We now, to return to Pelleas, know pretty well what to do and how to behave on the master’s premises. But the world does not end at the house-door, and, beyond the walls and beyond the hedge, there is a universe of which one has not the custody, where one is no longer at home, where relations are changed. How are we to stand in the street, in the fields, in the market-place, in the shops? In consequence of difficult and delicate observations, we understand that we must take no notice of passers-by; obey no calls but the master’s; be polite, with indifference, to strangers who pet us. Next, we must conscientiously fulfill certain obligations of mysterious courtesy toward our brothers the other dogs; respect chickens and ducks; not appear to remark the cakes at the pastry-cook’s, which spread themselves insolently within reach of the tongue; show to the cats, who, on the steps of the houses, provoke us by hideous grimaces, a silent contempt, but one that will not forget; and remember that it is lawful and even commendable to chase and strangle mice, rats, wild rabbits and, generally speaking, all animals (we learn to know them by secret marks) that have not yet made their peace with mankind.
All this and so much more! . . . Was it surprising that Pelleas often appeared pensive in the face of those numberless problems, and that his humble and gentle look was often so profound and grave, laden with cares and full of unreadable questions?
Alas, he did not have time to finish the long and heavy task which nature lays upon the instinct that rises in order to approach a brighter region. . . An ill of a mysterious character, which seems specially to punish the only animal that succeeds in leaving the circle in which it is born; an indefinite ill that carries off hundreds of intelligent little dogs, came and put an end to the destiny and happy education of Pelleas. And now all those efforts to achieve a little more light; all that ardour in loving, that courage in understanding; all that affectionate gaiety and innocent fawning; all those kind and devoted looks, which turned to man to ask for his assistance against unjust death; all those flickering gleams which came from the profound abyss of a world that is no longer ours; all those nearly human little habits lie sadly in the cold ground, under a flowering elder-tree, in a corner of the garden.
OUR FRIEND THE DOG.
By Maurice Maeterlinck.
Illustrated by Cecil Alden.
Dodd, Mead & Company: New York. 1913.