fib was Mr. Motherway’s address. He lived in what always emerged in Boston newspaper and magazine surveys as not only the wealthiest but the most prestigious and altogether splendiferous community in the Commonwealth. It had more millionaires, more green space, better schools, and less pollution than anywhere else in Massachusetts. Higher taxes. No lottery ticket sales at all. If you lived there, you already had so much money that you didn’t throw it away trying to win more. Not that absolutely every person there was loaded.
Oh, but he was. I knew it even before I got to his house. Well, I didn’t exactly know it. But I can take a hint. Hints there were: the acres of pasture surrounded by neat white fences, the stables, the horses, and the colonial houses that, gee whiz, actually dated to the days of the Colonies. B. Robert Motherway’s was a white saltbox screened from the narrow road by a row of lilacs. More lilacs bloomed on either side of the front door. Beds of perennials took the place of foundation shrubs. Lupine and columbine were in bloom. The beds were weeded, but not too perfectly weeded, and certainly not mulched with wood chips or fir bark. There wasn’t a rhododendron in sight. The horticultural testimony was irrefutable: This wasn’t just ordinary money I was dealing with; it was serious Old Money. The newly moneyed in the Boston suburbs buy what are cruelly called “tract mansions”: four-story, twenty-room mock palaces pitifully set on quarter-acre lots. Mr. Motherway’s house didn’t have a tract mansion jammed next to it. It had woods on one side and, on the other, a vast stretch of roughly mown acreage that looked like a lawn from a distance, but was, up close, a field. Attached to the house by a substantial extension was an immense white barn with kennel runs along the side. From the closest run, a shepherd ordered me to go home. I should perhaps add that by “shepherd” I do not mean a biblical fellow with a flock and crook. In my world, as in Mrs. Dodge’s, a “shepherd” is a German shepherd dog. In writing, the breed is often the “GSD.”
“Alsatian,” the British nom de guerre during and after both world wars, never really caught on in the United States and has almost vanished. What no one who’s anyone in dogs ever calls a shepherd is a “police dog.” Dahlings, it’s simply not done.
The front steps of Mr. Motherway’s house consisted of massive slabs of granite. Before I had a chance to ring the bell, fierce woofing from the opposite side of the door loudly announced my arrival. I rang the bell anyway. The door opened to what looked like a museum of Early American decorative arts and furnishings. Without saying a word, a tall woman in her early fifties with broad, stooped shoulders and pale skin ushered me inside. She was not dressed in colonial attire. Furthermore, to my relief, she did not wear a black dress with a frilly white apron. Maids in mufti are less intimidating, I think, than maids in uniform. In any case, this woman’s appearance and manner were so unthreatening that even if she’d been in full regalia, with a frilly white cap on her head, she wouldn’t have scared me at all. As it was, she wore a plain white blouse, a blue denim skirt, clean white running shoes, and a pair of yellow rubber gloves. She should have been five foot ten or maybe even six feet tall, but her head dropped forward, and she had what in dogs, maybe in people, too, is called a “roach back.” In dogs, however, the problem does not stem from the postural efforts of tall teenage females to shrink themselves to the median height of their peers. Her odd shape could have resulted from untreated scoliosis or possibly osteoporosis, I suppose, but the cowed expression on her face suggested a sincere desire to squeeze herself into less space than nature had intended. Her pale blue eyes blinked rapidly, and she kept her rather full lips puckered, as if she were trying to suck them inside her mouth. Her long, straight brown hair was shot with gray. It parted itself down the middle, and was unflatteringly secured at the nape of her neck by a wide elastic band.
The dog who’d been barking now lay silently but vigilantly just inside the door on what I thought must be his rug. I had the impression that in dropping to this down-stay, he had obeyed no one but himself. He was a large black shepherd. To my eye, he looked oversized, but I am no expert on the breed. The shepherd I know
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