Rocket and Jim, Pals

Rocket and Jim, Pals

Rocket is a red-brown Irish setter who belongs to Jim, and they are wonderful pals. It is always together they go, these pals, Jim and Rocket, boy and dog, running across the fields, leaping fences and stone walls, vaulting the ditches, playing tag, or just walking slowly to school. Rocket always looks so sad, hanging his head way down, when he is not allowed to go into the school with Jim.

Jim says to him, "Rocket, what could you do with subtraction or division of fractions? Nouns and verbs are not for dogs, Rocket. So now please go home." And with tail down, Rocket drags himself home, so disappointed.

But on the playground, it is always boy and dog, Jim and Rocket; and it is hard to say who has the more fun, for Rocket plays till he lies down on the ground with his red tongue sticking out, panting for breath, as if to say, "Jim, I'm completely winded."

When Jim goes to the store for his mother, Rocket bounds out of the house, streaks across the lawn and catches up with his master, walking at Jim's heels or weaving leaping circles of joy around his young master, and now and then jumping up to kiss him on the hand or cheek.

Why, Rocket even follows his young master to church and Sunday school. Each Sunday just as the church bells are ringing, "Come to church, come to church," Rocket slips out of the house, somehow, though they try to lock all the doors. Rocket seems to know that this is a different day, for he follows closely beside his master, walking along as solemn as a judge.

But when Jim says, at the church doors, in a low, commanding voice, "Rocket, please go home," he simply walks over to the other side of the street, looking very much hurt, holding his nose up in the air. He waits there, if you please, until the morning worship service is over and Jim comes out.

One bright Sunday morning Rocket did get into the church. Quick as a flash he slid through the front entrance, between the legs of the ushers who were standing there. He walked up the front aisle right during the sermon. He carefully sniffed each pew. Finally he went into one of the empty pews in the middle of the church and there Rocket lay down on the floor with his face resting on his paws, trying to look very pious.

Rocket's sudden presence on the floor of the pew, however, raised a great commotion among the ushers and deacons who began frowning, pointing across the aisles and motioning for someone to take that dog out. Marching down the aisle came two of the ushers trying to collar the dog. They made more disturbance, I'm sure, than quiet Rocket just lying there would ever make.

The pastor, who had a dog of his own, held up his hand and stopped the ushers. With a smile he said, "Let the dog listen to the sermon. It will do him no harm, and if he does go to sleep he will do no worse than some members of my congregation!" And then the minister added with a merry twinkle in his eyes, "If I could only get some of you as excited about getting somebody into church as you are trying to throw a harmless dog out of the church, what a happy man I would be!"

So Rocket stayed securely in his place through the service, though he felt very sad and lonely in the empty pew. He slunk away home when he saw the people going out.

At the back of the church, after the service was over, the minister and the ushers and deacons were talking about Rocket.

"In what a businesslike way that dog came down the aisle and marched to that empty pew! What do you suppose possessed the dog and made him come to church? He never did this before," said the puzzled pastor.

"I think I have the answer to your question, pastor," said one of the deacons. "You see, I live next door to Jim, and I know how impossible it is to separate Rocket from his master. That dog goes everywhere with Jim. Jim went to the hospital last Tuesday for an operation, and Rocket has been a lonely, homesick, broken-hearted pup all week, going to the school, the store, and the playground, everywhere searching in vain for Jim. He could not find him anywhere. Jim, you know, always comes to church. He wears one of those pins for perfect attendance at Sunday church school. I imagine that when Sunday came and Rocket heard the church bells ringing, he thought he would be sure to find his master at church. So he came in here, sniffing until he smelled out Jim's pew and waited for him there."

"What a smart dog to expect to find his master at the church," said the minister. "And I say, too, what a grand boy is Jim, for when his dog missed him the dog knew where he could look for him to be—in church on Sunday!"

Then the pastor cast a sharp eye on the deacons and ushers and a few members of the congregation who were still standing around. "I wonder how many of you," he said with a roguish smile, "have a dog who would look for you in church, if he missed you on Sunday?"

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