Ebooks, Fiction, Non-Fiction 1000s of Free books and stories online to read now ~ Main Page

 

 

 

Champion by Mrs. L. G. Morse

 

Hetty had five brothers and sisters, and Champion, the dog, felt that he had too much to do. There were plenty of people in the cottage at Lenox, where they lived in summer, to take care of the children, but there is a certain sort of responsibility which dogs of good, sound character are not willing to intrust to anybody. The baby was always with his mother or nurse, and Champion found it easy to take care of the other little ones, for they were not allowed to venture outside of the garden gate, and if that were carelessly left open, he had only to station himself in front of it, and to gently tumble them over on the grass if they attempted to pass through it. He had never hurt them, and their mother thought that they could not be under any better protection than that of good old faithful "Cham."

But Hetty, who was seven years old, and Rudolph, who was nine, worried the dog terribly, and caused him to wear almost a perpetual scowl of anxiety upon his face. He evidently looked upon them as not old enough to be trusted by themselves, and it was a serious annoyance to him that they were too big to be rolled over on the grass, and so kept within the limits of the garden.

One lovely summer morning Hetty was missing. She had run away with a beautiful ripe plum, which her cousin Francis had picked in order to show her that the bloom upon it was exactly the color of old "Greylock" in the distance. So she climbed the nearest hill, to compare the colors of the mountain and the plum. Looking away over the valley, the child saw too much beauty all at once. Clasping her hands behind her, she took in a long sweet breath of morning air, and did not know what it was that filled her whole soul with joy. She laughed aloud up at the clear sky, and spreading her arms as if they were the wings of a bird, she ran down the hill-side. Oh, there were so many robins! And butterflies flew around her in little clouds. The fields were like fairy-land, they were so full of flowers. She picked baby daisies, and put them inside of the wild-carrot heads, not in blossom yet, which grew in the shape of nests. When she climbed over a stone wall to the road, a squirrel ran across her path, into the woods on the opposite side. "There!" she whispered, softly, "maybe I can find his hole." And she ran after him.

It was a great pity that Champion had so much to do that morning. When dinner was ready, and no Hetty appeared, Rudy called the dog, and asked, "Cham, where's Hetty?"

Champion whined piteously, and looked first down the road, then up at Rudy, and then down the road again.

"Come and eat some dinner, Rudy," said his mother, shading her eyes, and looking anxiously toward the woods. "Hetty will feel hungry, and come home soon now." But she looked proudly after Rudy when he clapped his hat on with a thump, and said, "Never you mind about me, mother; I'll eat more if I find Het first," and went racing after Champion, who bounded over the ground as if he meant to run all the way to the mountain.

At the edge of the woods Rudy waited, and whistled to Cham. "Hold on!" he said; "maybe she's hiding." And for a while he looked about the laurel bushes in the places where they were accustomed to play, and sang, lustily,

"A-roving, a-roving,
I'll go no more a-roving
With thee, fair maid."

But after a while he ceased his singing, and answered one of Champion's whines by ramming his hands in his pockets, and saying, "Look a-here, Cham! If anything has happened to Het, I'll—" The thought brought such a film over his honest brown eyes that he had to rub his cuff over them a good many times before he could see well enough to go on with his search. Fortunately, dogs don't cry tears, and Champion's eyes seemed to grow brighter as Rudy's grew dim. He seemed to say to himself: "If Rudy is going to give up, and cry about it, I've got to take matters into my own hands. Hetty's got to be found, and I can't waste my time waiting for a boy to get the better of his feelings. He oughtn't to have any feelings until after our business is settled!" And Champion gave Rudy's boot a good-by lick, and raced away alone.

Rudy dried his eyes, and had no more idea than the dog had of giving up the search. Dogs are just as apt to misunderstand boys as boys are to misunderstand dogs.

Rudy ran over woods and fields, up and down the neighboring hills, calling Hetty and Champion, whistling and shouting, until he was hoarse. He could not find Hetty, and Champion did not return.

After a while he got angry at the dog, and said, between his teeth, "I'll give it to Cham for running away from me, just when I want him to help me find Het!" But his anger melted into grief when the terrible thought came that perhaps some dreadful thing had happened to his sister. Once he lay down flat upon his face, and cried aloud at the sudden memory of how he had teased her that very morning by running away with one of her doll's shoes, which he had only just that moment switched out of his pocket. In a few moments, however, he jumped up again, looked at the little shoe tenderly, and tied it carefully in a corner of his handkerchief, saying, "There! I'll give it back the minute I find her, and I'll fix her something for the baby-house, to make up."

He started off once more, this time without stopping to think where Hetty would be likely to go, only rushing about in a sort of desperate way, calling her by name, and shouting for Cham.

ON GUARD. ON GUARD.

He stopped on top of a high hill called the Ledge, and looked down the steep side of it a moment. Hark! He certainly heard the whine of a dog. He clambered down a little way, and called his loudest. The dog's whine answered him again. With a new hope in his heart, he called, and listened until the whine grew louder and louder, and he recognized Cham's bark. Catching at branches, stumbling, sliding, and blundering, he made his way down the hill-side, until suddenly the dog's bark was almost at his ears. And at last, there, farther round the side, on a ledge, just where a light motion would send her rolling down a steep declivity, lay Hetty; and Champion-stanch old Champion—sat upright before her, like a brave, resolute soldier on guard, pricking up his ears, barking loud in answer to Rudy's calls, his body quivering all over, and his feet restless on the ground. But Rudy knew that Hetty could roll no farther, and that Champion would sit there until help came. He did not wait to waken Hetty, but climbing to her, he patted Cham on the head, and bade him watch her till he returned. Then he planted a rough, glad, boyish kiss on her unconscious cheek, and hurried home as he had never hurried in his life before.

The mother's pride in her boy that night made her face shine, as she sat by Hetty, who lay on the sofa, waited upon by everybody, because of her ankle, which was slightly sprained. And she said nothing about the chips Rudy was making, against all regulations, on the floor, as he was whittling into shape a bench for Hetty's doll's kitchen.

"I'll tell you what, though, Het," said Rudy, "when you want to go off again to see whether mountains are plum-colored or not, you'd better take somebody along who knows that a carrot-weed's a flower, and that stumps and stones are stumps and stones. You'd better take a person—like me, you know," he said, winking comically at Hetty—"who won't mistake a frightened squirrel for the king of the brown elves off on a hunting spree, or for anything else that never was born, except inside of your topsy-turvy head."

Hetty laughed, and blushed rosy red. "I guess I won't," she said; "but if you had found yourself, Rudy, sliding and tumbling and running like lightning down that hill, I guess your head would have been topsy-turvy for once. And I don't know which is the funniest, to faint away, or to wake up and find Cham licking me. Dear, good, darling Cham! I never will go away again without Cham."

Champion licked Rudy's face as he and the boy rolled over on the rug together, and blinked at both the children as if he understood and quite approved of Hetty's good resolution.