Walter A. (Walter Alden) Dyer.

Pierrot, dog of Belgium online

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_Illustrated by Gordon Grant_




_Copyright, 1915, by_


_All rights reserved, including that of
translation into foreign languages,
including the Scandinavian_





_Belgium lies bleeding._

_Across her level, lush meadows the harsh-shod hosts of war have
marched. Beside her peaceful waters the sons of God have spilled each
other’s blood. Beneath her noble trees have raged the fires of human

_Her king and his brave warriors have fought to save that which was
their own and, driven back, have left their smiling land to suffer
the desolation which has ever been the conqueror’s boast. Her ancient
cities smoke. The inspired craftsmanship of an elder day has been
destroyed forever._

_Belgium lies moaning._

_Across the winter sea we have heard the wailing of men and women
among their ruined homes - honest townsfolk, simple Walloon and Flemish
peasants, who had borne no malice and had done no wrong. And amid the
cries of anguish and despair there have come to me the weeping of a
little girl named Lisa and the voice of a faithful dog whining for his

W. A. D.





The children called him Pierrot from the first. That is, of course, no
proper name for a Flemish dog, but you see Mère Marie had come from
Dinant, where almost everybody speaks French, and she had been taught
French in school. Besides, she had French friends in Brussels and was
very fond of everything French and warm and southern. So she had often
told the children stories about Harlequin and Columbine and Pierrot;
and when they saw what a comical, clumsy little fellow the puppy was,
and how much he looked as though he wore big, baggy breeches, Henri
called him “drôle Pierrot,” and wee Lisa clapped her fat little hands
and laughed shrilly.

Jean Van Huyk had brought Pierrot home in his arms one spring evening
and had tumbled him out upon the floor of the cottage to startle Henri
and Lisa. But they refused to be frightened, for Henri was learning the
rules of courage and Lisa thought at first that the puppy was a baby
lamb. Straightway she fell upon him and sought to hug him to her plump
little bosom, but Pierrot only bit her ear and made her squeal with
delight, and then wriggled out of her arms and hurriedly waddled over
to Henri, who rolled him over on his back and tickled his round little
stomach. Whereat Père Jean roared loudly and old Gran’père cackled from
his chair.

Then shaggy old Luppe, who had pulled Mère Marie’s milk-cart for seven
years, yawned tremendously, dragged himself laboriously to his feet,
stalked over from the doorway and sniffed at Pierrot, and then turned
back with a look of dignified boredom. By this ceremony Pierrot was
constituted an accepted member of the household.


It was Luppe’s advancing years, in fact, that explained the coming
of Pierrot. It was sad to think of the day when the old fellow would
no longer be able to trot into town with the milk and cheese, but
Providence has set narrow boundaries to a dog’s life, and Mère Marie
would soon need a younger and stronger steed.

So one Sunday morning Père Jean had bade Henri dress himself in his
best clothes, for they were to drive into Brussels to the dog market,
and half the world would be there. The Belgians do not think it strange
to go to market on Sunday, for it is an entirely different kind of
market from those conducted on week days, and they put on their gay
clothes and make a holiday of it.

When Père Jean and Henri arrived, the city was already alive with
people and they made a pleasant sight in the bright sunshine. Père Jean
found a place to tie his horse and then they hastened directly to the
Grande Place. This was a great paved square with imposing buildings on
all sides such as the Hôtel de Ville and the Maison du Roi. There were
a great many people in the square and they were all very lively and
busy and jolly.

One side of the square looked like a great garden, for here was the
flower market, and the florists vied with each other in their displays
of plants and cut flowers. It was very beautiful, also it smelled
wonderfully sweet, so that Henri fell under a sort of enchantment and
Père Jean had to drag him away.

On another side of the square were parrots and cockatoos and canaries
and birds of all kinds in little wooden cages. Some of the parrots
were making comical efforts to talk like people, the song birds were
whistling and trilling, and all was gay and colourful, which delighted
Henri. But they had a bird of their own at home, and it was not birds
that Père Jean had come to see.

At length they came to the dog market. Four or five hundred dogs
of all ages and sizes and colours lay dozing or stood pulling at
their leashes. There were big, strong dogs like Luppe; alert black
Schipperkes; Brussels Griffons, with faces like those of little bearded
old men; Belgian sheep dogs with erect, pointed ears, short-haired
brown fellows and beautiful long-haired black ones; all sorts of
dogs from Great Danes to ridiculous little Dachshunds. There were
capable-looking work dogs; mournful-eyed mothers; swaggering young
bloods proclaiming loudly their desire for battle; awkward, blundering,
adorable four-month-olds, and fuzzy little babies that wabbled on their
sprawling legs as though made of jelly. Henri saw a dozen dogs that
would have suited him perfectly, but Père Jean was apparently more
difficult to please, for he went from group to group without making a
selection. At last he told Henri that he could not find the sort of dog
he wanted and that it was better to go home without any than take one
that would not turn out well.

Henri looked down the row of assuredly desirable dogs and his lip began
to tremble a little. So Père Jean, instead of taking Henri home at
once, bought some cakes for their dinner and told him he should remain
to hear the grand concert in the afternoon, which pleased Henri so much
that he forgot his disappointment.

At noon there was a great hubbub and bustle in the Grande Place, for
the market was over and all the vendors must be out of there at once.
In the afternoon the Regimental Band came in its wonderful uniforms and
played stirring music in the kiosk until the shadows began to lengthen
and Henri grew very weary.

It had been a wonderful day and Henri fell asleep that night with gay
pictures dancing before his eyes and music sounding in his ears. This
was happiness enough for little Henri, but Père Jean had not found the
dog he was after. He knew the value of the right kind of dog and he
would have nothing else.

So Père Jean made a journey one day to fat Auguste Naets, the butcher
of Vilvorde, who was famous for the dogs he bred. Auguste bragged much
about these dogs. Their blood, he said, ran away back into the Middle
Ages to the boarhounds of the Dukes of Brabant. Matins, he called
them; and it is true that for a hundred years, when other men had
grown careless of their breeding, Auguste’s father and grandfather and
great-grandfather had kept the breed pure, so that when the National
Federation for the Breeding of Draft Dogs was founded a dozen years ago
they deemed the Naets strain worthy of a certificate of merit with five
red seals attached, which Auguste proudly had framed and hung in his

Of the hundred thousand or more dogs that are used in Belgium as
_chiens de trait_, none were finer than those which Père Jean found in
the kennels of Auguste Naets. They were large dogs, with something of
the look of the St. Bernard about them, but with smaller heads and more
lithe and rangy bodies. In colour they were all sorts of combinations
of black, white, and tawny; Auguste held that colour meant nothing to a
cart-dog. Their ears were long and drooping and their tails were docked
when they were puppies to avoid interference with the harness. They
would have been handsomer with long tails, but Auguste was breeding for
utility rather than for beauty. There was a time when the dog-owners of
Belgium cropped their dogs’ ears to make them stand erect and pointed,
but it was found that during their steady work outdoors in winter
rain and snow beat into their ears and caused sores and deafness, so
that the practice of depriving them of their natural protection was

Auguste’s dogs, like others of their breed, were tireless and powerful.
They could easily draw a load of 400 pounds, though 200 pounds was
usually considered a one-dog load. Three dogs hitched to a 400-pound
load could run with it at a steady, rapid trot for miles without
apparent weariness.

Père Jean loved dogs, and he could have stayed all day with Auguste in
his kennels, but to Auguste business was business, and he at length
persuaded Père Jean to pay a good price for a likely looking beggar
from the latest litter. That was Pierrot.

“He has the big feet and the large bones,” said Auguste. “That means he
will grow large and strong and live for many years, like my Jacques,”
and he pointed to the superb sire that headed his kennels.

So Père Jean took the fuzzy, awkward little puppy back to the little
tile-roofed cottage he had built for his bride ten years before, and
where Henri and wee Lisa had been born.

They were sober, industrious, thrifty folk, the Van Huyks, and
prosperous among their neighbours. In Belgium a peasant is always a
peasant, and there is a wide gulf fixed between the rich and the poor,
but Père Jean owned his little dairy farm six miles out from Brussels
on the Waterloo Road, beyond the Forest of Soignies, and they were very
comfortable and happy.

It was a pleasant country, with green pastures and meadows, nodding
wheat and rye fields, and trim, orderly market gardens on every hand,
and with straight, smooth, hard roads all leading to town between tall
rows of poplar trees. Père Jean tilled the little farm and he and
Gran’père milked the cows and made the cheese, while Mère Marie took
the milk in to Brussels every morning in big brass and copper cans
which she kept very clean and shiny.

Farther back from the city, where the farms were poorer and the market
not so near, the peasants wore rough smocks and clumsy wooden shoes
and lived mostly on coarse rye bread and bacon and potatoes, with
milk and rice and dried herring on Fridays. But Père Jean and Mère
Marie always wore leather shoes when they went to town, and only the
children clumped around in yellow sabots to save their Sunday shoes,
and Gran’père because he preferred them.

Mère Marie was a plump, fresh-faced young woman with a beautiful, heavy
crown of golden brown hair which was always neatly dressed, no matter
how much of a hurry she was in. She went bareheaded, winter and summer,
except when it rained; then she drew her shawl over her head. She wore
a trim short skirt and a clean white apron.


On Sundays the family went regularly to mass, dressed in their finest
clothes, and then feasted on hare and eggs and butter and cheese and
many kinds of vegetables. In the afternoon Père Jean took his cornet
and went to practise with the band, and sometimes he took Henri with
him. It was a wonderful band, for all Belgians love to make music, and
little Henri could hardly wait for the time when his father would teach
him to play, too. But when the band played the martial music, ah, then
little Henri’s bosom swelled almost to bursting, and he determined to
be a soldier when he grew up. That would be grand, indeed! But Père
Jean only smiled and told him that being a soldier wasn’t all bands and
fine uniforms.

Some of the peasants used dogs to harrow and cultivate their vegetable
gardens, but Père Jean owned a big black horse named Medard, so that
Luppe’s only duty was to draw the milk-cart and to bark at night if
strangers approached. When Pierrot grew old enough Luppe taught him to
wake up and bark at strange noises and to keep quiet at other times,
for a good watchdog does not waste his breath on the moon. When the
huntsmen rode by with their _chiens de chasse_ Pierrot would become
very much excited and wanted to follow them, but Luppe explained to
him that their vocation was a very foolish and frivolous one, and
beneath the dignity of a _chien de trait_, though Luppe himself would
often lose his head over the warm scent of a hare, or even of a rat or

Old Luppe was, as you see, a very wise and experienced dog. He knew all
the roads like a book and most of the streets of Brussels. He knew how
to bring his cart safely across crowded thoroughfares without guidance,
and to stop without instructions before the houses of Mère Marie’s
customers in the city. Also he knew how to pull his load with the least
possible expenditure of strength and wind, and to lie down and rest in
his harness whenever he stopped for a minute.

All these things he would one day teach to Pierrot, but meanwhile the
puppy’s education was chiefly in the fundamentals. When Luppe was
away on his business Pierrot would romp and play for hours with the
children, and as his first teeth dropped out and his second set came,
white and strong, he learned just how hard it is fitting to bite a soft
hand or plump ankle in play or in love. Sometimes he would follow Père
Jean and Gran’père about the farm or dairy, and they taught him to come
at a call and to lie down and wait until he was wanted. This was a very
hard lesson to master, you may believe. Also it was hard to learn that
Sunday shoes are not meant to be chewed like a broth bone.

So Pierrot lived happily through his baby days on the dairy farm on the
Waterloo Road. There was plenty of skim milk and other things for him
to eat, and after he had overcome a slight predisposition to colic he
began to grow very fast. His feet persisted in keeping ahead of him in
growth, and he was still awkward when he ran fast, but his bones were
getting big and strong and he was growing solid and heavy. As the cold
weather came on his bark grew deeper and less squeaky and the stiff
hairs began to show through the soft puppy coat. Pierrot was fast
growing into a fine big dog, black and white with spots of tan above
his eyes and on his muzzle and forelegs.

Pierrot could not yet carry wee Lisa on his back as old Luppe could
so easily, but to Henri he seemed large enough for anything, and the
boy was very impatient to see Pierrot’s serious training begun. So
Gran’père, in his leisure hours, built a little toy cart and harness
for Pierrot, and he and Henri began the lessons.

At first Pierrot was very unmanageable and seemed anxious to get into
the cart himself, but after a while Gran’père made him understand that
he was to go straight ahead when given the word and not stop until so
ordered. Finally they taught him to turn when he felt the tug of a rein
on his collar.


When at last Gran’père felt sure that Pierrot had learned his lessons,
Henri was allowed to take him out upon the road with wee Lisa in the
cart, to the huge delight of that small, merry person.

One day, as they passed solemnly along the road, Henri marching
sturdily alongside and wee Lisa sitting like a proud lady in her
carriage, they met a Belgian soldier in a queer little bonnet and a
dark blue uniform with red stripes on his trousers. Henri saluted as
Gran’père had taught him to do, and the soldier came to a halt.

“Where are you going, monsieur and mademoiselle?” asked the soldier

“Just for a drive,” replied Henri, a little bewildered at being thus
formally addressed.

The grenadier, who was not much of a talker, stood regarding them with
a quizzical smile. Then Henri plucked up courage:

“My father wears a blue coat with brass buttons, too,” said he.

“Is he a soldier?” asked the man.

“N-no,” replied Henri. “But he plays in the band.”

“Ah, so! And shall you play in the band and wear a blue coat with brass

“Perhaps. And perhaps I shall be a grenadier or a trooper.”

“And mademoiselle, what will then become of her?”

“Lisa? Oh, she will marry a burgomaster,” replied Henri; whereat the
soldier laughed heartily, for he had a simple wit, and passed on.

Père Jean also laughed, in his big, hearty way, when Henri told of the
encounter, but Gran’père shook his head and looked very thoughtful.

“It may all be,” said he. “Who knows?”

And so the winter passed with many small adventures, but on the whole
tranquilly. Pierrot - he was getting to be big Pierrot now - was very
much one of the family, more so than Luppe had ever been. Luppe was a
fine, wise, able dog, but very businesslike and unemotional. All the
family loved Luppe and hated to see him grow old, for he had been a
faithful and willing servant, but it was Pierrot who really found a
place deep in their hearts. There had been no children to play with
when Luppe was a puppy, and that makes a great difference. He had
early found his allotted place between the shafts, and his greatest
joy was in the day’s work. But Henri and wee Lisa had made a comrade
of Pierrot, and so he grew up very warm-hearted and with a broader,
deeper, more varied outlook on life than Luppe’s. Luppe served a kind
master and mistress and was content, but Pierrot needed love - given and

The winter was cold and a hard one for old Luppe, and he became a
little rheumatic and stiff in his hind legs. He accepted more promptly
every opportunity to rest, and rose with less alacrity than of old.
Père Jean and Mère Marie both noticed this and began to turn their
thoughts toward the further training of Pierrot.

When warm June weather came again, Luppe improved, but it was evident
that Pierrot must soon take his place. The youngster was only fifteen
months old, and his body, which had grown with extraordinary rapidity,
still needed filling out, but already he seemed nearly as big and
strong as Luppe. He had a tremendous appetite, and it seemed to Père
Jean that he should be earning his board.

One day Père Jean had a heavy hogshead in the dairy which he wished to
move, and he and Gran’père could scarcely budge it. Medard, the horse,
had been loaned to Joseph Verbeeck, the market gardener, to help plough
a field for late cabbages. So Père Jean pried up the hogshead with a
bar while Gran’père slipped rollers beneath it, and when Luppe returned
from town with Mère Marie they hitched him to a chain fastened around
the hogshead. Père Jean and small Henri pushed from behind, Gran’père
stood ready with more rollers, and Mère Marie urged Luppe to pull. With
great effort they moved the heavy load a few inches, and Luppe began
to pant painfully.

“It is too hard for him,” said Mère Marie. “He is no longer young. He
will hurt himself.”

Then Gran’père thought of young Pierrot and sent Henri and Lisa to find
him. They hitched him to the chain beside Luppe and Mère Marie gave the
word to start.

Pierrot hurled himself forward mightily and fell back upon his
haunches. Old Luppe looked at him disgustedly. That was no way to start
a load.

Pierrot got up again and settled forward into his collar, his nails
scratching the dairy floor in an effort to get a foothold, and before
the rest were ready the big hogshead started to move. Then Luppe threw
his weight forward, and Père Jean and Henri put their shoulders to it,
and the hogshead began to gather momentum.

At first Pierrot pulled jerkily, with his forefeet scratching and his
tongue hanging out; he wanted to run with it. But Luppe growled at
him and soon he settled down to the steady pull that counts. Gran’père
began thrusting the rollers beneath the hogshead, Mère Marie spoke
shrill words of encouragement, and foot by foot the two big dogs
dragged the ponderous load to the other side of the dairy.

Pierrot was panting and his tongue was dripping when the work was done,
but he looked up very proudly at Mère Marie, as Gran’père unharnessed
him, and wagged his stump tail violently as she spoke the expected word
of praise. Old Luppe said nothing, but stalked off stolidly to his
piece of carpet and lay down with a thump.

Then Père Jean went over to Pierrot and felt up and down his legs and
pinched his back and shoulders.

“He’ll do,” said Père Jean. “I think you might take him to town
to-morrow with Luppe.”

Pierrot had grown up.


Pierrot’s first trip to Brussels was filled with wonderful experiences.
Mère Marie, very brisk and fresh-looking, routed him out before
daybreak. The polished copper cans, filled with last night’s creamy
milk, she took from the cool water in which they stood and wiped
them carefully. Then she brought up the low cart, with its two stout
wheels and the framework slanting out from the sides, and set the cans
in neatly with a round cheese and a firkin of butter. Luppe came up
quietly, and Mère Marie fastened on his girth and collar, to which the
reins were attached, and placing him between the shafts snapped on the


All this, of course, Pierrot had observed many times before, but he was
somewhat astonished when Mère Marie took down his own harness from
its peg and buckled it on him. Then she led him over beside Luppe and
hitched him outside the left-hand shaft, snapping the traces into a
ring Gran’père had bolted to the front of the cart. It suddenly dawned
upon Pierrot that he was to be taken out into the world, and he began
to prance and wriggle in his excitement. Luppe turned about and nipped
his ear and told him not to be silly. Then Mère Marie felt of all the
cans to see if they were securely placed, pinned her little shawl
across her breast, and gathered up the reins.

“Eui, Luppe! Eui, Pierrot!” she cried, and the dogs trotted out into
the cool morning, Mère Marie walking rapidly beside the cart.

After a little while they met another woman with a milk-cart like Mère
Marie’s coming out of a lane, and they all went along together, Mère
Marie and the woman talking and laughing. Pierrot tried to pick an
acquaintance with the other dog, but he appeared to be a surly fellow,
and Pierrot was forced to give it up.

As dawn broke there appeared on the road other people with dogs and
carts - women with milk and both men and women with fresh vegetables and
fruit. Some of the market gardeners had larger carts with two or even
three dogs, and a few of the lazy ones rode and nodded on their carts.

The Waterloo Road runs straight into the centre of Brussels, but Mère
Marie and the other milkwomen did not take that route. They turned off
into a cross-road to the right after a while and at length came to the
broad, paved thoroughfare known as the Avenue Louise. The houses began
to appear closer together and there was much stir and bustle on the
road. Pierrot had never seen so many people before, and he found it all
so interesting and exciting that it required the combined efforts of
Luppe and Mère Marie to keep him going straight ahead.

It was nearly four o’clock when they started. A little more than an
hour and a half later Pierrot found himself in the city itself, with
houses stretching continuously down each side of the street. He might
have been frightened but for the comforting proximity of Luppe and Mère
Marie, who seemed not at all disturbed. It was growing noisy, too, and
Pierrot was content to trot along very peacefully with his right side
touching Luppe’s shaft.

Arriving at the corner of a street that crossed the avenue, they were
halted by an officious Garde de Ville with fierce-looking moustaches.

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Online LibraryWalter A. (Walter Alden) DyerPierrot, dog of Belgium → online text (page 1 of 5)