Such as Walk in Darkness

In all the trade of the city you might not find such another quaint business firm as Solomon John and Billy Wigg. The senior partner was a gentle old giant; the junior a brisk and shaggy little dog. It was Solomon John’s business to stand on a roaring corner and sell papers; it was Billy Wigg’s business to take care of him while he did it, for he was blind. It was our business—Dr. Harvey’s and mine—to pay for our papers and pass on, but we seldom strictly minded it. Instead, we would stop to talk to Solomon John to the detriment of trade, and to be patronised by Billy Wigg, who was much puffed up with self- importance, conceiving himself to be principal owner of the earth and sole proprietor of Solomon John. In the half of which he was correct.

I was very fond of Billy Wigg, despite his airs of superiority. Harvey preferred old Solomon; but this was a semi-professional interest, for my medical friend had contracted the pamphlet habit, which he indulged before scientific bodies made up of gentlemen with weak eyes who knew more about ophthalmology than can be found in many fat tomes. Solomon John was a remarkable case of something quite unpronounceable, and Harvey used to gaze into his eyes with rapt intensity, while Billy Wigg fidgeted and struggled against the temptation to gnaw such portions of him as were within reach; for Billy Wigg didn’t understand, and what he didn’t understand he disapproved of on principle. In the light of subsequent events I believe Billy’s uneasiness to have been an instance of animal prevision.

To see Billy Wigg conduct his master across that mill-race of traffic that swirled between curb and curb, as he did every morning in time for business, was an artistic pleasure. Something more than a mere pilot was the dog; rather the rudder to whose accurate direction old Solomon responded with precise and prompt fidelity. A tug of the trouser leg from behind would bring the ancient newsboy to a halt. A gentle jerk forward would start him again, and in obedience to a steady pull to one side or the other he would trustingly suffer himself to be conducted around a checked wagon or a halted cable car. All the time Billy Wigg would keep up a running conversation made up of admonition, warning, and encouragement.

“Come on, now”—in a series of sharp yaps as they started from the curb. “Push right ahead. Hold hard. That’s all right; it’s by. Hurry now. Hurry, I said. Will you do as I tell you?” Then, to a too pressing cabby, in an angry bark, “What’s the matter with you, anyway? Trying to run folks down? Hey? Well”—apologetically, in response to a jerk on his string—“these fool drivers do stir me up. Wait a bit. Now for it. And here we are.”

How many thousand times dog and man had made the trip in safety before the dire day of the accident not even Solomon John can reckon. Harvey and I had started down town early, while our pair of paper- vending friends chanced to be a little late. As we reached the corner they were already half-way across the street, and Billy Wigg, with all the strength of terror, was striving to haul Solomon John backward.

“What’s the matter with Billy?” said Harvey, for from the sidewalk we could not then see the cause of his excitement.

A second later the question was answered, as there plunged into view from behind a car the galloping horse of a derelict delivery wagon.

“Good heavens! Look at the old man,” I cried, and in the same breath, “Look at the dog,” gasped Harvey.

With one mighty jerk Billy Wigg had torn the leash from his master’s hand. Bereft of his sole guidance in the thunder and rush of traffic, the blind man stretched out piteous hands, warding the death he could not see. “Billy,” he quavered, “where are you, Billy? Come back to me, Billy-dog.”

For once Billy Wigg was deaf to his master’s voice. He was obeying a more imperious call, that unfathomed nobility of dog-nature that responds so swiftly to the summons. He was casting his own life in the balance to save another’s. Straight at the horse’s throat he launched himself, a forlorn hope. It was a very big horse, and Billy was a very little dog. The up-stroke of the knee caught him full; he was flung, whirling, fell almost under the wheels of a cab, rolled into the gutter, and lay there quiet. The horse had swerved a little, not quite enough. There was a scream, and the blind man went down from the glancing impact

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