A score of times I have told him that he had much better not come, I have announced fiercely that he is not to come. He then lets go of his legs, which is how a St. Bernard sits down, making the noise of a sack of coals suddenly deposited, and, laying his head between his front paws, stares at me through the red haws that make his eyes so mournful. He will do this for an hour without blinking, for he knows that in time it will unman me. My dog knows very little, but what little he does know he knows extraordinarily well. One can get out of my chambers by a back way, and I sometimes steal softly--but I can't help looking back, and there he is, and there are those haws asking sorrowfully, "Is this worthy of you?"
"Curse you," I say, "get your hat," or words to that effect.
He has even been to the club, where he waddles up the stairs so exactly like some respected member that he makes everybody most uncomfortable. I forget how I became possessor of him. I think I cut him out of an old number of Punch. He costs me as much as an eight-roomed cottage in the country.
He was a full-grown dog when I first, most foolishly, introduced him to toys. I had bought a toy in the street for my own amusement. It represented a woman, a young mother, flinging her little son over her head with one hand and catching him in the other, and I was entertaining myself on the hearth-rug with this pretty domestic scene when I heard an unwonted sound from Porthos, and, looking up, I saw that noble and melancholic countenance on the broad grin. I shuddered and was for putting the toy away at once, but he sternly struck down my arm with his, and signed that I was to continue. The unmanly chuckle always came, I found, when the poor lady dropped her babe, but the whole thing entranced him; he tried to keep his excitement down by taking huge draughts of water; he forgot all his niceties of conduct; he sat in holy rapture with the toy between his paws, took it to bed with him, ate it in the night, and searched for it so longingly next day that I had to go out and buy him the man with the scythe. After that we had everything of note, the bootblack boy, the toper with bottle, the woolly rabbit that squeaks when you hold it in your mouth; they all vanished as inexplicably as the lady, but I dared not tell him my suspicions, for he suspected also and his gentle heart would have mourned had I confirmed his fears.
The dame in the temple of toys which we frequent thinks I want them for a little boy and calls him "the precious" and "the lamb," the while Porthos is standing gravely by my side. She is a motherly soul, but over-talkative.
"And how is the dear lamb to-day?" she begins, beaming.
"Well, ma'am, well," I say, keeping tight grip of his collar.
"This blighty weather is not affecting his darling appetite?"
"No, ma'am, not at all." (She would be considerably surprised if informed that he dined to-day on a sheepshead, a loaf, and three cabbages, and is suspected of a leg of mutton.)
"I hope he loves his toys?"
"He carries them about with him everywhere, ma'am." (Has the one we bought yesterday with him now, though you might not think it to look at him.)
"What do you say to a box of tools this time?"
"I think not, ma'am."
"Is the deary fond of digging?"
"Very partial to digging." (We shall find the leg of mutton some day.)
"Then perhaps a weeny spade and a pail?"
She got me to buy a model of Canterbury Cathedral once, she was so insistent, and Porthos gave me his mind about it when we got home. He detests the kindergarten system, and as she is absurdly prejudiced in its favour we have had to try other shops. We went to the Lowther Arcade for the rocking-horse. Dear Lowther Arcade! Ofttimes have we wandered agape among thy enchanted palaces, Porthos and I, David and I, David and Porthos and I. I have heard that thou art vulgar, but I cannot see how, unless it be that tattered children haunt thy portals, those awful yet smiling entrances to so much joy.