Lurching to his feet, he snatched up a broom handle. He waved it menacingly over the dog. Chum gave back not an inch. Under the threat of a beating he stood his ground, his brave eyes steadfast, and, lurking in their mystic depths, that same glint of sorrowful wonder and disgust.
Up whirled the broomstick. But when it fell it did not smite athwart the shoul ders of the sorrowing dog. Instead, it clattered harmlessly to the board floor. And to the floor also slumped Link Ferris, his nerve all gone, his heart soggy with sudden remorse.
To his knees thudded the man, close beside the collie. From Link's throat were bursting great strangled sobs which tortured his whole body and made his speech a tangled jumble that was not pretty to hear.
"Chum!" he wailed brokenly, clutching the dog's huge ruff in both shaky hands. "Chum, old friend! Gawd forgive me! You saved me from drowndin' an' from goin' broke, this night! You been the only friend that ever cared a hang if I was alive or dead! An'--an' I was goin' to lick you! I was goin' to lambaste you. Because I was a beastlier beast than YOU be. I was goin' to do it because you was so much better than me that you was made sick by my bein' a hawg. An' I was mad at you fer it. I'm--oh, I'm shameder than you are! Chum! Honest to Gawd, I am! Won't you make friends again? PLEASE, Chum!"
Now, of course, this was a most ridiculous and maudlin way to talk. Moreover, no man belongs on his knees beside a dog, even though the man be a sot and the dog a thoroughbred. In his calmer moments Link Ferris would have known this. A high-bred collie, too, has no use for sloppy emotion, but shuns its exhibition well-nigh as disgustedly as he shuns a drunkard.
Yet, for some illogical reason, Chum did not seek to withdraw his aristocratic self from the shivering clutch of the repentant souse. Instead, the expression of misery and repugnance fled as if by magic from his brooding eyes. Into them in its place leaped a light of keen solicitude. He pressed closer to the swayingly kneeling man, and with upthrust muzzle sought to kiss the blubbering face.
The whisky reek was as strong as ever. But something in Chum's soul was stronger. He seemed to know that the maudlin Unknown had vanished, and that his dear master was back again--his dear master who was in grievous trouble and who must be comforted.
Wherefore, the sickening liquor fumes no longer held him aloof from Link. Just as the icy lake had not deterred him from springing into the water after his drowning god, although, like most collies, Chum hated to swim.