28 JUNE 1940, Page 9



IBOUGHT three things new—a house, a dog, and a whistle. I had to have a dog. In our village, unless you own a dog you are not quite—well, quite. The whistle followed as a necessary corollary, after a week's incessant striving in emulation of sundry shepherds and other Samurai of the neigh- bourhood who, by virtue of missing incisors or, at most, the insertion of a bony knuckle, seemed able to dispense with all extraneous aid in breaking down that aura of independence which appears to surround all dogs.

It was a good whistle: I paid half a crown for it. But its timbre unfortunately clashed with that used for the various local A.R.P. for.mations. After calling up to me the Fire Brigade three times, the Wardens twice, and our Police Con- stable .once—in fact, practically the whole village with the exception of my dog—I arrived at the conclusion that a change of material was advisable.

I read an advertisement of what was fancifully described as a " silent " whistle. Truly, thought I, from what I gathered, a reed which must be the modern equivalent of the Pipes of Pan ; an elfin instrument of too ethereal a pitch to be heard by gross human ears, but a note of compelling influence on animals—of which my dog was allegedly one. " Ha, ha," thought I.

It came. It looked an interesting little package as I began to unwrap it, while a skin formed on the top of my breakfast porridge—a most inviting little parcel. My wife guessed a fountain-pen ; my son aetat. 9 and with but one thought in life, a fishing float ; and my daughter Jennifer, who is of that en- gagingly pessimistic age when nothing is believed at all unless it is in one's hands, haughtily reserved all vocal opinion, merely reaching out for the parcel in her totalitarian way and herself completing the unwrapping on the tray of her chair. I imagine all three thought it was some new type of cigar- ette holder. Interest seemed to flag. Jennifer, as with everything, tried the taste of it, first biting it amidships, and then endways on. " Blow," I coaxed, paternally. " Blow hard." The experiment confirmed the cigarette-holder hypothesis. Nothing happened. Certainly the parrot in the corner lifted a languid eyelid and leered at me, but that was all. Jennifer, with her pretty absence of ceremony, cast the toy away. It rolled under the table and, in trying to retrieve it, my son—he is of the age—managed to tread on it. I was afraid the resultant bulge might have damaged the presumably vital slip-stream channel, but of course I had no means of deciding this at the moment. There seemed a way through all right when I gently tried it. In fact it seemed to work better than before. The sinister fowl in the corner momentarily ceased muttering to himself and glared bleakly round at me with, if possible, even increased hostility. But, of course, that was no real test ; he often does that.

After some difficulty I found my dog. I made much of him, in the hope that he might come with me for a walk in preference to what other minor attractions he might have in mind at the moment. By an incredible flight of the imagina- tion, I thought. that I might be able to display my triumph even before I had got out of sight of my house. Carlo, with his simple directness of heart and mind and soul, would bolt straight down, up or across the village street as usual. Then

I would bring him back by means of my whistle, discreetly hidden in the crook of my hand. People would wonder. Power of the Mind. Psychic, I would out-shepherd the shepherds.

But, of course, the dog, on this day of all days, chose to keep at heel. I suppose that I must have stepped on something— one of my son's aniseed balls, perhaps. His nose never left my heels until I had got quite a way out of the village ; in fact, not until the counteracting scents attached to old Wurzel's farm took his mind into even more congenial channels. I did not miss him at first. Through the open door of the mistal I could see Wurzel just finishing the morning's milking ; the last cow in the row. He nodded affably towards me, and I walked across the cobbled yard to pass the time of day with him.

It was very peaceful, leaning there against the doorway, with the rich, warm fragrance of cows and new milk and hay—all sorts of smells—around me. Across the sunlit yard I could see the venerable figure of Sam Brown, Wurzel's man, one of those dear old chaps, watery blue of eye, with drooping moustaches and cheeks like bloodhounds, bending over as he planted various vegetable seedlings on the edge of a bit of newly broken ground. A man wise in his generation, I thought, and happy in his work. A noble sight. A patriarchal goat browsed peacefully among the buttercups a few yards away. Farther over, in the pasture beyond, Wurzel's old mare was lazily massaging her ample buttocks against a railpost, with an expression of utmost beatitude upon her smug features. The farmyard cat, one hind-leg pointed skywards, was, with ex- travagant frankness, completing her matutinal toilet. Every- thing breathed peace and goodwill. The scene was pure poetry.

Then Wurzel called attention to my dog, just about to sneak off into the house. " Ah! " thought I. " Now is my chance."

The whistle was hidden in my fingers. I withdrew my hand from my pocket and lifted the knuckles to my lips, to a casual observer just as the shepherds did, and blew.

Naturally, my eyes were mainly focused upon my dog. The other things forced themselves, as it were, upon my attention. No sound came forth from the whistle, but old Wurzel gave vent to a startled exclamation of considerable potency as the cow suddenly kicked over the milking-pail and whisked him across the head with her tail. The cat sprang upright, spit- ting expletives and clawing the air, her tail the size of a flue- brush. The old mare kicked down the railings. With my own eyes I saw the goat raise an outraged visage from the lush grasses among which it had been buried, glare balefully for a second at old Sam's blunt end sticking up in the air, and then, from those few yards away, promptly charge. The gardener, though corpulent, appeared to be a remarkably buoyant sort of man. As he pivoted forward the goat followed through into the pile of seedling boxes. My own pup spun round on the step as if he had been struck by lightning And then, his hinder end well down, tail tucked in, he completed a second circle and streaked off indoors.

Then I helped Wurzel to his feet again. He gazed hard at the cow for some considerable while, with a mixed sort of look in his eye ; a curious melange of wrath and sheer amaze- ment. His remarks, shorn of needless excrescences, were to the effect that "she'd never done that afore." I gathered that he was somewhat baffled.

Sam, too, appeared to be a trifle puzzled by the goat's behaviour. Even across the space of the yard I could hear him wondering. I listened with growing admiration to his theories about the parentage of goats in general and this one in par- ticular. Not that the goat was listening. His momentary exuberance had fallen from him like a garment, and he had resumed his usual seraphic expression of blinking beatitude as he nibbled innocently once again among the grasses. Neither Sam nor Wurzel had as yet seen the demolished railing. I thought I had better go for my dog. He came out at my first call, looking about him warily and showing the whites of his eyes. He seemed strangely subdued, keeping close to my side all the way home. Both of us walked delicately, like Agag. When I got into the house I ventured a cautious glance at the whistle. It seemed harmless enough—just a little, shining steel tube with a bulge in it. I thought I'd let Manuelo have a look at it. Manuelo is a Portugee. He works in some place connected with wireless transmissions—sound research—some- thing of that sort. He brought the whistle back to me the same night. " Ze vibrations: verree high pitch now," he ex- plained, tapping the bulge. " It make-a de noise like de sting- fly—a what-a you call it—hornet? Yes, hornet. De whistle imitata de huntin' cry of de hornet. De Tally-ho. Yes, no? "