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Still Waters Run Deep; or, the Dancing Dog,

edited by Andrew Lang

Ménagerie Intime.

When Little Théophile became Big Théophile, he was as fond as ever of dogs and cats, and he knew more about them than anybody else. After the death of a large white spaniel called Luther, he filled the vacant place on his rug by another of the same breed, to whom he gave the name of Zamore. Zamore was a little dog, as black as ink, except for two yellow patches over his eyes, and a stray patch on his chest. He was not in the least handsome, and no stranger would ever have given him a second thought. But when you came to know him, you found Zamore was not a common dog at all. He despised all women, and absolutely refused to obey them or to follow them, and neither Théophile’s mother nor his sisters could get the smallest sign of friendship from him. If they offered him cakes or sugar, he would accept them in a dignified manner, but never dreamed of saying ‘thank you,’ still less of wagging his tail on the floor, or giving little yaps of delight and gratitude, as well-brought-up dogs should do. Even to Théophile’s father, whom he liked better than anyone else, he was cold and respectful, though he followed him everywhere, and never left his master’s heels when they took a walk. And when they were fishing together, Zamore would sit silent on the bank for hours together, and only allowed himself one bark when the fish was safely hooked.

Now no one could possibly have guessed that a dog of  such very quiet and reserved manners was at heart as gay and cheerful as the silliest kitten that ever was born, but so he was, and this was how his family found it out.

One day he was walking as seriously as usual through a broad square in the outskirts of Paris, when he was surprised at meeting a large grey donkey, with two panniers on its back, and in the panniers a troop of dogs, some dressed as Swiss shepherdesses, some as Turks, some in full court costume. The owner of the animals stopped the donkey close to where Zamore was standing, and bade the dogs jump down. Then he cracked his whip; the fife and drum struck up a merry tune, the dogs steadied themselves on their hind legs, and the dance began.

Zamore looked on as if he had been turned into stone. The sight of these dogs, dressed in bright colours, this one with his head covered by a feathered hat, and that one by a turban, but all moving about in time to the music, and making pirouettes and little bows; were they really dogs he was watching or some new kind of men? Anyway he had never seen anything so enchanting or so beautiful, and if it was true that they were only dogs—well, he was a dog too!

With that thought, all that had lain hidden in Zamore’s soul burst forth, and when the dancers filed gracefully before him, he raised himself on his hind legs, and in spite of staggering a little, prepared to join the ring, to the great amusement of the spectators.

The dog-owner, however, whose name was Monsieur Corri, did not see matters in the same light. He raised his whip a second time, and brought it down with a crack on the sides of Zamore, who ran out of the ring, and with his tail between his legs and an air of deep thought, he returned home.

The girl finds Zamore practising his dancing

‘AND WHAT DO YOU THINK SHE SAW?’

All that day Zamore was more serious and more gloomy than ever. Nothing would tempt him out, hardly even his favourite dinner, and it was quite plain that he was  turning over something in his mind. But during the night his two young mistresses were awakened by a strange noise that seemed to come from an empty room next theirs, where Zamore usually slept. They both lay awake and listened, and thought it was like a measured stamping, and that the mice might be giving a ball. But could little mice feet tread so heavily as that? Supposing a thief had got in? So the bravest of the two girls got up, and stealing to the door softly opened it and looked into the room. And what do you think she saw? Why, Zamore, on his hind legs, his paws in the air, practising carefully the steps that he had been watching that morning!

This was not, as one might have expected, a mere fancy of the moment, which would be quite forgotten the next day. Zamore was too serious a dog for that, and by dint of hard study he became in time a beautiful dancer. As often as the fife and drum were heard in the streets, Zamore rushed out of the house, glided softly between the spectators, and watched with absorbed attention the dancing dogs who were doing their steps: but remembering the blow he had had from the whip, he took care not to join them. He noted their positions, the figures, and the way they held their bodies, and in the night he copied them, though by day he was just as solemn as ever. Soon he was not contented with merely copying what he saw, he invented for himself, and it is only just to say that, in stateliness of step, few dogs could come up to him. Often his dances were witnessed (unknown to himself) by Théophile and his sisters, who watched him through the crack of the door; and so earnest was he, that at length, worn out by dancing, he would drink up the whole of a large basin of water, which stood in the corner of the room.

When Zamore felt himself the equal of the best of the dancing dogs, he began to wish that like them he might have an audience.

 Now in France the houses are not always built in a row as they are in England, but sometimes have a square court-yard in front, and in the house where Zamore lived, this court was shut in on one side by an iron railing, which was wide enough to let dogs of a slim figure squeeze through.

One fine morning there met in this court-yard fifteen or twenty dogs, friends of Zamore, to whom the night before he had sent letters of invitation. The object of the party was to see Zamore make his début in dancing, and the ball-room was to be the court-yard, which Zamore had carefully swept with his tail. The dance began, and the spectators were so delighted, that they could not wait for the end to applaud, as people ought always to do, but uttered loud cries of ‘Ouah, ouah,’ that reminded you of the noises you hear at a theatre. Except one old water spaniel who was filled with envy at Zamore’s talents, and declared that no decent dog would ever make an exhibition of himself like that, they all vowed that Zamore was the king of dancers, and that nothing had ever been seen to equal his minuet, jig, and waltz for grace and beauty.

It was only during his dancing moments that Zamore unbent. At all other times he was as gloomy as ever, and never cared to stir from the rug unless he saw his old master take up his hat and stick for a walk. Of course, if he had chosen, he might have joined Monsieur Corri’s troupe, of which he would have made the brightest ornament; but the love of his master proved greater than his love of his art, and he remained unknown, except of his family. In the end he fell a victim to his passion for dancing, and he died of brain fever, which is supposed to have been caused by the fatigue of learning the schottische, the fashionable dance of the day.