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And it is here that his fidelity attains its very pinnacle. Faithful unto death! Again and again, in innumerable instances, he has shown his faithfulness long after the one he loved was dead. The dog in the mediaeval legend that dug his master's grave, covered him with moss and leaves, and then watched there for seven years, until he died himself, has found many a parallel in real life. A well-known dog in the days of the Stewarts was still beside his master's tomb three years after the latter's death; and, in much later times, another dog, at Lisle, refused to come away from the spot where his master lay, and remained on guard for nine long years, the villagers recognising his fidelity by building him a kennel and bringing him his daily food until he died.
And if an instance of the exhibition of grief on the part of a dog is called for, some will remember the little dog in the far-away Sudan. He was the property of the only officer that fell at Ginnis, and who had been in the habit of taking him everywhere. When his master was consigned to the sand, this dog was seen to be cowering beside the stretcher, looking even smaller than before; and, when all was over, he had to be lifted away from the edge of the pit, where he lay with his head hanging over the edge in an abject state of grief. He was only a dog, and a small one; but many a man, hardened by the experiences of a campaign, turned away his head at the sight.
Few can have been much in the company of dogs without becoming aware of their power of sympathy, the way in which they almost invariably show this to their own kind, and also especially to man. For a dog to be injured or ill is for others at least to leave him in peace; but with man they go much further, as they do in many directions where man is concerned. When Lazarus lay at the gate of Dives, alone and neglected, it was the dogs that came and licked his sores. So, too, in the hours of human adversity, somehow or other, dogs appear to understand, and act accordingly. How often the expression is heard--"They know!" The reason of their conduct and their actions on such occasions is entirely hidden from us, just as is that strange sense that dogs of highly developed brains undoubtedly possess--awe of the unknown, and that has made some conclude that they have an inkling of the spirit world.
Many dogs are subject to fits of nervousness, though for the most part only in connection with things they do not understand or are unable to grasp at the moment. At such times the dog invariably seeks the closer company of his friend, man. On the other hand, the dog often understands the meaning of sounds when man is at fault and a feeling of uncertainty has been aroused. A glance at a dog, and the words--"the dog hasn't moved," are quite sufficient then to rea.s.sure the watcher, possibly out of doors on a dark night. Thus the one looks to the other for support and confidence, and a mutual spirit of reliance exists between both.
There is little need to say much here of the dog's power of love, for every one is aware of it, or may have been made richer by it in his life.
The old saying of centuries ago still holds good, and "the dog is the only animal in creation that luvs you more than he luvs himself." There are those who a.s.sert that all love is divine in origin. If this be so, and the dog could be considered to have a religion, then undoubtedly his religion is the love of man. We are brought face to face here with a pa.s.sion that, in the dog, knows no limits, and that is apparently incapable of alienation. Faith, truth, love! What is to be said;--whence come these amazing powers; for what object could they have been created here? Perhaps the matter were better left where that other was just now.
We can only seek the shelter that is common to us in such circ.u.mstances.
"He knows, who gave that love sublime; And gave that strength of feeling, great Above all human estimate."
Once again, for ourselves, there is no definite answer. The whole question forms but one more problem added to an interminable sequence, and in the face of which the man and the dog are both dumb.
Yet when we look back, and ask ourselves, "Are all these for naught?" is it still man's province to be mute? Many further questions crowd up to the mind here, as they ever do in yet graver issues. In our weakness and our anxiety we cannot suffer our case to go by default, even though we confess our inability to answer the questions one by one as they appear.
We can only turn away our heads and say, "Such things can _not_ be." This close relations.h.i.+p cannot be cut off and cease for ever. This touching interdependence cannot be brought to a sudden and a final end. The sparrows cannot be cared for and the dogs cast out. In other words, living things among animals, not directly a.s.sociated with human beings in their lives, cannot, surely, be singly preserved and those which have won our love and loved us in return be lost to us for ever and condemned.
Is it possible that all these marvellous qualities and characteristics, gathered together into one dumb animal, are to pa.s.s away and to have no place in the larger circuit of life? Are all these consolations that this animal, and this animal alone among the so-called dumb, is capable of bringing--are all the influences for good that he is granted the power of exercising upon the mind, the spirit, and the very soul of man--to be accounted of no worth; to be merely so many items to be used up in the furtherance of a great scheme and plan; to be dissipated even as the mists of the dawn when the day shall at last break? Surely,--can such things be? Human judgment and human justice are for ever fallible, and rough expedients at best. But that other judgment for which we look, and that other justice upon which we are wont mentally to lean, cannot possibly be either one or the other.
Something, then, of our case may a.s.suredly be left there. We cannot answer the questions; but, as we confront them, we yet cannot cut ourselves free from that spirit of intuition spoken of above, or cease to draw our several inferences. Continuity in Nature faces us at every turn.
All things work together for the final perfection of the whole--for the final transcendent beauty and completeness of the whole. There is unity in all. Of that most are certain; and men walk therefore in good hope.
There is mystery at every turn. There is no escape from it. There is ever the demand for the making of a good fight in the face of it. And there is promise of victory in the end on the part of One
"Who by low creatures leads to heights of love."
We are not all willing to accept such things. We do not all, in our march in life, require the same tools to win our way. Neither do we all look in the same direction--not for help, merely, but for those common daily aids that we gather, or that are gatherable, from the simple and the great, from the animate and the inanimate, from the stained as from the beautiful and the pure.
In writing of the death of an animal second only to the dog, Whyte-Melville asks this:
"There are men both good and wise who hold that, in a future state, Dumb creatures we have cherished here below Will give us joyous greeting as we pa.s.s the golden gate.
Is it folly if I hope it may be so?"
It may be folly. Yet the writer of these pages does not doubt it. And therefore, in the quiet corner of the beautiful home, when Murphy was laid to rest close by Dan, these words were cut upon his headstone, in faith and in good hope:
MURPHY DEAR BOY 1906-1911 "Thou, Lord, shalt save both man and beast."