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Title: Buggy's Babies
Author: Arthur Gask
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1202371.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: June 2012
Date most recently updated: June 2012

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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: Buggy's Babies
Author: Arthur Gask

*

Published in The Mail, Adelaide, S.A., Saturday 17 June, 1944.

*


Black as night was Buggy, the Scotch terrier, of Mudside Farm, and
surely never was there a more picturesque, ugly little dog. His huge
head seemed many times too big for his slender little body, his legs
were short and stumpy, and his flat, squat paws of an enormous size. His
rough and shaggy coat was as thick as the thickest mat you could ever
see.

For all his ugliness, however, everybody loved him, and, directly they
caught sight of him, all children and most grown-ups, too, wanted to
snatch him up and give him a good hug. Notwithstanding his sad and
melancholy eyes, like pools of blackest ink, he was a jovial, merry
little fellow, and inclined to be friendly with everyone.

Yet--Buggy was a killer. Of the five cats on the farm, however, he took
only a contemptuous notice, but woe betide any strange courting Tom who
came sneaking round at night to say "How-do-you-do?" to them. Buggy had
no sympathy with feline romance. Always ready for a fight, he was game
as a pebble, and would give battle to dogs five times his size. Then, if
his onslaught upon them were only that of a midget submarine, his deep
and thunderous growls were well worthy of a battleship, and it was
incredible how such fierce and awe-inspiring sounds could issue from so
small a stomach.

One morning Blackbeetle, the old sheepdog, spoke very seriously to him.
"See here, my son," he said sternly, "what did you mean by coming home
so late last night? Oh, yes, I heard you, though you tried to sneak
home, like master did a night or two ago, when he'd been driving that
pretty Mrs. Jenkins home, and, instead, told mistress he was late
because he'd had a puncture."

"Oh, he drove her home, did he?" exclaimed Buggy, anxious to turn the
conversation. "Well, I wonder she let him, for I know he drives much too
fast for her."

"Who told you that?" frowned Blackbeetle.

"I was under the back seat of the car one day last week," explained
Buggy, "when he drove her down to get her mail, and I heard her keep on
telling him to 'Stop it.' She said several times, 'No, you mustn't.'"

The elder dog looked pityingly at his young companion, but, suppressing
a grin, repeated his question. "Why did you come home so late?" He
scowled. "But I needn't ask. I know you had been going after that Susie
McBottle."

"And what if I had?" asked Buggy defiantly. "It's no business of yours."

"Oh, isn't it!" exclaimed Blackbeetle warmly. "You know quite well that
I'm responsible for the good conduct of this yard, and I won't have a
young dog like you trapesing about after strange females."

"But I've done no harm," protested Buggy. "We only just rubbed noses
through the fence."

"Because it was too high for either of you to jump over," sneered the
sheepdog. He shook his head angrily. "You had no business to start
speaking to her. You don't know anything about her people, and everybody
says she's only a common dog-shop dog, and cost about five shillings.
I'm sure McBottle, the pig man, wouldn't have paid more."

"But she's worth her weight in gold to me," said Buggy grandly, "and I
shall pay her attention if I want to."

"Ha, I don't think you will," scoffed Blackbeetle. "I heard Master say
you're to be chained up at night. He's very cross about it."

A few days later Jock McBottle, a lean, raw-boned Scotchman, a breeder
of pigs, and smelling strongly of his calling, came round to Mudside
Farm and called out over the fence: "I say, Farmer Ben, wot aboot makin'
a match atween yer leetle Boogy and ma Susie? She'd hav some bonnie
poopies."

"I daresay," grunted Ben, who didn't like McBottle, but who, all the
same, was quite agreeable to make some money out of him. "All right, but
it'll cost you three guineas. My dog's a pedigree animal, from Tut-Tut
out of Cosey Corner."

"Three guineas be blamed!" snorted McBottle. "Why, to buy yer Boogy he's
no worth more than a few bob. Coom, now, mon, be raisonable! I'll gie
yer won of the poops."

Ben was furious, and then followed quite a heated and acrimonious
exchange of ideas, in which it came out that for many months Ben's face
and general appearance had been most distasteful to Jock McBottle; also,
according to Ben, that the other's ancestry, at any rate on the maternal
side, was little different from that of his dog, Susie. Eventually, the
two gentlemen parted angrily, with the cryptic remark from the lean
Scotchman that anything might happen, and 'yer never can tell.'

"No, you don't," shouted back Ben angrily. "There'll be none of that.
From now on my dog'll be kept on the chain night and day, to make
certain no bug-bitten Scotchman steals a pedigree litter."

About a week later, however, Buggy slipped his chain during the night,
and in the morning was nowhere to be found. Directly Ben knew it, he got
out his car and drove over to McBottle's.

"Here you," he bawled out angrily, striding without ceremony into the
pig-yard, "have you decoyed my dog away? If you have, I tell you
straight, I'll have the law on you, quick and lively." He shook his fist
in McBottle's face. "You dirty thief."

"Dirty thief yerself!" shrieked the Scotchman, jumping about like a
scalded cat. "It'll be me wot'll be dragging yer into court for heavy
damages. Where's ma leetle Susie gone? She's no been seen since yester
morn, and it's ma opeenion it's yer and yer immoral abdoocting dorg
who're at the bottom of it. Where's Susie gone I want to ken."

For a long time Ben was unbelieving, but a thorough search over the pig
premises and the weeping corroboration of their loss by the Scotsman's
nine dirty-faced little children at last convinced him, and he went
swearing and fuming away.

That night it started to rain heavily, and, when all the McBottle
children were asleep and their father was just undressing by taking off
his boots, hoarse and snappy barks were heard outside the gate.

"That'll not be our Susie," frowned McBottle to his wife, "but what for
is any dawg to coom barking round here tonight I canna think. I'll gang
oot and see," and he quickly got dressed again by resuming his boots.
Lighting a lantern, he crossed the yard to find to his great
astonishment Buggy by the fence. Buggy's little legs were mired to his
stomach, and his bedraggled coat was sodden with the pouring rain. He
proceeded to bark loudly.

"Git oot, yer noisy leetle baste," shouted McBottle. "Go awa at wonce,"
and he threw stones and threatened him with a stick. But Buggy would not
budge, and continuing to bark hoarsely, would not go away.

McBottle's massive spouse arrived to see what was happening. "Nay, nay,
mon," she called out, "dinna drive him awa. Maybe he's followed Susie by
her scent and found her with a broken leg. He's coom to take yer where
she is."

"By goom, yer may be right!" exclaimed the excited Scotsman. "I'll awa
wi' him and see whaur he goes."

"But wrap yersel' oop well, Jock," warned his wife. "The rain's fair
cruel, and yer'll want two sacks over yer to keep dry."

Jock saddled his old pony and rode out of the yard, swinging a hurricane
lantern to light the way. Buggy seemed to know exactly what was wanted
of him, and set off up the road at a good pace, looking back, however,
many times to make sure that he was being followed. Presently he left
the road and turned up along the side of a swiftly running creek.

"Ah, and it's oop in the hills we're going," muttered the soaked
Scotsman. "Then the poor, wet dawgie is sure caught in a rabbit trap."

It was an awful ride, with the rain continuing to pour down in sheets.
Mile after mile they went, until McBottle reckoned they had come a good
four miles from home. Still, he had given quite a lot of his dour love
to his dog, and, hopeful now that he would be finding her, gave no
thought to anything else. And, sure enough, at last he did find her, a
drenched and shivering little creature lying by a rabbit warren, with
one of her feet held fast in the cruel jaws of a trap. She whimpered
feebly when the light of the lantern fell upon her, and tried to wag her
tail. Buggy licked her face and then jumped round delightedly, barking
hoarse, snappy barks.

"Puir leetle lassie," almost sobbed the Scotsman as he released Susie
from the trap and gathered her up in his arms. "Oh, but yer have had a
bad cruel time!" He turned down to Buggy, who now made no attempt to get
away, and patted him, too. "Yer a fine, wee dawgie, my boy, and it's a
gude hot sooper yer shall have for this."

With both dogs cuddled up under his arm and warmed by the shelter of the
sacks, he jogged back home much quicker than he had come. His wife was
overjoyed, and cuddled Buggy almost as much as she did her own dog. They
were both well dried before the fire, given warm milk, and--oh, joy of
joys--had a saucer of pig's liver placed before them.

"And yer'll no be taking him back home tonicht, Jock?" asked the wife,
indicating Buggy.

"Nay, not tonicht," replied Jock. He gave her a crafty look. "Nor
tomorrow nicht, nor the nicht after." He dropped his voice to a whisper.
"Leetle Boogy will be our guest for a leetle while in the barn by the
far paddock. Nay, nay, the bairns is not to ken. We'll keep it from
everyone." He shook his head angrily. "Yon swearing farmer-mon called me
a scratching Scotch scoundrel, and, by goom, I'll be one the noo."

So, it was a week and longer before Buggy saw Mudside Farm again. Then,
late one night, he was dropped about a quarter of a mile from his home
and given a friendly kick to hasten back there. His coat was well matted
with dust and burrs, and round his neck was what McBottle considered a
most artistic piece of work, a collar of a piece of dirty rope with a
frayed end hanging down to give all appearance that Buggy had broken
away from somewhere.

After barking outside the farmhouse door to announce his return. Buggy
was received with great joy by his master and mistress, as they had long
since given up all hope of seeing him again. Notwithstanding that he was
ravenously hungry, another piece of artistic work on McBottle's part,
and speedily got rid of a substantial meal, the farmer had his
suspicions at once. "Darn it all," he swore viciously, "he smells of
pig!"

A man of quick action when his temper was roused, the first thing the
next morning Ben was round at the pig farm and, striding angrily into
the yard, was not at all surprised to see McBottle's little Scotch
terrier there. The children were busy, petting and patting her.

"And when did you find her?" he asked sneeringly of the eldest one, a
girl of about 12, rawboned and freckled like her father.

"Oh, she coom back last night," exclaimed the girl excitedly. "Some bad
mon had stolen her and she were half-starved. She had a rope tied round
her neck."

In the light of Ben's suspicions this information was highly
disconcerting, as he thought the girl was not old enough to lie
plausibly. Besides, the other children were crowding round so eagerly to
fondle the little dog that it was obvious her presence was something of
a novelty to them. The Scotchman's wife came out and corroborated her
daughter's story with much detail.

"But where's your husband?" snapped Ben.

"Gone oot to the poleece station," replied the wife instantly, "to offer
a beeg reward to find oot who took Susie. He's determined to have the
villains poot in gaol."

Ben returned home puzzled, but still suspicious. He was sure McBottle
would have offered no 'beeg reward' if there had been the slightest
chance of anyone claiming it, and his suspicions were by no means
dissipated by a conversation he had with the Scotchman when the latter
called round at the farm that same afternoon.

"I hear yer Boogy's coom back, too," he shouted over the gate with a
great affectation of friendliness, "and it's a happy thing we've got our
pets back." He gritted his teeth angrily. "Still, I'm detarmined to have
the law on the scoondrels, and I've told them at the poleece station
it'll be a coople of five-pun notes for anywon who catches them."

At that moment Buggy came running up and began jumping round the
pig-breeder in the most friendly fashion. "He seems to know you pretty
well," scowled Ben. "That's funny, isn't it?"

"Nay, not at all," laughed McBottle. "All animals take to me. They ken
I'm their friend."

Ben saw it was useless to lose his temper, but asked sarcastically, "And
about those puppies, have you brought the three guineas with you?"

The Scotchman shook his head. "I ha thought better of it. Boogy's
pedigree don't quite satisfy me and I'll be looking for something
better. Gude morning to yer and gude luck," and he rode away, hardly
trying to suppress one of the broadest of grins.

Some months went by, and then a neighbour brought round to Ben a copy of
the local newspaper. "See this," he said, pointing to an advertisement
on the front page. "That McBottle's taken to breeding pedigree Scotch
terriers, as well as those scrofulous-looking pigs of his."

Ben took the paper from him and his eyes opened very wide as he read the
advertisement: "On Friday next at the Burra Market, by the favor of Jock
McBottle, Esq., of Pigsty Stud Farm, Silverbody & Lively will auction
seven pedigree Scotch terriers by Hush-Hush out of Bonnie Hieland
Lassie. Reserve price four guineas each."

Ben's face was black as thunder, but he made no particular comment. He
was not the kind of man who like people to think anyone had got the
better of him.

On Friday evening he came home from market in a very chastened frame of
mind. "There is no doubt about it," he said gloomily to his wife. "They
are Buggy's puppies right enough; they are so exactly like him that I
wished I hadn't taken him in with me. Everyone could see they were his,
and they were all laughing. And, what's more--"he almost choked in his
rage--"that scoundrel McBottle was stalking about as bold as brass, if
you please, taking orders for the next litter. Why, I'm almost of a mind
to----"

"No, we'll have none of that," said his wife firmly. "You'll be sensible
and get a proper mate for Buggy. That's what you've got to do."

That night Blackbeetle, the sheepdog, spoke very solemnly to Buggy over
their evening bones. "You told me a lot of skites, my son," he said
sadly, "about where you were that week when you were away, but I don't
blame you. When you're sweethearting I know it's not considered wrong to
tell whackers when you are shielding the other party. It's not like
telling a lie when you've taken another dog's bone and say you haven't
seen it. Still, you know I'm your friend, and, with my experience in
those matters, I do think you might have told me a bit more and not let
everything come to me as such a surprise."

Buggy hung his head. "But it wasn't all my secret, Blackbeetle, and even
now I can't tell you everything. I--I----"

"Say no more about it son," broke in Blackbeetle. "Really, I ought not
to have referred to it." He looked down his nose. "In my days I was a
bit of a dog of the world, too, and I quite understand." A thought
struck him. "But I say, did the pups look like you?"

"Exactly," sighed Buggy. "They are very handsome!"

"And how did master take it?" asked the sheepdog.

Buggy grinned. "He picked me up by the scruff of the neck and said that
if he thought I understood he'd give me a dose of the strap, but, when
he had gone out mistress kissed me on the forehead and gave me a piece
of biscuit."

"That's it, that's it," exclaimed Blackbeetle excitedly, "just what I
would have expected she would do. A woman always loves the bad man, and,
if she's not the one to suffer, is always ready to make excuses for
him."

He laughed derisively. "Of course, she thinks it was little Susie who
led you astray. Ha, ha, ha!"



THE END


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