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V. A Friend of Justice Henry van Dyke

Section II.

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There was no further question about Pichou's leadership of the team. But the obedience of his followers was unwilling and sullen. There was no love in it. Imagine an English captain, with a Boer company, campaigning in the Ashantee country, and you will have a fair idea of Pichou's position at Seven Islands.

He did not shrink from its responsibilities. There were certain reforms in the community which seemed to him of vital importance, and he put them through.

First of all, he made up his mind that there ought to be peace and order on the village street. In the yards of the houses that were strung along it there should be home rule, and every dog should deal with trespassers as he saw fit. Also on the beach, and around the fish-shanties, and under the racks where the cod were drying, the right of the strong jaw should prevail, and differences of opinion should be adjusted in the old-fashioned way. But on the sandy road, bordered with a broken board-walk, which ran between the houses and the beach, courtesy and propriety must be observed. Visitors walked there. Children played there. It was the general promenade. It must be kept peaceful and decent. This was the First Law of the Dogs of Seven Islands. If two dogs quarrel on the street they must go elsewhere to settle it. It was highly unpopular, but Pichou enforced it with his teeth.

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The Second Law was equally unpopular: No stealing from the Honourable H. B. Company. If a man bought bacon or corned-beef or any other delicacy, and stored it an insecure place, or if he left fish on the beach over night, his dogs might act according to their inclination. Though Pichou did not understand how honest dogs could steal from their own master, he was willing to admit that this was their affair. His affair was that nobody should steal anything from the Post. It cost him many night watches, and some large battles to carry it out, but he did it. In the course of time it came to pass that the other dogs kept away from the Post altogether, to avoid temptations; and his own team spent most of their free time wandering about to escape discipline.

The Third Law was this. Strange dogs must be decently treated as long as they behave decently. This was contrary to all tradition, but Pichou insisted upon it. If a strange dog wanted to fight he should be accommodated with an antagonist of his own size. If he did not want to fight he should be politely smelled and allowed to pass through.

This Law originated on a day when a miserable, long-legged, black cur, a cross between a greyhound and a water-spaniel, strayed into Seven Islands from heaven knows where--weary, desolate, and bedraggled. All the dogs in the place attacked the homeless beggar. There was a howling fracas on the beach; and when Pichou arrived, the trembling cur was standing up to the neck in the water, facing a semicircle of snarling, snapping bullies who dared not venture out any farther. Pichou had no fear of the water. He swam out to the stranger, paid the smelling salute as well as possible under the circumstances, encouraged the poor creature to come ashore, warned off the other dogs, and trotted by the wanderer's side for miles down the beach until they disappeared around the point. What reward Pichou got for this polite escort, I do not know. But I saw him do the gallant deed; and I suppose this was the origin of the well- known and much-resisted Law of Strangers' Rights in Seven Islands.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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