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For Mamma's Sake, A Story of Ned and His Dog

by Mary D. Brine

There was no mistake about it. Ned and his mother were very poor, and decidedly uncomfortable. Ned was so tired of living in one little room, where all day long mamma sat by the window and sewed till the day-light faded away; and sometimes, too, both he and mamma went to bed rather hungry, and when the little boy used to pat his mother's thin cheeks lovingly, after a sweet baby fashion he had, he could often feel the tears in her eyes, when it was too dark for his bright blue eyes to look upon her face. There was a cunning little dog, Fido, Ned's only playmate, which also lived with them in that small room, and his chief occupation was the constant wagging of a very bushy tail, and a readiness to accept the slightest invitation for a frolic from his small master.

As for Fido's meals, he had grown so used to circumstances that I don't believe he even remembered the taste of a good juicy bone such as he used to have in Ned's old home before the days of poverty came. Never mind what brought about a change of circumstances in the family, but the change had come sadly enough, and Ned and mamma had only the memory of the times gone by to comfort them. Fido had been a puppy in those days—they were only two years back, after all—and if dogs can remember, no doubt this doggie longed for the green fields and sunny lanes in the pretty country town where he and Ned ran races together, and never were hungry. The little boy was only six years old then, and now, on the day before my story begins, mamma had celebrated his eighth birthday by buying him a tiny sugar angel with gauze wings, which filled Ned with awe and delight. Eat it? No, not he! it was far too lovely for that; so he suspended the angelic toy by a string, and it soared above Ned's bed day and night, keeping sweet watch over all things.

But to Fido, the shaggy-haired, pug-nosed companion of his days, and sharer of his discomforts, Ned's heart clung with a love unbounded. He laughed, and Fido laughed, or, that is to say, Fido barked, which meant a laugh, of course. Ned cried, and Fido also wept, if a drooping of ears and tail, and a decided downcast expression of countenance, meant anything in the way of silent sympathy.

They were always together, and of the greatest comfort to one another, so that the "alley boys" (as they were called who lived by the tenement-house in which Ned lived) used to cry, jeeringly, whenever the little boy appeared for a breath of air, "How are you, Ned, and how is your dog?" or, to vary it occasionally, "How are you, doggie, and how is your Ned?"

I am telling this, so that my little readers can understand how hard it was for the little boy to do what he did, after a time, for mamma's sake.

It came about in this way. One afternoon late, when Mrs. Clarke had gone to carry home some work, and Ned and Fido were having a regular frolic on the floor, there came knocking at the door a Mrs. Malone, who collected the rent due from the several lodgers in the miserable building. With a frown on her face, when informed that Mrs. Clarke was out, the woman had bidden the boy tell his mother that "she'd wait no longer for the rent due her, and Mrs. Clarke might look out for herself."

Ned had cowered before her threatening face, but Fido, far from feeling any fear, had boldly barked at the intruder until he had nearly shaken his bushy tail from his small body. That made Mrs. Malone angry; and meeting Mrs. Clarke on the stairs, she repeated her threat to the weary, tired woman, who presently entered the room in tears.

Ned soon learned that the man from whom his mother had obtained sewing had dismissed some of his work-women, and Mrs. Clarke amongst them; and now indeed there seemed distress before them. The boy was too young to fully comprehend all his dear mother's woes, but his loving heart grew sad and thoughtful, and he stood mournfully by the window looking up into the sky, where he knew papa was so safely living. Poor little Fido sat silently beside his master, wondering what had happened to break up the frolic so suddenly; and altogether, while mamma prepared the simple supper, things were very quiet and sad.

"Have you got much money, mamma?" asked Ned at last.

His mother could not help smiling at the question so plaintively asked. "Enough for the rent, dear," she replied, trying to speak cheerily. "And to-morrow maybe I'll find some new work. Don't look so sad, my little Ned; we'll manage to get along in some way if we trust in the dear Father above. You know we must have courage, Ned, and not despair."

"But I can't be glad when you cry, mamma," said the boy; and straightway his soft cheek was laid against mamma's, and he comforted her with his kisses till she smiled again, and the tears were all dried.

The next day mamma went out early, leaving Ned and Fido to take care of the room. She little knew what plans had developed themselves in Ned's small head during the night, when the little fellow had been unable to sleep, and had tormented himself with wishing he was "a big boy, and could earn money for his poor mamma." No, indeed, she knew nothing of any plans on his part. So she had kissed his sweet lips, sighed to herself over his pale cheeks, and telling him that she would not be home until afternoon, and he would find luncheon for himself and Fido all fixed on the closet shelf, had gone out into the streets to look for work from store to store.

But Ned knew what he had to do before mamma's return, and no sooner had she gone than he brushed his curly head, made himself neat and clean, and lifted his Scotch cap from its peg behind the door. That was the signal for Fido to sit up on his hind-legs and beg, as Ned had long before taught him, when preparing for a race in the street; and now he not only begged, but thumped his bushy tail impatiently against the floor, saying, dog fashion, "Come, do hurry up." He didn't appear to notice that his little master's face was sober this morning, and that once two big tears gathered in the blue eyes which were usually such merry eyes, as a boy's should be.

And finally, after Ned had written, in a very scrawly hand, "Dear mamma, Fido and I are going to take a walk just a little while," and placed the queer little note where his mother would see it if she came home before him, the two friends went down the narrow stairs, and through the alley into the street which led toward the City Hall. Fido looked inquiringly into his master's face to see what could be the reason that he walked so quietly along this morning, instead of, as heretofore, racing and chasing his four-footed little comrade from block to block. But Ned was swallowing several lumps in his throat, and had no heart for a frolic.

It was not long before the City Hall Square was reached; and a little timidly, now that he was in so large and strange a place alone, Ned seated himself upon the broad stone lower step of the great building, and lifted Fido in his arms. Then he mustered courage, and cried, feebly, although he fancied his voice was very loud and brave: "Anybody want to buy a dog? Dog to sell. Want a dog?"

But nobody seemed to hear him, and the noise of the streets frightened our poor little fellow into silence for a while. So he buried his face in Fido's shaggy back, and tried not to cry.

"Oh, my doggie Fido!" he murmured, "you've truly got to be sold. Oh dear! it is awfully hard, and I'll 'most die without you. But you must be sold, 'cause mamma is so poor."

Fido wriggled about, and objected to being held in Ned's arms, when he wanted to frisk about on the broad pavement; and so he whined and snarled a little, and even ventured a growl—something very rare with gentle Fido. But Ned did not dare let him go, and so held the tighter, until doggie tried the persuasive powers of his little tongue, and kissed his master's hand over and over again.

Then pretty soon a policeman came by, and eyed Ned severely. That was a terrible scare for the youngster, and he said, eagerly, "Please, sir, I ain't doing anything. I'm only waiting to sell my dog, 'cause my mother's so poor."

The burly guardian of the peace laughed and went his way, and Ned breathed freely again. But somebody had chanced to hear his words—a boy of ten or twelve years—and he came near to look at the dog in Ned's arms.

"Will you buy him, boy?" asked Ned, earnestly. "I'll sell him real cheap; and, you see, I must take mamma some money to-day."

The boy was ready enough to make the purchase, but though he turned his pockets inside out, he could not rake and scrape from them more than the sum of one dollar.

"Here's all I've got," he said. "My grandpa gives me lots of money; but it's all spent but this, and you won't sell him for a dollar, I suppose?"

Ned's eyes sparkled. "Oh yes, I will, too," he replied. "Oh yes, indeed. A dollar is a hundred cents, and I never had so many cents in my life, boy. You may take him now. Only let me kiss him good-by, please."

His voice faltered a little toward the last, as he hugged the dog tightly to his heart, and the tears streamed presently from his brave eyes, in spite of all the winking and blinking to keep them back.

"Oh, my Fido! my own little doggie!" was all he could say, while the dog wagged his tail, and wondered what the fuss was about.

"There, now you'll have to go," Ned said at last, smothering one more sob, and loosening his arms. "Take him, boy, please, quick as you can."

The boy promised to be very kind and good to Fido, and attempted to lift him from Ned's knee. But to this Fido would not agree, expressing his dislike of the new and extraordinary arrangement, which he couldn't comprehend, by a growl and short bark.

Ned apologized. "You see, I've had him an awful long time, ever since I was a little fellow, and I s'pose he don't want to leave me."

So the new master tied a string to Fido's collar, and Ned said, gravely, "Now, Fido, you smile and look pleasant, like a good dog;" and then the two old friends parted, Fido whining and tugging to break his string, and Ned wiping his eyes on his jacket sleeve as he hurried toward his lonely home.

He reached it just after mamma had come in, and his little note was in her hand. With a choking sob, he sprang into her arms, and thrust the dollar—small silver pieces—into her hand. "Take it, mamma—oh, take it quick!" he cried, and then came the explanation concerning his morning's work. It was told with many tears and sobs, in which mamma was not ashamed to join, as she folded her brave little son in her arms.

For her sake he had parted with his one loved treasure, and his reward was great when she kissed and called him her comfort and little helper. But she did not let him know how almost useless his sacrifice had been, since the dollar would go but a small way toward the relief of their necessities. Oh no, she let him feel happy in the thought that he "had helped dear mamma," and the thought went far toward softening the grief of parting with his pet.

So days went by, until one morning Mrs. Clarke decided to answer in person an advertisement that called for "A Housekeeper," and took her son with her, lest he should miss more than ever his old companion and playfellow.

The house to which they were directed was a large, handsome house, having beside the door a small gilt sign bearing the name of Dr. ——. A spruce black servant admitted them, and presently the doctor entered the room. Satisfactory arrangements were made, the gentleman not objecting to Ned, whose plaintive little face strangely attracted him. And with a heart full of joy and gratitude Mrs. Clarke rose to take her leave, until she could return and enter upon her duties. But a boy came whistling through the hall, and presently—oh, the joy of it!—what should rush, with a scamper and joyous bark, pell-mell upon little Ned, but his own Fido! Such a shout of gladness! and Ned sat fairly upon the floor, and hugged his dog again and again, while the boy—none other than the doctor's grandson—explained to the bewildered old gentleman that "this was the boy who had sold him the dog."

So now, you see, it all turned out happily, and henceforth Fido had two masters, both of whom he served, although I think the largest part of his canine heart was given to the old and first master.

And as for Ned, once in a while he asked mamma this question—not because it hadn't been answered over and over, but because it kept suggesting itself to his heart—"Oh, mamma, isn't it the funniest thing?"

And the reply was always, "Yes, Ned, it really is."