Beevo saves the play

BEEVO, my first dog, had greatness thrust upon him for a brief encounter, but was otherwise without redeeming virtues except for snuggling at my back in bed. This was an asset on cold winter nights, but in hot July it was not. He would go to bed before me and arise after me, so I was never in want for a cozy companion, but other than that nobody ever cited Beevo for useful deeds. He was no good whatever as a watchdog, for his amiable disposition caused him to welcome tramps in at the front door and escort them upstairs. He had no notion of defending the castle, and as he was afraid of cats, he would hide if one loped from the bushes toward our hen pens. Being a somewhat beagle, he should have had some talent at the hunt, but he was timid in the woods and willingly forwent such instruction.

But he'd walk halfway to school with me and meet me halfway home, and Beevo and I never made unkind remarks about each other. His one big moment, up to the time he ran away and never came back, was when he went on the stage.

Not too many today can go back to the traveling thespians, who brought dramatic culture to the back woods, and in particular to the companies that brought ``Uncle Tom's Cabin.'' ``The actors are come hither!'' would run through town and posters would go up. The town house, or the Pythian lodge hall, or the sail loft at the shipyard, would become a theater, and our bereft situation would be enhanced. ``East Lynn'' was still being played, and other favorites of that stripe, and so was ``Uncle Tom's Cabin.'' We had heard of motion pictures, but none had appeared.

``Uncle Tom's Cabin,'' like the circus, had a parade to urge desire on the populace, but not such a good one. Limited to the cast and backstage hands, the ``Uncle Tom's Cabin'' parade gained length when everybody spaced out at 30 paces, and the only animals were the bloodhounds.

Doc Rockwell, the vaudeville comedian of late memory, had a part in a traveling ``Uncle Tom's Cabin'' troupe in his youth, and he said he got the part because he could blow a tin whistle in the parade. The circus parade had a steam organ, but ``Uncle Tom's Cabin'' had Doc Rockwell.

He marched behind Simon Legree, who had the bloodhounds on leashes, the dogs strained forward in ferocious manner. Doc used to tell us the bloodhounds were gentle, lovable, friendly animals, but they didn't get fed until after the parade, so they pulled on the leashes and seemed to be fierce. Doc said he always played ``The Stars and Stripes Forever,'' and that made the bloodhounds strain all the more. In the play, Doc was three different characters, but not all at the same time, and once in a pinch he was Little Eva. But Beevo was before Doc Rockwell's theatrical time.

It was probably in 1920 that Beevo played in ``Uncle Tom's Cabin.'' The man came to our house and rapped on the door to introduce himself to my mother as the manager of the Such-and-such Players, and he said he would like to have her attend his play. He handed her two tickets. Mother said she guessed not, but he said the tickets were free, and she said, ``Oh - that's different.'' In this way he broached his problem, which was most serious.

He said his crates of bloodhounds, due that morning by railway express, had been set off by mistake at Yarmouth Junction, and had gone on the up-train of the Canadian National toward Montreal. The depot telegrapher had intercepted them at Island Pond, Vt., but they would not be back in time for the parade and the matinee. He desperately needed some substitute dogs. And he had been told in the village that we had one that might serve his purpose.

Mother coaxed Beevo from under the stove, and after he stood for a few moments and waked up, he wagged his tail vigorously at the strange man to demonstrate his warm affability. The man could see that Beevo was not likely to epitomize ferocity, but his ears did droop and time was short and the need was great.

Beevo was cast as a bloodhound. During the forenoon the man found two other dogs suitable for going on stage, one of which was Lon Bubier's crack bobcat hound, a veteran of numberless woodland skirmishes that showed in the style of his ears. Lon's dog and Beevo were good friends in a nonprofessional way, but the third dog was a stranger to both. So Beevo marched in the parade, but Simon Legree had to keep pushing him with his foot. He was also in the play, and I was proud of him, but Mother remarked on our way home afterward, with Beevo at our heels, that his histrionic capabilities could best be described as desultory.

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