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Clare went into the kitchen, and sat down. The housemaid came in, and stood for a moment looking at him. Then she asked him what he wanted there.
"Cook told me to wait here," he answered.
"Wait for what?"
"Till she came to me. She's gone to speak to Miss Tempest."
"I won't have that dog here."
"When I had a home," remarked Clare, "our servant said the cook was queen of the kitchen: I don't want to be rude, ma'am, but I must do as she told me."
"She never told you to bring that mangy animal in here!"
"She knew he would follow me, and she said nothing about him. But he's not mangy. He hasn't enough to eat to be mangy. He's as lean as a dried fish!"
The housemaid, being fat, was inclined to think the remark personal; but Clare looked up at her with such clear, honest, simple eyes, that she forgot the notion, and thought what a wonderfully nice boy he looked.
"He's shamefully poor, though! His clothes ain't even decent!" she remarked to herself.
And certainly the white skin did look through in several places.
"You won't let him put his nose in anything, will you?" she said quite gently, returning his smile with a very pleasant one of her own.
"Abdiel is too much of a gentleman to do it," he answered.
"A dog a gentleman!" rejoined the housemaid with a merry laugh, willing to draw him out.
"Abdiel can be hungry and not greedy," answered Clare, and the young woman was silent.
Miss Tempest and Mrs. Mereweather had all this time been turning over the question of what was to be done with the strange boy. They agreed it was too bad that anyone willing to work should be prevented from earning even a day's victuals by the bad temper of a gardener. But his mistress did not want to send the man away. She had found him scrupulously honest, as is many a bad-tempered man, and she did not like changes. The cook on her part had taken such a fancy to Clare that she did not want him set to garden-work; she would have him at once into the house, and begin training him for a page. Now Miss Tempest was greatly desiring the same thing, but in dread of what the cook would say, and was delighted, therefore, when the first suggestion of it came from Mrs. Mereweather herself. The only obstacle in the cook's eyes was that same long, spectral dog. The boy could not be such a fool, however,--she said, not being a lover of animals--as let a wretched beast like that come betwixt him and a good situation!
"It's all right, Clare," said Mrs. Mereweather, entering her queendom so radiant within that she could not repress the outshine of her pleasure. "Mis'ess an' me, we've arranged it all. You're to help me in the kitchen; an' if you can do what you're told, an' are willin' to learn, we'll soon get you out of your troubles. There's but one thing in the way."
"What is it, please?" asked Clare.
"The dog, of course! You must part with the dog."
"That I cannot do," returned Clare quietly, but with countenance fallen and sorrowful. "--Come, Abdiel!"
The dog started up, every hair of him full of electric vitality.
"You don't mean you're going to walk yourself off in such a beastly ungrateful fashion--an' all for a miserable cur!" exclaimed the cook.
"The lady has been most kind to us, and we're grateful to her, and ready to work for her if she will let us;--ain't we, Abdiel? But Abdiel has done far more for me than Miss Tempest! To part with Abdiel, and leave him to starve, or get into bad company, would be sheer ingratitude. I should be a creature such as Miss Tempest ought to have nothing to do with: I might serve her as that young butler I told her of! It's just as bad to be ungrateful to a dog as to any other person. Besides, he wouldn't leave me. He would be always hanging about."
"John would soon knock him on the head."
"Would he, Abdiel?" said Clare.
The dog looked up in his master's face with such a comical answer in his own, that the cook burst out laughing, and began to like Abdiel.
"But you don't really mean to say," she persisted, "that you'd go off again on the tramp, to be as cold and hungry again to-morrow as you were yesterday--and all for the sake of a dog? A dog ain't a Christian!"
"Abdiel's more of a Christian than some I know," answered Clare: "he does what his master tells him."
"There's something in that!" said the cook.
"If I parted with Abdiel, I could never hold up my head among the angels," insisted Clare. "Think what harm it might do him! He could trust nobody after, his goodness might give way! He might grow worse than Tommy!--No; I've got to take care of Abdiel, and Abdiel's got to take care of me!--'Ain't you, Abby?"
"We can't have him here in the kitchen nohow!" said the cook in relenting tone.
"Poor fellow!" said the housemaid kindly.
The dog turned to her and wagged his tail
"What wouldn't I give for a lover like that!" said the housemaid--but whether of Clare or the dog I cannot say.
"I know what I shall do!" cried Clare, in sudden resolve. "I will ask Miss Tempest to have him up-stairs with her, and when she is tired of either of us, we will go away together."
"A probable thing!" returned the cook. "A lady like Miss Tempest with a dog like that about her! She'd be eaten up alive with fleas! In ten minutes she would!"
"No fear of that!" rejoined Clare. "Abdiel catches all his own fleas!--Don't you, Abby?"
The dog instantly began to burrow in his fell of hair--an answer which might be taken either of two ways: it might indicate comprehension and corroboration of his master, or the necessity for a fresh hunt. The women laughed, much amused.
"Look here!" said Clare. "Let me have a tub of water--warm, if you please--he likes that: I tried him once, passing a factory, where a lot of it was running to waste. Then, with the help of a bit of soap, I'll show you a body of hair to astonish you."
"What breed is he?" asked the housemaid.
"He's all the true breeds under the sun, I fancy," returned his master; "but the most of him seems of the sky-blue terrier sort."
The more they talked with Clare, the better the women liked him. They got him a tub and plenty of warm water. Abdiel was nothing loath to be plunged in, and Clare washed him thoroughly. Taken out and dried, he seemed no more for a lady's chamber unmeet.
"Now," said Clare, "will you please ask Miss Tempest if I may bring him on to the lawn, and show her some of his tricks?"
The good lady was much pleased with the cleverness and instant obedience of the little animal. Clare proposed that she should keep him by her.
"But will he stay with me? and will he do what I tell him?" she asked.
Clare took the dog aside, and talked to him. He told him what he was going to do, and what he expected of him. How much Abdiel understood, who can tell! but when his master laid him down at Miss Tempest's feet, there he lay; and when Clare went with the cook, he did not move, though he cast many a wistful glance after the lord of his heart. When his new mistress went into the house, he followed her submissively, his head hanging, and his tail motionless. He soon recovered his cheerfulness, however, and seemed to know that his friend had not abandoned him.
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