Part 2 out of 2
"I'm goin' home!" he said roughly.
"You're coming with me," contradicted the man in that same quiet
voice, but slipping his muscular arm into Link's.
With his other hand he shifted the lapel of his coat, displaying
a police badge on its reverse. Still avoiding any outward
appearance of force, he turned about, with his arm locked in
Ferris's and started toward the clubhouse.
"Here!" expostulated poor Link, with all a true mountaineer's
horror of the police. "What's all this? I ain't broke no law!
An ugly growl from Chum punctuated his scared plea. Noting the
terror in his master's tone and the grip of the stranger on
Link's arm, Chum had spun round to face the two.
The collie's eyes were fixed grimly upon the plainclothes man's
temptingly thick throat. One corner of Chum's upper lip was
curled back, displaying a businesslike if snowy fang. His head
was lowered. Deep in his furry throat a succession of legato
growls were born.
The plain-clothes man knew much about dogs. He knew, for example,
that when a dog holds his head high and barks there is no special
danger to be feared from him. But he also knew that when a dog
lowers his head and growls, showing his eyetooth, he means
And the man shrank from the menace. One hand crept back
instinctively toward his hip pocket.
Link saw the purely involuntary gesture, and he shook in his
boots. It was thus a Hampton constable had once reached back when
a stray cur snapped at him. And that constable had completed the
movement by drawing a pistol and shooting the cur. Perhaps this
non-uniformed stranger meant to do the same thing.
"Hold on!" begged Link, intervening between the man and the dog.
"I'll go along with you peaceful. Quit, Chum! It's all right!"
The dog still looked undecided. He did not like this new note in
his god's voice. But he obeyed the injunction, and fell into step
at Link's side as usual. Ferris suffered himself to be piloted,
unresisting, through the tattered remnant of the crowd and up the
There his conductor led him through the sacred portals and down a
wide hallway to the door of a committee room. Throwing open the
door, he ushered in his captive and the dog, entering behind them
and reclosing the heavy door.
In the room, round a table, sat several persons--all men except
one. The exception was the girl whose collie had had the bench
next to Chum's. At the table head, looking very magisterial
indeed, sat Colonel Marden. Beside him lounged a larger and older
man in a plaid sport suit.
Link's escort ranged his prisoners at the foot of the table; Chum
standing tight against Ferris's knee, as if to guard him from
possible harm. Link stood glowering in sullen perplexity at the
Colonel. Marden cleared his voice pompously, then spoke.
"Ferris," he began with much impressiveness, "I am a magistrate
of this county --as you perhaps know. You may consider yourself
before the Bar of Justice, and reply to my questions
Awed by this thundered preamble, Ferris made shift to mutter:
"I ain't broke no laws. What d'j' want of me, anyhow?"
"First of all," proceeded Marden, "where did you get that dog?"
"Chum here?" said Ferris. "Why, I come acrost him, early last
spring, on the patch of state road, jes' outside of Hampton. He
was a-layin' in a ditch, with his leg bust. Throwed off'n a auto,
I figgered it. I took him home an'--"
He paused, as the sport-suited man next to Marden nodded
excitedly to the girl and then whispered to the Colonel.
"You took him home?" pursued Marden. "Couldn't you see he was a
"I c'd see he was a sufferin' an' dyin' dawg," retorted Link. "I
c'd see he was a goner, 'less I took him home an' 'tended him. If
you're aimin' at findin' out why I went on keepin' him after
that, I done so because no one claimed him. I put up notices
'bout him. I put one up at the post-office here, too. I--"
"He did!" interrupted the girl. "That's true! I saw it. Only--the
notice said it was a bird dog. That's why we didn't follow it up.
"Miss Gault," suggested Marden in lofty reproof, "suppose you
leave the interrogatory to me, if you please? Yes, I recollect
that notice. My attention was called to it at the time. But,"
again addressing Link, "why did you call 'Glenmuir Cavalier' a
'BIRD dog'? Was it to throw us off the track or--"
"Don't know no What's-His-Name Cav'lier!" snapped Ferris. "This
dawg's name is Chum. Like you c'n see in my entry blank, what's
layin' on the table in front of you. I adv'tised Chum as a bird
dawg because I s'posed he WAS a bird dawg. I ain't a sharp on
dawgs. He's the fust one ever I had. If he ain't a bird dawg,
'tain't my fault. He looks more like one than like 'tother breeds
I'd seen. So I called him one."
"There is no need to raise your voice at me!" rebuked the
colonel. "I am disposed to accept your explanation. But if you
read the local papers you must have seen--"
"I did read 'em," said Ferris. "I read 'em steady for a month or
more, to see was there was adv'tisement fer a lost dawg. Nary an
adv'tisement did I see excep' one fer a 'sable' collie. 'Sable'
means 'black.' I know, because our dominie told me so. I asked
him, when I see that piece in the paper. Chum ain't black, nor
nowheres near black. So I knowed it couldn't be him. What d'j'
want of me, anyhow?" he demanded once more.
"Again, I am disposed to credit your explanation," boomed the
colonel, frowning down a ripple of giggles that had its rise in
Miss Gault. "And I am disposed to acquit you of consciously
dishonest intent. I am glad to do so. Here is the situation:
Early last spring, Mr. Gault," indicating the sport-suit wearer
at his left, "bought from the famous Glenmuir Collie Kennels, on
the Hudson, an unusually fine young collie--a dog for which
connoisseurs predicted a great future in the show ring. He
purchased it as a gift for his daughter, Miss Marion Gault."
He inclined his head slightly toward the girl; then proceeded:
"As Mr. Glenmuir was disbanding his kennel, Mr. Gault was able
to secure the dog--Glenmuir Cavalier. He started for Craigswold,
with the dog on the rear seat of the car. At first he kept a hand
on the dog's collar, but as the collie made no attempt to escape,
he soon turned around--he was in the front seat--and paid no more
attention to him. Just outside of Suffern, he looked back--to
find Cavalier had disappeared. He advertised, and made all
possible efforts to locate the dog. But he could get no clew to
him, until to-day. Seeing this dog of yours in the show ring, he
recognized him at once."
The pompously booming voice, with its stilted diction, ceased.
All eyes were upon Link Ferris. The mountaineer, stung to life by
the silence and the multiple gaze, came out of his trance of
"Then--then," he stuttered, forcing the words from a throat
sanded by sudden dread, "then Chum rightly b'longs to this man?"
"Quite so!" assented Marden, in some relief. "I am glad you grasp
the point so readily. Mr. Gault has talked the matter over with
me, and he is taking a remarkably broad and generous view of the
case if I may say so. He is not only willing that you should keep
the cup and the cash prize which you have won to-day, but he is
also ready to pay to you the seventy-five dollar reward he
offered for the return of Glenmuir Cavalier. I repeat, this
strikes me as most gener--"
"NO!" yelled Link, a spasm of foreseen loneliness sweeping over
him. "NO! ! He can't have him! Nobody can! Why Chum's my dawg!
I've learned him to fetch cows an' shake hands an'--an'
everything! An' he drug me out'n the lake, when I was
a-drowndin'! An' he done a heap more'n that fer me! He's drug me
up to my feet, out'n wuthlessness, too; an' he's learned me that
livin' is wuth while! He's my--my--he's my dawg!" he finished
lamely, his scared eyes sweeping the circle of faces in panic
"That will do, Ferris!" coldly exhorted the colonel. "We wish no
scenes here. You will take this seventyfive dollar check which
Mr. Gault has so kindly made out for you, and you will go."
"Leavin' Chum behind?" babbled Ferris, aghast. "Not leavin' Chum
behind? PLEASE not!"
He pulled himself together with an effort that drove his nails
bitingly into his palms and left his face gray. He saw the
uselessness of pleading with these people of polished iron, who
could not understand his fearful loss. For the sake of Chum--for
the sake of the self-respecting man he himself had become--he
would not let himself go to pieces. Forcing his shaken voice to a
dry steadiness, he addressed the uneasily squirming Gault.
"What d'j' you pay for Chum when you bought him off'n that Hudson
River feller--that Glenmuir chap?" he demanded.
"Why, as a matter of fact," responded Gault, "as Colonel Marden
has told you, I couldn't have hoped to get such a promising
collie at any price it--"
"What d'j' you pay for him?" insisted Link, his voice harsh and
unconsciously domineering as a vague new hope dawned on his
"I paid six hundred dollars," answered Gault shortly, in
annoyance at the boor's manner.
"Good!" approved Link, "That gives us suthin' to go on. I'll pay
you six hundred dollars fer him back. This hundred dollars in
gold an' this yer silver cup an' seven dollars more I got with
me--to bind the bargain. An' a second mortgage on my farm fer the
rest. Fer as much of the rest," he amended, "as I ain't got ready
In his stark earnestness, Link's rough voice sounded more
hectoring and unpleasant than before. Gault, unused to such talk
from the alleged "peasantry," resolved to cut short the haggling.
"Sell for six hundred a dog that's cleaned up 'best in the
show?'" he rasped. "No, thank you. Leighton says Cavalier will go
far. One man, ten minutes ago, offered me a thousand for him."
"A thousan'?" repeated Ferris, scared at the magnitude of the
sum--then, rallying, he asked:
"What WILL you let me have him fer, then? Set a price, can't
"The dog is not for sale," curtly replied Gault, busying himself
with the lighting of a cigarette.
"Take Mr. Gault's check and go," commanded Marden, thrusting the
slip of paper at Link. "I think there is nothing more to say. I
have an appointment at--"
He hesitated. Regardless of the others' presence, Ferris dropped
to one knee beside the uncomprehending dog. With his arm about
Chum's neck, he bent close to the collie's ear and whispered:
"Good-by, Chummie! It's good-by, fer keeps, too. Don't you get to
thinkin' I've gone an' deserted you, nor got tired of you, nor
nothnn', Chum. Because I'd a dam' sight ruther leave one of my
two legs here than to leave you. I--I guess only Gawd rightly
knows all you done fer me, Chum. But I ain't a-goin' to ferget
none of it. Lord, but it's goin' to be pretty turrible, to home,
without you!" He got to his feet, winking back a mist from his
red eyes, and turning blindly toward the door.
"Here!" boomed Marden after him. "You've forgotten your check."
"I don't aim to take no measly money fer givin' up the only
friend I got!" snarled Link over his shoulder. "Keep it--fer a
It was a good exit line. But it was spoiled. Because, as Ferris
reached the door and groped for its knob, Chum was beside
him--glad to get out of this uncongenial assembly and to be alone
with the master who seemed so unhappy and so direly in need of
consolation. Link stiffened to his full height. With one hand
lovingly laid on the collie's silken head, he mumbled:
"No, Chum, you can't come along. Back, boy! Stay HERE!"
Lowering at Gault, he added:
"He ain't never been hit, nor yet swore at. An' he don't need to
be. Treat him nice, like he's used to bein' treated. An' don't
get sore on him if he mopes fer me, jes' at fust. Because he's
sure to. Dogs ain't like folks. They got hearts. Folks has only
got souls. I guess dogs has the best of it, at that."
Ferris swung open the door and stumbled out, not trusting himself
for a backward glance at the wistfully grieved dog he had left
Lurchingly he made off, across the lawn and out through the
wicket. He was numb and sick. He moved mechanically and with no
conscious power of thought or of locomotion.
Out in the highroad, a homing instinct guided his leaden feet in
the direction of Hampton. And he plodded dazedly the
interminable four miles that separated him from his desolate
As he turned in at his own gate, he was aware of a poignant dread
that pierced his numbness. And he knew it for a dread of entering
the house and of finding no one to welcome him. Setting his teeth
he went forward, unlocked the door and stamped into the silent
Upon the table he dumped the paper-swathed cup he had been
carrying unnoticed under his arm. Beside it he threw the little
purse full of gold pieces and the wad of prize ribbons. Stepping
back, his foot struck something. He looked down and saw it was a
gay-colored rubber ball he had bought, months ago, for Chum--the
dog's favorite plaything.
His face twisting, Link snatched up the ball and went out onto
the steps to throw it far out of sight; that it might no more
remind him of the pet who had so often coaxed him to toss it for
Ferris hurled the ball far out into the garden. As the missile
left his hand an exultant bark re-echoed through the silence of
the sunset. Chum, who had been trotting demurely up the walk,
sprang gleefully in pursuit of the ball, and presently came
galloping back to the dazedly incredulous Link, with the
many-colored sphere of rubber between his jaws.
Chum had had no trouble at all in catching his master's trail and
following it home. He would have overtaken the slow-slouching
Ferris, had he been able to slip out of the clubhouse sooner. And
now it pleased him to be welcomed by this evident invitation to a
game of ball.
Link gave a gulping cry and buried both hands in the collie's
ruff, staring down at the dancing dog in an agony of rapture.
Then, all at once, his muscles tensed, and his newly flushed face
went green-white again.
"I--I guess we got to play it square, Chum!" he muttered aloud,
with something like a groan. "I was blattin' to 'em, up there,
how you'd made a white man of me. An' a reg'lar white man don't
keep what ain't his own prop'ty. Come along, Chummie!"
His jaw very tense, his back painfully stiff, Link strode heavily
down the lane and out into the highroad. Chum, always eager for a
walk with his god, frisked about him in delight.
He had traversed the bulk of the distance to Craigswold, the dog
beside him, when he remembered that he had left his horse and
buggy at the livery stable there in the morning. Well, that would
save his aching feet a four-mile walk home. In the meantime--
He and Chum stepped to the roadside to avoid a fast-traveling
little motor car which was bearing down on them from the
direction of Craigswold.
The car did not pass them. Instead, it came to a gear-racking
halt close beside Ferris. Link, glancing up in dull lack of
interest, beheld Gault and the latter's daughter staring down at
"Chum came home," said Ferris, scowling at them. "He trailed me.
Don't lick him fer it! He's only a dog, an' he didn't know no
better. I was bringin' him back to you."
The girl looked sharply at her father. Gault fidgeted uneasily,
as he had done once or twice that afternoon in the clubhouse. And
he avoided his daughter's gaze. So she turned her level eyes on
"Mr. Ferris," she said very quietly, "do you mean to say, when
this dog came back to you, you were actually going to return him
to us, instead of hiding him somewhere till the search was over?"
"I'm here, ain't I?" countered Ferris defiantly.
"But why?" she insisted. "WHY?"
"Because I'm a fool, I s'pose," he growled. "I guess Chum
wouldn't care much 'bout livin' with a thief. Take him up there
with you on the seat. Don't let him fall out. An'"--his voice
scaling a half octave in its pain--"keep him to home after this.
I ain't no measly angel. I can't swear I'd have the grit to fetch
him back another time."
He stopped, to note a curious phenomenon. There were actually
tears in the girl's big grave eyes. Link wondered why. Then she
"Cavalier isn't my father's dog. He is mine. My father gave him
to me when he bought him, last spring. Colonel Marden seemed to
have forgotten that to-day. And I didn't want to start a squabble
by reminding him of it. After all, it's my father's affair, and
mine. Nobody else's. My father got me another collie last spring
to take Cavalier's place. A collie I'm ever so fond of. So I
don't need Cavalier. I don't want him. I tried to find you to
tell you so. But you had gone. So I got my father to drive me to
your place. We'd have started sooner, but Cavalier got away. And
we waited to look for him--to bring him along."
"Bring him along?" mutteringly echoed the blankbrained Link.
"Why," laughed the girl, "because your house is where he belongs
and where he is going to live. Just as he has been living all
Ferris caught his breath in a choked wheeze of unbelieving
"Gawd!" he breathed. "GAWD!"
Then, he stammered brokenly
"They--they don't seem no right words to--to thank you in, Ma'am.
But maybe you und'stand what I'd want to say if I could?"
"Yes," she said gently. "I think I understand. I understood from
the minute I saw you and the dog together. That's why I decided I
didn't want him. That's why I--"
"An' you'll get that thousand dollars!" cried Link, his fingers
buried rapturously in Chum's fur. "Ev'ry cent of it. I--"
"I think," interrupted the girl, winking very fast. "I think I've
got what I wanted, already. My father doesn't want the money
either. Do you, Dad?"
"Oh, for heaven's sake, stop rubbing it in!" fumed Gault. "Come
on home! It's getting cold. I ought to thank the Lord for not
having you anywhere near me in Wall Street, girl! You'd send me
under the hammer in a week."
He kicked the accelerator, and the little car whizzed off in the
"Chum," observed Ferris, gaping after it. "Chum, I guess the good
Lord built that gal the same day He built YOU. If He did--well,
He sure done one grand day's work!"
CHAPTER IV. The Choice
Luck had come at last to the Ferris farm. Link's cash went into
improvements on the place, instead of going into the
deteriorating of his inner man. And he worked the better. A sulky
man is ever prone to be an inefficient man. And Link no longer
All this-combined with a wholesale boom in local agriculture, and
especially in truck gardening--had wrought wonders in Link's farm
and in Link's bank account. Within three years of Ferris's
meeting with Chum the place's last mortgage was wiped out and a
score of needed repairs and improvements were installed. Also the
man had a small but steadily growing sum to his credit in a
Paterson savings bank.
Life on the farm was mighty pleasant, nowadays. Work was hard, of
course, but it was bringing results that made it more than worth
while. Ferris and his dog were living on the fat of the land. And
they were happy.
Then came the interruption that had been inevitable from the very
A taciturn and eternally dead-broke man, in a rural region, need
not fear intrusion on his privacy. Convivial folk make detours
round him, as if he were a mud puddle. Thriftier and more
respectable neighbors eye him askance or eye him not at all.
But when a meed of permanent success comes to such a man he need
no longer be lonely unless he so wills. Which is not cynicism,
but common sense. The convivial element will still fight shy of
him. But he is welcomed into the circle of the respectable.
So it was with Link Ferris. Of old he had been known as a
shiftless and harddrinking mountaineer with a sour farm that was
plastered with mortgages. Now, he had cleared off his mortgages
and had cleaned up his farm; and he and his home exuded an
People, meeting him in the nearby village of Hampton or at
church, began to treat him with a consideration that the
long-aloof farmer found bewildering.
Yet he liked it rather than not; being at heart a gregarious
soul. And with gruff friendliness he met the advances of
well-to-do neighbors who in old days had scarce favored him with
The gradual change from the isolated life of former years did not
make any sort of a hit with Chum. The collie had been well
content to wander through the day's work at his master's heels;
to bring in the sheep and the cattle from pasture; to guard the
farm from intruders--human or otherwise.
In the evenings it had been sweet to lounge at Link's feet, on
the little white porch, in the summer dusk; or to lie in drowsy
content in front of the glowing kitchen stove on icy nights when
the gale screeched through the naked boughs of the dooryard trees
and the snow scratched hungrily at the window panes.
Now, the dog's sensitive brain was aware of a subtle alteration.
He did not object very much to the occasional visits at the house
of other farmers and townsfolk during the erstwhile quiet
evenings, although he had been happier in the years of peaceful
But he grieved at his master's increasingly frequent absences
from home. Nowadays, once or twice a week, Link was wont to dress
himself in his best as soon as the day's work was done, and fare
forth to Hampton for the evening.
Sometimes he let Chum go with him in these outings. Oftener of
late he had said, as he started out:
"Not to-night, Chummie. Stay here."
Obediently the big dog would lay himself down with a sigh on the
porch edge; his head between his white little forepaws; his
sorrowful brown eyes following the progress of his master down
the lane to the highroad.
But he grieved, as only a sensitive highbred dog can grieve--a
dog who asks nothing better of life than permission to live and
to die at the side of the man he has chosen as his god; to follow
that god out into rain or chill; to starve with him, if need be;
to suffer at his hands--in short, to do or to be anything except
to be separated from him.
Link Ferris had gotten into the habit of leaving Chum alone at
home, oftener and oftener of late, as his own evening absences
from the farm grew more and more frequent.
He left Chum at home because She did not like dogs.
"She" was Dorcas Chatham, the daughter of Hampton's postmaster
and general storekeeper.
Old Man Chatham in former days would have welcomed Cal Whitson,
the official village souse, to his home as readily as he would
have admitted the ne'er-do-well Link Ferris to that sanctuary.
But of late he had noted the growing improvement in Link's
fortunes, as evidenced by his larger store trade, his invariable
cash payments and the frequent money orders which went in his
name to the Paterson savings bank.
Wherefore, when Dorcas met Link at a church sociable and again on
a straw ride and asked him to come and see her some time, her
sire made no objection. Indeed he welcomed the bashful caller
with something like an approach to cordiality.
Dorcas was a calm-eyed, efficient damsel, more than a little
pretty, and with much repose of manner. Link Ferris, from the
first, eyed her with a certain awe. When a mystic growing
attraction was added to this and when it in turn merged into
love, the sense of awe was not lost. Rather it was strengthened.
In all his thirty-one lean and lonely years Link had never before
fallen in love. At the age when most youths are sighing over some
wonder girl, he had been too busy fighting off bankruptcy and
starvation to have time or thought for such things.
Wherefore, when love at last smote him it smote him hard. And it
found him woefully unprepared for the battle.
He knew nothing of women. He did not know, for example, what the
average youth finds out in his teens--that grave eyes and silent
aloofness and lofty self-will and icy pietism in a maiden do not
always signify that she is a saint and that she must be worshiped
as such. Ferris had no one to tell him that far oftener these
signs point merely to stupid narrowness and to lack of ideas.
Dorcas was clever at housework. She was quietly self-assured. She
was good to look upon. She was not like any of the few girls Link
had met. Wherefore he built for her a sacred shrine in his
innermost heart; and he knelt before her image there.
If Ferris found her different from the other Hampton girls,
Dorcas found him equally different from the local swains she
knew. She recognized his hidden strength. The maternal element in
her nature sympathized with his loneliness and with the marks it
had left upon his soul.
For the rest--he was neither a village cut-up like Con Skerly,
nor a solemn mass of conceit like Royal Crews; nor patronizing
like young Lawyer Wetherell; nor vaguely repulsive like old Cap'n
Baldy Todd, who came furtively a-courting her. Link was
different. And she liked him. She liked him more and more.
Once her parents took Dorcas and her five-year-old sister, Olive,
on a Sunday afternoon ramble, which led eventually to the Ferris
farm. Link welcomed the chance callers gladly, and showed them
over the place. Dorcas's housewifely eye rejoiced in the
well-kept house, even while she frowned inwardly at its thousand
signs of bachelor inefficiency. The stock and the crops, too,
spoke of solid industry.
But she shrank back in sudden revolt as a huge tawny collie came
bounding toward her from the fold where he had just marshaled the
sheep for the night. The dog was beautiful. And he meant her no
harm. He even tried shyly to make friends with the tall and
grave-eyed guest. Dorcas saw all that. Yet she shrank from him
with instinctive fear--in spite of it.
As a child she had been bitten--and bitten badly--by a
nondescript mongrel that had been chased into the Chatham
backyard by a crowd of stone-throwing boys, and which she had
sought to oust with a stick from its hiding place under the
steps. Since then Dorcas had had an unconquerable fear and
dislike of dogs. The feeling was unconquerable because she had
made no effort to conquer it. She had henceforth judged all dogs
by the one whose teeth marks had left a lifelong scar on her
She had the good breeding not to let Ferris see her distaste for
his pet that he was just then exhibiting so proudly to the
guests. Her shrinking was imperceptible, even to a lover's
solicitous eye. But Chum noted it. And with a collie's odd sixth
sense he knew this intruder did not like him.
Not that her aversion troubled Chum at all; but it puzzled him.
People as a rule were effusively eager to make friends with Chum.
And--being ultraconservative, like the best type of collie--he
found their handling and other attentions annoying. He had taken
a liking to Dorcas, at sight. But since she did not return this
liking Chum was well content to keep away from her.
He was the more content, because five-year-old Olive had flung
herself, with loud squeals of rapture, bodily on the dog; and had
clasped her fat little arms adoringly round his massive furry
throat in an ecstasy of delight.
Chum had never before been brought into such close contact with a
child. And Link watched with some slight perturbation the baby's
onslaught. But in a moment Ferris's mind was at rest.
At first touch of the baby's fingers the collie had become once
and for all Olive's slave. He fairly reveled in the
discomfortingly tight caress. The tug of the little hands in his
sensitive neck fur was bliss to him. Wiggling all over with
happiness he sought to lick the chubby face pressed so tight
against his ruff. From that instant Chum had a divided
allegiance. His human god was Ferris. But this fluffy
pink-and-white youngster was a mighty close second in his list of
Dorcas looked on, trembling with fear; as her little sister
romped with the adoring dog. And she heaved a sigh of relief when
at last they were clear of the farm without mishap to the baby.
For Olive had been dearer to Dorcas, from birth, than anyone or
anything else on earth. To the baby sister alone Dorcas ceased to
be the grave-eyed and self-assured Lady of Quality, and became a
meek and worshiping devotee.
When Link Ferris at last mustered courage to ask Dorcas Chatham
to marry him his form of proposal would have been ruled out of
any novel or play. It consisted chiefly of a mouthful of
half-swallowed, half-exploded words, spoken all in one panic
breath, to the accompaniment of a mortal fear that shook him to
Any other words, thus mouthed and gargled, would have required a
full college of languages to translate them. But the speech was
along a line perfectly familiar to every woman since Eve. And
Dorcas understood. She would have understood had Link voiced his
proposal in the Choctaw dialect instead of a slurringly mumbled
travesty on English.
The man's stark earnestness of entreaty sent a queer flutter to
the very depths of her calm soul. But the flutter failed to reach
or to titillate the steady eyes. Nor did it creep into the level
and self-possessed voice, as Dorcas made quiet answer:
"Yes. I like you better than any other man I know. And I'll marry
you, if you're perfectly sure you care for me that way."
No, it was not the sort of reply Juliet made to the same
question. It is more than doubtful that Cleopatra answered thus,
when Antony offered to throw away the world for her sake. But it
was a wholly correct and self-respecting response. And Dorcas had
been rehearsing it for nearly a week.
Moreover, words are of use, merely as they affect their hearers.
And all the passion poetry of men and of angels could not have
thrilled Link Ferris as did Dorcas's correct and demure assent to
his frenziedly gabbled plea. It went through the lovesick man's
brain and heart like the breath of God.
And thus the couple became engaged.
With only a slight diminishing of his earlier fear did Link seek
out Old Man Chatham to obtain his consent to the match. Dizzy
with joy and relief he listened to that village worthy's
ungracious assent also secretly rehearsed for some days.
For the best part of a month thereafter Link Ferris floated
through a universe of roseate lights and soft music.
Then came the jar of awakening.
It was one Saturday evening, a week or so before the date set for
the wedding. Dorcas broached a theme which had been much in her
mind since the beginning of the engagement. She approached it
very tactfully indeed, leading up to it in true feminine fashion
by means of a cunningly devised series of levels which would have
been the despair of a mining engineer. Having paved the way she
"John Iglehart was at the store to-day, father says. He's crazy
about that big collie of yours."
Instantly Link was full of glad interest. It had been a sorrow to
him that Dorcas did not like dogs. She had explained her
dislike--purely on general principles--early in their
acquaintance, and had told him of its origin. Link was certain
she would come to love Chum, on intimate acquaintance. In the
interim he did not seek to force her liking by bringing the
collie to the Chatham house when he called.
Link did not believe in crossing a bridge until he came to it.
There would be plenty of time for Dorcas to make friends with
Chum in the long and happy days to come. Yet, now, he rejoiced
that she herself should have been the first to broach the
"Father says John is wild about Chum," went on the girl
unconcernedly; adding, "By the way, John asked father to tell you
he'd be glad to pay you $100 for the dog. It's a splendid offer,
isn't it! Think of all the things we can get for the house with
$100, Link! Why, it seems almost providential, doesn't it? Father
says John is in earnest about it too. He--"
"In earnest, hey!" snapped Ferris, finding his voice after an
instant of utter amazement. "In EARNEST! Well, that's real grand
of him, ain't it! I'd be in earnest, too, if I was to bid ten
cents for the best farm in Passaic County. But the feller who
owned the farm wouldn't be in earnest. He'd be taking it as a
fine joke. Like I do, when Johnny Iglehart has the nerve to offer
$100 for a dog that wouldn't be worth a cent less'n $600--even if
he was for sale. Why, that collie of mine--"
"If he is worth $600," suggested Dorcas icily, "you'd better not
lose any time before you find someone who will pay that for him.
He's no use to us. And $600 is too much money to carry on four
"No use to us?" echoed Link. "Why, Chum's worth the pay of a
hired man to me, besides all the fondness I've got for him! He
handles the sheep, and he--"
"So you've told me," interposed Dorcas with no show of interest.
"I remember the first few times you came to see me you didn't
talk of anything else, hardly, except that dog. Everybody says
the same thing. It's a joke all through Hampton, the silly way
you're forever singing his praises."
"Why shouldn't I?" demanded Link sturdily. "There's not a
dandier, better pal anywhere, than what Chum's been to me. He--"
"Yes, yes," assented Dorcas, "I know. I don't doubt it. But,
after all, he's only a dog, you know. And if you can get a good
price for him, as you say, then the only thing to do is to sell
him. In hard times like these--"
"Times ain't hard," denied Link tersely. "And Chum ain't for
sale. That's all there is to it."
If one of her father's sleek cart horses had suddenly walked out
of its stall with a shouted demand that it be allowed to do the
driving, henceforth, and that its owners do the hauling, Dorcas
Chatham could not have been much more surprised than at this
unlooked-for speech from her humble suitor.
Up to now, Link Ferris had treated the girl as though he were
unworthy to breathe the same air as herself. He had been
pathetically eager to concede any and every mooted point to her,
with a servile abasement which had roused her contempt, even
while it had gratified her sense of power.
She had approached with tact the sub ject of Chum's disposal. But
she had done so with a view to the saving of Link's feelings, not
with the faintest idea that her love-bemused slave could venture
to oppose her. She knew his fondness for the dog and she had not
wished to bring matters to an issue, if tact would serve as well.
To punish her serf and to crush rebellion once and for all, as
well as to be avenged for her wasted diplomacy, Dorcas cast aside
her kindlier intent and drove straight to the point. Her calm
temper was ruffled, and she spoke with a new heat:
"There is something you and I may as well settle, here and now,
Link," she said. "It will save bickerings and misunderstandings,
later on. I've told you how I hate dogs. They are savage and
"Chum ain't!" declared Link stoutly.
"Why, that dog--"
"I hate dogs," she went on, "and I'm horribly afraid of them. I
won't live in the same house with one. I don't want to hurt your
feelings, Link, but you'll have to get rid of that great brown
brute before you marry me. That is positive. So please let's say
no more about it."
The man was staring at her with under jaw ajar. Her sharp air of
finality grated on his every nerve. Her ultimatum concerning Chum
left him dumfounded. But he forced himself to rally to the
This glorious sweetheart of his did not understand dogs. He had
hoped to teach her later to like and appreciate them. But
apparently she must be taught at once that Chum could not be sold
and that the collie must remain an honored member of the Ferris
household. Marshaling his facts and his words, he said :
"I never told you about the time I was coming back home one night
from the tavern here at Hampton, after I'd just cashed my pay
check from the Pat'son market. I've never blabbed much about it,
because I was drunk. Yes, it was back in them days. Just after
I'd got Chum. A couple of fellers had got me drunk. And they set
on me in a lonesome patch of the road by the lake; and they had
me down and was taking the money away from me, when Chum sailed
into them and druv them off. He had follered me, without me
knowing. In the scrimmage I got tumbled headfirst into the lake.
I was too drunk to get out, and my head was stuck in the mud,
'way under water. I'd 'a' drowned if Chum hadn't of pulled me out
with his teeth in the shoulder of my coat. And that's the dog
you're wanting me to sell?"
"You aren't likely to need such help again, I hope," countered
the girl loftily, "now that you have stopped drinking and made a
man of yourself. So Chum won't be needed for--"
"I stopped drinking," answered Link, "because I got to seeing how
much more of a beast I was than the fine clean dog that was
living with me. He made me feel 'shamed of myself. And he was
such good comp'ny round the house that I didn't get lonesome
enough to sneak down to the tavern all the time. It wasn't me
that 'made a man of myself.' It was Chum made a man of me. Maybe
that sounds foolish to you. But --"
"It does," said Dorcas serenely. "Very foolish indeed. You don't
seem to realize that a dog is only an animal. If you can get a
nice home for the collie--such as John Iglehart will give him--"
"Iglehart!" raged Link, momentarily losing hold over himself. "If
that mangy, wall-eyed slob comes slinking round my farm again,
making friends with Chum, I'll sick the dog onto him; and have
him run Iglehart all the way to his own shack! He's--! There! I
didn't mean to cut loose like that!" he broke off at Dorcas's
shudder of dismay. "Only it riles me something terrible to have
him trying to get Chum away from me."
"There is no occasion to go losing your temper and shouting,"
reproved the girl. "Nothing is to be gained that way. Besides,
that isn't the point. The point is this, since you force me to
say it: You must get rid of that dog. And you must do it before
you marry me. I won't set foot in your house until your dog is
gone--and gone for good. I am sorry to speak so, but it had to be
She paused to give her slave a chance to wilt. But Link only sat,
blank-faced, staring at her. His mind was in a muddle. All his
narrow world was upside down. He couldn't make his brain grasp in
full the situation.
All he could visualize for the instant was a shadowy mental image
of Chum's expectant face; the tulip ears pricked forward,
expectant; the jaws "laughing"; the deepset brown eyes abrim with
gay affection and deathless loyalty for the man who was now asked
to get rid of him. It didn't make sense. Half under his breath
Link Ferris began to talk--or rather to ramble.
"There was one of the books over to the lib'ry," he heard himself
meandering on, "with a queer story in it. I got to reading it
through, one night last winter. It was about a feller named
'Fed'rigo.' A wop of some kind, I guess. He got so hard up he
didn't have anything left but a pet falcon. Whatever a falcon may
be. Whatever it was, it must'a been good to eat. But he set a
heap of store by it. Him and it was chums. Same as me and Chum
are. Then along come a lady he was in love with. And she stopped
to his house for dinner. There wasn't anything in the house fit
for her to eat. So he fed her the falcon. Killed the pet that was
his chum, so's he could feed the dame he was stuck on. I thought,
when I read it, that that feller was more kinds of a swine than
I'd have time to tell you. But he wasn't any worse'n I'd be if I
"I'm sorry you care so little for me," intervened Dorcas, her
voice very sweet and very cold, and her slender nose whitening a
little at the corners of the nostrils. "Of course if you prefer a
miserable dog to me, there's nothing more to be said. I--"
"No!" almost yelled the miserable man. "You've got me all wrong,
dearie. Honest, you have. Can't you understand? Your little
finger means a heap more to me than ev'rything else there
is--except the rest of you--"
"And your dog," she supplemented.
"No!" he denied fiercely. "You got no right to say that! But
Chum's served me faithful. And I can't kick him out like he was
"Now you are getting angry again!" she accused, pale and furious.
"I don't care to be howled at. The case stands like this: You
must choose whether to get rid of that dog or to lose me. Take
your choice. If--"
"I read in a story book about a feller that had a thing like that
put up to him," said poor Link, unable to believe she was in
earnest. "His girl said: 'You gotta choose between me and
tobacco.' And he said: 'I'll choose tobacco. Not that I value
tobacco so all-fired much,' he says, 'but because a girl, who'd
make a man take such a choice, ain't worth giving up tobacco
for.' You see, dearie, it's this way --"
"You'll have that dog out of your house and out of your
possession, inside of twenty-four hours," she decreed, the white
anger of a grave-eyed woman making her cold voice vibrate, "or
you will drop my acquaintance. That is final. And it's definite.
The engagement is over--until I hear that your dog is killed or
given away or sold. Good night!"
She left the room in vindictive haste. So overwhelmingly angry
was she that she closed the door softly behind her, instead of
slamming it. Through all his swirl of misery Link had sense
enough to note this final symptom and wonder bitterly at it.
On his way out of the house he was hailed by a highpitched baby
voice from somewhere above him. Olive had crawled out of bed, and
in her white flannel pajamas she was leaning over the upper
"Link!" she called down to the wretched man at the front door.
"When you and Dorcas gets married together, I'm comin' to live
wiv you! Then I can play wiv Chummie all I want to!"
Link bolted out to the street in the midst of her announcement.
And, so occupied was he in trying to swallow a lump in his own
throat, he failed to hear the sound of stifled sobbing from
behind a locked door somewhere in the upper reaches of the house.
As the night wore on, the sleepless girl sought to comfort
herself in the thought that Link had not definitely refused her
terms. A night's reflection and an attitude of unbending
aloofness on her own part might well bring him to a surrender.
Perhaps it was something in Link Ferris's dejected gait, as he
turned into his own lane that night, perhaps it was the instinct
which tells a collie when a loved human is unhappy--but Chum was
at once aware of his master's woe. The dog, at first sound of
Link's approaching steps, bounded from his vigil place on the
porch and frisked joyously through the darkness to meet him. He
sent forth a trumpeting bark of welcome as he ran.
Then--fifty feet from the oncoming man--the big collie halted and
stood for an instant with ears cocked and eyes troubled. After
which he resumed his advance; but at a solemn trot and with
downcast mien. As he reached Link, the collie whined softly under
his breath, gazing wistfully up into Ferris's face and then
thrusting his cold nose lovingly into one of the man's loose-
Link had winced visibly at sound of the jubilantly welcoming
bark. Now, noting the sudden change in the collie's demeanor, he
stooped and caught the silken head between his hands. The gesture
was rough, almost painful. Yet Chum knew it was a caress. And his
drooping plume of a tail began to wag in response.
"Oh, CHUM!" exclaimed the man with something akin to a groan.
"You know all about it, don't you, old friend? You know I'm the
miser'blest man in North Jersey. You know it without me having to
say a word. And you're doing your level best to comfort me. Just
like you always do. You never get cranky; and you never say I
gotta choose betwixt this and that; and you never get sore at me.
You're just my chum. And you're fool enough to think I'm all
right. Yet she says I gotta get rid of you!"
The dog pressed closer to him, still whining softly and licking
the roughly caressing hands.
"What'm I going to do, Chummie?" demanded Link brokenly. "What'm
I going to do about it? I s'pose any other feller'd call me a
fool--like she thinks I am and tell me to sell you. If you was
some dogs, that'd be all right. But not with YOU, Chum. Not with
you. You'd mope and grieve for me, and you'd be wond'ring why I'd
deserted you after all these years. And you'd get to pining and
maybe go sick. And the feller that bought you wouldn't
understand. And most likely he'd whale you for not being more
chipper-like. And you haven't ever been hit. I'd--I'd a blame'
sight sooner shoot you, than to let anyone else have you, to
abuse you and let you be unhappy for me, Chum. A blame' sight
Side by side they moved on into the darkened house. There, with
the dog curled at his feet, Link Ferris lay broad awake until
Early the next afternoon Dorcas decided she stood in need of
brisk, outdoor exercise. Olive came running down the path after
her, eagerly demanding to be taken along. Dorcas with much
sternness bade her go back. She wanted to be alone, unless--But
she refused to admit to herself that there was any "unless."
Olive, grievously disappointed, stood on the steps, watching her
big sister set off up the road. She saw Dorcas take the righthand
turn at the fork. The baby's face cleared. Now she knew in which
direction Dorcas was going. That fork led to the Glen. And the
Glen was a favorite Sunday afternoon ramble for Link and Chum.
Olive knew that, because she and Dorcas more than once had
walked thither to meet them.
Olive was pleasantly forgetful of her parents' positive command
that she refrain from walking alone on the motor-infested Sunday
roads. She set off at a fast jog trot over the nearby hill, on
whose other side ran the Glen road.
Link Ferris, with Chum at his heels, was tramping moodily toward
the Glen. As he turned into the road he paused in his sullen
walk. There, strolling unconcernedly, some yards in front of him,
was a tall girl in white. Her back was toward him. Yet he would
have recognized her at a hundred times the distance. Chum knew
her, too, for he wagged his tail and started at a faster trot to
"Back!" called Link.
Purposely he spoke as low as possible. But the dog heard and
obeyed. The girl, too, started a little, and made as if to turn.
Just then ensued a wild crackling in the thick roadside bushes
which lined the hillside from highway to crest. And a white-clad
little bunch of humanity came galloping jubilantly out into the
road, midway between Dorcas and Link.
At the road edge Olive's stubby toe caught in a noose of
blackberry vine. As the youngster was running full tilt, her own
impetus sent her rolling over and over into the center of the
Before she could get to her feet or even stop rolling, a touring
car came round the bend, ten yards away--a car that was traveling
at a speed of something like forty-five miles an hour, and whose
four occupants were singing at the top of their lungs.
Link Ferris had scarce time to tense his muscles for a futile
spring--Dorcas's scream of helpless terror was still
unborn--when the car was upon the prostrate child.
And in the same fraction of a second a furry catapult launched
itself across the wide road at a speed that made it look like
Chum's mad leap carried him to the baby just as the car's fender
hung above her. A slashing grip of his teeth in the shoulder of
her white dress and a lightning heave of his mighty neck and
shoulders--and the little form was hurtling through the air and
into the weed-filled wayside ditch.
In practically the same instant Chum's body whizzed into the air
again. But this time by no impetus of its own. The high-powered
car's fender had struck it fair, and had tossed it into the ditch
as though the dog had been a heap of rags.
There--huddled and lifeless--sprawled the beautiful collie. The
car put on an extra spurt of speed and disappeared round the next
Olive was on her feet before Dorcas's flying steps could reach
her. Unhurt but vastly indignant, the baby opened her mouth to
make way for a series of howls. Then, her eye falling on the
inert dog, she ran over to Chum and began to cry out to him to
come to life again.
"No use of that, kid!" interposed Link, kneeling beside the
collie he loved and smoothing the soiled and rumpled fur. "It's
easier to drop out of life than what it is to come back to it
again. Well," he went on harshly, turning to the weeping Dorcas,
"the question has answered itself, you see. No need now to tell
me to get rid of him. He's saved me the bother. Like he was
always saving me bother. That being Chum's way."
Something in his throat impeded his fierce speech. And he bent
over the dog again, his rough hands smoothing the pitifully still
body with loving tenderness. Dorcas, weeping hysterically, fell
on her knees beside Chum and put her arms about the huddled
shape. She seemed to be trying to say something, her lips close
to one of the furry little ears.
"No use!" broke in Ferris, his voice as grating as a file's. "He
can't hear you now. No good to tell him you hate dogs; or that
you're glad you've saw the last of him. Even if he was alive, he
wouldn't understand that. He'd never been spoke to that way."
"Don't! Oh, don't!" sobbed the girl. "Oh, I'm so--"
"If you're crying for Chum," went on the grating voice, "there's
no need to. He was only just a dog. He didn't know any better but
to get his life smashed out'n him, so somebody else could go on
living. All he asked was to be with me and work for me and love
me. After you said he couldn't keep on doing that, there ain't
any good in your crying for him. It must be nice--if you'll only
stop crying long enough to think of it--to know he's out of your
way. And I'M out of it too!" he went on in a gust of fury.
"S'pose you two just toddle on, now, and leave me to take him
home. I got the right to that, anyhow."
He stooped to pick up the dog; and he winked with much rapidity
to hold back an annoying mist which came between him and Chum.
His mouth corners, too, were twitching in a way that shamed him.
He had a babyish yearning to bury his face in his dead friend's
fur, and cry.
"DON'T!" Dorcas was wailing. "Oh, you can't punish me any worse
Her sob-broken voice scaled high and swelled out into a cry of
stark astonishment. Slowly Chum was lifting his splendid head and
blinking stupidly about him!
The fender had smitten the collie just below the shoulder, in a
mass of fur-armored muscles. In falling into the wayside ditch
his skull had come into sharp contact with a rock. Knocked
senseless by the concussion, he had lain as dead, for the best
part of five minutes. After which he had come slowly to his
senses--bewildered, bruised and sore, but otherwise no worse for
He came to himself to find a weeping woman clutching him
stranglingly round the neck, while she tried to kiss his
Chum did not care at all for this treatment, especially from a
comparative stranger. But he saw his adored master looking so
idiotically happy--over that or something else--that the dog
forbore to protest.
"If you really wanted him put out of the way so bad--" began
Link, when he could trust himself to speak.
He got no further. Dorcas Chatham turned on him in genuine
savageness. The big eyes were no longer grave and patronizing.
The air of aloofness had fallen from the girl like a discarded
"Link!" she blazed. "Link Ferris! If you ever dare speak about
getting rid of--of MY dog,--I'll--I'll never speak to you again,
as long as--as long as we're married!"