Imágenes de página

acting faithfully towards God, and towards our fellow-creatures, are continually suffered to pass unimproved ! Unfaithfulness is, indeed, so common, so almost universal, that every one seems to expect it of his neighbour, and to be upon his watch against it. Every species of lying, cheating, and fraud, is the fruit of this unfaithfulness, and no one can have had dealings with the world, without seeing how common is this evil fruit of an evil tree. Well might Solomon exclaim,

66 A faithful man who can find ?” (Prov. xx. 6.)

If such be the sad reality as it respects the greater portion of mankind, and if there be few that can claim for themselves the character of truly faithful men,-faithful to God, and to their fellowcreatures,—let us not be ashamed to consider an example of fidelity in a being far less highly gifted than we are, but whose actions are such, as to yield abundant instruction and admonition to mankind. The Dog, in his fidelity and attachment to the master on whom he depends for his daily subsistence, is a constant and living witness against us in our want of faithfulness to that Heavenly Master, on whom we depend“ for life, and breath, and all things."

The poet has truly said, that

Learn we might, if not too proud to stoop
To quadruped instructors, many a good
And useful quality, and virtue too,
Rarely exemplified among ourselves :
Attachment never to be weaned, or changed
By any change of fortune ; proof alike
Against unkindness, absence, and neglect;
Fidelity, that neither bribe nor threat

Can move or warp; and gratitude for small
And trivial favours, lasting as the life,

And glistening even in the dying eye. Let us then proceed to trace some of the excellent qualities of the dog-qualities which we should scarcely expect in this animal, when we consider his family connexions. The dog is a near relation of the fox, the hyæna, the jackal, and the wolf ; and, in common with those animals, is found in all parts of the world. He is able to accommodate himself to hot or cold climates, and is provided with a coat which varies in thickness according to his necessities. In very warm countries, this coat is almost destitute of hair ; but in cold regions, the fur becomes exceedingly thick. Some of the dogs which were taken by our voyagers into the frozen regions of the north, acquired a fur of such remarkable thickness, that when they crouched by the fires, holes were frequently burnt in it half-way down to the skin, without the animal appearing at all sensible of the heat.

No one can tell when the dog first became the tame and domestic animal we now find him to be. He seems to have been formed for the service and companionship of man, and there is no record of the time when he was otherwise. There are, indeed, numbers of wild dogs in the East, which roam in the forests, and get their food by hunting down other wild animals ; but they never attack man : on the contrary, if taken young, they soon become domesticated with him, and exhibit nearly the same sagacity as our sporting dogs. There are other dogs in the East, which, in common with jackals and birds of prey, act as scavengers in towns and villages, clearing away the refuse matter. These have no master, and live in the thickets during the day, only coming out at sunset, to begin their useful office. Such dogs were, no doubt, common among the tents of the Israelites, when Moses wrote“Neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field ; ye shall cast it to the dogs.” (Exod. xxii. 31.)

Still more marked is the allusion to this kind of dog, where it is written—" Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat: and him that dieth in the field, shall the fowls of the air eat." (1 Kings xiv. 11. See also xvi. 4, and xxi. 24.) The association of dogs with birds of prey naturally caused them to be classed among unclean animals, and to be held in much contempt, even as the same kind of dog is in the same countries at the present day. Every one must remember the exclamation of Hazael : “Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing ?” (2 Kings viii. 13)-showing that a dog was only another name for a most contemptible object. It would almost appear that the faithful domestic animal, so common among ourselves, was not known in Scripture times, were it not that in one of the Apocryphal books, we read of Tobit's dog, which is said on various occasions to have accompanied his master.

The faithful character of the dog has, however, been chronicled by very ancient writers. More than two thousand five hundred years ago, his praise was celebrated among the ancient Greeks, by their

poet Homer ; and from that time to the present, there have seldom been wanting writers to record his excellent qualities. He is, at the present time, a general and deserved favourite ; and whatever his particular variety, he is useful, faithful, and interesting to mankind. One of our highest authorities says of him : “He has been the pampered minion of royalty, and the half-starved partaker of the beggar's crust : in one form he appears as the high-bred hound of the chase ; in another, as the lowly, but more useful keeper of his master's flocks ; in another, as the true and pertinacious tracker of human felons ; in another, as the active destroyer of humbler nuisances ; and, in another, as the laborious beast of burthen and of draught." *

Throughout all these characters, he displays, in a greater or less degree, the same noble and disinterested nature. It is true, that his good qualities are often obscured by prosperous circumstances, and that a period of want and of difficulty is that in which his real nature is best seen ; but in this, he simply resembles the human race, whose days of ease and luxury are not always the most favourable to the development of their better qualities.

Of all the beautiful features in the character of the dog, fidelity may be considered as the principal. It is the main-spring of action, setting in motion all the other qualities. Among the numerous proofs of fidelity which have been given by this animal, perhaps the following are among the most striking :

* Bell: “ History of British Quadrupeds.”

A few days before the overthrow of Robespierre, a revolutionary tribunal had condemned to death an ancient magistrate, who was a most estimable man. His faithful dog, a Water Spaniel, was with him when he was seized ; but was not suffered to enter the prison. He took refuge with a neighbour of his master's, and every day, at the same hour, returned to the door of the prison, vainly seeking admittance. At last his fidelity so won upon the porter, that he allowed him to enter. The meeting may better be imagined than described. The jailer, however, fearful for himself, carried the dog out of the prison, but admitted him again the next morning, and each day afterwards.

When the day of sentence arrived, the dog, in spite of the guards, made his way into the hall, where he lay, crouched between the legs of his master. At the place of execution, the faithful dog was also present; the knife of the guillotine fell, but he would not leave the lifeless body.

For two days afterwards, his new patron sought him in vain; but, at length, found him stretched upon his master's grave. From this time, every morning, for three months, the mourner returned to his protector, merely to receive food, and then again retreated to the grave. At the end of that time he refused food; his patience seemed exhausted, and for twenty-four hours, he was observed to employ his weakened limbs in digging up the earth that separated him from the being he had served. His powers, however, here gave way; he shrieked in his struggles, and, at length, ceased to breathe, with his last look turned upon the grave.

« AnteriorContinuar »