CHAPTER II. The Pest
Thackeray, as a lad, was dropped from college for laziness and for gambling. Bismarck failed to get a University degree, because he lacked power to study and because he preferred midnight beer to midnight oil. George Washington, in student days, could never grasp the simplest rules of spelling. The young Lincoln loved to sprawl in the shade with fish-pole or tattered book, when he should have been working.
Now, these men were giants—physically as well as mentally. Being giants, they were by nature slow of development.
The kitten, at six months of age, is graceful and compact and of perfect poise. The lion-cub, at the same age, is a gawky and foolish and ill-knit mass of legs and fur; deficient in sense and in symmetry. Yet at six years, the lion and the cat are not to be compared for power or beauty or majesty or brain, or along any other lines.
The foregoing is not an essay on the slow development of the Great. It is merely a condensation of the Mistress’s earnest arguments against the selling or giving away of a certain hopelessly awkward and senseless and altogether undesirable collie pup named Bruce.
From the very first, the Mistress had been Bruce’s champion at The Place. There was no competition for that office. She and she alone could see any promise in the shambling youngster.
Because he had been born on The Place, and because he was the only son of Rothsay Lass, whom the Mistress had also championed against strong opposition, it had been decided to keep and raise him. But daily this decision seemed less and less worth while. Only the Mistress’s championing of the Undesirable prevented his early banishment.
From a fuzzy and adventurous fluff-ball of gray-gold-and-white fur, Bruce swiftly developed into a lanky giant. He was almost as large again as is the average collie pup of his age; but, big as he was, his legs and feet and head were huge, out of all proportion to the rest of him. The head did not bother him. Being hampered by no weight of brain, it would be navigated with more or less ease, in spite of its bulk. But the legs and feet were not only in his own way, but in every one else’s.
He seemed totally lacking in sense, as well as in bodily coordination. He was forever getting into needless trouble. He was a stormcenter. No one but a born fool—canine or human—could possibly have caused one-tenth as much bother.
The Mistress had named him “Bruce,” after the stately Scottish chieftain who was her history-hero. And she still called him Bruce—fifty times a day—in the weary hope of teaching him his name. But every one else on The Place gave him a title instead of a name—a title that stuck: “The Pest.” He spent twenty-four hours, daily, living up to it.
Compared with Bruce’s helplessly clownish trouble-seeking propensities, Charlie Chaplin’s screen exploits are miracles of heroic dignity and of good luck.