CHAPTER I. The Coming Of Bruce
She was beautiful. And she had a heart and a soul—which were a curse. For without such a heart and soul, she might have found the tough life-battle less bitterly hard to fight.
But the world does queer things—damnable things—to hearts that are so tenderly all-loving and to souls that are so trustfully and forgivingly friendly as hers.
Her “pedigree name” was Rothsay Lass. She was a collie—daintily fragile of build, sensitive of nostril, furrily tawny of coat. Her ancestry was as flawless as any in Burke’s Peerage.
If God had sent her into the world with a pair of tulip ears and with a shade less width of brain-space she might have been cherished and coddled as a potential bench-show winner, and in time might even have won immortality by the title of “Champion Rothsay Lass.”
But her ears pricked rebelliously upward, like those of her earliest ancestors, the wolves. Nor could manipulation lure their stiff cartilages into drooping as bench-show fashion demands. The average show-collie’s ears have a tendency to prick. By weights and plasters, and often by torture, this tendency is overcome. But never when the cartilage is as unyielding as was Lass’s.
Her graceful head harked back in shape to the days when collies had to do much independent thinking, as sheep-guards, and when they needed more brainroom than is afforded by the borzoi skull sought after by modern bench-show experts.
Wherefore, Lass had no hope whatever of winning laurels in the show-ring or of attracting a high price from some rich fancier. She was tabulated, from babyhood, as a “second”—in other words, as a faulty specimen in a litter that should have been faultless.
These “seconds” are as good to look at, from a layman’s view, as is any international champion. And their offspring are sometimes as perfect as are those of the finest specimens. But, lacking the arbitrary “points” demanded by show-judges, the “seconds” are condemned to obscurity, and to sell as pets.
If Lass had been a male dog, her beauty and sense and lovableness would have found a ready purchaser for her. For nine pet collies out of ten are “seconds”; and splendid pets they make for the most part.
But Lass, at the very start, had committed the unforgivable sin of being born a female. Therefore, no pet-seeker wanted to buy her. Even when she was offered for sale at half the sum asked for her less handsome brothers, no one wanted her.
A mare—or the female of nearly any species except the canine— brings as high and as ready a price as does the male. But never the female dog. Except for breeding, she is not wanted.
This prejudice had its start in Crusader days, some thousand years ago. Up to that time, all through the civilized world, a female dog had been more popular as a pet than a male. The Mohammedans (to whom, by creed, all dogs are unclean) gave their European foes the first hint that a female dog was the lowest thing on earth.