Garm – A Hostage

This week's classic fiction is coming all the way from 1899. Set in the Indian foothills of the Himalayas, "Garm — A Hostage" follows a British soldier with an unlikely gift. Rudyard Kipling wrote the story shortly after publishing The Jungle Book.

Weekly Newsletter

The best of The Saturday Evening Post in your inbox!

SUPPORT THE POST

Originally published on December 23, 1899

I drove one night to a military cantonment called Mian Mir to see amateur theatricals. At the back of the Infantry barracks a soldier, his cap over one eye, rushed in front of the horses and shouted that he was a dangerous highway robber. As a matter of fact, he was a friend of mine, so I told him to go home before anyone caught him; but he fell under the pole, and it was then that I heard voices of a military guard in search of someone.

The driver and I threw him into the carriage — he was a little man — drove home swiftly, undressed him and put him to bed, where he waked next morning with a sore headache, very much ashamed. Now that man bore two good conduct stripes on his sleeve, and I did not wish him to lose them. When his uniform was cleaned and dried, and he had been shaved and washed and made neat, I drove him back to barracks with his arm in a fine white sling, and reported that I had accidentally run over him. I did not tell this story to my friend’s sergeant, who was a hostile and unbelieving person, but to his Lieutenant, who did not know me quite so well.

Three days later, my friend came to call, and at his heels slobbered and fawned one of the finest bull-terriers — the old-fashioned breed, two parts bull and one terrier — that I had ever set eyes on. He was pure white, with a fawn-colored saddle just behind his neck, and a fawn diamond at the root of his thin, whippy tail. I had admired him distantly for more than a year; and Vixen, my own fox-terrier, knew him, too.

“‘E’s for you,” said my friend; but he did not look as though he liked parting with him.

“Nonsense! That dog’s worth more than most men, Stanley,” I said.

“‘E’s that an’ more. Tention!”

The dog rose on his hind legs and stood upright for a full minute.

“Eyes right!”

He sat on his haunches and turned his head sharp to the right. At a sign he rose and barked thrice. Then he shook hands with his right paw and bounded lightly to my shoulder. Here he made a necktie, limp and lifeless, hanging down on either side of my neck. I was told to pick him up and throw him in the air. He fell with a howl, and held up one leg.

“Part o’ the trick,” said his owner. “You’re goin’ to die now. Dig yourself your little grave, an’ shut your little eye.”

Still limping, the dog hobbled to the garden-edge, dug himself a hole and lay down in it. When told that he was cured he jumped out, wagging his tail and whining for applause.

He was put through half a dozen other tricks, such as showing how he would hold a man safe (I was that man, and he sat down before me, his teeth bared, ready to spring), and how he would stop eating at the word of command. I had no more than finished praising him when my friend made some sort of gesture that stopped the dog as though he had been shot, took a piece of blue, ruled canteen-paper from his helmet, handed it to me and ran away, while the dog looked after him and howled:

Sir, — I give you the dog because of what you got me out of. He is the best I know, for I made him myself, and he is just as good as a man. Please do not give him too much to eat, and please do not give him back to me. for I am not going to take him, and I am not going to be the fool any more if you will keep him. So please do not try to give him hack any more. I have kept his name hack, so you can call him anything and he will answer, but please do not give him hack. He can kill a man as easy as anything, but please do not give him too much. He knows more than a man.

Vixen sympathetically joined her shrill little yap to the bull-terrier’s despairing cry, and I was annoyed, for I knew that a man who cares for dogs is one thing, but a man who loves one dog is quite another. Dogs are at the best no more than verminous persons, self-scratchers, foul-feeders, and unclean by the law of Moses and Mohammed; but a dog with whom one lives alone for at least six months in the year; a free thing, tied to you so strictly by love that without you he will not stir; a patient, temperate, humorous wise soul, who knows your moods before you know them yourself, is not a dog under any ruling.

I had Vixen, who was all my dog to me; and l felt what my friend must have felt at tearing out his heart in this style and leaving it in my garden. However, the dog understood clearly enough that I was his master, and did not follow the soldier. As soon as he drew breath I made much of him, and Vixen, yelling with jealousy, flew at him. Had she been of his own sex, he might have cheered himself with a fight, but he only looked worriedly when she hit his broad iron sides, laid his heavy head on my knee, and howled anew. I was dining at the Club that night, but as darkness drew in, and the dog snuffed through the empty house like a child trying to recover from a fit of sobbing, I felt that I could not leave him to suffer his first evening alone; and so we fed at home, Vixen on one side and the stranger-dog on the other.

It was Vixen’s custom, till the weather grew hot, to sleep in my bed, her head on the pillow like a Christian, and when morning came I would always find that the little thing had pushed me to the very edge of the cot. This night she hurried to bed, every hair on end, one eye on the stranger who had dropped on a mat in a helpless hopeless sort of way, all four feet spread out, sighing heavily. Vixen settled her head on the pillow several times, to show her little airs and graces, and struck up her comfortable whiney singsong before slumber. The dog softly edged toward me. I put out my hand and he licked it. Instantly my wrist was between Vixen’s teeth, and her warning aaarh! said as plainly as speech that if I took any notice of the stranger she would bite.

I caught her behind her fat neck with my left hand, shook her severely, and said: “Vixen, if you do that again you’ll be put into the verandah. Now, remember!”

She understood, but the minute I released her she mouthed my wrist once more and waited with her ears back and all her body flattened, ready to bite. The big dog’s tail thumped the floor in a humble and peacemaking way.

I grabbed Vixen a second time, lifted her out of bed like a rabbit (she hated that and yelled), and, as I had promised, set her out in the verandah with the bats and the moonlight. At this, she howled. Then she used coarse language — not to me, but to the bull-terrier — till she coughed with exhaustion. Then she ran round the house, trying every door. Then she went off to the stables and barked as though someone were stealing the horses — that was an old trick of hers. Last she returned, and her snuffling yelp said: I’ll be good! Let me in and I’ll be good!

She was admitted and flew to her pillow. When she was quieted I whispered: “You can lie at the foot of the bed.

The bull jumped up at once, and though I felt Vixen quiver with rage, she knew better than to protest. So we slept till the morning, and they had early breakfast with me, bite for bite, till the horse came round and we went for a ride, I don’t think the bull had ever followed a horse before. He was wild with excitement; and Vixen, as usual, squealed, and scuttered, and scooted, and took charge of the procession.

There was one corner of a village called Mozang which we generally passed with caution, because all the yellow pariah-dogs of the place gathered about it. They are half-wild starving beasts, and though they are utter cowards, yet when nine or ten of them get together they will mob and kill and eat an English dog. I kept a whip, with a long lash, for them. That morning they attacked Vixen, who. perhaps of purpose, had moved from my horse’s shadow. The bull was ploughing along in the dust, a hundred yards behind, rolling in his run and smiling as a bull-terrier will. I heard Vixen squeal; half a dozen of the curs closed in on her; a white streak came up behind me; a cloud of dust broke near Vixen, and when it cleared I saw one tall pariah with his back broken, and the bull wrenching another to the earth. Vixen retreated to the protection of my whip, und the bull paddled back covered with the blood of his enemies. That decided me to call him “Garm of the Bloody Breast,” who was a great person in his time — or “Garm” for short; so leaning forward I informed him what his name would be. He looked up while I repeated it, and then raced away. I shouted “Garm!” He stopped, raced back, and came up to ask my will.

Then I saw that my friend was right; and that the dog was worth more than a man. I gave an order which Vixen knew and hated: “Go home and be washed!” Garm understood the first part of it, and Vixen the second, the two trotted off together soberly. When I came in Vixen had been washed and was very proud of herself, but the dog-boy would not touch Garm; he was afraid. I stood by while he was scrubbed, and Garm looked at me to make sure that the soap and the sluicing was what I expected him to endure. “Another time.” I said to the dog-boy, “you will wash him with Vixen when I send them home.”

“Does he know?” said the dog-boy, who understood the ways of dogs.

“Garm,” I said, “you will be washed with Vixen another time.”

The great, holiest eyes were full on me. and I knew that Garm understood. Indeed, next washing-day when Vixen, as usual, fled under my bed. Garm stared at the doubtful dog-boy, stalked to the place where he had been washed last time, and stood rigid in the tub.

But the long days in my office tried him sorely. We three would drive off in the morning at half past eight, and come away at six or later. Vixen, knowing the routine of it, went to sleep under my table; but the confinement ate into Garm’s soul. He generally sat on the verandah looking out on the Mall, and I well knew what he expected. Sometimes a company of soldiers would move along on their way to the Fort, and Garm rolled forth to see them; or an officer in uniform entered into the office, and it was pitiful to see poor Garm’s welcome to the cloth — not the man. He would leap at him, and sniff and bark joyously, then run to the door and back again. One afternoon I heard him bay with a full throat — a thing I had never heard before — and he disappeared. When I drove into my garden at the end of the day, a soldier in white uniform scrambled over the wall at the far end, and the Garm that met me was a joyous dog. This happened twice or thrice a week for a month. I pretended not to notice, but Garm knew and Vixen knew. He would glide home from the office about four o’clock, as though he were only going to look at the scenery, and this he did so quietly that but for Vixen I should not have noticed him. The jealous little dog under the table would give a sniff and a snort just loud enough to call my attention to the flight. Garm might go out forty times in the day and Vixen would never stir, but when he slunk off to see his master in my garden, she told me in her own tongue. That was the one sign she made to prove that Garm did not altogether belong to the family. They were the best of friends at all times, but — I was never to forget Garm did not love me as she loved me.

I never expected it. The dog was not my dog — could never be my dog — and I knew he was as miserable as his master, who tramped eight miles a day to see him. So it seemed to me that the sooner the two were reunited the better for all. One afternoon I sent Vixen home alone in the dog-cart (Garm had gone before), and rode over to cantonments to find another friend of mine, who was an Irish soldier and a great friend of the dog’s master.

I explained the whole case; and wound up with:

“And now Stanley’s in my garden crying over his dog. Why doesn’t he take him back? They’re both unhappy.”

“Unhappy! There’s no sense in the little man any more, an’ we’ve tould him so a hunder times. But ‘tis his fit.”

“What is his fit? He travels thirty miles a week to see the brute, and he pretends not to notice me when he sees me on the road; and I’m as unhappy as he is. Make him take the dog back, Terence.”

“‘Tis his penance he’s set himself. I tould him by way of a joke, afther you’d run over him so convenient that night whin he was strapped — I said if he was a Catholic he’d do penance bekaze you’d saved him his sthripes. Off he wint wid that fit in his little head an’ a dose of fever, an’ nothin’ would suit but givin’ you the dog as hostage. We laughed at him, but he hild on, an’ he’s broke in two wid it.”

“Hostage for what? I don’t want hostages from Stanley.”

“For his good behavior, av coorse. He’s keepin’ straight now, so as ut’s no pleasure to associate wid him.”

“Has he taken the pledge?”

“If ‘twas only that I need not care — nor Jock, either. Ye can take the pledge for three months on an’ off. He sez he’ll never see the dog again, an’ so, mark you, he’ll be straight forevermore. Ye know his fits? Well, this is wan of thim. Faith, the longer I live the less do I know what any man will do or why. How’s the dog takin’ it?”

“Like a man. He’s the best dog in India today. Can’t you make Stanley take him back?”

“I can do no more than I have done. I’ve been over the little man twice wid a belt. But ye know his fits. He’s just doin’ his penance. What will he do when he goes to the Hills? The doctor’s put him on the list.”

It is the custom in India to send a certain number of invalids from each regiment up to stations in the Himalayas for the hot weather; and though the men ought to enjoy the cool and the comfort, they miss the society of the barracks down below, and do their best to come back or to avoid going. I felt that this move would bring matters to a head, so I left Terence hopefully, though he called after me: —

“He won’t take the dog, sorr. Lay your month’s pay on that. Ye know his fits.”

I never pretended to understand Private Stanley Ortheris; and so I did the next best thing — I left him alone.

That summer, the invalids of the regiment to which my friend belonged were ordered off to the Hills early, because the doctors thought marching in the cool of the day would do them good. Their route lay south to a place called Umballa, a hundred and twenty miles or more. Then they would turn east and march up into the Hills to Kasauli, or Dugshai, or Subathoo. I dined with the officers the night before they left — they were marching at five in the morning. It was midnight when I drove into my garden, and surprised a white figure flying over the wall.

“That man,” said my butler,” has been here since nine, making talk to that dog. He is quite mad. I did not tell him to go away because he has been here many times before, and because the dog-boy told me that if I told him to go away that dog would immediately slay me. He did not wish to speak to the Protector of the Poor, and he did not ask for anything to eat or drink.”

“Kadir Buksh,” said I, “that was well done, for the dog would surely have killed thee, and, afterward, I believe the white soldier man, who, as thou knowest, is a friend of mine, would have slain thee a second time. But I do not think he will come any more.”

Garm slept ill that night, and he whimpered in his dreams. Once he sprang up with a clear, ringing bark, and I heard him wag his tail till it waked him and the bark died out in a howl. He had dreamed he was with his master again, and I nearly cried. It was all Stanley’s fault.

The first halt which the detachment of invalids made was some six miles from their barracks, on the Amritsar Road, and ten miles distant from my house. By a mere chance one of the officers drove back for another good dinner at the Club (cooking on the line of march is always bad) and there I met him. He was a particular friend of mine, and I knew that he knew how to love a dog properly. His pet was a big fat retriever who was going up to the Hills for his health, and, though it was still April, the round, brown brute puffed and panted in the Club verandah as though he would burst.

“It’s amazing,” said the officer, “what excuses these invalids of mine make to get back to barracks. There’s a man in my company now asked me for leave to go back to Mian Mir to pay a debt, he’d forgotten. Fancy Tommy paying a debt! I was so taken back by the idea I let him go and he jingled off in an ekka as pleased as Punch. Ten miles to pay a debt! Wonder what it was, really?”

“If you’ll drive me home I think I can show you,” I said.

So we went over in his dog-cart with the retriever; and on the way I told him the story of Garm.

“I was wondering where that brute had gone to. He’s the best dog in the regiment,” said my friend. “I offered the little fellow twenty rupees for him a month ago. But he’s a hostage, you say, for Stanley’s good conduct. Stanley’s one of the best men I have.”

“That’s the reason why,” I said. “A second-rate man wouldn’t have taken things to heart as he has done.”

We drove in quietly at the far end of the garden, and crept round the house. There was a place close to the wall all grown about with tamarisk trees where I knew Garm kept his bones. Even Vixen was not allowed to sit near it. In the full Indian moonlight I could see a white uniform bending over the dog.

“Good-by, old man,” we could not help hearing Stanley’s voice. “For ‘Eving’s sake, don’t get bit and go mad by any measly pi-dog. But you can look after yourself, old man. You don’t get your stripes an’ get drunk an’ run about ‘ittin’ your friends. You takes your bones an’ you eats your biscuit, an’ you kills your enemy like a gentleman. I’m goin’ away — don’t ‘owl — I’m goin’ off to Kasauli, where I won’t see you no more.”

I could hear him holding Garm’s nose as the dog threw it up to the stars.

“You’ll stay ‘ere an’ be’ave an’ — an’ I’ll go away an’ try to be’ave, an’ I don’t know ‘ow to leave you. I don’t know —”

“I don’t care for this,” said the officer, patting his foolish, fubsy old retriever. He called to the private, who leaped to his feet, marched forward, and saluted.

“You here?” said the officer, turning away his head.

“Yes, sir. I’m just goin’ back.”

“I shall be leaving here at eleven in my cart. You will come with me. I can’t have sick men running about all over the place. Report yourself at eleven here.”

We did not say much when we went indoors, but the officer muttered and pulled his retriever’s ears. He was a disgraceful, over-fed doormat of a dog; and when he waddled off to my cook-house I had a brilliant idea.

At eleven o’clock that dog was nowhere to be found, and you never heard such a fuss as his owner made. He called and shouted, and grew angry, and hunted through my garden for half an hour.

Then I said: “He’s sure to turn up in the morning. Send a man in by rail, and I’ll find the beast and return him.”

“Beast?” said the officer, “I value that dog considerably more than I value any man I know. It’s all very fine for you to talk — your dog’s here.”

So she was — under my feet — and, had she been missing, food and wages would have stopped in my house till her return. But some people grow fond of dogs not worth a cut of the whip. He had to drive away, at last, with Stanley in the back seat; and the dog-boy said to me:

“What kind of animal is Sullen Sahib’s dog? Look at him!”

I went to the boy’s but and the fat old reprobate was lying on a mat, carefully chained up. He must have heard his master calling for twenty minutes, but had not attempted to join him.

“He has no face,” said the dog-boy scornfully. “He is a punnio-kooter (a spaniel). He never tried to get that dishclout off his mouth when his master called. Now Vixen-baba would have jumped through the window, and that other dog would have slain me with his feet. It is true that there are many kinds of dogs.”

Next evening who should turn up but Stanley. He had been sent back fourteen miles by rail, with a note begging me to return the retriever if I had found him, and, if I had not, to offer huge rewards. The last train to camp left at half-past ten, and Stanley stayed till ten talking to Garm. I argued and intreated, and even threatened to shoot the bull-terrier, but the little man was as firm as a rock, though I gave him a good dinner and talked to him most severely. Garm knew as well as I that this was the last time he could hope to see his man, and followed Stanley like a shadow. The retriever said nothing, but licked his lips after his meal and waddled off without so much as saying “thank-you” to the disgusted dog-boy.

So that last meeting was over, and I felt as wretched as Garm, who moaned in his sleep all night. When we went to the office he found a place under the table close to Vixen, and dropped flat till it was time to go home. There was no more running out into the verandahs; no slinking away for stolen talks with Stanley. As the weather grew warmer the dogs were forbidden to run beside the cart, but sat at my side, Vixen with her head under the crook of my left elbow, and Garm hugging the left handrail.

Here Vixen was ever in great form. She had to attend to all the moving traffic, such as bullock-carts that blocked the way, and camels and led ponies; as well as to keep up her dignity when she passed low friends running in the dust. She never yapped for yapping’s sake, but her shrill, high bark was known all along the Mall, and other men’s terriers ki-yied in reply and bullock-drivers looked over their shoulders and gave us the road, with a grin. But Garm cared for none of these things. His big eyes were on the horizon and his terrible mouth was shut. There was another dog in the office who belonged to my chief. We called him “Bob the Librarian,” because he always imagined vain rats behind the bookshelves, and in hunting for them would drag out half the old newspaper-files. Bob was a well-meaning idiot, but Garm did not encourage him. He would slide his head round the door, panting, “Rats! Come along Garm!” and Garm would shift one fore-paw over the other and curl himself round, leaving Bob to whine at a most uninterested back. The office was nearly as cheerful as a tomb in those days.

Once, and only once, did I see Garm at all interested in his surroundings. He had gone for an unauthorized walk with Vixen early one Sunday morning, and a very young and foolish artilleryman (his battery was just moved to that part of the world) tried to steal them both. Vixen, of course, knew better than to take food from soldiers, and, besides, she had just finished her breakfast. So she trotted back with a large piece of the mutton that they issue to our troops, laid it down on my verandah, and looked up to see what I thought. I asked her where Garin was, and she ran in front of the horse to show me the way.

About a mile up the road we came across our artilleryman sitting very stiffly on the edge of a culvert with a greasy handkerchief on his knees. Garm was in front of him looking rather pleased. When the man moved leg or hand Garm bared his teeth in silence. A broken string hung from his collar, and the other half of it lay, all warm, in the artilleryman’s still hand.  He explained to me, keeping his. eyes straight in front of him, that he had met this dog (he called him awful names) walking alone, and was going to take him to the Fort to be killed for a masterless pariah.

I said that Garm did not seem’ to me much of a pariah-dog, but that he had better take him to the Fort if he thought best. He said he did not care to do so. I told him to go to the Fort alone. He said he did not want to go at that hour, but would follow my advice as soon as I had called off the dog. I instructed Garm to take him to the Fort, and Garm marched him solemnly up to the gate, one mile and a half under a hot sun, and I told the Quarter-guard what had happened; but the young artilleryman was more angry than was at all necessary when they began to laugh. Several regiments had tried to steal Garm in their time.

That month the hot weather shut down in earnest and the dogs slept in the bathroom on the cool, wet bricks where the bath is placed. Every morning as soon as the man filled the bath the two jumped in, and every morning the man filled the bath a second time. I said to him that he might as well fill a small tub specially for the dogs. “Nay,” said he, smiling. “It is not their custom. They would not understand. Remember, it is always thus in the hot weather.”

The punkah-coolies who pull the punkahs day and night came to know Garm intimately. He noticed that when the swaying fan stopped I would call out to the coolie and bid him pull with a long stroke. If the man still slept I would wake him up. He discovered, too, that it was a good thing to lie in the wave of air under the punkah. Maybe Stanley had taught him all about this in barracks. At any rate, when the punkah stopped Garm would first growl and cock his eye at the rope. If that did not wake the man — and it nearly always did — he would tip-toe forth and talk in the sleeper’s ear. Vixen was a clever little dog, but she could never connect the punkah and the coolie: so Garm gave me grateful hours of cool sleep. But he was utterly wretched —  as miserable as a human being; and in his misery he clung so closely to me that other men noticed it and were envious. If I moved from one room to another Garm followed; if my pen stopped scratching, Garm’s head was thrust into my hand; if I turned, half awake, on the pillow Garm was up and at my side, for he knew that I was his only link to his master, and day and night, and night and day, his eyes asked one question — “When is this going to end?”

Living with the dog as I did, I never noticed that he was more than ordinarily upset by the hot weather, till one day at the Club a man said: “That dog of yours will die in a week or two. He’s a shadow.” Then I dosed Garm with iron and quinine, which he hated: and I felt very anxious. He lost his appetite, and Vixen was allowed to eat his dinner under his eyes. Even that did not make him swallow, and we held a consultation on him, of the best man-doctor in the place; a lady-doctor who cured sick wives of Kings, and the Deputy Inspector-General of the Veterinary Service of all India. They pronounced upon his symptoms, and I told them his story, and Garm lay on a sofa licking my hand.

“He’s dying of a broken heart,” said the lady-doctor.

“‘Pon my word,” said the Deputy Inspector-General, “I believe Mrs. Macrae is perfectly right.”

The best doctor in the place wrote a prescription, and the Veterinary Deputy Inspector-General went over it afterwards to be sure that the drugs were in the proper dog proportions; and that was the first time in his life that our doctor ever allowed his prescriptions to be tampered with. It was a strong tonic, and it put the dear boy on his feet for a week or two; then he lost flesh again. I asked a man I knew to take him up to the Hills with him when he went, and the man came to the door with his kit packed on the top of the carriage. Garm took in the situation at a glance. The hair rose along his back; he sat down in front of me and delivered the most awful growl I have ever heard in the jaws of a dog. I shouted to my friend to get away at once, and, as soon as the carriage was out of the garden, Garm laid his head on my knee and whined. So I knew his answer, and devoted myself to getting Stanley’s address in the Hills.

My turn to go to the cool came late in August. We were allowed thirty days’ holiday in a year if no one fell sick, and we took it as we could be spared. My chief and Bob the Librarian had their holiday first, and when they were gone I made a calendar, as I always did, and hung it up at the head of my cot, tearing off one day at a time till they returned. Vixen had gone up to the Hills with me five times before; and she appreciated the cold and the damp and the beautiful wood fires there as much as I did.

“Garm,” I said, “we are going back to Stanley at Kasauli. Kasauli — Stanley; Stanley — Kasauli.” And I repeated it twenty times. It was not Kasauli, really, but another place. Still, I remembered what Stanley had said in my garden on the last night, and I dared not change the name. Then he began to tremble; then he barked; and then he leaped up at me, frisking and wagging his tail.

“Not now,” I said, holding up my hand. “When I say ‘Go,’ we’ll go, Garm.” I pulled out the little blanket-coat and spiked collar that Vixen always wore in the Hills to protect her against sudden chills and thieving leopards, and I let the two smell them and talk it over. What they said of course I do not know, but it made a new dog of Garm. His eyes were bright; and he barked joyfully when I spoke to him. He ate his food and he killed his rats for the next three weeks, and when he began to whine I had only to say “Stanley — Kasauli; Kasauli — Stanley,” to wake him up. I wish I had thought of it before.

My chief came back, all brown with living in the open air, and very angry at finding it so hot in the plains. That same afternoon, we three and Kadir Buksh began to pack for our month’s holiday, Vixen rolling in and out of the bullock-trunk twenty times a minute, and Garm grinning all over and thumping on the floor with his tail. Vixen knew the routine of traveling as well as she knew my office-work. She went to the station, singing songs, on the front seat of the carriage, while Garm sat with me. She hurried into the railway carriage, saw Kadir Buksh make up my bed for the night, got her drink of water, and curled up with her black-patch eye on the tumult of the platform. Garm followed her (the crowd gave him a lane all to himself) and sat down on the pillows with his eyes blazing and his tail a haze behind.

We came to Umballa in the hot misty dawn, four or five men who had been working hard for eleven months, shouting for our daks — the two-horse traveling carriages that were to take us up to Kalka at the foot of Hills. It was all new to Garm. He did not understand carriages where you lay at full length on your bedding, but Vixen knew and hopped into her place at once; Garm following. The Kalka Road is about forty-seven miles long and the horses are changed every eight miles. Most of them jib and kick and plunge, but go they must, and they went rather better than usual for Garm’s deep bay in their rear.

There was a river to be forded, and four bullocks pulled the carriage and Vixen stuck her head out of the sliding-door and nearly fell into the water while she gave directions. Garm was silent and curious, and needed reassuring about Stanley, and Kasauli. So we rolled, barking and yelping, into Kalka for lunch, and Garm ate enough for two. After Kalka the road winds among the hills, and you must take a curricle with two half-broken ponies, which are changed every six miles. Simla is seven thousand feet up in the Hills, and the road is more than fifty miles long, and the regulation pace is just as fast as the ponies can go. Here again, Vixen led Garm from one carriage to the other; jumped into the back seat, and shouted. A cool breath from the snows met us about five miles out of Kalka, and she whined for her coat, wisely fearing a chill on her liver. I had had one made for Garm, too; and, as we climbed and climbed to the fresh breezes, I put it on, and Garm chewed it uncomprehendingly.

“Hi-yi-yi-yi!” sang Vixen, as we shot round the curves; Toot-toot-toot! went the driver’s bugle at the dangerous places, and “Yow! Yow! Yow!” bayed Garm. Kadir Buksh sat on the front seat and smiled. Even he was glad to get away from the heat of the plains that stewed and simmered in the haze behind us. Now and then we would meet a man we knew flying down to his work again, and he would say: “What’s it like below?” and I would shout: “Hotter than cinders. What’s it like up above?” and he would shout back: “Just perfect!” and away we would go.

Suddenly Kadir Buksh said, over his shoulder: “Here is Solon;” and Garm snored where he lay with his head on my knee. Solon is an unpleasant little cantonment, but it has the advantage of being cool and healthy. It is all bare and windy, and one generally stops at a rest-house nearby for something to eat. I got out and took both dogs with me while Kadir Buksh made tea. A soldier told us we should find Stanley “out there” nodding his head toward a bare, bleak hill.

When we climbed to the top we spied Stanley, who had given me all this trouble, sitting on a rock with his face in his hands and his overcoat hanging loose about him. I never saw anything so lonely and dejected in my life — this one little man crumpled up and thinking, on the great gray hillside. Here Garm left me.

He departed without a word, and, so far as I could see, without moving his legs. He flew through the air bodily, and I heard the whack of him as he flung himself at Stanley, knocking the little man over. They rolled on the ground together, shouting and yelping and hugging. I could not see which was dog and which was man till Stanley got up and whimpered.

He told me that he had been suffering from fever at intervals, and was very weak. He looked all he said, but even while I watched both dog and man plumped out to their natural sizes, precisely as dried apples swell in water. Garm was on his shoulder and his breast and his feet all at the same time, so that Stanley spoke through a haze of Garm — gulping, sobbing, slavering Garm. He did not say anything that I could understand — except that he had fancied he was going to die, but that now he was quite well, and that he was not going to give up Garm any more to anybody under the rank of Beelzebub.

Then he said he felt hungry, and thirsty, and happy.

We went down to tea at the rest-house, where Stanley stuffed himself with sardines, and raspberry jam, and beer, and cold mutton and pickles, when Garm wasn’t climbing over him; and then Vixen and I went on.

Garm saw how it was at once.

He said good-by to me three times, licking my face from the chin to the hair, and giving me both paws one after another, and leaping on to my shoulder. He further escorted us, singing Hosannas at the top of his voice, two miles down the road. Then he raced back to his own little master.

Vixen never opened her mouth, but as the cold twilight came, and we could see the lights of Simla far away across the hills, she snuffled with her nose in the breast of my ulster till I unbuttoned it, and tucked her within. Then she licked my chin, gave a contented little sniff, and fell fast asleep, with her head on my breast, till we bundled out at Simla, two of the four happiest people in all the world that night.

Become a Saturday Evening Post member and enjoy unlimited access. Subscribe now

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *