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Title: An Ulm
Author: Stanley Waterloo
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0603621.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: July 2006
Date most recently updated: July 2006

This eBook was produced by: Richard Scott

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An Ulm
Stanley Waterloo


"IT is as you say; he is not handsome, certainly not beautiful as
flowers and the stars and a woman are but he has another sort of
beauty, I think, such a beauty as made Victor Hugo's monster,
Gwynplaine, fascinating, or gives a certain sort of charm to a banded
rattlesnake. He is not much like the dove-eyed setter over whom we
shot woodcock this afternoon, but to me he is the fairest object on
the face of the earth, this gaunt brindled Ulm.

"What is there about an Ulm especially attractive? Well, I don't know.
About Ulms in the abstract, very little, I imagine. About an Ulm in
the concrete, particularly the brute near us a great deal. The Ulm is
a morbid development in dog-breeding, anyhow. I remember, as doubtless
you do as well, when the animals first made their appearance in this
country a few years ago. The big, dirty-white beasts, dappled with
dark blotches and with countenances unexplainably threatening,
reminded one of hyenas with huge dog forms. Germans brought them over
first, and they were affected by saloon-keepers and their class. They
called them Siberian blood-hounds then, but the dog-fanciers got hold
of them, and they became, with their sinister obtrusiveness, a feature
of the shows; the breed was defined more clearly, and now they are
known as Great Danes or Ulms, indifferently. How they originated I
never cared to learn. I imagine it sometimes. I fancy some jilted,
jaundiced descendant of the sea-rovers, retiring to his castle, and
endeavouring, by mating some ugly bloodhound with a wild wolf, to
produce a quadruped as fierce and cowardly and treacherous as a man or
woman may be.

"Never mind about the dog, and tell you why I've been gentleman,
farmer, sportsman and half-hermit here for the last five years--
leaving everything just as I was getting a grip on reputation in town,
leaving a pretty wife, too, after only a year of marriage? I can
hardly do that--that is, I can hardly drop the dog, because, you see,
he's part of the story. No need for going far back with the legend.
You know it all up to the time I was married. You dined with me once
or twice later. You remember my wife? Certainly she was a pretty
woman, well bred, too, and wise, in a woman's way. I've seen a good
deal of the world, but I don't know that I ever saw a more tactful
entertainer, or in private a more adorable woman when she chose to be
affectionate. I was in that fool's paradise which is so big and holds
so many people, sometimes for a year and a half after marriage. Then
one day I found myself outside the wall."

"There was a beautiful set to my wife's chin, you may recollect--a
trifle strong for a woman; but I used to say to myself that, as
students know, the mother most impresses the male offspring, and that
my sons would be men of will. There was a fulness to her lips. Well,
so there is to mine. There was a delicious, languorous craft in the
look of her eyes at times. I care not at all for that. I thought she
loved me and knew me. Love of me would give all faithfulness;
knowledge of me, even were the inclination to wrong existent, would
beget a dread of consequences. My dear boy, we don't know women.
Sometimes women don't know men. She did not know me any more than she
loved me. She has become better informed.

"What happened? Well, now come in the dog and the man. The dog was
given me by a friend who was dog-mad, and who said to me the puppy
would develop into a marvel of his kind, so long a pedigree he had.
The man came in the form of an accidental new friend, an old friend of
my wife, as subsequently developed. I invited him to my house, and he
came often. I liked to have him there. I wanted to go to Congress--you
know all about that--and wasn't often at home in the evening. He made
the evenings less lonely for my wife, and I was glad of it.

"Meanwhile that brute of a puppy in the basement had been developing.
He had grown into a great, rangy, long-toothed monster with a leer on
his dull face, and the servants were afraid of him. I got interested
and made a pet of the uncouth animal. I studied the Ulm character. I
learned queer things about him. Despite his size and strength, he was
frequently overcome by other dogs when he wandered into the street. He
was tame until the shadows began to gather and the sun went down. Then
a change came upon him. He ranged about the basement, and none but I
dared venture down there. He was, in short, a cur by day, at night a
demon. I supposed the early dogs of this breed had been trained to
night slaughter and savageness alone, and that it was a case of
atavism, a recurrence of hereditary instinct. It interested me vastly,
and I resolved to make him the most perfect of watch-dogs. I trained
him to lie couchant, and to spring upon and tear a stuffed figure I
would bring into the basement. I noticed he always sprang at the
throat. 'Hard lines.' thought I, 'for the burglar who may venture
here!'"

"It was a little later than this nonsense with the dog, which was a
piece of boyishness, a degree of relaxation to the strain of my fight
with down-town conditions, that there came in what makes a man think
the affairs of this world are not adjusted rightly, and makes
recurrent the impulse which was first unfortunate for Abel--no doubt
worse for Cain. There is no need for going into details of the story,
how I learned, or when. My knowledge was all-sufficient and absolute.
My wife and my friend were sinning, riotously and fully, but
discreetly--sinning against all laws of right and honour, and against
me. The mechanism of it was simple. The grounds back of my house you
know, were large, and you may not have forgotten the lane of tall,
dipped shrubbery that led up from the rear to a summer-house. His
calls in the evening were made early and ended early. The pinkness of
all propriety was about them. The servants suspected nothing. But, his
call ended, the graceful gentleman, friend of mine and lover of my
wife, would walk but a few hundred paces, then turn and enter my
grounds at the rear gate I have mentioned, and pass up the arbour to
the pretty summer-house. He would find time for pleasant anticipation
there as he lolled upon one of the soft divans with which I had
furnished the charming place; but his waiting would not be long; she
would soon come to him."

When I learned what I have told--after the first awful five minutes--I
don't like to think of them, even now--I became the most deliberate
man on the face of this earth peopled with sinners. Sometimes, they
say, the whole substance of a man's blood may be changed in a second
by chemical action. My blood was changed, I think. The poison had
transmuted it. There was a leaden sluggishness, but my head was clear.

"I had odd fancies. I remember I thought of a nobleman who had another
torn slowly apart by horses for proving false to him at the siege of
Calais. His cruelty had been a youthful horror to me, Now I had a
tremendous appreciation of the man. 'Good fellow, good fellow!' I went
about muttering to myself in a foolish, involuntary way. I wondered
how my wife's lover could endure the strain of four strong
Clydesdales, each started at the same moment, one north, one south,
one east, one west. His charming personal appearance recurred to me,
and I thought of his fine neck. Women like a fine-throated man, and he
was one. I wondered if my wife's fancy tended the same way. It was
well this idea came to me, for it gave me an inspiration. I thought of
the dog.

"There is no harm, is there, in training a dog to pull down a stuffed
figure? There is no harm, either, if the stuffed figure be given the
simulated habiliments of some friend of yours. And what harm can there
be in training the dog in a garden-arbour instead of in a basement? I
dropped into the way of being at home a little more. I told my wife
she should have alternate nights at least, and she was grateful and
delighted. And on the nights when I was at home I would spend half an
hour in the grounds with the dog, saying I was training him in new
things, and no one paid attention. I taught him to crouch in the
little lane dose to the summer-house, and to rush down and leap upon
the manikin when I displayed it at the other end. Ye gods! how he
learned to tear it down and tear its imitation throat! The training
over, I would lock him in the basement as usual. But one night I had a
dispatch come to me summoning me to another city. The other man was to
call that evening, and he came. I left before nine o'clock, but just
before going I released the dog. He darted for the post in the garden,
and with gleaming eyes crouched, as he had been accustomed to do,
watching the entrance of the arbour.

"I can always sleep well on a train. I suppose the regular sequence of
sounds, the rhythmic throb of the motion, has something to do with it.
I slept well and awoke refreshed when I reached my destination. I was
driven to a hotel; I took a bath; I did what I rarely do, I drank a
cocktail before breakfast. I sat down at the table; I gave my order,
and then lazily opened the morning paper. One of the dispatches deeply
interested me.

"'Inexplicable Tragedy' was the headline. By the way, 'Inexplicable
Tragedy' contains just about the number of letters to fill a line
neatly in the style of heading now the fashion. I don't know about
such things, but it seems to me compact and neat and most effective.
The lines which followed gave a skeleton of the story:

"'A WELL-KNOWN GENTLEMAN KILLED BY A DOG.

"'Theory of the Case which appears the only one possible under the
Circumstances.'

"I read the dispatch at length. A man is naturally interested in the
news from his own city. It told how a popular club man had been found
in the early morning lying dead in the grounds of a friend, his throat
torn open by a huge dog, an Ulm, belonging to that friend, which had
somehow escaped from the basement of the house, where it was usually
confined. The gentleman had been a caller at the residence the same
evening, and had left at a comparatively early hour. Some time later
the mistress of the place had gone out to a summer-house in the
grounds to see that the servants had brought in certain things used at
a luncheon there during the day, but had seen nothing save the dog,
which snarled at her, when she had gone into the house again. In the
morning the gardener found the body of Mr.----lying about midway of an
arbour leading from a gateway to the summer-house. It was supposed
that the unfortunate gentleman had forgotten something, a message or
something of that sort, and upon its recurrence to him had taken the
shorter cut to reach the house again, as he might do naturally, being
an intimate friend of the family.

"Oddly enough, I received no telegram from my wife, but under the
circumstances I could do nothing else than return to my home at once.
I sought my wife, to whom I expressed my horror and my sorrow, but she
said very little. The dog I found in the basement, and he seemed very
glad to see me. It has always been a source of regret to me that dogs
cannot talk. I see that some one has learned that monkeys have a
language, and that he can converse with them, after a fashion. If we
could but talk with dogs!

"I saw the body, of course. I asked a famous surgeon once which would
kill a man the quicker: severance of carotid artery or the jugular
vein? I forget what his answer was, but in this case it really cut no
figure. The dog had torn both open. It was on the left side. From this
I infer that the dog sprang from the right, and that it was that big
fang in his left upper jaw that did the work. Come here, you brute,
and let me open your mouth! There, you see, as I turn his lips back,
what a beauty of a tooth it is! I've thought of having that particular
fang pulled, and of having it mounted and wearing it as a charm on my
watch chain, but the dog is likely to die long before I do, and I've
concluded to wait till then. But it's a beautiful tooth!

"I've mentioned, I believe, that my wife was a woman of keen
perception. You will understand that after the unfortunate affair in
my garden our relations were somewhat--I don't know just what word to
use, but we'll say 'quaint.' It's a pretty little word, and sounds
grotesque in this conversation. One day I provided an allowance for
her, a good one, and came away here alone to play farmer and shoot and
fish for four or five years. Somehow I lost interest in things, and
knew I needed a rest. As for her, she left the house very soon and
went to her own home. Oddly enough, she is in love with me now--in
earnest this time. But we shall not live together again. I could never
eat a peach off which the street vendors had rubbed the bloom. I never
bought goods sold after a fire, even though externally untouched. I
don't believe much in salvage as applied to the relations of men and
women. I've seen in the early morning, the unfortunates who eat choice
bits from the garbage barrels. But I couldn't do it, you know. Odd,
isn't it, what little things will disturb the tenor of a man's
existence and interfere with all his plans?

"I came here and brought the dog with me. I'm fond of him despite the
failings in his character. Notwithstanding his currishness and the
cowardly ferocity which comes out with the night, there is something
definite about him. You know what to expect and what to rely upon. He
does something. That is why I like Ulm.

"What am I going to do? Why, come back to town next year and pick up
the threads. My nerves, which seemed a little out of the way, are
better than they were when I came here. There's nothing to equal
country air. I must have that whirl in my district yet. I don't think
the boys have quite forgotten me. Have you noticed the drift at all? I
could only judge from the papers. How are things in the Ninth Ward?"



THE END





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