Not Guilty by
'Douglas, I want you.'
Douglas jumped up obediently from the kitchen floor, where he was
bathing a wound in his terrier's side. He followed his father into the
study, and Bully the terrier followed at his heels.
A red-faced man stood in the door, and Douglas guessed what was wrong.
'That's him,' almost shouted the visitor. Bully crept closer to Douglas'
side, and bared two teeth, for it was to him the farmer alluded.
'It wasn't,' said Douglas, and his face grew as red as if it were he who
was accused of some crime. 'He has been with me all the time. He has not
touched anything of yours.'
'He knows, you see, mister,' said the man slily, 'knows all about it
before a word's said. If that was my boy—— '
Douglas' father interrupted. 'A moment, please,' he said. 'Listen to me,
Douglas. Mr. Wilkins says that your dog and you, too, were in his yard a
few days ago. Is that so?'
'Yes, Father,' said Douglas, 'the cowboy threw mud at me, and I went
over to thrash him.'
'Trespassing,' said the farmer, 'and the lad rolled him in the mud for
'He is bigger than I, a lot,' said Douglas; 'I didn't see him properly
till after I had hit him once.'
'Well, my lad has seen him in the yard once before—the dog I mean, not
you, boy; and I have missed three chickens this week, and that's the dog
which took them. It ought to be shot.'
Douglas' hand tightened on his friend's collar, and his face whitened.
'It's not true,' he said. 'Bully is an awfully good dog. He never
touches anything; he wouldn't even touch my rabbits if they were loose.'
So far as looks went, Bully came short of this good reputation. His face
was villainous-looking, and a wound on one side, and sundry scratches on
his nose did not add to his beauty.
'I have paid for those chickens, Douglas,' said his father, when the
angry farmer had gone away. 'I don't suppose it was Bully, but as he is
so much at large, we must take Mr. Wilkins's word for it. In future he
must be kept under control.'
Several weeks passed without any further complaint. Bully spent all his
time, when Douglas was at school, on his chain by the back-door, an
injustice which the boy resented as bitterly as the dog.
After an interval of this restraint the discipline was gradually
relaxed, and Bully at times was allowed his usual freedom.
Douglas was scarcely surprised when the farmer appeared at their house
again, this time with his enemy the cowboy.
'Here sir,' Farmer Wilkins hailed the boy, 'that dog of yours has made
away with four as nice pullets as ever I saw.'
'I don't believe it,' said Douglas, bluntly.
'Well, here is my boy. Saw the dog in the yard, didn't you, boy?'
'Yes, I did, said the boy. 'I saw it with my own eyes, slinking away in
'Are you sure?' asked Douglas's father.
'Quite sure, sir,' answered the boy.
'I have never caught him telling lies,' said the man. 'I would take his
word before your boy's.'
The upshot of it was that the chickens were again paid for, and Bully
the favourite—Bully, who was almost one of the family—was condemned to
go. Douglas polished his coat-sleeve with some salt tears in private,
and Bully poked him all over with his damp cool nose, as if he guessed
that something was wrong.
Towards evening, Douglas went out, taking Bully with him. He thought he
would see for himself if Bully would try to take the chickens, and with
this idea, went up the garden to a place overlooking the farm hen-roost.
The chickens were chirping and snuggling on their perches, and he felt
sure that Bully was innocent, for he did not even prick an ear at the
As he stood there, somebody came quietly up the yard.
'The boy, to shut up for the evening,' thought Douglas, for he knew that
at this time the farmer was generally out with the milk. But when they
came nearer he saw that there were two people, the cowboy and a man with
Douglas tightened his hold on the dog's collar to cut short a growl, and
listened with all his ears, as the lad went into the shed, and some
squawking and fluttering went on.
'I daren't take more than one,' he said; 'and it is the last time. I
have been putting it on the dog over yonder, and they are getting rid of
The man looked annoyed. 'Make it half a dozen, if it's the last time,'
he said. 'I can't give you more than sixpence for that one. It's not
worth coming up here for.'
Douglas loosened Bully's collar.
'Watch him,' he said, and Bully needed no second telling, managing to
keep the tail of his eye on the frightened cowboy as well as on the
stranger with the bag.
'You wicked boy,' said Douglas. 'It was you that stole the chickens. I
heard everything you said.'
'I will never do it again,' cried the boy, blubbering. 'Don't tell
Master, young gentleman, it won't happen again.'
'No, that it won't,' put in a new voice, as Farmer Wilkins arrived
unexpectedly on the scene. 'I will take good care of that. Call your dog
off, if you please, Master Douglas; I don't much like the looks of him.'
Douglas secured Bully, and the farmer seized the dishonest cowboy by
the collar. The stranger was quick to take advantage of the moment, and
before anybody could say 'knife,' he had slipped behind the barn, and
away over the fields.
'Let him go,' said the farmer, who was too fat to want to run. 'He has
had a fright. As for you.' turning to the cowboy, 'I have an account to
settle with you, before I send you off. I am much obliged to you, young
sir,' he said, turning to Douglas, 'and very sorry for the trouble you
have been caused.'
'Well, look here,' said Douglas, 'will you do something to oblige me?'
'Why, yes,' said the farmer.
"'Watch him!' said Douglas."
'I wish you would let him off pretty easily. You won't send him away,
'I just will,' said the man, hotly; 'and give him up to the police too.'
'Oh, please, don't do that,' Douglas, pleaded, 'to oblige me. Give him
one more chance.'
Farmer Wilkins scratched his head.
'It's perfectly ridiculous,' he said; 'but there, seeing that you have
got a say in the matter, so to speak, I don't know but what—'
And the cowboy gave Douglas such a grateful look that he could not help
feeling that there was still some hope of his turning out all right in
'You see,' Douglas afterwards explained to his father, 'I felt so
awfully glad when I found that I should not have to send Bully away,
that I didn't want to pay the boy out in the least. And I think it
would do him more good to be forgiven than if he was sent to prison,
don't you.' And Father thought it would.