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Bruce By Albert Payson Terhune Characters: 44312

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

She was beautiful. And she had a heart and a soul-which were a curse. For without such a heart and soul, she might have found the tough life-battle less bitterly hard to fight.

But the world does queer things-damnable things-to hearts that are so tenderly all-loving and to souls that are so trustfully and forgivingly friendly as hers.

Her "pedigree name" was Rothsay Lass. She was a collie-daintily fragile of build, sensitive of nostril, furrily tawny of coat. Her ancestry was as flawless as any in Burke's Peerage.

If God had sent her into the world with a pair of tulip ears and with a shade less width of brain-space she might have been cherished and coddled as a potential bench-show winner, and in time might even have won immortality by the title of "CHAMPION Rothsay Lass."

But her ears pricked rebelliously upward, like those of her earliest ancestors, the wolves. Nor could manipulation lure their stiff cartilages into drooping as bench-show fashion demands. The average show-collie's ears have a tendency to prick. By weights and plasters, and often by torture, this tendency is overcome. But never when the cartilage is as unyielding as was Lass's.

Her graceful head harked back in shape to the days when collies had to do much independent thinking, as sheep-guards, and when they needed more brainroom than is afforded by the borzoi skull sought after by modern bench-show experts.

Wherefore, Lass had no hope whatever of winning laurels in the show-ring or of attracting a high price from some rich fancier. She was tabulated, from babyhood, as a "second"-in other words, as a faulty specimen in a litter that should have been faultless.

These "seconds" are as good to look at, from a layman's view, as is any international champion. And their offspring are sometimes as perfect as are those of the finest specimens. But, lacking the arbitrary "points" demanded by show-judges, the "seconds" are condemned to obscurity, and to sell as pets.

If Lass had been a male dog, her beauty and sense and lovableness would have found a ready purchaser for her. For nine pet collies out of ten are "seconds"; and splendid pets they make for the most part.

But Lass, at the very start, had committed the unforgivable sin of being born a female. Therefore, no pet-seeker wanted to buy her. Even when she was offered for sale at half the sum asked for her less handsome brothers, no one wanted her.

A mare-or the female of nearly any species except the canine-brings as high and as ready a price as does the male. But never the female dog. Except for breeding, she is not wanted.

This prejudice had its start in Crusader days, some thousand years ago. Up to that time, all through the civilized world, a female dog had been more popular as a pet than a male. The Mohammedans (to whom, by creed, all dogs are unclean) gave their European foes the first hint that a female dog was the lowest thing on earth.

The Saracens despised her, as the potential mother of future dogs. And they loathed her accordingly. Back to Europe came the Crusaders, bearing only three lasting memorials of their contact with the Moslems. One of the three was a sneering contempt for all female dogs.

There is no other pet as loving, as quick of wit, as loyal, as staunchly brave and as companionable as the female collie. She has all the male's best traits and none of his worst. She has more in common, too, with the highest type of woman than has any other animal alive. (This, with all due respect to womanhood.)

Prejudice has robbed countless dog-lovers of the joy of owning such a pal. In England the female pet dog has at last begun to come into her own. Here she has not. The loss is ours.

And so back to Lass.

When would-be purchasers were conducted to the puppy-run at the Rothsay kennels, Lass and her six brethren and sisters were wont to come galloping to the gate to welcome the strangers. For the pups were only three months old-an age when every event is thrillingly interesting, and everybody is a friend. Three times out of five, the buyer's eye would single Lass from the rollicking and fluffy mass of puppyhood.

She was so pretty, so wistfully appealing, so free from fear (and from bumptiousness as well) and carried herself so daintily, that one's heart warmed to her. The visitor would point her out. The kennel-man would reply, flatteringly-

"Yes, she sure is one fine pup!"

The purchaser never waited to hear the end of the sentence, before turning to some other puppy. The pronoun, "she," had killed forever his dawning fancy for the little beauty.

The four males of the litter were soon sold; for there is a brisk and a steady market for good collie pups. One of the two other females died. Lass's remaining sister began to "shape up" with show-possibilities, and was bought by the owner of another kennel. Thus, by the time she was five months old, Lass was left alone in the puppy-run.

She mourned her playmates. It was cold, at night, with no other cuddly little fur-ball to snuggle down to. It was stupid, with no one to help her work off her five-months spirits in a romp. And Lass missed the dozens of visitors that of old had come to the run.

The kennel-men felt not the slightest interest in her. Lass meant nothing to them, except the work of feeding her and of keeping an extra run in order. She was a liability, a nuisance.

Lass used to watch with pitiful eagerness for the attendants' duty-visits to the run. She would gallop joyously up to them, begging for a word or a caress, trying to tempt them into a romp, bringing them peaceofferings in the shape of treasured bones she had buried for her own future use. But all this gained her nothing.

A careless word at best-a grunt or a shove at worst were her only rewards. For the most part, the men with the feed-trough or the water-pail ignored her bounding and wrigglingly eager welcome as completely as though she were a part of the kennel furnishings. Her short daily "exercise scamper" in the open was her nearest approach to a good time.

Then came a day when again a visitor stopped in front of Lass's run. He was not much of a visitor, being a pallid and rather shabbily dressed lad of twelve, with a brand-new chain and collar in his hand.

"You see," he was confiding to the bored kennel-man who had been detailed by the foreman to take him around the kennels, "when I got the check from Uncle Dick this morning, I made up my mind, first thing, to buy a dog with it, even if it took every cent. But then I got to thinking I'd need something to fasten him with, so he wouldn't run away before he learned to like me and want to stay with me. So when I got the check cashed at the store, I got this collar and chain."

"Are you a friend of the boss?" asked the kennel-man.

"The boss?" echoed the boy. "You mean the man who owns this place? No, sir. But when I've walked past, on the road, I've seen his 'Collies for Sale' sign, lots of times. Once I saw some of them being exercised. They were the wonderfulest dogs I ever saw. So the minute I got the money for the check, I came here. I told the man in the front yard I wanted to buy a dog. He's the one who turned me over to you. I wish-OH!" he broke off in rapture, coming to a halt in front of Lass's run. "Look! Isn't he a dandy?"

Lass had trotted hospitably forward to greet the guest. Now she was standing on her hind legs, her front paws alternately supporting her fragile weight on the wire of the fence and waving welcomingly toward the boy. Unknowingly, she was bidding for a master. And her wistful friendliness struck a note of response in the little fellow's heart. For he, too, was lonesome, much of the time, as is the fate of a sickly only child in an overbusy home. And he had the true craving of the lonely for dog comradeship.

He thrust his none-too-clean hand through the wire mesh and patted the puppy's silky head. Lass wiggled ecstatically under the unfamiliar caress. All at once, in the boy's eyes, she became quite the most wonderful animal and the very most desirable pet on earth.

"He's great!" sighed the youngster in admiration; adding na?vely: "Is he Champion Rothsay Chief-the one whose picture was in The Bulletin last Sunday?"

The kennel-man laughed noisily. Then he checked his mirth, for professional reasons, as he remembered the nature of the boy's quest and foresaw a bare possibility of getting rid of the unwelcome Lass.

"Nope," he said. "This isn't Chief. If it was, I guess your Uncle Dick's check would have to have four figures in it before you could make a deal. But this is one of Chief's daughters. This is Rothsay Lass. A grand little girl, ain't she? Say,"-in a confidential whisper,-"since you've took a fancy for her, maybe I could coax the old man into lettin' you have her at an easy price. He was plannin' to sell her for a hundred or so. But he goes pretty much by what I say. He might let her go for-How much of a check did you say your uncle sent you?"

"Twelve dollars," answered the boy,-"one for each year. Because I'm named for him. It's my birthday, you know. But-but a dollar of it went for the chain and the collar. How much do you suppose the gentleman would want for Rothsay Lass?"

The kennel-man considered for a moment. Then he went back to the house, leaving the lad alone at the gate of the run. Eleven dollars, for a high-pedigreed collie pup, was a joke price. But no one else wanted Lass, and her feed was costing more every day. According to Rothsay standards, the list of brood-females was already complete. Even as a gift, the kennels would be making money by getting rid of the prick-eared "second." Wherefore he went to consult with the foreman.

Left alone with Lass, the boy opened the gate and went into the run. A little to his surprise Lass neither shrank from him nor attacked him. She danced about his legs in delight, varying this by jumping up and trying to lick his excited face. Then she thrust her cold nose into the cup of his hand as a plea to be petted.

When the kennel-man came back, the boy was sitting on the dusty ground of the run, and Lass was curled up rapturously in his lap, learning how to shake hands at his order.

"You can have her, the boss says," vouchsafed the kennel-man. "Where's the eleven dollars?"

By this graceless speech Dick Hazen received the key to the Seventh Paradise, and a life-membership in the world-wide Order of Dog-Lovers.

The homeward walk, for Lass and her new master, was no walk at all, but a form of spiritual levitation. The half-mile pilgrimage consumed a full hour of time. Not that Lass hung back or rebelled at her first taste of collar and chain! These petty annoyances went unfelt in the wild joy of a real walk, and in the infinitely deeper happiness of knowing her friendship-famine was appeased at last.

The walk was long for various reasons-partly because, in her frisking gyrations, Lass was forever tangling the new chain around Dick's thin ankles; partly because he stopped, every block or so, to pat her or to give her further lessons in the art of shaking hands. Also there were admiring boy-acquaintances along the way, to whom the wonderful pet must be exhibited.

At last Dick turned in at the gate of a cheap bungalow on a cheap street-a bungalow with a discouraged geranium plot in its pocket-handkerchief front yard, and with a double line of drying clothes in the no larger space behind the house.

As Dick and his chum rounded the house, a woman emerged from between the two lines of flapping sheets, whose hanging she had been superintending. She stopped at sight of her son and the dog.

"Oh!" she commented with no enthusiasm at all. "Well, you did it, hey? I was hoping you'd have better sense, and spend your check on a nice new suit or something. He's kind of pretty, though," she went on, the puppy's friendliness and beauty wringing the word of grudging praise from her. "What kind of a dog is he? And you're sure he isn't savage, aren't you?"

"Collie," answered Dick proudly. "Pedigreed collie! You bet she isn't savage, either. Why, she's an angel. She minds me already. See-shake hands, Lass!" "Lass!" ejaculated Mrs. Hazen. "'SHE!' Dick, you don't mean to tell me you've gone and bought yourself a-a FEMALE dog?"

The woman spoke in the tone of horrified contempt that might well have been hers had she found a rattlesnake and a brace of toads in her son's pocket. And she lowered her voice, as is the manner of her kind when forced to speak of the unspeakable. She moved back from the puppy's politely out-thrust forepaw as from the passing of a garbage cart.

"A female dog!" she reiterated. "Well, of all the chuckle-heads! A nasty FEMALE dog, with your birthday money!"

"She's not one bit nasty!" flamed Dick, burying the grubby fingers of his right hand protectively in the fluffy mass of the puppy's half-grown ruff. "She's the dandiest dog ever! She-"

"Don't talk back to me!" snapped Mrs. Hazen. "Here! Turn right around and take her to the cheats who sold her to you. Tell them to keep her and give you the good money you paid for her. Take her out of my yard this minute! Quick!"

A hot mist of tears sprang into the boy's eyes. Lass, with the queer intuition that tells a female collie when her master is unhappy, whined softly and licked his clenched hand.

"I-aw, PLEASE, Ma!" he begged chokingly. "PLEASE! It's-it's my birthday, and everything. Please let me keep her. I-I love her better than 'most anything there is. Can't I please keep her? Please!"

"You heard what I said," returned his mother curtly.

The washerwoman, who one day a week lightened Mrs. Hazen's household labors, waddled into view from behind the billows of wind-swirled clothes. She was an excellent person, and was built for endurance rather than for speed. At sight of Lass she paused in real interest.

"My!" she exclaimed with flattering approval. "So you got your dog, did you? You didn't waste no time. And he's sure a handsome little critter. Whatcher goin' to call him?"

"It's not a him, Irene," contradicted Mrs. Hazen, with another modest lowering of her strong voice. "It's a HER. And I'm sending Dick back with her, to where she came from. I've got my opinion of people who will take advantage of a child's ignorance, by palming off a horrid female dog on him, too. Take her away, Dick. I won't have her here another minute. You hear me?"

"Please, Ma!" stammered Dick, battling with his desire to cry. "Aw, PLEASE! I-I-"

"Your ma's right, Dick," chimed in the washerwoman, her first interested glance at the puppy changing to one of refined and lofty scorn. "Take her back. You don't want any female dogs around. No nice folks do."

"Why not?" demanded the boy in sudden hopeless anger as he pressed lovingly the nose Lass thrust so comfortingly into his hand. "WHY don't we want a female dog around? Folks have female cats around them, and female women. Why isn't a female dog-"

"That will do, Dick!" broke in his shocked mother. "Take her away."

"I won't," said the boy, speaking very slowly, and with no excitement at all.

A slap on the side of his head, from his mother's punitive palm, made him stagger a little. Her hand was upraised for a second installment of rebellion-quelling-when a slender little body flashed through the air and landed heavily against her chest. A set of white puppy-teeth all but grazed her wrathful red face.

Lass, who never before had known the impulse to attack, had jumped to the rescue of the beaten youngster whom she had adopted as her god. The woman screeched in terror. Dick flung an arm about the furry whirlwind that was seeking to avenge his punishment, and pulled the dog back to his side.

Mrs. Hazen's shriek, and the obbligato accompaniment of the washerwoman, made an approaching man quicken his steps as he strolled around the side of the house. The newcomer was Dick's father, superintendent of the local bottling works. On his way home to lunch, he walked in on a scene of hysteria.

"Kill her, sir!" bawled the washerwoman, at sight of him. "Kill her! She's a mad dog. She just tried to kill Miz' Hazen!"

"She didn't do anything of the kind!" wailed Dick. "She was pertecting me. Ma hit me; and Lass-"

"Ed!" tearily proclaimed Mrs. Hazen, "if you don't send for a policeman to shoot that filthy beast, I'll-"

"Hold on!" interrupted the man, at a loss to catch the drift of these appeals, by reason of their all being spoken in a succession so rapid as to make a single blurred sentence. "Hold on! What's wrong? And where did the pup come from? He's a looker, all right a cute little cuss. What's the row?"

With the plangently useless iterations of a Greek chorus, the tale was flung at him, piecemeal and in chunks, and in a triple key. When presently he understood, Hazen looked down for a moment at the puppy-which was making sundry advances of a shy but friendly nature toward him. Then he looked at the boy, and noted Dick's hero-effort to choke back the onrush of babyish sobs. And then, with a roughly tolerant gesture, he silenced the two raucous women, who were beginning the tale over again for the third time.

"I see," he said. "I see. I see how it is. Needn't din it at me any more, folks. And I see Dicky's side of it, too. Yes, and I see the pup's side of it. I know a lot about dogs. That pup isn't vicious. She knows she belongs to Dick. You lammed into him, and she took up and defended him. That's all there is to the 'mad-dog' part of it."

"But Ed-" sputtered his wife.

"Now, you let ME do the talking, Sade!" he insisted, half-grinning, yet more than half grimly. "I'm the boss here. If I'm not, then it's safe to listen to me till the boss gets here. And we're goin' to do whatever I say we are-without any back-talk or sulks, either. It's this way: Your brother gave the boy a birthday check. We promised he could spend it any way he had a mind to. He said he wanted a dog, didn't he? And I said, 'Go to it!' didn't I? Well, he got the dog. Just because it happens to be a she, that's no reason why he oughtn't to be allowed to keep it. And he can. That goes."

"Oh, Dad!" squealed Dick in grateful heroworship. "You're a brick! I'm not ever going to forget this, so long as I live. Say, watch her shake hands, Dad! I've taught her, already, to-"

"Ed Hazen!" loudly protested his wife. "Of all the softies! You haven't backbone enough for a prune. And if my orders to my own son are going to be-"

"That'll be all, Sade!" interposed the man stiffly-adding: "By the way, I got a queer piece of news to tell you. Come into the kitchen a minute."

Grumbling, rebellious, scowling,-yet unable to resist the lure of a "queer piece of news," Mrs. Hazen followed her husband indoors, leaving Dick and his pet to gambol deliriously around the clothes-festooned yard in celebration of their victory.

"Listen here, old girl!" began Hazen the moment the kitchen door was shut behind them. "Use some sense, can't you? I gave you the wink, and you wouldn't catch on. So I had to make the grandstand play. I'm no more stuck on having a measly she-dog around here than you are. And we're not going to have her, either. But-"

"Then why did you say you were going to? Why did you make a fool of me before Irene and everything?" she demanded, wrathful yet bewildered.

"It's the boy's birthday, isn't it?" urged Hazen. "And I'd promised him, hadn't I? And, last time he had one of those 'turns,' didn't Doc Colfax say we mustn't let him fret and worry any more'n we could help? Well, if he had to take that dog back to-day, it'd have broke his heart. He'd have felt like we were his enemies, and he'd never have felt the same to us again. And it might have hurt his health too-the shock and all. So-"

"But I tell you," she persisted, "I won't have a dirty little female-"

"We aren't going to," he assured her. "Keep your hair on, till I've finished. Tonight, after Dick's asleep, I'm going to get rid of her. He'll wake up in the morning and find she's gone; and the door'll be open. He'll think she's run away. He'll go looking for her, and he'll keep on hoping to find her. So that'll ease the shock, you see, by letting him down bit by bit, instead of snatching his pet away from him violent-like. And he won't hold it up against US, either, as he would the other way. I can offer a reward for her, too."

There was a long and thought-crammed pause. The woman plunged deep into the silences as her fat brain wrought over the suggestion. Then-

"Maybe you HAVE got just a few grains of sense, after all, Ed," grudgingly vouchsafed Mrs. Hazen. "It isn't a bad idea. Only he'll grieve a lot for her."

"He'll be hoping, though," said her husband. "He'll be hoping all the while. That always takes the razor-edge off of grieving. Leave it to me."

That was the happiest day Dick Hazen had ever known. And it was the first actively happy day in all Lass's five months of life.

Boy and dog spent hours in a ramble through the woods. They began Lass's education-which was planned to include more intricate tricks than a performing elephant and a troupe of circus dogs could hope to learn in a lifetime. They became sworn chums. Dick talked to Lass as if she were human. She amazed the enraptured boy by her cleverness and spirits. His initiation to the dog-masters' guild was joyous and complete.

It was a tired and ravenous pair of friends who scampered home at dinner-time that evening. The pallor was gone from Dick's face. His cheeks were glowing, and his eyes shone. He ate greedily. His parents looked covertly at each other. And the self-complacency lines around Hazen's mouth blurred.

Boy and dog went to bed early, being blissfully sleepy and full of food-also because another and longer woodland ramble was scheduled for the morrow.

Timidly Dick asked leave to have Lass sleep on the foot of his cot-bed. After a second telegraphing of glances, his parents consented. Half an hour later the playmates were sound asleep, the puppy snuggling deep in the hollow of he

r master's arm, her furry head across his thin chest.

It was in this pose that Hazen found them when, late in the evening, he tiptoed into Dick's cubby-hole room. He gazed down at the slumberous pair for a space, while he fought and conquered an impulse toward fair play. Then he stooped to pick up the dog.

Lass, waking at the slight creak of a floorboard, lifted her head. At sight of the figure leaning above her adored master, the lip curled back from her white teeth. Far down in her throat a growl was born. Then she recognized the intruder as the man who had petted her and fed her that evening. The growl died in her throat, giving place to a welcoming thump or two of her bushy tail. Dick stirred uneasily.

Patting the puppy lightly on her upraised head, Hazen picked up Lass in his arms and tiptoed out of the room with her. Mistaking this move for a form of caress, she tried to lick his face. The man winced.

Downstairs and out into the street Hazen bore his trustful little burden, halting only to put on his hat, and for a whispered word with his wife. For nearly a mile he carried the dog. Lass greatly enjoyed the ride. She was pleasantly tired, and it was nice to be carried thus, by some one who was so considerate as to save her the bother of walking.

At the edge of the town, Hazen set her on the ground and at once began to walk rapidly away in the direction of home. He had gone perhaps fifty yards when Lass was gamboling merrily around his feet. A kick sent the dismayed and agonized puppy flying through the air like a whimpering catapult, and landed her against a bank with every atom of breath knocked out of her. Before she had fairly struck ground,-before she could look about her,-Hazen had doubled around a corner and had vanished.

At a run, he made for home, glad the unpleasant job was over. At the door his wife met him.

"Well," she demanded, "did you drown her in the canal, the way you said?"

"No," he confessed sheepishly, "I didn't exactly drown her. You see, she nestled down into my arms so cozy and trusting-like, that I-well, I fixed it so she'll never show up around here again. Trust me to do a job thoroughly, if I do it at all. I-"

A dramatic gesture from Mrs. Hazen's stubby forefinger interrupted him. He followed the finger's angry point. Close at his side stood Lass, wagging her tail and staring expectantly up at him.

With her keen power of scent, it had been no exploit at all to track the man over a mile of unfamiliar ground. Already she had forgiven the kick or had put it down to accident on his part. And at the end of her eager chase, she was eager for a word of greeting.

"I'll be-" gurgled Hazen, blinking stupidly.

"I guess you will be," conceded his wife. "If that's the 'thorough' way you do your jobs at the factory-"

"Say," he mumbled in a sort of wondering appeal, "is there any HUMAN that would like to trust a feller so much as to risk another ribcracking kick, just for the sake of being where he is? I almost wish-"

But the wish was unspoken. Hazen was a true American husband. He feared his wife more than he loved fairness. And his wife's glare was full upon him. With a grunt he picked Lass up by the neck, tucked her under his arm and made off through the dark.

He did not take the road toward the canal, however. Instead he made for the railroad tracks. He remembered how, as a lad, he had once gotten rid of a mangy cat, and he resolved to repeat the exploit. It was far more merciful to the puppy-or at least, to Hazen's conscience,-than to pitch Lass into the slimy canal with a stone tied to her neck.

A line of freight cars-"empties"-was on a siding, a short distance above the station. Hazen walked along the track, trying the door of each car he passed. The fourth he came to was unlocked. He slid back the newly greased side door, thrust Lass into the chilly and black interior and quickly slid shut the door behind her. Then with the silly feeling of having committed a crime, he stumbled away through the darkness at top speed.

A freight car has a myriad uses, beyond the carrying of legitimate freight. From time immemorial, it has been a favorite repository for all manner of illicit flotsam and jetsam human or otherwise.

Its popularity with tramps and similar derelicts has long been a theme for comic paper and vaudeville jest. Though, heaven knows, the inside of a moving box-car has few jocose features, except in the imagination of humorous artist or vaudevillian!

But a far more frequent use for such cars has escaped the notice of the public at large. As any old railroader can testify, trainhands are forever finding in box-cars every genus and species of stray.

These finds range all the way from cats and dogs and discarded white rabbits and canaries, to goats. Dozens of babies have been discovered, wailing and deserted, in box-car recesses; perhaps a hundred miles from the siding where, furtively, the tiny human bundle was thrust inside some conveniently unlatched side door.

A freight train offers glittering chances for the disposal of the Unwanted. More than once a slain man or woman has been sent along the line, in this grisly but effective fashion, far beyond the reach of recognition.

Hazen had done nothing original or new in depositing the luckless collie pup in one of these wheeled receptacles. He was but following an old-established custom, familiar to many in his line of life. There was no novelty to it,-except to Lass.

The car was dark and cold and smelly. Lass hated it. She ran to its door. Here she found a gleam of hope for escape and for return to the home where every one that day had been so kind to her. Hazen had shut the door with such vehemence that it had rebounded. The hasp was down, and so the catch had not done its duty. The door had slid open a few inches from the impetus of Hazen's shove.

It was not wide enough open to let Lass jump out, but it was wide enough for her to push her nose through. And by vigorous thrusting, with her triangular head as a wedge, she was able to widen the aperture, inch by inch. In less than three minutes she had broadened it far enough for her to wriggle out of the car and leap to the side of the track. There she stood bewildered.

A spring snow was drifting down from the sulky sky. The air was damp and penetrating. By reason of the new snow the scent of Hazen's departing footsteps was blotted out. Hazen himself was no longer in sight. As Lass had made the journey from house to tracks with her head tucked confidingly under her kidnaper's arm, she had not noted the direction. She was lost.

A little way down the track the station lights were shining with misty warmth through the snow. Toward these lights the puppy trotted.

Under the station eaves, and waiting to be taken aboard the almost-due eleven-forty express, several crates and parcels were grouped. One crate was the scene of much the same sort of escape-drama that Lass had just enacted.

The crate was big and comfortable, bedded down with soft sacking and with "insets" at either side containing food and water. But commodious as was the box, the unwonted confinement did not at all please its occupant-a temperamental and highly bred young collie in process of shipment from the Rothsay Kennels to a purchaser forty miles up the line.

This collie, wearying of the delay and the loneliness and the strange quarters, had begun to plunge from one side of the crate to the other in an effort to break out. A carelessly nailed slat gave away under the impact. The dog scrambled through the gap and proceeded to gallop homeward through the snow.

Ten seconds later, Lass, drawn by the lights and by the scent of the other dog, came to the crate. She looked in. There, made to order for her, was a nice bed. There, too, were food and drink to appease the ever-present appetite of a puppy. Lass writhed her way in through the gap as easily as the former occupant had crawled out.

After doing due justice to the broken puppy biscuits in the inset-trough, she curled herself up for a nap.

The clangor and glare of the oncoming express awakened her. She cowered in one corner of the crate. Just then two station-hands began to move the express packages out to the edge of the platform. One of them noticed the displaced board of the crate. He drove home its loosened nails with two sharp taps from a monkey-wrench, glanced inside to make certain the dog had not gotten out, and presently hoisted the crate aboard the express-car.

Two hours later the crate was unloaded at a waystation. At seven in the morning an expressman drove two miles with it to a country-home, a mile or so from the village where Lass had been disembarked from the train.

An eager knot of people-the Mistress, the Master and two gardeners-crowded expectantly around the crate as it was set down on the lawn in front of The Place's veranda. The latch was unfastened, and the crate's top was lifted back on its hinges.

Out stepped Lass,-tired, confused, a little frightened, but eagerly willing to make friends with a world which she still insisted on believing was friendly. It is hard to shake a collie pup's inborn faith in the friendliness of mankind, but once shaken, it is more than shaken. It is shattered beyond hope of complete mending.

For an instant she stood thus, looking in timid appeal from one to another of the faces about her. These faces were blank enough as they returned her gaze. The glad expectancy was wiped from them as with a sponge. It was the Master who first found voice.

"And THAT'S Rothsay Princess!" he snorted indignantly. "That's the pup worth two hundred dollars at eight months, 'because she has every single good point of Champion Rothsay Chief and not a flaw from nostril to tail-tip'! Rothsay wrote those very words about her, you remember. And he's supposed to be the most dependable man in the collie business! Lord! She's undersized-no bigger than a five monther! And she's prick-eared and apple-domed; and her head's as wide as a church door!"

Apparently these humans were not glad to see her. Lass was grieved at their cold appraisal and a little frightened by the Master's tone of disgust. Yet she was eager, as ever, to make a good impression and to lure people into liking her. Shyly she walked up to the Mistress and laid one white little paw on her knee.

Handshaking was Lass's one accomplishment. It had been taught her by Dick. It had pleased the boy. He had been proud of her ability to do it. Perhaps it might also please these strangers. And after the odd fashion of all new arrivals who came to The Place, Lass picked out the Mistress, rather than any one else, as a potential friend.

The Mistress had ever roused the impatience of collie experts by looking past the showier "points" of a dog and into the soul and brain and disposition that lay behind them. So now she looked; and what she saw in Lass's darkly wistful eyes established the intruder's status at The Place.

"Let her stay!" pleaded the Mistress as the Master growled something about bundling the dog into her crate again and sending her back to the Rothsay Kennels. "Let her stay, please! She's a dear."

"But we're not breeding 'dears,'" observed the Master. "We planned to breed a strain of perfect collies. And this is a mutt!"

"Her pedigree says there's no better collie blood in America," denied the Mistress. "And even if she happens to be a 'second,' that's no sign her puppies will be seconds. See how pretty and loving and wise she is. DO keep her!"

Which of course settled the matter.

Up the lawn, from his morning swim in the lake, strolled a great mahogany-and-white collie. At sight of Lass he lowered his head for a charge. He was king of The Place's dogs, this mighty thoroughbred, Sunnybank Lad. And he did not welcome canine intruders.

But he halted midway in his dash toward the puppy who frisked forth so gayly to meet him. For he recognized her as a female. And man is the only animal that will molest the female of his species.

The fiercely silent charge was changed in a trice to a coldly civil touching of noses, and the majestic wagging of a plumy tail. After which, side by side, the two collies-big and little-old and new-walked up to the veranda, to be petted by the humans who had so amusedly watched their encounter.

"See!" exclaimed the Mistress, in triumph. "Lad has accepted her. He vouches for her. That ought to be enough for any one!"

Thus it was that Lass found a home.

As she never yet had been taught to know her name, she learned readily to respond to the title of "Princess." And for several months life went on evenly and happily for her.

Indeed, life was always wondrous pleasant, there at The Place,-for humans and for animals alike. A fire-blue lake bordered the grounds on two sides. Behind stretched the forest. And on every side arose the soft green mountains, hemming in and brooding over The Place as though they loved it. In the winter evenings there was the huge library hearth with its blaze and warmth; and a disreputable fur rug in front of it that might have been ordained expressly for tired dogs to drowse on. And there were the Mistress and the Master. Especially the Mistress! The Mistress somehow had a way of making all the world seem worth while.

Then, of a morning, when Lass was just eleven months old, two things happened.

The Mistress and the Master went down to her kennel after breakfast. Lass did not run forth to greet them as usual. She lay still, wagging her tail in feeble welcome as they drew near. But she did not get up.

Crowding close to her tawny side was a tiny, shapeless creature that looked more like a fat blind rat than like anything else. It was a ten-hour-old collie pup-a male, and yellowish brown of hue.

"That's the climax!" complained the Master, breaking in on the Mistress's rhapsodies. "Here we've been planning to start a kennel of home-bred collies! And see what results we get! One solitary puppy! Not once in ten times are there less than six in a collie-litter. Sometimes there are a dozen. And here the dog you wheedled me into keeping has just one! I expected at least seven."

"If it's a freak to be the only puppy in a litter," answered the Mistress, refusing to part with her enthusiasm over the miracle, "then this one ought to bring us luck. Let's call him 'Bruce.' You remember, the original Bruce won because of the mystic number, seven. This Bruce has got to make up to us for the seven puppies that weren't born. See how proud she is of him! Isn't she a sweet little mother?"

The second of the morning's events was a visit from the foreman of the Rothsay Kennels, who motored across to The Place, intent on clearing up a mystery.

"The Boss found a collie yesterday, tied in the front yard of a negro cabin a mile or two from our kennels," he told the Master. "He recognized her right away as Rothsay Princess. The negro claims to have found her wandering around near the railroad tracks, one night, six months ago. Now, what's the answer?"

"The answer," said the Master, "is that your boss is mistaken. I've had Rothsay Princess for the past six months. And she's the last dog I'll ever get from the Rothsay Kennels. I was stung, good and plenty, on that deal.

"My wife wanted to keep her, or I'd have made a kick in the courts for having to pay two hundred dollars for a cheeky, apple-domed, prick eared-"

"Prick-eared!" exclaimed the foreman, aghast at the volleyed sacrilege. "Rothsay Princess has the best ears of any pup we've bred since Champion Rothsay Chief. Not a flaw in that pup. She-"

"Not a flaw, hey!" sniffed the Master. "Come down to the kennel and take a look at her. She has as many flaws as a street-cur has fleas."

He led the way to the kennel. At sight of the stranger Lass growled and showed her teeth. For a collie mother will let nobody but proven friends come near to her newborn brood.

The foreman stared at the hostile young mother for a half-minute, whistling bewilderedly between his teeth. Then he laughed aloud.

"That's no more Rothsay Princess than I am!" he declared. "I know who she IS, though. I'd remember that funny mask among a million. That's Rothsay Lass! Though how she got HERE-!

"We couldn't have shipped her by mistake, either," he went on, confused. "For we'd sold her, that same day, to a kid in our town. I ought to know. Because the kid kept on pestering us every day for a month afterward, to find if she had come back to us. He said she ran away in the night. He still comes around, once a week or so, to ask. A spindly, weak, sick-looking little chap, he is. I don't get the point of this thing, from any angle. But we run our kennels on the square. And I can promise the boss'll either send back your check or send Rothsay Princess to you and take Lass back."

Two days later, while all The Place was still mulling over the mystery, a letter came for the Master from Lass's home town. It was signed "Edw'd Hazen," and it was written on the cheap stationery of his employer's bottling works. It read:

Dear Sir:

"Six months ago, my son bought a dog from the Rothsay Kennels. It was a she-dog, and his ma and I didn't want one around. So I put it aboard a freight-car on the sly. My boy went sick over losing his dog. He has never rightly got over it, but he peaks and mopes and gets thinner all the time. If I had known how hard he was going to take it, I would of cut off my hand before I would of done such a thing. And my wife feels just like I do about it. We would both of us have given a hundred dollars to get the dog back for him, when we saw how bad he felt. But it was too late. Somehow or other it is most generally too late when a rotten thing has been done.

"To-day he went again to the Rothsay Kennels to ask if she had come back. He has always been hoping she would. And they told him you have her. Now, sir, I am a poor man, but if one hundred dollars will make you sell me that dog, I'll send it to you in a money order by return mail. It will be worth ten times that much, to my wife and me, to have Dick happy again. I inclose a stamp. Will you let me know?"

Six weeks afterward The Place's car brought Dick Hazen across to receive his long-lost pet.

The boy was thinner and shakier and whiter than when he had gone to sleep with his cherished puppy curled against his narrow chest. But there was a light in his eyes and an eagerness in his heart that had not been there in many a long week.

Lass was on the veranda to welcome him. And as Dick scrambled out of the car and ran to pick her up, she came more than half-way to meet him. With a flurry of fast-pattering steps and a bark of eager welcome, she flung herself upon her long-vanished master. For a highbred collie does not forget. And at first glimpse of the boy Lass remembered him.

Dick caught her up in his arms-a harder feat than of yore, because of her greater weight and his own sapped strength,-and hugged her tight to his breast. Winking very fast indeed to disperse tears that had no place in the eyes of a self-contained man of twelve, he sputtered rapturously:

"I KNEW I'd find you, Lassie-I knew it all the time;-even the times when I was deadsure I wouldn't! Gee, but you've grown, though! And you're beautifuler than ever. Isn't she, Miss?" he demanded, turning to the Mistress with instinctive knowledge that here at least he would find confirmation. "Indeed she is!" the Mistress assured him.

"And see how glad she is to be with you again! She-"

"And Dad says she can stay with me, for keeps!" exulted Dick. "He says he'll put a new lock on the cellar door, so she can't ever push out again, the way she did, last time. But I guess she's had her lesson in going out for walks at night and not being able to find her way back. She and I are going to have the dandiest times together, that ever happened. Aren't we, Lass? Is that her little boy?" he broke off, in eager curiosity, as the Master appeared from the kennels, carrying Bruce.

The puppy was set down on the veranda floor for Dick's inspection.

"He's cunning, isn't he? Kind of like a Teddy Bear,-the sort kids play with. But," with a tinge of worry, "I'm not sure Ma will let me keep two. Maybe-"

"Perhaps," suggested the Mistress, "perhaps you'd like us to keep little Bruce, to remember Lass by? We'll try to make him very happy."

"Yes'm!" agreed Dick, in much haste, his brow clearing from a mental vision of Mrs. Hazen's face when she should see him return with twice as many dogs as he had set out for. "Yes'm. If you wouldn't mind, very much. S'pose we leave it that way? I guess Bruce'll like being with you, Miss. I-I guess pretty near anybody would. You'll-you'll try not to be too homesick for Lass, won't you?"

On the steps of the veranda the downy and fat puppy watched his mother's departure with no especial interest. By the Mistress's wish, Mr. Hazen had not been required to make any part of his proffered hundred-dollar payment for the return of his boy's pet. All the Mistress had stipulated was that Lass might be allowed to remain at The Place until baby Bruce should no longer need her.

"Bruce," said the Mistress as the car rolled up the drive and out of sight, "you are the sole visible result of The Place's experiment in raising prize collies. You have a tremendous responsibility on those fat little shoulders of yours,-to live up to it all."

By way of showing his scorn for such trifles as a "tremendous responsibility," Bruce proceeded to make a ferocious onslaught at the Mistress's temperamental gray Persian kitten, "Tipperary," which was picking a mincing way across the veranda.

A howl of pain and two scratches on his tiny nose immediately followed the attack. Tipperary then went on with her mincing promenade. And Bruce, with loud lamentations, galloped to the shelter of the Mistress's skirt.

"Poor little chap!" soothed the Mistress, picking him up and comforting him. "Responsibility isn't such a joke, after all, is it, Baby?"

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