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This is a very short story by Mark Twain. It is narrated by a dog, and begins with humor,
therefore, at first glance, one might think it would be good to read to the little ones. Don't. And you may not want to read it yourself. Had I known what
it was about, I would have saved it for last, and I have a whole lot more of Twain's works to read before I reach the end. Here is the
page for it. It was first published in Harper's Magazine in 1903, then extracted as a pamphlet for the
National-Anti-Vivisection Society, so that should give you a clue as to what it is about. The Society, by the way, was founded in 1875 by Frances Power Cobbe in London. If
I'm not mistaken, "scientists" (mad) did experiments on animals without anesthesia. I have great visions of what these people have to endure in their
afterlife. In any case, it is still going strong to stop all animal testing, and since 2006, has operated its international campaigns under the working name
Animal Defenders International (ADI) working with that group under their name.
Since it is a very short story, this will be a very short review. Though it ends tragically, it is still filled with Twain's typical silly witticisms. The first sentence reads, "My father was a St. Bernard, my mother was a collie, but I am a Presbyterian." The puppy adores her mother who is cultured and an expert on words. She listens to conversations at home and when the children are at Sunday-school, and especially remembers interesting words that she says to herself over and over to impress any "dogmatic gathering in the neighborhood." Of course, when the other dogs ask her what the word means, she tells them immediately. The definition is different for each gathering.
You can see by these things that she was of a rather vain and frivolous character; still, she had virtues, and enough to make up, I think. She had a kind heart and gentle ways, and never harbored resentments for injuries done her, but put them easily out of her mind and forgot them; and she taught her children her kindly way, and from her we learned also to be brave and prompt in time of danger, and not to run away, but face the peril that threatened friend or stranger, and help him the best we could without stopping to think what the cost might be to us. And she taught us not by words only, but by example, and that is the best way and the surest and the most lasting. Why, the brave things she did, the splendid things! she was just a soldier; and so modest about it—well, you couldn't help admiring her, and you couldn't help imitating her; not even a King Charles spaniel could remain entirely despicable in her society. So, as you see, there was more to her than her education.
The dogs seem to have higher morals here than the people, and in that respect, it is a good example for children.
But the day comes when the puppy has grown up and is sold.
When I was well grown, at last, I was sold and taken away, and I never saw her again. She was broken-hearted, and so was I, and we cried; but she comforted me as well as she could, and said we were sent into this world for a wise and good purpose, and must do our duties without repining, take our life as we might find it, live it for the best good of others, and never mind about the results; they were not our affair. She said men who did like this would have a noble and beautiful reward by and by in another world, and although we animals would not go there, to do well and right without reward would give to our brief lives a worthiness and dignity which in itself would be a reward. She had gathered these things from time to time when she had gone to the Sunday-school with the children, and had laid them up in her memory more carefully than she had done with those other words and phrases; and she had studied them deeply, for her good and ours. One may see by this that she had a wise and thoughtful head, for all there was so much lightness and vanity in it.
Upon their parting, her mother reminded her to remember her in times of danger and not to
think of herself but to think of her and do what she would do.
She is very pleased with her new home, and is called by the same name as her mother gave her, Aileen Mavourneen, which was (really) a song. Mrs. Gray is thirty, sweet and lovely, Sadie is ten, and the baby is one. Mr. Gray is a scientist, and she is excited to learn such a new word. But the even better one is Laboratory, which is not the place where you wash your hands. That's a lavatory, Aileen Mavourneen makes it clear. She then describes all the jars and bottles and wires that are there. She has a friend—a curly-haired Irish setter by the name of Robin Adair, who was a Presbyterian like me, and belonged to the Scotch minister." Then she has a puppy, and life is just too beautiful.
But one winter day, she is in the nursery while the nurse steps out for a minute. A spark from the fireplace shoots out and starts the crib on fire. Her first reaction is to run, but she remembers her mother, and goes back to drag the baby out of the room. Mr. Gray sees her, and beats her until he breaks her leg, but then the nurse screams that the nursery is on fire. Aileen Mavourneen, in so much pain, limps to the back stairs and finds a place to hide in an attic. She cannot imagine what she did wrong. After all the excitement has passed, the family calls to her, but she is making plans to escape the house. But what about her puppy? Finally, after days have passed and she is dying of thirst, and starving, little Sadie comes up the steps crying, begging her to forgive them, and she does come out. She becomes a hero.
But it gets horrible here, so I will stop. PLEASE everyone, read labels and buy products that do NOT do animals testing. Become a vegetarian and don't wear animal products. I disagree with Twain. Animals DO have souls and an afterlife. Many are much more spiritually advanced than humans. They are not only our companions and guardians, they are our teachers. Twain knew that.
To read all my Mark Twain reviews, please visit his Index Page
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