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

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Buggy's Babies
by
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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