Warriner felt the strong muzzle, running his hand appreciatively back over the dog’s long head with its flat broad skull. Pup stood rigid, neither objecting nor complaisant. “A strange color,” commented Warriner. “I never saw one so dark.”
“No, nor me.”
“Where’d you come across him?”
Had Warriner asked the man whom he had murdered recently, Pup’s owner could not have shut up tighter, and for reply kicked Pup off a chip he wanted. Again Warriner felt that warmth in the deeps of his being. By what right had this unkempt creature the privilege of abusing such a dog? How had he come by its ownership? Why did the dog tolerate such a master?
As Warriner left, his last glimpse of Pup was so out of keeping as to be both ludicrous and pitiful. The gaunt and striking animal was staring up at his unwashed god in an attitude of unspoken longing. Warriner determined to own the dog.
WITHIN a month the Mounted Policeman had insinuated himself into the confifidence of his new section of the frontier.
Warriner’s success had always lain in the sincerity of his helpfulness. Among friends what trouble could arise? Nobody in the division made fewer arrests because nobody quite so gently anticipated the infringements of the law.
He kept Shorty Blain posted on likely places to fish so that he would not have to poach on the Park preserves. He saw to it that disreputable old Me Allis remembered to obtain a liquor permit before the liquor. He won the Delly family by conveying Mamie and her toothache in his car to the dentist, sixty miles down river, and waiting. When Jove slew Pat Elmore suddenly with the summer complaint, Warriner was not only coroner, but undertaker and clergyman, paying for the coffin from his own purse. But these were routine operations. Warriner’s real thought was directed toward acquiring Pup. The day after the meeting, he had offered money and been turned down coldly. But refusal was merely the whet to his desire. If strategy must be employed, then more than one dark plan lay at hand. Warriner’s feeling for Pup lost nothing from brooding over his perfections and his plight, and avarice for a dog knows no scruples. The sergeant, who had never done a mean thing in his life, now set himself to proving true what he suspected, that Pup was stolen property.
His first step was a bit of Saturday evening gallantry. Dressing up in his scarlet, because he wanted his way, he invited Mrs. Hale, the obese but intelligent postmistress, for a flivver ride, returning past the Airedale’s home.
“I wonder if that Pup dog of Tim Barney’s ever gets a square meal to grow on,” he mentioned casually.
“And how could he, sergeant, unless he’s one to thrive on tin cans? It’s a disgrace, it is.”
“Yet I can’t entice the dog over to my detachment, Mrs. Hale. He won’t appear hungry when I know he’s starved.”
“That’s his pride, Mr. Warriner. Dogs is like us in that. You may laugh to hear me say it, but I believe Pup’s as proud as his master.”
Warriner did laugh. “Barney proud?” he said incredulously. “I never saw a man who took less pride in himself or his place, if you’ll excuse me for differing with you, Mrs. Hale.”
“When you know him better, you’ll see. If it’s not pride, why doesn’t he go tell his wife he’s sorry and fetch her back instead of living the way he does? It’s no way for any man to live,” added the widow.
“His wife !”
“And haven’t you heard that about him yet? Tim don’t go round boasting of her, you may be sure, seeing’s as she run away on him. But you can’t blame Mary Barney. She was too nice and obligin’ a woman to stand for the like of his tricks. If I was Pup I’d take after her. Tim ain’t worth bitin’, to my way of thinkin’, but of course, I’m not a dog. When a dog takes up with anybody, they’re his forever. A dog never forgets, ain’t I right? And Tim pulled Pup out
of a scrape once, which is why he worships the ground that man’s dirty shadow soils.”
So it wasn’t larceny. Warriner tried to keep the disappointment from his voice as he said: “Pulled him from a scrape, did he?”
“Yes, a bad one, when he was a puppy. You’ve been over to Banff where the swells come from? Well, Tim was over there looking for a job, when he seen some rich boys dragging a big puppy behind their automobile. There ain’t any sense to boys in the wild age, rich or poor. They went steamin’ along, laughin’ to see the poor thing jouncin’ and bouncin’ along in the dust, all legs and squeals. Tim saw them and chased after them and made them stop. They said it wasn’t their dog and they was just makin’ its legs grow. Tim had a regular fight on his hands before he got the puppy away from them. There was seven or eight of them and they got real nasty with stones. Tim was cut up considerable. But he lugged Pup home under his arm all right, the little thing licking the old scoundrel’s face just as if he wasn’t what he is.”
“It’s queer he wouldn’t tell me how he came by the dog. I asked him once.”
“What’d I say! That’s his pride. Tim’s proud as snow. That’s why he wouldn’t tell you about Pup or about his woman.”
“I’m glad you told me,” said Warriner sincerely.
AFTER that, the Policeman approached Tim ■L*Barney’s den with a different feeling and the Irishman quickly sensed the change. He willingly brought the bench outdoors and smoked Warriner’s
tobacco mixture for hours. He may also have divined that the sergeant hungered for his dog. To watch Pup hunt the summer-cured grass for field-mice, moving in that effort-economizing way of the thoroughbred, running with head low and a gay tail from tuft to tuft, or galloping along the nearby ridge, was vibrant pleasure for the sergeant, pleasure pinched now and again with jealousy. For the relationship between Pup and Warriner was static. Strive as the man might with all the little arts of dog-lovers to alienate the Airedale’s affections, he was frustrated by Pup’s clear and simple loyalty. Warriner would have given his pension to have been able to transfer that unaccountable affection to himself. Yet it was not wholly unaccountable, for the sergeant was beginning to like Tim, too. Despite his shiftless ways and an occasional roughness that seemed harsh even in a country where refinements were few, Tim’s society recommended itself to Warriner, like an old shoe, for its inevitable humanity. The sergeant’s evening calls became almost regular. And this was fortunate for Tim on the day he hurt his leg by going through the floor of his cabin in a new place.
The sergeant discovered Tim lying on his mussed bed, cursing life and its external resemblance to the hot place.
“Sure and breaking a leg doesn’t help me temper, sergeant, which all the folks says is ripe enough already.”
“It isn’t broken, luckily. A bad wrench, though. Why didn’t you send Pup to me with a note as soon as it happened? I’ll bet he would’ve come.”
“Yeh, Pup’s comprehendin’.”
The dog was surely worrying. Every few minutes he would run to the bedside and study the situation with an earnestness all but vocal, but he was no more worried than Warriner. The sergeant had other things to do than nurse this slovenly old ne’er-do-well. He decided upon a flight of fancy. After he had got some tea and the room straightened up a little, he said: “Tim, it’s a pity that you and me haven’t got wives. Did you ever think of it?”
“Av I ever thought of it, ye auld boor!” and Tim rose on an elbow, “and sure this is a poor time to be jokin’ a poor crippled jackass.”
“I’m not joking.”
“Then you’re black-hearted to be holdin’ it agin me. Av I ever thought of it!”
“Hold what against you, Tim?” asked Warriner with predetermined surprise.
“I have a wife, and bad manners to her.” “You have a wife!”
“Are ye stupid, or have ye caught the disease of mindin’ another’s business? I’m telling ye I have one as everybody else has told ye before me, no doubt.”
Warriner indicated that this was novel news, adding: “Visiting, I suppose.”
“That’s not what ails her. She’s run away on me. She’s staying over at Pincher Creek with her mother, like as not.”
“Don’t you know?” asked the sergeant.
“I should think you would,” said Tim, squinting at the sergeant, “since you’re so good at picking the news out of a man. But since you’re fairly dragging with curiosity, I’ll tell ye. She and me had a little difference oncet.”
“And you’ve made no effort to patch it up?” “She can stay there.”
“And you here.”
His plight sank home and Tim cried suddenly: “Bad cess to all wimmen. You leave a happy life to marry ’em and then you laugh on the other side of your mouth. You slave for ’em and support ’em and they turn on ye and wring the neck for ye, the ghostly things. She can stay there, she can.”
“That gives me an idea,” said Warriner. “I have to go over to Pincher Creek shortly, Tim, and I could fetch her back for you without expense. You need only write a letter, a really decent letter, promising not to repeat the things that drove her away—whatever they were.”
“Faith, you will not,” said Tim. “You need never put yourself out like that for me.”
“I hadn’t you so much in mind as Pup,” said Warriner, with a note of seriousness in his voice. “He can’t be allowed to starve to death.”
“And what of me?”
In the history of reconciliation there is probably no letter like Tim’s which the sergeant, discovering that Tim’s chief distaste lay in the manual labor involved, took from dictation. Then buttoning it into the pocket of his scarlet serge, worn because he again wanted his way, Warriner mounted his flivver and made a night run to Pincher Creek. If he could not have the
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Airedale himself, he determined to see that the next best move for him should come about. As he bumped along under the midnight sky, Warriner felt an unaccustomed loneliness. With his horse it had never been so. With Pup it would have been different. But now no warm reassuring relation between him and any living being existed; all was space. Looking up into the brilliant heaven, it was borne in on him that the shine of the stars merely detained the eye from the depths of starless distances beyond. Those points of light were like the people of the plains, like human society, which, crossing the foreground of one’s days, diverted one from the fundamental solitudes that they could not obliterate. The man was not religious in a gregarious way, but a boyhood of compulsory Biblereading had planted his mind with quotations, and he felt one of these now groping through the shadows of memory. But a jolt of the road turned it into an imprecation and the mood was gone.
Mrs. Barney received the emissary with no visible flutters of delight. She was a pleasant-faced, comfortable woman, but without any abject ideas on matrimony, and her attitude of waiting while the sergeant should disclose his mission had an air of caustic placidity about it that might have flustered a greener man. Little Tim peeking from her right flank, little Mary from her left added impregnability to her position, but the sergeant’s uniform was a good preparation for his words. The children’s eyes globed in wonder at his spurs, his boots, his buttons. It would have taken a frozen temperament entirely to withstand such an approach, particularly as the sergeant had donned the glory as a personal compliment and conveyed as much. He presented the letter and tendered his services as escort.
Mary Barney was not of a frozen temperament but her memory was good. Her mother-in-law, while giving her refuge from drink and the devil, was careful to see that it was not a bed of roses; yet Mary Barney preferred a berating to a beating, and her frown deepened as the point of her husband’s communication sank in.
“And it’s his leg, is it? What do I care for his auld leg! Let him mend it. I’ve had to mend me back.”
“He promises to mend his ways, Mrs. Barney.”
“That he’ll never, not while there’s a drop to swalley. I presume that skoff of a McAllis has tauld ye the same lies?” “McAllis’s license has been cancelled, Mrs. Barney.”
That shook her for an instant; then some memory came back. “No, no; Tim’s too fond of his toddy ever to be convenient with Mary Barney at all, at all. He’s ailin’ bad, you say?”
The cloud of futility which had been settling on the sergeant lifted a little. “He was,” he replied.
“He was,” she mocked, “and what do you mean by that?”
“Tim’s felt more at ease since I promised to see him through, either by bringing home you or another.”
“Another!” and a loud laugh startled the children. “Faith, and no other will take what I’ve took from that squareheaded auld scut. And what other had you in mind, may I ask?”
Warriner, forced to create a nurse on the spot, thought that he might as well throw in a touch of pleasantness to her face and figure. He was rewarded by seeing the faint green come to Mary Barney’s eyes.
“And who’s to pay, if you wud have the likes of all that, and Tim not able to knock a livin’ out of the country?”
The sergeant was getting into deep water, but said: “That can be arranged,
Mrs. Barney. I’ve a little job for him when he has recovered, and a heart of gold goes a long way, Mrs. Barney.”
“It might,” she conceded, unmoved.
“And he has that,” pressed the sergeant. “Tim has a big heart, as he himself has found out since he took his friend in to live and share with him.”
“He has, has he?” cried the good woman, “and the nerve of him asking me home to fetch and carry. Isn’t she enough?”
“Oh, it isn’t a she, Mrs. Barney,” said the delighted sergeant, “it’s a he, a dog, a fine dog, the prince of the Airedales.”
“Has Pop a dog, Mom?” asked little Mary.
“I want to see the dog,” little Tim immediately added.
“And my new detachment is only a stone’s throw away,” said Warriner, implying refuge, “and since I’m going back this afternoon, perhaps you might take advantage of the empty seat. I would bring you back in a week if you find he has not changed.”
“I want to see the dog,” said Tim in a bolder voice.
“You really should see Pup,” said Warriner. “Now there’s one who will watch out for you.”
“Can’t we go home, Mom?” asked Little Mary.
“I might, for one week,” said Mary Barney, “but mind my words, at the first drop I come back.”
So the flivver re-entered the Canyon with little Tim and Mary clamoring for speed “to see the dog.”
The reunion surprised even Warriner in its genuine warmth not concealed by the equivocation necessary to Tim’s selfrespect. The sergeant had suspected a goldmine under this vegetable garden of a man and was rejoiced to see the flashes from the real metal. Mrs. Barney had definitely left the past at Pincher Creek and was gaily abusive to keep back the tenderness of tears. Pup alone maintained a philosophic calm, allowing the youngsters to embrace him, and extending allegiance to his new mistress while showing her that his love remained undividedly his master’s.
“Sure and that’s a fine upstandin’ dog you’ve got, Tim,” Warriner heard her say.
“Yeh, Pup’s all right. He’s quite comprehendin’.”
THINGS went well. When the sergeant next looked in, Mary, Barney had triumphed with soap against sin, and a different expression had come to Pup’s ribs.
“Sure and we all owe ye a debt of gratitude, Mr. Warriner,” she exclaimed. “If you aren’t bringin’ me your socks to darn, I’ll stay no friend of yours, and when there’s floors to be scrubbed I’ve got brains enough for that, I want ye to know. Will you be puttin’ in the winter in that bare house?”
Warriner supposed he would, but in a fortnight he found out that his Government thought differently. Economy was to be practised—-by the Police. A few more detachments were to be closed, human nature, as the Party opined, having changed and the district being suddenly able to look after itself.
It was no especial tax on Warriner’s emotions to say good-by to Saskadale. In that casual career one place became much like another, and for Warriner the sky was equally empty over all. It would be a relief, in fact, not to see Pup daily. Warriner had made friends in every horne, but the one friend he wanted was not for him, so better to forget. Only at the moment of good-by would it be difficult.
As he was leaving, Warriner stopped to give Tim a final, and very private talking to, and wrote out his address for Mrs.
Barney in case of secret need. Pup was not to be seen. “I’ll say good-by to him for ye,” she said. “He’ll miss ye as bad as we uns.”
“No, I don’t think so,” said Warriner, and left, almost savagely glad that the dog was not about.
But as he was starting the flivver Pup came loping around the house. He ran to Warriner and for the first time in their acquaintance voluntarily thrust his hairy, sentient muzzle into the sergeant’s hand. Warriner felt an almost overwhelming impulse to bundle him into the car and make off. Impossible, of course. So Warriner made the dog look up into his eyes and said: “Did you want to come and say good-by alone, Pup? Well, goodby. Keep your master away from trouble, will you?”
Warriner stroked his head above those strange, profound, dark eyes. This was worse than a good-by, for there could be no promises to write, no hand-grip to remember. Just one solitary signalling to another through a blurry window.
Warriner looked back once when far down the road and noticed that Pup was still standing by the gate.
DEFORE the spring dust was blowing D on the roads, Warriner had applied for a rare leave and was pointing the flivver’s nose toward the Canyon. He who was one of those steady reliables, unmoved by danger or ambition or the lures of woman, had been stirred out of his habit by thoughts of Pup that were winter-long. His gay tail bobbed through every picture: the pictures steadily idealized their subject. Long before the city’s milk began to taste of garlic, Pup was perfect, a dog of deepest chest, strongest hindquarters, and most brilliant moods. It only remained to own him, and so the sergeant, bearing his winter’s savings, rolled westward, determined to become possessed of Pup. “The finest sporting terrier in Alberta,” Warriner had mentioned more than once in mess, or, “I stumbled on a dog hard to fault, a regular show crack, must have come of the Clonmel strain.”
But Warriner had even better reasons for owning Pup, reasons never breathed in barracks. His hand still felt that sentient muzzle as Pup had said good-by. And Warriner’s favorite reverie was that last glimpse of him standing to attention at the gate. Would he hear the car and come loping down to greet him? The question filled the sergeant’s thoughts as the foothills neared, bulking ultramarine at last against the sunset. Slowly the house became distinguishable, a wooden coop far away, then a dwelling with windows, front gate, and all. The moment anticipated a hundred times had arrived. Warriner sounded his horn, slowed down, stopped. But the moment was not to be. No dog appeared.
Warriner, repulsing the shadow of a vague apprehension, got down and swallowed his disappointment in a gulp of wonder. The gate was mended, the yard neat, a woodpile stood where once were only chips, and the house wore no longer its chicken-salad color but gave forth a rich lettuce-green with purple trimmings. Mrs. Barney was scrubbing the kitchen stoop.
“For the land’s sakes,” she cried, wiping her hands, “you sweet man! And isn’t it a sight for sore eyes to see you here.”
“And you—here,” echoed the sergeant, knowing that his work as a home restorer had been successful.
“Won’t Tim cry ‘Houly Mary’ to see ye! He’s just through with the milkin’,” she added proudly.
“Ah, cows?” asked the sergeant, also proud.
“Two belike, and a calf cornin’. Milk’s our only drink now, Mr. Warriner,” and a shadow of memory seemed to cross her face.
“I suppose Pup’s out with Tim?” asked Warriner as carelessly as possible.
“No, he’s in the kitchen,” and the sadness had reached her face. “Wait till I tell ye, sergeant. It’s a bad surprise is in store for ye.”
But Warriner was not waiting. In the room’s dust he could not at once see; then he made out the familiar glorious body moving unfamiliarly, hobbling and hobbling toward him. And then he saw. Pup’s forefeet were missing. With a low dog-cry in his throat Pup reached Warriner on stumps, stumps not quite healed, and thrust his muzzle into Warriner’s hands. It was as if a dagger had found the Mounted Policeman’s heart and stuck there quivering. “Pup . . . old boy,” he whispered, but had to let his hands speak for him.
“I’ll tell you, before Tim comes,” said Mrs. Barney. “Sit down there by Pup’s bed. He’ll feel right choice with you close.”
Pup scrambled upon his blanket and Warriner did as he was told. The world had gone empty for him and he was suddenly weary with the endless insecurity of life. He let his fingers play through the crisp dark coat, but his veins flowed anger that he knew he must conceal.
“It’s an awful winter we’ve lived through, Mr. Warriner, and I don’t mean the cold. And the worst was, it began so nice. Tim and Pup done some huntin’ in the fall and we was all contented like, things bein’ so different from when Tim was drinkin’. And we just come to love Pup. He was like one of the childer. A great gentleman with me, he was, so polite and all, but he made it out plain that he was Tim’s dog. He’d uv let Tim cut him up and cook him if Tim’d been starvin’. Only one thing: he never leg Tim set a foot in that house of McAllis’s.
“Perhaps it was your tellin’ him that, or perhaps just his unnatural good sense. Anyways, when Tim’d go for a walk, Pup’d keep on the door side of him, and if Tim’d turn to go in, just to tease, why Pup would take his coat in his teeth and act serious. Don’t ask me how he knew. I’m just tellin’ ye.
“Them were the happy days. The sag come out of my man’s shoulders and the softness back into his voice, and we was all in a kind of nateral heaven till it come Christmas and auld McAllis presinted Tim with a quart 0’ Scotch. Tim didn’t want it, but it was Christmas, ye know, and all . . .
“’Tis queer what change can come in a night. That night was hell brought right indoors. I should’ve took little Tim and Mary and bundled of them back to Pincher Creek, but the cold was sittin’ at the door and next morning his tantrums had eased up a little bit, so I says: ‘You’ve used up your one forgiveness, Tim Barney. The next time you get soused, me and the childer go for good and all.’ I guess I sounded pretty harsh, for poor old Pup, who was standin’ there hearin’ it all, hung his head down as if I’d been scoldin’ him. He seemed to be takin’ it all in, so I says to him; ‘You Pup, you keep that master of yours from the booze, do ye hear?’ He heard all right. So did Tim, and he promised to be good, and when McAllis sent in another bottle with the devil’s compliments for a Happy New Year, Tim wouldn’t look at it. And I didn’t like to seem mistrustin’ of Tim by pourin’ it out, neither. So it set there among the medicine bottles, more’s the pity . . . more’s the pity . . .
“One night I smelled it on him. I’ll say this, he’d been truckin’ all day in that black-hearted cold and a bit of a warmin’ up was only a man’s due. But the next night the same, only worse, and he was happy, while Pup and me was unhappy. Pup’d watch him through those curly hairs with eyes sadder than a woman’s, for Tim was Pup’s god, and he seen that his god was slidin' downhill. But if Pup’d heard the banshees screechin’ for Tim’s soul, it wouldn’t uv shook him.
He’d uv kept on lovin’ that auld sot just the same. Each night Tim’d take a drop more and I’d eat me tongue for fear me patience would come to an end before the bottle. And just as it was finishin’, there come two to take its place. Oh! I’ll never forget that night though I live to see me great grandchilder.”
A rattle of pails warned of Tim’s approach. The door opened. A sudden constraint silenced Mrs. Barney, and Warriner sat motionless. With a noise in his throat Pup forsook Warriner and stumped across to Tim who set down his pails and caressed his dog. In the dim light the still un-noticed sergeant saw that Pup was happy with a joy unnameable, and in spite of the mystery that had apparently maimed him. And suddenly the Bible quotation Warriner had almost remembered under the summer stars came to the surface of his memory, conjured by a new and profound realization of his loneliness. Another instant and he would have the words.
But Mrs. Barney had broken the hush, and Tim came forward, slowly, almost gropingly, as if he had caught their constraint and yet was impelled by a desire that was stronger. Warriner maintained his silence, as Tim, motioning to Pup, said to his wife: “Has he heard?”
“We was just cornin’ to that, Tim darlin’. Come, speak to Mr. Warriner, Mary.”
But Tim was not to be interrupted by the children’s greetings, and said with a grave shyness: “He’s got to hear.”
“I’ll finish while you’re doin’ the
“The chores is done,” he said and his voice began to melt Warriner’s hardness. “He mayn’t want to sit down to table with a man like me.”
“I’ll risk it,” said Warriner quietly. “I’m accustomed to hearing all the evidence.”
“He needn’t hear it now,” begged Mrs. Barney.
“Yes, he need. It’s been a brewin’ and a-brewin’ inside here,” and Tim touched his chest, “till it’s got to come. Besides it is owin’ to him and Pup. How far did you get, Mary?”
“To the very night.”
Tim wiped his forehead. “A week after the New Year it was. It had just done snowin’ and turned cold, rank cold. Pup and me had come in chilled to the mortal bone and I was primed for a drink. Maybe she told you how it all begun again. Anyhow I’d got so I had to have it. So I took one and then another and was reachin’ for the third when she says, ‘No, Tim, no more!’ And she says it so gentle that it riles me. ‘Mind yer business,’ says I, and pours it out. ‘That won’t help ye to mind yours,’ she says back, and to Pup she says, ‘Pup, speak to him.’
“And save me if he didn’t. He barked up at me, shrill and earnest, and the noise made somethin’ blaze up in me. I never felt the like of it before. I grabbed up the poker, sayin’, “Ye will go back on your master, will ye!’ and fetched him a sound one on the shoulder, though she got part of the blow.
“The words hurt him worse ’n the strikin’. He just stood there. He’d ought to’ve gone good and savage for me throat, and served me right, but he just stood there, his eyes sayin’, ‘You didn’t mean that, Tim.’ All this while little Tim and Mary was a-cryin’ and a-holdin’ on to her skirts, and when she seen me reach for the next drink, it got her dander up. She grabbed the bottle from me and flung it crashin’ down in the corner and got its twin and broke that one on the stove. The room was full of the smell of liquor right off, and when I seen them little tongues of whisky runnin’ over the floor it maddened me. I raised the poker again, and it was then that Pup jumps in betwixt me and me woman, and I wasn’t so far gone I hadn’t the sense to go slow. But the fumes in me was
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burnin’ hotter and hotter. I knew I was weak, but I also knew what’d cure that weakness. The childer had run up and put their arms about Pup for takin’ their side, and that made me feel bad, but I knew another coupla drinks ’d stop any little pains o’ mercy. ‘I’ll larn ye,’ I cried out. ‘If I can’t larn ye sober I’ll come back and larn ye drunk. And watch out, for there’ll be blood.’ And I out and slams the door, which they bolts on me, with Pup inside cryin’ to be let out till she has to let him out.
“I disremember how long I was over to McAllis’s, pretty long, anyways long enough, but I didn’t forget me poker or the use for it. And when I stumbled out, there was Pup runnin’ up and down in the bitter cold. He came whinin’ up to me and for some devil’s reason that set me burnin’ twicet as mad as before, like salt in a cut. ‘I’ll get ye,’ I roared at him, ‘and then I’ll finish with them.’
“What foileyed ain’t very clear, only why God didn’t reach down and wring me dirty neck, I don’t know. McAllis’s booze kept the fires burnin’ in me head and I stumbles along, mutterin’, ‘I’ll finish with them!’ ‘I’ll finish with them!’ Pup runs around, pullin’ at me, talkin’, tryin’ to keep me back. He must av sensed it all and risked the poker which I was tryin’ to lay good and heavy on his head. Once he didn’t jump quick enough.
“I wasn’t very clear in me mind by the time I’d reached the door. It was shut tight. I was burnin’ inside, and half knowin’ the cold was reachin’ for me, and Pup tryin’ to save me from gettin’ in and maybe bein’ a murderer. He stood betwixt me and the door. He wouldn’t get away. That makes me maddest of all. I lifts it . . . and brings it down . . . awful . . . across his two legs . . . and breaks ’em . . . both.”
It was here that little Tim, who had been listening, gave a wail and running over to Pup put his head against the Airedale’s. Big Tim blew his nose, and it was Mrs. Barney who said, “I’ll tell the rest, Tim, for the taters is just done. The childer and me, Mr. Warriner, we heard that terrible cry of Pup’s, like a heart breakin’, and then a silence, a shiverin’ cold silence. I was afraid me man would freeze to death, yet I was too scared to open the door. But I needn’t av worried. Pup knew his job wasn’t done. He knew he had to keep Tim out there till he was hisself. So, pain and all, he baits Tim about, jumpin’ and teasin’, and Tim chasin’ him, still tryin’ to end him with that poker. But the cold was heavy on Tim’s eyes and a weight on his feet, and when he leans over to wallop Pup, he falls and lies there till the cold puts him to sleep; bless the cold.
“Then something tells me to open the door. I hear a whinin’. It’s Pup cryin’ to be let in. But he won’t come in and
he cries till I throws an apron over me head and follow him, hobblin’ in his torment, till I stumbles on Tim, reekin’ in his death sleep. And Pup is tryin’ to lick the life back into him, still whinin’ and cryin’ to bring the life back into his god. The childer and I gets Tim in and I rubs the cold out of him and then I look to Pup’s feet. A terrible sight, Mr. Warriner, froze below the break. I guess you don’t want to hear any more just now, from the looks of you. There’s your seat next to Tim. Now we’ll forget all about it while the things is hot.”
TN THE bustle of passing dishes and the chatter of gossip they appeared to forget, but no one could wholly forget. Not while Pup lived, thought Warriner.
They pressed him to spend the night, but that presence on the blanket made it impossible. At that moment when Pup had greeted Tim, Warriner knew that forever he was the outsider. Pup was Tim’s and Tim belonged to Pup. It was their affair, paid for in tears. He knew that he must not harbor resentment; but to dissimulate his sadness was too much. He would turn his car back. His leave was no good to him now. Routine was best. He ’eft the house as dusk was sowing stars in the new spring sky. And suddenly the words of that lurking quotation stood plainly in his mind: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”