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The Old Beggar’s Dog
by [?]

He was a tramp–that is all he was–at least when I knew him. What he had been before, I cannot say, as he never told me his history. Of course every tramp has a history, even as every leaf that the winds blow over the fields has its history, and my old tramp doubtless had his, and God knows it must have been sad enough, judging by his looks, for he had the saddest face I ever looked at, and I’ve seen a good many sad faces in my day.

No, he was nothing but a tramp, old and gray-headed, and nearly worn out with his tramping. How long he had been going the rounds I cannot say, but for nearly a dozen years, once each year, hi made his appearance in the city, tarried a month, perhaps, and then quietly disappeared, and we saw him no more for a twelvemonth. Inoffensive? Decidedly–as mild-mannered a man as ever asked grace at a poorhouse table.

Indeed, the children were his best patrons, for he had a most winning way with them, and he could scarcely be seen on the street without the accompaniment of a dozen, tagging at his heels and holding on to his hands and the skirts of his long coat. There’s Dick there, six feet if he’s an inch and gone twenty last month. Well, many and many a time have I seen the strapping fellow when he was a little chap sitting astride the old vagabond’s neck, with his little feet crooked in under his armpits, laughing and screaming uproariously as his human horse underneath him pranced and curvetted along the pavement, and charged through the flock of childish admirers around him, as if they were a hostile soldiery and Dick was a very Henry of Navarre, whose white plume must always be found in the path to glory.

God bless the youngsters! Who of us with the burden of life’s toil and care weighing us down, ever saw a frolicsome group of them, happy in their freedom from trouble and care, and did not wish he might slip his shoulders from under the load of his fifty years and be a boy again? What a pity it is that we must age and die in our wrinkles, leaving nothing better to gaze upon than a shrunken face, colorless of bloom and written all over with the scraggy record of our griefs, our errors, and our pains! Why cannot death charm back the boyish vigor and girlish grace to our faces, when, with the invisible and fatal gesture, he sweeps his hand swiftly across them?

The dog? Oh! certainly; but don’t hurry me. I’m too old to tell a story in a straight line and at express speed. I will get to the dog all in good time, and, in order to feel as I do about the terrible thing that happened to him, you must know something about his master, for in an odd sort of way they supplemented each other. Indeed, they seemed to have entered into a kind of partnership to share each other’s moods as they shared each other’s fortune. And it was a strange, and, I may say, a very touching sight, to see two creatures, of different species, so intimately attached to each other; and often, as I have looked at the dog when he was gazing at his master, have I said to myself, “Surely, something or some one has blundered, and a human soul was put, by mistake, into that dog’s body,” for never–no, sir, I will not qualify it–never have I seen a greater love look from human into human eyes than I have seen gazing devotedly up into the old man’s face from the eyes of that dog. How did he look? Queer enough, I assure you, for his cross, while an admirable one to yield wit and affection both, was the worst possible one for beauty, for his father was a full-blooded shepherd and his mother a Scotch terrier, without a taint in her blood.