A diversion was now created at the other side of the room. The red wine, which is good in Sardinia,[Pg 254] had been drunk freely. Directly facing us sat a rather stout man with pleasant blue eyes and a nicely shaped head: dressed like any other town man on a Sunday. The dog had waddled up to him and sat down statuesque in front of him. And the fat man, being mellow, began to play with the big, gentle, brindled animal. He took a piece of bread and held it before the dog’s nose—and the dog tried to take it. But the man, like a boy now he was ripe with wine, put the mastiff back with a restraining finger, and told him not to snatch. Then he proceeded with a little conversation with the animal. The dog again tried to snatch, gently, and again the man started, saved the bread, and startled the dog, which backed and gave a sharp, sad yelp, as if to say: “Why do you tease me!”
“Now,” said the man, “you are not to snatch. Come here. Come here. Vieni qua!” And he held up the piece of bread. The animal came near. “Now,” said the man, “I put this bread on your nose, and you don’t move, un—Ha!!”
The dog had tried to snatch the bread, the man had shouted and jerked it away, the animal had recoiled and given another expostulating yelp.
The game continued. All the room was watching, smiling. The dog did not understand at all. It came forward again, troubled. The man held the bread[Pg 255] near its nose, and held up a warning finger. The beast dropped its head mournfully, cocking up its eye at the bread with varied feelings.
“Now—!” said the man, “not until I say three—Uno—due—” the dog could bear it no longer, the man in jerking let go the bread and yelled at the top of his voice—”e tre!” The dog gulped the piece of bread with a resigned pleasure, and the man pretended it had all happened properly on the word “three.”
So he started again. “Vieni qua! Vieni qua!” The dog, which had backed away with the bread, came hesitating, cringing forward, dropping its hind-quarters in doubt, as dogs do, advancing towards the new nugget of bread. The man preached it a little sermon.
“You sit there and look at this bread. I sit here and look at you, and I hold this bread. And you stop still, and I stop still, while I count three. Now then—uno—” the dog couldn’t bear these numerals, with their awful slowness. He snatched desperately. The man yelled and lost the bread, the dog, gulping, turned to creep away.
Then it began again.
“Come here! Come here! Didn’t I tell thee I would count three? Già! I said I would count three. Not one, but three. And to count three you need three numbers. Ha! Steady! Three numbers.[Pg 256] Uno—due E TRE!” The last syllables were yelled so that the room rang again. The dog gave a mournful howl of excitement, missed the bread, groped for it, and fled.Share It