A certain Mr. Robert Burns once wrote some lines which (being translated) express the idea that it would be an excellent scheme if we only had the gift of seeing ourselves as others see us.
Well, now, I for one have always (secretly) felt glad that I do not possess this gift for which the poet yearned, and I know a certain set or sect of folk who, if they heard about it, would simply declare that the poor man was talking through his tammie; for this sect or set are undoubtedly the most self-satisfied collection of people imaginable, and the idea that other people might conceivably find anything whatever to criticize about them simply never enters their heads.
“I,” says each of these cocksure beings, “am I. And if anybody doesn’t think the same as I do—well, they’re wrong, that’s all. Hoots!”
Ah, that ‘hoots!’ has given the game away, hasn’t it? Yes, this self-satisfied sect hail, like Mr. Burns himself, from the north of the Tweed; being, in fact, Scottish Terriers. And chief among them I not unnaturally place my own dog Roderick Dhu.
Really, I have never met any one more self-willed, assured, and satisfied, as young Mr. Dhu. There he stands with his short sturdy legs and long black body four-square to the world, and if the world doesn’t like him—who cares a haggis, anyway?
“You and I,” says Rod, prodding me painfully with his long nose, “are all right.”
“Yes, that’s all very well,” I say, “but we must meet other people sometimes, you know; and have visitors, and so on.”
“Ye-es,” admits Rod, doubtfully, “I suppose so. But I won’t have ‘em messing me about,” he adds.
“Nobody wants to mess you about,” I tell him. “But they naturally expect to exchange a friendly word with the family—I mean you and Pat—when they come in. After all, politeness costs nothing.”
Roddy ruminates. “Anyway,” he says darkly, “nobody’s going to sit on my chair.”
“I shouldn’t think,” I retort, “that anybody would want to. A lot of half-chewed india-rubber balls, and bits of bone, and portions of elderly biscuit—who do you think wants to sit on a collection like that, I’d like to know?”
Roddie looks at me and then, suddenly, he grins. It is a grin, too; a real cheerful, hearty smile that shows all his white gleaming teeth and makes you realize that this small bewhiskered lad from Aberdeen is not really the dour, severe gentleman he pretends to be. It’s no use anybody telling me that it is not a laugh, either, because I know better.
I know, because it only happens when Roddie is pleased or amused about anything. When he meets people he likes, for instance (because, in spite of his pose, he really does like quite a lot of people), back curl his lips and he greets them with a beaming smile. And when some little thing has happened to please him, he’ll chortle away afterwards every time he catches my eye.
I remember one day I went to the chiropodist, and Roddie thought it the funniest thing that had happened for ages. To start with, he considered it great fun to go up a lot of stairs, then he thought the cornmonger himself, in his white coat, was delightful, and having watched operations from under my chair (to the accompaniment of much heavy breathing which tickled my leg acutely), he was so busy beaming his good-byes that he fell down the stairs. And all the way home he kept on looking up at me and grinning. A most exhilarating experience!
But he’s a queer, dear little chap, is Dhu. See him in the Gardens, for instance, hurrying seriously along, looking neither to the right nor the left, and scorning the advances of other dogs. Puppies lollop up and want to play; Roddie greets them amiably, prods them with his nose (knocking them over), and passes on.
Tough guys, looking for trouble, descend upon him at a gallop. Roddie stands stock-still and looks at them, and the trouble-seekers suddenly decide to look for it elsewhere, and depart, leaving Rod to pursue his busy, serious way in peace.
And then, suddenly, this earnest pose is forsaken and without any warning Mr. Dhu will fling himself on the grass, stand on his head, roll over several times, kick in an abandoned manner, then start tearing round and round in frenzied circles; after which he will collapse at my feet, and pant. “Ha!” he says with satisfaction, “feel better now. See me chase that spaniel,” and off he’ll go again, full of beans and good fellowship. An odd fellow.
Roddie loves Kensington Gardens, and so do I. He prefers them in winter, when they are more or less deserted and the great black tree trunks drip icy drops upon us as we pass under, and give no protection from the biting wind. “This,” declares Rod, dashing through the mud as I go slithering after him, “is grrrand!”
We’ve been there in the snow, and when the cold fog was so thick it was impossible to see three yards in any direction. We walked round the Round Pond without any clear idea which was North and which was South, and it seemed hours before we struck a path which led us back to the Broad Walk again. There was ice on the Pond that day, I remember, and Roddie walked the whole way round with two legs on dry land and two on the frozen water, which struck me as a silly, chilly thing to do; but he seemed to enjoy it.
Personally, I like the Gardens best in the early spring, when every day the grass gets greener, and the chestnuts burst out overnight, and the birds are shouting during their building operations in the branches. “Here’s a fine plank, dear. Now then—to me. Tweet!” Yes, I love the Gardens, partly, perhaps, because they are haunted. Haunted by a happy little white ghost, who trots ahead through the trees and looks round at me and wags his tail . . . Pompey.
Well, come on, Roddie, young feller, time to go back. Pat will be yelling with rage because his dinner is late, and I dare say you could take a little something yourself. Look at that Peke, giving you a come-hither eye. How is it they all fall for you, eh?
And Roddie, with a waggle of his kilt, looks up at me and says: “An’ how can the puir things help themselves, eh? After all, I’m Me!” and we go home.
Excerpt from ‘Vintage Tales’ in MacDuffy’s Reader, Joseph Harvill, ed. Tartan Scottie Press, 2007. Story and illustrations by C.B. Poultney, 1931. Don’t miss the fun. If you love great story telling–especially Scottie stories–order your copy today.