“That is the best turn the earl has done me for a long time,” the man replied. “Never did I have a job I fancied less than the tending of that evil tempered brute.”
“He did not use to be evil tempered,” Archie said; “but was a quiet beast when I had to do with him before. I suppose the strangeness of the place and so many strange faces have driven him half wild. Beside, he is not used to being chained up. Hector, old fellow,” he said approaching the dog quietly, “don’t you know me?”
The great hound recognized the voice and his aspect changed at once. The bristling hair lay flat on his back; the threatening jaws closed. He gave a short deep bark of pleasure, and then began leaping and tugging at his chain to reach his acquaintance. Archie came close to him now. Hector reared on his hind legs, and placed his great paws on his shoulders, and licked his face with whines of joy.
“He knows you, sure enough,” the man said; “and maybe we shall get on better now. At any rate there may be some chance of sleep, for the brute’s howls every night since he has been brought here have kept the whole camp awake.”
“No wonder!” Archie said, “when he has been accustomed to be petted and cared for; he resents being chained up.”
“Would you unchain him?” the man asked.
“That would I,” Archie replied; “and I doubt not that he will stay with me.”
“It may be so,” the man replied; “but you had best not unchain him without leave from the earl, for were he to take it into his head to run away, I would not give a groat for your life. But I will go and acquaint the earl that the dog knows you, and ask his orders as to his being unchained.”
In two or three minutes he returned.
“The earl says that on no account is he to be let free. He has told me to have a small tent pitched here for you. The hound is to be chained to the post, and to share the tent with you. You may, if you will, walk about the camp with him, but always keeping him in a chain; but if you do so it will be at your peril, for if he gets away your life will answer for it.”
In a short time two or three soldiers brought a small tent and erected it close by where the dog was chained up. Archie unloosed the chain from the post round which it was fastened, and led Hector to the tent, the dog keeping close by his side and wagging his tail gravely, as if to show his appreciation of the change, to the satisfaction of the men to whom hitherto he had been a terror. Some heather was brought for a bed, and a supply of food, both for the dog and his keeper, and the men then left the two friends alone. Hector was sitting up on his haunches gazing affectionately at Archie, his tail beating the ground with slow and regular strokes.
“I know what you want to ask, old fellow,” Archie said to him; “why I don’t lead you at once to your master? Don’t you be impatient, old fellow, and you shall see him ere long;” and he patted the hound’s head.