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The Dog Hervey
by [?]

(April 1914)

My friend Attley, who would give away his own head if you told him you had lost yours, was giving away a six-months-old litter of Bettina’s pups, and half-a-dozen women were in raptures at the show on Mittleham lawn.

We picked by lot. Mrs. Godfrey drew first choice; her married daughter, second. I was third, but waived my right because I was already owned by Malachi, Bettina’s full brother, whom I had brought over in the car to visit his nephews and nieces, and he would have slain them all if I had taken home one. Milly, Mrs. Godfrey’s younger daughter, pounced on my rejection with squeals of delight, and Attley turned to a dark, sallow-skinned, slack-mouthed girl, who had come over for tennis, and invited her to pick. She put on a pince-nez that made her look like a camel, knelt clumsily, for she was long from the hip to the knee, breathed hard, and considered the last couple.

‘I think I’d like that sandy-pied one,’ she said.

‘Oh, not him, Miss Sichliffe!’ Attley cried. ‘He was overlaid or had sunstroke or something. They call him The Looney in the kennels. Besides, he squints.’

‘I think that’s rather fetching,’ she answered. Neither Malachi nor I had ever seen a squinting dog before.

‘That’s chorea–St. Vitus’s dance,’ Mrs. Godfrey put in. ‘He ought to have been drowned.’

‘But I like his cast of countenance,’ the girl persisted.

‘He doesn’t look a good life,’ I said, ‘but perhaps he can be patched up.’ Miss Sichliffe turned crimson; I saw Mrs. Godfrey exchange a glance with her married daughter, and knew I had said something which would have to be lived down.

‘Yes,’ Miss Sichliffe went on, her voice shaking, ‘he isn’t a good life, but perhaps I can–patch him up. Come here, sir.’ The misshapen beast lurched toward her, squinting down his own nose till he fell over his own toes. Then, luckily, Bettina ran across the lawn and reminded Malachi of their puppyhood. All that family are as queer as Dick’s hatband, and fight like man and wife. I had to separate them, and Mrs. Godfrey helped me till they retired under the rhododendrons and had it out in silence.

‘D’you know what that girl’s father was?’ Mrs. Godfrey asked.

‘No,’ I replied. ‘I loathe her for her own sake. She breathes through her mouth.’

‘He was a retired doctor,’ she explained. ‘He used to pick up stormy young men in the repentant stage, take them home, and patch them up till they were sound enough to be insured. Then he insured them heavily, and let them out into the world again–with an appetite. Of course, no one knew him while he was alive, but he left pots of money to his daughter.’

‘Strictly legitimate–highly respectable,’ I said. ‘But what a life for the daughter!’

‘Mustn’t it have been! Now d’you realise what you said just now?’

‘Perfectly; and now you’ve made me quite happy, shall we go back to the house?’

When we reached it they were all inside, sitting in committee on names.

‘What shall you call yours?’ I heard Milly ask Miss Sichliffe.

‘Harvey,’ she replied–‘Harvey’s Sauce, you know. He’s going to be quite saucy when I’ve’–she saw Mrs. Godfrey and me coming through the French window–‘when he’s stronger.’

Attley, the well-meaning man, to make me feel at ease, asked what I thought of the name.

‘Oh, splendid,’ I said at random. ‘H with an A, A with an R, R with a–‘

‘But that’s Little Bingo,’ some one said, and they all laughed.

Miss Sichliffe, her hands joined across her long knees, drawled, ‘You ought always to verify your quotations.’

It was not a kindly thrust, but something in the word ‘quotation’ set the automatic side of my brain at work on some shadow of a word or phrase that kept itself out of memory’s reach as a cat sits just beyond a dog’s jump. When I was going home, Miss Sichliffe came up to me in the twilight, the pup on a leash, swinging her big shoes at the end of her tennis-racket.