Rufus was a mongrel. He was not a red setter, though his coloring was similar. A politely disposed person would have called him a retriever, and his curly back and general appearance might have carried this off, but for his tail, which, instead of being straight and rat-like, was as plumy as the Prince of Wales’s feathers, and curled unblushingly over his back, sideways, like a pug’s. “It was a good one to wag,” his master said, and, apart from the question of high breeding, it was handsome, and Rufus himself seemed proud of it.
Since half-past three had Rufus sat in the porch, blinking away positive sleep, with his pathetic face towards the road down which Master Swift must come. Unnecessarily pathetic, for there was every reason for his being the most jovial of dogs, and not one for that imposing melancholy which he wore. His large level eyelids shaded the pupils even when he was broad awake; an intellectual forehead, and a very long Vandykish nose, with the curly ears, which fell like a well-dressed peruke on each side of his face, gave him an air of disinherited royalty. But he was in truth a mongrel, living on the fat of the land; who, from the day that this wistful dignity had won the schoolmaster’s heart, had never known a care, wanted a meal, or had any thing whatever demanded of him but to sit comfortably at home and watch with a broken-hearted countenance for the schoolmaster’s return from the labors which supported them both. The sunshine made Rufus sleepy, but he kept valiantly watchful, propping himself against the garden-tools which stood in the corner. Flowers and vegetables for eating were curiously mixed in the little garden that lay about Master Swift’s cottage. Not a corner was wasted in it, and a thick hedge of sweet-peas formed a fragrant fence from the outer world.
Rufus was nodding, when he heard a footstep. He pulled himself up, but he did not wag his tail, for the step was not the schoolmaster’s. It was Jan’s. Rufus growled slightly, and Jan stood outside, and called, “Master Swift!” He and Rufus both paused and listened, but the schoolmaster did not appear. Then Rufus came out and smelt Jan exhaustively, and excepting a slight flavor of being acquainted with cats, to whom Rufus objected, he smelt well. Rufus wagged his tail, Jan patted him, and they sat down to wait for the master.
The clock in the old square-towered church had struck a quarter-past four when Master Swift came down the lane, and Rufus rushed out to meet him. Though Rufus told him in so many barks that there was a stranger within, and that, as he smelt respectable, he had allowed him to wait, the schoolmaster was startled by the sight of Jan.
“Why, it’s the little pig-minder!” said he. On which Jan’s face crimsoned, and tears welled up in his black eyes.
“I bean’t a pig-minder now, Master Swift,” said he.
“And how’s that? Has Master Salter turned ye off?”