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    Chapter 25

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    Chapter 25
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    My Friend Jack

    My friend rack is a retriever--very black, very curly, perfect
    in shape, but just a retriever; and he is really not my
    friend, only he thinks he is, which comes to the same thing.
    So convinced is he that I am his guide, protector, and true
    master, that if I were to give him a downright scolding or
    even a thrashing he would think it was all right and go on
    just the same. His way of going on is to make a companion of
    me whether I want him or not. I do not want him, but his idea
    is that I want him very much. I bitterly blame myself for
    having made the first advances, although nothing came of it
    except that he growled. I met him in a Cornish village in a
    house where I stayed. There was a nice kennel there, painted
    green, with a bed of clean straw and an empty plate which had
    contained his dinner, but on peeping in I saw no dog. Next
    day it was the same, and the next, and the day after that;
    then I inquired about it--Was there a dog in that house or
    not? Oh, yes, certainly there was: Jack, but a very
    independent sort of dog. On most days he looked in, ate his
    dinner and had a nap on his straw, but he was not what you
    would call a home-keeping dog.

    One day I found him in, and after we had looked for about a
    minute at each other, I squatting before the kennel, he with
    chin on paws pretending to be looking through me at something
    beyond, I addressed a few kind words to him, which he received
    with the before-mentioned growl. I pronounced him a surly
    brute and went away. It was growl for growl. Nevertheless I
    was well pleased at having escaped the consequences in
    speaking kindly to him. I am not a "doggy" person nor even a
    canophilist. The purely parasitic or degenerate pet dog moves
    me to compassion, but the natural vigorous outdoor dog I fear
    and avoid because we are not in harmony; consequently I suffer
    and am a loser when he forces his company on me. The outdoor
    world I live in is not the one to which a man goes for a
    constitutional, with a dog to save him from feeling lonely,
    or, if he has a gun, with a dog to help him kill something.
    It is a world which has sound in it, distant cries and
    penetrative calls, and low mysterious notes, as of insects
    and corncrakes, and frogs chirping and of grasshopper
    warblers--sounds like wind in the dry sedges. And there are
    also sweet and beautiful songs; but it is very quiet world
    where creatures move about subtly, on wings, on polished
    scales, on softly padded feet--rabbits, foxes, stoats,
    weasels, and voles and birds and lizards and adders and
    slow-worms, also beetles and dragon-flies. Many are at enmity
    with each other, but on account of their quietude there is no
    disturbance, no outcry and rushing into hiding. And having
    acquired this habit from them I am able to see and be with
    them. The sitting bird, the frolicking rabbit, the basking
    adder--they are as little disturbed at my presence as the
    butterfly that drops down close to my feet to sun his wings on
    a leaf or frond and makes me hold my breath at the sight of
    his divine colour, as if he had just fluttered down from some
    brighter realm in the sky. Think of a dog in this world,
    intoxicated with the odours of so many wild creatures, dashing
    and splashing through bogs and bushes! It is ten times worse
    than a bull in a china-shop. The bull can but smash a lot of
    objects made of baked clay; the dog introduces a mad panic in
    a world of living intelligent beings, a fairy realm of
    exquisite beauty. They scuttle away and vanish into hiding as
    if a deadly wind had blown over the earth and swept them out
    of existence. Only the birds remain--they can fly and do not
    fear for their own lives, but are in a state of intense
    anxiety about their eggs and young among the bushes which he
    is dashing through or exploring.

    I had good reason, then, to congratulate myself on Jack's
    surly behaviour on our first meeting. Then, a few days later,
    a curious thing happened. Jack was discovered one morning in
    his kennel, and when spoken to came or rather dragged himself
    out, a most pitiable object. He was horribly bruised and sore
    all over; his bones appeared to be all broken; he was limp and
    could hardly get on his feet, and in that miserable condition
    he continued for some three days.

    At first we thought he had been in a big fight--he was
    inclined that way, his master said--but we could discover no
    tooth marks or lacerations, nothing but bruises. Perhaps, we
    said, he had fallen into the hands of some cruel person in one
    of the distant moorland farms, who had tied him up, then
    thrashed him with a big stick, and finally turned him loose to
    die on the moor or crawl home if he could. His master looked
    so black at this that we said no more about it. But Jack was
    a wonderfully tough dog, all gristle I think, and after three
    days of lying there like a dead dog he quickly recovered,
    though I'm quite sure that if his injuries had been
    distributed among any half-dozen pampered or pet dogs it would
    have killed them all. A morning came when the kennel was
    empty: Jack was not dead--he was well again, and, as usual,
    out.

    Just then I was absent for a week or ten days then, back
    again, I went out one fine morning for a long day's ramble
    along the coast. A mile or so from home, happening to glance
    back I caught sight of a black dog's face among the bushes
    thirty or forty yards away gazing earnestly at me. It was
    Jack, of course, nothing but his head visible in an opening
    among the bushes--a black head which looked as if carved in
    ebony, in a wonderful setting of shining yellow furze
    blossoms. The beauty and singularity of the sight made it
    impossible for me to be angry with him, though there's nothing
    a man more resents than being shadowed, or secretly followed
    and spied upon, even by a dog, so, without considering what I
    was letting myself in for, I cried out "Jack" and instantly he
    bounded out and came to my side, then flew on ahead, well
    pleased to lead the way.

    "I must suffer him this time," I said resignedly, and went on,
    he always ahead acting as my scout and hunter--self-appointed,
    of course, but as I had not ordered him back in trumpet tones
    and hurled a rock at him to enforce the command, he took it
    that he was appointed by me. He certainly made the most of
    his position; no one could say that he was lacking in zeal.
    He scoured the country to the right and left and far in
    advance of me, crashing through furze thickets and splashing
    across bogs and streams, spreading terror where he went and
    leaving nothing for me to look at. So it went on until after
    one o'clock when, tired and hungry, I was glad to go down into
    a small fishing cove to get some dinner in a cottage I knew.
    Jack threw himself down on the floor and shared my meal, then
    made friends with the fisherman's wife and got a second meal
    of saffron cake which, being a Cornish dog, he thoroughly
    enjoyed.

    The second half of the day was very much like the first,
    altogether a blank day for me, although a very full one for
    Jack, who had filled a vast number of wild creatures with
    terror, furiously hunted a hundred or more, and succeeded in
    killing two or three.

    Jack was impossible, and would never be allowed to follow me
    again. So I sternly said and so thought, but when the time
    came and I found him waiting for me his brown eyes bright with
    joyful anticipation, I could not scowl at him and thunder out
    No! I could not help putting myself in his place. For here
    he was, a dog of boundless energy who must exercise his powers
    or be miserable, with nothing in the village for him except to
    witness the not very exciting activities of others; and that,
    I dscovered, had been his life. He was mad to do something,
    and because there was nothing for him to do his time was
    mostly spent in going about the village to keep an eye on
    the movements of the people, especially of those who did
    the work, always with the hope that his services might be
    required in some way by some one. He was grateful for the
    smallest crumbs, so to speak. House-work and work about the
    house--milking, feeding the pigs and so on--did not interest
    him, nor would he attend the labourers in the fields. Harvest
    time would make a difference; now it was ploughing, sowing,
    and hoeing, with nothing for Jack. But he was always down at
    the fishing cove to see the boats go out or come in and join
    in the excitement when there was a good catch. It was still
    better when the boat went with provisions to the lighthouse,
    or to relieve the keeper, for then Jack would go too and if
    they would not have him he would plunge into the waves and
    swim after it until the sails were hoisted and it flew like a
    great gull from him and he was compelled to swim back to land.
    If there was nothing else to do he would go to the stone
    quarry and keep the quarrymen company, sharing their dinner
    and hunting away the cows and donkeys that came too near.
    Then at six o'clock he would turn up at the cricket-field,
    where a few young enthusiasts would always attend to practise
    after working hours.

    Living this way Jack was, of course, known to everybody--as
    well known as the burly parson, the tall policeman, and the
    lazy girl who acted as postman and strolled about the parish
    once a day delivering the letters. When Jack trotted down the
    village street he received as many greetings as any human
    inhabitant--"Hullo, Jack!" or "Morning, Jack," or "Where be
    going, Jack?"

    But all this variety, and all he could do to fit himself into
    and be a part of the village life and fill up his time, did
    not satisfy him. Happiness for Jack was out on the moor--its
    lonely wet thorny places, pregnant with fascinating scents,
    not of flowers and odorous herbs, but of alert, warm-blooded,
    and swift-footed creatures. And I was going there--would I,
    could I, be so heartless as to refuse to take him?

    You see that Jack, being a dog, could not go there alone. He
    was a social being by instinct as well as training, dependent
    on others, or on the one who was his head and master. His
    human master, or the man who took him out and spoke to him in
    a tone of authority, represented the head of the pack--the
    leading dog for the time being, albeit a dog that walked on
    his hind legs and spoke a bow-wow dialect of his own.

    I thought of all this and of many things besides. The dog, I
    remembered, was taken by man out of his own world and thrust
    into one where he can never adapt himself perfectly to the
    conditions, and it was consequently nothing more than simple
    justice on my part to do what I could to satisfy his desire
    even at some cost to myself. But while I was revolving the
    matter in my mind, feeling rather unhappy about it, Jack was
    quite happy, since he had nothing to revolve. For him it was
    all settled and done with. Having taken him out once, I must
    go on taking him out always. Our two lives, hitherto running
    apart--his in the village, where he occupied himself with
    uncongenial affairs, mine on the moor where, having but two
    legs to run on, I could catch no rabbits--were now united in
    one current to our mutual advantage. His habits were altered
    to suit the new life. He stayed in now so as not to lose me
    when I went for a walk, and when returning, instead of going
    back to his kennel, he followed me in and threw himself down,
    all wet, on the rug before the fire. His master and mistress
    came in and stared in astonishment. It was against the rules
    of the house! They ordered him out and he looked at them
    without moving. Then they spoke again very sharply indeed,
    and he growled a low buzzing growl without lifting his chin
    from his paws, and they had to leave him! He had transferred
    his allegiance to a new master and head of the pack. He was
    under my protection and felt quite safe: if I had taken any
    part in that scene it would have been to order those two
    persons who had once lorded it over him out of the room!

    I didn't really mind his throwing over his master and taking
    possession of the rug in my sitting-room, but I certainly did
    very keenly resent his behaviour towards the birds every
    morning at breakfast-time. It was my chief pleasure to feed
    them during the bad weather, and it was often a difficult task
    even before Jack came on the scene to mix himself in my
    affairs. The Land's End is, I believe, the windiest place in
    the world, and when I opened the window and threw the scraps
    out the wind would catch and whirl them away like so many
    feathers over the garden wall, and I could not see what became
    of them. It was necessary to go out by the kitchen door at
    the back (the front door facing the sea being impossible) and
    scatter the food on the lawn, and then go into watch the
    result from behind the window. The blackbirds and thrushes
    would wait for a lull to fly in over the wall, while the daws
    would hover overhead and sometimes succeed in dropping down
    and seizing a crust, but often enough when descending they
    would be caught and whirled away by the blast. The poor
    magpies found their long tails very much against them in the
    scramble, and it was even worse with the pied wagtail. He
    would go straight for the bread and get whirled and tossed
    about the smooth lawn like a toy bird made of feathers, his
    tail blown over his head. It was bad enough, and then Jack,
    curious about these visits to the lawn, came to investigate
    and finding the scraps, proceeded to eat them all up. I tried
    to make him understand better by feeding him before I fed the
    birds; then by scolding and even hitting him, but he would not
    see it; he knew better than I did; he wasn't hungry and he
    didn't want bread, but he would eat it all the same, every
    scrap of it, just to prevent it from being wasted. Jack was
    doubtless both vexed and amused at my simplicity in thinking
    that all this food which I put on the lawn would remain there
    undevoured by those useless creatures the birds until it was
    wanted.

    Even this I forgave him, for I saw that he had not, that with
    his dog mind he could not, understand me. I also remembered
    the words of a wise old Cornish writer with regard to the mind
    of the lower animals: "But their faculties of mind are no less
    proportioned to their state of subjection than the shape and
    properties of their bodies. They have knowledge peculiar to
    their several spheres and sufficient for the under-part they
    have to act."

    Let me be free from the delusion that it is possible to raise
    them above this level, or in other words to add an inch to
    their mental stature. I have nothing to forgive Jack after
    all. And so in spite of everything Jack was suffered at home
    and accompanied me again and again in my walks abroad; and
    there were more blank days, or if not altogether blank, seeing
    that there was Jack himself to be observed and thought about,
    they were not the kind of days I had counted on having. My
    only consolation was that Jack failed to capture more than
    one out of every hundred, or perhaps five hundred, of the
    creatures he hunted, and that I was even able to save a few of
    these. But I could not help admiring his tremendous energy
    and courage, especially in cliff-climbing when we visited the
    headlands--those stupendous masses and lofty piles of granite
    which rise like castles built by giants of old. He would
    almost make me tremble for his life when, after climbing on to
    some projecting rock, he would go to the extreme end and look
    down over it as if it pleased him to watch the big waves break
    in foam on the black rocks a couple of hundred feet below.
    But it was not the big green waves or any sight in nature that
    drew him--he sniffed and sniffed and wriggled and twisted his
    black nose, and raised and depressed his ears as he sniffed,
    and was excited solely because the upward currents of air
    brought him tidings of living creatures that lurked in the
    rocks below--badger and fox and rabbit. One day when quitting
    one of these places, on looking up I spied Jack standing on
    the summit of a precipice about seventy-five feet high. Jack
    saw me and waved his tail, and then started to come straight
    down to me! From the top a faint rabbit track was, visible
    winding downwards to within twenty-four feet of the ground;
    the rest was a sheer wall of rock. Down he dashed, faster and
    faster as he got to where the track ended, and then losing his
    footing he fell swiftly to the earth, but luckily dropped on a
    deep spongy turf and was not hurt. After witnessing this
    reckless act I knew how he had come by those frightful bruises
    on a former occasion. He had doubtless fallen a long way down
    a cliff and had been almost crushed on the stones. But the
    lesson was lost on Jack; he would have it that where rabbits
    and foxes went he could go!

    After all, the chief pleasure those blank bad days had for me
    was the thought that Jack was as happy as he could well be.
    But it was not enough to satisfy me, and by and by it came
    into my mind that I had been long enough at that place. It
    was hard to leave Jack, who had put himself so entirely in my
    hands, and trusted me so implicitly. But--the weather was
    keeping very bad: was there ever known such a June as this of
    1907? So wet and windy and cold! Then, too, the bloom had
    gone from the furze. It was, I remembered, to witness this
    chief loveliness that I came. Looking on the wide moor and
    far-off boulder-strewn hills and seeing how rusty the bushes
    were, I quoted--

    The bloom has gone, and with the bloom go I,

    and early in the morning, with all my belongings on my back, I
    stole softly forth, glancing apprehensively in the direction
    of the kennel, and out on to the windy road. It was painful
    to me to have to decamp in this way; it made me think meanly
    of myself; but if Jack could read this and could speak his
    mind I think he would acknowledge that my way of bringing the
    connection to an end was best for both of us. I was not the
    person, or dog on two legs, he had taken me for, one with a
    proper desire to kill things: I only acted according to my
    poor lights. Nothing, then, remains to be said except that
    one word which it was not convenient to speak on the windy
    morning of my departure--Good-bye Jack.

    THE END
    Chapter 25
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