The Dog Noble And The Empty Hole

The first summer which we spent in Lenox we had along a very intelligent dog, named Noble. He was learned in many things, and by his dog-lore excited the undying admiration of all the children. But there were some things which Noble could never learn. Having on one occasion seen a red squirrel run into a hole in a stone wall, he could not be persuaded that he was not there forevermore.

Several red squirrels lived close to the house, and had become familiar, but not tame. They kept up a regular romp with Noble. They would come down from the maple trees with provoking coolness; they would run along the fence almost within reach; they would cock their tails and sail across the road to the barn; and yet there was such a well-timed calculation under all this apparent rashness, that Noble invariably arrived at the critical spot just as the squirrel left it.

On one occasion Noble was so close upon his red-backed friend that, unable to get up the maple tree, the squirrel dodged into a hole in the wall, ran through the chinks, emerged at a little distance, and sprang into the tree. The intense enthusiasm of the dog at that hole can hardly be described. He filled it full of barking. He pawed and scratched as if undermining a bastion. Standing off at a little distance, he would pierce the hole with a gaze as intense and fixed as if he were trying magnetism on it. Then, with tail extended, and every hair thereon electrified, he would rush at the empty hole with a prodigious onslaught.

This imaginary squirrel haunted Noble night and day. The very squirrel himself would run up before his face into the tree, and, crouched in a crotch, would sit silently watching the whole process of bombarding the empty hole, with great sobriety and relish. But Noble would allow of no doubts. His conviction that that hole had a squirrel in it continued unshaken for six weeks. When all other occupations failed, this hole remained to him. When there were no more chickens to harry, no pigs to bite, no cattle to chase, no children to romp with, no expeditions to make with the grown folks, and when he had slept all that his dogskin would hold, he would walk out of the yard, yawn and stretch himself, and then look wistfully at the hole, as if thinking to himself, “Well, as there is nothing else to do, I may as well try that hole again!”


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