He fell back from this word; and when he again advanced, Ariel had left the house. She had turned the next corner before he came out of the gate; and as he passed his own home on his way down-town, he saw her white dress mingling with his daughter’s near the horse-block beside the fire, where the two, with their arms about each other, stood waiting for Sam Warden and the open summer carriage.
Judge Pike walked on, the white splotches reappearing like a pale rash upon his face. A yellow butterfly zigzagged before him, knee-high, across the sidewalk. He raised his foot and half kicked at it.
As the Judge continued his walk down Main Street, he wished profoundly that the butterfly (which exhibited no annoyance) had been of greater bulk and more approachable; and it was the evil fortune of Joe’s mongrel to encounter him in the sinister humor of such a wish unfulfilled. Respectability dwelt at Beaver Beach under the care of Mr. Sheehan until his master should return; and Sheehan was kind; but the small dog found the world lonely and time long without Joe. He had grown more and more restless, and at last, this hot morning, having managed to evade the eye of all concerned in his keeping, made off unobtrusively, partly by swimming, and reaching the road, cantered into town, his ears erect with anxiety. Bent upon reaching the familiar office, he passed the grocery from the doorway of which the pimply cheeked clerk had thrown a bad potato at him a month before. The same clerk had just laid down the Tocsin as Respectability went by, and, inspired to great deeds in behalf of justice and his native city, he rushed to the door, lavishly seized, this time, a perfectly good potato, and hurled it with a result which ecstasized him, for it took the mongrel fairly aside the head, which it matched in size.
The luckless Respectability’s purpose to reach Joe’s stairway had been entirely definite, but upon this violence he forgot it momentarily. It is not easy to keep things in mind when one is violently smitten on mouth, nose, cheek, eye, and ear by a missile large enough to strike them simultaneously. Yelping and half blinded, he deflected to cross Main Street. Judge Pike had elected to cross in the opposite direction, and the two met in the middle of the street.
The encounter was miraculously fitted to the Judge’s need: here was no butterfly, but a solid body, light withal, a wet, muddy, and dusty yellow dog, eminently kickable. The man was heavily built about the legs, and the vigor of what he did may have been additionally inspired by his recognition of the mongrel as Joe Louden’s. The impact of his toe upon the little runner’s side was momentous, and the latter rose into the air. The Judge hopped, as one hops who, unshod in the night, discovers an unexpected chair. Let us be reconciled to his pain and not reproach the gods with it,—for two of his unintending adversary’s ribs were cracked.