It was April before the three boys had an opportunity to accept Mrs. Hartshorn's invitation to visit her at Willowdale. On this occasion, as on the last, Mr. Hartshorn was away from home and there were only the four of them at luncheon. A soft-footed maid in a white cap and apron filled their plates with creamed chicken on toast, followed by delicious hot waffles and maple syrup.
When luncheon was over, she led them into her husband's den and took down one of his books.
"I suppose you've been about filled up with dog talk," said she, "but I want to be sure that you're converted to a love for the toys. So many men and boys don't care for them, but when you come to know about them, they're just as interesting as any other dogs. That is, most of them are. There are some kinds that I confess I don't especially care for myself. Come sit on the sofa and look at this book with me."
When they were comfortably seated, she began turning over the pages of the book, pointing out pictures of the various toy breeds.
82 "We'll take the short-coated ones first," said she, "since that's the way they're arranged in the book. Now can you imagine anything more delicate and graceful than this little dog? It's the Italian greyhound, you see. Some of the toy breeds have been created by a dwarfing process by modern fanciers, but this little chap was known in Italy in the Middle Ages. You can see dogs something like him on Greek and Roman statuary.
"Now here's the good old pug. You know the pug, don't you? There aren't so very many of them about now, though. They used to be the favorite lap-dogs, but somehow the Poms and the Pekes have come in to take their place. It is a very old breed and its ancestors were probably brought from China by the Dutch who later introduced it into England. Fawn used to be the popular color, but black has been in favor for several years.
"Now these are what we call miniatures, because they are merely dwarfs of larger breeds. The toy Manchester or black-and-tan was bred from the large Manchester terrier and should look just like his big brother, only he should weigh less than seven pounds. Same way with the toy bull terrier. The miniature bulldog was developed sixty years or more ago by the lace workers of Nottingham, England."
The boys were much interested in the next picture, 83 which showed the tiniest sort of a dog sitting in a glass tumbler.
"Why," said Jack, "he looks more like a rat than a dog."
"It's a real dog, nevertheless," said Mrs. Hartshorn, "though probably the smallest breed in the world. It's a Chihuahua, pronounced Che-wa-wa, and it comes from Mexico. They weigh from a pound and a half to about four pounds, about as much as a kitten. Of course, they're rather delicate, and I doubt if you could expect one to attack a tramp. The head is round as an apple, with pointed nose and big, outstanding ears. The Chihuahua always has a little soft spot in the top of the skull.
"Now we come to the long-haired toys, which are the most popular at the present time. I believe the Pomeranian is the most popular of them all. He is really a small spitz and came first from Germany. You noticed Tip's compact little body, fox-like head, and alert expression. A wonderful little dog. His chief glory is his fine, fluffy coat and mane.
"Then there are the English toy spaniels. They used to be all called King Charles spaniels and were named after Charles II of England, who was very fond of them. Now the authorities have divided them into four varieties according to color, though they are all the same breed. The Blenheim is red or 84 orange and white, the ruby is chestnut red, the King Charles is black and tan, and the Prince Charles is tri-color—black, white, and tan.
"The Pekingese is another of the very popular ones. A brave, proud little chap, as he should be, for he was the pet of Chinese emperors for hundreds of years. The first ones were brought to England in 1860 when the Europeans took the city of Peking and sacked the royal palaces. Before that time they had been carefully guarded as sacred animals. You see they look somewhat different from the English toy spaniel. The head is flatter, for one thing.
"The Japanese spaniel is still different, though he is probably related to the Peke. He has been the pet of the Japs for centuries. The colors are black and 85 white or red and white, and the weight is seven pounds, more or less. This snowy white one, with his bright little face, is a Maltese dog. He also has an ancient lineage. He was known in ancient Greece and Rome and has been in England since the time of Henry VIII. You saw my toy poodle. It's just a miniature of the big poodle and has been popular in France and England for over a century. Very popular here now, too.
"Now we come to the last of the more prominent breeds of toys, and the only one with a wire coat. He comes from Belgium and he's called the Brussels griffon. Don't you love his little monkey face, with its beard and mustache? He's a hardy, intelligent, affectionate little dog, too. Some folks think he's the smartest of all the toys.
"There," she concluded, passing them the book to look over again, "I guess you've had enough for one day. You'll begin to think I'm as bad as my husband. But I didn't want you to get the idea that the only real dog is a big dog. Don't you think that some of these toy breeds deserve some respect, now that you know something of their honorable history?"
"Well, I should say so," said Ernest. "I had no idea there were so many different kinds or that they had any special history. I want to see those Pekes 86 again, whose grandfathers were stolen from the Chinese emperors."
The interest in toys had been kindled, and the boys took occasion later to refresh their memories from books that Mr. Hartshorn lent them, but when Ernest and Jack reached home that afternoon the toy breeds were swept entirely out of their minds for the time being. For Romulus appeared to be ailing and Remus was evidently quite sick.
The two setter puppies had been growing rapidly and had been allowed to run out in the yard as the April days grew warmer. They had lost some of their puppy awkwardness though none of their puppy playfulness, and were fast developing into strong-boned, active dogs. They had begun to appear more devoted to their young masters, too, and to understand better the meaning of the words they were expected to obey. Needless to say, the boys had become deeply attached to them.
There is nothing more pitiful to look at than a sick dog, and there was something very sad in the way these two rollicking, healthy puppies were so suddenly stricken down. The boys, not finding them in the yard, had gone at once to Rome. There lay Remus on the bed, breathing with difficulty, and recognizing their approach only by a raising of his brows and a pathetic little effort to wag his tail. 87 Romulus came to greet them a little weakly, but he, too, looked very forlorn and somehow very thin and little. Both dogs seemed to be running from the eyes and nose and to be suffering from feverish colds.
"Oh, Ernest," cried Jack, the tears coming to his eyes at the sight of their suffering, "they're sick. Whatever shall we do?"
"I don't know," said Ernest. "I don't know what you do for a sick dog. We will ask father. He'll be home soon."
Mr. Whipple came out to look at the dogs soon after his return, but he was unable to suggest anything very helpful. He prescribed warm milk for dinner, and the puppies both drank it, though without much enthusiasm. That night the boys spread burlap blankets over the dogs and went to bed with heavy hearts.
The next morning and the morning after Romulus and Remus did not seem to be any better, nor, luckily, very much worse. The boys did what they could for them, keeping them warm and feeding them beef soup and warm milk, but they did not seem to be making much progress with the cure. So on Monday Ernest sent another postal card to Sam Bumpus, begging him to come down and look at the dogs. They had infinite confidence in Sam.
He did not fail them, and on Tuesday afternoon 88 after the boys had come home from school Sam appeared. By this time both dogs were pretty sick. They had lost flesh and looked pitifully thin and weak and wan. They seemed to have trouble breathing and to be affected by other complications. They looked up at their young masters with big, pathetic eyes, as though pleading for help in their affliction.
The boys watched Sam anxiously as he examined the dogs. His face was grave.
"It's distemper," said he. "I was afraid it was. Distemper's no joke; it's the dog's worst enemy. Sometimes it runs into pneumonia, or the dogs die in fits, or just waste away and give up. But cheer up; I've seen lots of 'em pull through, and we'll try to save these two. You've done the right thing so far. Careful nursin' does it. Keep 'em dry and out of draughts and keep up their strength with good food, easy to digest. Most dogs that die of distemper die because they didn't have strength enough to last 'em through. The disease has to have its run, and in time it just naturally runs out. That's the way I look at it. It don't do much good to try to cure 'em with medicine. As I say, it's the nursin' does the trick. Still, some folks believe in givin' quinine and you can do that if you want to. It's a tonic and it can't do any harm if you don't give too much. And keep their eyes and noses washed out with boracic acid."
89 "Is this place all right for them?" asked Ernest.
"Sure," said Sam. "It's a good place, now that the weather is mild. The more fresh air the better, so long as it ain't damp or too cold or draughty. You keep fussin' over 'em and let me know how they get along. Give 'em plenty of clean water and feed 'em a good deal of milk porridge several times a day. Better cut out the solid food till they're better."
For nearly two weeks the boys watched the progress of the disease with aching hearts. Sometimes the symptoms seemed less acute and they felt hopeful; then again the condition of their patients was such as to frighten them. They spent all their spare time with the puppies, in spite of their mother's anxiety lest they catch the disease themselves. Their father, however, was quite positive that human beings could not take distemper from dogs.
A deep cloud of anxiety hung over the Whipple home during those days, even Mrs. Whipple feeling the effects of it. There was no running and romping about the house; no longer the rooms echoed with boyish shouts and laughter. Each morning Ernest and Jack awoke with a feeling that something awful was impending. It seemed sometimes as though the dogs had always been sick and that they would never get well. Sometimes the tension would become too 90 great for Jack and he would cry as though his heart would break.
"Oh, Ernest," he would sob, "what should I do if Remus died?"
And Ernest would have to struggle hard to keep from joining in the tears of his younger brother. The boys had come to love their dogs, and it seemed as though the puppies looked to them alone to save them. It is that way with dogs and people—that is, the people who care for dogs. And when once the wonderful tie has been formed between boy and dog it grows ever stronger. It becomes an ennobling thing.
Romulus developed a distressing cough, but after about ten days of suffering he began to show signs of improvement. He ate with greater relish and seemed brighter and stronger. Gradually the symptoms of the disease lessened and as the days went by Ernest became more and more happily convinced that he was really getting well. But with poor Remus it was different. The distemper seemed unwilling to relax its hold on him and his digestive system became so disordered that he could not gain the much needed strength from his food. Jack spent all the time he could beside the little sufferer, easing his head and bathing his eyes and nose, and listening with helpless agony to the labored breathing.
91 Suddenly, one afternoon, Remus struggled to his feet and staggered uncertainly for a few steps. His half-closed eyes were glassy and did not seem to see what he was looking at. He lurched into the wall in a way that made Romulus take to a corner in fear. Then he ran a few steps aimlessly and toppled over, his muscles twitching dreadfully and his feet scratching the floor.
Jack was terribly frightened and called to Ernest, who came running in. Both boys thought that Remus was surely dying, but after a while he grew quieter and Jack lifted him tenderly back upon the bed.
"I guess it was a fit," said Ernest. "Sam told about that, you know."
"Oh, what shall we do?" wailed Jack in despair. "We must do something, Ernest."
Ernest thought for a moment, and then an idea came to him.
"I'll telephone Mr. Hartshorn," said he. "He might know what to do, and I don't believe he'd mind. He wouldn't want a dog to die."
"Oh, please do," begged Jack.
Mr. Hartshorn was not home, but Mrs. Hartshorn, who answered the telephone, was very sympathetic.
"I'm so sorry he's had convulsions," said she. "It's a bad sign. I'm sorry Mr. Hartshorn is away. 92 I know just how it is, though, for I've sat up all night with dogs sick like that, more than once. I'll send Tom Poultice right over. He's a better dog doctor in his way than a good many vets., and he may be able to help you."
Ernest thanked the kind lady very heartily, and Tom Poultice came that very evening. Mr. Whipple lighted a lantern and they all went out to Rome. Tom examined both dogs and pronounced Romulus to be on the mend.
"'E'll be all right," said Tom, "if 'e don't take cold or get upset. But this other one, 'e's in a bad way, I'm afraid."
Then he took Remus up, looked into his eyes and throat, and felt of his stomach and of the pulse under his forelegs.
"'E's got to be straightened out first," said he. "'Ave you any castor oil?"
Tom administered the castor oil in a thoroughly efficient manner and then sent Ernest into the house to beg a little hot tea and a raw egg from Delia. The puppy took the tea quite eagerly and lapped some of the egg.
"Give 'im a little of this as often as 'e'll take it," said Tom, "and telephone me to-morrow 'ow 'e seems. If 'e gets stronger, we'll give 'im something else. If the castor oil don't work, we'll 'ave to give 'im calomel 93 or a compound cathartic pill, though I 'ate to do that if I don't 'ave to. Calomel's terrible strong stuff for a sick puppy. 'Ow long 'as 'e been sick?"
"About two weeks," said Jack.
"That's about the course of it," said Tom. "If 'e ain't better in a day or two now, 'e'll be gone. I wish I'd tackled 'im before. Well, give 'im these pills, one to-night and three to-morrow, during the day, and keep me posted."
"What are these pills composed of?" inquired Mr. Whipple, who was taking a lively interest in proceedings.
"I 'ave 'em made up myself, sir," said Tom. "It's an old receipt I learned in Hengland. I ain't much on medicine myself, but sometimes this 'elps, especially if it's used earlier. There's thirty drops of acetate of ammonia in each pill, fifteen drops of sweet spirits of nitre, and two grains of salicylate of soda. It's better to give 'em in a little camphor water."
The boys followed Tom's directions faithfully. In the morning they found Remus lying against the door of Rome, quite exhausted, and there were signs that he had had another convulsion during the night. But during the day the castor oil got in its effect and there was no need for the calomel. Remus seemed more able and willing to take his tea and egg, and though 94 no gain in strength was to be noted that day, he had no more convulsions.
Recovery was slow but sure for Remus from that time on, while Romulus mended rapidly, and it was not long before he was running about the yard again. Remus gained strength very slowly and for a long time was troubled by a cough and upset digestion, but as the days went by and he suffered no serious relapse Jack's buoyant nature responded and he was glad with hope once more. Tom Poultice came again to offer encouragement and advice, and when Sam Bumpus visited Rome unannounced one afternoon and was told what had happened, he proved himself to be most generous in his praise of Tom's skill.
"I don't know this English feller," said he, "but when it comes to doctorin' sick pups, I've got to hand it to him. When you see him again give him old Sam's best regards and tell him I'll vote for him next election whether he's runnin' or not."
Sam was in a jovial mood and the boys were in the humor to laugh heartily at anything he said. The tension was broken, the days of anxiety were past, and sunshine again filled the house on Washburn Street.
"It's just like a toothache when it's over, ain't it?" said Sam.
As for Jack, he hugged the emaciated little Remus 95 close to his breast, and, with big tears of happiness in his eyes, kissed the tousled little head. Remus gave a little, human-sounding whimper and licked Jack's hand. That was the only way he knew to express his love and gratitude, but Jack understood.