I believe I remained staring dumbly at the closed front door for quite some time but was, in the end, thankfully interrupted, even if the interrupter was not anybody I expected. As I was busy staring I became aware of a sound coming down the stairs. I did not at first pay it any attention since I was caught up in thought about the horror in having a butler introduce me to the society of this town. It may be situated far out in the country but I was fairly convinced letting a butler handle your introduction was not common even here. The sound behind me stopped when I was mentally going through which evening robe to wear and suddenly I heard a demanding ‘Mrf!’ behind me. Quickly I turned around.
‘Madam,’ Fernandez said at the same time, which made me jump as I had been quite unaware of his presence still in the hallway. ‘His lordship Patrick wishes to speak to you.’
In front of me on the stairs stood Patrick, the dog.
‘Goodness, Fernandez, don’t sneak up on me like that. Why is that dog referred to as ‘his lordship’,’ I asked though I thought I knew the answer. You see, Patrick looked at me happily, though still with a hint of haughtiness which rather, I had to admit, suited a lord.
‘Madam Kynaston wishes for him to be referred to in such a way.’
I nodded. There really was not a lot more to be said on that subject even if I was deeply impressed with Fernandez’ ability to keep a straight face while sharing this explanation. I suppose you did not become a butler without possessing some talent suited, in other people, for the stage. Patrick wagged his tail at me.
‘Do you reckon Patrick would like a walk, Fernandez?’
‘Madam usually takes him out about this time, miss. I think he would enjoy a walk very much.’
‘Very well then. I shall go change into something appropriate, if you could prepare him for me meanwhile, please, Fernandez.’
‘Very good, my lady.’
It is true I did not have a lot of clothes suiting a walk in the country side but one simply has to make do sometimes. I could probably buy something better in town at some point, after all the garments for sale here should be matching the living conditions.
When I returned downstairs, at least wearing sturdier shoes, Patrick was already sitting at the door. Fernandez held out a leash to me saying, ‘Not that he normally needs one, my lady, but just in case.’
With that Patrick and I headed out. Since I had no real idea where to go I simply followed Patrick’s lead, averting my gaze to give him some privacy when he relieved himself against a few rose bushes. He seemed to appreciate my sentiments because he wagged his tail at me once I looked at him again. It appeared we had reached a marvellous understanding and I was convinced our relationship could only grow from there.
Patrick trotted along the streets, sure of our direction. It was a very quaint place, I had to admit. The streets were cobbled and many of the houses were made in Tudor style, with the beams visible on the outside. I just could not understand why the Brits insisted on cramming everything together so dreadfully, and shook my head at the silly notion. Though I suppose the space on an island is always limited and you have to make the most of it. I made note of some clothes shops and similar on our way so I could return to them later once Patrick was safely resting at home.
In the end we reached the other side of town and entered the countryside down by the river. Patrick ran ahead and suddenly, once we were by an open meadow, he took off. I panicked and started to run after him, terrified I would lose my aunt’s dog, but there was no chance I would catch up. Just then Patrick made a sharp turn back to me, then away again. He ran to and fro over the entire meadow and I quickly came to understand he was not planning to escape. It seemed he merely wanted to run, for several minutes. Once I had reached that conclusion I sat down with my back against a tree and watched him. The sun warmed my face and I squinted to protect my eyes from the light. It was more pleasurable than I had supposed, to do nothing else than sit by a tree in the meadow.
Patrick bounced back to me eventually and lay down next to my outstretched legs, gazing out over the river.
‘I do say, dog, you look quite philosophical.’
He wagged his tail once in response, and I began stroking his head. The fur was soft. Just as I was relaxing and had finally made up my mind about which dress I should wear in the evening, he lifted his nose to the wind and began sniffing it. Then he stood up, head erect and nose up, and trotted off down toward the river, quickly disappearing in the tall grass at the beach. I realised this was not the same movement as before and jumped to my feet to follow him, leash in hand. When I caught up with him he was pawing something on the ground and whined at it. Spotting me he ran over, in what appeared to be distress.
‘Wraf!’ he told me and ran back to whatever it was he had been pawing before. It looked like some old cloth.
‘No, bad dog, get away from that! It’s disgusting, and wet!’ He did not listen to me in the slightest but only looked up at me again and barked. Then I saw the cloth move. ‘What in…’ I mumbled and edged closer. Patrick bounced in encouragement.
The cloth moved again and a faint whine came from underneath it. Surprising myself as much as I no doubt surprised Patrick, I stopped caring about whether or not I would ruin my dress and the fact the cloth looked dirty. I lifted it and saw it was an old sack, and inside it was unmistakable movement. Heart pounding wildly I struggled to untie the knot, which was difficult in its wet state, while Patrick watched in silence. Finally succeeding I opened the sack as much as possible and inside it I found a puppy. No doubt Patrick had been attracted to the smell of another dog.
The little thing looked up at me, eyes filled with fear and right then and there I fell in love completely with the creature. It was black and sleek, with the most startling blue eyes and floppy ears. I could see it was a bigger kind of dog than Patrick, because it was nearly his size already, but right now it was only a baby and somebody had left it in the river to drown.
‘Who could do that…’ I mumbled while slowly reaching out with my fingers, so I would not scare it. Patrick kept his distance and that would not be the only time he displayed his great depth of wisdom.
At first the little thing shrunk back as if trying to hide among the folds of the sack and my heart nearly broke. Somebody had made it scared of people, this tiny creature. Patrick laid down and stared at me.
‘No, are you telling me to follow your example?’ I asked him. He merely kept staring and with a sigh I sank down onto my stomach. That seemed to help a little because the puppy sat up a bit straighter and when I reached out with my arm again it slowly neared it with its nose and started sniffing my fingers. I ached to touch it but could see that it was not quite ready even if it was shivering with cold. Poor little thing!
After some time it got up and took a step toward me, then another, and another, until it had left the sack behind. I did not dare to get up yet so I turned over a bit on my side and then simply remained on the ground. This did provide me with a rather good angle for such observations and I established the puppy was a male. A couple of steps away from me he looked up and into my eyes. It seemed there was a question within them, the ultimate question whether or not he could trust me, forever, if he could safely give his puppy heart to me. His eyes were so intense I understood he wished this with all of his little being and I decided to take the leap.
‘Yes,’ I whispered and even if it is said that dogs cannot understand humans that way, or that they have no emotions, I am certain I saw the greatest relief and love in those eyes, just before he hurried over and cuddled up against my chest. He was wet and smelled like dog, but also of what I would realise was a certain scent only puppies have, and he was shaking against me. Patrick came up to us and in the safety of sitting right next to me the little one had the courage to return his greeting.
‘I believe I just got a dog, Patrick,’ I said. ‘What should we call him?’ I asked him as I held the puppy close and got to my feet. I wanted to get him back to my aunt’s house so I could have him cleaned and warm. There was no question of looking for a previous owner because I thought it was quite clear they had wanted to be rid of him. If they wanted him back now they could plead their case for as long as they wanted.
‘I shall name you Sigurd,’ I told the tiny creature clutched to my chest. He only sighed in response. Looking down at him I saw he had fallen asleep and as I was walking with him back through town, an eccentric’s eccentric niece less than a day in residence and already outrageously soaked through, a piece of my own broken heart was stitched and mended.
‘Sigurd means ‘victory’ and ‘guardian’, my dear,’ I whispered as we made our way back.