Monday, August 7, 2017
The Dog-Detective By Elizabeth Surr 1882
Beware of secret sin: for though
All human lips be mute,
The crime that we commit may be
Unfolded by the brute.
HOW mean is a thievish disposition! To covet and steal that which belongs to another is so despicable a thing, that the man or boy who can thus grovel, is certain, if discovered, to be shunned by all whose companionship is worth having.
If you attempt to trace the infamous career of some noted thief, you will generally find that he was accustomed to tell falsehoods when quite a little child. Perhaps, if he were poor, and sent on errands by his mother, he would pocket a halfpenny of the change he brought back. When at school, he would doubtless steal slate-pencils or marbles from other boys; and so go on from bad to worse, till at length he found himself alone and miserable in a cold prison cell, through whose narrow, barred window he could see the beautiful blue sky, bright with the warm sunshine he might not enjoy.
Yes; we have heard of boys who, quite forgetful that "honesty" must always be "the best policy," brought themselves by pilfering to this miserable condition! And when the happy Christmas time came, and the dark green holly-trees were bright with scarlet berries; when long-parted friends met again and exchanged good wishes; when families gathered around blazing hearths, and sang sweet hymns in honour of Him who was born on Christmas day,—there they sat, these dishonest boys, in their dismal cells, weeping over the folly which had brought them into so wretched a state. If only they had remembered that Bible warning, "Be sure your sin will find you out," and conquered the first temptation to pilfer, all this misery would have been avoided.
There was once a man who carried out parcels for a grocer, who seemed to forget all about this Scripture text, and so became a sad thief. Probably he began his career of dishonesty by taking a lump of sugar one day when his master's back was turned to him, or by stealing some dried currants or a few biscuits.
As his thefts were not at once discovered, he grew more daring every day, till at length he constantly took money out of the drawer in the shop where his master was in the habit of keeping it. Some of his ill-gotten gains he concealed in a rubbish heap in the stable. No human eye saw him burying it there; only an intelligent Newfoundland dog stood near him, intently observing his every movement. The thief did not object to the dog watching him; why should he? The creature might see all he was doing, but was quite unable to tell tales. He could come and go to the heap as often as he pleased, there was certainly no danger of a dog betraying his secrets.
But the dishonest porter was greatly mistaken! God once commanded an ass to speak to a man who was doing wrong; and, as you doubtless remember, when the Lord was riding down the Mount of Olives on a colt, with the people crying "Hosanna!" round him, he said that the "very stones would cry out and sing his praise, if the disciples were silent," so we may be sure he can, when he pleases, cause dumb creatures to reveal the crimes of the wicked. And thus he pleased that the clever Newfoundland dog should give information to one of the grocer's apprentices of the porter's dishonesty.
These apprentices often wondered why the great dog had become so restless. It would run to and fro, from stable to shop, and shop to stable, catching hold of people's clothes and pulling them, as if it would say, "Do come with me; there is something somewhere I must show you!" At last one of them exclaimed, "What can the dog want? look how he is pulling at me! I will go with him at once and see if I can discover the reason of his singular conduct."
The apprentice followed the animal to the stable, where it immediately commenced scratching violently at the rubbish heap. The lad watched the dog closely, and was soon surprised to see some pieces of money uncovered by its busy paws. He took them at once to his master, who having marked them, again concealed them in the heap from which they had been taken, bidding his apprentice not to mention the matter to the porter, who was absent from the shop when the discovery was made.
In a very short time the dishonesty of the fellow was made clear to all around him. He was arrested for theft; and as some pieces of the marked money were found in one of his pockets, he was quickly taken before a magistrate and condemned to imprisonment. Oh, how careful we should be to avoid taking the first false step! If we wilfully set foot on the slippery inclined plane of sin, how swift may be our descent, not only to disgrace and ruin in this world, but eternal shame in the world to come!
This tale of the detected thief illustrates the almost-reasoning sagacity of some dogs, and shows us what a claim they have upon the gratitude of man. No cruel person should ever own a dog, for he is utterly unworthy of the affection of so unselfish a creature. Who that lately read the narrative in the daily papers of the attempted destruction of a dog by his master in the Moselle, was not thrilled with horror at the conduct of the human brute, and filled with admiration for the noble heroism of his victim? On account of some whim or other, the owner of as gallant and affectionate a dog as ever breathed determined to put the faithful animal out of existence.
One bright September morning, a boat containing a so-called man and this dog was seen on the blue waters of the Moselle. Securing a large stone to a rope, the man twisted the latter round the neck of the doomed creature, and flung it as far out into the river as his strength would allow. The poor thing sank into the sunny stream with a moan; but the stone becoming detached from the rope through its struggles, faint and bleeding it rose to the surface, and, clinging to the boat-side, piteously implored assistance. Its heartless master only responded to its touching appeals for help by angrily flinging the dog once more into the river. But yet again the struggling creature rose to the surface, and with a despairing howl made for the boat. Then the wrath of the man grew terrible; and seizing an oar, he endeavoured to despatch the poor animal with a powerful blow aimed at its head. But sudden retribution waited on the effort, for with a loud and hopeless yell he fell over into the stream. The almost exhausted dog was near his worthless master as he flung his arms above his head, and sinking, felt the waters closing over him. Half-murdered creature! Could it save him, if it would? Would it save him, if it could? Noble animal! The horrified spectators might well indeed have doubts on the subject, but the dog never doubted what it should do if sufficient strength held out. Cruel wrongs were all forgotten in his master's danger; for, brute though the fellow was, he was still beloved by his dog. With splendid magnanimity, the forgiving creature seized him by the collar of his coat, and struck out bravely for the shore. Yes; so bravely, that he soon bore safely to land the wretch who had attempted his destruction.
Good dog! his deed of mercy should be written in letters of gold. We can find no words strong enough to express our admiration of his act of grand forgiveness. We should like to know that ill-treatment will never again fall to his lot, that he receives caresses instead of blows, and experiences the constant kindness to which he was before a stranger; but, alas! we cannot follow the noble animal to his home. We can only trust that his master has just one spark of gratitude in his cruel heart, which will prompt him henceforth to show his dog-deliverer mercy, in return for his rescued life.