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Hans and his dog.

From The Book of Stories for the Storyteller by Fanny E. Coe.

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His aunt had a great deal to say to them, but Hans said nothing at all. He only hugged the dog the closer, and wondered how long it would be before he would have to give him up. But Hans's aunt let him keep the dog in spite of her scolding. "A dog is better than nothing," she said. Hans named him Prince, for, after all, the dog was the Prince's birthday present. At first Prince did nothing but sleep and eat. Then he began to grow, oh! so fast. By the time he had lived two years in the house he was a great, fine dog, with long, thick hair and soft, loving eyes. He was very beautiful. All the travellers who came in the summer to see the mountains said so, and even Hans's aunt thought so, although she did not love the dog. Hans was never lonely after Prince came. Even at night they stayed together; and in the winter Hans would put his arms about his friend's shaggy neck and sleep close beside him to keep warm. The winters are very cold in the country where Hans lived. The winds whistle through the pine-trees, and the snow comes down for days, till the valleys are as white as the mountain-tops. Few travellers go to the mountains then. They are afraid of the bad roads, and of the snow, which sometimes slides in great masses, burying everything in its way. Hans's uncle knew many stories of travellers who had been lost in the snow, and he told, too, of some good men, living in the mountains, who sent their dogs out to find and help people who were lost--"dogs like our Prince here," he would say; and Hans would hug Prince and say: "Do you hear? Your uncles and cousins and brothers save people out of the cold snow."

Prince would bark sharply whenever Hans told him this, just as if he were proud. He knew all about travellers, and snow, for, often, Hans's uncle took him on short trips over the mountains. Hans always let him go, willingly, with his good uncle; but one day when his soldier cousin (the one who had bought the silver chain in the city) asked if he might take the dog with him for a day, Hans was very sorry to let Prince go. "Fie!" said his aunt, when she saw his sorrowful face. "What harm could come to a great dog like that?" But Hans was not satisfied. All day long his heart was heavy, and when, in the afternoon, the little white snowflakes came flying down he watched for the return of his soldier cousin and the dog with anxious eyes. After a long while he heard great laughing and talking on the road, and he ran out to see who was coming. It was the soldier cousin with a party of friends, and they laughed still more when they saw Hans. "Little Hans! Little Hans!" cried one of them, "this fine cousin of yours has forgotten your dog." "Forgotten my dog!" said Hans. "What do you mean?" "He was asleep behind the stove at the inn," said the soldier cousin, who looked very much ashamed of himself. "And he never missed him until now," cried the friends. "Think of that--a great dog like Prince!" Hans looked from one to another with tears in his eyes; but they were all too busy with their joking to notice him. Only the soldier cousin, who was really sorry for his carelessness, tried to comfort him.

"He'll be here," he said, patting Hans on the head, "by milking-time, I warrant; for he is wise enough to take care of himself anywhere." "Wiser than you," laughed the rest; and they all went off merrily, leaving the little boy standing in the road. He scarcely saw them go, for he was thinking of the night so near at hand, and the winds and the snow-slides. How could the dear dog find his way through the darkness alone? "I will go for him in the morning, if he does not come home to-night," called the soldier cousin. But morning seemed very far away to the dog's anxious little master, and the big tears began to roll down his cheeks. Just then a thought sprang into his mind, as thoughts will. "Why not go yourself for him now?" was the thought. Hans clapped his hands joyfully. Of course he could go. He knew the way, for he had been to the inn only the summer before with his uncle. The loud winds whistled, and the snowflakes kissed his cheeks and his nose; but he thought of his playmate and started out bravely. "Moo! moo!" called the old cow from the stable. Hans knew her voice. "Bring me my salt," she seemed to say. "When I come back," he answered, as he struggled up the frozen road. He was very cold, for he had even forgotten his cap in his haste; but the snowflakes powdered his hair till he looked as if he wore a white one. He could scarcely pucker up his mouth to whistle. His feet were numb and his fingers tingled, and the wind sang in his ears till he was as sleepy as sleepy could be.

"I'll sit down and rest," said Hans to himself, "and then I can go faster." But when he sat down he could not keep his eyes open, and before many minutes he was fast asleep and lay in a little dark heap on the white snow. "Let's cover him up," said the snowflakes, hurrying down; but before they had time to whiten his clothes a great big beautiful Saint Bernard dog came bounding down the road. It was Prince. He had waked up from his nap behind the stove, and hastened after the soldier cousin as fast as his four feet could carry him. He was not afraid of the night or the snow, and he was as warm as toast in his shaggy coat. He was thinking of Hans as he hurried along--when, suddenly, he spied him lying there so still by the roadside. In an instant the good dog sprang to the child's side, barking furiously, for every dog in Switzerland knows that those who sleep on snow pillows seldom wake up. "Bow-wow! Bow-wow!" he barked, loud and long, "Bow-wow! Bow-wow!" which meant in his language, "Little master, wake up!" But Hans was dreaming of the mountains where the travellers went, and did not hear. "Bow-wow! Bow-wow! Wake up! Wake up!" called the dog; and he licked Hans's face and tugged at his coat, pulling him along with his strong teeth. "You can't wake him up," said the wind. "Bow-wow! I can," barked Prince; and he ran down the road and called for help: "Bow-wow! Bow-wow! Come here! Come here!"

The sound of his voice reached the village, where everything was as quiet as the snow itself. The cows heard it first and mooed in their stalls. The soldier cousin heard it, on his way to Hans's house, where he was going to find out whether Prince had come back. Hans's uncle and aunt heard it as they searched through the house for their little boy. The neighbours heard it, and opened their doors to listen. "Bow-wow! Bow-wow! Come here! Come here!" "Something is wrong," said the people; and they all hurried out of their houses, away from their fires and their suppers, up the mountain-side, till they came to the spot where the faithful dog kept guard over his little master. Hans's uncle never tired of telling how Prince saved Hans. He tells it on the long winter evenings when the winds whistle through the pines and he tells it in the summer to the travellers as they climb the mountains. Hans thinks it is more beautiful than a fairy story, and so does his aunt; for ever since that snowy night she has been ready to agree that the dear dog is better than all the silver chains in the world.


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