Rudder Grange/Chapter 7
TREATING OF AN UNSUCCESSFUL BROKER AND A DOG
It was a couple of weeks, or thereabouts, after this episode that Euphemia came down to the gate to meet me on my return from the city. I noticed a very peculiar expression on her face. She looked both thoughtful and pleased. Almost the first words she said to me were these:
"A tramp came here to-day."
"I am sorry to hear that," I exclaimed. "That's the worst news I have had yet. I did hope that we were far enough from the line of travel to escape these scourges. How did you get rid of him? Was he impertinent?"
"You must not feel that way about all tramps," said she. "Sometimes they are deserving of our charity, and ought to be helped. There is a great difference in them."
"That may be," I said; "but what of this one? When was he here, and when did he go?"
"He did not go at all. He is here now."
"Here now!" I cried. "Where is he?"
"Do not call out so loud," said Euphemia, putting her hand on my arm. "You will waken him. He is asleep."
"Asleep!" said I. "A tramp? Here?"
"Yes. Stop, let me tell you about him. He told me his story, and it is a sad one. He is a middle-aged man—fifty, perhaps—and has been rich. He was once a broker in Wall Street, but lost money by the failure of various railroads—the Camden and Amboy, for one."
"That hasn't failed," I interrupted.
"Well, then, it was the Northern Pacific, or some other one of them—at any rate, I know it was either a railroad or a bank—and he soon became very poor. He has a son in Cincinnati, who is a successful merchant, and lives in a fine house, with horses and carriages, and all that; and this poor man has written to his son, but has never had any answer. So now he is going to walk to Cincinnati to see him. He knows he will not be turned away if he can once meet his son face to face. He was very tired when he stopped here—and he has ever and ever so far to walk yet, you know—and so after I had given him something to eat, I let him lie down in the outer kitchen, on that roll of rag-carpet that is there. I spread it out for him. It is a hard bed for one who has known comfort, but he seems to sleep soundly."
"Let me see him," said I, and I walked back to the outer kitchen.
There lay the unsuccessful broker fast asleep. His face, which was turned toward me as I entered, showed that it had been many days since he had been shaved, and his hair had apparently been uncombed for about the same length of time. His clothes were very old, and a good deal torn, and he wore one boot and one shoe.
"Whew!" said I. "Have you been giving him whisky?"
"No," whispered Euphemia; "of course not. I noticed that smell, and he said he had been cleaning his clothes with alcohol."
"They needed it, I'm sure," I remarked, as I turned away. "And now," said I, "where's the girl?"
"This is her afternoon out. What is the matter? You look frightened."
"Oh, I'm not frightened, but I find I must go down to the station again. Just run up and put on your bonnet. It will be a nice little walk for you."
I had been rapidly revolving the matter in my mind. What was I to do with this wretch who was now asleep in my outer kitchen? If I woke him up and drove him off—and I might have difficulty in doing it—there was every reason to believe that he would not go far, but return at night and commit some revengeful act. I never saw a more sinister-looking fellow. And he was certainly drunk. He must not be allowed to wander about our neighbourhood. I would go for the constable and have him arrested.
So I locked the door from the kitchen into the house and then the outside door of the kitchen, and when my wife came down we hurried off. On the way I told her what I intended to do, and what I thought of our guest. She answered scarcely a word, and I hoped that she was frightened. I think she was.
The constable, who was also coroner of our township, had gone to a creek, three miles away, to hold an inquest, and there was nobody to arrest the man. The nearest police-station was at Hackingford, six miles away, on the railroad. I held a consultation with the station-master and the gentleman who kept the grocery store opposite.
They could think of nothing to be done except to shoot the man, and to that I objected.
"However," said I, "he can't stay there," and a happy thought just then striking me, I called to the boy who drove the village express waggon, and engaged him for a job. The waggon was standing at the station, and to save time I got in and rode
to my house. Euphemia went over to call on the groceryman's wife until I returned.
I had determined that the man should be taken away, although, until I was riding home, I had not made up my mind where to have him taken. But on the road I settled this matter.
On reaching the house we drove into the yard as close to the kitchen as we could go. Then I unlocked the door, and the boy—who was a big, strapping fellow—entered with me. We found the ex-broker still wrapped in the soundest slumber. Leaving the boy to watch him, I went upstairs and got a baggage-tag, which I directed to the chief of police at the police-station in Hackingford. I returned to the kitchen and fastened this tag, conspicuously, on the of the sleeper's coat. Then, with a clothes-line, I tied him up carefully, hand and foot. To all this he offered not the slightest opposition. When he was suitably packed, with due regard to the probable tenderness of wrist and ankle in one brought up in luxury, the boy and I carried him to the waggon.
He was a heavy load, and we may have bumped him a little, but his sleep was not disturbed. Then we drove him to the express office. This was at the railroad station, and the station-master was also express agent. At first he was not inclined to receive my parcel, but when I assured him that all sorts of live things were sent by express, and that I could see no reason for making an exception in this case, he added my arguments to his own disposition as a house-holder, to see the goods forwarded to their destination, and so gave me a receipt, and pasted a label on the ex-broker's shoulder. I set no value on the package, which I prepaid.
"Now, then," said the station-master, "he'll go all right, if the express agent on the train will take him."
This matter was soon settled, for in a few minutes the train stopped at the station. My package was wheeled to the express car, and two porters, who entered heartily into the spirit of the thing, hoisted it into the car. The train agent, who just then noticed the character of the goods, began to declare that he would not have the fellow in his car; but my friend the station-master shouted out that everything was all right—the man was properly packed, invoiced, and paid for, and the train, which was behind time, moved away before the irate agent could take measures to get rid of his unwelcome freight.
"Now," said I, "there'll be a drunken man at the police-station in Hackingford in about half an hour. His offence will be as evident there as here, and they can do what they please with him. I shall telegraph to explain the matter and prepare them for his arrival."
When I had done this Euphemia and I went home. The tramp had cost me some money, but I was well satisfied with my evening's work, and felt that the township owed me at least a vote of thanks.
But I firmly made up my mind that Euphemia should never again be left unprotected. I would not even trust to a servant who would agree to have no afternoons out. I would get a dog.
The next day I advertised for a fierce watch-dog, and in the course of a week I got one. Before I procured him I examined into the merits and price of about one hundred dogs. My dog was named Pete, but I determined to make a change in that respect. He was a very tall, bony, powerful beast, of a dull black colour, and with a lower jaw that would crack the hind-leg of an ox, so I was informed. He was of a varied breed, and the good Irishman of whom I bought him said he had fine blood in him, and attempted to refer him back to the different classes of dogs from which he had been derived. But after I had had him a while, I made an analysis based on his appearance and character, and concluded that he was mainly blood-hound, shaded with wolf-dog and mastiff, and picked out with touches of bull-dog.
The man brought him home to me, and chained him up in an unused wood-shed, for I had no dog-house as yet.
"Now, thin," said he, "all you've got to do is to keep 'im chained up there for three or four days till he gets used to ye. An' I'll tell ye the best way to make a dog like ye. Jist give him a good lickin'. Then he'll know yer his master, and he'll like ye iver aftherward. There's plenty of people that don't know that. And, by the way, sir, that chain's none too strong for 'im. I got it when he wasn't mor'n half-grown. Ye'd bether git him a new one."
When the man had gone I stood and looked at the dog, and could not help hoping that he would learn to like me without the intervention of a thrashing. Such harsh methods were not always necessary, I felt sure.
After our evening meal—a combination of dinner and supper, of which Euphemia used to say that she did not know whether to call it dinner or supper—we went out together to look at our new guardian.
Euphemia was charmed with him.
"How massive!" she exclaimed. "What splendid limbs! And look at that immense head! I know I shall never be afraid now. I feel that that is a dog I can rely upon. Make him stand up, please, so I can see how tall he is."
"I think it would be better not to disturb him." I answered, "he may be tired. He will get up of his own accord very soon. And indeed I hope that he will not get up until I go to the store and get him a new chain."
As I said this I made a step forward to look at his chain, and at that instant a low growl, like the first rumblings of an earthquake, ran through the dog.
I stepped back again and walked over to the village for a chain. The dog-chains shown me at the store all seemed too short and too weak, and I concluded to buy two chains such as used for hitching horses, and to join them so as to make a long as well as a strong one of them. I wanted him to be able to come out of the wood-shed when it would be necessary to show himself.
On my way home with my purchase the thought suddenly struck me, How will you put that chain on your dog? The memory of the rumbling growl was still vivid.
I never put the chain on him. As I approached him with it in my hand, he rose to his feet, his eyes sparkled, his black lips drew back from his mighty teeth, he gave one savage bark and sprang at me.
His chain held, and I went into the house. That night he broke loose and went home to his master, who lived fully ten miles away.
When I found in the morning that he was gone I was in doubt whether it would be better to go and look for him or not. But I concluded to keep up a brave heart, and found him, as I expected, at the place where I had bought him. The Irishman took him to my house again, and I had to pay for the man's loss of time as well as for his fare on the railroad. But the dog's old master chained him up with the new chain, and I felt repaid for the outlay.
Every morning and night I fed that dog, and I spoke as kindly and gently to him as I knew how. But he seemed to cherish a distaste for me, and always greeted me with a growl. He was an awful dog.
About a week after the arrival of this animal I was astonished and frightened on nearing the house to hear a scream from my wife. I rushed into the yard and was greeted with a succession of screams from two voices, that seemed to come from the vicinity of the wood-shed. Hurrying thither, I perceived Euphemia standing on the roof of the shed in perilous proximity to the edge, while near the ridge of the roof sat our hired girl with her handkerchief over her head.
"Hurry, hurry!" cried Euphemia. "Climb up here! The dog is loose! Be quick! Be quick! Oh! he's coming, he's coming!"
I asked for no explanation. There was a rail fence by the side of the shed, and I sprang on this, and was on the roof just as the dog came bounding and barking from the barn.
Instantly Euphemia had me in her arms, and we came very near going off the roof together.
"I never feared to have you come home before," she sobbed. "I thought he would tear you limb from limb."
"But how did all this happen?" said I.
"Och, I kin hardly remember," said the girl, from under her handkerchief.
"Well, I didn't ask you," I said, somewhat too sharply.
"Oh, I'll tell you," said Euphemia. "There was a man at the gate, and he looked suspicious and didn't try to come in, and Mary was at the barn looking for an egg, and I thought this was a good time to see whether the dog was a good watch-dog or not, so I went and unchained him—"
"Did you unchain that dog?" I cried.
"Yes; and the minute he was loose he made a rush at the gate, but the man was gone before he got there, and as he ran down the road I saw that he was Mr. Henderson's man, who was coming here on an errand, I expect, and then I went down to the barn to get Mary to come and help me chain up the dog, and when she came out he began to chase me and then her; and we were so frightened that we climbed up here, and I don't know, I'm sure, how ever I got up that fence; and do you think he can climb up here?"
"Oh, no, my dear," I said.
"And he's just the beast to go afther a stip-ladder," said the girl, in muffled tones.
"And what are we to do?" asked Euphemia.
"We can't eat and sleep up here. Don't you think that if we were all to shout out together we could make some neighbour hear?"
"Oh, yes!" I said, "there is no doubt of it. But then, if a neighbour came, the dog would fall on him—"
"And tear him limb from limb," interrupted Euphemia.
"Yes; and besides, my dear, I should hate to have any of the neighbours come and find us all up here. It would look so utterly absurd. Let me try and think of some other plan."
"Well, please be as quick as you can. It's dreadful to be—who's that?"
I looked up and saw a female figure just entering the yard.
"Oh, what shall we do!" exclaimed Euphemia. "The dog will get her. Call to her!"
"No, no," said I; "don't make a noise. It will only bring the dog. He seems to have gone to the barn, or somewhere. Keep perfectly quiet, and she may go up the porch, and as the front door is not locked, she may rush into the house it she sees him coming."
"I do hope she will do that," said Euphemia anxiously.
"And yet," said I, "it's not pleasant to have strangers going into the house when there's no one there."
"But it's better than seeing a stranger torn to pieces before your eyes," said Euphemia.
"Yes," I replied, "it is. Don't you think we might get down now? The dog isn't here."
"No, no!" cried Euphemia. "There he is now, coming this way. And look at that woman! She is coming right to this shed."
Sure enough our visitor had passed by the front door, and was walking towards us. Evidently she had heard our voices.
"Don't come here!" cried Euphemia. "The dog is coming! Why, mercy on us! You'll be killed! Run! Run! It's Pomona!"