Four interesting tales

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Four Interesting Tales  (1840-1850) 

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the following singular adventure of a man named John Colter, is taken from Mr Bradbury’s Travels in the interior of North America.

Colter came to St Louis in May, 1810, in a small canoe, from the head-waters of the Missouri, a distanco of 3000 miles, which he traversed in 30 days. I saw him on his arrival, and received from him an account of his adventures, after he had separated from Lewis and Clark’s party. I shall relate one anecdote for its singularity. On the arrival of the party at the head-waters of the Missouri, Colter observing an appearanco of abundance of beaver being there, got permission to remain and hunt for some time, which he did in company with a man of the name of Dixon, who had traversed the immense tract of country from St Lewis to the head-waters of the Missouri alone. Soon after he separated from Dixon, and trapped in company with a hunter named Potts ; and, aware of the hostility of the Blackfeet Indians, one of whom had been killed by Lewis, they set their traps at night, and took them up early in the morning, remaining concealed during the day. They were examining their traps early one morning, in a creek about six miles from that branch of the Missouri called Jefferson’s Fork, and were ascending in a canoe, when they suddenly heard a great noiso, resembling the trampling of animals ; but they could not ascertain the fact, as the high perpendicular banks on each side of the river impeded their view. Colter immediatly pronounced it to be occasioned by Indians, and advised an instant retreat, but was accused of cowardice by Potts, who insisted that the noise was caused by buffaloes ; and they proceeded on. In a few minutes afterwards their doubts were removed, by a party of Indians making their appearance on both sides of the creek, to the amount of five or six hundred, who beckoned them to come ashore. As retreat was now impossible, Colter turned the head of the canoe ; and, at the moment of its touching, an Indian seized the rifle belonging to Potts ; but Colter, who is a remarkably strong man, immediately retook it, and handed it to Potts, who remained in the canoe, and, on receiving it, pushed off into the river. He had scarcely quitted the shore, when an arrow was shot at him, and he cried out, “Colter, I am wounded !” Colter remonstrated with him on he folly of attempting to escape, and urged him to come ashore. Instead of complying, he instantly levelled his riffle at the Indian, and shot him dead on the spot. This conduct, situated as he was, may appear to have been an act of madness, but it was the effect of sudden but sound reasoning; for, if taken alive, he must have expected to be tortured to death, according to their custom. He was instantly pierced with arrows so numerous, that, to use Colter’s words, “he was made a riddle of." They now seized Colter, stript him entirely naked, and began to consult on the manner in which he should he put to death. They were at first inclined to set him up as a mark to shoot at, but the chief interfered, and, seizing him by the shoulder, asked him if he could run fast? Colter, who had been some time among the Kee-katso or Crow Indians, had in a considerable degree acquired the Blackfoot language, and was also well acquainted with Indian customs ; he knew that he had now to run for his life, with the dreadful odds of five or six hundred against him, and those armed Indians; he therefore cunningly replied, that he was a very bad runner, although he was considered by the hunters as remarkably swift. The chief now commanded the party to remain stationary, and led Colter out on the prairie three or four hundred yards, and released him, bidding him save himself if he could. At this instant the horrid war-hoop sounded in the ears of poor Colter, who, urged with the hope of preserving life, ran with a speed at which himself was surprised. He proceeded towards the Jefferson Fork, having to traverse a plain six miles in breadth, abounding with the prickly-pear, on which he was every instant treading with his naked feet. He ran nearly half way across the plain before he ventured to look over his shoulder, when he perceived that the Indians were very much scattered, and that he had gained ground to a considerable distance from the main body ; but one Indian, who carried a spear, was much before all the rest, and not more than one hundred yards from him. A faint glean of hope now cheered the heart of Colter, he derived confidence from the belief that escape was within the bounds of possibility ; but that confidence was nearly fatal to him ; for he exerted himself to such a degree, that the blood gushed from his nostrils, and soon almost covered the fore part of his body. He had now arrived within a mile of the river, when he distinctly heard the appalling sound of footsteps behind him, and every instant expected to feel the spear of his pursuer. Again he turned his head, and saw the savage not twenty yards from him. Determined, if possible, to avoid the expected blow, he suddenly stopped, turned round, and spread out his arms. The Indian, surprised by the suddenness of the action, and perhaps by the bloody appearance of Colter, also attempted to stop,—but, exhausted with running, he fell whilst endeavouring to throw his spear, which stuck in the ground, and broke. Colter instantly snatched up the pointed part, with which he pinned him to the earth, and then continued his flight. The foremost of the Indians, on arriving at the place, stopped till others came up to join them, when they set up a hideous yell. Every moment of this time was improved by Colter; who, although fainting and exhausted, succeeded in gaining the skirting of the Cotton-tree wood, on the borders of the Fork, through which he ran and plunged into the river. Fortunately for him, a little below this was an island, against the upper part of which a raft of drift-timber had lodged. He dived under the raft, and, after several efforts, got his head above water amongst the trunks of trees, covered over with smaller wood to the depth of several feet. Scarcely had he secured himself, when the Indians arrived on the river screeching and yelling, as Colter expressed it, “like so many devils.” They were frequently on the raft during the day, and were seen through the chinks by Colter, who was congratulating himself on his escape, until the idea arose that they might set the raft on fire. In horrible suspense he remained until night, when, hearing no more of the Indians, he dived under the raft, and swam silently down the river to a considerable distance, where he landed, and travelled all night. Although happy in having escaped from the Indians, his situation was still dreadful; he was completely naked, under a burning sun—the soles of his feet were entirely filled with the thorns of the prickly-pear—he was hungry, and no means of killing game, although he saw abundance around him—and was at least seven days’ journey from Lisa’s Fort, on the Bighorn branch of the Roche Jaune river. These were circumstances under which almost any man but an American hunter would have despaired. He arrived at the Fort, in seven days having subsisted on a root much esteemed by the Indians of the Missouri, now known by the naturalists as psoralea esculentii.


In the year 1662, when Paris was afflicted with a long and severe famine, M. de Sallo, returning from a summer evening’s walk, with only a little foot boy, was accosted by a man, who presented his pistol, and in a manner far from the resoluteness of a hardened robber, asked him for his money. M. de Sallo, observing that ho came to the wrong man, and that he could get little from him, added, “ I have only three louis d’ors about me, which is not worth a scuffle, so much good may they do you, but let me tell you, you are in a bad way.” The man took them, without asking for more, and walked off with an air of dejection and terror. The fellow was no sooner goue, than M. de Sallo ordered the boy to follow him, to see where he went, and to give him an account of every thing. The lad obeyed ; followed him through several obscure streets, and at length saw him enter a baker’s shop, where he observed him change one of the louis, and buy a large brown loaf. With this purchase he went a few doors farther, and entering an alley, ascended a pair of stairs. The boy crept up after him to the fourth story, where ho saw him go into a room, that had no other light than what it received from the moon, and peeping through a crevice, he perceived him throw it on the floor, and burst into tears, saying, “there, eat your fill, there’s the dearest loaf I ever bought: I have robbed a gentleman of three louis ; let us husband them well, and let me have no more teazings, for sooner or later these doings must bring mo to the gallows, and all to satisfy your clamours.” His lamentations were answered by those of the whole family : and his wife having at length calmed tho agony of his mind, took up the loaf, and cutting it, gave four pieces to four poor starving children. The boy having thus happily performed his commission, returned home, and gave his master an account of every thing he had seen and heard. M. de Sallo, who was much moved, ordered the boy to call him at five in the morning. This humane gentleman arose at the time appointed, and taking the boy with him to show him the way, enquired in the neighbourhood the character of a man who lived in such a garret, with a wife and four children ; when he was told, that he was a very industrious good kind of a man; that he was a shoemaker, and a neat workman, but was over burdened with a family, and had a hard struggle to live in such bad times. Satisfied with this account, M. de Sallo ascended the shoe-maker's garret, and knocking at the door, it was opened by the poor man himsolf, who knowing him at first sight to he the person he bad robbed the evening before, fell at his feet, and implored his mercy, pleading the extreme distress of his family, and begging he would forgive his first crime. M. de Sallo desired him to make no noise, for he had not the least intention to hurt him. “ You have a good character, among your neighbours,” said he, “but must expect that your life will soon be cut short, if you are now so wicked as to continue the freedoms you took with me. Hold your hand, there are thirty louis to buy leather, husband it well and set your children a commendable example. To put you out of farther temptation to commit such ruinous and fatal actions, I will encourage your industry ; I hear you are a neat workman, you shall tako measure of me, and this boy, for two pair of shoes each, and he shall call upon you for them.” The whole family appeared struck with joy, amazement, and gratitude ; and M. de Sallo departed greatly moved, and with a mind filled with satisfaction at having saved a man, and perhaps a family, from the commission of guilt, from an ignominious death, and perhaps from eternal perdition. May we not say of M. de Sallo with Rowe :—

How few, like thee, enquire the wretched out,
And court the offices of soft humanity.

Never was a day much better begun : the consciousness of having performed such an action, when it recurs to the mind of a reasonable being, must be attended with pleasure, and that self-complacency, and secret approbation, which is more desirable than gold and all the pleasures of the earth.


Dryden’s definition, “that the soul is a little blue flame running about within us,” must flash conviction upon the mind of an infidel. What renders the thought yet more admirable is, that it is far from an inferior description of love; for, if love be not also “a little blue flame running about within us,” what is it? But, whatever difficulties obstruct the definition of the passion, few are ignorant of its effects. The biographer, the critic, the mathematician, the geographer, the historian, and the naturalist, deviate imperceptibly from the point, to relate the wonderful effects of love.—The monarch forgets his inequality, and kneels ; the minister flies the court, and sighs ; and even the fish-woman, as she bears the ambrosial brandy to her lips, acknowledges the power of love, and calls for more?

Maria Hargrave was the daughter of a clergy man : her teeth rivalled the ivory; her lips vied with the rose ; her breath emulated its odoriferousness ; her bosom palpitated with love ; her eye sparkled with voluptuousness ; she had wit and good nature ; confidence and modesty ; judgment and generosity : the graces danced in her train ; the loves smiled at her reproach. In honest truth, Maria as infinitely excelled the Sophias, Clarissas, Emilys, Stellas, Narcissas, and Sacharissas, as Eclipse did Rosinante.

But, alas! nothing is faultless.—Perfection is but a word. In Maria’s face stood a nose, modelled by envy ; in magnitude surpassing the invention of Slawkenbergius; in colour!—did but the tithe of it adorn the countenance of death, half his terrors would disappear, and we might press him to our breasts in mistake.

Our heroine was none of those self partial maidens who conceive themselves little short of excellence, whilst the world distinguishes nothing but imperfection ; no, she had accomplishments sufficient to have been proud, and beauties enough to have been vain ; nevertheless, she was sensible she had a red nose, and was humble. Would to heaven half tho ladies in the universe had red noses !

Possessed of such desirable qualifications, Maria danced away her eighteenth birth-night without a lover. She obtained indeed a transitory admirer ; but the moment her sister Charlotte appeared, the molles oculi were fixed upon her, leaving poor Maria to cogitate upon her nose in solitude. It was vexatious ; and had she conceived that tears would have quenched its rubicund glow, or diminished its longitude, she would have wept: but she expected not miracles in her favour ; and as, amidst all the panaccas she had heard of, she had met with every thing but a cure for copper noses, sho wisely determined to be content where discontent would have availed her nothing.

Though Maria was the first-born, Charlotte stood not upon ceremony, and married, “Now,” said Maria, “if my nose be not an insurmountable obstruction, the conjugal road is without impediment.” As she finished the sentence, Mr Conway was introduced : he was—in short, he was six feet high.

When Maria perceived the skirt of a coat, she involuntarily applied a kerchief to her face. It requires so much magnanimity to expose a red nose, unabashed by observation, as to conceal a handsome one beneath a mask. Conway was struck with the exact symmetry of her form and the gracefulness of her motions. A man is ever in a hurry to be in love, and ever in haste to be out again. A few moments conversation satisfied Conway that Maria’s sentiments were just, her judgment powerful, and her imagination delicate ; that she applauded not before she understood, nor simpered forth thanks for those indiscriminate compliments which appear to convey politeness, but which originate in contumely and disdain.—Thus in a little hour, to the eyes of Conway, Maria breathed a phœnix. He had not seen her nose.

Man is a weathercock; the child of caprice, the offspring of inconstancy. At the moment Conway was on the eve of confessing that the charms of Maria’s conversation, the sublimity of her conceptions, and the unaffected ingenuity of her manners, had won his unalterable affection ; at that very moment his opinion changed, and he no longer thought her conversation charming, her conceptions sublime, or her manners unaffectedly ingenuous. He had seen her nose.

He bit his lips, made his bow, and departed. Maria perceived the sudden revolution in the apostate’s sentiments, and accounted for it with correctness. She wished she had not withdrawn the kerchief from her face; it was an unfortunate removal ; her nose, she was convinced, would be her ruin. She wept ; for, although she was too cautious to be in love with him to distraction, she felt a something, a palpitation, a mantling of the blood around the heart, which whispered her that the gentleman’s departure thus indisposed, was vexatious. “Why,” exclaimed she, “why did my mother long for mulberries!” It was an unfilial apostrophe ; and had her parent desired the tail of a hippopotamus, she could not have uttered more.

Conway’s disposition was not an irraseible one, since he never anathematized the cook when the beef was over-roasted, though the fault was without remedy, nor cursed the housemaid to the depth of hell, when she cut him the upper side of the loaf, though no one could be fonder of kissing-crust than he: but in spite of his placidity, on quitting Maria, he vehemently exclaimed, “Did ever mortal see such a nose! Did ever mortal see such a one! She has humour and ease ; her ways are ways of pleasantness ; she enjoys that gaiety of heart which I admire, and that—intolerable red nose which I cannot admire for my life. Among the variety that exists, why in the name of wonder did she choose that?” As this was reasoning like a maniac, it were not uncharitable to suppose him in love.

That there is but one good reason for being in love, namely, the impossibility to avoid it, is an idea so truly good in itself, that, had it not sprung from my own pericranium, I should have attributed it to the most venerable antiquity, and classed it for wisdom, with the wisest sayings of the ancient sages.

Fortunately for Cupid, business recalled Conway to Mr Hargrave’s, and fortunately for Maria, his visit ended in an invitation at pleasure. The wise profit by every acquisition ; “ among the evils of life,” says the gloomy Johnson, “ we have to number the mutability of friendship.” Conway, sensible that invitations were given and forgotten with little solicitude, visited Mr Hargrave without delay. —But, alas! what an alteration in his manner! he spoke without trepidation, and listened without curiosity ; lounged unceremoniously upon the sofa, and buttered his toast with fashionable freedom. The day is lost, said Maria.

It was the very idea which struck upon the mind of Conway. “If I am in love,” said he, “it is not with Maria. On my first visit her opinions were judicious, and in unison with my own; but now they are diametrically opposed to mine, and, what is passing strange, she is perpetually wrong—I invariably right: I will think of her no more.” So saying, he thought of her every step that separated him from the house ; thought of her as he entered his own door; thought of her as he undressed himself ; dreamed of her, and awoke in the morning, exclaiming, “I will think of her no more.”

He was then engaged at Lloyd’s. “The man who neglects his business in pursuit of pleasure,” said he, “grasps at the end before he has obtained the means, and is an idiot!”—With this golden aphorism at his lips, he turned his back upon the city, and hastened to Maria!

As he journeyed on, he suddenly rested his chin upon the palm of his hand ; and neglectful of the mockery of butchers’ boys, “ What am I doing?” said he aloud ; “if I marry her what will the world say? what will the city say? what will Miss Pinn, Miss Caustic, and Miss Wagtail say?”—Pray, who is Mrs Conway?—How admirable his picture of detraction!—The illegitimate daughter of my Lady Catamaran’s butler!”

Thus pleasure were the excursions of Conway's imagination ; and if the scene had not been broken by his arrival at Mr Hargrave’s, he would inevitably have meditated himself into perpetual bachelorship. As acquaintance had now ascended to friendship, ho sat down, without tcazing his host by impolite ceremony ; and indeed no one could accuse him of too great attention to forms and regulations, for, absorbed in thought, ho placed the kettle upon the table, and the tea-pot on the fire : poured the milk upon his roll, spread the butter upon the cloth, and mixed the sugar with the salt.—Maria’s heart danced with gladness : “I do really believe,” said she, “the rogue has forgotten my red—odious word, remain for ever unutterable!”

She was mistaken ; the next day Conway circumambulated the metropolis for a recipe to remove stains. “Are they in your cravats?” “No.”— “In your boot-toops?” “No.”—In your reputation?” “No.”—“In the name of Satan, where then?” “Satan be praised, in Maria’s nose.”—It would have convulsed the sides of Crassus, who laughed but once in his life; or those of Heraclitus, who lived without laughing.

“The man is not born for happiness,” said Conway, condemning his own irresolution: “nothing more pointedly displays than this—that he suffers every trifle to obstruct it.—Gracious powers! when the cup is replete with blessings, how do we stand? —Idiots like, gazing at the delicious draught untasted! and why? truly a red nose floats upon the surface.—Blockhead that thou art! what if it were huge as Hecla?”

From what useless struggles would it exempt us, could we withdraw the curtain of fate, and ascertain, at once, the journey wo aro to travel! In contempt of himself, Conway loved ; not but the fall of stocks, tho risc of winds, the mortality of a favourite lapdog, or the tedious vitality of a rich aunt, gave a temporary check to his love, by producing a fit of the spleen; ho then saw nothing through the mist of partiality, and Maria’s nose glowed with renovated redness.

By continually dwelling on the subject, we forget it ; it becomes familiar ; familiarity produces inattention ; and inattention sinks into indifference. So it happened to Conway ; he had a half consciousness that Maria had some defect—but of what denomination he endeavoured in vain to remember, and, as he sought what he had little inclination to find, it is not to be admired at that his enquiry was ineffectual. His visits at Mr Hargrave’s now began and ended with the day. He wondered why he did not marry, and, profoundly ignorant of his battles against himself, generously exclaimed, “Love should be unconstrained : that is not given, which is not given willingly.”

When a man once wonders that he is unmarried, he soon ceases to be a bachelor. The irrevocable knot was tied.

As the fond couple quitted the church, a young idler exclaimed, “Goodness, gracious! only see what a huge red nose!”—“ Red nose!” echoed Conway : “Red nose! said he, repeating the words a second time; “ what can the blockhead mean?”—


A favourite dog, belonging to an English nobleman, had fallen into disgrace, from an incorrigible habit of annoying the flocks of the neighbouring farmers. One of these having, in vain, driven the depredator from his premises, came at length to the offender’s master, with a dead lamb under his arm, the victim of the last nights plunder. The nobleman being extremely angry at the dog’s transgression, rang the bell for his servant, and, ordered him to be immediately hanged, or some other way disposed of, so that on his return from a journey he was about to undertake, he might never see him again. He then left the apartment, and the fate of the dog was for a few hours suspended. The interval, though short, was not thrown away. The condemned animal was sufficiently an adept in the tones of his master’s voice, to believe there was any hope left for a reversion of tho sentence. He therefore adopted the only alternative between life and death, by making his escape. In the course of the evening, while tho same servant was waiting at table, his lordship demanded if his order had been obeyed respecting the dog. “ After an hour's search, he is no where to bo found, my lord,” replied the servant.—The rest of the domestics were questioned, and their answers similar. The general conclusion for some days was that the dog, conscious of being in disgrace had hid himself in the house of a tenant, or some other person who knew him. A month however passed, without any thing being heard respecting him, it was therefore thought he had fallen into the hands of his late accuser, the farmer, and hanged for his transgressions.

About a year after, while his lordship was journeying into Scotland, attended only by one servant a severe storm drove him to shelter under a hovel, belonging to a public house, situated at some distance from the road, upon a heath. The tempest continuing, threatened rather to increase than abate, the night coming on, and no house suitable to the accommodation of such a guest, his lordship was at length induced to dismount, and go into the little inn adjoining the shed. On his entrance, an air of surprise and consternation marked the features and conduct of both the innholder and his wife. Confused and incoherent answers were made to common questions : and soon after, a whispering took place between the two forementioned persons. At length, however, the guest was shown into a small parlour, a faggot was thrown on the fire, and such refreshments as the house afforded, were preparing, there being no appearance whatever of more favourable weather allowing them to depart.

As the servant maid was spreading the cloth, a visible tremor shook her frame, so that it was not without difficulty she performed her office. His lordship noticed a certain strangeness of the wholo group, but remembering to have heard his servant mention the words, “my lord,” as he alighted from his horse, he naturally imputed this to their having unexpectedly a guest in their house above the rank of those whom they were accustomed to entertain. The awkwardness of intended respect in such cases, and from such persons, will often produce these embarrassments. His lordship having now made up his mind to remain that night, supper was served ; when a most unexpected visitor made his appearance. “Good heavens!” exclaimed his lordship, “is it possible I should find my poor dog alive, and in this place?—How wonderful!—how welcome!”—He stretched out his hand to caress his long lost favourite ; but the dog, after looking earnestly at his ancient master, shrunk from him, and kept aloof, and took the first opportunity of the door being opened to leave the room ; but still took his station at the other side of the door, as if watching some expected event.

Of the dog’s history, from the time of his elopement, little more resulted from inquiry, than that he had one day followed some drovers who came to refresh themselves and their cattle : and that appearing to be foot-sore with travel, and unable to proceed with his companions, he staid in tho house, and had remained thero ever since. This account was obtained from the hostler, who added, he was as harmless a creature as any betwixt Scotland and Ireland.—His lordship, intending to rise early in the morning, to make up the time thus sacrificed in the night, which was still stormy, ordered tho servant to show him to his chamber.—As he passed tho common room which communicated with the parlour, he noticed the innkeeper and his wife in earnest discourse with three men, muffled up in horseman’s coats, who seemed to have just come from buffeting the tempest, and not a little anxious to counteract its effects ; for both tho landlord and his wife were filling their glasses with spirits. His lordship, on going to his chamber, after the maid and his own servant, heard a fierce growl, as from tho top of the stairs. “Here is the dog again, my lord,” exclaimed the servant.—“Ho is often cross and churlish to strangers,” observed the maid, “yet he never bites.” As they came nearer the door, his growl increased to a furious bark; but upon the maid speaking to him sharply, he suffered her to enter the chamber, and the servant stepped back to hold tho light to his lord. On his old mastor advancing towards the chamber, the dog drew back, and stood with a determined air of opposition, as if to guard the entrance. His lordship then called the dog by his name, and on repeating some terms of fondness, which, in past times, he had familiarly been accustomed to, he licked the hand from whose endearments ho had so long been estranged.

But he still held firm to his purpose, and endeavoured to oppose his master’s passing to the chamber. Yet the servant was suffered, without further disputing the point, to go out; not, however, without another growl, though one rather of anger than resistance, and which accompanied her with increased fierceness all the way down stairs, which sho desconded with tho same strange kind of hurry and confusion that marked her behaviour ever since his lordship’s arrival. His lordship was prevented from dwelling long on this circumstance, by an attention to the dog, who, without being solicited farther, went a few paces from the threshold of the door, at which he kept guard ; and after caressing his lordship, and using every gentle art of affectionate persuasion, (speech alone left out,) went down one of the stairs, as if to persuade his master to accompany him.—His lordship laid his foot upon the threshold, when the dog caught the skirt of his coat between his teeth, and tugged it with great violence, yet with every token of love and terror ; for he now appeared to partake of the general confusion of the family. The poor animal again renewed his fondling, rubbed his face softly along his master’s side, sought the patting hand, raised his soliciting feot, and during these endearing ways he whined and trembled to a degree, that could not escape the attention both of the master and the servant.

“I should suspect,” said his lordship, “were I apt to credit omens, from a connection betwixt the deportment of the people of this inn, and the unaccountable solicitude of the dog, that there is something wrong about this house.”—“I have been long of the same opinion,” observed the servant, “and wish, your honour, we had been wet to the skin in proceeding, rather than to have stopped here.”

“It is too late to talk of wishes,” rejoined his lordship, “neither can wo set off now, were I disposed ; for the hurricane is more furious than ever. Let us, therefore, make the best of it. In what part of the house do you sleep? “Close at the head of your lordship’s bed,” answered the domestic, “in a littlo closet, slipside of a room by the stairs—there, my lord,” added the servant, pointing to a small room on the right.

“Then go to bed—we are not wholly without means of defence, you know : and whichever of us shall be first alarmed, may apprize the other. At the same time, all this may be nothing more than the work of our own fancies.”

The anxiety of the dog, during this conversation, cannot be expressed. On the servant’s leaving the room, the dog ran hastily to the door, as if in hopes his lordship would follow; and looked as if to entice him to do so. Upon his lordship’s advancing a few steps, the vigilant creature leaped up with every sign of satisfaction : but when he found those steps were directed only to close the door, his dejection was depicted in a manner no less lively than had been his joy.

It was scarcely possible not to be impressed by theso unaccountable circumstances, yet his lordship was almost ashamed of yielding to them ; and finding all quiet, both above and below, except the noise of the wind and rain, and finding that no caresses could draw the dog from the part of the room he had chosen, his lordship made a bed for the poor fellow with one of the mats, and then sought repose himself. Neither the dog, however, nor the master, could rest. The former rose often, and paced about the room : sometimes he came close to the bed-curtains, and sometimes whined piteously, although the hand of reconciliation was put forth to sooth him. In the course of an hour after this, his lordship was wearied with conjecture, fell asleep, but ho was soon aroused by his four-footed friend, whom he heard scratching violently at the closet door; an action which was accompanied by the gnashing of the dogs teeth, intermixed with the most furious growlings. His lordship, who had laid himself down in his clothes and literally resting on his arms—his brace of pistols being under his pillow—now sprung from the bed. The rain had ceased, and the wind abated, from which circumstance he hoped to hear better what was passing. But nothing, for an instant, appeased the rage of the dog, who finding his paws unable to force a passage into the closet, put his teeth to a small aperture at the bottom, and attempted to gnaw away the obstruction. There could be no longer a doubt that the cause of the mischief, or danger, whatsoever it might be, lay in that closet. Yet there appeared some risk in opening it; more particularly when, on trying to force the lock, it was found to be secured by some fastening on the inside. A knocking was now heard at the chamber door, through the key-hole of which, a voice exclaimed—“For God’s sake, my lord, let me in.” His lordship, knowing this to proceed from his servant, advanced armed, and admitted him. “All seems quiet my lord, below stairs and above,” said the man, “for I have never closed my eyes. For heaven’s sake! what can be the matter with the dog, to occasion such a dismal barking?” “That I am resolved to know,” answered his lordship, furiously pushing the closet door. No sooner was it burst open, than the dog, with inconceivable rapidity, rushed in, and was followed both by the master and man. The candle had gone out in the bustle, and the extreme darkness of the night prevented them from seeing any object whatever. But a hustling sort of noise was heard at the farther end of the closet. His lordship then fired one of his pistols at random, by way of alarm. A piercing cry, ending in a loud groan, immediately came from the dog.—“Great God!” exclaimed his lordship, “I have surely destroyed my defender.” He ran out for a light, and snatched a candle from the innholder, who camo in apparent consternation, as to enquire into the alarm of the family. Others of the house now entered the room ; but without paying attention to their questions, his lordship ran towards the closet to look for his dog. “Tho door is open!—the door is open!—ejaculated the publican ; then all is over!” As his lordship was re-entering the closet, he was met by his servant who, with every mark of almost speechless consternation in his voice and countenance, exclaimed, “O, my lord!—my lord! I have seen such shocking sights!” and, without being ablo to finish his sentence, he sunk on the floor. Before his master could explore the cause of this, or succeed in raising up his fallen domestic; the poor dog came limping from the closet, while a blood track marked his path. He gained, with great difficulty, the place where his lordship stood aghast, and fell at his master’s feet. Every demonstration of grief ensued; but the dog, unmindful of his wounds, kept his eyes still intent upon the closet door; and denoted that the whole of the mystery was not yet developed.

Seizing the other pistol from the servant who had fallen into a swoon, his lordship now re-entered tho closet. The wounded dog crawled after him ; when, on examining every part, he perceived in one corner, an opening into the inn yard, by a kind of trap door, to which some broken steps descended. The dog seated himself on the steps; but there was nothing to be seen but a common sack. Nor was any thing visible upon the floor, except some drops of blood, part of which were evidently those which had issued from the wound of the dog himself, and part must have been of long standing, as they were dried into the boards. His lordship went back into the bed-chamber, but the dog remained in the closet. On his return the dog met him, breathing hard, as if from violent exercise, and he followed his master into the chamber.

The state of the man-servant, upon whom fear had operated so as to continue him in a succession of swoons, now claimed his lordship’s affections, and while those wero administered, the dog again left the chamber. A short time after this, he was heard to bark aloud, then cry, accompanied by a noise, as if something heavy was drawn along the floor. On going once more into the closet, his lordship found the dog trying to bring forward the sack which had been seen lying on the steps near the trap-door. The animal renewed his exertions at the sight of his master; but, again exhausted both by labour and loss of blood, he rested his head on the mouth of the sack.

Excited by this new mystery, his lordship now assisted the poor dog in his labour, and, though that labour was not light, curiosity, and the apprehension of discovering something extraordinary, on the part of his lordship, and unabating perseverance on that of the dog, to accomplish his purpose, gave them strength to bring at length the sack from the closet to the chamber. The servant was somewhat restored to himself, as the sack was dragged into the room, but every person, who in the beginning of the alarm had rushed into the apartment, had now disappeared.

The opening of the sack surpassed all that human language can convey of human horror. As his lordship loosened the cord which fastened the sack’s mouth, the dog fixed his eyes on it, stood over it with wild and trembling eagerness, as if ready to seize and devour the contents. The contents appeared, and the extreme of horror was displayed. A human body, as if murdered in bed, being covered only with a bloody shirt, and that clotted, and still damp, as if recently shed; the head severed from the shoulders, and the other members mangled and separated, so as to make the trunk and extremities lie in the sack, was now exposed to view.

The dog smelt the blood, and after surveying the corpse, looked piteously at his master, and licked his hand, as if grateful the mysterious murder was discovered.

It was proved, that a traveller had really been murdered two nights before his lordship’s arrival at that haunt of infamy ; and that the offence was committed in the very chamber, and probably in the very bed, wherein his lordship had slept; and which, but for the warnings of his faithful friend, must have been fatal to himself.

The maid servant was an accomplice in the guilt; and tho ruffian travellers, who were confederating with the innholder and his wife, were the murderers of the bloody remains that had been just emptied from the sack, whose intent it was to have buried them that night in a pit, which their guilty hands had dug in an adjacent field belonging to the innholder ; whose intention it was likewise to have murdered the nobleman, which was providentially prevented by the wonderful sagacity of the dog. The innkeeper and his wife were taken up, and punished according to their deserts; and the nobleman was so affected at his miraculous escape, that he bound up the wounds of his faithful dog with the greatest care, and the balm of love and friendship were infused. The master’s hour of contrition was now come : he was sorry he had ever neglected so invaluable a friend; and, as the only peace-offering in his power, departed with his faithful companion from the house of blood, to that mansion he had formerly left in disgrace; where the caresses of a grateful family, and an uninterrupted state of tranquility; meliorated with every indulgenco they could bestow, was regularly continued as long as he lived.


This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.