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to. He said no more after that, but just put his ladder in his waggon
and went off. But I was not altogether rid of him. He left a trail of his baleful presence behind him.
“ That horrid bull-dog wouldn't let me come into the house! No matter what door I tried, there he was, just foamin' mad. I let him stay till nearly night, and then went and spoke kind to him; but it was no good. He'd got an awful spite ag'in me. I found something to eat down cellar, an' I made a fire outside an' roasted some corn and potatoes. That night I slep' in the barn. I wasn't afraid to be away from the house, for I knew it was safe enough, with that dog in it, and Lord Edward outside. For three days, Sunday an' all, I was kep' out of this here house. I got along pretty well with the sleepin' and the eatin', but the drinkin' was the worst. I couldn't get no coffee or tea; but there was plenty of milk."
“Why didn't you get some man to come and attend to the dog?” I asked. “It was dreadful to live in that way."
'Well, I didn't know no man that could do it,” said Pomona. “The dog would 'a' been too much for old John, and besides, he was mad about the kerosene. Sunday afternoon, Captain Atkinson and Mrs. Atkinson and their little girl in a push-waggon, come here, and I told 'em you was gone away; but they says they would stop a minute, and could I give them a drink; an' I had nothin' to give it them but an old chicken-bowl that I had washed out, for even the dipper was in the house, an' I told 'em everything was locked up, which was true enough, though they must 'a' thought you was a queer kind of people ; but I wasn't a-goin' to say nothin' about the dog, fur, to tell the truth, I was ashamed to do it. So as soon as they'd gone, I went down into the cellar,—and it's lucky that I had the key for the outside cellar door,—and I got a piece of fat corn-beef and the meat axe. I unlocked the kitchen door
and went in, with the axe in one hand and the meat in the other. The dog might take his choice. I know'd he must be pretty nigh famished, for there was nothin' that he could get at to eat. As soon as I went in, he came runnin' to me; but I could see he was shaky on his legs. He looked a sort of wicked at me, and then he grabbed the meat. He was all right then.”
“Oh, my !” said Euphemia, “I am so glad to hear that. I was afraid you never got in. But we saw the dog—is he as savage yet?”
'Oh, no!” said Pomona ; “nothin' like it."
“ Look here, Pomona," said I, “I want to know about those taxes. When do they come into your story?”
Pretty soon, sir,” said she, and she went on“ After that, I know'd it wouldn't do to have them two dogs so that they'd have to be tied up if they see each other. Just as like as not I'd want them both at once, and then they'd go to fightin', and leave me to settle with some blood-thirsty lightnin'-rodder. So, as I know'd if they once had a fair fight and found out which was master, they'd be good friends afterwards, I thought the best thing to do would be to let 'em fight it out, when there was nothin' else for 'em to do. So I fixed up things for the combat.”
“Why, Pomona !” cried Euphemia, “I didn't think you were capable of such a cruel thing."
“It looks that way, ma'am, but really it ain't,” replied the girl. “ It seemed to me as if it would be a mercy to both of ’em to have the thing settled. So I cleared away a place in front of the wood-shed and unchained Lord Edward, and then I opened the kitchen door and called the bull. Out he came, with his teeth a-showin', and his blood-shot eyes, and his crooked front legs. Like lightnin' from the mount'in blast, he made one bounce for the big dog, and oh! what a fight there was ! They rolled, they gnashed, they knocked over the wood-horse and sent chips a-flyin' all ways at wonst. I thought Lord Edward would whip in a minute or two; but he didn't, for the bull stuck to him like a burr, and they was havin' it, ground and lofty, when I hears some one run up behind me, and turnin' quick, there was the 'piscopalian minister. 'My! my! my!' he hollers, 'what an awful spectacle! Ain't there no way of stoppin' it?' 'No, sir,' says I, and I told him how I didn't want to stop it and the reason why. • Then,' says he, 'where's your master ?' and I told him how you was away. 'Isn't there any man at all about?' says he. “No,' says I. “Then,' says he, 'if there's nobody else to stop it, I must do it myself.' An' he took off his coat. 'No,' says I, 'you keep back, sir. If there's anybody to plunge into that erena, the blood be mine;' an' I put my hand, without thinkin', ag'in his black shirt-bosom, to hold him back; but he didn't notice, bein' so excited. Now,' says I, “jist wait one minute, and you'll see that bull's tail go between his legs. He's weakenin'.' An' sure enough, Lord Edward got a good grab at him, and was a-shakin' the very life out of him, when I run up and took Lord Edward by the collar. Drop it!' says I; an' he dropped it, for he know'd he'd whipped, and he was pretty tired hisself. Then the bulldog, he trotted off with his tail a-hangin' down. Now then,' says I, “them dogs will be bosom friends for ever after this.' Ah me!' says he, 'I'm sorry indeed that your employer, for who I've always had a great respect, should allow you to get into such bad habits.'
That made me feel real bad, and I told him, mighty quick, that you was the last man in the world to let me do anything like that, and that if you'd 'a' been here, you'd 'a' separated them dogs, if they'd a-chawed your arms off; that you was very particular about such things, and that it would be a pity if he was to think you was a dog-fightin' gentleman, when I'd often heard you say that, now you was fixed and
settled, the one thing you would like most would be to be made a vestryman."
I sat up straight in my chair. “ Pomona!" I exclaimed. “You didn't tell him that?”
“That's what I said, sir, for I wanted him to know what you really was; an' he says, “Well, well, I never knew that. It might be a very good thing. I'll speak to some of the members about it. There's two vacancies now in our vestry.”
I was crushed; but Euphemia tried to put the matter into the brightest light.
'Perhaps it may all turn out for the best,” she said, “and you may be elected, and that would be splendid. But it would be an awfully funny thing for a dog-fight to make you a vestry-man.”
I could not talk on this subject. “Go on, Pomona," I said, trying to feel resigned to my shame, "and tell us about that poster on the fence.”
“I'll be to that almost right away,” she said.
“It was two or three days after the dog-fight that I was down at the barn, and happenin' to look over to old John's, I saw that tree-man there. He was a-showin' his book to John, and him and his wife and all the young ones was a-standin' there, drinkin' down them big peaches and pears as if they was all real. I know'd he'd come here ag'in, for then fellers never gives you up; and I didn't know how to keep him away, for I didn't want to let the dogs loose on a man what, after all, didn't want to do no more harm than to talk the life out of you. So I just happened to notice, as I came to the house, how kind of desolate everything looked, and I thought perhaps I might make it look worse, and he wouldn't care to deal here. So I thought of putting up a poster like that, for nobody whose place was a-goin' to be sold for taxes would be likely to want trees. So I run in the house, and wrote it quick and put it up. And sure enough, the man he come along soon, and when he looked at that paper and tried the gate, an' looked over the fence an' saw the house all shut up an' not a livin' soul about,-for I had both the dogs in the house with me,-he shook his head an' walked off, as much as to say, 'If that man had fixed his place up proper with my trees, he wouldn't 'a' come to this !' An' then, as I found the poster worked so good, I thought it might keep other people from comin' a-botherin' around, and so I left it up; but I was a-goin' to be sure and take it down before you came.”
As it was now pretty late in the afternoon, I proposed that Pomona should postpone the rest of her narrative until evening. She said that there was nothing else to tell that was very particular; and I did not feel as if I could stand anything more just now, even if it was very particular.
When we were alone, I said to Euphemia —
“But we won't go away,” she interrupted, looking up to me with as bright a face as she ever had; "at least not for a long, long, long time to come. And I'm so glad you're to be a vestryman.”
Frank R. Stockton.