Tattine

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Author: Ruth Ogden

Chapter I. Trouble No. 1

Whether you happen to be four or five, or six, or seven, or even older than that, no doubt you know by this time that a great many things need to be learned in this world, everything, in fact, and never more things than at seven. At least, so thought little Tattine, and what troubled her the most was that some of the things seemed quite wrong, and yet no one was able to right them. All her little life Tattine’s Mother had been setting things straight for her, drying every tear, and unravelling every tangle, so that Tattine was pretty downhearted the day she discovered that there were some things that were quite beyond even her Mother’s power to alter. It was on a lovely June morning that Tattine made the first of her unwelcome discoveries. She was feeling particularly happy too, until she made it. She was sitting up in an apple-tree, sketching, and doing it very well. She had taken only a few drawing-lessons but had taken to them immensely, and now with one limb of the tree for a seat and another one for an easel, she was working away at a pretty chime tower, that stood on a neighbor’s land.

Down on the grass beneath her Betsy and Doctor were lying. Betsy was a dear, homely red-and-white Laverack setter, and Doctor, black-and-white and better looking, was her son. Doctor’s beautiful grandmother Tadjie was lying, alas! under the grass instead of on it, not very far away. It was a sad day for the dog world when Tadjie left it, for although she was very old, she was very beautiful up to the last with a glossy silky coat, a superbly feathered tail, and with brown eyes so soft and entreating, they fairly made you love her, whether you were fond of dogs or no.

Well, Tattine was sketching away and was quite absorbed in it, but Doctor, who was little more than a puppy, thought it very dull. He lay with his head between his paws, and, without moving a muscle, rolled his eyes round and round, now gazing up at Tattine, and then at his mother, trying to be happy though quiet. Finally he stretched himself, got on his feet, cocked up his ears, and came and stood in front of Betsy, and although not a sound was heard, he said, so that Betsy perfectly understood him, "I can’t stand this any longer. If you have any love for me do please come for a run."

Then Betsy took one long stretch and with motherly self-sacrifice reluctantly got up, prepared to humor this lively boy of hers. Suddenly Doctor craned his head high in the air, and gave a little sniff, and then Betsy craned her head and sniffed. Then they stole as stealthily away as though stepping upon eggs, and Tattine never knew that they had gone. It was no stealthy treading very long, however. No sooner had they crossed the roadway than they made sure of the scent they thought they had discovered, and made one wild rush down through the sumach and sweet-fern to the ravine. In a few moments it was one wild rush up again right to the foot of Tattine’s apple-tree, and Tattine looked down to see Doctor—oh, could she believe her two blue eyes!—with a dear little rabbit clinched firmly between his teeth, and his mother (think of it, his mother!) actually standing proudly by and wildly waving her tail from side to side, in the most delighted manner possible. As for Tattine, she simply gave one horrified little scream and was down from the tree in a flash, while the scream fortunately brought Maggie hurrying from the house, and as Maggie was Doctor’s confidential friend (owing to certain choice little morsels, dispensed from the butler’s pantry window with great regularity three times a day), he at once, at her command, relaxed his hold on the little jack-rabbit. The poor little thing was still breathing, breathing indeed with all his might and main, so that his heart thumped against his little brown sides with all the regularity of a Rider Engine. Tattine’s first thought was for the rabbit, and she held it close to her, stroking it with one little brown trembling hand and saying, "There! there! Hush, you little dear; you’re safe now, don’t be frightened! Tattine wouldn’t hurt you for the world." Her next thought was for Doctor, and she turned on him with a torrent of abuse, that ought to have made the hair of that young M.D. stand on end. "Oh, you cruel, CRUEL dog! whatever made you do such a thing as this? I never dreamt it of you, never." At this Betsy’s tail dropped between her legs, for she was a coward at heart, but Doctor held his ground, his tail standing on end, as his hair should have done, and his eyes all the while fairly devouring the little rabbit. "And the worst of it," continued Tattine, "is that no matter how sorry you may feel" (Betsy was the only one who showed any signs of sorrow, and she was more scared than sorry), "no matter how sorry you may feel, that will not mend things. You do not know where this baby lived, and who are its father and mother, and like as not it is too young to live at all away from them and will die," and Tattine raised one plump little hand and gave Doctor a slap that at least made him "turn tail," and slink rather doggedly away to his own particular hole under the laundry steps. And now it was time to find Mamma— high time, for it seemed to Tattine she would choke with all the feelings, sorrowful and angry, welling up within her. Mamma was not far afield—that is, she was very near, at her desk in the cosy little alcove of the upstairs hall-way, and Tattine soon found her.

"Now, Mamma," she asked excitedly, "did you know that Betsy or Doctor would do such a thing as this?"

The trembling little rabbit in Tattine’s hands showed what was meant by THIS.

Mrs. Gerald paused a moment, then she said reluctantly, "Yes, Tattine, I did."

"Have they done it before, Mamma?"

"I am sorry to say they have."

"Have you seen them bring struggling rabbits dangling in their mouths right up to the house here, Mamma?"

Mrs. Gerald merely shook her head. She felt so sorry to have to own to such a sight.

"Why did I never know it, Mamma?"

"You have never chanced to be on the spot, dear, when it happened, and I was in no hurry to tell you anything that I knew would make you sad."

"I think it would have been better to tell me. It’s awful to find such a thing out suddenly about dogs you’ve trusted, and to think how good and gentle they look when they come and put their heads in your lap to be petted, just as though they would not hurt a fly; but then, of course, anyone who has eyes knows that they do lure flies, snapping at them all day long, and just for the fun of it too, not because they need them for food, as birds do. Mamma, I don’t believe there’s anything meaner than a Laverack setter. Still, Tadjie would never have done such a thing, I know." Mrs. Gerald was silent, and Tattine, expecting her to confirm what she had said, grew a little suspicious. "Would Tadjie, Mamma?" with a directness that would not admit of indirectness.

"Yes, Tattine; Tadjie would. She was trained to hunt before ever she was given to Papa, and so were her ancestors before her. That is why Doctor and Betsy, who have never been trained to hunt, go wild over the rabbits. They have inherited the taste."

"Trained to hunt," said Tattine thoughtfully. "Do you mean that men just went to work to teach them to be so cruel?"

"Well, I suppose in a way setters are natural hunters, Tattine, but then their training has doubtless a great deal to do with it, but I want to tell you something that I think will give you just a grain of comfort. I read the other day that Sir John Franklin, the great Arctic explorer, who almost lost his life in being attacked by some huge animal—it must have been a bear, I think—says that the animal when he first gets you in his teeth gives you such a shake that it paralyzes your nerves—this is, it benumbs all your feelings, so, that, strange as it may seem, you really do not suffer. So let us hope that it was that way with this little rabbit."

"But there’s a little blood here on one side, Mamma."

"That doesn’t always prove suffering, either, Tattine. Soldiers are sometimes wounded without ever knowing it until they see a little sign of blood somewhere."

Tattine listened attentively to all this, and was in a measure comforted. It seemed that Mamma was still able to better things, even though not able to set everything perfectly right. "Now," Tattine said,—with a little sigh of relief, "I think I will try and see what I can do for Bunny. Perhaps he would first like a drink," so downstairs she went, and putting some milk in a shallow tea-cup, she dipped Bunny’s nose in it, and it seemed to her as though he did take a little of it. Then she trudged up to the garret for a box, and, putting a layer of cotton-batting in the bottom, laid Bunny in one corner. Then she went to the garden and pulled a leaf or two of the youngest, greenest lettuce, and put it right within reach of Bunny’s nose, and a little saucer of water beside it. Then she went down to tell the gardener’s little boy all about the sorrowful thing that had happened.

The next morning Bunny was still breathing, but the lettuce was un-nibbled; he had not moved an inch, and he was trembling like a leaf. "Mamma," she called upstairs, "I think I’ll put BUN in the sun" (she was trying not to be too down-hearted); "he seems to be a little chilly." Then she sat herself down in the sun to watch him. Soon Bunny ceased to tremble. "Patrick," she called to the old man who was using the lawn mower, "is this little rabbit dead?"

"Yes, miss, shure," taking the little thing gently in his hand.

"Very well," she answered quietly. Tattine used those two little words very often; they meant that she accepted the situation, if you happen to know what that means. "Now I think I will not trouble Mamma about it," she said to herself thoughtfully, so she went to the closet under the stairs, got a little empty box she knew was there, and, taking it out of doors, she put the little rabbit in it, and then trudged down to the tool-house for her spade and rake.

"Bunny is dead, Joey," she called to the gardener’s little boy as she came back. "Come help me bury him," and so Joey trotted behind her to the spot already selected. "We must make this hole good and deep," she explained (Joey stood looking on in wide-eyed wonder), "for if Doctor and Betsy would kill a little live rabbit, there is no telling but they would dig up a dead one." So the hole was made at least four inches deep, Bunny was buried in it, and the earth, with Joey’s assistance, stamped down hard, but afterwards it was loosened somewhat to plant a little wild-wood plant atop of the tiny grave. "Now, Joey, you wait here till I go bring something for a tombstone," Tattine directed, and in a second she was back again with the cover of a box in one hand and a red crayon in the other. Sitting flat upon the grass, she printed on the cover in rather irregular letters:—

BORN—I don’t know when. DIED June 17th.
LAVERACK SETTERS NOT ALLOWED.

This she put securely into place, while Joey raked up a little about the spot, and they left the little rabbit grave looking very neat and tidy. The next morning Tattine ran out to see how the little wild-wood plant was growing, and then she stood with her arms akimbo in blank astonishment. The little grave had disappeared. She kicked aside the loose earth, and saw that box and Bunny were both gone, and, not content with that, they had partially chewed up the tombstone, which lay upon its face a little distance away. They, of course, meant Betsy and Doctor. "There was no use in my putting: ’Laverack setters not allowed,’ " she said to herself sorrowfully, and she ran off to tell her Mother of this latest tragedy.

"Yes, I know, Tattine dear," said Mrs. Gerald, in the first pause; "there is neither pity nor mercy in the heart of a setter when he is on the scent of a rabbit, alive or dead—but, Tattine, don’t forget they have their good sides, Doctor and Betsy; just think how fond they are of you and me. Why, the very sight of us always makes them beat a tattoo with their tails."

"Yes, I know, Mamma, but I can’t feel somehow that tattoos with their tails make up for killing rabbits with their teeth."

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Chicago: Ruth Ogden, "Chapter I. Trouble No. 1," Tattine, ed. Altemus, Henry in Tattine Original Sources, accessed July 23, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=XGSF7Y6CNFLHDEN.

MLA: Ogden, Ruth. "Chapter I. Trouble No. 1." Tattine, edited by Altemus, Henry, in Tattine, Original Sources. 23 Jul. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=XGSF7Y6CNFLHDEN.

Harvard: Ogden, R, 'Chapter I. Trouble No. 1' in Tattine, ed. . cited in , Tattine. Original Sources, retrieved 23 July 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=XGSF7Y6CNFLHDEN.