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Authors: George Selden

The Old Meadow


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Title Page

Copyright Notice


Mr. Budd


J. J. Jay

A Debate


Jailbreak—Number One

A Singing Lesson

Jailbreak—Number Two

A Meeting

The Old Meadow

Avon Mountain

Also by George Selden with Pictures by Garth Williams




“Here he comes again!”

Walter Water Snake craned his head up as far as he could above the surface of Simon Turtle's Pool. He could see just over the rim of the bank of luscious mud that surrounded, on three sides, the neat inlet where he and Simon lived. The fourth side opened out to the brook which in its rush kept fast fresh water circling their blue-green home.

“I'm gonna bite that mutt!”

“No, you're not,” said Chester Cricket wearily. He'd heard all this before. Chester, too, lived in Simon's Pool—or rather above it, in a hole in a log that had been chewed out by Simon and Walt. The cricket's first home, a comfortable stump, had been squashed by two overweight ladies who sat on it. “You know you don't bite.”

“I can try!” Walter fumed. “After all—I
a snake! And I have to keep up appearances.”

“Walt—will you behave?” demanded Chester. “And not even pretend to bite Dubber?”

” When Walter Water Snake was feeling frisky, which was most of the time, or feeling mischievous, which was most of the rest, he said “tchoor” for “sure.” The joke of life delighted Walter: how things and words could pop up so spontaneously, just the way he himself liked to pop up his head from the tranquil surface of Simon's Pool.

“Besides,” wheezed Simon Turtle, “anybody who bites that dog runs the risk of mange.” The old turtle had been spread out on his bank, drowsing and dreaming of how nice the world would be if it was all made of water and mud—with some sunshine thrown in, of course.

And indeed it was a lovely morning, a sunstruck morning, and the clear air seemed to ring like a bell. A wind like a steady invisible hand with a brush was combing the rich green grass of the meadow all one way. But through the beautiful summer day tramped a sad fat dog. His coat was knotted, there were burrs in it, two ragged bedraggled ears hung down, and his eyes were red and watery, as if he'd been up all night worrying—which he had.

“Hi, Dubber!” called Walter cheerily. “Hi, Rub-a-Dub-Dubber! You dapper and delightful dog!”

“'lo, Walt,” the dog grunted. “'lo, Simon, 'lo Chester.” He flopped down on the bank.

Simon Turtle and Chester Cricket each called as cheery a “Hi!” as they could.

you?” Walt clapped the pool with his tail. “You live-wire fireball hot-ticket you!”

“I'm none of those things,” said Dubber Dog. “I wouldn't set fires—honestly, Chester,” he added apologetically.

“Don't worry, Dubber—I'm sure you won't,” answered Chester Cricket. In his voice there was sympathy and an insect's tenderness, something tiny but real and very precious. It was always in his chirp, too. “How's Mr. Budd?”

“We're not so good.” Dubber Dog was a mongrel, and there must have been some spaniel in him—as well as a breed with a tendency to put on weight. The spaniel came out in his ears. “As a matter of fact, we're getting worried and worrieder.”

” said Walt. “They're hanging over into the mud.”

“Who cares?” sighed the dog. “Mr. Budd won't notice. That's how worried he is. He doesn't bother to wash me now.”

Walter Water Snake sank, and slowly sank farther, until just his eyes showed above the pool. He stared hard, in both annoyance and pity, at the dog sprawled above him on the bank.

“Were those men there again?” asked Chester.

“Yes,” groaned the dog. “Four this time!”

“Well, they may not have been from the Hedley Town Council—”

“They were, though. They used all those words—‘unsightly' and ‘undignified' and—what was that new word—
I don't even know what that means, but it sounds very awful to me.”

“It is,” said Chester.

“One even said, ‘This wretched little cabin lowers the tone of the whole Old Meadow. It definitely takes away from the charm.'”

“What a jerk!” sputtered Walt.

“Yes, and Mr. Budd threatened to bop him with our broom. But since it broke in half last week, I don't think that would have done much good.”

“Did Mr. Budd whop you?” asked Walter very seriously.

“Of course he did. When they'd gone. Who else has he got to whop? Besides, he doesn't really mean it. Most times.”

“That's no excuse—!”

“Oh, Walter, shush!” said Chester Cricket.

Walter tried to growl his disapproval, but his
came out
since he was a snake. He vanished below and cooled his temper in the soothing depths of Simon's Pool. Then just his two eyes appeared again.

“Walt, you don't understand,” Dubber Dog explained. “Mr. Budd is afraid. Beneath those bushy white eyebrows of his and behind his beard—he's scared to death.” Dubber's worry, the formless gloom of a blobby dog, was left hovering in the summer air. His friends couldn't see it, but all of them felt it. These days it followed him everywhere.

Chester tried to stir up the sticky silence. “Well, but no one said anything like ‘eviction.' Or that the Town Council would vote to tear down his cabin.”

“Not yet.” Dubber's voice, like his chin, slumped over the bank, down into the mud.

“Well, have hope! Have hope!” squeaked the cricket. “Right. Walt—?”

“Tchoor! Have hope.” Walter Water Snake's hope was so weak, however, that he slumped back and sank.

“If they did throw him out, and pull down his cabin,” said Dubber, “and put him in an old-folks home—it would kill him. I know it. He'd die. But not before he tore that old-folks home apart.”

“That's what I'd do,” said Simon Turtle.

“And as for me”—Dubber sighed, as only a potbellied mongrel can sigh; the depths of it came from the springer in him—“I'd just become a dog of the streets. They'd never take me back in Puptown.”

“I knew it,” muttered Walter, whose eyes were flashing on the surface again. “Puptown. Also known as Puppyville.”

“Shhh!” Chester Cricket creaked under his breath. His glance at Walter was charged with meaning. It meant: Keep quiet—Dubber's very unhappy—and finally, Remembering sometimes lessens the pain.

“Puptown.” Dubber's eyes gazed into the past, an invisible space just before a dog's eyes. Then he chuckled, a rumbly kind of a sound that came out of his big old hanging belly. Chester Cricket didn't have any belly at all, but he always wanted to chuckle, too, when he heard Dubber heave up a laugh like that.

“Ah, Puppyville,” said Walt, sighing. He leaned back on a wave like a rocking chair and prepared to hear Dubber's past. He'd heard it so often that after the first bit of repetition it almost seemed like a lullaby.

Simon, too, eased himself in the mud of drowsiness, and Chester shifted four legs to get more comfort from the noonday sun.

“I guess Daddy was a cocker or a springer,” Dubber Dog began. His history relaxed him, too, since it was past and didn't hurt him too much now. “Mommy may have been a basset hound. But nobody knows. That's what Agnes thought. When I woke up the very first time, there was Agnes Fluger. And she was hovering over me. I'll never forget her.” Dubber scratched one ear, very fast, with his right hind leg, the way a dog does, as if his memory, along with a flea, was in his ear and he might get it hopping with a good brisk scratch. “Nor will I forget her friend Marvin Detzinger, either.”

“Nor will we,” murmured Walt, as he rocked on the waves.

“Ag and Marv had this business which they called Puptown. They'd go all over Hedley and collect us little leftover dogs and bring us home to sell to folks.” Dubber rumbled his deep bass, bubbly chuckle that had to be called a belly laugh.

“That house was a sight! Pups tumbling everywhere.” Dubber loved this part of the memory. “And the television! I often heard her say while watching soap operas, when someone had just killed someone else, ‘That lady just needs a little dog.' And the
ice cream
—which she shared with us dogs, also while watching television! That's when Puptown became Puppyville.”

her favorite flavor?” asked Simon Turtle. He'd lived a very, very long time and had only had ice cream once. That was when a little boy named George had dropped his Popsicle in the brook.

“Chocolate-caramel, as I remember, with hot-fudge sauce. It drove her wild.”

“I don't wonder,” said Walt. “Myself, I'd never risk it.”

Dubber fondly scratched.

And suddenly Walter shouted, “Ugh!”—and ducked beneath the surface. He came up spluttering with rage. “Dubber Dog—I wish you would
scratch your right or left ear beside this pool! I honestly do not want to be remembered as the first snake in history to come down with fleas!”

With a casual woof, Dubber brushed off Walt's fear, if not the flea that had landed on him. “I was covered with ice cream a lot, in those days. Because Aggie decided that I was her favorite.”

“Sundae?” said Walter.

“No—dog. She shared all her goodies with me. Even cranberry sherbet, when that came out. And when people came who'd try to adopt me—in those days I really was quite—quite—”

“—the cutie!”

nice, Walter Water Snake! But Aggie would say, ‘Oh, no—that one's not for sale.' And then she'd feed me up on more mocha-raspberry-pineapple splits!”

“What a fate! Well—”

“So by the end of half a year I was unadopted and getting fat. But one day Marv came back from Big World of Cars, the garage where he worked in the day, and he took one look at me—I was sprawled on Aggie's living-room rug, lapping up praline ice cream from a pan and engrossed in a TV serial where somebody's mother eloped to Hawaii—and Marvin said, ‘We've got to get rid of that dog. The older he gets, and the fatter he gets, the less likely he is to find someone to love him.”

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