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In Edgar Allan Poe's short story Landor's Cottage, published in 1849, the narrator, having started to feel lost during a "pedestrian tour" and anticipating having to spend the night outside, mentions the following:

At all events, with my knapsack for a pillow, and my hound as a sentry, a bivouac in the open air was just the thing which would have amused me. I sauntered on, therefore, quite at ease—Ponto taking charge of my gun—until at length, just as I had begun to consider whether the numerous little glades that led hither and tither were intended to be paths at all, I was conducted by one of the most promising of them into an unquestionable carriage-track.

What does "Ponto taking charge of my gun" mean?

If Ponto were a human companion, I would have interpreted the boldfaced phrase to mean he was in possession of the narrator's gun, possibly holding it at the ready (as 'taking charge of' sounds like a very active way of dealing with something). Since it must be the narrator's canine companion, however, I doubt the hound is even carrying it passively.

  • 'Taking charge of' can mean several things (see e.g. M-W, Cambridge), but none of them seem to fit the context. Why would the narrator emphasize that his dog is looking after his gun, a gun that is only mentioned here?

  • According to the dictionaries I consulted, a 'gun' usually refers to a firearm, or someone wielding one.
    That is, unless it is "a person's arm" (M-W), but, while it makes sense that the dog was guiding the tiring narrator at this point, especially after having mentioned they "sauntered on, quite at ease", this particular way of phrasing it doesn't seem to fit the otherwise strict and literal account (or Poe's writing in general, for that matter). Moreover, I assume that the meaning of 'a person's (muscular) arm' is more recent.
    Nevertheless, this interpretation seems to come close to the author's intent.

  • I wasn't able to find an entry for "taking charge of a gun", so perhaps it is an (old, obsolete) idiom I am unfamiliar with (searching for the phrase only gives results for this short story).

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Ponto was guarding the gun. The dog does not know what it does, but knows its importance.

The narrator had presumably left the dog, the gun, and other kit while reconnoitering for a good place for the bivvy.

The narrator has said

my hound as a sentry

and the dog already knows its job.

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  • Thank you! A minor caveat: later on in the story, the narrator encounters a mastiff that greets both him and Ponto, while there is no mention at all of the narrator rejoining his dog.
    – Joachim
    Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 20:26
  • Perhaps it's a plot hole. Commented Feb 16, 2023 at 20:29

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