Judge Hooper on Under Dogs
by Ellis Parker Butler
When Mrs. Clardy had explained, excitedly and in full, she unwrapped her bandaged hand and showed our eminent jurist, Justice of the Peace Lem Hooper, exactly where the dog had bitten her. With gravity Judge Hooper examined the cauterized wound, adjusting his spectacles to do so and leaning far down from his illustrious bench to get the best view.
"My! my!" he exclaimed sympathetically; "a nasty bite, ma'am, if ever there was one! And it was Murchison's big dog bit you, you say, ma'am?"
"I said nothing of the kind!" declared Mrs. Clardy. "I said Murchison's big dog jumped on Brennan's little dog and threw it down and was killing it -- and five times its size, judge! -- and I took my broom and beat the big brute over the head until the broom handle broke -- and no good! So I grabbed the little dog by the leg, judge --"
"And it turned and bit you," supplied Judge Hooper. "A shame, ma'am! But not entirely out of accord with the human nature of dogs, Mrs. Clardy. Not entirely out of accord with the record and past performances of the Brennan cur, as known by me, Mrs. Clardy. A nasty, trouble-seeking little mongrel, ma'am! A snarling, snapping little wretch, ma'am! I fear I cannot grant you a summons for Mr. Murchison, knowing that evil-minded Brennan cur as I do, Mrs. Clardy. The statutes and ordinances, as a matter of fact, ma'am, do not require any citizen -- male or female -- to interfere in a dog fight."
"But, judge!" exclaimed Mrs. Clardy. "Would you stand by and see the under-dog chewed to pieces?"
Judge Hooper smiled pleasantly at the angry Mrs. Clardy, and slowly wiped the lenses of his spectacles.
"It would depend! It would depend!" he said judicially.
"But, my gracious, judge!" cried Mrs. Clardy; "I thought everybody knew that a person ought to take the part of the under-dog."
"Ah! I see you are a good American, ma'am," said Judge Hooper in the tone that turneth away wrath. "For some reason that I have been unable to ascertain the good American seems to have the deep conviction that it is his duty to consider that the under-dog is always right. It seems to be the general opinion that whenever two dogs get into a scrap the good American should take a club and wallop the upper-dog, no matter which dog happens to be on top.
"From what I know of Brennan's flea-bit cur, Mrs. Clardy, I opine that if Murchison's handsome hound had completed the job and reduced the evil-tempered mongrel to something for the street-sweeper to remove, the ends of right and justice would have been served in A-1 style. Twice, without provocation or cause, the Brennan cur ripped the pant's-leg of Riverbank's greatest jurist -- meaning Lem Hooper, J. P. -- and once he nipped clean through to my peaceful and law-abiding shin. He goes up and down picking fights and tasting children, and if all the hens he has killed were placed end to end they would reach from hither to yon. That dog wanders our peaceful streets looking for hounds to insult and annoy, and when patience ceases to be a virtue and some decent dog gets the mean little yellow nuisance down and begins to teach it a valuable lesson some big-hearted American comes along and hits the upper-dog with a brick.
"I know Murchison's big dog, Mrs. Clardy, and it is an earnest-minded, God-fearing, well-behaved dog. It does not seek trouble. It aims to live a peaceful life. Brennan's cur must have done and said some mighty mean things to get that big dog riled up.
"Just at this time, Mrs. Clardy, when our Uncle Sam is strong in the muscle and fat in the purse and well able to throw a brick or wield a club, a lady of your intelligence ought to be careful how she spreads the thought 'Kick the upper-dog; the under-dog is always right.' The little innocent children, Mrs. Clardy, gathering around the dogfight and seeing you lambaste the upper-dog, regardless of past performances and immediate provocations, are liable to imbibe the thought that all underdogs are right and that all upper-dogs are monsters of hideous injustice. Just at this time when some big foreign peoples want nothing better than to be left in peace, and some little ones are full of bile and meanness; when it might very well happen that somebody strong ought to put a knee on the back of somebody snarly and spank him, regardless of size; it might be just as well to think a couple of minutes before we aim the brick."
"Why, Judge Lemuel Hooper!" exclaimed Mrs. Clardy. "The idea! Do you mean to say that we ought to feel sympathy for the upper-dog?"
"Yes, ma'am; whenever we can," said Judge Hooper; "especially because it's so mighty seldom we have an excuse to."