The Strange Tale of Doctor Dog
Summary
Not Available
Story
Far up in the mountains of the Province of Hunan in the central part of
China, there once lived in a small village a rich gentleman who had only
one child. This girl, like the daughter of Kwan-yu in the story of the
Great Bell, was the very joy of her father's life.

Now Mr. Min, for that was this gentleman's name, was famous throughout
the whole district for his learning, and, as he was also the owner of
much property, he spared no effort to teach Honeysuckle the wisdom of
the sages, and to give her everything she craved. Of course this was
enough to spoil most children, but Honeysuckle was not at all like other
children. As sweet as the flower from which she took her name, she
listened to her father's slightest command, and obeyed without ever
waiting to be told a second time.

Her father often bought kites for her, of every kind and shape. There
were fish, birds, butterflies, lizards and huge dragons, one of which
had a tail more than thirty feet long. Mr. Min was very skilful in
flying these kites for little Honeysuckle, and so naturally did his
birds and butterflies circle round and hover about in the air that
almost any little western boy would have been deceived and said, "Why,
there is a real bird, and not a kite at all!" Then again, he would
fasten a queer little instrument to the string, which made a kind of
humming noise, as he waved his hand from side to side. "It is the wind
singing, Daddy," cried Honeysuckle, clapping her hands with joy;
"singing a kite-song to both of us." Sometimes, to teach his little
darling a lesson if she had been the least naughty, Mr. Min would fasten
queerly twisted scraps of paper, on which were written many Chinese
words, to the string of her favourite kite.

"What are you doing, Daddy?" Honeysuckle would ask. "What can those
queer-looking papers be?"

"On every piece is written a sin that we have done."

"What is a sin, Daddy?"

"Oh, when Honeysuckle has been naughty; that is a sin!" he answered
gently. "Your old nurse is afraid to scold you, and if you are to grow
up to be a good woman, Daddy must teach you what is right."

Then Mr. Min would send the kite up high--high over the house-tops,
even higher than the tall Pagoda on the hillside. When all his cord
was let out, he would pick up two sharp stones, and, handing them to
Honeysuckle, would say, "Now, daughter, cut the string, and the wind
will carry away the sins that are written down on the scraps of paper."

"But, Daddy, the kite is so pretty. Mayn't we keep our sins a little
longer?" she would innocently ask.

"No, child; it is dangerous to hold on to one's sins. Virtue is the
foundation of happiness," he would reply sternly, choking back his
laughter at her question. "Make haste and cut the cord."

So Honeysuckle, always obedient--at least with her father--would saw
the string in two between the sharp stones, and with a childish cry of
despair would watch her favourite kite, blown by the wind, sail farther
and farther away, until at last, straining her eyes, she could see it
sink slowly to the earth in some far-distant meadow.

"Now laugh and be happy," Mr. Min would say, "for your sins are all
gone. See that you don't get a new supply of them."

Honeysuckle was also fond of seeing the Punch and Judy show, for,
you must know, this old-fashioned amusement for children was enjoyed
by little folks in China, perhaps three thousand years before your
great-grandfather was born. It is even said that the great Emperor, Mu,
when he saw these little dancing images for the first time, was greatly
enraged at seeing one of them making eyes at his favourite wife. He
ordered the showman to be put to death, and it was with difficulty the
poor fellow persuaded his Majesty that the dancing puppets were not
really alive at all, but only images of cloth and clay.

No wonder then Honeysuckle liked to see Punch and Judy if the Son of
Heaven himself had been deceived by their queer antics into thinking
them real people of flesh and blood.

But we must hurry on with our story, or some of our readers will be
asking, "But where is Dr. Dog? Are you never coming to the hero of this
tale?" One day when Honeysuckle was sitting inside a shady pavilion that
overlooked a tiny fish-pond, she was suddenly seized with a violent
attack of colic. Frantic with pain, she told a servant to summon her
father, and then without further ado, she fell over in a faint upon the
ground.

When Mr. Min reached his daughter's side, she was still unconscious.
After sending for the family physician to come post haste, he got his
daughter to bed, but although she recovered from her fainting fit, the
extreme pain continued until the poor girl was almost dead from
exhaustion.

Now, when the learned doctor arrived and peered at her from under his
gigantic spectacles, he could not discover the cause of her trouble.
However, like some of our western medical men, he did not confess his
ignorance, but proceeded to prescribe a huge dose of boiling water, to
be followed a little later by a compound of pulverized deer's horn and
dried toadskin.

Poor Honeysuckle lay in agony for three days, all the time growing
weaker and weaker from loss of sleep. Every great doctor in the district
had been summoned for consultation; two had come from Changsha, the
chief city of the province, but all to no avail. It was one of those
cases that seem to be beyond the power of even the most learned
physicians. In the hope of receiving the great reward offered by the
desperate father, these wise men searched from cover to cover in the
great Chinese Cyclopedia of Medicine, trying in vain to find a method of
treating the unhappy maiden. There was even thought of calling in a
certain foreign physician from England, who was in a distant city, and
was supposed, on account of some marvellous cures he had brought to
pass, to be in direct league with the devil. However, the city
magistrate would not allow Mr. Min to call in this outsider, for fear
trouble might be stirred up among the people.

Mr. Min sent out a proclamation in every direction, describing his
daughter's illness, and offering to bestow on her a handsome dowry and
give her in marriage to whoever should be the means of bringing her back
to health and happiness. He then sat at her bedside and waited, feeling
that he had done all that was in his power. There were many answers to
his invitation. Physicians, old and young, came from every part of the
Empire to try their skill, and when they had seen poor Honeysuckle and
also the huge pile of silver shoes her father offered as a wedding gift,
they all fought with might and main for her life; some having been
attracted by her great beauty and excellent reputation, others by the
tremendous reward.

But, alas for poor Honeysuckle! Not one of all those wise men could cure
her! One day, when she was feeling a slight change for the better, she
called her father, and, clasping his hand with her tiny one said, "Were
it not for your love I would give up this hard fight and pass over into
the dark wood; or, as my old grandmother says, fly up into the Western
Heavens. For your sake, because I am your only child, and especially
because you have no son, I have struggled hard to live, but now I feel
that the next attack of that dreadful pain will carry me away. And oh,
I do not want to die!"

Here Honeysuckle wept as if her heart would break, and her old father
wept too, for the more she suffered the more he loved her.

Just then her face began to turn pale. "It is coming! The pain is
coming, father! Very soon I shall be no more. Good-bye, father!
Good-bye; good----." Here her voice broke and a great sob almost broke
her father's heart. He turned away from her bedside; he could not bear
to see her suffer. He walked outside and sat down on a rustic bench; his
head fell upon his bosom, and the great salt tears trickled down his
long grey beard.

As Mr. Min sat thus overcome with grief, he was startled at hearing a
low whine. Looking up he saw, to his astonishment, a shaggy mountain dog
about the size of a Newfoundland. The huge beast looked into the old
man's eyes with so intelligent and human an expression, with such a sad
and wistful gaze, that the greybeard addressed him, saying, "Why have
you come? To cure my daughter?"

The dog replied with three short barks, wagging his tail vigorously and
turning toward the half-opened door that led into the room where the
girl lay.

By this time, willing to try any chance whatever of reviving his
daughter, Mr. Min bade the animal follow him into Honeysuckle's
apartment. Placing his forepaws upon the side of her bed, the dog looked
long and steadily at the wasted form before him and held his ear
intently for a moment over the maiden's heart. Then, with a slight cough
he deposited from his mouth into her outstretched hand, a tiny stone.
Touching her wrist with his right paw, he motioned to her to swallow the
stone.

"Yes, my dear, obey him," counselled her father, as she turned to him
inquiringly, "for good Dr. Dog has been sent to your bedside by the
mountain fairies, who have heard of your illness and who wish to invite
you back to life again."

Without further delay the sick girl, who was by this time almost burned
away by the fever, raised her hand to her lips and swallowed the tiny
charm. Wonder of wonders! No sooner had it passed her lips than a
miracle occurred. The red flush passed away from her face, the pulse
resumed its normal beat, the pains departed from her body, and she arose
from the bed well and smiling.

Flinging her arms about her father's neck, she cried out in joy, "Oh,
I am well again; well and happy; thanks to the medicine of the good
physician."

The noble dog barked three times, wild with delight at hearing these
tearful words of gratitude, bowed low, and put his nose in Honeysuckle's
outstretched hand.

Mr. Min, greatly moved by his daughter's magical recovery, turned to the
strange physician, saying, "Noble Sir, were it not for the form you have
taken, for some unknown reason, I would willingly give four times the
sum in silver that I promised for the cure of the girl, into your
possession. As it is, I suppose you have no use for silver, but remember
that so long as we live, whatever we have is yours for the asking, and
I beg of you to prolong your visit, to make this the home of your old
age--in short, remain here for ever as my guest--nay, as a member of
my family."

The dog barked thrice, as if in assent. From that day he was treated as
an equal by father and daughter. The many servants were commanded to
obey his slightest whim, to serve him with the most expensive food on
the market, to spare no expense in making him the happiest and best-fed
dog in all the world. Day after day he ran at Honeysuckle's side as she
gathered flowers in her garden, lay down before her door when she was
resting, guarded her Sedan chair when she was carried by servants into
the city. In short, they were constant companions; a stranger would have
thought they had been friends from childhood.

One day, however, just as they were returning from a journey outside her
father's compound, at the very instant when Honeysuckle was alighting
from her chair, without a moment's warning, the huge animal dashed past
the attendants, seized his beautiful mistress in his mouth, and before
anyone could stop him, bore her off to the mountains. By the time the
alarm was sounded, darkness had fallen over the valley and as the night
was cloudy no trace could be found of the dog and his fair burden.

Once more the frantic father left no stone unturned to save his
daughter. Huge rewards were offered, bands of woodmen scoured the
mountains high and low, but, alas, no sign of the girl could be found!
The unfortunate father gave up the search and began to prepare himself
for the grave. There was nothing now left in life that he cared
for--nothing but thoughts of his departed daughter. Honeysuckle was gone
for ever.

"Alas!" said he, quoting the lines of a famous poet who had fallen into
despair:


"My whiting hair would make an endless rope,
Yet would not measure all my depth of woe."


Several long years passed by; years of sorrow for the ageing man, pining
for his departed daughter. One beautiful October day he was sitting in
the very same pavilion where he had so often sat with his darling. His
head was bowed forward on his breast, his forehead was lined with grief.
A rustling of leaves attracted his attention. He looked up. Standing
directly in front of him was Dr. Dog, and lo, riding on his back,
clinging to the animal's shaggy hair, was Honeysuckle, his long-lost
daughter; while standing near by were three of the handsomest boys he
had ever set eyes upon!

"Ah, my daughter! My darling daughter, where have you been all these
years?" cried the delighted father, pressing the girl to his aching
breast. "Have you suffered many a cruel pain since you were snatched
away so suddenly? Has your life been filled with sorrow?"

"Only at the thought of your grief," she replied, tenderly, stroking
his forehead with her slender fingers; "only at the thought of your
suffering; only at the thought of how I should like to see you every day
and tell you that my husband was kind and good to me. For you must know,
dear father, this is no mere animal that stands beside you. This Dr.
Dog, who cured me and claimed me as his bride because of your promise,
is a great magician. He can change himself at will into a thousand
shapes. He chooses to come here in the form of a mountain beast so that
no one may penetrate the secret of his distant palace."

"Then he is your husband?" faltered the old man, gazing at the animal
with a new expression on his wrinkled face.

"Yes; my kind and noble husband, the father of my three sons, your
grandchildren, whom we have brought to pay you a visit."

"And where do you live?"

"In a wonderful cave in the heart of the great mountains; a beautiful
cave whose walls and floors are covered with crystals, and encrusted
with sparkling gems. The chairs and tables are set with jewels; the
rooms are lighted by a thousand glittering diamonds. Oh, it is lovelier
than the palace of the Son of Heaven himself! We feed of the flesh of
wild deer and mountain goats, and fish from the clearest mountain
stream. We drink cold water out of golden goblets, without first boiling
it, for it is purity itself. We breathe fragrant air that blows through
forests of pine and hemlock. We live only to love each other and our
children, and oh, we are so happy! And you, father, you must come back
with us to the great mountains and live there with us the rest of your
days, which, the gods grant, may be very many."

The old man pressed his daughter once more to his breast and fondled the
children, who clambered over him rejoicing at the discovery of a
grandfather they had never seen before.

From Dr. Dog and his fair Honeysuckle are sprung, it is said, the
well-known race of people called the Yus, who even now inhabit the
mountainous regions of the Canton and Hunan provinces. It is not for
this reason, however, that we have told the story here, but because we
felt sure every reader would like to learn the secret of the dog that
cured a sick girl and won her for his bride.