Irish Wolfhound Times
(Irish Wolfhound Database and Breed Information Exchange)
Herbert Compton Fact and Phantasies - Irish Wolfhounds 1903
(Article taken from Facts and phantasies of a folio grub - Page 104 Herbert Compton - 1903)
On Starting a Better Pack
It was a fortunate day when I took a flat at Sydenham, because it brought me into the neighbourhood of the Crystal Palace, and—as it chanced—my first visit to that emporium of entertainment was on the occasion of the Kennel Club Dog Show in 1900. Here I came across a bench of that ancient and historic breed, the Irish Wolfhound, and to that incident I am indebted for my present comfortable circumstances.
No one can see an Irish Wolfhound without pining to possess one. He is a noble brute, stands 34 inches at the shoulder, measures over seven feet from snout to tail-tip, has teeth like a tiger's, and weighs about ten stone. His bark can keep away burglars from a township, and his bite crunch up cast-iron. I will back him against Boarhounds, Borzois, St Bernards, or any breed you like! Incidentally he invests his proprietor with a pleasing air of opulence, and guarantees him solvent. The shrewd proprietor naturally tumbles.
I had a Bobbery Pack in India—a round dozen of the darlings (Ah, for a shake of the vanished paw of old Chris, and a sound of the stilled voice of Pat the Yapper!), and in Sydenham I missed them. What is life without whisky, woodcock shooting and wolfhounds? The first you can get in Sydenham—sometimes. But not unrestrictedly. People do glare at you so if you peg here on the Indian scale of freedom. The second is not to be had anyhow, for though there are plenty of swamps down Annerley way, the only long-bills come in shiny redbound books. But wolfhounds—well, I managed them by a manoeuvre that has made me the most unpopular man in the street.
Appertaining to my flat is—mirabile dictu—what my landlord describes as a 'Garden.' I have put a capital to the word, because he had the imagination to advertise it as a 'capital garden.' There are three of us flats—I mean three flats, built one on the top of the other, like the bread, ham, and bread in a sandwich. I am the Ham. Our common frontage and backage is 30 feet, and we split up the 'garden' behind into three ribbons, each 120 x 10 feet, to which I and my fellow-flat above descend and ascend by a ladder, like the Swiss Family Robinson, whilst the ground floor flat walks into his like a duke.
Thought I, the day after the Palace show, this 'Garden' might do for a kennel, and forthwith christened my flat 'The Kennels,' and bought Wolfe O'Brien, a two months' old Irish wolfhound pup, at a price which was almost as speculative as a plunge at unknown 'Kaffirs' or a parcel of 'Wild Cats' from a hammered jobber's estate.
But Wolfe O'Brien, brindled, big-boned, 16 inches high, and 30 lbs weight at sixty days' sight from delivery into this world of sin, turned out trumps. First of all he had—h'm, parasites; they were ejected.
Then he developed distemper; that was cured. Thirdly, eczema; that was sulphured in the bud. Fourthly, teething; his gums were lanced. Vet.'s fees five shillings a visit, which brought O'Brien's sunk capital value up to fifteen guineas. Add another five for fresh milk, beef tea, rump steak, and loin chops (eaten raw), and you have a twentyguinea whelp. That is what the fit-up will cost you!
Good-tempered? Lord love you, you can do anything you like with him, except pat his head, or fondle his ears, or tickle his flanks, or touch his tail, or tread on his toes, or say 'Shoo!' to him, without his biting you at all. And if he does give a low thunderous growl if you stare him hard in the face—well, it's very bad manners to stare, anyhow. However, he stands all these attentions from me, and no more than erects his bristles: so I am on velvet. But he is a caution to strangers, and tradesmen—whom I often wish were strangers. Still, O'Brien has not actually killed anyone yet, which he could.
Fancying O'Brien was lonely at times, I came to the conclusion he required a companion. So I answered an advertisement of Irish wolfhounds for sale by a gentleman in—the Moon, who had two consorts available, both by champions out of championesses, and fifteen guineas bought the pair.
You might now think O'Brien was happy; but not so. One fiancde did not turn up at all in response to my cheque: she was indisposed and could not travel. The other came—a rusty, raven-black quadruped, that I christened Judith. Luckily she came consigned in a cage by Carter Patterson. I could not get the cage into my flat, and, to the intense amusement of the local population, I had to open it in front, and coax Judith upstairs with the drawing-room tongs, and a loaded revolver. It took just half a minute for her to sample and terminate the blandishments of O'Brien, and give him the most frightful hiding he ever experienced from anyone except the milkman. O'Brien retreated between my legs, and for the first time in his life thoroughly appreciated my society.
I had now time to critically examine Judith's points, as she stood with fur erect on the wreck of the what-not, showing her sharks' teeth and her wicked eyes in the corner. She looked, to my humble and inexperienced view, a cross between a Hill pye and a Plains pye in India—pye being the affectionate diminutive for pariah-dog. In short, a gaunt, rusty, ill-omened, unattractive cur. "Good old fifteen guineas!" was my mournful observation.
There was a friend present, and I swore to him, offhand, "I've been swindled by that man in the Moon !"—" Oh, no," he assured me, "only scotched." The epigrammaticalness of his reply stunned me, and for the five hundred-thousandth time in my short life I confessed myself a champion idiot.
But if Judith was not exactly an Irish wolfhound, she was distinctly a wolfish hound. There was nothing appertaining to flesh she would not devour, from Shakespeare bound in calf to the parlourmaid's legs. So fleshy were Judith's proclivities, there was no admitting the ravening beast into the house, with its ever-present smell of human gore, and she was relegated to the garden, where I had a Bessemer-steel kennel fixed up for her, and attached her thereto with a young anchor-cable. I spent the best part of the next week in hitting her on the mouth with rolled newspapers to stop her howling, and prodding her with a fishing rod when she tried to assimilate the corners of her kennel's roof. O'Brien had the self-respect never to approach her again. He was choked off from the first.
Indirectly, however, Judith proved a most valuable acquisition, for O'Brien now came out in a new character. He who had been wont to spend his days in digging up imaginary wolf-earths in the garden now confined himself exclusively to my flat, awed into a preference for human society. He took to living indoors, sleeping on my bed, appropriating the sofa and the saddle-bag chair, munching my most valuable manuscripts when he had nothing better to do—his criticism of them was positively destructive—and systematically sweeping off every ornament from all the mantel-pieces in the house with his tail. For he was getting a big dog now, 26 inches at the shoulder, and eight months' more growth in him. He ceased erecting his bristles, except at such vermin as creditors, tax-collectors, and tea-touts. From the Saratoga trunk (which it pleases me to make-believe is my 'study') there is a window which looks on to the garden. At that window O'Brien stands, hour after hour—taking up quite an unfair share of the room in my apartment— and gazes down on Judith, and then at me, and then at Judith, and then at me, and observes— "What an ugly brute she is—isn't she?"
Not in English, of course, but in doggie-lingo, which I learnt from dear old Chris long ago. For men can learn animal language in the same way that O'Brien has learnt man-habits. If I were to publish a list of half his accomplishments, I might be disbelieved. So I will confine myself to a few, the actuality of which I can substantiate if necessary, provided the unbeliever pays expenses.
To begin with: O'Brien has a critical literary faculty, and is intensely interested in folk-lore. You cannot tickle him with Jack the Giant Killer or Tom Thumb, or any unlikely tales like those. But he will sit for hours listening to the moving recital of Little Red Riding Hood, or the story of that misguided shepherd who insisted on crying 'Wolf! Wolf!' when there was no wolf (the fact of there being no wolf is what O'Brien deplores, for I have not dared to divulge to him the historical ending of that tale, for fear of over-exciting him). On such occasions he goes to the housemaid's cupboard and brings all the brooms—carpet, dust, besom, feather, cinder and so forth—into the drawing-room, where he plays at their being wolves. It would be an exhilarating and wholesome pastime in a prairie, but (owing to handles) is just a little complicated and intricate in a drawing-room 12 x 16, with plate glass windows that cost seven and sixpence each to replace, whether it's one broken or twenty, for the craven-souled glazier absolutely refuses to make a reduction for a quantity.
Another man-habit of O'Brien is his capacity that verges on vice for drinking stout and whisky. Only it must be Dublin stout and Irish whisky, for he will not touch London porter or Scotch dew. You see, he's an Irish wolfhound. He will toss you off a dessert-spoonful of 'Irish, hot, with' like a Cork cattle-dealer, when he has got a tummyache or cold. And the stout he imbibes out of a hate of waste when it froths over on to the carpet.
I have hinted at carno-criticism. In this respect O'Brien is far more intelligent than myself. He can distinguish between home and foreign meat, and is a connoisseur of the latter. He won't touch frozen beef—it must be Scotch. He says frozen beef is lacking in true beefy flavour and fat, and the tenderness does not make up for the slenderness. He prefers Welsh to Southdown, as more delicate; and while he will condescend to toy with New Zealand lamb for lunch, don't you try to launch any Australian mutton on him—not at any price! His opinion is that the climate and herbage of New South Wales develop wool, not meat. A most useful beast is O'Brien, I do assure you. My butcher is staggered — he can no longer impose on me. True the local price of meat has gone up 3d. a pound (in sympathy with coal), but I owe it cheerfully to be served with an honest article. Mr Brown, who before only touched his cap to me, now parades his entire establishment to give me a General Officer's salute when I leave his shop, with O'Brien at my heels, his chops very bloody, like the loin chops I have to feed him with when they are just kissed by the flame, and to his taste.
Before O'Brien came I lived a miserable sort of life of grinding economy. I had even grown miserly. I used to eat all sorts of vile meats, down as low as tinned tongues; drink tea at is. 4d. per lb.; never looked on the wine when it was red; smoked cheap Flor de Dindiguls; and have a horrid suspicion the butter on my breakfast table
should have been spelt with a M. My clothes, too, were—well, not exactly shabby, but—you know?
Behold the transformation! Since that valuable Irish wolfhound came into my possession I have lived on the fat of the land. I pay 3s. 6d. per lb. for my tea, smoke J. S. Murias, habitually drink simkin, dress like a dude, and am £joo in debt. True, I have a bill of sale on my furniture, including my picture gallery; but that is only for a pony, and the other hundreds I could never have got tick for if it had not been for parading O'Brien, and casually observing he was worth a hundred guineas, and cost me more to keep than my gardener and my coachman put together. I do not seek to deny that my gardener sweeps the snow from my doorstep by contract, and my coachman is licensed by the police—but surely you cannot conceive me such a fool as to hide the light of such solid-sounding retainers under a bushel, and fail to quote them to obtain extended credit for myself? It is part and parcel of the plant. See here: if you want to get unlimited credit, and respectful consideration—speculate in an Irish wolfhound! Verbum sap. Go the whole hog on it. What is a paltry twenty guineas, and 17s. 6d. a week for its keep, when its acquisition can lead to such a glorious result as practically unlimited credit all round the town? All out of dog and bluff! "Grite Victory. Two thousand Boers slortered!" cries a paper boy outside, seeking to work off an evening edition which he has over-bought. Pooh! What is that to the devastation I am about to presently create in the trading circles of Sydenham? I am only waiting for the middle of the month and the full moon, and a remittance, to pay my fare to South Africa and join the C. I.V.'s. And as I shall take O'Brien with me, of course I shall get a billet on the Staff!
Didn't I write 'Pack' at the head of this article? Well, Judith was the balance of the pack at first, and No. 3 was an unnamed whelp somewhere in the wilds of—the Moon (over whose undisposed carcase I am still engaged in lively and expensive litigation with the gent who scotched me. For, as the dramatists say, between this and the previous act "an interval of one month").
You shall now hear of No. 4. It happened in this wise. My neighbours in the flat voted me a nuisance. I know I am a confounded nuisance, but I don't like to be told so. Moreover, I am a free man, and this is a free country, and I am antiBoer, and hurrah for Joe Chamberlain, and God save the Queen, and "We take them from the city and the plough," and all that sort of thing. So I maintained to my neighbours that I would do as I jolly well pleased in my own castle (the flat didn't know itself that day!), and referred them to my solicitor, S-r G—rg- L-w-s, of -l- Pl-c- E.C. That is the sort of swagger you can safely affect if you keep an Irish wolfhound. "A man with a hundred-guinea dog!" they say, and shut up.
Instead of serving me with a summons, the Johnny below, a very decent sort of scoundrel on the Stock Exchange, got hold of a diminutive animalcule—I believe a hybrid between a toy terrier and a mole, that should never have been permitted —and started an opposition! This puppy (permit me to call it a puppy by courtesy!) was instigated to curl its tail into the shape of a periwinkle of the Pliocene period, and emit howls just under my Saratoga—I mean my study window, when it was well known I was sitting down to my current and colossal literary commission of editing a popular and expurgated edition of Blair's Sermons, with original and critical marginal notes. That was a mean thing to do, wasn't it? But I was too slim for that Bill Sykes of Change Alley. That night I unloosed one of the rails of the garden paling, and baited my side with a piece of liver spiced with asafcetida and aniseed. Then I lurked in the shadow of the back door, holding O'Brien, who, in his frantic efforts to escape, gnawed off my starboard moustache. But that does not matter; I find I am much handsomer clean shaven. At 10 a.m., the time I was known to be engaged in Bowdlerising Blair, the puppy was loosed next door, with the depraved design of howling under my window and instigating me directly to bad language, and indirectly to false doctrine in a sort of work in which you cannot be too Puritanical. It sniffed, sniffed, sniffed—over the garden wall; closer, closer, closer; bobbed, bobbed, bobbed its head through the nicely calculated chink; squeezed in with a supreme effort, and on to the bait like a crab or a Ganges prawn.
I let it gorge, satisfied it would never be able to return through the gap when it was full up—for the lump of medicated liver was bigger than the larcinist. Then I set free my famous Irish wolfhound, Wolfe O'Brien. He went for that hybrid with a bound. Unhappily that hybrid went for him!
(The hybrid weighs 2*17 lbs. avoirdupois, stands 4*83 inches at the shoulder, and goes to sleep comfortably in my smoking cap! )
They both came to a standstill, erected their several furs, stiffened their individual tails, rehearsed their most horrible growls, and solemnly walked round and round one another. It was a critical moment. "'Oo are yer a-getting at?" jeered the hybrid. I vow it was a comical sight. An extra assistant supernumerary in the Revenue Department in India, pivoting round and round the Viceroy of India, over a heated famine relief argument, could not have made you laugh more!
At last, very cautiously, they sniffed each other's snouts.
"Rapture!" cried O'Brien, in runctuous tones of joy. "Aniseed and asafcetida! — Rapture!" and began licking the puppy's lips to try and catch an echo of the savour. The puppy liked kissing evidently, for he had no objection to make (conceiving O'Brien was actuated by affectionate feelings, instead of a fascinating flavour), and responded. Whereupon O'Brien lifted the dainty little morsel by the scruff of his neck, carried it into my drawingroom, and laid it on the hearthrug in front of a jolly warm fire, as tender as if it had been a Sevres china puppy, or a porcelain plover egg pepper-pot.
Old Blair had to lump it that day, for he did not get any critical notes out of me! I was too much engaged in studying the gambols of O'Brien and 'Bobs'—as the little hero was immediately named—and fagging for them generally. The insane infatuation O'Brien developed for that plucky little beast was as touching as sudden. A C.I.E.'d Deputy Commissioner could not patronise a mere tea-planter more affably. Not that I mean to suggest that O'Brien and an Indian Deputy Commissioner are in a line; still, for a simile, let it pass. O'Brien is noble and broad-minded in character, and does not mind. As witness his condescension to that hybrid puppy—a sort of uncovenanted thing, with no more pedigree than a competition Wallah, and a rupee pension, and looked down on by the Padre and the Civil Surgeon, who hails from the aristocratic acres of boggy Tipperary! O'Brien just took to Bobs con amore, growling at anyone who attempted to take the little beast away.
Well, here was a how-de-do! If O'Brien insisted on appropriating Bobs as a permanent plaything, who was I to say 'No'? A man seven hundred pounds in debt, and dependent, so to speak, for my livelihood on O'Brien. Of course Bobs was missed in the flat below. At two o'clock the slavey came up from the stockbroker's to ask if we had got their dog. My maid, discreet in her generation, said 'Not at home,' and banged the door. 'Tother one persisted. So I whirlwinded to the door in a temper, and assuming an air of the greatest indignation,—' Your dog! Was it your dog? My hundred-guinea Irish wolfhound has ate it, confound you! He is now in the pangs of acute indigestion. The bell on its collar is rattling within him like colic. I'll have the law and damages of your master if he dies!"
Just then O'Brien's head and teeth appeared up the passage, and the parlour-maid from below dispersed.
As the hours wore on O'Brien's affection for Bobs increased. He would not permit him out of his sight. He told him the story of 'Wolf! Wolf,!' and promised to take him to the pantomime to see ' Little Red Riding Hood.' He settled on him, irrevocably by deed under seal, all his reversionary interest in beef bones, reserving only the mutton ones (which he can chew up and swallow). He went to the larder and selected the tenderest square inch of rump steak—for Bobs, of course — but absent-mindedly ate it himself. He plied him with Irish whisky, and, I grieve to confess, made the poor little beast so drunk, that in their subsequent gambols the two destroyed six guineas' worth of drawing-room furniture. (Thank God I have got it protected by a Bill of Sale!) Finally O'Brien and Bobs snuggled down together on the hearthrug, the former with his paw round the latter, and slept the sleep of the just. And I give you my word it was the prettiest sight I ever saw in my life.
I knew that scoundrel stockbroker was due back at six o'clock, and would be sure to come up for Bobs. Should I surrender O'Brien's cherished toy? Never! I dared not do so. O'Brien might pine and die, and then my creditors would come down on me like a thousand of bricks. There was the cold fowl left from dinner, and I ordered the cook to bone it, and preserve the bones.
True enough at six o'clock the stockbroker came thundering up. He has been having a bad time lately over the slump in the Kaffir circus, and has not been able to thieve so much. His temper is consequently a little rancid. I judged that by the quality of his knock, and interposed between the maid and the front door, holding Bobs by the scruff of his neck.
"Hide him," I whispered, handing her the puppy. "Where, sir?"
"Oh, anywhere! In the soup saucepan!" I suggested on the spur of the moment, as being a fairly safe place. It was done. "And now bring me the bones of the fowl on a plate garnished with one of my black silk evening neckties, and a sprig of cypress. We must do the thing sympathetically." That was done, too, amidst a bombardment at the front door.
"Leave the rest to me," said I, and went down stairs to beard the savage.
He was magenta and purple with rage. "I've been knocking at your infernal door for half an hour," he cried.
"And broke my knocker," said I, spotting the damage. "Five and six, please, for a new one."
"Where's my dog ?" he demanded.
"Here," said I, and handed him the chicken bones. "Haven't you brought a plate for the remains?"
"What!" he shrieked; "this my two-hundredguinea toy Pomeranian? Oh, kind Heavens!"
"All that is left of it—left of two hundred," I replied, with a sensation of misquoting Tennyson. "If you are doubtful, have a post-mortem} Or submit the remains to analysis. But let me tell you one thing, sir. My champion-bred Irish wolfhound, what's ate this microbe up, is writhing in the pangs of very urgent sickness. Your d d
puppy-dog, sir, was fed on sour biscuits, and I'll sue you for damages, going and ramming such poison down the throat of my three-hundred-guinea Irish wolfhound! You shall hear from my solicitors, Messrs L-w-s and L-w-s, of -l- Pl-c-. And now I'll trouble you for your pettifoggers' address?"
He hadn't even so much affection as to remove the remains of his puppy! He just slumped off without another word! And Bobs simultaneously emerged from the soup saucepan. But the mischief is he has taken such a fancy to that receptacle as a sleeping place that he insists on retiring to it every evening, and being one who turns in early, I cannot have soup for dinner or the saucepan would not cool in time for his slumbers.
Oh, it's a fearful nuisance keeping Irish wolfhounds in a Sydenham flat! especially if you have stolen your underneath neighbour's toy Pomeranian puppy, and have to keep the job and the pup quiet from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m., and after three o'clock on Saturdays, and all Sundays and Bank holidays. I tell you it is enough to unnerve a man. You may think I am joking. But I never joke.
To think of it! Two years ago since I wrote the above lines! Who would ever have thought old Brieny-boy (as Wolfe O'Brien is now called, after my usual fashion of mutilating the names of the dogs I love); who would ever have thought that little splash in Irish wolfhounds would have altered the whole tenour of my life! And yet I can trace to it many of the best of my results during the last two years. Thus are our destinies directed!
You see, I could not continue to live in a Sydenham flat when O'Brien began to grow up. And there was that cursed puppy I had stolen to keep him happy—it was impossible to hope to keep that crime hid for ever from the stockbroker. So I determined to clear into the country. As it happened I cleared into Kent, to a certain 'Magpie Cottage,' which was, I think, the dearest little bijou residence that ever was mine! It was about the size of an omnibus; had four rooms, and an excrescence they called a kitchen, and the outer ground plan of the house included twenty-eight angles! I had a studydressing-room that was something smaller than a steamer state-room. When I wrote poetry I always hit my head against the ceiling, because in those breathless moments I invariably adopt heroic attitudes and gestures. As I sat at my study table I could open the window, twist my arm up and round, and deposit it in either of three swallows' nests built under the eaves. I never once went downstairs without fracturing my skull against a bulkhead set there for that purpose. And in that tiny room I wrote the only one of my novels that brought me perfectly satisfactory quids pro quo.
It was here I decided it was my duty to buy O'Brien a wife. (For Judith had gone back to the Moon.) I have experience in that sort of business, for I once bought a wife for the very best cook I ever had in India. He was a Goanese boy of about fifty-six years of age, and I had him up in the jungles. One day he came to me and said, "Master, this life no good. I die if I remain here any longer." "You certainly will," I assured him, "of drink; for you spend all your wages in the liquor shop." '' Master," he said, confidentially, "one very pretty little Gadhi girl here. You buy for me. I no drink. You cut four rupees a month out of my pay till she paid up for." "Right you are, Antonio," said I to him, and did so, getting him as jolly a little wife, of no particular caste, for a couple of guineas as ever you saw. So I am a bit of an expert in these matters.
Naturally I was able to buy O'Brien a wife—only I had to pay 25 pounds for an Irish wolfhound lady. She came. And she had already been married to Champion Wargrave, who is a deuce of a swell in our ' Fancy.' O'Brien, who is an accommodating youth, did not mind that, and six weeks later she presented him with nine children, which he very rightly would not own.
You will see how the fates work. One of those nine children turned into Wolfe Tone, of whom you are fated to hear a good deal presently. Six of that indecent family had the decency to die; two I sold at a price which repaid me for the purchase money of the mother; and Wolfe Tone I kept. But I couldn't keep his mother! She was an incurable poacher, and after debating whether to sacrifice her to absolutely certain death by firearms at the hands of the 2746 local gamekeepers, or take her to Croydon, and conveniently lose her, or shoot her myself, I decided to give her back to the lady from whom I had purchased her. And that is what I actually did!
Well, Wolfe Tone grew up, and began to expand, and turned into a dog with the most original character I have ever met. A devil-may-care dog; a dog who'll see you damned before he gets out of your way; a dog of gigantic proportions; a dog of splendid pluck; a dog of dignity.
February 1901 came, and Wolfe Tone stood 30 inches at the shoulder, being then six months old. It was immense; a record, I believe. So I put him into Cruft's Show, where he had to meet nine and twelve months' old dogs. I must explain that he is a black and brindle dog, and I was led to believe, as far as this went, an almost unique hound, and of a colour that had long been vainly sought after. I got him into the ring at Cruft's, and in about half a minute I got him out again, "Shocking bad colour!" was all the explanation, and it left me disheartened and disgusted!
I took him home, and he naturally had distemper, and nearly died; but he was nursed through it, and after stopping all growth for two months, started again, and by the time he was ten months old had reached 32 inches. Then I entered him at the Richmond Dog Show in July, and he ran off with all the three first prizes for wolfhounds. I began to grow in conceit of him again—love him I always had, devotedly—and I fattened him up for the great exhibition of the year—the Kennel Club Dog Show at the Crystal Palace in October 1901. He did not take a prize, but I had several offers to buy him, which I thought was better than taking a prize, seeing the expert quarters from which they came. Of course I did not sell him. One does not sell one's pals. At the Earl's Court Dog Show during the next month he took a couple more firsts, and established his reputation.
Meanwhile it occurred to me I might help him on a bit if I entered more closely into touch with the Dog world. So I recommended myself as a suitable candidate for the Honorary Secretaryship of the Irish Wolfhound Club, and got elected! Next I thought the breed wanted a little booming, so I applied myself to that. It is easily done if you are up to the ropes, and I had spicy little paras about Irish wolfhounds in many of the daily papers of the United Kingdom. I also thought that an Irish wolfhound would be a fine ornament to the newly-raised regiment of Irish Guards, so I suggested to my club to present them with one, and my fellow-members, who are quite the nicest people in the world, fell in with my proposal, and as I write one of our very best specimens is going to take up the proud position of regimental mascot to the Irish Guards! Last of all I saw an opening to get up a fine international competition between the English and Irish 'Irish Wolfhounds' at Cruft's Dog Show in February 1902. It was easy to boom—a little para about "this ancient and historic breed of dogs, who stand nearly a yard high at the shoulder, and measure over seven feet from the nose to the tip of the tail; who are gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked, and were the favourite hounds of the second Edward"—all fine patter though merely statements of simple fact—worked the oracle. There was considerable interest evinced in the wolfhound competition at Cruft's Show in 1902, and my press-cutting agents sent me some hundreds of notices that appeared about Irish wolfhounds in the public press of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales—not to mention Paris and New York. And all this publicity came from the fact that I had to buy dear old Brieny-boy a wife! And that wife (whom he never married after all!) chose to present me with Wolfe Tone!
And now comes a still more curious thing. By the irony of circumstances, Wolfe Tone, the shabby little puppy that was waved out of the ring at Cruft's in 1901, as being of a 'shocking bad colour,' had at the same Show in 1902 to stand forth as Champion for England. He was beaten, but not disgraced. The celebrated Irish-bred Irish Wolfhound, Marquis of Donegal, beat him, and he came in second, vanquishing all English-bred dogs. I am not going to say I was such a high-souled hypocrite as to be delighted at his failure, but I was satisfied at his achievement.
And O'Brien, who is assuredly everything that is dear and delightful in a dog—except being a wolfhound—got a third prize, and is prouder of it than I am of him, by a long chalk! I mean of him as an Irish wolfhotmd. I could not be prouder of anyone as a friend or pal than I am of Brieny-boy. And the Club is humping along merrily, and I do sometimes think the British Public hears more about Irish wolfhounds now than ever it did before! All owing to Brieny-boy—who, whatever you may say, has turned out apostate to his caste!
Well, that is how I started my Better Pack. I don't know that I really love its members any more in my soul than I loved those dear old dogs of mine in India—Chris and Billy and Sir Visto and Rhoda! But the fact remains that, as I write these lines on the 22nd February 1902, I have exactly twenty Irish wolfhounds in my kennels. And they have not cost me a penny, for I have paid off all my starting expenses and investment by the sale of drafts! So there is good business in starting a Better Pack— better business than in writing books sometimes, and for some firms!
Twentieth Century Dog (Deerhound,
Wolfhound, Staghound), Herbert Compton 1903
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