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Evergreens by Jerome K. Jerome

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by Jerome K. Jerome


They look so dull and dowdy in the spring weather, when the snow drops
and the crocuses are putting on their dainty frocks of white and mauve
and yellow, and the baby-buds from every branch are peeping with
bright eyes out on the world, and stretching forth soft little leaves
toward the coming gladness of their lives. They stand apart, so cold
and hard amid the stirring hope and joy that are throbbing all around

And in the deep full summer-time, when all the rest of nature dons its
richest garb of green, and the roses clamber round the porch, and the
grass waves waist-high in the meadow, and the fields are gay with
flowers--they seem duller and dowdier than ever then, wearing their
faded winter's dress, looking so dingy and old and worn.

In the mellow days of autumn, when the trees, like dames no longer
young, seek to forget their aged looks under gorgeous bright-toned
robes of gold and brown and purple, and the grain is yellow in the
fields, and the ruddy fruit hangs clustering from the drooping boughs,
and the wooded hills in their thousand hues stretched like leafy
rainbows above the vale--ah! surely they look their dullest and
dowdiest then. The gathered glory of the dying year is all around
them. They seem so out of place among it, in their somber,
everlasting green, like poor relations at a rich man's feast. It is
such a weather-beaten old green dress. So many summers' suns have
blistered it, so many winters' rains have beat upon it--such a shabby,
mean, old dress; it is the only one they have!

They do not look quite so bad when the weary winter weather is come,
when the flowers are dead, and the hedgerows are bare, and the trees
stand out leafless against the gray sky, and the birds are all silent,
and the fields are brown, and the vine clings round the cottages with
skinny, fleshless arms, and they alone of all things are unchanged,
they alone of all the forest are green, they alone of all the verdant
host stand firm to front the cruel winter.

They are not very beautiful, only strong and stanch and steadfast--the
same in all times, through all seasons--ever the same, ever green.
The spring cannot brighten them, the summer cannot scorch them, the
autumn cannot wither them, the winter cannot kill them.

There are evergreen men and women in the world, praise be to God! Not
many of them, but a few. They are not the showy folk; they are not
the clever, attractive folk. (Nature is an old-fashioned shopkeeper;
she never puts her best goods in the window.) They are only the
quiet, strong folk; they are stronger than the world, stronger than
life or death, stronger than Fate. The storms of life sweep over
them, and the rains beat down upon them, and the biting frosts creep
round them; but the winds and the rains and the frosts pass away, and
they are still standing, green and straight. They love the sunshine
of life in their undemonstrative way--its pleasures, its joys. But
calamity cannot bow them, sorrow and affliction bring not despair to
their serene faces, only a little tightening of the lips; the sun of
our prosperity makes the green of their friendship no brighter, the
frost of our adversity kills not the leaves of their affection.

Let us lay hold of such men and women; let us grapple them to us with
hooks of steel; let us cling to them as we would to rocks in a tossing
sea. We do not think very much of them in the summertime of life.
They do not flatter us or gush over us. They do not always agree with
us. They are not always the most delightful society, by any means.
They are not good talkers, nor--which would do just as well, perhaps
better--do they make enraptured listeners. They have awkward manners,
and very little tact. They do not shine to advantage beside our
society friends. They do not dress well; they look altogether
somewhat dowdy and commonplace. We almost hope they will not see us
when we meet them just outside the club. They are not the sort of
people we want to ostentatiously greet in crowded places. It is not
till the days of our need that we learn to love and know them. It is
not till the winter that the birds see the wisdom of building their
nests in the evergreen trees.

And we, in our spring-time folly of youth, pass them by with a sneer,
the uninteresting, colorless evergreens, and, like silly children with
nothing but eyes in their heads, stretch out our hands and cry for the
pretty flowers. We will make our little garden of life such a
charming, fairy-like spot, the envy of every passer-by! There shall
nothing grow in it but lilies and roses, and the cottage we will cover
all over with Virginia-creeper. And, oh, how sweet it will look,
under the dancing summer sun-light, when the soft west breeze is

And, oh, how we shall stand and shiver there when the rain and the
east wind come!

Oh, you foolish, foolish little maidens, with your dainty heads so
full of unwisdom! how often--oh! how often, are you to be warned that
it is not always the sweetest thing in lovers that is the best
material to make a good-wearing husband out of? "The lover sighing
like a furnace" will not go on sighing like a furnace forever. That
furnace will go out. He will become the husband, "full of strange
oaths--jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel," and grow "into
the lean and slipper'd pantaloon." How will he wear? There will be
no changing him if he does not suit, no sending him back to be
altered, no having him let out a bit where he is too tight and hurts
you, no having him taken in where he is too loose, no laying him by
when the cold comes, to wrap yourself up in something warmer. As he
is when you select him, so he will have to last you all your
life--through all changes, through all seasons.

Yes, he looks very pretty now--handsome pattern, if the colors are
fast and it does not fade--feels soft and warm to the touch. How will
he stand the world's rough weather? How will he stand life's wear and

He looks so manly and brave. His hair curls so divinely. He dresses
so well (I wonder if the tailor's bill is paid?) He kisses your hand
so gracefully. He calls you such pretty names. His arm feels so
strong a round you. His fine eyes are so full of tenderness as they
gaze down into yours.

Will he kiss your hand when it is wrinkled and old? Will he call you
pretty names when the baby is crying in the night, and you cannot keep
it quiet--or, better still, will he sit up and take a turn with it?
Will his arm be strong around you in the days of trouble? Will his
eyes shine above you full of tenderness when yours are growing dim?

And you boys, you silly boys! what materials for a wife do you think
you will get out of the empty-headed coquettes you are raving and
tearing your hair about. Oh! yes, she is very handsome, and she
dresses with exquisite taste (the result of devoting the whole of her
heart, mind and soul to the subject, and never allowing her thoughts
to be distracted from it by any other mundane or celestial object
whatsoever); and she is very agreeable and entertaining and
fascinating; and she will go on looking handsome, and dressing
exquisitely, and being agreeable and entertaining and fascinating just
as much after you have married her as before--more so, if anything.

But _you_ will not get the benefit of it. Husbands will be charmed
and fascinated by her in plenty, but _you_ will not be among them.
You will run the show, you will pay all the expenses, do all the work.
Your performing lady will be most affable and enchanting to the crowd.
They will stare at her, and admire her, and talk to her, and flirt
with her. And you will be able to feel that you are quite a
benefactor to your fellow-men and women--to your fellow-men
especially--in providing such delightful amusement for them, free.
But _you_ will not get any of the fun yourself.

You will not get the handsome looks. _You_ will get the jaded face,
and the dull, lusterless eyes, and the untidy hair with the dye
showing on it. You will not get the exquisite dresses. _You_ will
get dirty, shabby frocks and slommicking dressing-gowns, such as your
cook would be ashamed to wear. _You_ will not get the charm and
fascination. _You_ will get the after-headaches, the complainings and
grumblings, the silence and sulkiness, the weariness and lassitude and
ill-temper that comes as such a relief after working hard all day at
being pleasant!

It is not the people who shine in society, but the people who brighten
up the back parlor; not the people who are charming when they are out,
but the people who are charming when they are in, that are good to
_live_ with. It is not the brilliant men and women, but the simple,
strong, restful men and women, that make the best traveling companions
for the road of life. The men and women who will only laugh as they
put up the umbrella when the rain begins to fall, who will trudge
along cheerfully through the mud and over the stony places--the
comrades who will lay their firm hand on ours and strengthen us when
the way is dark and we are growing weak--the evergreen men and women,
who, like the holly, are at their brightest and best when the blast
blows chilliest--the stanch men and women!

It is a grand thing this stanchness. It is the difference between a
dog and a sheep--between a man and an oyster.

Women, as a rule, are stancher than men. There are women that you
feel you could rely upon to the death. But very few men indeed have
this dog-like virtue. Men, taking them generally, are more like cats.
You may live with them and call them yours for twenty years, but you
can never feel _quite_ sure of them. You never know exactly what they
are thinking of. You never feel easy in your mind as to the result of
the next-door neighbor's laying down a Brussels carpet in his kitchen.

We have no school for the turning-out of stanch men in this nineteenth
century. In the old, earnest times, war made men stanch and true to
each other. We have learned up a good many glib phrases about the
wickedness of war, and we thank God that we live in these peaceful,
trading times, wherein we can--and do--devote the whole of our
thoughts and energies to robbing and cheating and swindling one
another--to "doing" our friends, and overcoming our enemies by
trickery and lies--wherein, undisturbed by the wicked ways of
fighting-men, we can cultivate to better perfection the "smartness,"
the craft, and the cunning, and all the other "business-like" virtues
on which we so pride ourselves, and which were so neglected and
treated with so little respect in the bad old age of violence, when
men chose lions and eagles for their symbols rather than foxes.

There is a good deal to be said against war. I am not prepared to
maintain that war did not bring with it disadvantages, but there can
be no doubt that, for the noblest work of Nature--the making of
men--it was a splendid manufactory. It taught men courage. It
trained them in promptness and determination, in strength of brain and
strength of hand. From its stern lessons they learned fortitude in
suffering, coolness in danger, cheerfulness under reverses. Chivalry,
Reverence, and Loyalty are the beautiful children of ugly War. But,
above all gifts, the greatest gift it gave to men was stanchness.

It first taught men to be true to one another; to be true to their
duty, true to their post; to be in all things faithful, even unto

The martyrs that died at the stake; the explorers that fought with
Nature and opened up the world for us; the reformers (they had to do
something more than talk in those days) who won for us our liberties;
the men who gave their lives to science and art, when science and art
brought, not as now, fame and fortune, but shame and penury--they
sprang from the loins of the rugged men who had learned, on many a
grim battlefield, to laugh at pain and death, who had had it hammered
into them, with many a hard blow, that the whole duty of a man in this
world is to be true to his trust, and fear not.

Do you remember the story of the old Viking who had been converted to
Christianity, and who, just as they were about, with much joy, to
baptize him, paused and asked: "But what--if this, as you tell me, is
the only way to the true Valhalla--what has become of my comrades, my
friends who are dead, who died in the old faith--where are they?"

The priests, confused, replied there could be no doubt those
unfortunate folk had gone to a place they would rather not mention.

"Then," said the old warrior, stepping back, "I will not be baptized.
I will go along with my own people."

He had lived with them, fought beside them; they were his people. He
would stand by them to the end--of eternity. Most assuredly, a very
shocking old Viking! But I think it might be worth while giving up
our civilization and our culture to get back to the days when they
made men like that.

The only reminder of such times that we have left us now, is the
bull-dog; and he is fast dying out--the pity of it! What a splendid
old dog he is! so grim, so silent, so stanch; so terrible, when he has
got his idea, of his duty clear before him; so absurdly meek, when it
is only himself that is concerned.

He is the gentlest, too, and the most lovable of all dogs. He does
not look it. The sweetness of his disposition would not strike the
casual observer at first glance. He resembles the gentleman spoken of
in the oft-quoted stanza:

'E's all right when yer knows 'im.
But yer've got to know 'im fust.

The first time I ever met a bull-dog--to speak to, that is--was many
years ago. We were lodging down in the country, an orphan friend of
mine named George, and myself, and one night, coming home late from
some dissolving views we found the family had gone to bed. They had
left a light in our room, however, and we went in and sat down, and
began to take off our boots.

And then, for the first time, we noticed on the hearthrug a bull-dog.
A dog with a more thoughtfully ferocious expression--a dog with,
apparently, a heart more dead to all ennobling and civilizing
sentiments--I have never seen. As George said, he looked more like
some heathen idol than a happy English dog.

He appeared to have been waiting for us; and he rose up and greeted us
with a ghastly grin, and got between us and the door.

We smiled at him--a sickly, propitiatory smile. We said, "Good
dog--poor fellow!" and we asked him, in tones implying that the
question could admit of no negative, if he was not a "nice old chap."
We did not really think so. We had our own private opinion concerning
him, and it was unfavorable. But we did not express it. We would not
have hurt his feelings for the world. He was a visitor, our guest, so
to speak--and, as well-brought-up young men, we felt that the right
thing to do was for us to prevent his gaining any hint that we were
not glad to see him, and to make him feel as little as possible the
awkwardness of his position.

I think we succeeded. He was singularly unembarrassed, and far more
at his ease than even we were. He took but little notice of our
flattering remarks, but was much drawn toward George's legs. George
used to be, I remember, rather proud of his legs. I could never see
enough in them myself to excuse George's vanity; indeed, they always
struck me as lumpy. It is only fair to acknowledge, however, that
they quite fascinated that bull-dog. He walked over and criticized
them with the air of a long-baffled connoisseur who had at last found
his ideal. At the termination of his inspection he distinctly smiled.

George, who at that time was modest and bashful, blushed and drew them
up on to the chair. On the dog's displaying a desire to follow them,
George moved up on to the table, and squatted there in the middle,
nursing his knees. George's legs being lost to him, the dog appeared
inclined to console himself with mine. I went and sat beside George
on the table.

Sitting with your feet drawn up in front of you, on a small and
rickety one-legged table, is a most trying exercise, especially if you
are not used to it. George and I both felt our position keenly. We
did not like to call out for help, and bring the family down. We were
proud young men, and we feared lest, to the unsympathetic eye of the
comparative stranger, the spectacle we should present might not prove

We sat on in silence for about half an hour, the dog keeping a
reproachful eye upon us from the nearest chair, and displaying
elephantine delight whenever we made any movement suggestive of
climbing down.

At the end of the half hour we discussed the advisability of "chancing
it," but decided not to. "We should never," George said, "confound
foolhardiness with courage."

"Courage," he continued--George had quite a gift for maxims--"courage
is the wisdom of manhood; foolhardiness, the folly of youth."

He said that to get down from the table while that dog remained in the
room, would clearly prove us to be possessed of the latter quality; so
we restrained ourselves, and sat on.

We sat on for over an hour, by which time, having both grown careless
of life and indifferent to the voice of Wisdom, we did "chance it;"
and throwing the table-cloth over our would-be murderer, charged for
the door and got out.

The next morning we complained to our landlady of her carelessness in
leaving wild beasts about the place, and we gave her a brief if not
exactly truthful, history of the business.

Instead of the tender womanly sympathy we had expected, the old lady
sat down in the easy chair and burst out laughing.

"What! old Boozer," she exclaimed, "you was afraid of old Boozer!
Why, bless you, he wouldn't hurt a worm! He ain't got a tooth in his
head, he ain't; we has to feed him with a spoon; and I'm sure the way
the cat chivies him about must be enough to make his life a burden to
him. I expect he wanted you to nurse him; he's used to being nursed."

And that was the brute that had kept us sitting on a table, with our
boots off, for over an hour on a chilly night!

Another bull-dog exhibition that occurs to me was one given by my
uncle. He had had a bulldog--a young one--given to him by a friend.
It was a grand dog, so his friend had told him; all it wanted was
training--it had not been properly trained. My uncle did not profess
to know much about the training of bull-dogs; but it seemed a simple
enough matter, so he thanked the man, and took his prize home at the
end of a rope.

"Have we got to live in the house with _this?_" asked my aunt,
indignantly, coming in to the room about an hour after the dog's
advent, followed by the quadruped himself, wearing an idiotically
self-satisfied air.

"That!" exclaimed my uncle, in astonishment; "why, it's a splendid
dog. His father was honorably mentioned only last year at the

"Ah, well, all I can say is, that his son isn't going the way to get
honorably mentioned in this neighborhood," replied my aunt, with
bitterness; "he's just finished killing poor Mrs. McSlanger's cat, if
you want to know what he has been doing. And a pretty row there'll be
about it, too!"

"Can't we hush it up?" said my uncle.

"Hush it up?" retorted my aunt. "If you'd heard the row, you wouldn't
sit there and talk like a fool. And if you'll take my advice," added
my aunt, "you'll set to work on this 'training,' or whatever it is,
that has got to be done to the dog, before any human life is lost."

My uncle was too busy to devote any time to the dog for the next day
or so, and all that could be done was to keep the animal carefully
confined to the house.

And a nice time we had with him! It was not that the animal was
bad-hearted. He meant well--he tried to do his duty. What was wrong
with him was that he was too hard-working. He wanted to do too much.
He started with an exaggerated and totally erroneous notion of his
duties and responsibilities. His idea was that he had been brought
into the house for the purpose of preventing any living human soul
from coming near it and of preventing any person who might by chance
have managed to slip in from ever again leaving it.

We endeavored to induce him to take a less exalted view of his
position, but in vain. That was the conception he had formed in his
own mind concerning his earthly task, and that conception he insisted
on living up to with, what appeared to us to be, unnecessary

He so effectually frightened away all the trades people, that they at
last refused to enter the gate. All that they would do was to bring
their goods and drop them over the fence into the front garden, from
where we had to go and fetch them as we wanted them.

"I wish you'd run into the garden," my aunt would say to me--I was
stopping with them at the time--"and see if you can find any sugar; I
think there's some under the big rose-bush. If not, you'd better go
to Jones' and order some."

And on the cook's inquiring what she should get ready for lunch, my
aunt would say:

"Well, I'm sure, Jane, I hardly know. What have we? Are there any
chops in the garden, or was it a bit of steak that I noticed on the

On the second afternoon the plumbers came to do a little job to the
kitchen boiler. The dog, being engaged at the time in the front of
the house, driving away the postman, did not notice their arrival. He
was broken-hearted at finding them there when he got downstairs, and
evidently blamed himself most bitterly. Still, there they were, all
owing to his carelessness, and the only thing to be done now was to
see that they did not escape.

There were three plumbers (it always takes three plumbers to do a job;
the first man comes on ahead to tell you that the second man will be
there soon, the second man comes to say that he can't stop, and the
third man follows to ask if the first man has been there); and that
faithful, dumb animal kept them pinned up in the kitchen--fancy
wanting to keep plumbers in a house longer than is absolutely
necessary!--for five hours, until my uncle came home; and the bill
ran: "Self and two men engaged six hours, repairing boiler-tap, 18s.;
material, 2d.; total 18s. 2d."

He took a dislike to the cook from the very first. We did not blame
him for this. She was a disagreeable old woman, and we did not think
much of her ourselves. But when it came to keeping her out of the
kitchen, so that she could not do her work, and my aunt and uncle had
to cook the dinner themselves, assisted by the housemaid--a
willing-enough girl, but necessarily inexperienced--we felt that the
woman was being subject to persecution.

My uncle, after this, decided that the dog's training must be no
longer neglected. The man next door but one always talked as if he
knew a lot about sporting matters, and to him my uncle went for advice
as to how to set about it.

"Oh, yes," said the man, cheerfully, "very simple thing, training a
bull-dog. Wants patience, that's all."

"Oh, that will be all right," said my uncle; "it can't want much more
than living in the same house with him before he's trained does. How
do you start?"

"Well, I'll tell you," said next-door-but-one. "You take him up into
a room where there's not much furniture, and you shut the door and
bolt it."

"I see," said my uncle.

"Then you place him on the floor in the middle of the room, and you go
down on your knees in front of him, and begin to irritate him."


"Yes--and you go on irritating him until you have made him quite

"Which, from what I know of the dog, won't take long," observed my
uncle thoughtfully.

"So much the better. The moment he gets savage he will fly at you."

My uncle agreed that the idea seemed plausible.

"He will fly at your throat," continued the next-door-but-one man,
"and this is where you will have to be careful. _As_ he springs
toward you, and _before_ he gets hold of you, you must hit him a fair
straight blow on his nose, and knock him down."

"Yes, I see what you mean."

"Quite so--well, the moment you have knocked him down, he will jump up
and go for you again. You must knock him down again; and you must
keep on doing this, until the dog is thoroughly cowed and exhausted.
Once he is thoroughly cowed, the thing's done--dog's as gentle as a
lamb after that."

"Oh!" says my uncle, rising from his chair, "you think that a good
way, do you?"

"Certainly," replied the next-door-but-one man; "it never fails."

"Oh! I wasn't doubting it," said my uncle; "only it's just occurred
to me that as you understand the knack of these things, perhaps
_you'd_ like to come in and try _your_ hand on the dog? We can give
you a room quite to yourselves; and I'll undertake that nobody comes
near to interfere with you. And if--if," continued my uncle, with
that kindly thoughtfulness which ever distinguished his treatment of
others, "_if_, by any chance, you should miss hitting the dog at the
proper critical moment, or, if _you_ should get cowed and exhausted
first, instead of the dog--why, I shall only be too pleased to take
the whole burden of the funeral expenses on my own shoulders; and I
hope you know me well enough to feel sure that the arrangements will
be tasteful, and, at the same time, unostentatious!"

And out my uncle walked.

We next consulted the butcher, who agreed that the prize-ring method
was absurd, especially when recommended to a short-winded, elderly
family man, and who recommended, instead, plenty of out-door exercise
for the dog, under my uncle's strict supervision and control.

"Get a fairly long chain for him," said the butcher, "and take him out
for a good stiff run every evening. Never let him get away from you;
make him mind you, and bring him home always thoroughly exhausted.
You stick to that for a month or two, regular, and you'll have him
like a little child."

"Um!--seems to me that I'm going to get more training over his job
than anybody else," muttered my uncle, as he thanked the man and left
the shop; "but I suppose it's got to be done. Wish I'd never had the
d--- dog now!"

So, religiously, every evening, my uncle would fasten a long chain to
that poor dog, and drag him away from his happy home with the idea of
exhausting him; and the dog would come back as fresh as paint, my
uncle behind him, panting and clamoring for brandy.

My uncle said he should never have dreamed there could have been such
stirring times in this prosaic nineteenth century as he had, training
that dog.

Oh, the wild, wild scamperings over the breezy common--the dog trying
to catch a swallow, and my uncle, unable to hold him back, following
at the other end of the chain!

Oh, the merry frolics in the fields, when the dog wanted to kill a
cow, and the cow wanted to kill the dog, and they each dodged round my
uncle, trying to do it!

And, oh, the pleasant chats with the old ladies when the dog wound the
chain into a knot around their legs, and upset them, and my uncle had
to sit down in the road beside them, and untie them before they could
get up again!

But a crisis came at last. It was a Saturday afternoon--uncle being
exercised by dog in usual way--nervous children playing in road, see
dog, scream, and run--playful young dog thinks it a game, jerks chain
out of uncle's grasp, and flies after them--uncle flies after dog,
calling it names--fond parent in front garden, seeing beloved children
chased by savage dog, followed by careless owner, flies after uncle,
calling _him_ names--householders come to doors and cry,
"Shame!"--also throw things at dog--things don't hit dog, hit
uncle--things that don't hit uncle, hit fond parent--through the
village and up the hill, over the bridge and round by the green--grand
run, mile and a half without a break! Children sink exhausted--dog
gambols up among them--children go into fits--fond parent and uncle
come up together, both breathless.

"Why don't you call your dog off, you wicked old man?"

"Because I can't recollect his name, you old fool, you!"

Fond parent accuses uncle of having set dog on--uncle, indignant,
reviles fond parent--exasperated fond parent attacks uncle--uncle
retaliates with umbrella--faithful dog comes to assistance of uncle,
and inflicts great injury on fond parent--arrival of police--dog
attacks police--uncle and fond parent both taken into custody--uncle
fined five pounds and costs for keeping a ferocious dog at
large--uncle fined five pounds and costs for assault on fond
parent--uncle fined five pounds and cost for assault on police!

My uncle gave the dog away soon after that. He did not waste him. He
gave him as a wedding-present to a near relation.

But the saddest story I ever heard in connection with a bull-dog, was
one told by my aunt herself.

Now you can rely upon this story, because it is not one of mine, it is
one of my aunt's, and she would scorn to tell a lie. This is a story
you could tell to the heathen, and feel that you were teaching them
the truth and doing them good. They give this story out at all the
Sunday-schools in our part of the country, and draw moral lessons from
it. It is a story that a little child can believe.

It happened in the old crinoline days. My aunt, who was then living
in a country-town, had gone out shopping one morning, and was standing
in the High Street, talking to a lady friend, a Mrs. Gumworthy, the
doctor's wife. She (my aunt) had on a new crinoline that morning, in
which, to use her own expression, she rather fancied herself. It was
a tremendously big one, as stiff as a wire-fence; and it "set"

They were standing in front of Jenkins', the draper's; and my aunt
thinks that it--the crinoline--must have got caught up in something,
and an opening thus left between it and the ground. However this may
be, certain it is that an absurdly large and powerful bull-dog, who
was fooling round about there at the time, managed, somehow or other,
to squirm in under my aunt's crinoline, and effectually imprison
himself beneath it.

Finding himself suddenly in a dark and gloomy chamber, the dog,
naturally enough, got frightened, and made frantic rushes to get out.
But whichever way he charged; there was the crinoline in front of him.
As he flew, he, of course, carried it before him, and with the
crinoline, of course, went my aunt.

But nobody knew the explanation. My aunt herself did not know what
had happened. Nobody had seen the dog creep inside the crinoline.
All that the people did see was a staid and eminently respectable
middle-aged lady suddenly, and without any apparent reason, throw her
umbrella down in the road, fly up the High Street at the rate of ten
miles an hour, rush across it at the imminent risk of her life, dart
down it again on the other side, rush sideways, like an excited crab,
into a grocer's shop, run three times round the shop, upsetting the
whole stock-in-trade, come out of the shop backward and knock down a
postman, dash into the roadway and spin round twice, hover for a
moment, undecided, on the curb, and then away up the hill again, as if
she had only just started, all the while screaming out at the top of
her voice for somebody to stop her!

Of course, everybody thought she was mad. The people flew before her
like chaff before the wind. In less than five seconds the High Street
was a desert. The townsfolk scampered into their shops and houses and
barricaded the doors. Brave men dashed out and caught up little
children and bore them to places of safety amid cheers. Carts and
carriages were abandoned, while the drivers climbed up lamp-posts!

What would have happened had the affair gone on much longer--whether
my aunt would have been shot, or the fire-engine brought into
requisition against her--it is impossible, having regard to the
terrified state of the crowd, to say. Fortunately for her, she became
exhausted. With one despairing shriek she gave way, and sat down on
the dog; and peace reigned once again in that sweet rural town.


Notes on the editing of this text:

1. Italicized phrases are delimited by the underline character ("_").
2. Hyphens have been left in the text only where it was the clear
intention of the author. For example, throughout the text, "tonight"
and "tomorrow" appear as "to-night" and "to-morrow". This is
intentional, and is not simply a legacy of words having been broken
across lines in the printed text.
3. The pound (currency) symbol has been replaced by the word

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