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The following account comes from a collection of “ridiculous stories” first published in 1786.
I sailed from England to the East Indies with Captain Hamilton. I took with me a pointer dog, who, in the strictest acceptation of the term, is worth his weight in gold, for he has never failed me yet.
One day, when by the most exact reckoning, we were are least 300 miles from land, my dog began to point. I was surprised to see that he remained in this position for upwards of an hour, so I told the captain and the officers and assured them that we must be close to land, for my dog scented game. All the thanks I got for my information was a loud burst of laughter. However, my belief in my dog was not in the least shaken thereby.
A long discussion ensued, in which my opinion was strenuously combated. At the end of it, I told the captain plainly that I had more confidence in my dog Tray’s nose than in the eyes of all of the sailors on board his vessel put together, and I boldly wagered 100 guineas—all I had with me for the expenses of my journey—that we should find some game before half an hour had passed.
The captain, who was a very good fellow, laughed louder than ever and begged Mr. Crawford, our surgeon, to feel my pulse. He did so and pronounced me to be in perfect health. They then began to converse in whispers; I managed, however, to hear a few sentences.
“He’s not in his right senses,” the captain said. “I can not honestly take his bet.”
“I don’t agree with you at all,” replied the surgeon. “The baron is in perfect health. The only thing is that he has more confidence in his dog’s sense of smell than in our officers’ knowledge of navigation. He’ll certainly lose his bet, and it will serve him right.”
“I’ve no right to take such a bet,” the captain said again. “However, I can get out of the difficulty in an honorable way by returning him his money if I win.”
While this conversation lasted, Tray never moved, so I felt my opinion strengthened. I offered my bet again, and it was taken.
We had scarcely pronounced the customary “Done with you!” when some sailor fishing in the gig, which was being towed astern of us, caught a huge shark. No time was lost in hauling it on deck, and when they cut it open, behold!—there flew out of its stomach six pairs of partridges.
The poor birds had been there so long that one of them had laid five eggs, which she was sitting on, and a chick was just hatching when she was set at liberty.
We reared the young birds with a litter of kittens that had come into the world a few minutes before. The cat took as much care of them as she did her own offspring: She showed the utmost anxiety whenever one of the partridges flew away and did not return immediately to her side. As there were four hen partridges in our capture, we managed to have one always sitting, so that our table was never without game for the rest of the voyage.
I rewarded my faithful Tray for winning the 100 guineas by giving him every day a leftover from the partridges we had eaten, and now and then a whole bird.
Jud Hale is the honorary Editor-in-chief of The Old Farmer’s Almanac; Jud was the 12th editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac (since 1792!) and joined the parent company Yankee Publishing in 1958 as an Assistant Editor. Read More from Judson D. Hale Sr.