« PreviousContinue »
Leo, he thought I could get at least fifty or sixty dollars for him, and perhaps more. Well, just about that time I happened to be pretty hard pushed for money;—I had a note coming due in a month, and nothing to meet it with. I'd got to sell something, and-in short, I made up my mind that I could spare Leo better'n anything else, though I hated awfully to part with him. So I and Leo went down to Point. When we got there, the gentleman-a Mr. Fife --had gone to York, to spend a day or two; and there was nothing to be done but wait till he come back. Well, the next day was fine,—the sun bright and warm, the water dancing and shining like quicksilver,-so brother took me out a sailing. Leo followed me into the boat, but there was five of us on board,—my brother and three of his children, besides myself,-and I thought he might be in the way; so I ordered him out, and told him to stay behind. He don't often disobey orders, as I told you; but the water down there seemed to set him most crazy,--he'd never seen anything bigger than our river before, and he wanted to be in it all the time. So, after we'd got out a piece, lo and behold! there come Leo swimming alongside; and trying to look, the rogue! as if he thought that was what was meant; and if he wasn't wanted in the boat, there couldn't be the least objection to his going outside, as convoy! I began to scold, and was about to send him straight back; but the boys pleaded hard for him, and brother said he guessed we might as well take him on board, seein' he wanted to go so bad; and I finally gave in, and Leo came over the side, as happy a dog as ever you sec.
"Well, we sailed along, as nice as you please, for an hour or so; and brother and I got to talkin' about old times, when we was boys together, and didn't take much notice of what was going on; when, all at once, we found that the sky was all clouded over behind us, and a storm trotting up in our rear faster than any race-horse. Of course, we put about right away, but that brought the
wind dead ahead, and blowin' mighty strong; and 'twas slow work beating back towards the Point. Then, the storm broke on us,-whew! I never knew what wind was till then; it seemed as if 'twould blow us out of water. Brother took another reef in the sail, and we staggered along a bit; and then, just as we were going to come about on 'tother tack, there was a whiz and a bang and a crash, and our mast was snapped off, close to the deck, as clean as a whistle! Mast and sail both overboard! Brother hurried to cut 'em all clear, for fear they'd swamp us; and then!--I shall never forget the look in his face as he turned round and gasped out, 'The oars! good heavens! we've forgot the oars!'
"Well! there we was, drifting out to sea as swift as wind and water could carry us, and nothing to do but fold our hands and calc'late how fast they were adoin' it! Nothing in sight,-indeed, we couldn't see three boatlengths through the storm; for the rain began to pour down in sheets, now,-though, to be sure, that brought down the wind a little. But 'twas getting so cold, I thought 'twouldn't take long for us all to freeze as hard. as rocks, in our seats,-if we didn't go to the bottom first. And I began to think 'twas about time for me to be settling up my account with this world, when Leo—I suppose he saw the trouble in my face—crept up and began to lick my hand. Brother saw him, and his face brightened a little. How far can Leo swim?' says he,-I don't know,' says I, he's never been tried, that I know of.'-'If he could swim ashore, now,' says he, thoughtfully, 'there might be some chance for us:-but no, it's too far; he can't do it. I don't suppose he'd even try.'-' He'll do any thing that I tell him to, if he thinks it's important,' says I; 'or he'll die atrying.' So brother wrote a line to his wife; and I rolled it up tight in my handkerchief, and tied it fast to Leo's collar. Then I took his head between my hands, and looked him right in the eye, and says I, ‘Leo,
old fellow! if you can carry that letter ashore, to my sister Nancy, may be you'll save your master's life; if you can't, good bye, for you've seen your last of him!' And 1 made him a sign to go overboard."
Mr. Divine's voice faltered. Leo went to his side, and laid his huge head upon his arm, looking up at him with great, soft eyes, full of intelligent sympathy.
Mrs. Divine took off her spectacles, and wiped them with great circumspection. "Father always breaks down when he gets to that part of the story, as many times as he has told it," said she, with a somewhat hysterical laugh. "And Leo knows the story just as well as he does, every word of it. Watch him now, and see if he don't."
Mr. Divine proceeded.
"Well, Leo looked me right in the eye, too, for a moment; and if ever a dog's face said, 'Master, I'll save you, or I'll die,' Leo's face said it then. Actually, it seemed to me that there was tears in his eyes! And then, he sprang overboard, and was out of sight among the boiling waves, in a moment.
Well, when the storm came on, and we didn't come home, you won't need to be told that my brother's wife, Nancy, began to get scared. And she kept agoing to the door and looking out, to see if she couldn't hear or see something of us; and finally, as she opened the door for another look, Leo dragged himself across the threshold, all dripping, looked up in her face, gave a mournful sort of a howl and fell over on the floor at her feet, just like a log. Nancy thought that the boat had surely capsized, and we'd all been drowned; and Leo had just made out to swim ashore, but only to die of exhaustion. You can guess what a state of mind she was in, till one of the children said, 'Mamma, what's that on Leo's collar?' So then she found brother's note. You may be sure she didn't waste much time! She sent the children one way, and went another herself; and pretty soon all the neighbors were out
after us with boats and lanterns,-for the storm was now decreasing fast. They found us, of course, or I shouldn't be here to tell the story!
"When Nancy got back home, Leo was lying just where she left him, looking a good deal more dead than alive; but she found he still breathed faintly. So she and the children pulled him up to the fire, rubbed him and wrapped him in blankets, poured warm milk and brandy down his throat, and got him so that when I came in, he could just raise himself up on his forelegs and lick my hand. But it was three or four days before he got that swim out of his bones. As nigh as we could calculate, he must have swum from eight to ten mile that night, in that heavy sea. And I've always thought that he never could. have done it, if he'd nobody but himself to think of. But he couldn't fail his master. He couldn't make up his mind to stop and rest, or give up and go under, with his errand. undone."
Never was dog's face so eloquent as Leo's while this narrative was going on. It was almost human in its expressiveness. Plainly, he comprehended every word, every detail. And when Mr. Divine paused, he reared his magnificent head and looked round upon us with the calm dignity of conscious worth.
"Well!" continued Mr. Divine, "the story was all round, next day, of course; and Mr. Fife heard it, and came to see me. He offered me seventy-five, and a hundred, and a hundred-and-fifty dollars, for Leo; and I can't say how high he'd have gone, if I hadn't cut him short by telling him that I'd about as lief sell him one of my children."
"I should think so!" burst out Mr. Taylor, véry emphatically, but with a little unsteadiness of voice.
"So," concluded Mr. Divine, "I brought Leo home with me, and sold a couple of cows instead. Poor economy, I s'pose; but when feeling gets into the accounts, it's
apt to play the mischief with the balance! Anyhow, I've never been sorry. Leo and I won't part, now, till one or t'other of us dies."
There was a moment's silence.
"Leo," yawned Phil, lazily, “just hand me another ap ple, will you?"
And Leo, with a half-sigh, as if deprecating so sudden a descent from the heroic to the commonplace, brought him the basket.