His Dog

Author: Albert Payson Terhune

Chapter I. The Derelict

Link Ferris was a fighter. Not by nature, nor by choice, but to keep alive.

His battleground covered an area of forty acres—broken, scrubby, uncertain side-hill acres, at that. In brief, a worked-out farm among the mountain slopes of the North Jersey hinterland; six miles from the nearest railroad.

The farm was Ferris’s, by right of sole heritage from his father, a Civil-War veteran, who had taken up the wilderness land in 1865 and who, for thirty years thereafter, had wrought to make it pay. At best the elder Ferris had wrenched only a meager living from the light and rock-infested soil.

The first-growth timber on the west woodlot for some time had staved off the need of a mortgage; its veteran oaks and hickories grimly giving up their lives, in hundreds, to keep the wolf from the door of their owner. When the last of the salable timber was gone Old Man Ferris tried his hand at truck farming, and sold his wares from a wagon to the denizens of Craigswold, the new colony of rich folk, four miles to northward.

But to raise such vegetables and fruits as would tempt the eyes and the purses of Craigswold people it was necessary to have more than mere zeal and industry. Sour ground will not readily yield sweet abundance, be the toiler ever so industrious. Moreover, there was large and growing competition, in the form of other huckster routes.

And presently the old veteran wearied of the eternal uphill struggle. He mortgaged the farm, dying soon afterward. And Link, his son, was left to carry on the thankless task.

Link Ferris was as much a part of the Ferris farm as was the giant bowlder in the south mowing. He had been born in the paintless shack which his father had built with his own rheumatic hands. He had worked for more than a quarter century, in and out of the hill fields and the ramshackle barns. From babyhood he had toiled there. Scant had been the chances for schooling, and more scant had been the opportunities for outside influence.

Wherefore, Link had grown to a wirily weedy and slouching manhood, almost as ignorant of the world beyond his mountain walls as were any of his own "critters." His life was bounded by fruitless labor, varied only by such sleep and food as might fit him to labor the harder.

He ate and slept, that he might be able to work. And he worked, that he might be able to eat and sleep. Beyond that, his life was as barren as a rainy sea.

If he dreamed of other and wider things, the workaday grind speedily set such dreams to rout. When the gnawing of lonely unrest was too acute for bovine endurance—and when he could spare the time or the money—he was wont to go to the mile-off hamlet of Hampton and there get as nearly drunk as his funds would permit.

It was his only surcease. And as a rule, it was a poor one. For seldom did he have enough ready money to buy wholesale forgetfulness. More often he was able to purchase only enough hard cider or fuseloil whisky to make him dull and vaguely miserable.

It was on his way home one Saturday night from such a rudimentary debauch at Hampton that his Adventure had its small beginning.

For a half mile or so of Link’s homeward pilgrimage—before he turned off into the grass-grown, rutted hill trail which led to his farm—his way led along a spur of the state road which linked New York City with the Ramapo hill country.

And here, as Link swung glumly along through the springtide dusk, his ears were assailed by a sound that was something between a sigh and a sob—a sound as of one who tries valiantly to stifle a whimper of sharp pain.

Ferris halted, uncertain, at the road edge; and peered about him. Again he heard the sound. And this time he located it in the long grass of the wayside ditch. The grass was stirring spasmodically, too, as with the half-restrained writhings of something lying close to earth there.

Link struck a match. Shielding the flame, he pushed the tangle of grass to one side with his foot.

There, exposed in the narrow space thus cleared and by the narrower radius of match flare, crouched a dog.

The brute was huddled in a crumpled heap, with one foreleg stuck awkwardly out in front of him at an impossible angle. His tawny mass of coat was mired and oil streaked. In his deep-set brown eyes burned the fires of agony.

Yet, as he looked up at the man who bent above him, the dog’s gaze was neither fierce nor cringing. It held rather such an expression as, Dumas tells us, the wounded Athos turned to D’Artagnan—the aspect of one in sore need of aid, and too proud to plead for it.

Link Ferris had never heard of Dumas, nor of the immortal musketeer. None the less, he could read that look. And it appealed to him, as no howl of anguish could have appealed. He knelt beside the suffering dog and fell to examining his hurts.

The dog was a collie—beautiful of head, sweepingly graceful of line, powerful and heavy coated. The mud on his expanse of snowy chest frill and the grease on his dark brown back were easy to account for, even to Link Ferris’s none-too-keen imagination.

Link, in his own occasional trudges along this bit of state road, had often seen costly dogs in the tonneaus of passing cars. He had seen several of them scramble frantically to maintain their footing on the slippery seats of such cars; when chauffeurs took the sharp curve, just ahead, at too high speed. He had even seen one Airedale flung bodily from a car’s rear seat at that curve, and out into the roadway; where a close-following motor had run over and killed it.

This collie, doubtless, had had such a fall; and, unseen by the front seat’s occupants, had struck ground with terrific force—a force that had sent him whirling through mud and grease into the ditch, with a broken front leg.

How long the beast had lain there Link had no way of guessing. But the dog was in mortal agony. And the kindest thing to do was to put him out of his pain.

Ferris groped around through the gloom until, in the ditch, his fingers closed over a ten-pound stone. One smashing blow on the head, with this missile, would bring a swift and merciful end to the sufferer’s troubles.

Poising the stone aloft, Link turned back to where the dog lay. Standing over the victim, he balanced the rock and tensed his muscles for the blow. The match had long since gone out, but Link’s dusk-accustomed vision could readily discern the outlines of the collie. And he made ready to strike.

Then—perhaps it was the drink playing tricks with Ferris’s mind—it seemed to him that he could still see those deep-set dark eyes staring up at him through the murk, with that same fearless and yet piteous look in their depths. It was a look that the brief sputter of match-light had photographed on Link’s brain.

"I—I ain’t got the heart to swat you while you keep lookin’ that way at me," he muttered half-aloud, as if to a human companion. "Jes’ you turn your head the other way, pup! It’ll be over quick, an’ easy."

By the faint light Link could see the dog had not obeyed the order to turn his head. But at the man’s tone of compassion the great plumy tail began to thump the ground in feeble response.

"H’m!" grunted Link, letting the stone drop to the road, "got nerve, too, ain’t you, friend? ’Tain’t every cuss that can wag his tail when his leg’s bust."

Kneeling down again he examined the broken foreleg more carefully. Gentle as was his touch, yet Link knew it must cause infinite torture. But the dog did not flinch. He seemed to understand that Ferris meant kindly, for he moved his magnificent head far enough to lick the man’s hand softly and in gratitude.

The caress had an odd effect on the loveless Ferris. It was the first voluntary mark of affection he had encountered for longer than he liked to remember. It set old memories to working.

The Ferris farm, since Link’s birth, had been perhaps the only home in all that wild region which did not boast a dog of some kind. Link’s father had had an inborn hatred of dogs. He would not allow one on the place. His overt excuse was that they killed sheep and worried cattle, and that he could not afford to risk the well-being of his scanty hoard of stock.

Thus, Link had grown to manhood with no dog at his heels, and without knowing the normal human’s love for canine chumship.

The primal instinct, long buried, stirred within him now; at touch of the warm tongue on his calloused hand and at sound of that friendly tail wagging in the dry grass. Ashamed of the stirrings in him, he sought to explain them by reminding himself that this was probably a valuable animal and that a reward might be offered for his return. In which case Link Ferris might as well profit by the cash windfall as anyone else.

Taking off his coat, Ferris spread it on the ground. Then, lifting the stricken collie as gently as he could, he deposited him on the coat and rolled its frayed edges about him. After which he picked up the swathed invalid and bore him home.

During the mile trudge the collie’s sixty pounds grew unbearably heavy, to the half-drunk Ferris. More than once he was minded to set down his burden and leave the brute to his fate.

But always the tardy realization that the journey was more painful to the dog than to himself gave Link a fresh grip on his determination. And at last,—a long and tiring last,—they reached the tumble-down farmhouse where Link Ferris kept bachelor’s hall.

Laying his patient on the kitchen table, Link lighted a candle and went in search of such rude appliances as his father had been wont to keep in store for any of the farm’s animals that might be injured.

Three times as a lad Link had seen his father set the broken leg of a sheep, and once he had watched the older man perform a like office for a yearling heifer whose hind leg had become wedged between two brookside stones and had sustained a compound fracture. From Civil War hospital experience the father had been a deft bonesetter. And following his recollection of the old man’s methods, Link himself had later set the broken leg of one of his lambs. The operation had been a success. He resolved now to duplicate it.

Slowly and somewhat clumsily he went to work at the injured dog. The collie’s brave patience nerved him to greater tenderness and care. A veterinary would have made neater work of the bonesetting, but hardly could have rendered the job more effective.

When the task was achieved Link brought his patient a bowl of cold water—which the collie drank greedily—and some bread and meat scraps which the feverish patient would not touch.

As he worked at his bonesetting task, Ferris had more chance to study his new acquisition. The dog was young—probably not more than two years old. The teeth proved that. He wore a thin collie collar with no inscription on its silver band.

Even to Link’s inexperienced eye he was an animal of high breeding and of glorious beauty. Link told himself he would perhaps get as much as ten dollars for the return of so costly a pet. And he wondered why the golden prospect did not seem more alluring.

Three times in the night Link got up to give the collie fresh water and to moisten and re-adjust the bandages. And, every time, the sight of his rescuer would cause the dog’s tail to thump a joyous welcome and would fill the dark eyes with a loving gratitude which went straight to Ferris’s lonely heart.

In the morning the dog was prevailed upon to lap a saucer of warm milk, and even to nibble at a crust of soaked bread. Link was ashamed of his own keen and growing interest in his find. For the first time he realized how bleakly lonesome had been his home life, since the death of his father had left him solitary.

There was a mysteriously comforting companionship in the dog’s presence. Link found himself talking to him from time to time as to a fellow human. And the words did not echo back in eerie hollowness from the walls, as when he had sometimes sought to ease his desolation by talking aloud to himself.

He was embarrassed by his general ignorance of dogs, and by his ignorance of this particular dog’s name. He sought to learn what the collie had been called; by trying one familiar dog name after another. But, to such stand-by cognomens as Rover, Tige, Fido, Ponto, Shep and the rest, the patient gave no further sign of recognition than a friendly wagging of his plumed tail. And he wagged it no more interestedly for one name than for another.

So Ferris ceased from the effort, and decided to give his pet a brand-new name for such brief space as they should be housemates. After long deliberation he hit upon the name "Chum," as typical of the odd friendship that was springing to life between the dog and himself. And he planned to devote much time to teaching the collie this name.

But, to his surprise, no such tedious period of instruction was necessary. In less than a single day Chum knew his name,—knew it past all doubt.

Link was amazed at such cleverness. For three solid months, at one time, he had striven to teach his horse and his cows and a few of his sheep to respond to given names. And at the end of the course of patient tutelage he had been morbidly certain that not one of his solemn-eyed pupils had grasped the lessons.

It was surprisingly pleasant to drop in at the kitchen door nowadays, in intervals between chores or at the day’s end, and be greeted by that glad glint of the eye and the ecstatic pounding of the wavy tail against the floor. It was still pleasanter to see the gaze of wistful adoration that strengthened daily as Chum and his new master grew better and better acquainted.

Pleasantest of all was it to sit and talk to the collie in the once-tedious evenings, and to know that his every word was appreciated and listened to with eager interest, even if the full gist of the talk itself did not penetrate to the listener’s understanding.

Link Ferris, for the first time in his life, had a dog. Incidentally, for the first time in his life, he had an intimate friend—something of whose love and loyalty he waxed increasingly sure. And he was happy.

His brighter spirits manifested themselves in his farm work, transforming drudgery into contentment. And the farm began, in small ways, to show the effects of its owner’s new attitude toward labor.

The day after he found Chum, Link had trudged to Hampton; and, there, had affixed to the clapboards of the general store a bit of paper whereon he had scrawled:

"Found-One white and brown bird dog with leg broken. Owner can have same by paying a reward."

On his next huckster trip to Craigswold he pinned a similar sign to the bulletin board of that rarefied resort’s post-office. And he waited for results.

He did more. He bought two successive copies of the county’s daily paper and scanned it for word of a missing dog. But in neither copy did he find what he sought.

True, both editions carried display advertisements which offered a seventy-five dollar reward for information leading to the return of a "dark-sable-and-white collie lost somewhere between Hohokus and Suffern."

The first time he saw this notice Link was vaguely troubled lest it might refer to Chum. He told himself he hoped it did. For seventy-five dollars just now would be a godsend. And in self-disgust he choked back a most annoying twinge of grief at thought of parting with the dog.

Two things in the advertisement puzzled him. In the first place, as Chum was longhaired and graceful, Link had mentally classified him as belonging to the same breed as did the setters which accompanied hunters on mountain rambles past his farm in the autumns. Being wholly unversed in canine lore, he had, therefore, classified Chum as a "bird dog". The word "collie", if ever he had chanced to hear it before, carried no meaning to him.

Moreover, he did not know what "sable" meant. He asked Dominie Jansen, whom he met on the way home. And the dominie told him "sable" was another name for "black." Jansen went on to amplify the theme, dictionary-fashion, by quoting a piece of sacred poetry about "the sable wings of night."

A great load was off Link’s heart. Chum, most assuredly, was not black and white. So the advertisement could not possibly refer to him. The reverend gentleman, not being a dog fancier, of course had no means of knowing that "sable", in collie jargon, means practically every shade of color except black or gray or white.

Link was ashamed of his own delight in finding he need not give up his pet—even for seventy-five dollars. He tried to recall his father’s invectives against dogs, and to remind himself that another mouth to feed on the farm must mean still sharper poverty and skimping. But logic could not strangle joy, and life took on a new zest for the lonely man.

By the time Chum could limp around on the fasthealing foreleg, he and Link had established a friendship that was a boon to both and a stark astonishment to Ferris.

Link had always loved animals. He had an inborn "way" with them. Yet his own intelligence had long since taught him that his "farm critters" responded but dully to his attempts at a more perfect understanding.

He knew, for example, that the horse he had bred and reared and had taught to come at his call, would doubtless suffer the first passing stranger to mount him and ride him away, despite any call from his lifelong master. He knew that his presence, to the cattle and sheep, meant only food or a shift of quarters; and that an outsider could drive or tend them as readily as could he on whose farm they had been born. Their possible affection for him was a hazy thing, based solely on what he fed them and on their occasional mild interest in being petted.

But with Chum it was all different. The dog learned quickly his new master’s moods and met them in kind. The few simple tricks Link sought to teach him were grasped with bewildering ease. There was a human quality of sympathy and companionship which radiated almost visibly from Chum. His keen collie brain was forever amazing Ferris by its flashes of perception. The dog was a revelation and an endless source of pleasure to the hermit-farmer.

When Chum was whole of his hurt and when the injured leg had knit so firmly that the last trace of lameness was gone, Link fell to recalling his father’s preachments as to the havoc wrought by dogs upon sheep. He could not afford to lose the leanest and toughest of his little sheep flock—even as price for the happiness of owning a comrade. Link puzzled sorely over this.

Then one morning it occurred to him to put the matter up to Chum himself. Hitherto he had kept the dog around the house, except on their daily walks; and he had always tied him when driving the sheep to or from pasture. This morning he took the collie along when he went out to release the tiny flock from their barnyard fold and send them out to graze.

Link opened the fold gate, one hand on Chum’s collar. Out billowed the sheep in a ragged scramble. Chum quivered with excitement as the woolly catapults surged past him. Eagerly he looked up into his master’s face, then back at the tumbling creatures.

"Chum!" spoke Ferris sharply. "Leave ’em be! Get that? LEAVE ’EM BE!"

He tightened his hold on the collar as he gave the command. Chum ceased to quiver in eagerness and stood still, half puzzled, half grieved by the man’s unwonted tone.

The sheep, at sight and smell of the dog, rushed jostlingly from their pen and scattered in every direction, through barnyard and garden and nearer fields. Bleating and stampeding, they ran. Link Ferris blinked after them, and broke into speech. Loudly and luridly he swore.

This stampede might well mean an hour’s running to and fro before the scattered flock could be herded once more. An hour of panting and blasphemous pursuit, at the very outset of an overbusy day. And all because of one worthless dog.

His father had been right. Link saw that—now that it was too late. A dog had no place on a farm. A poor man could not afford the silly luxury of a useless pet. With whistle and call Ferris sought to check the flight of the flock. But, as every farmer knows, there is nothing else on earth quite so unreasonable and idiotic as a scared sheep. The familiar summons did not slacken nor swerve the stampede.

The fact that this man had been their protector and friend made no difference to the idiotic sheep. They were frightened. And, therefore, the tenuously thin connecting line between them and their human master had snapped. For the moment they were merely wild animals, and he was a member of a hostile race—almost as much as was the huge dog that had caused their fright.

A wistful whine from Chum interrupted Link’s volley of swearing. The dog had noted his master’s angry excitement and was seeking to offer sympathy or help.

But the reminder of Chum’s presence did not check Link’s wrath at the unconscious cause of the stampede. He loosed his hold on the collar, resolving to take out his rage in an unmerciful beating should the dog seek to chase the fleeing sheep. That would be at least an outlet for the impotent wrath which Ferris sought to wreak on someone or something.

"Go get ’em then, if you’re so set on it!" he howled at the collie, waving a windmill arm at the fugitives. "Only I’ll whale your measly head off if you do!"

The invitation and the gesture that went with it seemed to rouse some long-dormant memory in the collie’s soul. Like a flash he was off in flying pursuit of the sheep. Ferris, in the crazy rage which possessed him, hoped Chum might bite at least one of the senseless creatures that were causing him such a waste of precious time and of grudged effort.

Wherefore he did not call back the fastrunning collie. It would be time enough to whale the daylight out of him—yes, and to rescue his possible victims from death—when the dog should have overhauled the woolly pests. So, in dour fury, Link watched the pursuit and the flight.

Then, of a sudden, the black rage in Ferris’s visage changed to perplexity, and slowly from that to crass wonderment.

Six of the sheep had remained bunched in their runaway dash, while all the rest had scattered singly. It was after this bleating sextet that Chum was now racing.

Nor did he stop when he came up with them. Tearing past them he wheeled almost in midair and slackened his pace, running transversely ahead of them and breaking into a clamor of barks.

The six, seeing their foe menacing them from in front, came to a jumbled and slithering halt, preparing to break their formation and to scatter. But Chum would not have it so.

Still threatening them with his thunderous bark he made little dashes at one or another of them that tried to break away; and he crowded back the rest.

As a result, there was but one direction the dazed sheep could take—the direction whence they had come. And, uncertainly, shamblingly, they made their way back toward the fold.

Scarce had they been fairly started in their cowed progress when Chum was off at a tangent, deserting his six charges and bearing down with express train speed on a stray wether that had paused in his escape to nibble at a line of early peas in the truck garden.

At sight of the approaching collie the sheep flung up its head and began again to run. But the dog was in front of it, whichever way the panic-stricken animal turned;—in every direction but one. And in that direction fled the fugitive. Nor did it stop in its headlong flight until it was alongside the six which Chum had first "turned".

Pausing only long enough to round up one or two sheep which were breaking loose from the bunch Chum was off again in headlong chase of still another and another and another stray.

Link Ferris, in blank incredulity, stood gaping at the picture before him—staring at the tireless swiftness of his dog in turning back and rounding up a scattered flock which Ferris himself could not have bunched in twenty times the space of minutes. Chum, he noted, did not touch one of the foolish beasts. His bark and his zigzag dashes served the purpose, without the aid of teeth or of actual contact.

Presently, as the dumbfounded man gazed, the last stray was added to the milling, bleating bunch, and Chum was serenely trotting to and fro, driving back such of the sheep as sought to break loose from the huddle. Terrified and trembling, but mastered, the flock cowered motionless. The work was done.

As in a dream Link tumbled toward the prisoners. His mind functioning subconsciously, he took up his interrupted task of driving them to pasture. The moment he succeeded in getting them into motion they broke again. And again, like a furry whirlwind, Chum was encircling them; chasing the strays into place. He saw, without being told, the course his master was taking, and he drove his charges accordingly.

Thus, in far less time and in better order than ever before, the flock reached the rickety gateway of the stone-strewn sheep pasture and scuttled jostlingly in through it.

Link shut the gate after them. Then, still in a daze, he turned on the dog.

"Chum," he said confusedly, "it don’t make sense to me, not even yet. I don’t get the hang of it. But I know this much: I know you got ten times the sense what I’VE got. Where you got it an’ how you got it the good Lord only knows. But you’ve got it. I—I was figgerin’ on lickin’ you ’most to death, a few minutes back. Chum. Honest, I was. I’m clean ’shamed to look you in the face when I think of it. Say! Do me a favor, Chum. If ever I lift hand to lick you, jes’ bite me and give me hydrophoby. For I’ll sure be deservin’ it. Now come on home!"

He patted the silken head of the jubilant dog as he talked, rumpling the soft ears and stroking the long, blazed muzzle. He was sick at heart at memory of his recent murderous rage at this wonder-comrade of his.

Chum was exultantly happy. He had had a most exhilarating ten minutes. The jolliest bit of fun he could remember in all his two years of life. The sight of those queer sheep—yes, and the scent of them, especially the scent—had done queer things to his brain; had aroused a million sleeping ancestral memories.

He had understood perfectly well his master’s order that he leave them alone. And he had been disappointed by it. He himself had not known clearly what it was he would have liked to do to them. But he had known he and they ought to have some sort of relationship. And then at the gesture and the snarled command of "Go get them!" some closed door in Chum’s mind had swung wide, and, acting on an instinct he himself did not understand, he had hurled himself into the gay task of rounding up the flock.

So, for a thousand generations on the Scottish hills, had Chum’s ancestors earned their right to live. And so through successive generations had they imbued their progeny with that accomplishment until it had become a primal instinct. Even as the unbroken pointer of the best type knows by instinct the rudiments of his work in the field so will many a collie take up sheep herding by ancestral training.

There had been nothing wonderful in Chum’s exploit. Hundreds of untrained collies have done the same thing on their first sight of sheep. The craving to chase and slay sheep is a mere perversion of this olden instinct; just as the disorderly "flushing" and scattering of bird coveys is a perversion of the pointer or setter instinct. Chum, luckily for himself and for his master’s flock, chanced to run true to form in this matter of heredity, instead of inheriting his tendency in the form of a taste for sheep murder.

The first collie, back in prehistoric days, was the first dog with the wit to know his master’s sheep apart from all other sheep. Perhaps that is the best, if least scientific, theory of the collie’s origin.

But to Link Ferris’s unsophisticated eyes the achievement was all but supernatural, and it doubled his love for the dog.

That afternoon, by way of experiment, Ferris took Chum along when he went to drive the sheep back from pasture to the fold. By the time he and the dog were within a hundred yards of the pasture gate Chum began to dance, from sheer anticipation; mincing sidewise on the tips of his toes in true collie fashion, and varying the dance by little rushes forward.

Link opened the crazy gate. Waiting for no further encouragement the dog sped into the broad field and among the grazing sheep that were distributed unevenly over the entire area of the lot.

Ordinarily—unless the sheep were ready to come home—it was a matter of ten or fifteen minutes each evening for Link to collect them and start them on their way. To-day, in less than three minutes, Chum had the whole flock herded and trotting through the opening, to the lane outside.

Nor, this time, did the sheep flee from him in the same panic dread as in the morning. They seemed to have learned—if indeed a sheep can ever learn anything—that Chum was their driver, not their enemy.

From the fold Link as usual went to the woodlot where his five head of lean milch cattle were at graze. Three of the cows were waiting at the bars for him, but one heifer and a new-dry Holstein were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the second-growth timber.

The afternoon was hot; it had been a hot day. Link was tired. He dreaded the labor of exploring ten acres of undergrowth for his two missing cattle. An inspiration came to him. Pointing to the three stolidly waiting cows at the bars he waved his arm in the general direction of the lot and called on Chum.

"Go find ’em! Bring ’em in!"

Almost before the words were spoken Ferris regretted them. He hated to dim the luster of his dog’s earlier exploits by giving him a job beyond his skill. And this time Chum did not flash forward with his former zest. He stood, ears cocked, glancing uncertainly from Link to the three cows already waiting.

Then, as he still peered doubtfully, one of the bovine trio took fright at the dog and trotted clumsily away toward the woods. Link gave chase. He had not gone three steps before Chum caught the idea. Whirling past Ferris he headed off the surprised, indignant cow, and by dint of a flurry of barks and dashes started her back toward the bars.

Her bell jangled dolefully as she obeyed the noisy urge. And from somewhere among the bushes, two hundred yards away, a second cowbell sounded in answer. At this distant tinkle Chum evidently grasped the meaning of his master’s earlier mandate. For he galloped away in the direction of the sound.

And presently, with much crashing of undergrowth, appeared the rebellious heifer, driven on by Chum. After depositing her, sulky and plunging, at the bars, Chum vanished again—in apparent response to another far-off bell jangle. And in three minutes more he was back at the bars with the fifth cow.

"Lucky one was a heifer an’ the other one dry!" commented Link to the collie, after petting him and praising him for the exploit. "I’ll have to learn you to drive milch cows easy an’ quiet. You can’t run ’em like you run sheep an’ yearlin’s. But apart from that, you sure done grand. You can lop off an hour a day of my work if I c’n send you reg’lar for the critters. That ought to be worth the price of your keep, by itself. Now if I c’n learn you how to milk an’ maybe how to mow—well, ’twouldn’t be a hull lot queerer’n the stunts you done to-day!"

It was perhaps a week later that Link Ferris received his quarterly check from the Paterson Vegetable Market. These checks hitherto had been the brightest spots in Link’s routine. Not only did the money for his hard-raised farm products mean a replenishing of the always scant larder and an easing of the chronic fiscal strain between himself and the Hampton general store’s proprietor, but sometimes enough spare cash was left over to allow Ferris to get very satisfactorily drunk.

Since Chum’s advent, the old gnawing of loneliness had not goaded Link to the Hampton tavern. As a consequence, he had a dollar or two more on hand than was usual at such times. This wealth was swelled still further by the fact that a boost in vegetable prices had fattened his quarterly check beyond its wonted size.

All this and his long abstinence seemed to call for a real celebration. And Link looked forward with a thrill of merry anticipation to the coming of night.

As soon as he could clear away his evening chores and swallow some supper he fared forth to the village. This was going to be one of those nights to date time from. Not a miserable half-jag, stopped in mid-career by lack of funds and of credit—a nipped-in-the-bud debauch, such as so often had sent him home cranky and unsatisfied and railing against poverty. No, this was going to be the real thing—a record performance, even for these pre-prohibition times.

Ferris fed the collie and shut him into the kitchen, pending his own return from Hampton. If Link were going to become blissfully and helplessly drunk, as he had every hope of being, someone might take advantage of his condition to steal his precious dog. Therefore Chum was best left safe at home. This Link explained very carefully to the interestedly listening collie. And Chum, with head and brush a-droop, walked meekly into the kitchen at his master’s behest.

Link set off for the village, happy in the feeling that his home was so well guarded and that he would find a loving friend waiting to welcome him on his return. What with ready money and a real friend and the prospect of getting whole-souledly drunk the world was not such a rotten place to live in after all!

As a rule, on these occasions, Ferris first went to the Hampton store. There he was wont to cash his check, pay his longstanding bill, order his new supplies—and then, with a free heart, sally forth to the Hampton tavern. But to-night, having money in his pocket apart from the check, he decided to pay a preliminary call at the tavern, just by way of warming up, before going on to the store.

There were few people in the barroom at so early an hour of the evening and on so early an evening of the week. Link nodded affably to one or two men he knew and bade them line up at the bar with him. After the second drink he prepared to leave. To the tavern’s proprietor, who was mildly surprised at the brevity of his call, Ferris explained that he was going across to the store to get his check cashed and that he would be back later.

Whereat the proprietor kindly offered to save Link the journey by cashing the check for him; a suggestion Ferris gladly accepted. He passed the indorsed check across the bar and received for it a comfortably large wad of wilted greenbacks which he proceeded to intern with tender care in an inside pocket of his vest, where he moored them with a safety-pin. Then he ordered another drink.

But to this new order there was an instant demurrer. Two strangers, who had been drinking at a corner table, bore down upon Link right lovingly; and recalled themselves to his memory as companions of his on a quite forgotten debauch of a year or two back.

Link did not at all remember either of the two. But then he often failed to recall people he had met on a spree, and he did not like to hurt these cordial revelers’ feelings by disclaiming knowledge of them. Especially when they told him merrily that, for this evening at least, his money was made of wood and that he must be their guest.

Never before had he met with such wholesouled hospitality. One drink followed another with gratifying speed. Once or twice Ferris made halfhearted proffers to do some of the buying. But such hints seemed to hurt his hosts’ feelings so cruelly that he forbore at last, and suffered himself to drink entirely at their expense.

They were much the nicest men Link had ever met. They flattered him. They laughed uproariously at his every witticism. They had a genius for noting when his glass was empty. They listened with astonished admiration to his boastful recital of Chum’s cleverness. One of them, who, it seemed, was an expert in dog lore, told him how to teach the collie to shake hands and to lie down and to "speak." They were magnificent men, in every way. Link was ashamed to have forgotten his earlier meetings with such paragons.

But the call of duty never quite dies into silence. And finally Link remembered he had still his store bill to pay and his supplies to order. So he announced that he must go. The store, he knew, closed at nine. He looked up at the barroom clock. But its face was hazy and it seemed to have a great many hands. There was no use trying to learn the hour from so dissolute a timepiece.

His two friends persuaded him to have one more drink. Then they volunteered to go across to the store with him. He left the tavern, with one of the two walking on either side of him. He was glad to be in the center of the trio; for, as the night air struck him, he became unaccountably dizzy. His friends’ willing arms were a grand support to his wavering legs.

On the unlighted threshold of the tavern Link stumbled heavily over something—something that had been lying there and that sprang eagerly toward him as he debouched from the doorway. The reason he stumbled over it was that the creature, which had bounded so rapturously toward him, had come to a sharp halt at noting his condition. Thus, Ferris stumbled over it; and would have fallen but for the aid of his friends.

The single village street was pitch black. Not a light was to be seen. This puzzled Link; who had no means of knowing that the time was close on midnight. He started toward the store. At least that was the direction he planned to take. But when, at the end of five minutes, he found he was outside the village and on a narrow road that bordered the lake, he saw his friends had mistaken the way. He stopped abruptly and told them so.

One of them laughed; as if Link had said something funny. The other did something quickly with one foot and one arm. Ferris’s legs went from under him. The jar of his fall shook from him a fraction of his drunkenness, and it gave him enough sense to realize that the man who had laughed was trying to unfasten the pinned inner pocket of the fallen man’s vest.

Now for years that pocket had been the secret repository of Link Ferris’s sparse wealth. The intruder’s touch awakened him to a drowsy sense of peril. He thrust aside the fumbling hand and made a herculean effort to rise.

At this show of resistance his two comrades, as by concerted signal, threw themselves upon him. With a yell of angry fright Link collapsed to earth under the dual impact.


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Chicago: Albert Payson Terhune, "Chapter I. The Derelict," His Dog, ed. Altemus, Henry and trans. Holcomb, Thomas Addis Emmett, an Holcomb, Martha A. Lyon in His Dog Original Sources, accessed July 4, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=NIJ1SNKRHCG76NG.

MLA: Terhune, Albert Payson. "Chapter I. The Derelict." His Dog, edited by Altemus, Henry, and translated by Holcomb, Thomas Addis Emmett, an Holcomb, Martha A. Lyon, in His Dog, Original Sources. 4 Jul. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=NIJ1SNKRHCG76NG.

Harvard: Terhune, AP, 'Chapter I. The Derelict' in His Dog, ed. and trans. . cited in , His Dog. Original Sources, retrieved 4 July 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=NIJ1SNKRHCG76NG.