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Mr. Bolt, the Scotch Terrier, edited by Andrew Lang

Jesse’s British Dogs.

All children who know anything of dogs or cats will have found out very soon that the ugly ones are generally far cleverer and more sensible than the pretty ones, who are very apt to think too much of themselves, and will spend a long time admiring themselves in the glass, just as if they were vain men and women. Perhaps it is not altogether their fault if they are stupid, for when they are shaped well, and have fine glossy coats, their masters and mistresses spoil them, and give them too much to eat, so they grow lazy and greedy and disobedient, and like better to lie on the hearth-rug than to do tricks or jump over fences.

Now, luckily for himself, Mr. Bolt, the hero of this story, was quite a plain dog. There could be no doubt about it; and those who loved him did so because he was useful and good company, and not because he was elegant or graceful. Bolt was a large Scotch terrier, rough and hairy, with a thick sort of grey fringe, and great dark eyes looking out from underneath the fringe. His tail and his legs were very short, and his back was very long, so long that he reminded one of a furniture van more than anything else.

But, clever though he was, Bolt had his faults, and the worst of them was that he was very apt to take offence when none was intended, and was far too ready to pick a quarrel, and to hit out with all his might. He probably owed some of this love of fighting to the country in which  he was born; for, although a Scotch dog by descent, he was Irish by birth, and his earliest home was near Dublin. As everybody knows, the happiest moment of an Irishman’s life is when he is fighting something or somebody, and Bolt in his youth was as reckless as any Irishman of them all. He was hardly a year old when he turned upon his own mother, who had done something to displease him when they were chained together in a stable, and never let her throat go until she was stone dead. Cats, too, were his natural enemies, whom he fought and conquered when no dogs were at hand, and sometimes he would steal out at night from his master’s bed, where he always slept, and go for a chase by the light of the moon. Early one morning a fearful noise was heard in the house, and when his master, unable to bear it any longer, got out of bed to see what had happened, he found a strange cat lying on the stairs quite dead, and the house-cat, with which Bolt was barely on speaking terms, sitting in a friendly manner by the side of the conqueror. It is supposed that the strange cat had been led either by motives of curiosity or robbery to enter by some open window, and that the house-cat, unable to drive him out, had welcomed Bolt’s ready help for the purpose. Fighter though he was by nature, Bolt had inherited enough Scotch caution not to begin a quarrel unless he had a fair chance of victory; but he was generous, and seldom attacked dogs smaller than himself, unless he was forced into it, or really had nothing better to do. He always began by seizing his enemy’s hind leg, which no other dog had been known to do before, and he had such a dislike to dogs whose skins were yellow, that not even the company of ladies, and the responsibility weighing upon him as their escort, would stop Bolt’s wild rush at his yellow foe. He hated being shut up too, and showed amazing cleverness in escaping from prison. If that was quite impossible, he did the next best thing, which was to gnaw and destroy every article he could in any way reach.  One day when he had behaved so oddly that his family feared he must be going mad (children have been known to frighten their parents in a similar way), he was chained up in a little room, and, feeling too angry to sleep, he amused himself all night with tearing a Bible, several shoes, and a rug, while he gnawed a hole through the door, and bit through the leg of a table. In the morning, when his master came to look at him, he seemed quite recovered, and very well pleased with himself.

As you will see, Bolt had plenty of faults, but he also had some very good qualities, and when he did not think himself insulted by somebody’s behaviour, he could show a great deal of sense. One night the cook had been sitting up very late, baking bread for the next day, and being very tired, she fell asleep by the kitchen fire, and a spark fell out on her woollen dress. As there was no blaze, and the girl was a heavy sleeper, she would most likely never have waked at all till it was too late, only luckily for her, the smell reached Bolt’s nose as he was lying curled up on his master’s bed, near the door which always stood open. Before rousing the house, and giving them all a great fright, he thought he had better make sure exactly what was wrong, so he ran first down to the kitchen from which the smell seemed to come, and finding the cook half stupefied by the smoke, he rushed back to call his master. This he managed to do by tearing up and down the room, leaping on the bed, and pulling off all the clothes, so that the poor man was quite cold. His master was much astonished at the state of excitement Bolt was in, and feared at first that he had gone mad, but after a few minutes he decided that he would get up and see what was the matter. Bolt went carefully before him into the kitchen and sat down by the side of the sleeping girl, turning his face anxiously to the door, to make sure that his master should make no mistake. So in a few seconds the fire was put out, and the girl escaped with nothing worse than a slight scorching.

 I might tell you many stories of Bolt and his funny ways, but I have only room for one now. After some time his mistress and her daughter left the house in which Bolt had spent so many years, and took lodgings in Dublin. Bolt went with them, but when they all arrived, the landlady declared she did not like dogs, and Bolt must be placed elsewhere. Now this was very awkward; of course it was out of the question that Bolt could be left behind, yet it was too late to make other arrangements, so after some consideration he was sent back to some lodgings near by, where his master had formerly lived, and where they promised to take great care of him. His young mistress called every day to carry him off for a walk, and she often tried to get him to enter the house she herself was living in, but nothing would persuade the offended Bolt to go inside the door. He would sit on the step for some time, hoping she would be persuaded to return with him, but when he found that was hopeless, he walked proudly back to his own rooms. His mistresses stayed in that house for nearly a year, and in all that time Bolt never forgot or forgave the slight put upon him, or could be induced to enter the house. Indeed, his feelings were so bitterly hurt, that even when they all set up house again, it was months before Bolt could be got to do anything more than pay his family a call now and then, and sometimes dine with them. So you see it is a serious thing to offend a dog, and he needs to be as delicately handled as a human being.