An Ulm

“It is as you say; he is not handsome, certainly not beautiful as flowers and the stars and a woman are, but he has another sort of beauty, I think, such a beauty as made Victor Hugo’s monster, Gwynplaine, fascinating, or gives a certain sort of charm to a banded rattlesnake. He is not much like the dove-eyed setter over whom we shot woodcock this afternoon, but to me he is the fairest object on the face of the earth, this gaunt, brindled Ulm.

“What is there about an Ulm especially attractive? Well, I don’t know. About Ulms in the abstract, very little, I imagine. About an Ulm in the concrete, particularly the brute near us, a great deal. The Ulm is a morbid development in dog-breeding, anyhow. I remember, as doubtless you do as well, when the animals first made their appearance in this country a few years ago. The big, dirty-white beasts, dappled with dark blotches and with countenances unexplainably threatening, reminded one of hyenas with huge dog forms. Germans brought them over first, and they were affected by saloon-keepers and their class. They called them Siberian bloodhounds then, but the dog-fanciers got hold of them, and they became, with their sinister obtrusiveness, a feature of the shows; the breed was defined more clearly, and now they are known as Great Danes or Ulms, indifferently. How they originated I never cared to learn. I imagine it sometimes. I fancy some jilted, jaundiced descendant of the sea-rovers, retiring to his castle, and endeavouring, by mating some ugly bloodhound with a wild wolf, to produce a quadruped as fierce and cowardly and treacherous as a man or woman may be.

“Never mind about the dog, and tell you why I’ve been gentleman, farmer, sportsman and half-hermit here for the last five years—leaving everything just as I was getting a grip on reputation in town, leaving a pretty wife, too, after only a year of marriage? I can hardly do that—that is, I can hardly drop the dog, because, you see, he’s part of the story. No need for going far back with the legend. You know it all up to the time I was married. You dined with me once or twice later. You remember my wife? Certainly she was a pretty woman, well bred, too, and wise, in a woman’s way. I’ve seen a good deal of the world, but I don’t know that I ever saw a more tactful entertainer, or in private a more adorable woman when she chose to be affectionate. I was in that fool’s paradise which is so big and holds so many people, sometimes for a year and a half after marriage. Then one day I found myself outside the wall.

“There was a beautiful set to my wife’s chin, you may recollect—a trifle strong for a woman; but I used to say to myself that, as students know, the mother most impresses the male offspring, and that my sons would be men of will. There was a fulness to her lips. Well, so there is to mine. There was a delicious, languorous craft in the look of her eyes at times. I care not at all for that. I thought she loved me and knew me. Love of me would give all faithfulness; knowledge of me, even were the inclination to wrong existent, would beget a dread of consequences. My dear boy, we don’t know women. Sometimes women don’t know men. She did not know me any more than she loved me. She has become better informed.

“What happened? Well, now come in the dog and the man. The dog was given me by a friend who was dog-mad, and who said to me the puppy would develop into a marvel of his kind, so long a pedigree he had. The man came in the form of an accidental new friend, an old friend of my wife, as subsequently developed. I invited him to my house, and he came often. I liked to have him there. I wanted to go to Congress—you know all about that—and wasn’t often at home in the evening. He made the evenings less lonely for my wife, and I was glad of it.

“Meanwhile that brute of a puppy in the basement had been developing. He had grown into a great, rangy, long-toothed monster with a leer on his dull face, and the servants were afraid of him. I got interested and made a pet of the uncouth animal. I studied the Ulm character. I learned queer things about him. Despite his size and strength, he was frequently overcome by other dogs when he wandered into the street. He was tame until the shadows began to gather and the sun went down. Then a change came upon him. He ranged about the basement, and none but I dared venture down there. He was, in short, a cur by day, at night a demon. I supposed the early dogs of this breed had been trained to night slaughter and savageness alone, and that it was a case of atavism, a recurrence of hereditary instinct. It interested me vastly, and I resolved to make him the most perfect of watch-dogs. I trained him to lie couchant, and

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