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
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
Having said so much, I will begin my confession without further
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 mother.
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
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
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
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 conversation.
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 pain.
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
“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 that, eh?”
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
“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 siege!”
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 go.
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
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
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 repulse.
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
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
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
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
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 trigger.
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 abject extent.
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,
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,
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
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 he?”
“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
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
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
There was a touch of poetry in this idea that lightened my gloom for
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 dog-roses.
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 into danger.
“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
“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
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
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
“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
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
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;
“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
“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
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
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
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 could.
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
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
“Very odd,” said the colonel, putting up his glasses; “never learned
that from me.”
“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 of parts.
“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
“Why odd?” asked Frank Travers, with his most offensive
“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 opposition.
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
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
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
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
“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
“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 the first.
“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 after him.
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
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
“This was on the dog when you stopped that fellow, didn't you say?”
he asked me.
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 not understood.
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!
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
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
B I N G O,
SECRETLY AND CRUELLY PUT TO DEATH,
IN COLD BLOOD,
NEIGHBOUR AND FRIEND.
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
I should like to assure them here that they need not be under any
alarm. I have shot one dog.End