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Full text of "Our friend the dog"

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OUR FRIEND THE DOG 



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OUR FRIEND 
THE DOG 

BY 

MAURICE MAETERLINCK 

AUTHOR OF " THE LIFE OF THE BEE," ETC. 

TRANSLATED BY 
ALEXANDER TEIXEIRA DE MATTOS 

ILLUSTRATED BY 
CECIL ALDEN 



X 
X 
DC 
XT 

X 

k 



NEW YORK 

DODD, MEAD & COMPANY 
I 9 i3 










xl 




COPYRIGHT, 1908, BY 
THE CENTURY Co. 

COPYRIGHT, 190^, BY 
DODD, MEAD & COMPAQ T 

Published, October, 1918 







OUR FRIEND THE DOG 



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273403 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 
I 

T HAVE lost, within these last 
* few days, a little bull-dog. 
He had just completed the sixth 
month of his brief existence. 
He had no history. His intelli- 
gent eyes opened to look - out 
upon the world, to love man- 
kind, then closed again on the 
cruel secrets of death. 

The friend who presented me 

with him had given him, ( per- 

H 3 H 




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' 

- . 






OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

haps by antiphrasis, the startling 
name of Pelleas. Why rechris- 
ten him? For how can a poor 
dog, loving, devoted, faithful, 
disgrace the name of a man or 

an imaginary hero? 

i^*^^^ 

Pelleas had a great bulging, 
powerful forehead, like that of 
Socrates or Verlaine; and, under 
a little black nose, blunt as a 
churlish assent, a pair of large 
hanging and symmetrical chops, 
which made his head a sort of 
massive, obstinate, pensive and 
H 4 H 






c 

r~ 




OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

three-cornered menace. He was 
beautiful after the manner of a 
beautiful, natural monster that 
has complied strictly with the 
laws of its species. And what a 
smile of attentive obligingness, of 
incorruptible innocence, of affec- 
tionate submission, of boundless 
gratitude and total self-abandon- 
ment lit up, at the least caress, 
that adorable mask of ugliness! 
Whence exactly did that smile 
emanate? From the ingenuous 
and melting eyes? From the 
H 5 H 













r*d 
rd 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

ears pricked up to catch the 
words of man? From the fore- 
head that unwrinkled to appreci- 
ate and love, or from the stump 
of a tail that wriggled at the 
other end to testify to the inti- 
mate and impassioned joy that 
filled his small being, happy once 
more to encounter the hand or 
the glance of the god to whom 
he surrendered himself?^ 

Pelleas was born in Paris, and 
I had taken him to the country. 
His bonny fat paws, shapeless 
H 6 H 



re 
re 
re 

re 
re 
re 













OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

and not yet stiffened, carried 
slackly through the unexplored 
pathways of his new existence 
his huge and serious head, flat- 
nosed and, as it were, rendered 
heavy with thought. 

For this thankless and rather 
sad head, like that of an over- 
worked child, was beginning 
the overwhelming work that op- 
presses every brain at the start 
of life. He had, in less than 
five or six weeks, to get into his 
mind, taking shape within it, an 
H 7 H 












OUR FRIEND THE DOG 





image and a satisfactory concep- 
tion of the universe. Man, aided 
by all the knowledge of his own 
elders and his brothers, takes 






thirty or forty years to outline 
that conception, but the humble 
dog has to unravel it for himself 
in a few days: /and yet, in the 
eyes of a god, who should know 
all things, would it not have the 
same weight and the same value 
as our own?) 

It was a question, then, of 
studying the ground, which can 

H 8 H 











-^ i 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 



be scratched and dug up and 
which sometimes reveals surpris- 
ing things; of casting at the 
sky, which is uninteresting, for 
there is nothing there to eat, one 
glance that does away with it for 
good and all; of discovering the 
grass, the admirable and green 
grass, the springy and cool grass, 
a field for races and sports, a 
friendly and boundless bed, ( in 
which lies hidden the good and 
wholesome couch-grass. ) It was 
a question, also, of taking pro- 
H 9 H 




X '^ 




OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

miscuously a thousand urgent 
and curious observations. It was 
necessary, for instance, with no 
other guide than pain, to learn 
to calculate the height of objects 
from the top of which you can 
jump into space; to convince 
yourself that it is vain to pursue 
birds who fly away and that you 
are unable to clamber up trees 
after the cats who defy you there ; 
to distinguish between the sunny 
spots where it is delicious to 
sleep and the patches of shade 



H 10 








OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

in which you shiver; to remark 
with stupefaction that the rain 
does not fall inside the houses, 
that water is cold, uninhabitable 
and dangerous, while fire is 
beneficent at a distance, but ter- 
rible when you come too near; 
to observe that the meadows, 
the farm-yards and sometimes 
the roads are haunted by giant 
creatures with threatening horns, 
creatures good-natured, perhaps, 
and, at any rate, silent, creatures 
who allow you to sniff at them 
HUH 






OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

a little curiously without taking 
offence, but who keep their real 
thoughts to themselves. It was 
necessary to learn, as the result 
of painful and humiliating ex- 
periment, that you are not at 
liberty to obey all nature's laws 
without distinction in the dwell- 
ing of the gods ; to recognize that 
the kitchen is the privileged and 
most agreeable spot in that divine 
dwelling, although you are hardly 
allowed to abide in it because of 
the cook, who is a considerable, 



H 12 H 






OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

but jealous power; to learn that 
doors are important and capri- 
cious volitions, which sometimes 
lead to felicity, but which most 
often, hermetically closed, mute 
and stern, haughty and heartless, 
remain deaf to all entreaties; to 
admit, once and for all, that the 
essential good things of life, the 
indisputable blessings, generally 
imprisoned in pots and stewpans, 
are almost always inaccessible; 
to know how to look at them 
with laboriously-acquired indiffer^ 
H i3 H 





OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

ence and to practise to take no 
notice of them, saying to your- 
self that here are objects which 
are probably sacred, since merely 
to skim them with the tip of a 
respectful tongue is enough to 
let loose the unanimous anger of 
all the gods of the house. 

And then, what is one to think 
of the table on which so many 
things happen that cannot be 
guessed; of the derisive chairs 
on which one is forbidden to 
sleep; of the plates and dishes 
H i4 H 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

that are empty by the time that 
one can get at them ; of the lamp 
that drives away the dark? . . . 
How many orders, dangers, pro- 
hibitions, problems, enigmas has 
one not to classify in one's over- 
burdened memory ! . . . And how 
to reconcile all this with other 
laws, other enigmas, wider and 
more imperious, which one bears 
within one's self, within one's in- 
stinct, which spring up and de- 
velop from one hour to the other, 
which come from the depths of 
H i5 H 






OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

time and the race, invade the 
blood, the muscles and the nerves 
and suddenly assert themselves 
more irresistibly and more power- 
fully than pain, the word of the 
master himself, or the fear of 
death ? 

Thus, for instance, to quote 
only one example, >vhen the hour 
of sleep has struck for men, you 
kae~ retire^ to your hole, sur- 
rounded by the darkness, the 
silence and the formidable soli- 
tude of the night. All is sleep 
16 




OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

in the master's house. You feel 
yourself very small and weak in 
the presence of the mystery. You 
know that the gloom is peopled 
with foes who hover and lie in 
wait. You suspect the trees, the 
passing wind and the moonbeams. 
You would like to hide, to sup- 
press yourself by holding your 
breath. But still the watch must 
be kept; you must, at the least 
sound, issue from your retreat, 
face the invisible and bluntly dis- 
turb the imposing silence of the 
M 17 H 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

earth, at the risk of bringing 
down the whispering evil or 
crime upon yourself alone. Who- 
ever the enemy be, even if he 
be man, that is to say, the very 
brother of the god whom it is 
your business to defend, you 
must attack him blindly, fly at 
his throat, fasten your perhaps 
sacrilegious teeth into human 
flesh, disregard the spell of a 
hand and voice similar to those 
of your master, never be silent, 
never attempt to escape, never 
H 18 H 






OUR FRIEND THE DOG 



allow yourself to be tempted or 
bribed and, lost in the night 
without help, prolong the heroic 
alarm to your last breath. 

There is the great ancestral 
duty, the essential duty, stronger 
than death, which not even man's 
will and anger are able to check. 
All our humble history, linked 
with that of the dog in our first 
struggles against every breath- 
ing thing, tends to prevent his 
forgetting it. And when, in our 
safer dwelling-places of to-day, 
H 19 H 










OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

we happen to punish him for 
his untimely zeal, he throws us 
a glance of astonished reproach, 
as though to point out to us that 
we are in the wrong and that, 
if we lose sight of the main 
clause in the treaty of alliance 
which he made with us at the 
time when we lived in caves, 
forests and fens, he continues 
faithful to it in spite of us and 
remains nearer to the eternal 
truth of life, which is full of 
snares and hostile forces. \ 
H 20 H 



^Y 





OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

But how much care and study 
are needed to succeed in fulfil- 
ling this duty! And how com- 
plicated it has become since the 
days of the silent caverns and 
the great deserted lakes ! It was 
all so simple, then, so easy 
and so clear. The lonely hollow 
opened upon the side of the hill, 
and all that approached, all that 
moved on the horizon of the 
plains or woods, was the un- 

L X**** 

mistakable enemy. . . . But to- 
day you can no longer tell. . . . 
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OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

You have to acquaint yourself 
with a civilization of which you 
disapprove, to appear to under- 
stand a thousand incomprehen- 
sible things. . . . Thus, it seems 
evident that henceforth the whole 
world no longer belongs to the 
master, that his property con- 
forms to unintelligible limits. . . . 
It becomes necessary, therefore, 
first of all to know exactly where 
the sacred domain begins and 
ends. Whom are you to suffer, 
whom to stop? . . . There is 
H 22 H 




> 








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OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

the road by which every one, 
even the poor, has the right to 
pass. Why? You do not know; 
it is a fact which you deplore, 
but which you are bound to ac- 
cept. Fortunately, on the other 
hand, here is the fair path which 
none may tread. This path is 
faithful to the sound traditions; 
it is not to be lost sight of; for 
by it enter into your daily exist- 
ence the difficult problems of life. 
Would you have an example? 
You are sleeping peacefully in 









OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

a ray of the sun that covers 
the threshold of the kitchen with 
pearls. The earthenware pots are 
amusing themselves by elbowing 
and nudging one another on the 
edge of the shelves trimmed with 
paper lace-work. The copper 
stewpans play at scattering spots 
of light over the smooth white 
walls. The motherly stove hums 
a soft tune and dandles three 
saucepans blissfully dancing; and, 
from the little hole that lights up 
its inside, defies the good dog 
H a4 H 



^ 



. 

-A-. 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

who cannot approach, by con- 
stantly putting out at him its 
fiery tongue. The clock, bored 
in its oak case, before striking 
the august hour of meal time, 
swings its great gilt navel to 
and fro ; and the cunning flies 
tease your ears. On the glitter- 
ing table lie a chicken, a hare, 
three partridges, besides other 
things which are called fruits 
peaches, melons, grapes and 
which are all good for nothing. 
The cook guts a big silver fish 

H 25 h 





OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

and throws the entrails (instead 
of giving them to you !) into the 
dust-bin. Ah, the dust-bin ! In- 
exhaustible treasury, receptacle of 
windfalls, the jewel of the house ! 
You shall have your share of 
it, an exquisite and surreptitious 
share ; but it does not do to seem 
to know where it is. You are 
strictly forbidden to rummage in 
it. Man in this way prohibits 
many pleasant things, and life 
would be dull indeed and your 
days empty if you had to obey all 
H 26 H 















OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

the orders of the pantry, the cellar 
and the dining-room. Luckily, 
he is absent-minded and does not 
long remember the instructions 
which he lavishes. He is easily 
deceived. You achieve your ends 
and do as you please, provided 
you have the patience to await 
the hour. You are subject to 
man, and he is the one god; but 
you none the less have your own 
personal, exact and imperturbable 
morality, which proclaims aloud 
that illicit acts become most law- 
H 27 H 









OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

ful through the very fact that 
they are performed without the 
master's knowledge. Therefore, 
let us close the watchful eye that 
has seen. Let us pretend to sleep 
and to dream of the moon. . . . 

Hark! A gentle tapping at the 
blue window that looks out on 
the garden! What is it? Noth- 
ing; a bough of hawthorn that 
has come to see what we are do- 
ing in the cool kitchen. Trees 
are inquisitive and often excited ; 
but they do not count, one has 

H 28 H 

~. 









OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

nothing to say to them, they 
are irresponsible, they obey the 
wind, which has no principles. 
. . . But what is that? I hear 
steps! . . . Up, ears open; nose 
on the alert! ... It is the 
baker coming up to the rails, 
while the postman is opening a 
little gate in the hedge of lime- 
trees. They are friends; it is 
well; they bring something: you 
can greet them and wag your 
tail discreetly twice or thrice, 
with a patronizing smile. ... -i 

L_. Ha9H 





OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

Another alarm! What is it 
now? A carriage pulls up in 
front of the steps. The problem 
is a complex one. Before all, it 
is of consequence to heap copi- 
ous insults on the horses, great, 
proud beasts, who make no reply. 
Meantime, you examine out of the 
corner of your eye the persons 
alighting. They are well-clad and 
seem full of confidence. They are 
probably going to sit at the table 
of the gods. The proper thing is 
to bark without acrimony, with a 
H 3o H 




OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

shade of respect, so as to show 
that you are doing your duty, but 
that you are doing it with intelli- 
gence. Nevertheless, you cherish 
a lurking suspicion and, behind 
the guests' backs, stealthily, you 
sniff the air persistently and in a 
knowing way, in order to discern 
any hidden intentions. 

But halting footsteps resound 
outside the kitchen. This time 
it is the poor man dragging his 
crutch, the unmistakable enemy, 
the hereditary enemy, the direct 
H 3i H 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

descendant of him who roamed 
outside the bone-cramped cave 
which you suddenly see again in 
your racial memory. Drunk with 
indignation, your bark broken, 
your teeth multiplied with hatred 
and rage, you are about to seize 
their reconcilable adversary by the 
breeches, when the cook, armed 
with her broom, the ancillary 
and )fors worn sceptre, comes to 
protect the traitor, and you are 
obliged to go back to your hole, 
where, with eyes filled with im- 
H 3a H 






OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

potent and slanting flames, you 
growl out frightful, but futile 
curses, thinking within yourself 
that this is the end of all things, 
and that the human species has 
lost its notion of justice and in- 
justice. . . . 

Is that all? Not yet;(fbr the 
smallest life is made up of innu- 
merous duties, and it is a long 
work to organize a happy exist- 
ence upon the borderland of two 
such different worlds as the world 
of beasts and the world of men. 
H 33 H 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

How should we fare if we had 
to serve, while remaining within 
our own sphere, a divinity, not 
an imaginary one, like to our- 
selves, because the offspring of 
our own brain, but a god actually 
visible, ever present, ever active 
and as foreign, as superior to our 
being as we are to the dog?J 

We now, (to return to Pelleasj 
know pretty well what to do and 
how to behave on the master's 
premises. But the world does 
not end at the house-door, and, 
H 34 H 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

beyond the walls and beyond the 
hedge, there is a universe of which 
one has not the custody, where 
one is no longer at home, where 
relations are changed. How are 
we to stand in the street, in the 
fields, in the market-place, in the 
shops? In consequence of diffi- 
cult and delicate observations, we 
understand that we must take no 
notice of passers-by ; obey no calls 
but the master's ; be polite, with in- 
difference, to strangers who pet us. 
Next, we must conscientiously ful- 
H 35 H 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

fil certain obligations of mysterious 
courtesy toward our brothers the 
other dogs; respect chickens and 
ducks; not appear to remark the 
cakes at the pastry-cook's, which 
spread themselves insolently within 
reach of the tongue ; show to the 
cats, who, on the steps of the 
houses, provoke us by hideous 
grimaces, a silent contempt, but 
one that will not forget; and re- 
member that it is lawful and even 
commendable to chase and strangle 
mice, rats, wild rabbits and, gen- 
H 36 H 



OUR FRIEND ' IE DOG 





q 



erally speaking, all animals (we 
learn to know them by secret 
marks) that have not yet made 
their peace with mankind. 

All this and so much more! 
. . . Was it surprising that Pel- 
leas often appeared pensive in 
the face of those numberless prob- 
lems, and that his humble and 
gentle look was often so profound 
and grave, laden with cares and 
full of unreadable questions? 

Alas, he did not have time to 
finish the long and heavy task 
H 37 H 




OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

;which nature lays upon the in- 
stinct that rises in order to ap- 
proach a brighter region^) . . . 
An ill of a mysterious character, 
Vvhich seems specially to punish 
the only animal that succeeds in 
leaving the circle in which it is 
born; an indefinite ill that carries 
off hundreds of intelligent little 
dogs, came to put an end to the 
destiny and the happy education 
of Pelleas. And now all those 
efforts to achieve a little more 
light ; all that ardour in loving, 
H 38 H 



''" lla **v f***-"'' 






K. 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

that courage in understanding; 
all that affectionate gaiety and 
innocent fawning; all those kind 
and devoted looks,/ which turned 
to man to ask for his assistance 
against unjust death; all those 
flickering gleams which came 
from the profound abyss of a 
world that is no longer ou 
all those nearly human little 
habits lie sadly in the cold 
ground, under a flowering elder- 
tree, in a corner of the garden. 

H 89 H 



^vX-^ 



II 

Man loves the dog, but how 
much more ought he to love it 
if he considered, in the inflexible 
harmony of the laws of nature, 
the sole exception, which is that 
love of a being that succeeds in 
piercing, in order to draw closer 
to us, the partitions, every else- 
where impermeable, that separate 
the species ! We are alone, abso- 
lutely alone on this chance planet ; 
and amid all the forms of life that 
H 4o H 








OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

surround us, not one, excepting 
the dog, has made an alliance 
with us. A few creatures fear 
us, most are unaware of us, and 
not one loves us. In the world 
of plants, we have dumb and 
motionless slaves ; but they serve 
us in spite of themselves. They 
simply endure our laws and our 
yoke. They are impotent pris- 
oners, victims incapable of escap- 
ing, but silently rebellious; and, 
so soon as we lose sight of them, 
hasten 



they 



betray 



H 4i H 




OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

turn to their former wild and mis- 
chievous liberty. The rose and the 
corn, had they wings, would fly at 
our approach like the birds. 

Among the animals, we num- 
ber a few servants who have 
submitted only through indiffer- 
ence, cowardice or stupidity: the 
uncertain and craven horse, who 
responds only to pain and is 
attached to nothing; the passive 
and dejected ass, who stays with 
us only because he knows not 
what to do nor where to go, 
H 2 H 




d 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

but who nevertheless, under the 
cudgel and the pack-saddle, re- 
tains the idea that lurks behind 
his ears; the cow and the ox, 
happy so long as they are eating, 
and docile because, for centuries, 
they have not had a thought of 
their own; the affrighted sheep, 
who knows no other master than 
terror; the hen, who is faithful 
to the poultry-yard because she 
finds more maize and wheat there 
than in the neighbouring forest. 
I do not speak of the cat, to whom 
H 43 H 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

we are nothing more than a too 
large and uneatable prey: the 
ferocious cat, whose sidelong con- 
tempt tolerates us only as en- 
cumbering parasites in our own 
homes. She, at least, curses us 
in her mysterious heart; but all 
the others live beside us as they 
might live beside a rock or a 
tree. They do not love us, do 
not know us, scarcely notice us. 
They are unaware of our life, 
our death, our departure, our re- 
turn, our sadness, our joy, our 
H 44 M 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

smile. They do not even hear 
the sound of our voice, so soon 
as it no longer threatens them; 
and, when they look at us, it 
is with the distrustful bewilder- 
ment of the horse, in whose eye 
still hovers the infatuation of the 
elk or gazelle that sees us for the 
first time, or with the dull stupor 
of the ruminants, who look upon 
us as a momentary and useless 
accident of the pasture. 

For thousands of years, they 
have been living at our side, as 
H 45 H 






OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

foreign to our thoughts, our affec- 
tions, our habits as though the 
least fraternal of the stars had 
dropped them but yesterday on 
our globe. In the boundless in- 
terval that separates man from 
all the other creatures, we have 
succeeded only, by dint of patience, 
in making them take two or three 
illusory steps. And if, to-mor- 
row, leaving their feelings toward 
us untouched, nature were to 
give them the intelligence and the 
weapons wherewith to conquer 
H 46 H 













OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

us, I confess that I should dis- 
trust the hasty vengeance of the 
horse, the obstinate reprisals of 
the ass and the maddened meek- 
ness of the sheep. I should shun 
the cat as I should shun the tiger; 
and even the good cow, solemn 
and somnolent, would inspire me 
with but a wary confidence. As 
for the hen, with her round, quick 
eye, as when discovering a slug or 
a worm, I am sure that she would 
devour me without a thought. 

;. . t 
H 47 H 





Ill 

f^_ 

Now, in this indifference and this 
total want of comprehension in 
which everything that surrounds 
us lives; in this incommunicable 
world, where everything has its ob- 
ject hermetically contained within 
itself, where every destiny is self- 
circumscribed, where there exist 
among the creatures no other 
relations than those of execu- 
tioners and victims, eaters and 
eaten, where nothing is able to 
H 48 H 




OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

leave its steel-bound sphere, where 
death alone establishes cruel rela- 
tions of cause and effect between 
neighbouring lives, where not the 
smallest sympathy has ever made 
a conscious leap from one species 
to another, one animal alone, 
among all that breathes upon the 
earth, has succeeded in break- 
ing through the prophetic circle, 
in escaping from itself to come 
bounding toward us, definitely to 
cross the enormous zone of dark- 
ness, ice and silence that iso- 
H 9 H 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

lates each category of existence in 
nature's unintelligible plan. This 
animal, our good familiar dog, 
simple and unsurprising as may 
to-day appear to us what he has 
done, in thus perceptibly drawing 
nearer to a world in which he 
was not born and for which he 
was not destined, has neverthe- 
less performed one of the most 
unusual and improbable acts that 
we can find in the general history 
of life. When was this recogni- 
tion of man by beast, this extraor- 
H 5o H 











OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

dinary passage from darkness to 
light, effected? Did we seek out 
the poodle, the collie, or the mas- 
tiff from among the wolves and 
the jackals, or did he come 
spontaneously to us? We cannot 
tell. So far as our human annals 
stretch, he is at our side, as at 
present ; but what are human an- 
nals in comparison with the times 
of which we have no witness? 
The fact remains that he is there in 
our houses, as ancient, as rightly 
placed, as perfectly adapted to our 




H 5i 







OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

habits as though he had appeared 
on this earth, such as he now is, 
at the same time as ourselves. 
We have not to gain his confidence 
or his friendship : he is born our 
friend; while his eyes are still 
closed, already he believes in us : 
even before his birth, he has given 
himself to man. But the word 
"friend" does not exactly depict 
his affectionate worship. He loves 
us and reveres us as though we 
had drawn him out of nothing. 
He is, before all, our creature full 
H 5a H 







r 




OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

of gratitude and more devoted 
than the apple of our eye. He 
is our intimate and impassioned 
slave, whom nothing discourages, 
whom nothing repels, whose ardent 
trust and love nothing can impair. 
He has solved, in an admirable 
and touching manner, the terrify- 
ing problem which human wisdom 
would have to solve if a divine 
race came to occupy our globe. 
He has loyally, religiously, irrevo- 
cably recognized man's superior- 
ity and has surrendered himself ^ 





H 53 






OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

to him body and soul, without 
after-thought, without any inten- 
tion to go back, reserving of his 
independence, his instinct and his 
character only the small part in- 
dispensable to the continuation 
of the life prescribed by nature. 
With an unquestioning certainty, 
an unconstraint and a simplicity 
that surprise us a little, deeming 
us better and more powerful than 
all that exists, he betrays, for our 
benefit, the whole of the animal 
kingdom to which he belongs 
H 54 










to 

:> 

~> 





OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

and, without scruple, denies his 
race, his kin, his mother and his 
young. 

But he loves us not only in his 
consciousness and his intelligence : 
the very instinct of his race, the en- 
tire unconsciousness of his species, 
it appears, think only of us, dream 
only of being useful to us. To 
serve us better, to adapt himself 
better to our different needs, he 
has adopted every shape and been 
able infinitely to vary the faculties, 
the aptitudes which he places at 
H 55 H 









OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

our disposal. Is he to aid us in 
the pursuit of game in the plains ? 
His legs lengthen inordinately, his 
muzzle tapers, his lungs widen, 
he becomes swifter than the deer. 
Does our prey hide under wood ? 
The docile genius of the species, 
forestalling our desires, presents 
us with the basset, a sort of almost 
footless serpent, which steals into 
the closest thickets. Do we ask 
that he should drive our flocks? 
The same compliant genius grants 
him the requisite size, intelligence, 
H 56 H 










> 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

energy and vigilance. Do we in- 
tend him to watch and defend our 
house? His head becomes round 
and monstrous, in order that his 
jaws may be more powerful, more 
formidable and more tenacious. 
Are we taking him to the south? 
His hair grows shorter and lighter, 
so that he may faithfully accom- 
pany us under the rays of a hotter 
sun. Are we going up to the 
north? His feet grow larger, the 
better to tread the snow; his fur 
thickens, in order that the cold 
H 57 H 






OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

may not compel him to abandon 
us. Is he intended only for us to 
play with, to amuse the leisure of 
our eyes, to adorn or enliven the 
home? He clothes himself in a 
sovereign grace and elegance, he 
makes himself smaller than a doll 
to sleep on our knees by the fire- 
side, or even consents, should our 
fancy demand it, to appear a little 
ridiculous to please us. 

You shall not find, in nature's 
immense crucible, a single living 
being that has shown a like sup- 
H 58 H 





OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

pleness, a similar abundance of 
forms, the same prodigious faculty 
of accommodation to our wishes. 
This is because, in the world which 
we know, among the different and 
primitive geniuses that preside 
over the evolution of the several 
species, there exists not one, ex- 
cepting that of the dog, that ever 
gave a thought to the presence 
of man. 

It will, perhaps, be said that 
we have been able to transform 
almost as profoundly some of our 
H 59 H 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

domestic animals : our hens, our 
pigeons, our ducks, our cats, our 
horses, our rabbits, for instance. 
Yes, perhaps; although such trans- 
formations are not comparable with 
those undergone by the dog and 
although the kind of service which 
these animals render us remains, 
so to speak, invariable. In any 
case, whether this impression be 
purely imaginary or correspond 
with a reality, it does not appear 
that we feel in these transfor- 
mations the same unfailing and 

H 60 H 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

preventing good will, the same 
sagacious and exclusive love. For 
the rest, it is quite possible that 
the dog, or rather the inacces- 
sible genius of his race, troubles 
scarcely at all about us and that 
we have merely known how to 
make use of various aptitudes 

offered bv the abundant chances 

I 

of life. It matters not: as we 
know nothing of the substance 
of things, we must needs cling to 
appearances; and it is sweet to 
establish that, at least in appear- 
H 61 H 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

atice, there is on the planet where, 
like unacknowledged kings, we 
live in solitary state, a being that 
loves us. 

However the case may stand 
with these appearances, it is none 
the less certain that, in the aggre- 
gate of intelligent creatures that 
have rights, duties, a mission and 
a destiny, the dog is a really priv- 
ileged animal. He occupies in 
this world a pre-eminent posi- 
tion enviable among all. He is 
the only living being that has 
H 62 H 









OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

found and recognizes an indubi- 
table, tangible, unexceptionable 
and definite god. He knows to 
what to devote the best part of 
himself. He knows to whom 
above him to give himself. He 
has not to seek for a perfect, 
superior and infinite power in the 
darkness, amid successive lies, 
hypotheses and dreams. That 
power is there, before him, and 
he moves in its light. He knows 
the supreme duties which we all 
do not know. He has a morality 
H 63 H 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

which surpasses all that he is 
able to discover in himself and 
which he can practise without 
scruple and without fear. He 
possesses truth in its fulness. 
He has a certain and infinite 
ideal. 




H 64 









IV 

And it was thus that, the other 
day, before his illness, I saw my 
little Pelleas sitting at the foot of 
my writing-table, his tail carefully 
folded under his paws, his head 
a little on one side, the better to 
question me, at once attentive and 
tranquil, as a saint should be in the 
presence of God. He was happy 
with the happiness which we, per- 
haps, shall never know, since it 
sprang from the smile and the 
H 65 H 



OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

approval of a life incomparably 
higher than his own. He was 
there, studying, drinking in all my 
looks; and he replied to them 
gravely, as from equal to equal, to 
inform me, no doubt, that, at least 
through the eyes the most imma- 
terial organ that transformed into 
affectionate intelligence the light 
which we enjoyed, he knew that 
he was saying to me all that love 
should say. And, when I saw him 
thus, young, ardent and believing, 
bringing me, in some wise, from 
H 66 H 



XT 




XT 
xf 





OUR FRIEND THE DOG 

s 

the depths of unwearied nature, 
quite fresh news of life and trust- 
ing and wonderstruck, as though 
he had been the first of his race 
that came to inaugurate the earth 
and as though we were still in the 
first days of the world's existence, 
I envied the gladness of his cer- 
tainty, compared it with the destiny 
of man, still plunging on every side 
into darkness, and said to myself 
that the dog who meets with a good 
master is the happier of the two. 



67 



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