**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Mystery Of Black And Tan
by [?]

“The reader must remember that my work is
concerning the aspects of things only.”

We,–the Sine Qua Non, the Duchess, the Sputchard, the Dutchard, the Ricapicticapic, Oz and Oz, the Maid of Lorn, and myself,–left Crieff some fifteen years ago, on a bright September morning, soon after daybreak, in a gig. It was a morning still and keen: the sun sending his level shafts across Strathearn, and through the thin mist over its river hollows, to the fierce Aberuchil Hills, and searching out the dark blue shadows in the corries of Benvorlich. But who and how many are “we?” To make you as easy as we all were, let me tell you we were four; and are not these dumb friends of ours persons rather than things? is not their soul ampler, as Plato would say, than their body, and contains rather than is contained? Is not what lives and wills in them, and is affectionate, as spiritual, as immaterial, as truly removed from mere flesh, blood, and bones, as that soul which is the proper self of their master? And when we look each other in the face, as I now look in Dick’s, who is lying in his “corny” by the fireside, and he in mine, is it not as much the dog within looking from out his eyes–the windows of his soul–as it is the man from his?

The Sine Qua Non, who will not be pleased at being spoken of, is such an one as that vain-glorious and chivalrous Ulric von Huetten–the Reformation’s man of wit, and of the world, and of the sword, who slew Monkery with the wild laughter of his Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum–had in his mind when he wrote thus to his friend Fredericus Piscator (Mr. Fred. Fisher), on the 19th May 1519, “Da mihi uxorem, Friderice, et ut scias qualem, venustam, adolescentulam, probe educatam, hilarem, verecundam, patientem.”Qualem,” he lets Frederic understand in the sentence preceding, is one “qua cum ludam, qua jocos conferam, amoeniores et leviusculas fabulas misceam, ubi sollicitudinis aciem obtundam, curarum aestus mitigem.” And if you would know more of the Sine Qua Non, and in English, for the world is dead to Latin now, you will find her name and nature in Shakspeare’s words, when King Henry the Eighth says, “go thy ways.”

The Duchess, alias all the other names till you come to the Maid of Lorn, is a rough, gnarled, incomparable little bit of a terrier, three parts Dandie-Dinmont, and one part–chiefly in tail and hair–cocker: her father being Lord Rutherfurd’s famous “Dandie,” and her mother the daughter of a Skye, and a light-hearted Cocker. The Duchess is about the size and weight of a rabbit; but has a soul as big, as fierce, and as faithful as had Meg Merrilies, with a nose as black as Topsy’s; and is herself every bit as game and queer as that delicious imp of darkness and of Mrs. Stowe. Her legs set her long slim body about two inches and a half from the ground, making her very like a huge caterpillar or hairy oobit–her two eyes, dark and full, and her shining nose, being all of her that seems anything but hair. Her tail was a sort of stump, in size and in look very much like a spare foreleg, stuck in anywhere to be near. Her color was black above and a rich brown below, with two dots of tan above the eyes, which dots are among the deepest of the mysteries of Black and Tan.

This strange little being I had known for some years, but had only possessed about a month. She and her pup (a young lady called Smoot, which means smolt, a young salmon), were given me by the widow of an honest and drunken–as much of the one as of the other–Edinburgh street-porter, a native of Badenoch, as a legacy from him and a fee from her for my attendance on the poor man’s death-bed. But my first sight of the Duchess was years before in Broughton Street, when I saw her sitting bolt upright, begging, imploring, with those little rough four leggies, and those yearning, beautiful eyes, all the world, or any one, to help her master, who was lying “mortal” in the kennel. I raised him, and with the help of a ragged Samaritan, who was only less drunk than he, I got Macpherson–he held from Glen Truim–home; the excited doggie trotting off, and looking back eagerly to show us the way. I never again passed the Porters’ Stand without speaking to her. After Malcolm’s burial I took possession of her; she escaped to the wretched house, but as her mistress was off to Kingussie, and the door shut, she gave a pitiful howl or two, and was forthwith back at my door, with an impatient, querulous bark. And so this is our second of the four; and is she not deserving of as many names as any other Duchess, from her of Medina Sidonia downwards?