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Evergreens Jerome K. Jerome


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Do you remember the story of the old Viking who had been converted to Christianity, and who, just as they were about, with much joy, to baptize him, paused and asked: "But what--if this, as you tell me, is the only way to the true Valhalla--what has become of my comrades, my friends who are dead, who died in the old faith--where are they?"

The priests, confused, replied there could be no doubt those unfortunate folk had gone to a place they would rather not mention.

"Then," said the old warrior, stepping back, "I will not be baptized. I will go along with my own people."

He had lived with them, fought beside them; they were his people. He would stand by them to the end--of eternity. Most assuredly, a very shocking old Viking! But I think it might be worth while giving up our civilization and our culture to get back to the days when they made men like that.

The only reminder of such times that we have left us now, is the bull-dog; and he is fast dying out--the pity of it! What a splendid old dog he is! so grim, so silent, so stanch; so terrible, when he has got his idea, of his duty clear before him; so absurdly meek, when it is only himself that is concerned.

He is the gentlest, too, and the most lovable of all dogs. He does not look it. The sweetness of his disposition would not strike the casual observer at first glance. He resembles the gentleman spoken of in the oft-quoted stanza:

'E's all right when yer knows 'im. But yer've got to know 'im fust.

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The first time I ever met a bull-dog--to speak to, that is--was many years ago. We were lodging down in the country, an orphan friend of mine named George, and myself, and one night, coming home late from some dissolving views we found the family had gone to bed. They had left a light in our room, however, and we went in and sat down, and began to take off our boots.

And then, for the first time, we noticed on the hearthrug a bull-dog. A dog with a more thoughtfully ferocious expression--a dog with, apparently, a heart more dead to all ennobling and civilizing sentiments--I have never seen. As George said, he looked more like some heathen idol than a happy English dog.

He appeared to have been waiting for us; and he rose up and greeted us with a ghastly grin, and got between us and the door.

We smiled at him--a sickly, propitiatory smile. We said, "Good dog--poor fellow!" and we asked him, in tones implying that the question could admit of no negative, if he was not a "nice old chap." We did not really think so. We had our own private opinion concerning him, and it was unfavorable. But we did not express it. We would not have hurt his feelings for the world. He was a visitor, our guest, so to speak--and, as well-brought-up young men, we felt that the right thing to do was for us to prevent his gaining any hint that we were not glad to see him, and to make him feel as little as possible the awkwardness of his position.

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Jerome K. Jerome

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