One of the most beautiful tributes ever paid a dumb animal came from the lips of the late Senator George Graham Vest. The occasion was a trial over' the killing of a dog, which was held in a
town when he was a young lawyer.
Senator Vest appeared for the plaintiff, while Senator Francis M. Cockrell, then a country practitioner, represented the defendant.
Young Vest took no interest in the testimony and made no notes, but at the close of the case arose, and in a soft voice, made the following address:
"Gentlemen of the Jury-The best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it most. A man's reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us. may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads.
"The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog. A man's dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer; he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounter with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings, and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.
"If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him, to guard him against danger, to fight against his enemies. And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes his master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by the graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad, but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even in death."
When he concluded his remarks there were but few dry eyes in the audience. The case was submitted without further argument, and the jury promptly returned a verdict for the plaintiff.