Kaleidoscope: Scents and Sensibility

Rowley was generally a very happy dog. He had a kind MASTER who treated him well, gave him many interesting places to explore, fed him rich treats, and never, ever beat him nor allowed anyone else to do so. He accompanied THE MASTER everywhere, from the rich, dense smells of the city to the fresh animal scents and tastes of the country. Rowley had an ingratiating way about him that humans liked, and he was usually welcomed anywhere he went.

As usual, THE MASTER had brought Rowley along when he traveled to THE FRIENDLY MAN's house. For part of the way he had trotted behind THE MASTER's horse, but when his tongue began to hang out and he lagged behind, THE MASTER had put him in the carriage with THE UNKIND WOMAN and THE UNHAPPY WOMAN. Rowley, of course, did not actually think of humans in such terms; his limited mind sensed only abstractions, and his sensitive nose, refined by generations of careful breeding, picked up their emotions as easily as he picked up the scent of a bird or a fox or a rabbit.

He did not like THE UNKIND WOMAN; she petted him and was kind while THE MASTER was about, but at other times he was as likely to feel a slap or the point of her shoe when he sought her attention. Rowley was unused to such treatment and avoided THE UNKIND WOMAN as well as he could, but since THE MASTER saw fit to put Rowley in the carriage with her, he must suffer the consequences. He would have done anything for THE MASTER.

"Ugh!" cried THE UNKIND WOMAN. "This flea-ridden beast has tracked mud into the carriage! My gown shall be absolutely ruined, Louisa!"

THE UNHAPPY WOMAN replied, "Just ignore him, Caroline. He will lie down if you do not bother him." THE UNHAPPY WOMAN was never unkind to Rowley; indeed she rarely registered his presence. He sometimes sat by her with his head on her knee, which THE MASTER seemed to like when his scent was so blue-smelling; she would simply scratch his ears and say nothing, but her scent was never improved as THE MASTER's was by such canine attentions. Luckily for Rowley, THE BAD-SMELLING MAN was not riding in the carriage. He did not kick Rowley as THE UNKIND WOMAN did, but it was clear that he did not appreciate Rowley's presence. However, he was riding ahead of the carriage on horseback along with THE MASTER and THE FRIENDLY MAN. Rowley's animal sense told him that the BAD-SMELLING MAN's horse was not especially delighted with his burden, but that was none of Rowley's concern.

At last they arrived at their destination, a large country house that was a great deal like HOME. Rowley happily prowled the halls along with THE FRIENDLY MAN's dogs. He was intelligent enough to allow them precedence, and all was well, at least amongst the canine inhabitants.

Then THE NICE-SMELLING WOMAN and THE KIND WOMAN came to THE FRIENDLY MAN's house. THE KIND WOMAN was gentle and petted him, and THE NICE-SMELLING WOMAN quickly became Rowley's friend. He would follow her as she rambled about the grounds, and she ran with him and tossed him a stick to fetch. In between these long walks, he would go out shooting with THE MASTER and THE FRIENDLY MAN and THE BAD-SMELLING MAN, and life was good for Rowley.

One day, THE NICE-SMELLING WOMAN and THE KIND WOMAN were no longer at the house. Rowley did not really miss them, since he had a great deal to occupy his mind. Then THE MASTER took him to the stables and left him with THE HORSE-SMELLING MAN.

"Keep Rowley here, Daniel, will you?" asked THE MASTER. "Mr. Bingley is giving a ball tonight and I don't want him to bother the guests."

"Yes, Mr. Darcy," said THE HORSE-SMELLING MAN, touching his forelock. THE MASTER gave Rowley a last scratch behind the ears and left.

Rowley prowled about the stables, sniffing in the corners and investigating any interesting smells. The horses snorted at him from behind their stalls, but he ignored them, careful not to get too close to their hard hooves. He chased a couple of cats that lived in the hay-loft, then settled down for a nap.

He was in the middle of a pleasant dream involving a field of tall grass and a very slow rabbit when he heard the stable door open. He immediately raised his nose to find out who had entered. It was an alien scent, someone that Rowley could not identify; this must be investigated. He jumped up and padded over to the newcomer.

"Hello, there, boy," said the UNKNOWN MAN, scratching him behind the ears. "Daniel, my old friend, how are you?"

THE HORSE-SMELLING MAN laughed, "John, you old salty dog, I haven't seen you in years!" The two men laughed and talked together, and THE UNKNOWN MAN continued to scratch Rowley's ears; he was in dog heaven, his eyes closed, his tongue lolling, and his tail beating a steady tattoo on the rough wooden floor.

"Come up to the house, Daniel," THE UNKNOWN MAN said. "There's many who would appreciate your stories whilst we wait for our masters and mistresses. P'raps later we may toss the dice a time or two."

THE HORSE-SMELLING MAN agreed, and the two prepared to leave. Rowley tried to accompany them, but THE HORSE-SMELLING MAN shut the door to the stable while the dog was still inside. Rowley looked around in frustration; he wanted more of that lovely ear-scratching, and he was unused to having anything less than perfect freedom of THE FRIENDLY MAN's grounds. He walked around the stables, sniffing; at last he found a whiff of air untainted by the scent of horses and their leavings. There was a partially-open window above a table by the wall. Rowley jumped up on the table, put his front paws on the window-sill, and pushed the window open with his nose. He judged the distance to the ground with accurate dog-sense; it was doable, so he jumped.

FREEDOM! He raced across the grass to THE FRIENDLY MAN's house. THE MASTER would be there, and the kitchen staff who slipped him treats--but what was this?

He stopped in front of the house. There was a confusion of scents--horses, dogs, humans of every description. And the most delicious cooking smells wafted from the lower-level windows. Rowley sniffed, every nerve ending quivering. He absolutely must investigate this.

Rowley crept up the front steps and slipped in behind one woman's voluminous skirts; the footman at the door did not see him. He sensed that he would not be welcomed among all these humans, even by THE MASTER, so he lurked around the perimeter of the room, hiding under chairs when necessary, but still managed to sniff quite a few interesting scents.

Was that--he searched his limited memory for the proper connection--was that THE GIRL? He followed the scent eagerly, but when he reached its owner, he realized that it was not THE GIRL, although it was A SOFT-SMELLING GIRL; the scents were similar, but to Rowley not really worthy of comparison. She gave off a pink-tinged scent that Rowley recognized as similar to his own just before the hunt, every part of him alive and alert for whatever the day would bring. He pushed his cold, wet nose into her hand, and she laughed and looked down at him. "Hello, boy," she said softly, rubbing his head in a perfectly delightful manner. "I don't think you ought to be here, but don't worry, I shall not tell Mr. Bingley."

THE ANXIOUS WOMAN said, "Here is Mr. Pratt. Smile, my dear!" and THE SOFT-SMELLING GIRL went away. Rowley forgot her instantly.

There was a cacophonous sound emanating from one end of the room, where he had romped with THE FRIENDLY MAN's dogs only the day before. He stealthily made his way down to that end of the hall. Several humans were seated there, holding shiny things that made the loud noises. Rowley liked one in particular. It gave a nice clear call that made his spine tingle, not unlike the sensation he experienced when he first scented a rabbit. He drew closer to this interesting thing and sniffed at it. It had a cold metallic smell that was at odds with the warm sounds it made.

The humans stopped their noisemaking, and the one holding the shiny noisemaker looked at him curiously. Rowley gave him his best dog-smile and wagged his tail. The NOISY MAN said gently, "Shoo, boy, we have to work now," and they took up their noisemakers. It was all too much for poor Rowley's ears, so he took up position under a chair placed near the wall.

The humans were weaving around each other, and this worried Rowley's primitive senses. Dogs only did such things when they were at odds, and while most of the humans' scents were pink and purple, happy smells, he sensed a few that were from the indigo end of the spectrum. But why were the males and females facing off against one another? Only male dogs fought amongst themselves. It was all very strange to Rowley.

Rowley finally discerned THE MASTER's scent among all the others. He raised his nose again; and what was that--it was THE NICE-SMELLING WOMAN! Rowley wagged his tail with such abandon that his entire body writhed with joy. His two favorite people in the world--well, there was THE GIRL, but Rowley had not smelled her in such a long time that her remembrance was only a small spark in the back of his tiny brain.

But THE NICE-SMELLING WOMAN had some black scents coming from her, not unlike those of THE UNKIND WOMAN. THE MASTER's scents had a distinct tinge of blue, and they were edging toward black. What was this? They were circling one another, seemingly facing off for a fight. Rowley tucked his snout between his paws, stretched out in front of him, and watched them anxiously. He did not want these two people to fight. It meant that one of them would have to go away, and he wanted them to stay together and live with him.

THE MASTER and THE NICE-SMELLING WOMAN continued to move down the room, circling, touching, advancing, retreating. Rowley cocked his head. Their smells were still black; why did they not jump together, pawing and scratching and biting? Dogs would have had it over with by now.

He sensed other emotions coming from the humans: sweet candy pink from THE SOFT-SMELLING GIRL and THE KIND WOMAN and THE FRIENDLY MAN; they were all happy, and their joyful scents relaxed Rowley, along with the gently rhythmic sounds coming from THE NOISY MEN. There were some other scents as well; a sort of blue-green from one of the female humans, circling with a man whose smell was on the reddish side. The blue-green smell usually meant that there was a dog of the opposite gender involved. But the female did not seem inclined to fight with her partner, although they continued to circle one another. THE NOISY MEN had a smell that was positively brown. Rowley knew what that meant: a long hot summer afternoon with no rabbits to chase, no birds to flush, just a stretch of uninteresting time ahead. There was another scent floating by overhead, somewhere between purple and pink. It intrigued Rowley, but he could not determine the direction to follow it; it seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at once. Rowley lifted his head again, trying to catch that elusive, hopeful scent, but it had dissipated, leaving something vaguely sweet in its wake.

But THE MASTER and THE NICE-SMELLING WOMAN interested Rowley the most. He sensed THE MASTER's smell becoming blacker and blacker by the minute. Rowley had never experienced THE MASTER's anger and did not understand it. He grew steadily more miserable until at last the NOISY MEN ceased their clamor and THE MASTER and THE NICE-SMELLING WOMAN separated. Rowley curled up under the chair, relieved that there would be no fight, and went to sleep.

The delicious smell of cooked meat brought him back to wakefulness, and he realized that the humans were leaving the big room and entering another room. Rowley had acquired many rich scraps in that room, surreptitiously handed down by THE MASTER and THE FRIENDLY MAN and THE NICE-SMELLING WOMAN and even THE UNHAPPY WOMAN - maybe she liked him after all! He followed the humans into this room, wagging his tail happily.

He avoided a SHRILL WOMAN seated at the end of one table, and followed his nose to a familiar scent. He laid his head on the human's knee, and was greeted by the sound of a happy, musical voice. "Rowley! You bad dog, what are you doing here? You had better not let Mr. Darcy see you." Even the dreaded words "bad dog" did not sound ominous from her mouth. THE NICE-SMELLING WOMAN handed him a few scraps, which he gulped down. He licked her hand gratefully, and she patted his head. "Now shoo, you bad dog," she said, the laughing tone still in her voice. Rowley was glad that her scent was much less black than it had been while she was circling with THE MASTER. Perhaps she would come back to HOME to live with him and THE MASTER and THE GIRL. Such a concept was Rowley's true idea of happiness, not forgetting the occasional rabbit to chase. He left THE NICE-SMELLING WOMAN, his tail wagging happily.

His attention was drawn by another smell, and he worked his way beneath another table…where was it…THERE! He thrust his nose deep into the lap of a human and sniffed.

A shriek assaulted his ears, and he realized, too late, that the lap he was sniffing belonged to THE UNKIND WOMAN. She tried to push him away, but he jammed his nose even further into her lap. Rowley sensed that he would be punished somehow, but trusted to the good offices of THE MASTER that the punishment would not be too onerous, and THE UNKIND WOMAN smelled most interesting, after all! But THE UNKIND WOMAN continued to shriek, and Rowley was finally hauled forth by a giggling footman and taken away from the high-pitched sounds. He had been enjoying his investigations but was happy enough to be pushed out the door, especially since THE LAUGHING MAN slipped him a bit of a treat, patted him on the head, and said, "Good job, boy, you've gotten revenge on behalf of your master. She's been sniffing about him since they arrived!" Rowley heard the other footman laughing uproariously as he made his way down the steps, although he was already tracking a new scent and now completely uninterested in the humans inside THE FRIENDLY MAN's house.

Rowley trotted over to the water trough and had a drink, then lay down by a carriage that smelled a great deal like THE KIND WOMAN and THE NICE-SMELLING WOMAN and even THE SHRILL WOMAN. He napped for a bit, his head resting on his paws, and then he heard it.

A piercing wail floated out an open window and into Rowley's ears. It sounded to him like the noises made by the barn cats when they held their nightly jamboree. Rowley crossed his paws over his head, trying to block the painful cacophony, but it persisted. There was only one answer for it; he had to drown it out. He sat up, raised his head to the moon--the full moon, the beautiful moon!--and lifted his voice, matching the timbre of the noise within, only increasing the volume.


Rowley recognized the voice of authority; THE HORSE-SMELLING MAN was not THE MASTER, but the dog knew he had better be quiet. Luckily the cat-howlings from within soon ceased, and he was at last able to sleep under the carriage, exhausted from his adventures, his paws twitching as he chased rabbit after rabbit through the fields of dreams.