Link, through his own nervous collapse, recognized the instant change in Chum's demeanor, and read it aright. It strengthened the old bond between himself and the dog. It somehow gave him a less scornful opinion of himself.
Presently he got to his feet, and with the collie at his side went back to the table, where stood the threeparts-empty flask. His face working, Link opened the window and poured what was left of the whisky out on the ground. There was nothing dramatic about his action. Rather it was tinged by very visible regret. Turning back to Chum, he said sheepishly:
"There it goes. An' I ain't sayin' I'm tickled at wastin' such good stuff. But--somehow I guess we've come to a showdown, Chum; you an' me. If I stick to booze, I'm li'ble to see you looking at me that queer way an' sidlin' away from me all the time; till maybe at last you'd get plumb sick of me for keeps, an' light out. An'--I'd rather have YOU than the booze, since I can't have both of you. Bein' only a dawg and never havin' tasted good red liquor, you can't know what a big bouquet I'm a-throwin' at you when I say that, neither. I--Oh, let's call it a day and go to sleep."
Next morning, in the course of nature, Link Ferris worked with a splitting headache. He carried it and a bad taste in his mouth, for the best part of the day.
But it was the last drink headache which marred his labor, all that long and happy summer. His work showed the results of the change. So did the meager hill farm. So did Link's system and his pocketbook.
As he was a real, live human and not a temperance tract hero, there were times when he girded bitterly at his self-enforced abstinence. Where were times, too--when he had a touch of malaria and again when the cutworms slaughtered two rows of his early tomatoes--when he yearned unspeakably for the solace of an evening at the Hampton tavern.
He had never been a natural drinker. Like many a better man he had drunk less for what he sought to get than for what he sought to forget. And with the departure of loneliness and the new interest in his home, he felt less the need for wet conviviality and for drugging his fits of melancholy.
The memory of Chum's grieving repulsion somehow stuck in Ferris's mind. And it served as a brake, more than once, to his tavernward impulses. Two or three times, also, when Link's babyish gusts of destructive bad temper boiled to the surface at some setback or annoyance, much the same wonderingly distressed look would creep into the collie's glance--a look as of one who is revolted by a dear friend's failure to play up to form. And to his own amused surprise, Ferris found himself trying to curb these outbursts.