The Black Poodle by F. Anstey
I have set myself the task of relating in the course of this story,
without suppressing or altering a single detail, the most painful and
humiliating episode of my life.
I do this, not because it will give me the least pleasure, but simply
because it affords me an opportunity of extenuating myself, which has
hitherto been wholly denied to me.
As a general rule, I am quite aware that to publish a lengthy explanation
of one's conduct in any questionable transaction is not the best means of
recovering a lost reputation; but in my own case there is one to whom I
shall nevermore be permitted to justify by word of mouth—even if I
found myself able to attempt it. And as she could not possibly think worse
of me than she does at present, I write this, knowing it can do me no
harm, and faintly hoping that it may come to her notice and suggest a
doubt whether I am quite so unscrupulous a villain, so consummate a
hypocrite, as I have been forced to appear in her eyes.
The bare chance of such a result makes me perfectly indifferent to all
else; I cheerfully expose to the derision of the whole reading world the
story of my weakness and my shame, since by doing so I may possibly
rehabilitate myself somewhat in the good opinion of one person.
Having said so much, I will begin my confession without further delay.
My name is Algernon Weatherhead, and I may add that I am in one of the
government departments, that I am an only son, and live at home with my
We had had a house at Hammersmith until just before the period covered by
this history, when, our lease expiring, my mother decided that my health
required country air at the close of the day, and so we took a "desirable
villa residence" on one of the many new building estates which have lately
sprung up in such profusion in the home counties.
We have called it "Wistaria Villa." It is a pretty little place, the last
of a row of detached villas, each with its tiny rustic carriage-gate and
gravel sweep in front, and lawn enough for a tennis-court behind, which
lines the road leading over the hill to the railway-station.
I could certainly have wished that our landlord, shortly after giving us
the agreement, could have found some other place to hang himself in than
one of our attics, for the consequence was that a housemaid left us in
violent hysterics about every two months, having learned the tragedy from
the tradespeople, and naturally "seen a somethink" immediately afterward.
Still it is a pleasant house, and I can now almost forgive the landlord
for what I shall always consider an act of gross selfishness on his part.
In the country, even so near town, a next-door neighbor is something more
than a mere numeral; he is a possible acquaintance, who will at least
consider a new-comer as worth the experiment of a call. I soon knew that
"Shuturgarden," the next house to our own, was occupied by a Colonel
Currie, a retired Indian officer; and often, as across the low boundary
wall I caught a glimpse of a graceful girlish figure flitting about among
the rose-bushes in the neighbouring garden, I would lose myself in
pleasant anticipations of a time not too far distant when the wall which
separated us would be (metaphorically) levelled.
I remember—ah, how vividly!—the thrill of excitement with
which I heard from my mother, on returning from town one evening, that the
Curries had called, and seemed disposed to be all that was neighbourly and
I remember, too, the Sunday afternoon on which I returned their call—alone,
as my mother had already done so during the week. I was standing on the
steps of the colonel's villa, waiting for the door to open, when I was
startled by a furious snarling and yapping behind, and, looking round,
discovered a large poodle in the act of making for my legs.
He was a coal-black poodle, with half of his right ear gone, and absurd
little thick moustaches at the end of his nose; he was shaved in the
shamlion fashion, which is considered, for some mysterious reason, to
improve a poodle, but the barber had left sundry little tufts of hair,
which studded his haunches capriciously.
I could not help being reminded, as I looked at him, of another black
poodle, which Faust entertained for a short time with unhappy results, and
I thought that a very moderate degree of incantation would be enough to
bring the fiend out of this brute.
He made me intensely uncomfortable, for I am of a slightly nervous
temperament, with a constitutional horror of dogs, and a liability to
attacks of diffidence on performing the ordinary social rites under the
most favourable conditions, and certainly the consciousness that a strange
and apparently savage dog was engaged in worrying the heels of my boots
was the reverse of reassuring.
The Currie family received me with all possible kindness. "So charmed to
make your acquaintance, Mr. Weatherhead," said Mrs. Currie, as I shook
hands. "I see," she added, pleasantly, "you've brought the doggie in with
you." As a matter of fact, I had brought the doggie in at the ends of my
coat-tails; but it was evidently no unusual occurrence for visitors to
appear in this undignified manner, for she detached him quite as a matter
of course, and as soon as I was sufficiently collected we fell into
I discovered that the colonel and his wife were childless, and the slender
willowy figure I had seen across the garden wall was that of Lilian
Roseblade, their niece and adopted daughter. She came into the room
shortly afterward, and I felt, as I went through the form of an
introduction, that her sweet, fresh face, shaded by soft masses of
dusky-brown hair, more than justified all the dreamy hopes and fancies
with which I had looked forward to that moment.
She talked to me in a pretty, confidential, appealing way, which I have
heard her dearest friends censure as childish and affected; but I thought
then that her manner had an indescribable charm and fascination about it,
and the memory of it makes my heart ache now with a pang that is not all
Even before the colonel made his appearance I had begun to see that my
enemy, the poodle, occupied an exceptional position in that household. It
was abundantly clear by the time I took my leave.
He seemed to be the centre of their domestic system, and even lovely
Lilian revolved contentedly around him as a kind of satellite; he could do
no wrong in his owner's eyes, his prejudices (and he was a narrow-minded
animal) were rigorously respected, and all domestic arrangements were made
with a primary view to his convenience.
I may be wrong, but I cannot think that it is wise to put any poodle upon
such a pedestal as that. How this one in particular, as ordinary a
quadruped as ever breathed, had contrived to impose thus upon his
infatuated proprietors, I never could understand, but so it was; he even
engrossed the chief part of the conversation, which after any lull seemed
to veer round to him by a sort of natural law.
I had to endure a long biographical sketch of him,—what a society
paper would call an "anecdotal photo,"—and each fresh anecdote
seemed to me to exhibit the depraved malignity of the beast in a more
glaring light, and render the doting admiration of the family more
astounding than ever.
"Did you tell Mr. Weatherhead, Lily, about Bingo" (Bingo was the poodle's
preposterous name) "and Tacks? No? Oh, I must tell him that; it'll
make him laugh. Tacks is our gardener down in the village (d' ye know
Tacks?). Well, Tacks was up here the other day, nailing up some
trellis-work at the top of a ladder, and all the time there was Master
Bingo sitting quietly at the foot of it looking on; wouldn't leave it on
any account. Tacks said he was quite company for him. Well, at last, when
Tacks had finished and was coming down, what do you thing that rascal
there did? Just sneaked quietly up behind and nipped him in both calves
and ran off. Been looking out for that the whole time! Ha, ha!—deep
I agreed, with an inward shudder, that it was very deep, thinking
privately that, if this was a specimen of Bingo's usual treatment of the
natives, it would be odd if he did not find himself deeper still before—probably
just before—he died.
"Poor, faithful old doggie!" murmured Mrs. Currie; "he thought Tacks was a
nasty burglar, didn't he? He wasn't going to see master robbed was he?"
"Capital house-dog, sir," struck in the colonel. "Gad, I shall never
forget how he made poor Heavisides run for it the other day! Ever met
Heavisides of the Bombay Fusileers? Well, Heavisides was staying here, and
the dog met him one morning as he was coming down from the bath-room.
Didn't recognise him in 'pajamas' and a dressing-gown, of course, and made
at him. He kept poor old Heavisides outside the landing window on top of
the cistern for a quarter of an hour, till I had to come and raise the
Such were the stories of that abandoned dog's blunderheaded ferocity to
which I was forced to listen, while all the time the brute sat opposite me
on the hearth-rug, blinking at me from under his shaggy mane with his
evil, bleared eyes, and deliberating where he would have me when I rose to
This was the beginning of an intimacy which soon displaced all ceremony.
It was very pleasant to go in there after dinner, even to sit with the
colonel over his claret, and hear more stories about Bingo; for afterward
I could go into the pretty drawing-room and take my tea from Lilian's
hands, and listen while she played Schubert to us in the summer twilight.
The poodle was always in the way, to be sure, but even his ugly black head
seemed to lose some of its ugliness and ferocity when Lilian laid her
pretty hand on it.
On the whole, I think that the Currie family were well disposed toward me,
the colonel considering me as a harmless specimen of the average eligible
young man,—which I certainly was,—and Mrs. Currie showing me
favour for my mother's sake, for whom she had taken a strong liking.
As for Lilian, I believed I saw that she soon suspected the state of my
feelings toward her, and was not displeased by it. I looked forward with
some hopefulness to a day when I could declare myself with no fear of a
But it was a serious obstacle in my path that I could not secure Bingo's
good opinion on any terms. The family would often lament this pathetically
themselves. "You see," Mrs. Currie would observe in apology, "Bingo is a
dog that does not attach himself easily to strangers"—though, for
that matter, I thought he was unpleasantly ready to attach himself to me.
I did try hard to conciliate him. I brought him propitiatory buns, which
was weak and ineffectual, as he ate them with avidity, and hated me as
bitterly as ever; for he had conceived from the first a profound contempt
for me, and a distrust which no blandishments of mine could remove.
Looking back now, I am inclined to think it was a prophetic instinct that
warned him of what was to come upon him through my instrumentality.
Only his approbation was wanting to establish for me a firm footing with
the Curries, and perhaps determine Lilian's wavering heart in my
direction; but, though I wooed that inflexible poodle with an assiduity I
blush to remember, he remained obstinately firm.
Still, day by day, Lilian's treatment of me was more encouraging; day by
day I gained in the esteem of her uncle and aunt; I began to hope that
soon I should be able to disregard canine influence altogether.
Now there was one inconvenience about our villa (besides its flavour of
suicide) which it is necessary to mention here. By common consent all the
cats of the neighbourhood had selected our garden for their evening
reunions. I fancy that a tortoise-shell kitchen cat of ours must have been
a sort of leader of local feline society—I know she was "at home,"
with music and recitations, on most evenings.
My poor mother found this to interfere with her after-dinner nap, and no
wonder; for if a cohort of ghosts had been "shrieking and squealing," as
Calpurnia puts it, in our back garden, or it had been fitted up as a
creche for a nursery of goblin infants in the agonies of teething, the
noise could not possibly have been more unearthly.
We sought for some means of getting rid of the nuisance: there was poison,
of course; but we thought it would have an invidious appearance, and even
lead to legal difficulties, if each dawn were to discover an assortment of
cats expiring in hideous convulsions in various parts of the same garden.
Firearms too were open to objection, and would scarcely assist my mother's
slumbers; so for some time we were at a loss for a remedy. At last, one
day, walking down the Strand, I chanced to see (in an evil hour) what
struck me as the very thing: it was an air-gun of superior construction,
displayed in a gunsmith's window. I went in at once, purchased it, and
took it home in triumph; it would be noiseless, and would reduce the local
average of cats without scandal,—one or two examples,—and
feline fashion would soon migrate to a more secluded spot.
I lost no time in putting this to the proof. That same evening I lay in
wait after dusk at the study window, protecting my mother's repose. As
soon as I heard the long-drawn wail, the preliminary sputter, and the wild
stampede that followed, I let fly in the direction of the sound. I suppose
I must have something of the national sporting instinct in me, for my
blood was tingling with excitement; but the feline constitution
assimilates lead without serious inconvenience, and I began to fear that
no trophy would remain to bear witness to my marksmanship.
But all at once I made out a dark, indistinct form slinking in from behind
the bushes. I waited till it crossed a belt of light which streamed from
the back kitchen below me, and then I took careful aim and pulled the
This time at least I had not failed; there was a smothered yell, a rustle,
and then silence again. I ran out with the calm pride of a successful
revenge to bring in the body of my victim, and I found underneath a laurel
no predatory tom-cat, but (as the discerning reader will no doubt have
foreseen long since) the quivering carcass of the colonel's black poodle!
I intend to set down here the exact unvarnished truth, and I confess that
at first, when I knew what I had done, I was not sorry. I was quite
innocent of any intention of doing it, but I felt no regret. I even
laughed—madman that I was—at the thought that there was the
end of Bingo, at all events; that impediment was removed; my weary task of
conciliation was over for ever!
But soon the reaction came; I realised the tremendous nature of my deed,
and shuddered. I had done that which might banish me from Lilian's side
for ever! All unwittingly I had slaughtered a kind of sacred beast, the
animal around which the Currie household had wreathed their choicest
affections! How was I to break it to them? Should I send Bingo in, with a
card tied to his neck and my regrets and compliments? That was too much
like a present of game. Ought I not to carry him in myself? I would
wreathe him in the best crape, I would put on black for him; the Curries
would hardly consider a taper and a white sheet, or sack-cloth and ashes,
an excessive form of atonement, but I could not grovel to quite such an
I wondered what the colonel would say. Simple and hearty, as a general
rule, he had a hot temper on occasions, and it made me ill as I thought,
would he and, worse still, would Lilian believe it was really an
accident? They knew what an interest I had in silencing the deceased
poodle—would they believe the simple truth?
I vowed that they should believe me. My genuine remorse and the
absence of all concealment on my part would speak powerfully for me. I
would choose a favourable time for my confession; that very evening I
would tell all.
Still I shrank from the duty before me, and, as I knelt down sorrowfully
by the dead form and respectfully composed his stiffening limbs, I thought
that it was unjust of fate to place a well-meaning man, whose nerves were
not of iron, in such a position.
Then, to my horror, I heard a well-known ringing tramp on the road
outside, and smelled the peculiar fragrance of a Burmese cheroot. It was
the colonel himself, who had been taking out the doomed Bingo for his
usual evening run.
I don't know how it was, exactly, but a sudden panic came over me. I held
my breath, and tried to crouch down unseen behind the laurels; but he had
seen me, and came over at once to speak to me across the hedge.
He stood there, not two yards from his favourite's body! Fortunately it
was unusually dark that evening.
"Ha, there you are, eh!" he began, heartily; "don't rise, my boy, don't
I was trying to put myself in front of the poodle, and did not rise—at
least, only my hair did.
"You're out late, ain't you?" he went on; "laying out your garden, hey?"
I could not tell him that I was laying out his poodle! My voice shook as,
with a guilty confusion that was veiled by the dusk, I said it was a fine
evening—which it was not.
"Cloudy, sir," said the colonel, "cloudy; rain before morning, I think. By
the way, have you seen anything of Bingo in here?"
This was the turning-point. What I ought to have done was to say
mournfully, "Yes, I'm sorry to say I've had a most unfortunate accident
with him. Here he is; the fact is, I'm afraid I've shot him!"
But I couldn't. I could have told him at my own time, in a prepared form
of words—but not then. I felt I must use all my wits to gain time,
and fence with the questions.
"Why," I said, with a leaden airiness, "he hasn't given you the slip, has
"Never did such a thing in his life!" said the colonel, warmly; "he rushed
off after a rat or a frog or something a few minutes ago, and as I stopped
to light another cheroot I lost sight of him. I thought I saw him slip in
under your gate, but I've been calling him from the front there and he
won't come out."
No, and he never would come out any more. But the colonel must not
be told that just yet. I temporised again: "If," I said, unsteadily—"if
he had slipped in under the gate I should have seen him. Perhaps he took
it into his head to run home?"
"Oh, I shall find him on the door-step, I expect, the knowing old scamp!
Why, what d' ye think was the last thing he did, now?"
I could have given him the very latest intelligence, but I dared not.
However, it was altogether too ghastly to kneel there and laugh at
anecdotes of Bingo told across Bingo's dead body; I could not stand that.
"Listen," I said, suddenly, "wasn't that his bark? There, again; it seems
to come from the front of your house, don't you think?"
"Well," said the colonel, "I'll go and fasten him up before he's off
again. How your teeth are chattering! You've caught a chill, man; go
indoors at once, and, if you feel equal to it, look in half an hour later,
about grog-time, and I'll tell you all about it. Compliments to your
mother. Don't forget—about grog-time!"
I had got rid of him at last, and I wiped my forehead, gasping with
relief. I would go round in half an hour, and then I should be prepared to
make my melancholy announcement. For, even then, I never thought of any
other course, until suddenly it flashed upon me with terrible clearness
that my miserable shuffling by the hedge had made it impossible to tell
the truth! I had not told a direct lie, to be sure, but then I had given
the colonel the impression that I had denied having seen the dog. Many
people can appease their consciences by reflecting that, whatever may be
the effect their words produce, they did contrive to steer clear of a
downright lie. I never quite knew where the distinction lay morally, but
there is that feeling—I have it myself.
Unfortunately, prevarication has this drawback: that, if ever the truth
comes to light, the prevaricator is in just the same case as if he had
lied to the most shameless extent, and for a man to point out that the
words he used contained no absolute falsehood will seldom restore
I might, of course, still tell the colonel of my misfortune, and leave him
to infer that it had happened after our interview; but the poodle was fast
becoming cold and stiff, and they would most probably suspect the real
time of the occurrence.
And then Lilian would hear that I had told a string of falsehoods to her
uncle over the dead body of their idolised Bingo—an act, no doubt,
of abominable desecration, of unspeakable profanity, in her eyes.
If it would have been difficult before to prevail on her to accept a
blood-stained hand, it would be impossible after that. No, I had burned my
ships, I was cut off for ever from the straightforward course; that one
moment of indecision had decided my conduct in spite of me; I must go on
with it now, and keep up the deception at all hazards.
It was bitter. I had always tried to preserve as many of the moral
principles which had been instilled into me as can be conveniently
retained in this grasping world, and it had been my pride that, roughly
speaking, I had never been guilty of an unmistakable falsehood.
But henceforth, if I meant to win Lilian, that boast must be relinquished
for ever. I should have to lie now with all my might, without limit or
scruple, to dissemble incessantly, and "wear a mask," as the poet Bunn
beautifully expressed it long ago, "over my hollow heart." I felt all this
keenly; I did not think it was right, but what was I to do?
After thinking all this out very carefully, I decided that my only course
was to bury the poor animal where he fell, and say nothing about it. With
some vague idea of precaution, I first took off the silver collar he wore,
and then hastily interred him with a garden-trowel, and succeeded in
removing all traces of the disaster.
I fancy I felt a certain relief in the knowledge that there would now be
no necessity to tell my pitiful story and risk the loss of my neighbours'
By-and-by, I thought, I would plant a rose-tree over his remains, and some
day, as Lilian and I, in the noontide of our domestic bliss, stood before
it admiring its creamy luxuriance, I might (perhaps) find courage to
confess that the tree owed some of that luxuriance to the long-lost Bingo.
There was a touch of poetry in this idea that lightened my gloom for the
I need scarcely say that I did not go round to Shuturgarden that evening.
I was not hardened enough for that yet; my manner might betray me, and so
I very prudently stayed at home.
But that night my sleep was broken by frightful dreams. I was perpetually
trying to bury a great, gaunt poodle, which would persist in rising up
through the damp mould as fast as I covered him up. . . . Lilian and I
were engaged, and we were in church together on Sunday, and the poodle,
resisting all attempts to eject him, forbade our banns with sepulchral
barks. . . . It was our wedding-day, and at the critical moment the poodle
leaped between us and swallowed the ring. . . . Or we were at the
wedding-breakfast, and Bingo, a grisly black skeleton with flaming eyes,
sat on the cake and would not allow Lilian to cut it. Even the rose-tree
fancy was reproduced in a distorted form—the tree grew, and every
blossom contained a miniature Bingo, which barked; and as I woke I was
desperately trying to persuade the colonel that they were ordinary
I went up to the office next day with my gloomy secret gnawing my bosom,
and, whatever I did, the spectre of the murdered poodle rose before me.
For two days after that I dared not go near the Curries, until at last one
evening after dinner I forced myself to call, feeling that it was really
not safe to keep away any longer.
My conscience smote me as I went in. I put on an unconscious, easy manner,
which was such a dismal failure that it was lucky for me that they were
too much engrossed to notice it.
I never before saw a family so stricken down by a domestic misfortune as
the group I found in the drawing-room, making a dejected pretence of
reading or working. We talked at first—and hollow talk it was—on
indifferent subjects, till I could bear it no longer, and plunged boldly
"I don't see the dog," I began, "I suppose you—you found him all
right the other evening, colonel?" I wondered, as I spoke, whether they
would not notice the break in my voice, but they did not.
"Why, the fact is," said the colonel, heavily, gnawing his gray moustache,
"we've not heard anything of him since; he's—he's run off!"
"Gone, Mr. Weatherhead; gone without a word!" said Mrs. Currie,
plaintively, as if she thought the dog might at least have left an
"I wouldn't have believed it of him," said the colonel; "it has completely
knocked me over. Haven't been so cut up for years—the ungrateful
"O uncle!" pleaded Lilian, "don't talk like that; perhaps Bingo couldn't
help it—perhaps some one has s-s-shot him!"
"Shot!" cried the colonel, angrily. "By heaven! if I thought there was a
villain on earth capable of shooting that poor inoffensive dog, I'd—Why
should they shoot him, Lilian? Tell me that! I—I hope you
won't let me hear you talk like that again. You don't think he's
shot, eh, Weatherhead?"
I said—Heaven forgive me!—that I thought it highly improbable.
"He's not dead!" cried Mrs. Currie. "If he were dead I should know it
somehow—I'm sure I should! But I'm certain he's alive. Only last
night I had such a beautiful dream about him. I thought he came back to
us, Mr. Weatherhead, driving up in a hansom-cab, and he was just the same
as ever—only he wore blue spectacles, and the shaved part of him was
painted a bright red. And I woke up with the joy—so, you know, it's
sure to come true!"
It will be easily understood what torture conversations like these were to
me, and how I hated myself as I sympathised and spoke encouraging words
concerning the dog's recovery, when I knew all the time he was lying hid
under my garden mould. But I took it as a part of my punishment, and bore
it all uncomplainingly; practice even made me an adept in the art of
consolation—I believe I really was a great comfort to them.
I had hoped that they would soon get over the first bitterness of their
loss, and that Bingo would be first replaced and then forgotten in the
usual way; but there seemed no signs of this coming to pass.
The poor colonel was too plainly fretting himself ill about it; he went
pottering about forlornly, advertising, searching, and seeing people, but
all, of course, to no purpose; and it told upon him. He was more like a
man whose only son and heir had been stolen than an Anglo-Indian officer
who had lost a poodle. I had to affect the liveliest interest in all his
inquiries and expeditions, and to listen to and echo the most extravagant
eulogies of the departed; and the wear and tear of so much duplicity made
me at last almost as ill as the colonel himself.
I could not help seeing that Lilian was not nearly so much impressed by my
elaborate concern as her relatives, and sometimes I detected an
incredulous look in her frank brown eyes that made me very uneasy. Little
by little, a rift widened between us, until at last in despair I
determined to know the worst before the time came when it would be
hopeless to speak at all. I chose a Sunday evening as we were walking
across the green from church in the golden dusk, and then I ventured to
speak to her of my love. She heard me to the end, and was evidently very
much agitated. At last she murmured that it could not be, unless—no,
it never could be now.
"Unless, what?" I asked. "Lilian—Miss Roseblade, something has come
between us lately; you will tell me what that something is, won't you?"
"Do you want to know really?" she said, looking up at me through
her tears. "Then I'll tell you; it—it's Bingo!"
I started back overwhelmed. Did she know all? If not, how much did she
suspect? I must find out that at once. "What about Bingo?" I managed to
pronounce, with a dry tongue.
"You never l-loved him when he was here," she sobbed; "you know you
I was relieved to find it was no worse than this.
"No," I said, candidly; "I did not love Bingo. Bingo didn't love me,
Lilian; he was always looking out for a chance of nipping me somewhere.
Surely you won't quarrel with me for that!"
"Not for that," she said; "only, why do you pretend to be so fond of him
now, and so anxious to get him back again? Uncle John believes you, but I
don't. I can see quite well that you wouldn't be glad to find him. You
could find him easily if you wanted to!"
"What do you mean, Lilian?" I said, hoarsely. "How could I find
him?" Again I feared the worst.
"You're in a government office," cried Lilian, "and if you only chose, you
could easily g-get g-government to find Bingo! What's the use of
government if it can't do that? Mr. Travers would have found him long ago
if I'd asked him!"
Lilian had never been so childishly unreasonable as this before, and yet I
loved her more madly than ever; but I did not like this allusion to
Travers, a rising barrister, who lived with his sister in a pretty cottage
near the station, and had shown symptoms of being attracted by Lilian.
He was away on circuit just then, luckily; but, at least, even he would
have found it a hard task to find Bingo—there was comfort in that.
"You know that isn't just, Lilian," I observed; "but only tell me what you
want me to do."
"Bub-bub-bring back Bingo!" she said.
"Bring back Bingo!" I cried, in horror. "But suppose I can't—suppose
he's out of the country, or—dead, what then Lilian?"
"I can't help it," she said, "but I don't believe he is out of the
country or dead. And while I see you pretending to uncle that you cared
awfully about him, and going on doing nothing at all, it makes me think
you're not quite—quite sincere! And I couldn't possibly marry
any one while I thought that of him. And I shall always have that feeling
unless you find Bingo!"
It was of no use to argue with her; I knew Lilian by that time. With her
pretty, caressing manner she united a latent obstinacy which it was
hopeless to attempt to shake. I feared, too, that she was not quite
certain as yet whether she cared for me or not, and that this condition of
hers was an expedient to gain time.
I left her with a heavy heart. Unless I proved my worth by bringing back
Bingo within a very short time, Travers would probably have everything his
own way. And Bingo was dead!
However, I took heart. I thought that perhaps if I could succeed by my
earnest efforts in persuading Lilian that I really was doing all in my
power to recover the poodle, she might relent in time, and dispense with
his actual production.
So, partly with this object, and partly to appease the remorse which now
revived and stung me deeper than before, I undertook long and weary
pilgrimages after office hours. I spent many pounds in advertisements; I
interviewed dogs of every size, colour, and breed, and of course I took
care to keep Lilian informed of each successive failure. But still her
heart was not touched; she was firm. If I went on like that, she told me,
I was certain to find Bingo one day; then, but not before, would her
doubts be set at rest.
I was walking one day through the somewhat squalid district which lies
between Bow Street and High Holborn, when I saw, in a small theatrical
costumer's window, a hand-bill stating that a black poodle had "followed a
gentleman" on a certain date, and if not claimed and the finder
remunerated before a stated time would be sold to pay expenses.
I went in and got a copy of the bill to show Lilian, and, although by that
time I scarcely dared to look a poodle in the face, I thought I would go
to the address given and see the animal, simply to be able to tell Lilian
I had done so.
The gentleman whom the dog had very unaccountably followed was a certain
Mr. William Blagg, who kept a little shop near Endell Street, and called
himself a bird-fancier, though I should scarcely have credited him with
the necessary imagination. He was an evil-browed ruffian in a fur cap,
with a broad broken nose and little shifty red eyes; and after I had told
him what I wanted he took me through a horrible little den, stacked with
piles of wooden, wire, and wicker prisons, each quivering with restless,
twittering life, and then out into a back yard, in which were two or three
rotten old kennels and tubs. "That there's him," he said, jerking his
thumb to the farthest tub; "follered me all the way 'ome from Kinsington
Gardens, he did. Kim out, will yer?"
And out of the tub there crawled slowly, with a snuffling whimper and a
rattling of its chain, the identical dog I had slain a few evenings
At least, so I thought for a moment, and felt as if I had seen a spectre;
the resemblance was so exact—in size, in every detail, even to the
little clumps of hair about the hind parts, even to the lop of half an
ear, this dog might have been the doppelganger of the deceased
Bingo. I suppose, after all, one black poodle is very like any other black
poodle of the same size, but the likeness startled me.
I think it was then that the idea occurred to me that here was a
miraculous chance of securing the sweetest girl in the whole world, and at
the same time atoning for my wrong by bringing back gladness with me to
Shuturgarden. It only needed a little boldness; one last deception, and I
could embrace truthfulness once more.
Almost unconsciously, when my guide turned round and asked, "Is that there
dawg yourn?" I said hurriedly, "Yes, yes; that's the dog I want; that—that's
"He don't seem to be a-puttin' of 'isself out about seein' you again,"
observed Mr. Blagg, as the poodle studied me with calm interest.
"Oh, he's not exactly my dog, you see," I said; "he belongs to a
friend of mine!"
He gave me a quick, furtive glance. "Then maybe you're mistook about him,"
he said, "and I can't run no risks. I was a-goin' down in the country this
'ere werry evenin' to see a party as lives at Wistaria Willa; he's been
a-hadwertisin' about a black poodle, he has!"
"But look here," I said; "that's me."
He gave me a curious leer. "No offence, you know, guv'nor," he said, "but
I should wish for some evidence as to that afore I part with a vallyable
dawg like this 'ere!"
"Well," I said, "here's one of my cards; will that do for you?"
He took it and spelled it out with a pretence of great caution; but I saw
well enough that the old schoundrel suspected that if I had lost a dog at
all it was not this particular dog. "Ah," he said, as he put it in his
pocket, "if I part with him to you I must be cleared of all risks. I can't
afford to get into trouble about no mistakes. Unless you likes to leave
him for a day or two you must pay accordin', you see."
I wanted to get the hateful business over as soon as possible. I did not
care what I paid—Lilian was worth all the expense! I said I had no
doubt myself as to the real ownership of the animal, but I would give him
any sum in reason, and would remove the dog at once.
And so we settled it. I paid him an extortionate sum, and came away with a
duplicate poodle, a canine counterfeit, which I hoped to pass off at
Shuturgarden as the long-lost Bingo.
I know it was wrong,—it even came unpleasantly near dog-stealing,—but
I was a desperate man. I saw Lilian gradually slipping away from me, I
knew that nothing short of this could ever recall her, I was sorely
tempted, I had gone far on the same road already; it was the old story of
being hung for a sheep. And so I fell.
Surely some who read this will be generous enough to consider the peculiar
state of the case, and mingle a little pity with their contempt.
I was dining in town that evening, and took my purchase home by a late
train; his demeanour was grave and intensely respectable; he was not the
animal to commit himself by any flagrant indiscretion; he was gentle and
tractable too, and in all respects an agreeable contrast in character to
the original. Still, it may have been the after-dinner workings of
conscience, but I could not help fancying that I saw a certain look in the
creature's eyes, as if he were aware that he was required to connive at a
fraud, and rather resented it.
If he would only be good enough to back me up! Fortunately, however, he
was such a perfect facsimile of the outward Bingo that the risk of
detection was really inconsiderable.
When I got him home I put Bingo's silver collar round his neck,
congratulating myself on my forethought in preserving it, and took him in
to see my mother. She accepted him as what he seemed without the slightest
misgiving; but this, though it encouraged me to go on, was not decisive—the
spurious poodle would have to encounter the scrutiny of those who knew
every tuft on the genuine animal's body!
Nothing would have induced me to undergo such an ordeal as that of
personally restoring him to the Curries. We gave him supper, and tied him
up on the lawn, where he howled dolefully all night and buried bones.
The next morning I wrote a note to Mrs. Currie, expressing my pleasure at
being able to restore the lost one, and another to Lilian, containing only
the words, "Will you believe now that I am sincere?" Then I tied
both round the poodle's neck, and dropped him over the wall into the
colonel's garden just before I started to catch my train to town.
I had an anxious walk home from the station that evening; I went round by
the longer way, trembling the whole time lest I should meet any of the
Currie household, to which I felt myself entirely unequal just then. I
could not rest until I knew whether my fraud had succeeded, or if the
poodle to which I had intrusted my fate had basely betrayed me; but my
suspense was happily ended as soon as I entered my mother's room. "You
can't think how delighted those poor Curries were to see Bingo again," she
said at once; "and they said such charming things about you, Algy—Lilian
particularly; quite affected she seemed, poor child! And they wanted you
to go round and dine there and be thanked to-night, but at last I
persuaded them to come to us instead. And they're going to bring the dog
to make friends. Oh, and I met Frank Travers; he's back from circuit again
now, so I asked him in too to meet them!"
I drew a deep breath of relief. I had played a desperate game, but I had
won! I could have wished, to be sure, that my mother had not thought of
bringing in Travers on that of all evenings, but I hoped that I could defy
him after this.
The colonel and his people were the first to arrive, he and his wife being
so effusively grateful that they made me very uncomfortable indeed; Lilian
met me with downcast eyes and the faintest possible blush, but she said
nothing just then. Five minutes afterward, when she and I were alone
together in the conservatory, where I had brought her on pretence of
showing a new begonia, she laid her hand on my sleeve and whispered,
almost shyly, "Mr. Weatherhead—Algernon! Can you ever forgive me for
being so cruel and unjust to you?" And I replied that, upon the whole, I
We were not in the conservatory long, but before we left it beautiful
Lilian Roseblade had consented to make my life happy. When we reentered
the drawing-room we found Frank Travers, who had been told the story of
the recovery; and I observed his jaw fall as he glanced at our faces, and
noted the triumphant smile which I have no doubt mine wore, and the
tender, dreamy look in Lilian's soft eyes. Poor Travers! I was sorry for
him, although I was not fond of him. Travers was a good type of rising
young common-law barrister, tall, not bad-looking, with keen dark eyes,
black whiskers, and the mobile forensic mouth which can express every
shade of feeling, from deferential assent to cynical incredulity;
possessed, too, of an endless flow of conversation that was decidedly
agreeable, if a trifling too laboriously so, he had been a dangerous
rival. But all that was over now; he saw it himself at once, and during
dinner sank into dismal silence, gazing pathetically at Lilian, and
sighing almost obtrusively between the courses. His stream of small talk
seemed to have been cut off at the main.
"You've done a kind thing, Weatherhead," said the colonel. "I can't tell
you all that dog is to me, and how I missed the poor beast. I'd quite
given up all hope of ever seeing him again, and all the time there was
Weatherhead, Mr. Travers, quietly searching all London till he found him!
I sha'n't forget it. It shows a really kind feeling."
I saw by Travers's face that he was telling himself he would have found
fifty Bingos in half the time—if he had only thought of it; he
smiled a melancholy assent to all the colonel said, and then began to
study me with an obviously depreciatory air.
"You can't think," I heard Mrs. Currie telling my mother, "how really touching
it was to see poor Bingo's emotion at seeing all the old familiar objects
again! He went up and sniffed at them all in turn, quite plainly
recognising everything. And he was quite put out to find that we had moved
his favourite ottoman out of the drawing-room. But he is so
penitent too, and so ashamed of having run away; he kept under a chair in
the hall all the morning; he wouldn't come in here, either, so we had to
leave him in your garden."
"He's been sadly out of spirits all day," said Lilian; "he hasn't bitten
one of the tradespeople."
"Oh, he's all right, the rascal!" said the colonel, cheerily.
"He'll be after the cats again as well as ever in a day or two."
"Ah, those cats!" said my poor innocent mother. "Algy, you haven't tried
the air-gun on them again lately, have you? They're worse than ever."
I troubled the colonel to pass the claret. Travers laughed for the first
time. "That's a good idea," he said, in that carrying "bar-mess" voice of
his; "an air-gun for cats, ha, ha! Make good bags, eh, Weatherhead?" I
said that I did, very good bags, and felt I was getting painfully
red in the face.
"Oh, Algy is an excellent shot—quite a sportsman," said my mother.
"I remember, oh, long ago, when we lived at Hammersmith, he had a pistol,
and he used to strew crumbs in the garden for the sparrows, and shoot at
them out of the pantry window; he frequently hit one."
"Well," said the colonel, not much impressed by these sporting
reminiscences, "don't go rolling over our Bingo by mistake, you know,
Weatherhead, my boy. Not but what you've a sort of right after this—only
don't. I wouldn't go through it all twice for anything."
"If you really won't take any more wine," I said, hurriedly, addressing
the colonel and Travers, "suppose we all go out and have our coffee on the
lawn? It—it will be cooler there." For it was getting very hot
indoors, I thought.
I left Travers to amuse the ladies—he could do no more harm now;
and, taking the colonel aside, I seized the opportunity, as we strolled up
and down the garden path, to ask his consent to Lilian's engagement to me.
He gave it cordially. "There's not a man in England," he said, "that I'd
sooner see her married to after to-day. You're a quiet, steady young
fellow, and you've a good kind heart. As for the money, that's neither
here nor there; Lilian won't come to you without a penny, you know. But
really, my boy, you can hardly believe what it is to my poor wife and me
to see that dog. Why, bless my soul, look at him now! What's the matter
with him, eh?"
To my unutterable horror, I saw that that miserable poodle, after begging
unnoticed at the tea-table for some time, had retired to an open space
before it, where he was industriously standing on his head.
We gathered round and examined the animal curiously, as he continued to
balance himself gravely in his abnormal position. "Good gracious, John,"
cried Mrs. Currie, "I never saw Bingo do such a thing before in his life!"
"Very odd," said the colonel, putting up his glasses; "never learned that
"I tell you what I fancy it is," I suggested wildly. "You see, he was
always a sensitive, excitable animal, and perhaps the—the sudden joy
of his return has gone to his head—upset him, you know."
They seemed disposed to accept this solution, and, indeed, I believe they
would have credited Bingo with every conceivable degree of sensibility;
but I felt myself that if this unhappy animal had many more of these
accomplishments I was undone, for the original Bingo had never been a dog
"It's very odd," said Travers, reflectively, as the dog recovered his
proper level, "but I always thought that it was half the right ear
that Bingo had lost."
"So it is, isn't it?" said the colonel. "Left, eh? Well, I thought myself
it was the right."
My heart almost stopped with terror; I had altogether forgotten that. I
hastened to set the point at rest. "Oh, it was the left," I said,
positively; "I know it because I remember so particularly thinking how odd
it was that it should be the left ear, and not the right!" I told
myself this should be positively my last lie.
"Why odd?" asked Frank Travers, with his most offensive Socratic
"My dear fellow, I can't tell you," I said, impatiently; "everything seems
odd when you come to think at all about it."
"Algernon," said Lilian, later on, "will you tell Aunt Mary and Mr.
Travers and—me how it was you came to find Bingo? Mr. Travers is
quite anxious to hear all about it."
I could not very well refuse; I sat down and told the story, all my own
way. I painted Blagg perhaps rather bigger and blacker than life, and
described an exciting scene, in which I recognised Bingo by his collar in
the streets, and claimed and bore him off then and there in spite of all
I had the inexpressible pleasure of seeing Travers grinding his teeth with
envy as I went on, and feeling Lilian's soft, slender hand glide silently
into mine as I told my tale in the twilight.
All at once, just as I reached the climax, we heard the poodle barking
furiously at the hedge which separated my garden from the road.
"There's a foreign-looking man staring over the hedge," said Lilian;
"Bingo always did hate foreigners."
There certainly was a swarthy man there, and, though I had no reason for
it then, somehow my heart died within me at the sight of him.
"Don't be alarmed, sir," cried the colonel; "the dog won't bite you—unless
there's a hole in the hedge anywhere."
The stranger took off his small straw hat with a sweep. "Ah, I am not
afraid," he said, and his accent proclaimed him a Frenchman; "he is not
enrage at me. May I ask, it is pairmeet to speak viz Misterre Vezzered?"
I felt I must deal with this person alone, for I feared the worst; and,
asking them to excuse me, I went to the hedge and faced the Frenchman with
the frightful calm of despair. He was a short, stout little man, with blue
cheeks, sparkling black eyes, and a vivacious walnut-coloured countenance;
he wore a short black alpaca coat, and a large white cravat, with an
immense oval malachite brooch in the centre of it, which I mention because
I found myself staring mechanically at it during the interview.
"My name is Weatherhead," I began with the bearing of a detected
pickpocket. "Can I be of any service to you?"
"Of a great service," he said, emphatically; "you can restore to me ze
poodle vich I see zere!"
Nemesis had called at last in the shape of a rival claimant. I staggered
for an instant; then I said, "Oh, I think you are under a mistake; that
dog is not mine."
"I know it," he said; "zere 'as been leetle mistake, so if ze dog is not
to you, you give him back to me, hein?"
"I tell you," I said, "that poodle belongs to the gentleman over there."
And I pointed to the colonel, seeing that it was best now to bring him
into the affair without delay.
"You are wrong," he said, doggedly; "ze poodle is my poodle! And I was
direct to you—it is your name on ze carte!" And he presented me with
that fatal card which I had been foolish enough to give to Blagg as a
proof of my identity. I saw it all now; the old villain had betrayed me,
and to earn a double reward had put the real owner on my track.
I decided to call the colonel at once, and attempt to brazen it out with
the help of his sincere belief in the dog.
"Eh, what's that; what's it all about?" said the colonel, bustling up,
followed at intervals by the others.
The Frenchman raised his hat again. "I do not vant to make a trouble," he
began, "but zere is leetle mistake. My word of honour, sare, I see my own
poodle in your garden. Ven I appeal to zis gentilman to restore 'im he
reffer me to you."
"You must allow me to know my own dog, sir," said the colonel. "Why, I've
had him from a pup. Bingo, old boy, you know your name, don't you?"
But the brute ignored him altogether, and began to leap wildly at the
hedge in frantic efforts to join the Frenchman. It needed no Solomon to
decide his ownership!
"I tell you, you 'ave got ze wrong poodle—it is my own dog, my Azor!
He remember me well, you see? I lose him, it is three, four days. . . . I
see a nottice zat he is found, and ven I go to ze address zey tell me,
'Oh, he is reclaim, he is gone viz a strangaire who has advertise.' Zey
show me ze placard; I follow 'ere, and ven I arrive I see my poodle in ze
garden before me!"
"But look here," said the colonel, impatiently; "it's all very well to say
that, but how can you prove it? I give you my word that the dog
belongs to me! You must prove your claim, eh, Travers?"
"Yes," said Travers, judicially; "mere assertion is no proof; it's oath
against oath at present."
"Attend an instant; your poodle, was he 'ighly train, had he some talents—a
dog viz tricks, eh?"
"No, he's not," said the colonel; "I don't like to see dogs taught to play
the fool; there's none of that nonsense about him, sir!"
"Ah, remark him well, then. Azor, mon chou, danse donc un peu!"
And, on the foreigner's whistling a lively air, that infernal poodle rose
on his hind legs and danced solemnly about half-way round the garden! We
inside followed his movements with dismay.
"Why, dash it all!" cried the disgusted colonel, "he's dancing along like
a d—d mountebank! But it's my Bingo, for all that!"
"You are not convince? You shall see more. Azor, ici! Pour Beesmarck,
Azor!" (the poodle barked ferociously.) "Pour Gambetta!" (He wagged his
tail and began to leap with joy.) "Meurs pour la patrie!" And the too
accomplished animal rolled over as if killed in battle!
"Where could Bingo have picked up so much French?" cried Lilian,
"Or so much French history?" added that serpent, Travers.
"Shall I command 'im to jump, or reverse 'imself?" inquired the obliging
"We've seen that, thank you," said the colonel, gloomily. "Upon my word, I
don't know what to think. It can't be that that's not my Bingo after all—I'll
never believe it!"
I tried a last desperate stroke. "Will you come round to the front?" I
said to the Frenchman. "I'll let you in, and we can discuss the matter
quietly." Then, as we walked back together, I asked him eagerly what he
would take to abandon his claims and let the colonel think the poodle was
his after all.
He was furious—he considered himself insulted; with great emotion he
informed me that the dog was the pride of his life (it seems to be the
mission of black poodles to serve as domestic comforts of this priceless
kind!), that he would not part with him for twice his weight in gold.
"Figure," he began, as we joined the others, "zat zis gentilman 'ere 'as
offer me money for ze dog! He agrees zat it is to me, you see? Ver' well,
zen, zere is no more to be said!"
"Why, Weatherhead, have you lost faith too, then?" said the
I saw it was no good; all I wanted now was to get out of it creditably and
get rid of the Frenchman. "I'm sorry to say," I replied, "that I'm afraid
I've been deceived by the extraordinary likeness. I don't think, on
reflection, that that is Bingo!"
"What do you think, Travers?" asked the colonel.
"Well, since you ask me," said Travers, with quite unnecessary dryness, "I
never did think so."
"Nor I," said the colonel; "I thought from the first that was never my
Bingo. Why, Bingo would make two of that beast!"
And Lilian and her aunt both protested that they had had their doubts from
"Zen you pairmeet zat I remove 'im?" said the Frenchman.
"Certainly," said the colonel; and, after some apologies on our part for
the mistake, he went off in triumph, with the detestable poodle frisking
When he had gone the colonel laid his hand kindly on my shoulder. "Don't
look so cut up about it, my boy," he said; "you did your best—there
was a sort of likeness to any one who didn't know Bingo as we did."
Just then the Frenchman again appeared at the hedge. "A thousand pardons,"
he said, "but I find zis upon my dog; it is not to me. Suffer me to
restore it viz many compliments."
It was Bingo's collar. Travers took it from his hand and brought it to us.
"This was on the dog when you stopped that fellow, didn't you say?" he
One more lie—and I was so weary of falsehood! "Y-yes," I said,
reluctantly; "that was so."
"Very extraordinary," said Travers; "that's the wrong poodle beyond a
doubt, but when he's found he's wearing the right dog's collar! Now how do
you account for that?"
"My good fellow," I said, impatiently, "I'm not in the witness-box. I can't
account for it. It-it's a mere coincidence!"
"But look here, my dear Weatherhead," argued Travers (whether in
good faith or not I never could quite make out), "don't you see what a
tremendously important link it is? Here's a dog who (as I understand the
facts) had a silver collar, with his name engraved on it, round his neck
at the time he was lost. Here's that identical collar turning up soon
afterward round the neck of a totally different dog! We must follow this
up; we must get at the bottom of it somehow! With a clue like this, we're
sure to find out either the dog himself, or what's become of him! Just try
to recollect exactly what happened, there's a good fellow. This is just
the sort of thing I like!"
It was the sort of thing I did not enjoy at all. "You must excuse me
to-night, Travers," I said, uncomfortably; "you see, just now it's rather
a sore subject for me, and I'm not feeling very well!" I was grateful just
then for a reassuring glance of pity and confidence from Lilian's sweet
eyes, which revived my drooping spirits for the moment.
"Yes, we'll go into it to-morrow, Travers," said the colonel; "and then—hullo,
why, there's that confounded Frenchman again!"
It was indeed; he came prancing back delicately, with a malicious
enjoyment on his wrinkled face. "Once more I return to apologise," he
said. "My poodle 'as permit 'imself ze grave indiscretion to make a very
big 'ole at ze bottom of ze garden!"
I assured him that it was of no consequence. "Perhaps," he replied,
looking steadily at me through his keen, half-shut eyes, "you vill not say
zat ven you regard ze 'ole. And you others, I spik to you: sometimes von
loses a somzing vich is qvite near all ze time. It is ver' droll, eh? my
vord, ha, ha, ha!" And he ambled off, with an aggressively fiendish laugh
that chilled my blood.
"What the deuce did he mean by that, eh?" said the colonel, blankly.
"Don't know," said Travers; "suppose we go and inspect the hole?"
But before that I had contrived to draw near it myself, in deadly fear
lest the Frenchman's last words had contained some innuendo which I had
It was light enough still for me to see something, at the unexpected
horror of which I very nearly fainted.
That thrice accursed poodle which I had been insane enough to attempt to
foist upon the colonel must, it seems, have buried his supper the night
before very near the spot in which I had laid Bingo, and in his attempts
to exhume his bone had brought the remains of my victim to the surface!
There the corpse lay, on the very top of the excavations. Time had not, of
course, improved its appearance, which was ghastly in the extreme, but
still plainly recognisable by the eye of affection.
"It's a very ordinary hole," I gasped, putting myself before it and trying
to turn them back. "Nothing in it—nothing at all!"
"Except one Algernon Weatherhead, Esq., eh?" whispered Travers, jocosely,
in my ear.
"No; but," persisted the colonel, advancing, "look here! Has the dog
damaged any of your shrubs?"
"No, no!" I cried, piteously; "quite the reverse. Let's all go indoors
now; it's getting so cold!"
"See, there is a shrub or something uprooted," said the colonel,
still coming nearer that fatal hole. "Why, hullo, look there! What's
Lilian, who was by his side, gave a slight scream. "Uncle," she cried, "it
looks like—like Bingo!"
The colonel turned suddenly upon me. "Do you hear?" he demanded, in a
choked voice. "You hear what she says? Can't you speak out? Is that our
I gave it up at last; I only longed to be allowed to crawl away under
something! "Yes," I said in a dull whisper, as I sat down heavily on a
garden seat, "yes . . . that's Bingo . . . misfortune . . . shoot him . .
. quite an accident!"
There was a terrible explosion after that; they saw at last how I had
deceived them, and put the very worst construction upon everything. Even
now I writhe impotently at times, and my cheeks smart and tingle with
humiliation, as I recall that scene—the colonel's very plain
speaking, Lilian's passionate reproaches and contempt, and her aunt's
speechless prostration of disappointment.
I made no attempt to defend myself; I was not, perhaps, the complete
villain they deemed me, but I felt dully that no doubt it all served me
Still I do not think I am under any obligation to put their remarks down
in black and white here.
Travers had vanished at the first opportunity—whether out of
delicacy, or the fear of breaking out into unseasonable mirth, I cannot
say; and shortly afterward the others came to where I sat silent with
bowed head, and bade me a stern and final farewell.
And then, as the last gleam of Lilian's white dress vanished down the
garden path, I laid my head down on the table among the coffee-cups, and
cried like a beaten child.
I got leave as soon as I could, and went abroad. The morning after my
return I noticed, while shaving, that there was a small square marble
tablet placed against the wall of the colonel's garden. I got my
opera-glass and read—and pleasant reading it was—the following
IN AFFECTIONATE MEMORY OF B I N G O, SECRETLY AND CRUELLY PUT TO DEATH, IN
COLD BLOOD, BY A NEIGHBOUR AND FRIEND. JUNE, 1881.
If this explanation of mine ever reaches my neighbours' eyes, I humbly
hope they will have the humanity either to take away or tone down that
tablet. They cannot conceive what I suffer when curious visitors insist,
as they do every day, on spelling out the words from our windows, and
asking me countless questions about them!
Sometimes I meet the Curries about the village, and as they pass me with
averted heads I feel myself growing crimson. Travers is almost always with
Lilian now. He has given her a dog,—a fox-terrier,—and they
take ostentatiously elaborate precautions to keep it out of my garden.
I should like to assure them here that they need not be under any alarm. I
have shot one dog.