HOW SANTA CLAUS FOUND THE POOR-HOUSE       93


was a judge of such things. He had once doctored a rooster's lame leg, and though the rooster was never again able to mount a fence, and crowed with diminished energy, he was still able to cheer his heart by fighting the three other roosters all at once, and was likely to escape the dinner-pot for a long time to come, though his gait was no longer lordly. Gobaly had also successfully treated a kitten with a sprained ankle--to say nothing of one whose tail the gobbler had nipped off. And he had seen the doctor in the village set a puppy's leg, and had carefully watched the operation. 
   He helped the dog along toward the house--and it was well that he was a strong and sturdy little fellow or he could not have done it--and managed at last to get the poor creature, unobserved, into the wood-shed. He was very much afraid that Mrs. Pynchum, if she should see him, would order him to leave the dog in the road, and he knew it would not do to carry him in beside the kitchen fire, as he wanted to, for Mrs. Pynchum never wanted "a dirty dog in her clean house." 
   Gobaly found it hard to decide whether the bone was broken or only out of place, but he made a sort of a splint, such as he had seen the doctor use upon the puppy's leg, and then wound soft cloths, wet with liniment, about it, and the dog certainly seemed relieved, and licked Gobaly's hand, and looked at him with grateful eyes. 
   He ventured into the house after a while, and beckoned to Methuselah to come out to the woodshed. 
   Methuselah was convinced that Santa Claus had sent the dog to them as a Christmas present, and his delight was unbounded. 
    "Of course, Santa Claus must have sent him, or why would he have come down this lonely road all by himself? And you will cure him" (Methuselah

thought there was little that Gobaly could n't do if he tried), "and perhaps she will let us keep him!" 
   But a sudden recollection had struck Gobaly. The dog had been carrying a basket in his mouth; there might be some thing in it that would tell where he came from. 
   Though the dog's appearance was  mysterious, Gobaly was not so ready as Methuselah to accept the Santa Claus theory. 
   He ran out and found the basket, half buried in the snow, where it had fallen from the dog's mouth. There were several letters and papers in it addressed to "Dr. Carruthers, care of Richard Thorndike, Esq." 
   Dr. Carruthers was the famous New York physician who was visiting Squire Thorndike! Gobaly had heard the people in the village talking about him. The dog probably belonged to him, and had been sent to the post-office for his letters.          
   Although he had not really believed that Santa Claus sent the dog, Gobaly did feel a pang of disappointment that they must part with him so soon. But then Mrs. Pynchum would probably not have allowed them to keep him, anyhow, and she might have had him shot because his leg was hurt. That thought consoled Gobaly, and having obtained Mrs. Pynchum's permission to carry him to his master,-- which was readily given, since it was the easiest way to get rid of the dog,--he put a very large box, with a bed in it made of straw and soft cloth, upon his sled, and then lifted the dog gently into the box. The dog whined with pain when he was moved, but still licked Gobaly's hand, as if he understood that he was his friend and did not mean to hurt him. 
   Methuselah stood in the shed door, and looked after them, weeping, sadly making up his mind that Santa Claus was proud and would never come to the poor-house.


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