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Monsieur Dumas and his Beasts, edited by Andrew Lang

I

Most people have heard of Alexandre Dumas, the great French novelist who wrote ‘The Three Musketeers’ and many other delightful historical romances. Besides being a great novelist, M. Dumas was a most kind and generous man—kind both to human beings and to animals. He had a great many pets, of which he gives us the history in one of his books. Here are some of the stories about them in his own words.

I was living, he says, at Monte Cristo (this was the name of his villa at St.-Germains); I lived there alone, except for the visitors I received. I love solitude, for solitude is necessary to anyone who works much. However, I do not like complete loneliness; what I love is that of the Garden of Eden, a solitude peopled with animals. Therefore, in my wilderness at Monte Cristo, without being quite like Adam in every way, I had a kind of small earthly paradise.

This is the list of my animals. I had a number of dogs, of which the chief was Pritchard. I had a vulture named Diogenes; three monkeys, one of which bore the name of a celebrated translator, another that of a famous novelist, and the third, which was a female, that of a charming actress. We will call the writer Potich, the novelist the Last of the Laidmanoirs, and the lady Mademoiselle Desgarcins. I had a great blue and yellow macaw called Buvat, a green and yellow parroquet called Papa Everard, a cat called Mysouff, a golden pheasant called  Lucullus, and finally, a cock called Cæsar. Let us give honour where honour is due, and begin with the history of Pritchard.

I had an acquaintance named M. Lerat, who having heard me say I had no dog to take out shooting, said, ‘Ah! how glad I am to be able to give you something you will really like! A friend of mine who lives in Scotland has sent me a pointer of the very best breed. I will give him to you. Bring Pritchard,’ he added to his two little girls.

How could I refuse a present offered so cordially? Pritchard was brought in.

He was an odd-looking dog to be called a pointer! He was long-haired, grey and white, with ears nearly erect, mustard-coloured eyes, and a beautifully feathered tail. Except for the tail, he could scarcely be called a handsome dog.

M. Lerat seemed even more delighted to give the present than I was to receive it, which showed what a good heart he had.

‘The children call the dog Pritchard,’ he said; ‘but if you don’t like the name, call him what you please.’

I had no objection to the name; my opinion was that if anyone had cause to complain, it was the dog himself. Pritchard, therefore, continued to be called Pritchard. He was at this time about nine or ten months old, and ought to begin his education, so I sent him to a gamekeeper named Vatrin to learn his duties. But, two hours after I had sent Pritchard to Vatrin, he was back again at my house. He was not made welcome; on the contrary, he received a good beating from Michel, who was my gardener, porter, butler, and confidential servant all in one, and who took Pritchard back to Vatrin. Vatrin was astonished; Pritchard had been shut up with the other dogs in the kennel, and he must have jumped over the enclosure, which was a high one. Early the next morning, when the housemaid had opened my front door, there  was Pritchard sitting outside. Michel again beat the dog, and again took him back to Vatrin, who this time put a collar round his neck and chained him up. Michel came back and informed me of this severe but necessary measure. Vatrin sent a message to say that I should not see Pritchard again until his education was finished. The next day, while I was writing in a little summer-house in my garden, I heard a furious barking. It was Pritchard fighting with a great Pyrenean sheepdog which another of my friends had just given me. This dog was named Mouton, because of his white woolly hair like a sheep’s, not on account of his disposition, which was remarkably savage. Pritchard was rescued by Michel from Mouton’s enormous jaws, once more beaten, and for the third time taken back to Vatrin. Pritchard, it appears, had eaten his collar, though how he managed it Vatrin never knew. He was now shut up in a shed, and unless he ate the walls or the door, he could not possibly get out. He tried both, and finding the door the more digestible, he ate the door; and the next day at dinner-time, Pritchard walked into the dining-room wagging his plumy tail, his yellow eyes shining with satisfaction. This time Pritchard was neither beaten nor taken back; we waited till Vatrin should come to hold a council of war as to what was to be done with him. The next day Vatrin appeared.

‘Did you ever see such a rascal?’ he began. Vatrin was so excited that he had forgotten to say ‘Good morning’ or ‘How do you do?’

‘I tell you,’ said he, ‘that rascal Pritchard puts me in such a rage that I have crunched the stem of my pipe three times between my teeth and broken it, and my wife has had to tie it up with string. He’ll ruin me in pipes, that brute—that vagabond!’

‘Pritchard, do you hear what is said about you?’ said I.

Pritchard heard, but perhaps did not think it mattered  much about Vatrin’s pipes, for he only looked at me affectionately and beat upon the ground with his tail.

‘I don’t know what to do with him,’ said Vatrin. ‘If I keep him he’ll eat holes in the house, I suppose; yet I don’t like to give him up—he’s only a dog. It’s humiliating for a man, don’t you know?’

‘I’ll tell you what, Vatrin,’ said I. ‘We will take him down to Vésinet, and go for a walk through your preserves, and then we shall see whether it is worth while to take any more trouble with this vagabond, as you call him.’

‘I call him by his name. It oughtn’t to be Pritchard; it should be Bluebeard, it should be Blunderbore, it should be Judas Iscariot!’

Vatrin enumerated all the greatest villains he could think of at the moment.

I called Michel.

‘Michel, give me my shooting shoes and gaiters; we will go to Vésinet to see what Pritchard can do.’

‘You will see, sir,’ said Michel, ‘that you will be better pleased than you think.’ For Michel always had a liking for Pritchard.

We went down a steep hill to Vésinet, Michel following with Pritchard on a leash. At the steepest place I turned round. ‘Look there upon the bridge in front of us, Michel,’ I said, ‘there is a dog very like Pritchard.’ Michel looked behind him. There was nothing but the leather straps in his hand; Pritchard had cut it through with his teeth, and was now standing on the bridge amusing himself by looking at the water through the railing.

‘He is a vagabond!’ said Vatrin. ‘Look! where is he off to now?’

‘He has gone,’ said I, ‘to see what my neighbour Corrège has got for luncheon.’ Sure enough, the next moment Pritchard was seen coming out of M. Corrège’s back door, pursued by a maid servant with a broom. He  had a veal cutlet in his mouth, which he had just taken out of the frying-pan.

‘Monsieur Dumas!’ cried the maid, ‘Monsieur Dumas! stop your dog!’

We tried; but Pritchard passed between Michel and me like a flash of lightning.

‘It seems,’ said Michel, ‘that he likes his veal underdone.’

‘My good woman,’ I said to the cook, who was still pursuing Pritchard, ‘I fear that you are losing time, and that you will never see your cutlet again.’

‘Well, then, let me tell you, sir, that you have no right to keep and feed a thief like that.’

‘It is you, my good woman, who are feeding him to-day, not I.’

‘Me!’ said the cook, ‘it’s—it’s M. Corrège. And what will M. Corrège say, I should like to know?’

‘He will say, like Michel, that it seems Pritchard likes his veal underdone.’

‘Well, but he’ll not be pleased—he will think it’s my fault.’

‘Never mind, I will invite your master to luncheon with me.’

‘All the same, if your dog goes on like that, he will come to a bad end. That is all I have to say—he will come to a bad end.’ And she stretched out her broom in an attitude of malediction towards the spot where Pritchard had disappeared.

We three stood looking at one another. ‘Well,’ said I, ‘we have lost Pritchard.’

‘We’ll soon find him,’ said Michel.

We therefore set off to find Pritchard, whistling and calling to him, as we walked on towards Vatrin’s shooting ground. This search lasted for a good half-hour, Pritchard not taking the slightest notice of our appeals. At last Michel stopped.

‘Sir,’ he said, ‘look there! Just come and look.’

 ‘Well, what?’ said I, going to him.

‘Look!’ said Michel, pointing. I followed the direction of Michel’s finger, and saw Pritchard in a perfectly immovable attitude, as rigid as if carved in stone.

‘Vatrin,’ said I, ‘come here.’ Vatrin came. I showed him Pritchard.

‘I think he is making a point,’ said Vatrin. Michel thought so too.

‘But what is he pointing at?’ I asked. We cautiously came nearer to Pritchard, who never stirred.

‘He certainly is pointing,’ said Vatrin. Then making a sign to me—‘Look there!’ he said. ‘Do you see anything?’

‘Nothing.’

‘What! you don’t see a rabbit sitting? If I only had my stick, I’d knock it on the head, and it would make a nice stew for your dinner.’

‘Oh!’ said Michel, ‘if that’s all, I’ll cut you a stick.’

‘Well, but Pritchard might leave off pointing.’

‘No fear of him—I’ll answer for him—unless, indeed, the rabbit goes away.’

Vatrin proceeded to cut a stick. Pritchard never moved, only from time to time he turned his yellow eyes upon us, which shone like a topaz.

‘Have patience,’ said Michel. ‘Can’t you see that M. Vatrin is cutting a stick?’ And Pritchard seemed to understand as he turned his eye on Vatrin.

‘You have still time to take off the branches,’ said Michel.

When the branches were taken off and the stick was quite finished, Vatrin approached cautiously, took a good aim, and struck with all his might into the middle of the tuft of grass where the rabbit was sitting. He had killed it!

Pritchard darted in upon the rabbit, but Vatrin took it from him, and Michel slipped it into the lining of his coat.  This pocket had already held a good many rabbits in its time!

Vatrin turned to congratulate Pritchard, but he had disappeared.

‘He’s off to find another rabbit,’ said Michel.

And accordingly, after ten minutes or so, we came upon Pritchard making another point. This time Vatrin had a stick ready cut; and after a minute, plunging his hands into a brier bush, he pulled out by the ears a second rabbit.

‘There, Michel,’ he said, ‘put that into your other pocket.’

‘Oh,’ said Michel, ‘there’s room for five more in this one.’

‘Hallo, Michel! people don’t say those things before a magistrate.’ And turning to Vatrin I added, ‘Let us try once more, Vatrin—the number three is approved by the gods.’

‘May be,’ said Vatrin, ‘but perhaps it won’t be approved by M. Guérin.’

M. Guérin was the police inspector.

Next time we came upon Pritchard pointing, Vatrin said, ‘I wonder how long he would stay like that;’ and he pulled out his watch.

‘Well, Vatrin,’ said I, ‘you shall try the experiment, as it is in your own vocation; but I am afraid I have not the time to spare.’

Michel and I then returned home. Vatrin followed with Pritchard an hour afterwards.

‘Five-and-twenty minutes!’ he called out as soon as he was within hearing. ‘And if the rabbit had not gone away, the dog would have been there now.’

‘Well, Vatrin, what do you think of him?’

‘Why, I say he is a good pointer; he has only to learn to retrieve, and that you can teach him yourself. I need not keep him any longer.’

‘Do you hear, Michel?’

 ‘Oh, sir,’ said Michel, ‘he can do that already. He retrieves like an angel!’

This failed to convey to me an exact idea of the way in which Pritchard retrieved. But Michel threw a handkerchief, and Pritchard brought it back. He then threw one of the rabbits that Vatrin carried, and Pritchard brought back the rabbit. Michel then fetched an egg and placed it on the ground. Pritchard retrieved the egg as he had done the rabbit and the handkerchief.

‘Well,’ said Vatrin, ‘the animal knows all that human skill can teach him. He wants nothing now but practice. And when one thinks,’ he added, ‘that if the rascal would only come in to heel, he would be worth twenty pounds if he was worth a penny.’

‘True,’ said I with a sigh, ‘but you may give up hope, Vatrin; that is a thing he will never consent to.’

II

I think that the time has now come to tell my readers a little about Mademoiselle Desgarcins, Potich, and the Last of the Laidmanoirs. Mademoiselle Desgarcins was a tiny monkey; I do not know the place of her birth, but I brought her from Havre, where I had gone—I don’t know why—perhaps to look at the sea. But I thought I must bring something home with me from Havre. I was walking there on the quay, when at the door of a bird-fancier’s shop I saw a green monkey and a blue and yellow macaw. The monkey put its paw through the bars of its cage and caught hold of my coat, while the blue parrot turned its head and looked at me in such an affectionate manner that I stopped, holding the monkey’s paw with one hand, and scratching the parrot’s head with the other. The little monkey gently drew my hand within reach of her mouth, the parrot half shut its eyes and made a little purring noise to express its pleasure.

The shopman shows the animals to Dumas

‘MONSIEUR DUMAS, MAY I ACCOMMODATE YOU WITH MY MONKEY AND MY PARROT?’

‘Monsieur Dumas,’ said the shopman, coming out with the air of a man who was more decided to sell than I was to buy; ‘Monsieur Dumas, may I accommodate you with my monkey and my parrot?’ It would have  been more to the purpose if he had said, ‘Monsieur Dumas, may I incommode you with my monkey and my parrot?’ However, after a little bargaining, I bought both animals, as well as a cage for the monkey and a perch for the parrot; and as soon as I arrived at home, I introduced them to Michel.

‘This,’ said Michel, ‘is the green monkey of Senegal—Cercopithecus sabæa.’

I looked at Michel in the greatest astonishment. ‘Do you know Latin, Michel?’

‘I don’t know Latin, but I know my “Dictionary of Natural History.”’

‘Oh, indeed! And do you know what bird this is?’ I asked, showing him the parrot.

‘To be sure I know it,’ said Michel. ‘It is the blue and yellow macaw—Macrocercus arararanna. Oh, sir, why did you not bring a female as well as a male?’

‘What is the use, Michel, since parrots will not breed in this country?’

‘There you make a mistake, sir; the blue macaw will breed in France.’

‘In the south, perhaps?’

‘It need not be in the south, sir.’

‘Where then?’

‘At Caen.’

‘At Caen? I did not know Caen had a climate which permits parrots to rear their young. Go and fetch my gazetteer.’

‘You will soon see,’ said Michel as he brought it. I read: ‘Caen, capital of the department of Calvados, upon the Orne and the Odon: 223 kilomètres west of Paris, 41,806 inhabitants.’

‘You will see,’ said Michel, ‘the parrots are coming.’

‘Great trade in plaster, salt, wood—taken by English in 1346—retaken by the French &c., &c.—never mind the date—That is all, Michel.’

‘What! Your dictionary never says that the  arararanna, otherwise called the blue macaw, produces young at Caen?’

‘No, Michel, it does not say that here.’

‘What a dictionary! Just wait till I fetch you mine and you will see.’

Michel returned in a few minutes with his book of Natural History.

‘You will soon see, sir,’ he said, opening his dictionary in his turn. ‘Parrot—here it is—parrots are monogamous.’

‘As you know Latin, Michel, of course you know what monogamous means.’

‘That means that they can sing scales—gamut, I suppose?’

‘Well, no, Michel, not exactly. It means that they have only one “wife.”’

‘Indeed, sir? That is because they talk like us most likely. Now, I have found the place: “It was long believed that parrots were incapable of breeding in Europe, but the contrary has been proved on a pair of blue macaws which lived at Caen. M. Lamouroux furnishes the details of these results.”’

‘Let us hear the details which M. Lamouroux furnishes.’

‘“These macaws, from March 1818 until August 1822, including a period of four years and a half, laid, in all, sixty-two eggs.”’

‘Michel, I never said they did not lay eggs; what I said was—’

‘“Out of this number,”’ continued Michel in a loud voice, ‘“twenty-five young macaws were hatched, of which only ten died. The others lived and continued perfectly healthy.”’

‘Michel, I confess to having entertained false ideas on the subject of macaws.’

‘“They laid at all seasons of the year,”’ continued Michel, ‘“and more eggs were hatched in the latter than in the former years.”’

 ‘Michel, I have no more to say.’

‘“The number of eggs in the nest varied. There have been as many as six at a time.”’

‘Michel, I yield, rescue or no rescue!’

‘Only,’ said Michel, shutting the book, ‘you must be careful not to give them bitter almonds or parsley.’

‘Not bitter almonds,’ I answered, ‘because they contain prussic acid; but why not parsley?’

Michel, who had kept his thumb in the page, reopened the book. ‘“Parsley and bitter almonds,”’ he read, ‘“are a violent poison to parrots.”’

‘All right, Michel, I shall remember.’

I remembered so well, that some time after, hearing that M. Persil had died suddenly (persil being the French for parsley), I exclaimed, much shocked: ‘Ah! poor man, how unfortunate! He must have been eating parrot!’ However, the news was afterwards contradicted.

The next day I desired Michel to tell the carpenter to make a new cage for Mademoiselle Desgarcins, who would certainly die of cramp if left in her small travelling cage. But Michel, with a solemn face, said it was unnecessary. ‘For,’ said he, ‘I am sorry to tell you, sir, that a misfortune has happened. A weasel has killed the golden pheasant. You will, however, have it for your dinner to-day.’

I did not refuse, though the prospect of this repast caused me no great pleasure. I am very fond of game, but somehow prefer pheasants which have been shot to those killed by weasels.

‘Then,’ said I, ‘if the cage is empty, let us put in the monkey.’ We brought the little cage close to the big cage, and opened both doors. The monkey sprang into her new abode, bounded from perch to perch, and then came and looked at me through the bars, making grimaces and uttering plaintive cries.

‘She is unhappy without a companion,’ said Michel.

‘Suppose we give her the parrot?’

 ‘You know that little boy, an Auvergnat, who comes here with his monkey asking for pennies. If I were you, sir, I would buy that monkey.’

‘And why that monkey rather than another?’

‘He has been so well educated and is so gentle. He has a cap with a feather, and he takes it off when you give him a nut or a bit of sugar.’

The Auvergnat and his monkey

‘Can he do anything else?’

‘He can fight a duel.’

‘Is that all?’

‘No, he can also catch fleas on his master.’

‘But, Michel, do you think that that youth would part with so useful an animal?’

 ‘We can but ask him, and there he is at this moment!’ And he called to the boy to come in. The monkey was sitting on a box which the little boy carried on his back, and when his master took off his cap, the monkey did the same. It had a nice gentle little face, and I remarked to Michel that it was very like a well-known translator of my acquaintance.

‘If I have the happiness to become the owner of this charming animal,’ I continued, ‘we will call it Potich.’ And giving Michel forty francs, I left him to make his bargain with the little Auvergnat.

III

I had not entered my study since my return from Havre, and there is always a pleasure in coming home again after an absence. I was glad to come back, and looked about me with a pleased smile, feeling sure that the furniture and ornaments of the room, if they could speak, would say they were glad to see me again. As I glanced from one familiar object to another, I saw, upon a seat by the fire, a thing like a black and white muff, which I had never seen before. When I came closer, I saw that the muff was a little cat, curled up, half asleep, and purring loudly. I called the cook, whose name was Madame Lamarque. She came in after a minute or two.

‘So sorry to have kept you waiting, but you see, sir, I was making a white sauce, and you, who can cook yourself, know how quickly those sauces curdle if you are not looking after them.’

‘Yes, I know that, Madame Lamarque; but what I do not know is, where this new guest of mine comes from.’ And I pointed to the cat.

‘Ah, sir!’ said Madame Lamarque in a sentimental tone, ‘that is an antony.’

‘An antony, Madame Lamarque! What is that?’

 ‘In other words, an orphan—a foundling, sir.’

‘Poor little beast!’

‘I felt sure that would interest you, sir.’

‘And where did you find it, Madame Lamarque?’

‘In the cellar—I heard a little cry—miaow, miaow, miaow! and I said to myself, “That must be a cat!”’

‘No! did you actually say that?’

‘Yes, and I went down myself, sir, and found the poor little thing behind the sticks. Then I recollected how you had once said, “We ought to have a cat in the house.”’

‘Did I say so? I think you are making a mistake, Madame Lamarque.’

‘Indeed, sir, you did say so. Then I said to myself, “Providence has sent us the cat which my master wishes for.” And now there is one question I must ask you, sir. What shall we call the cat?’

‘We will call it Mysouff, if you have no objection. And please be careful, Madame Lamarque, that it does not eat my quails and turtle-doves, or any of my little foreign birds.’

‘If M. Dumas is afraid of that,’ said Michel, coming in, ‘there is a method of preventing cats from eating birds.’

‘And what is the method, my good friend?’

‘You have a bird in a cage. Very well. You cover three sides of the cage, you make a gridiron red-hot, you put it against the uncovered side of the cage, you let out the cat, and you leave the room. The cat, when it makes its spring, jumps against the hot gridiron. The hotter the gridiron is the better the cat is afterwards.’

‘Thank you, Michel. And what of the troubadour and his monkey?’

‘To be sure; I was coming to tell you about that. It is all right, sir; you are to have Potich for forty francs, only you must give the boy two white mice and a guinea-pig in return.’

 ‘But where am I to find two white mice and a guinea-pig?’

‘If you will leave the commission to me, I will see that they are found.’

I left the commission to Michel.

‘If you won’t think me impertinent, sir,’ said Madame Lamarque, ‘I should so like to know what Mysouff means.’

‘Mysouff just means Mysouff, Madame Lamarque.’

‘It is a cat’s name, then?’

‘Certainly, since Mysouff the First was so-called. It is true, Madame Lamarque, you never knew Mysouff.’ And I became so thoughtful that Madame Lamarque was kind enough to withdraw quietly, without asking any questions about Mysouff the First.

That name had taken me back to fifteen years ago, when my mother was still living. I had then the great happiness of having a mother to scold me sometimes. At the time I speak of, I had a situation in the service of the Duc d’Orléans, with a salary of 1,500 francs. My work occupied me from ten in the morning until five in the afternoon. We had a cat in those days whose name was Mysouff. This cat had missed his vocation—he ought to have been a dog. Every morning I started for my office at half-past nine, and came back every evening at half-past five. Every morning Mysouff followed me to the corner of a particular street, and every evening I found him in the same street, at the same corner, waiting for me. Now the curious thing was that on the days when I had found some amusement elsewhere, and was not coming home to dinner, it was no use to open the door for Mysouff to go and meet me.[5] Mysouff, in the attitude of the serpent with its tail in its mouth, refused to stir from his cushion. On the other hand, the days I did come, Mysouff would scratch at the door until someone opened it for him. My mother was very fond of Mysouff; she used to call him her barometer.

[5] A remarkable instance of telepathy in the Cat.—A. L.

‘Mysouff marks my good and my bad weather,’ my dear mother would say; ‘the days you come in are my days of sunshine; my rainy days are when you stay away.’

When I came home, I used to see Mysouff at the street corner, sitting quite still and gazing into the distance. As soon as he caught sight of me, he began to move his tail; then as I drew nearer, he rose and walked backwards and forwards across the pavement with his back arched and his tail in the air. When I reached him, he jumped up upon me as a dog would have done, and bounded and played round me as I walked towards the house; but when I was close to it he dashed in at full speed. Two seconds after, I used to see my mother at the door.

Never again in this world, but in the next perhaps, I shall see her standing waiting for me at the door.

That is what I was thinking of, dear readers, when the name of Mysouff brought back all these recollections; so you understand why I did not answer Madame Lamarque’s questions.

Henceforth Mysouff II. enjoyed the same privileges that Mysouff I. had done, although, as will be seen later, he was not distinguished by similar virtues, but was, in fact, a very different sort of cat.

IV

The following Sunday, when my son Alexandre and one or two intimate friends were assembled in my room, a second Auvergnat boy, with a second monkey, demanded admittance, and said that a friend having told him that M. Dumas had bought his monkey for forty francs, two white mice, and a guinea-pig, he was prepared to offer his for the same price. My friends urged me to buy the second monkey.

 ‘Do buy this charming creature,’ said my artist friend Giraud.

‘Yes, do buy this ridiculous little beast,’ said Alexandre.

‘Buy him, indeed,’ said I; ‘have I forty francs to give away every day, to say nothing of a guinea-pig and two white mice?’

‘Gentlemen,’ said Alexandre, ‘I am sorry to tell you that my father is, without exception, the most avaricious man living.’

My guests exclaimed, but Alexandre said that one day he would prove the truth of his assertion. I was now called upon to admire the monkey, and to remark how like he was to a friend of ours. Giraud, who was painting a portrait of this gentleman, said that if I would let the monkey sit to him, it would help him very much in his work, and Maquet, another of my guests, offered, amidst general applause, to make me a present of it.[6] This decided me.

[6] Maquet. The immortal Augustus MacKeat.

‘You see,’ said Alexandre, ‘he accepts.’

‘Come, young man,’ said I to the Auvergnat, ‘embrace your monkey for the last time, and if you have any tears to shed, shed them without delay.’

When the full price was paid, the boy made an attempt to do as I told him, but the Last of the Laidmanoirs refused to be embraced by his former master, and as soon as the latter had gone away, he seemed delighted and began to dance, while Mademoiselle Desgarcins in her cage danced, too, with all her might.

‘Look!’ said Maquet, ‘they like each other. Let us complete the happiness of these interesting animals.’

We shut them up in the cage together, to the great delight of Mademoiselle Desgarcins, who did not care for Potich, and much preferred her new admirer. Potich, indeed, showed signs of jealousy, but, not being armed  with the sword which he used to have when he fought duels, he could not wash out his affronts in the blood of his rival, but became a prey to silent melancholy and wounded affection.

While we were still looking at the monkeys, a servant came in bringing a tray with wine and seltzer water.

‘I say,’ said Alexandre, ‘let us make Mademoiselle Desgarcins open the seltzer-water bottle!’ and he put the bottle inside the cage on the floor. No sooner had he done so, than all three monkeys surrounded it and looked at it with the greatest curiosity. Mademoiselle Desgarcins was the first to understand that something would happen if she undid the four crossed wires which held down the cork. She accordingly set to work, first with her fingers, and then with her teeth, and it was not long before she undid the first three. She next attacked the fourth, while the whole company, both men and monkeys, watched her proceedings with breathless attention. Presently a frightful explosion was heard: Mademoiselle Desgarcins was knocked over by the cork and drenched with seltzer water, while Potich and the Last of the Laidmanoirs fled to the top of their cage, uttering piercing cries.

‘Oh!’ cried Alexandre, ‘I’ll give my share of seltzer water to see her open another bottle!’ Mademoiselle Desgarcins had got up, shaken herself, and gone to rejoin her companions, who were still howling lamentably.

‘You don’t suppose she’ll let herself be caught a second time,’ said Giraud.

‘Do you know,’ said Maquet, ‘I should not wonder if she would. I believe her curiosity would still be stronger than her fear.’

‘Monkeys,’ said Michel, who had come in on hearing their cries, ‘are more obstinate than mules. The more seltzer-water bottles you give them, the more they will uncork.’

‘Do you think so, Michel?’

 ‘You know, of course, how they catch them in their own country.’

‘No, Michel.’

‘What! you don’t know that, gentlemen?’ said Michel, full of compassion for our ignorance. ‘You know that monkeys are very fond of Indian corn. Well, you put some Indian corn into a bottle, the neck of which is just large enough to admit a monkey’s paw. He sees the Indian corn through the glass——’

‘Well, Michel?’

‘He puts his hand inside, and takes a good handful of the Indian corn. At that moment the hunter shows himself. They are so obstinate—the monkeys, I mean—that they won’t let go what they have in their hand, but as they can’t draw their closed fist through the opening, there they are, you see, caught.’

‘Well, then, Michel, if ever our monkeys get out, you will know how to catch them again.’

‘Oh! no fear, sir, that is just what I shall do.’

The seltzer-water experiment was successfully repeated, to the triumph of Michel and the delight of Alexandre, who wished to go on doing it; but I forbade him, seeing that poor Mademoiselle Desgarcins’ nose was bleeding from the blow of the cork.

‘It is not that,’ said Alexandre; ‘it is because you grudge your seltzer water. I have already remarked, gentlemen, that my father is, I regret to say, an exceedingly avaricious man.’

V

It is now my painful duty to give my readers some account of the infamous conduct of Mysouff II. One morning, on waking rather late, I saw my bedroom door gently opened, and the head of Michel thrust in, wearing such a concerned expression that I knew at once that something was wrong.

 ‘What has happened, Michel?’

‘Why, sir, those villains of monkeys have managed to twist a bar of their cage, I don’t know how, until they have made a great hole, and now they have escaped.’

‘Well—but, Michel, we foresaw that that might occur, and now you have only to buy your Indian corn, and procure three bottles the right size.’

‘Ah! you are laughing, sir,’ said Michel, reproachfully, ‘but you won’t laugh when you know all. They have opened the door of the aviary——’

‘And so my birds have flown away?’

‘Sir, your six pairs of turtle doves, your fourteen quails, and all your little foreign birds, are eaten up!’[7]

[7] Let the reader compare the conduct of Mr. Gully, later!

‘But monkeys won’t eat birds!’

‘No, but Master Mysouff will, and he has done it!’

‘The deuce he has! I must see for myself.’

‘Yes, go yourself, sir; you will see a sight—a field of battle—a massacre of St. Bartholomew!’

As I was coming out, Michel stopped me to point to Potich, who had hung himself by the tail to the branch of a maple, and was swinging gracefully to and fro. Mademoiselle Desgarcins was bounding gaily about in the aviary, while the Last of the Laidmanoirs was practising gymnastics on the top of the greenhouse. ‘Well, Michel, we must catch them. I will manage the Last of the Laidmanoirs if you will get hold of Mademoiselle Desgarcins. As to poor little Potich, he will come of his own accord.’

‘I wouldn’t trust him, sir; he is a hypocrite. He has made it up with the other one—just think of that!’

‘What! he has made friends with his rival in the affections of Mademoiselle Desgarcins?’

‘Just so, sir.’

‘That is sad indeed, Michel; I thought only human beings could be guilty of so mean an action.’

 ‘You see, sir, these monkeys have frequented the society of human beings.’

The Last of the Laidmanoirs and Mademoiselle Desgarcins

I now advanced upon the Last of the Laidmanoirs with so much precaution that I contrived to shut him into the greenhouse, where he retreated into a corner and prepared to defend himself, while Potich, from the outside, encouraged his friend by making horrible faces at me through the glass. At this moment piercing shrieks were heard from Mademoiselle Desgarcins; Michel had just caught her. These cries so enraged the Last of the Laidmanoirs that he dashed out upon me; but I parried his attack with the palm of my hand; with which he came in contact so forcibly that he lost breath  for a minute, and I then picked him up by the scruff of the neck.

‘Have you caught Mademoiselle Desgarcins?’ I shouted to Michel.

‘Have you caught the Last of the Laidmanoirs?’ returned he.

‘Yes!’ we both replied in turn. And each bearing his prisoner, we returned to the cage, which had in the meantime been mended, and shut them up once more, whilst Potich, with loud lamentations, fled to the top of the highest tree in the garden. No sooner, however, did he find that his two companions were unable to get out of their cage, than he came down from his tree, approached Michel in a timid and sidelong manner, and with clasped hands and little plaintive cries, entreated to be shut up again with his friends.

‘Just see what a hypocrite he is!’ said Michel.

But I was of opinion that the conduct of Potich was prompted by devotion rather than hypocrisy; I compared it to that of Regulus, who returned to Carthage to keep his promised word, or to King John of France, who voluntarily gave himself up to the English for the Countess of Salisbury’s sake.

Michel continued to think Potich a hypocrite, but on account of his repentance he was forgiven. He was put back into the cage, where Mademoiselle Desgarcins took very little notice of him.

All this time Mysouff, having been forgotten, calmly remained in the aviary, and continued to crunch the bones of his victims with the most hardened indifference. It was easy enough to catch him. We shut him into the aviary, and held a council as to what should be his punishment. Michel was of opinion that he should be shot forthwith. I was, however, opposed to his immediate execution, and resolved to wait until the following Sunday, and then to cause Mysouff to be formally tried by my assembled friends. The condemnation was therefore  postponed. In the meantime Mysouff remained a prisoner in the very spot where his crimes had been committed. He continued, however, to refresh himself with the remains of his victims without apparent remorse, but Michel removed all the bodies, and confined him to a diet of bread and water.

Next Sunday, having convoked a council of all my friends, the trial was proceeded with. Michel was appointed Chief Justice and Nogent Saint-Laurent was counsel for the prisoner. I may remark that the jury were inclined to find a verdict of guilty, and after the first speech of the Judge, the capital sentence seemed almost certain. But the skilful advocate, in a long and eloquent speech, brought clearly before us the innocence of Mysouff, the malice of the monkeys, their quickness and incessant activity compared with the less inventive minds of cats. He showed us that Mysouff was incapable of contemplating such a crime; he described him wrapped in peaceful sleep, then, suddenly aroused from this innocent slumber by the abandoned creatures who, living as they did opposite the aviary, had doubtless long harboured their diabolical designs. We saw Mysouff but half awake, still purring innocently, stretching himself, opening his pink mouth, from which protruded a tongue like that of a heraldic lion. He shakes his ears, a proof that he rejects the infamous proposal that is being made to him; he listens; at first he refuses—the advocate insisted that the prisoner had begun by refusing—then, naturally yielding, hardly more than a kitten, corrupted as he had been by the cook, who instead of feeding him on milk or a little weak broth, as she had been told to do, had recklessly excited his carnivorous appetite by giving him pieces of liver and parings of raw chops; the unfortunate young cat yields little by little, prompted more by good nature and weakness of mind than by cruelty or greed, and, only half awake, he does the bidding of the villainous monkeys, the real instigators of the  crime. The counsel here took the prisoner in his arms, showed us his paws, and defied any anatomist to say that with paws so made, an animal could possibly open a door that was bolted. Finally, he borrowed Michel’s Dictionary of Natural History, opened it at the article ‘Cat,’ ‘Domestic Cat,’ ‘Wild Cat’; he proved that Mysouff was no wild cat, seeing that nature had robed him in white, the colour of innocence; then smiting the book with vehemence, ‘Cat!’ he exclaimed, ‘Cat! You shall now hear, gentlemen, what the illustrious Buffon, the man with lace sleeves, has to say about the cat.

‘“The cat,” says M. de Buffon, “is not to be trusted, but it is kept to rid the house of enemies which cannot otherwise be destroyed. Although the cat, especially when young, is pleasing, nature has given it perverse and untrustworthy qualities which increase with age, and which education may conceal, but will not eradicate.” Well, then,’ exclaimed the orator, after having read this passage, ‘what more remains to be said? Did poor Mysouff come here with a false character seeking a situation? Was it not the cook herself who found him—who took him by force from the heap of sticks behind which he had sought refuge? It was merely to interest and touch the heart of her master that she described him mewing in the cellar. We must reflect also, that those unhappy birds, his victims—I allude especially to the quails, which are eaten by man—though their death is doubtless much to be deplored, yet they must have felt themselves liable to death at any moment, and are now released from the terrors they experienced every time they saw the cook approaching their retreat. Finally, gentlemen, I appeal to your justice, and I think you will now admit that the interesting and unfortunate Mysouff has but yielded, not only to incontrollable natural instincts, but also to foreign influence. I claim for my client the plea of extenuating circumstances.’

The counsel’s pleading was received with cries of  applause, and Mysouff, found guilty of complicity in the murder of the quails, turtle-doves, and other birds of different species, but with extenuating circumstances, was sentenced only to five years of monkeys.

VI

The next winter, certain circumstances, with which I need not trouble my readers, led to my making a journey to Algiers. I seldom make any long journey without bringing home some animal to add to my collection, and accordingly I returned from Africa accompanied by a vulture, which I bought from a little boy who called himself a Beni-Mouffetard. I paid ten francs for the vulture, and made the Beni-Mouffetard a present of two more, in return for which he warned me that my vulture was excessively savage, and had already bitten off the thumb of an Arab and the tail of a dog. I promised to be very careful, and the next day I became the possessor of a magnificent vulture, whose only fault consisted in a strong desire to tear in pieces everybody who came near him. I bestowed on him the name of his compatriot, Jugurtha. He had a chain fastened to his leg, and had for further security been placed in a large cage made of spars. In this cage he travelled quite safely as far as Philippeville, without any other accident than that he nearly bit off the finger of a passenger who had tried to make friends with him. At Philippeville a difficulty arose. It was three miles from Stora, the port where we were to embark, and the diligence did not go on so far. I and several other gentlemen thought that we would like to walk to Stora, the scenery being beautiful and the distance not very great; but what was I to do about Jugurtha? I could not ask a porter to carry the cage; Jugurtha would certainly have eaten him through the spars. I thought of a plan: it was to lengthen his chain eight or ten feet by means of a cord; and then to drive him in front of me with a long  pole. But the first difficulty was to induce Jugurtha to come out of his cage; none of us dared put our hands within reach of his beak. However, I managed to fasten the cord to his chain, then I made two men armed with pickaxes break away the spars. Jugurtha finding himself free, spread out his wings to fly away, but he could of course only fly as far as his cord would permit.

Now Jugurtha was a very intelligent creature; he saw that there was an obstacle in the way of his liberty, and that I was that obstacle; he therefore turned upon me with fury, in the hope of putting me to flight, or devouring me in case of resistance. I, however, was no less sagacious than Jugurtha; I had foreseen the attack, and provided myself with a good switch made of dogwood, as thick as one’s forefinger, and eight feet long. With this switch I parried Jugurtha’s attack, which astonished but did not stop him; however, a second blow, given with all my force, made him stop short, and a third caused him to fly in the opposite direction, that is, towards Stora. Once launched upon this road, I had only to use my switch adroitly to make Jugurtha proceed at about the same pace as we did ourselves, to the great admiration of my fellow-travellers, and of all the people whom we met on the road. On our arrival at Stora Jugurtha made no difficulty about getting on board the steamer, and when tied to the mast, waited calmly while a new cage was made for him. He went into it of his own accord, received with gratitude the pieces of meat which the ship’s cook gave him, and three days after his embarkation he became so tame that he used to present me with his head to scratch, as a parrot does. I brought Jugurtha home without further adventure, and committed him to the charge of Michel.

It was not until my return from Algiers on this occasion that I went to live at Monte Cristo, the building of which had been finished during my absence. Up to this time I had lived in a smaller house called the Villa Medicis, and while the other was building, Michel made  arrangements for the proper lodging of all my animals, for he was much more occupied about their comfort than he was about mine or even his own. They had all plenty of room, particularly the dogs, who were not confined by any sort of enclosure, and Pritchard, who was naturally generous, kept open house with a truly Scottish hospitality. It was his custom to sit in the middle of the road and salute every dog that passed with a little not unfriendly growl; smelling him, and permitting himself to be smelt in a ceremonious manner. When a mutual sympathy had been produced by this means, a conversation something like this would begin:

‘Have you a good master?’ asked the strange dog.

‘Not bad,’ Pritchard would reply.

‘Does your master feed you well?’

‘Well, one has porridge twice a day, bones at breakfast and dinner, and anything one can pick up in the kitchen besides.’

The stranger licked his lips.

‘You are not badly off,’ said he.

‘I do not complain,’ replied Pritchard. Then, seeing the strange dog look pensive, he added, ‘Would you like to dine with us?’

The invitation was accepted at once, for dogs do not wait to be pressed, like some foolish human beings.

At dinner-time Pritchard came in, followed by an unknown dog, who, like Pritchard, placed himself beside my chair, and scratched my knee with his paw in such a confiding way that I felt sure that Pritchard must have been commending my benevolence. The dog, after spending a pleasant evening, found that it was rather too late to return home, so slept comfortably on the grass after his good supper. Next morning he took two or three steps as if to go away, then changing his mind, he inquired of Pritchard, ‘Should I be much in the way if I stayed on here?’

Dumas walks along the dockside with the vulture on a leash

DUMAS ARRIVES AT STORA WITH HIS VULTURE

Pritchard replied, ‘You could quite well, with management,  make them believe you are the neighbour’s dog, and after two or three days, nobody would know you did not belong to the house. You might live here just as well as those idle useless monkeys, who do nothing but amuse themselves, or that greedy vulture, who eats tripe all day long, or that idiot of a macaw, who is always screaming about nothing.’

The dog stayed, keeping in the background at first, but in a day or two he jumped up upon me and followed me everywhere, and there was another guest to feed, that was all. Michel asked me one day if I knew how many dogs there were about the place. I answered that I did not.

‘Sir,’ said Michel, ‘there are thirteen.’

‘That is an unlucky number, Michel; you must see that they do not all dine together, else one of them is sure to die first.’

‘It is not that, though,’ said Michel, ‘it is the expense I am thinking of. Why, they would eat an ox a day, all those dogs; and if you will allow me, sir, I will just take a whip and put the whole pack to the door, to-morrow morning.’

‘But, Michel, let us do it handsomely. These dogs, after all, do honour to the house by staying here. So give them a grand dinner to-morrow; tell them that it is the farewell banquet, and then, at dessert, put them all to the door.’

‘But after all, sir, I cannot put them to the door, because there isn’t a door.’

‘Michel,’ said I, ‘there are certain things in this world that one must just put up with, to keep up one’s character and position. Since all these dogs have come to me, let them stay with me. I don’t think they will ruin me, Michel. Only, on their own account, you should be careful that there are not thirteen.’

‘I will drive away one,’ suggested Michel, ‘and then there will only be twelve.’

 ‘On the contrary, let another come, and then there will be fourteen.’

Michel sighed.

‘It’s a regular kennel,’ he murmured.

It was, in fact, a pack of hounds, though rather a mixed one. There was a Russian wolfhound, there was a poodle, a water spaniel, a spitz, a dachshund with crooked legs, a mongrel terrier, a mongrel King Charles, and a Turkish dog which had no hair on its body, only a tuft upon its head and a tassel at the end of its tail. Our next recruit was a little Maltese terrier, named Lisette, which raised the number to fourteen. After all, the expense of these fourteen amounted to rather over two pounds a month. A single dinner given to five or six of my own species would have cost me three times as much, and they would have gone away dissatisfied; for, even if they had liked my wine, they would certainly have found fault with my books. Out of this pack of hounds, one became Pritchard’s particular friend and Michel’s favourite. This was a dachshund with short crooked legs, a long body, and, as Michel said, the finest voice in the department of Seine-et-Oise. Portugo—that was his name—had in truth a most magnificent bass voice. I used to hear it sometimes in the night when I was writing, and think how that deep-toned majestic bark would please St. Hubert if he heard it in his grave. But what was Portugo doing at that hour, and why was he awake while the other dogs slumbered? This mystery was revealed one day, when a stewed rabbit was brought me for dinner. I inquired where the rabbit came from.

‘You thought it good, sir?’ Michel asked me with a pleased face.

‘Excellent.’

‘Well, then, you can have one just the same every day, sir, if you like.’

Dumas, Michel and the fourteen dogs

‘IT’S A REGULAR KENNEL’

‘Every day, Michel? Surely that is almost too much  to promise. Besides, I should like, before consuming so many rabbits, to know where they come from.’

‘You shall know that this very night, if you don’t mind coming out with me.’

‘Ah! Michel, I have told you before that you are a poacher!’

‘Oh, sir, as to that, I am as innocent as a baby—and, as I was saying, if you will only come out with me to-night—’

‘Must I go far, Michel?’

‘Not a hundred yards, sir.’

‘At what o’clock?’

‘Just at the moment when you hear Portugo’s first bark.’

‘Very well, Michel, I will be with you.’

I had nearly forgotten this promise, and was writing as usual, when Michel came into my study. It was about eleven o’clock, and a fine moonlight night.

‘Hallo!’ said I, ‘Portugo hasn’t barked yet, has he?’

‘No, but I was just thinking that if you waited for that, you would miss seeing something curious.’

‘What should I miss, Michel?’

‘The council of war which is held between Pritchard and Portugo.’

I followed Michel, and sure enough, among the fourteen dogs, which were mostly sleeping in different attitudes, Portugo and Pritchard were sitting up, and seemed to be gravely debating some important question. When the debate was ended, they separated; Portugo went out at the gate to the high road, turned the corner, and disappeared, while Pritchard began deliberately, as if he had plenty of time before him, to follow the little path which led up to a stone quarry. We followed Pritchard, who took no notice of us, though he evidently knew we were there. He went up to the top of the quarry, examined and smelt about over the ground with great care, and when he had found a scent and assured himself that it was fresh, he  lay down flat and waited. Almost at the same moment, Portugo’s first bark was heard some two hundred yards off. Now the plan the two dogs had laid was clear to us. The rabbits came out of their holes in the quarry every evening to go to their feeding ground; Pritchard found the scent of one; Portugo then made a wide circuit, found and chased the rabbit, and, as a rabbit or a hare always comes back upon its former track, Pritchard, lying in ambush, awaited its return. Accordingly, as the sound of Portugo’s barking came closer, we saw Pritchard’s yellow eyes light up and flame like a topaz; then all of a sudden he made a spring, and we heard a cry of fright and distress.

‘They’ve done it!’ said Michel, and he went to Pritchard, took out of his mouth a nice plump rabbit, gave it a blow behind the ears to finish it, and, opening it on the spot, gave the inside to the two dogs, who shared their portion contentedly, although they probably regretted Michel’s interference. As Michel told me, I could have eaten a stewed rabbit every day for dinner, if such had been my desire.

But after this, events of a different kind were taking place, which obliged me to leave my country pursuits, and I spent about two months in Paris. The day before I returned to St.-Germains I wrote and told Michel to expect me, and found him waiting for me on the road half way from the station.

‘I must tell you, sir,’ he said, as soon as I was within hearing, ‘that two important events have happened at Monte Cristo since you went away.’

‘Well, Michel, let me hear.’

‘In the first place, Pritchard got his hind foot into a snare and instead of staying where he was as any other dog would have done, he bit off his foot with his teeth, and so he came home upon three legs.’

‘But,’ said I, much shocked, ‘is the poor beast dead after such an accident?’

 ‘Dead, sir? Was not I there to doctor him?’

‘And what did you do to him then?’

‘I cut off the foot properly at the joint with a pruning knife. I then sewed the skin neatly over it, and now you would never know it was off! Look there, the rascal has smelt you and is coming to meet you.’

The vulture in his tub

JUGURTHA BECOMES DIOGENES

And at that moment Pritchard appeared, coming at full gallop, so that, as Michel had said, one would hardly have noticed that he had only three feet. My meeting with Pritchard was, as may be supposed, full of deep  emotion on both sides. I was sorry for the poor animal. When I had recovered a little, I asked Michel what his other piece of news was.

‘The latest news, sir, is that Jugurtha’s name is no longer Jugurtha.’

‘What is it then?’

‘It is Diogenes.’

‘And why?’

‘Look, sir!’

We had now reached the little avenue of ash-trees which formed the entrance to the villa. To the left of the avenue the vulture was seen walking proudly to and fro in an immense tub, which Michel had made into a house for him.

‘Ah! now I understand,’ said I. ‘Of course, directly he lives in a tub——’

‘That’s it!’ said Michel. ‘Directly he lives in a tub, he cannot be Jugurtha any more; he must be Diogenes.’

I admired Michel’s historical learning no less than I did his surgical skill, just as the year before, I had bowed before his superior knowledge of natural history.

VII

In order to lead to more incidents in the life of Pritchard I must now tell my readers that I had a friend called Charpillon, who had a passion for poultry, and kept the finest hens in the whole department of Yonne. These hens were chiefly Cochins and Brahmapootras; they laid the most beautiful brown eggs, and Charpillon surrounded them with every luxury and never would allow them to be killed. He had the inside of his hen-house painted green, in order that the hens, even when shut up, might fancy themselves in a meadow. In fact, the illusion was so complete, that when the hen-house was first painted, the hens refused to go in at night, fearing to catch cold; but after a short time even the least intelligent among them  understood that she had the good fortune to belong to a master who knew how to combine the useful with the beautiful. Whenever these hens ventured out upon the road, strangers would exclaim with delight, ‘Oh! what beautiful hens!’ to which some one better acquainted with the wonders of this fortunate village would reply, ‘I should think so! These are M. Charpillon’s hens.’ Or, if the speaker were of an envious disposition, he might add, ‘Yes indeed! hens that nothing is thought too good for!’

When my friend Charpillon heard that I had returned from Paris, he invited me to come and stay with him to shoot, adding as a further inducement that he would give me the best and freshest eggs I had ever eaten in my life. Though I did not share Charpillon’s great love of poultry, I am very fond of fresh eggs, and the nankeen-coloured eggs laid by his Brahma hens had an especially delicate flavour. But all earthly pleasures are uncertain. The next morning Charpillon’s hens were found to have only laid three eggs instead of eight. Such a thing had never happened before, and Charpillon did not know whom to suspect; however he suspected every one rather than his hens, and a sort of cloud began to obscure the confidence he had hitherto placed in the security of his enclosures. While these gloomy doubts were occupying us, I observed Michel hovering about as if he had something on his mind, and asked him if he wanted to speak to me.

‘I should be glad to have a few words with you, sir.’

‘In private?’

‘It would be better so, for the honour of Pritchard.’

‘Ah, indeed? What has the rascal been doing now?’

‘You remember, sir, what your solicitor said to you one day when I was in the room?’

‘What did he say, Michel? My solicitor is a clever man, and says many sensible things; still it is difficult for me to remember them all.’

 ‘Well, sir,’ he said, ‘find out whom the crime benefits, and you will find the criminal.’

‘I remember that axiom perfectly, Michel. Well?’

‘Well, sir, whom can this crime of stolen eggs benefit more than Pritchard?’

‘Pritchard? You think it is he who steals the eggs? Pritchard, who brings home eggs without breaking them!’

‘You mean who used to bring them. Pritchard is an animal who has vicious instincts, sir, and if he does not come to a bad end some day, I shall be surprised, that’s all.’

‘Does Pritchard eat eggs, then?’

‘He does; and it is only right to say, sir, that that is your fault.’

‘What! my fault? My fault that Pritchard eats eggs?’

Michel shook his head sadly, but nothing could shake his opinion.

‘Now really, Michel, this is too much! Is it not enough that critics tell me that I pervert everybody’s mind with my corrupt literature, but you must join my detractors and say that my bad example corrupts Pritchard?’

‘I beg pardon, sir, but do you remember how one day, at the Villa Medicis, while you were eating an egg, M. Rusconi who was there said something so ridiculous that you let the egg fall upon the floor?’

‘I remember that quite well.’

‘And do you remember calling in Pritchard, who was scraping up a bed of fuchsias in the garden, and making him lick up the egg?’

‘I do not remember him scraping up a bed of fuchsias, but I do recollect that he licked up my egg.’

‘Well, sir, it is that and nothing else that has been his ruin. Oh! he is quick enough to learn what is wrong; there is no need to show it him twice.’

‘Michel, you are really extremely tedious. How have I shown Pritchard what is wrong?’

 ‘By making him eat an egg. You see, sir, before that he was as innocent as a new-born babe; he didn’t know what an egg was—he thought it was a badly made golf ball. But as soon as you make him eat an egg, he learns what it is. Three days afterwards, M. Alexandre came home, and was complaining to me of his dog—that he was rough and tore things with his teeth in carrying them. “Ah! look at Pritchard,” I said to him, “how gentle he is! you shall see the way he carries an egg.” So I fetched an egg from the kitchen, placed it on the ground, and said, “Fetch, Pritchard!” Pritchard didn’t need to be told twice, but what do you think the cunning rascal did? You remember, some days before, Monsieur —— the gentleman who had such a bad toothache, you know. You recollect his coming to see you?’

‘Yes, of course I remember.’

‘Well, Pritchard pretended not to notice, but those yellow eyes of his notice everything. Well, all of a sudden he pretended to have the same toothache that that gentleman had, and crack! goes the egg. Then he pretends to be ashamed of his awkwardness—he swallows it in a hurry, shell and all! I believed him—I thought it was an accident and fetched another egg. Scarcely did he make three steps with the egg in his mouth than the toothache comes on again, and crack! goes the second egg. I began then to suspect something—I went and got a third, but if I hadn’t stopped then he’d have eaten the whole basketful. So then M. Alexandre, who likes his joke, said, “Michel, you may possibly make a good musician of Pritchard, or a good astronomer, but he’ll never be a good incubator!”’

‘How is it that you never told me this before, Michel?’

‘Because I was ashamed, sir; for this is not the worst.’

‘What! not the worst?’

Michel shook his head.

 ‘He has developed an unnatural craving for eggs; he got into M. Acoyer’s poultry-yard and stole all his. M. Acoyer came to complain to me. How do you suppose he lost his foot?’

‘You told me yourself—in somebody’s grounds where he had forgotten to read the notice about trespassing.’

‘You are joking, sir—but I really believe he can read.’

‘Oh! Michel, Pritchard is accused of enough sins without having that vice laid to his charge! But about his foot?’

‘I think he caught it in some wire getting out of a poultry-yard.’

‘But you know it happened at night, and the hens are shut up at night. How could he get into the hen-house?’

‘He doesn’t need to get into the hen-house after eggs; he can charm the hens. Pritchard is what one may call a charmer.’

‘Michel, you astonish me more and more!’

‘Yes, indeed, sir. I knew that he used to charm the hens at the Villa Medicis; only M. Charpillon has such wonderful hens, I did not think they would have allowed it. But I see now all hens are alike.’

‘Then you think it is Pritchard who——’

‘I think he charms M. Charpillon’s hens, and that is the reason they don’t lay—at least, that they only lay for Pritchard.’

‘Indeed, Michel, I should much like to know how he does it!’

‘If you are awake very early to-morrow, sir, just look out of your window—you can see the poultry-yard from it, and you will see a sight that you have never seen before!’

‘I have seen many things, Michel, including sixteen changes of governments, and to see something I have never seen before I would gladly sit up the whole night!’

 ‘There is no need for that—I can wake you at the right time.’

The next day at early dawn, Michel awoke me.

‘I am ready, Michel,’ said I, coming to the window.

‘Wait, wait! let me open it very gently. If Pritchard suspects that he is watched, he won’t stir; you have no idea how deceitful he is.’

Michel opened the window with every possible precaution. From where I stood, I could distinctly see the poultry-yard, and Pritchard lying in his couch, his head innocently resting upon his two fore-paws. At the slight noise which Michel made in opening the window, Pritchard pricked up his ears and half opened his yellow eye, but as the sound was not repeated he did not move. Ten minutes afterwards we heard the newly wakened hens begin to cluck. Pritchard immediately opened both eyes, stretched himself and stood upright upon his three feet. He then cast a glance all round him, and seeing that all was quiet, disappeared into a shed, and the next moment we saw him coming out of a sort of little window on the other side. From this window Pritchard easily got upon the sloping roof which overhung one side of the poultry-yard. He had now only to jump down about six feet, and having got into the inclosure he lay down flat in front of the hen-house, giving a little friendly bark. A hen looked out at Pritchard’s call, and instead of seeming frightened she went to him at once and received his compliments with apparent complacency. Nor did she seem at all embarrassed, but proceeded to lay her egg, and that within such easy reach of Pritchard that we had not time to see the egg—it was swallowed the same instant. She then retired cackling triumphantly, and her place was taken by another hen.

‘Well, now, sir,’ said Michel, when Pritchard had swallowed his fourth egg, ‘you see it is no wonder that Pritchard has such a clear voice. You know great singers always eat raw eggs the first thing in the morning.’

 ‘I know that, Michel, but what I don’t know is how Pritchard proposes to get out of the poultry-yard.’

‘Just wait and see what the scoundrel will do.’

Pritchard having finished his breakfast, or being a little alarmed at some noise in the house, stood up on his hind leg, and slipping one of his fore-paws through the bars of the gate, he lifted the latch and went out.

‘And when one thinks,’ said Michel, ‘that if anybody asked him why the yard door was left open, he would say it was because Pierre had forgotten to shut it last night!’

Pritchard investigates an egg

PRITCHARD AND THE HENS

‘You think he would have the wickedness to say that, Michel?’

‘Perhaps not to-day, nor yet to-morrow, because he is not come to his full growth, but some day, mind you, I should not be surprised to hear him speak.’

VIII

Before going out to shoot that day, I thought it only right to give M. Charpillon an account of Pritchard’s proceedings. He regarded him, therefore with mingled  feelings, in which admiration was more prominent than sympathy, and it was agreed that on our return the dog should be shut up in the stable, and that the stable-door should be bolted and padlocked. Pritchard, unsuspicious of our designs, ran on in front with a proud step and with his tail in the air.

‘You know,’ said Charpillon, ‘that neither men nor dogs are allowed to go into the vineyards. I ought as a magistrate to set an example, and Gaignez still more, as he is the mayor. So mind you keep in Pritchard.’

‘All right,’ said I, ‘I will keep him in.’

But Michel, approaching, suggested that I should send Pritchard home with him. ‘It would be safer,’ he said. ‘We are quite near the house, and I have a notion that he might get us into some scrape by hunting in the vineyards.’

‘Don’t be afraid, Michel; I have thought of a plan to prevent him.’

Michel touched his hat. ‘I know you are clever, sir—very clever; but I don’t think you are as clever as that!’

‘Wait till you see.’

‘Indeed, sir, you will have to be quick, for there is Pritchard hunting already.’

We were just in time to see Pritchard disappear into a vineyard, and a moment afterwards he raised a covey of partridges.

‘Call in your dog,’ cried Gaignez.

I called Pritchard, who, however, turned a deaf ear.

‘Catch him,’ said I to Michel.

Michel went, and returned in a few minutes with Pritchard in a leash. In the meantime I had found a long stake, which I hung crosswise round his neck, and let him go loose with this ornament. Pritchard understood that he could no longer go through the vineyards, but the stake did not prevent his hunting, and he only went a good deal further off on the open ground.

 From this moment there was only one shout all along the line.

‘Hold in your dog, confound him!’

‘Keep in your Pritchard, can’t you! He’s sending all the birds out of shot!’

‘Look here! Would you mind my putting a few pellets into your brute of a dog? How can anybody shoot if he won’t keep in?’

‘Michel,’ said I, ‘catch Pritchard again.’

‘I told you so, sir. Luckily we are not far from the house; I can still take him back.’

‘Not at all. I have a second idea. Catch Pritchard.’

‘After all,’ said Michel, ‘this is nearly as good fun as if we were shooting.’

And by-and-bye he came back, dragging Pritchard by his stake. Pritchard had a partridge in his mouth.

‘Look at him, the thief!’ said Michel. ‘He has carried off M. Gaignez’s partridge—I see him looking for it.’

‘Put the partridge in your game-bag, Michel; we will give him a surprise.’

Michel hesitated. ‘But,’ said he, ‘think of the opinion this rascal will have of you!’

‘What, Michel? do you think Pritchard has a bad opinion of me?’

‘Oh, sir! a shocking opinion.’

‘But what makes you think so?’

‘Why, sir, do you not think that Pritchard knows in his soul and conscience that when he brings you a bird that another gentleman has shot, he is committing a theft?’

‘I think he has an idea of it, certainly, Michel.’

‘Well, then, sir, if he knows he is a thief, he must take you for a receiver of stolen goods. Look at the articles of the Code; it is said there that receivers are equally guilty with thieves, and should be similarly punished.’

Pritchard brings the stolen hare to his master

‘PRITCHARD REAPPEARED NEXT MOMENT WITH A HARE IN HIS MOUTH’

‘Michel, you open my eyes to a whole vista of terrors.  But we are going to try to cure Pritchard of hunting. When he is cured of hunting, he will be cured of stealing.’

‘Never, sir! You will never cure Pritchard of his vices.’

Still I pursued my plan, which was to put Pritchard’s fore-leg through his collar. By this means, his right fore-foot being fastened to his neck, and his left hind-foot being cut off, he had only two to run with, the left fore-foot and the right hind-foot.

‘Well, indeed,’ said Michel, ‘if he can hunt now, the devil is in it.’

He loosed Pritchard, who stood for a moment as if astonished, but once he had balanced himself he began to walk, then to trot; then, as he found his balance better, he succeeded in running quicker on his two legs than many dogs would have done on four.

‘Where are we now, sir?’ said Michel.

‘It’s that beast of a stake that balances him!’ I replied, a little disappointed. ‘We ought to teach him to dance upon the tight-rope—he would make our fortunes as an acrobat.’

‘You are joking again, sir. But listen! do you hear that?’

The most terrible imprecations against Pritchard were resounding on all sides. The imprecations were followed by a shot, then by a howl of pain.

‘That is Pritchard’s voice,’ said Michel. ‘Well, it is no more than he deserves.’

Pritchard reappeared the next moment with a hare in his mouth.

‘Michel, you said that was Pritchard that howled.’

‘I would swear to it, sir.’

‘But how could he howl with a hare in his mouth?’

Michel scratched his head. ‘It was he all the same,’ he said, and he went to look at Pritchard.

‘Oh, sir!’ he said, ‘I was right. The gentleman he took the hare from has shot him. His hind-leg is all over  blood. Look! there is M. Charpillon running after his hare.’

‘You know that I have just put some pellets into your Pritchard?’ Charpillon called out as soon as he saw me.

‘You did quite right.’

‘He carried off my hare.’

‘There! You see,’ said Michel, ‘it is impossible to cure him.’

‘But when he carried away your hare, he must have had it in his mouth?’

‘Of course. Where else would he have it?’

‘But how could he howl with a hare in his mouth?’

‘He put it down to howl, then he took it up again and made off.’

‘There’s deceit for you, gentlemen!’ exclaimed Michel.

Pritchard succeeded in bringing the hare to me, but when he reached me he had to lie down.

‘I say,’ said Charpillon, ‘I hope I haven’t hurt him more than I intended—it was a long shot.’ And forgetting his hare, Charpillon knelt down to examine Pritchard’s wound. It was a serious one; Pritchard had received five or six pellets about the region of his tail, and was bleeding profusely.

‘Oh, poor beast!’ cried Charpillon. ‘I wouldn’t have fired that shot for all the hares in creation if I had known.’

‘Bah!’ said Michel; ‘he won’t die of it.’ And, in fact, Pritchard, after spending three weeks with the vet. at St.-Germains, returned to Monte Cristo perfectly cured, and with his tail in the air once more.

IX

Soon after the disastrous event which I have just related the revolution of 1848 occurred in France, in which King Louis Philippe was dethroned and a republic  established. You will ask what the change of government had to do with my beasts? Well, although, happily, they do not trouble their heads about politics, the revolution did affect them a good deal; for the French public, being excited by these occurrences, would not buy my books, preferring to read the ‘Guillotine,’ the ‘Red Republic,’ and such like corrupt periodicals; so that I became for the time a very much poorer man. I was obliged greatly to reduce my establishment. I sold my three horses and two carriages for a quarter of their value, and I presented the Last of the Laidmanoirs, Potich, and Mademoiselle Desgarcins to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. I had to move into a smaller house, but my monkeys were lodged in a palace; this is a sort of thing that sometimes happens after a revolution. Mysouff also profited by it, for he regained his liberty on the departure of the monkeys.

As to Diogenes, the vulture, I gave him to my worthy neighbour Collinet, who keeps the restaurant Henri IV., and makes such good cutlets à la Béarnaise. There was no fear of Diogenes dying of hunger under his new master’s care; on the contrary, he improved greatly in health and beauty, and, doubtless as a token of gratitude to Collinet, he laid an egg for him every year, a thing he never dreamt of doing for me. Lastly, we requested Pritchard to cease to keep open house, and to discontinue his daily invitations to strange dogs to dine and sleep. I was obliged to give up all thoughts of shooting that year. It is true that Pritchard still remained to me, but then Pritchard, you must recollect, had only three feet; he had been badly hurt when he was shot by Charpillon, and the revolution of February had occasioned the loss of one eye.

It happened one day during that exciting period, that Michel was so anxious to see what was going on that he forgot to give Pritchard his dinner. Pritchard therefore invited himself to dine with the vulture, but Diogenes,  being of a less sociable turn, and not in a humour to be trifled with, dealt poor Pritchard such a blow with his beak as to deprive him of one of his mustard-coloured eyes. Pritchard’s courage was unabated; he might be compared to that brave field marshal of whom it was said that Mars had left nothing of him whole except his heart. But it was difficult, you see, to make much use of a dog with so many infirmities. If I had wished to sell him I could not have found a purchaser, nor would he have been considered a handsome present had I desired to give him away. I had no choice, then, but to make this old servant, badly as he had sometimes served me, a pensioner, a companion, in fact a friend. Some people told me that I might have tied a stone round his neck and flung him into the river; others, that it was easy enough to replace him by buying a good retriever from Vatrin; but although I was not yet poor enough to drown Pritchard, neither was I rich enough to buy another dog. However, later in that very year, I made an unexpected success in literature, and one of my plays brought me in a sufficient sum to take a shooting in the department of Yonne. I went to look at this shooting, taking Pritchard with me. In the meantime my daughter wrote to tell me that she had bought an excellent retriever for five pounds, named Catinat, and that she was keeping him in the stable until my return. As soon as I arrived, my first care was to make Catinat’s acquaintance. He was a rough, vigorous dog of three or four years old, thoughtless, violent, and quarrelsome. He jumped upon me till he nearly knocked me down, upset my daughter’s work-table, and dashed about the room to the great danger of my china vases and ornaments. I therefore called Michel and informed him that the superficial acquaintance which I had made with Catinat would suffice for the time, and that I would defer the pleasure of his further intimacy until the shooting season began at Auxerre.

 Poor Michel, as soon as he saw Catinat, had been seized with a presentiment of evil.

‘Sir,’ he said, ‘that dog will bring some misfortune upon us. I do not know yet what, but something will happen, I know it will!’

‘In the meantime, Michel,’ I said, ‘you had better take Catinat back to the stable.’ But Catinat had already left the room of his own accord and rushed downstairs to the dining-room, where I had left Pritchard. Now Pritchard never could endure Catinat from the first moment he saw him; the two dogs instantly flew at one another with so much fury that Michel was obliged to call me to his assistance before we could separate them. Catinat was once more shut up in the stable, and Pritchard conducted to his kennel in the stable-yard, which, in the absence of carriages and horses, was now a poultry-yard, inhabited by my eleven hens and my cock Cæsar. Pritchard’s friendship with the hens continued to be as strong as ever, and the household suffered from a scarcity of eggs in consequence. That evening, while my daughter and I were walking in the garden, Michel came to meet us, twisting his straw hat between his fingers, a sure sign that he had something important to say.

‘Well, what is it, Michel?’ I asked.

‘It came into my mind, sir,’ he answered, ‘while I was taking Pritchard to his kennel, that we never have any eggs because Pritchard eats them; and he eats them because he is in direct communication with the hens.’

‘It is evident, Michel, that if Pritchard never went into the poultry-yard, he would not eat the eggs.’

‘Then, do you not think, sir,’ continued Michel, ‘that if we shut up Pritchard in the stable and put Catinat into the poultry-yard, it would be better? Catinat is an animal without education, so far as I know; but he is not such a thief as Pritchard.’

‘Do you know what will happen if you do that,  Michel?’ I said. ‘Catinat will not eat the eggs, perhaps, but he will eat the hens.’

‘If a misfortune like that were to occur, I know a method of curing him of eating hens.’

‘Well—but in the meantime the hens would be eaten.’

Scarcely had I uttered these words, when a frightful noise was heard in the stable-yard, as loud as that of a pack of hounds in full cry, but mingled with howls of rage and pain which indicated a deadly combat.

‘Michel!’ I cried, ‘do you hear that?’

‘Oh yes, I hear it,’ he answered, ‘but those must be the neighbours’ dogs fighting.’

‘Michel, those are Catinat and Pritchard killing each other!’

‘Impossible, sir—I have separated them.’

‘Well, then, they have met again.’

‘It is true,’ said Michel, ‘that scoundrel Pritchard can open the stable-door as well as any one.’

‘Then, you see, Pritchard is a dog of courage; he’ll have opened the stable-door for Catinat on purpose to fight him. Be quick, Michel, I am really afraid one of them will be killed.’

Michel darted into the passage which led to the stable, and no sooner had he disappeared than I knew from the lamentations which I heard that some misfortune had happened. In a minute or two Michel reappeared sobbing bitterly and carrying Pritchard in his arms.

‘Look, sir! just look!’ he said; ‘this is the last we shall see of Pritchard—look what your fine sporting dog has done to him. Catinat, indeed! it is Catilina he should be called!’

I ran up to Pritchard, full of concern—I had a great love for him, though he had often made me angry. He was a dog of much originality, and the unexpected things he did were only a proof of genius.

‘What do you think is the matter?’ I asked Michel.

‘The matter?—the matter is that he is dead!’

 ‘Oh no, surely not!’

‘Anyhow, he’ll never be good for anything again.’ And he laid him on the ground at my feet.

‘Pritchard, my poor Pritchard!’ I cried.

At the sound of my voice, Pritchard opened his yellow eye and looked sorrowfully at me, then stretched out his four legs, gave one sigh, and died. Catinat had bitten his throat quite through, so that his death was almost immediate.

‘Well, Michel,’ said I, ‘it is not a good servant, it is a good friend that we have lost. You must wash him carefully—you shall have a towel to wrap him in—you shall dig his grave in the garden and we will have a tombstone made for him on which shall be engraved this epitaph:

‘Like conquering Rantzau, of courage undaunted,
Pritchard, to thee Mars honour has granted,
On each field of fight of a limb he bereft thee,
Till nought but thy gallant heart scatheless was left thee.’

As my habit was, I sought consolation for my grief in literary labours. Michel endeavoured to assuage his with the help of two bottles of red wine, with which, mingled with his tears, he watered the grave of the departed. I know this because when I came out early next morning to see if my wishes with regard to Pritchard’s burial had been carried out, I found Michel stretched upon the ground, still in tears, and the two bottles empty by his side.