In the Bailey house, in the small northern town of New Bedford, the
lights were being put out for the night. Since the Baileys owned the
silver mine upon which New Bedford depended, the house was large and
grandly austere, reflecting its current owner and matriarch of the family,
May ruled with an iron hand. She had no use for "foolishness"
of any sort, which was why the two boys in the corner bedroom, Mayís
grandsons, resorted to stealth as they got ready for bed. Hubert and Henry
Bailey, known familiarly as Hub and Fat, were in their pyjamas but not
ready to sleep. Fat, who was about ten, padded to the door, listened for
sounds, then creaked it open. At his low chirp, a lithe brown body slipped
in before Fat shut the door again. This illicit third party was Pal, the
dog the two boys were taking care of while the owner was on holiday.
As will happen when kids and dogs are put together, both boys were
already in love with Pal and Pal was in love with the boys. Hub and Fat
were certainly a great deal livelier and lots more fun that Palís real
owner, Mr. Murphy. Mr. Murphy supervised the Bailey silver mine and left
Pal shut up by himself in a lonely yard day after day.
As for Pal, he was exactly the sort of dog any boy would adore. Of
mostly collie ancestry, he was a handsome fellow with a long, inquiring
nose, silky perked ears and a character that was raffish through and
through. Pal immediately hopped up onto Fatís bed and lay down, taking
up most the available space.
"Pal, youíre hogging the whole bed. Move over...yeah...yeah."
Fat had to whisper lest his grandmother realize that the dog had
slipped in. Among the vast amount of other things Mrs. Bailey did not
approve of, dogs in boysí beds certainly ranked high on the list. Pal
gazed up at Fat but didnít move. Instead, he put his head down on his
paws with a quizzical look, as though he knew very well he would be
completely indulged. Fat got in and nudged Pal with his knee. Pal wiggled
over, giving Fat room as Fat stroked the honey brown fur of Palís head.
In response, Pal gave Fat a big, slurpy kiss that made Fat grin. When
the door creaked softly open again, Fat quickly hid the dog under the
covers. It was only Hub who had been down the hall to the bathroom. Hub
was twelve and wise to the ways of younger brothers. Fat smiled trying his
best to look casual, but he didnít fool Hub for one minute.
"Fat...is Pal in bed with you again?"
"Shssssh!" whispered Fat in alarm about the excellent hearing
of their grandmother. Sheepishly, he peeled back the covers, revealing
Pal, or half of him, at least. Palís head popped up in a doggy grin, his
tail wagging furiously and comically underneath the covers. Hub shook his
head, pushing aside the shock of brown hair from his forehead.
"You know Grandmother doesnít want him under the covers with
you." Then, unable to help himself, he wagged a finger. "Itís
unsanitary, Henry," he squeaked in a parody of May Baileyís
Fat smothered a guffaw and threw his arms around Palís neck.
"Youíre sanitary, arentcha, Pal? Yeah!"
Pat put his head in Fatís lap and snuggled up. Hub shrugged, secretly
pleased to have the dog in the room too. "Itís your funeral if she
Being caught by Grandmother May would not be a pleasant experience. In
the few weeks the boys had lived with her since their fatherís funeral,
they had they had come nose to nose more than once with May Baileyís
commanding ways. However, in those tough times, the Depression of the
nineteen thirties, the boys had to stay put there until their mother could
find a job and some way of supporting them. Hub sat down on Fatís bed
and patted Pal too. Pal rewarded him with enthusiastic licks under Hubís
chin. Fat regarded Pal both with pleasure and longing as he pulled his
knees up under his chin.
"You think we could ask Mr. Murphy to let us keep Pal when he
This had been on the boysí minds almost since the first moment they
had been given charge of the animal. The combination of boys and dogs was
age-old, natural and made for each other. However, Hub did not have much
hope for the possibility.
"I dunno. Even if he said yes, Grandmother would never agree to
May Baileyís house was full of expensive oriental rugs, brocade
upholstered sofas and polished hardwood floors. None of these would look
at all nice festooned with hair from Pal's long thick coat.
"I bet mom would let us keep Pal. I wish things were the way they
used to be," Fat burst out rebelliously, remembering a different,
happier life before it had all been blown apart by their fatherís sudden
and totally unexpected death. "I wish you, me, Violet and Pal could
live with Mom in North Bridge."
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