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Bruce By Albert Payson Terhune Characters: 32340

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


"Yes, it's an easy enough trade to pick up," lectured Top-Sergeant Mahan, formerly of the regular army. "You've just got to remember a few things. But you've got to keep on remembering those few, all the time. If you forget one of 'em, it's the last bit of forgetting you're ever likely to do."

Top-Sergeant Mahan, of the mixed French-and-American regiment known as "Here-We-Come," was squatting at ease on the trench firing-step. From that professorial seat he was dispensing useful knowledge to a group of fellow-countrymen-newly arrived from the base, to pad the "Here-We-Come" ranks, which had been thinned at the Rache attack.

"What sort of things have we got to remember, Sergeant?" jauntily asked a lanky Missourian. "We've got the drill pretty pat; and the trench instructions and-"

"Gee!" ejaculated Mahan. "I had no idea of that! Then why don't you walk straight ahead into Berlin? If you know all you say you do, about war, there's nothing more for you to learn. I'll drop a line to General Foch and suggest to him that you rookies be detailed to teach the game to us oldsters."

"I didn't mean to be fresh," apologized the jaunty one. "Won't you go ahead and tell us the things we need to remember?"

"Well," exhorted Mahan, appeased by the newcomer's humility, "there aren't so many of them, after all. Learn to duck, when you hear a Minnie grunt or a whizzbang cut loose; or a five-nine begin to whimper. Learn not to bother to duck when the rifles get to jabbering-for you'll never hear the bullet that gets you. Study the nocturnal habits of machine-guns and the ways of snipers and the right time not to play the fool. And keep saying to yourself: 'The bullet ain't molded that can get ME!' Mean it when you say it. When you've learned those few things, the rest of the war-game is dead easy."

"Except," timidly amended old Sergeant Vivier, the gray little Frenchman, "except when eyes are-are what you call it, no use." "That's right," assented Mahan. "In the times when eyes are no use, all rules fail. And then the only thing you can do is to trust to your Yankee luck. I remember-"

"'When eyes are no use'?" repeated the recruit. "If you mean after dark, at night-haven't we got the searchlights and the starshells and all that?"

"Son," replied Mahan, "we have. Though I don't see how you ever guessed such an important secret. But since you know everything, maybe you'll just kindly tell us what good all the lights in the world are going to do us when the filthy yellow-gray fog begins to ooze up out of the mud and the shell-holes, and the filthy gray mist oozes down from the clouds to meet it. Fog is the one thing that all the war-science won't overcome. A fogpenetrator hasn't been invented yet. If it had been, there'd be many a husky lad living today, who has gone West, this past few years, on account of the fogs. Fog is the boche's pet. It gives Fritzy a lovely chance to creep up or, us. It-"

"It is the helper of US, too," suggested old Vivier. "More than one time, it has kept me safe when I was on patrol. And did it not help to save us at Rache, when-"

"The fog may have helped us, one per cent, at Rache," admitted Mahan. "But Bruce did ninety-nine per cent of the saving."

"A Scotch general?" asked the recruit, as Vivier nodded cordial affirmation of Mahan's words, and as others of the old-timers muttered approval.

"No," contradicted Mahan. "A Scotch collie. If you were dry behind the ears, in this life, you wouldn't have to ask who Bruce is."

"I don't understand," faltered the rookie, suspicious of a possible joke.

"You will soon," Mahan told him. "Bruce will be here to-day. I heard the K.O. saying the big dog is going to be sent down with some dispatches or something, from headquarters. It's his first trip since he was cut up so."

"I am saving him-this!" proclaimed Vivier, disgorging from the flotsam of his pocket a lump of once-white sugar. "My wife, she smuggle three of these to me in her last paquet. One I eat in my cafe noir; one I present to mon cher vieux, ce bon Mahan; one I keep for the grand dog what save us all that day."

"What's the idea?" queried the mystified rookie. "I don't-"

"We were stuck in the front line of the Rache salient," explained Mahan, eager to recount his dog-friend's prowess. "On both sides our supports got word to fall back. We couldn't get the word, because our telephone connection was knocked galley-west. There we were, waiting for a Hun attack to wipe us out. We couldn't fall back, for they were peppering the hillslope behind us. We were at the bottom. They'd have cut us to ribbons if we'd shown our carcasses in the open. Bruce was here, with a message he'd brought. The K.O. sent him back to headquarters for the reserves. The boche heavies and snipers and machine-guns all cut loose to stop him as he scooted up the hill. And a measly giant of a German police dog tried to kill him, too. Bruce got through the lot of them; and he reached headquarters with the SOS call that saved us. The poor chap was cut and gouged and torn by bullets and shell-scraps, and he was nearly dead from shell-shock, too. But the surgeon general worked over him, himself, and pulled him back to life. He-"

"He is a loved pet of a man and a woman in your America, I have heard one say," chimed in Vivier. "And his home, there, was in the quiet country. He was lent to the cause, as a patriotic offering, ce brave! And of a certainty, he has earned his welcome."

When Bruce, an hour later, trotted into the trenches, on the way to the "Here-We-Come" colonel's quarters, he was received like a visiting potentate. Dozens of men hailed him eagerly by name as he made his way to his destination with the message affixed to his collar.

Many of these men were his well-remembered friends and comrades. Mahan and Vivier, and one or two more, he had grown to like-as well as he could like any one in that land of horrors, three thousand miles away from The Place, where he was born, and from the Mistress and the Master, who were his loyally worshiped gods.

Moreover, being only mortal and afflicted with a hearty appetite, Bruce loved the food and other delicacies the men were forever offering him as a variation on the stodgy fare dished out to him and his fellow war-dogs.

As much to amuse and interest the soldiers whose hero he was, as for any special importance in the dispatch he carried, Bruce had been sent now to the trenches of the Here-We-Comes. It was his first visit to the regiment he had saved, since the days of the Rache assault two months earlier. Thanks to supremely clever surgery and to tender care, the dog was little the worse for his wounds. His hearing gradually had come back. In one shoulder he had a very slight stiffness which was not a limp, and a new-healed furrow scarred the left side of his tawny coat. Otherwise he was as good as new.

As Bruce trotted toward the group that so recently had been talking of him, the Missouri recruit watched with interest for the dog's joy at this reunion with his old friends. Bruce's snowy chest and black-stippled coat were fluffed out by many recent baths. His splendid head high and his dark eyes bright, the collie advanced toward the group.

Mahan greeted him joyously. Vivier stretched out a hand which displayed temptingly the long-hoarded lump of sugar. A third man produced, from nowhere in particular, a large and meat-fringed soup-bone.

"I wonder which of you he'll come to, first," said the interested Missourian.

The question was answered at once, and right humiliatingly. For Bruce did not falter in his swinging stride as he came abreast of the group. Not by so much as a second glance did he notice Mahan's hail and the tempting food.

As he passed within six inches of the lump of sugar which Vivier was holding out to him, the dog's silken ears quivered slightly, sure sign of hard-repressed emotion in a thoroughbred collie,-but he gave no other manifestation that he knew any one was there.

"Well, I'll be blessed!" snickered the Missourian in high derision, as Bruce passed out of sight around an angle of the trench. "So that's the pup who is such a pal of you fellows, is he? Gee, but it was a treat to see how tickled he was to meet you again!"

To the rookie's amazement none of his hearers seemed in the least chagrined over the dogs chilling disregard of them. Instead, Mahan actually grunted approbation.

"He'll be back," prophesied the Sergeant. "Don't you worry. He'll be back. We ought to have had more sense than try to stop him when he's on duty. He has better discipline than the rest of us. That's one of very first things they teach a courier-dog-to pay no attention to anybody, when he's on dispatch duty. When Bruce has delivered his message to the K.O., he'll have the right to hunt up his chums. And no one knows it better'n Bruce himself."

"It was a sin-a thoughtlessness-of me to hold the sugar at him," said old Vivier. "Ah, but he is a so good soldier, ce brave Bruce! He look not to the left nor yet to the right, nor yet to the so-desired sugar-lump. He keep his head at attention! All but the furry tips of his ears. Them he has not yet taught to be good soldiers. They tremble, when he smell the sugar and the good soup-bone. They quiver like the little leaf. But he keep on. He-"

There was a scurry of fast-cantering feet. Around the angle of the trench dashed Bruce. Head erect, soft dark eyes shining with a light of gay mischief, he galloped up to the grinning Sergeant Vivier and stood. The dog's great plume of a tail was wagging violently. His tulip ears were cocked. His whole interest in life was fixed on the precious lump of sugar which Vivier held out to him.

From puppyhood, Bruce had adored lump sugar. Even at The Place, sugar had been a rarity for him, for the Mistress and the Master had known the damage it can wreak upon a dog's teeth and digestion. Yet, once in a while, as a special luxury, the Mistress had been wont to give him a solitary lump of sugar.

Since his arrival in France, the dog had never seen nor scented such a thing until now. Yet he did not jump for the gift. He did not try to snatch it from Vivier. Instead, he waited until the old Frenchman held it closer toward him, with the invitation:

"Take it, mon vieux! It is for you."

Then and then only did Bruce reach daintily forward and grip the grimy bit of sugar between his mighty jaws. Vivier stroked the collie's head while Bruce wagged his tail and munched the sugar and blinked gratefully up at the donor. Mahan looked on, enviously. "A dog's got forty-two teeth, instead of the thirty-two that us humans have to chew on," observed the Sergeant. "A vet' told me that once. And sugar is bad for all forty-two of 'em. Maybe you didn't know that, Monsoo Vivier? Likely, at this rate, we'll have to chip in before long and buy poor Brucie a double set of false teeth. Just because you've put his real ones out of business with lumps of sugar!"

Vivier looked genuinely concerned at this grim forecast. Bruce wandered across to the place where the donor of the soup-bone brandished his offering. Other men, too, were crowding around with gifts.

Between petting and feeding, the collie spent a busy hour among his comrades-at-arms. He was to stay with the "Here-We-Comes" until the following day, and then carry back to headquarters a reconnaissance report.

At four o'clock that afternoon the sky was softly blue and the air was unwontedly clear. By five o'clock a gentle India-summer haze blurred the world's sharper outlines. By six a blanket-fog rolled in, and the air was wetly unbreatheable. The fog lay so thick over the soggy earth that objects ten feet away were invisible.

"This," commented Sergeant Mahan, "is one of the times I was talking about this morning-when eyes are no use. This is sure the country for fogs, in war-time. The cockneys tell me the London fogs aren't a patch on 'em."

The "Here-We-Comes" were encamped, for the while, at the edge of a sector from whence all military importance had recently been removed by a convulsive twist of a hundred-mile battle-front. In this dull hole-in-a-corner the new-arrived rivets were in process of welding into the more veteran structure of the mixed regiment.

Not a quarter-mile away-across No Man's Land and athwart two barriers of barbed wire-lay a series of German trenches. Now, in all probability, and from all outward signs, the occupants of this boche position consisted only of a regiment or two which had been so badly cut up, in a foiled drive, as to need a month of non-exciting routine before going back into more perilous service.

Yet the commander of the division to which the "Here-We-Comes" were attached did not trust to probabilities nor to outward signs. He had been at the front long enough to realize that the only thing likely to happen was the thing which seemed unlikeliest. And he felt a morbid curiosity to learn more about the personnel of those dormant German trenches.

Wherefore he had sent an order that a handful of the "Here-We-Comes" go forth into No Man's Land, on the first favorable night, and try to pick up a boche prisoner or two for questioning-purposes. A scouring of the doubly wired area between the hostile lines might readily harvest some solitary sentinel or some other man on special duty, or even the occupants of a listening-post. And the division commander earnestly desired to question such prisoner or prisoners. The fog furnished an ideal night for such an expedition.

Thus it was that a very young lieutenant and Sergeant Mahan and ten privates-the lanky Missourian among them-were detailed for the prisoner-seeking job. At eleven o'clock, they crept over the top, single file.

It was a night wherein a hundred searchlights and a million star-flares would not have made more impression on the density of the fog than would the striking of a safety match. Yet the twelve reconnoiterers were instructed to proceed in the cautious manner customary to such nocturnal expeditions into No Man's Land. They moved forward at the lieutenant's order, tiptoeing abreast, some twenty feet apart from one another, and advancing in three-foot strides. At every thirty steps the entire line was required to halt and to reestablish contact-in other words, to "dress" on the lieutenant, who was at the extreme right.

This maneuver was more time-wasting and less simple than its recital would imply. For in the dark, unaccustomed legs are liable to miscalculation in the matter of length of stride, even when shell-holes and other inequalities of ground do not complicate the calculations still further. And it is hard to maintain a perfectly straight line when moving forward through choking fog and over scores of obstacles.

The halts for realignment consumed much time and caused no little confusion. Nervousness began to encompass the Missouri recruit. He was as brave as the next man. But there is something creepy about walking with measured tread through an invisible space, with no sound but the stealthy pad-pad-pad of equally hesitant footsteps twenty feet away on either side. The Missourian was grateful for the intervals that brought the men into mutual contact, as the eerie march continued.

The first line of barbed wire was cut and passed. Then followed an endless groping progress across No Man's Land, and several delays, as one man or another had trouble in finding contact with his neighbor.

At last the party came to the German wires. The lieutenant had drawn on a rubber glove. In his gloved hand he grasped a strip of steel which he held in front of him, like a wand, fanning the air with it.

As he came to the entanglement, he probed the barbed wire carefully with his wand, watching for an ensuing spark. For the Germans more than once had been known to electrify their wires, with fatal results to luckless prowlers.

These wires, to-night, were not charged. And, with pliers, the lieutenant and Mahan started to cut a passageway through them.

As the very first strand parted under his pressure, Mahan laid on

e hand warningly on the lieutenant's sleeve, and then passed the same prearranged warning down the line to the left.

Silence-moveless, tense, sharply listening silence-followed his motion. Then the rest of the party heard the sound which Mahan's keener ears had caught a moment earlier-the thud of many marching feet. Here was no furtive creeping, as when the twelve Yankees had moved along. Rather was it the rhythmic beat of at least a hundred pairs of shapeless army boots-perhaps of more. The unseen marchers were moving wordlessly, but with no effort at muffling the even tread of their multiple feet.

"They're coming this way!" breathed Sergeant Mahan almost without sound, his lips close to the excited young lieutenant's ear. "And they're not fifty paces off. That means they're boches. So near the German wire, our men would either be crawling or else charging, not marching! It's a company-maybe a battalion-coming back from a reconnaissance, and making for a gap in their own wire some where near here. If we lay low there's an off chance they may pass us by."

Without awaiting the lieutenant's order, Mahan passed along the signal for every man to drop to earth and lie there. He all but forced the eagerly gesticulating lieutenant to the ground.

On came the swinging tread of the Germans. Mahan, listening breathlessly, tried to gauge the distance and the direction. He figured, presently, that the break the Germans had made in their wire could be only a few yards below the spot where he and the lieutenant had been at work with the pliers. Thus the intruders, from their present course, must inevitably pass very close to the prostrate Americans-so close, perhaps, as to brush against the nearest of them, or even to step on one or more of the crouching figures.

Mahan whispered to the man on his immediate left, the rookie from Missouri:

"Edge closer to the wire-close as you can wiggle, and lie flat. Pass on the word."

The Missourian obeyed. Before writhing his long body forward against the bristly mass of wire he passed the instructions on to the man at his own left.

But his nerves were at breaking-point.

It had been bad enough to crawl through the blind fog, with the ghostly steps of his comrades pattering softly at either side of him. But it was a thousand times harder to lie helpless here, in the choking fog and on the soaked ground, while countless enemies were bearing down, unseen, upon him, on one side, and an impenetrable wire cut off his retreat on the other.

The Missourian had let his imagination begin to work; always a mistake in a private soldier. He was visualizing the moment when this tramping German force should become aware of the presence of their puny foes and should slaughter them against the merciless wires. It would not be a fair stand-up fight, this murder-rush of hundreds of men against twelve who were penned in and could not maneuver nor escape. And the thought of it was doing queer things to the rookie's overwrought nerves.

Having passed the word to creep closer to the wires, he began to execute the order in person, with no delay at all. But he was a fraction of a second too late. The Germans were moving in hike-formation with "points" thrown out in advance to either side-a "point" being a private soldier who, for scouting and other purposes, marches at some distance from the main body.

The point, ahead of the platoon, had swerved too far to the left, in the blackness-an error that would infallibly have brought him up against the wires, with considerable force, in another two steps. But the Missourian was between him and the wires. And the point's heavy-shod foot came down, heel first, on the back of the rookie's out-groping hand. Such a crushing impact, on the hand-back, is one of the most agonizing minor injuries a man can sustain. And this fact the Missourian discovered with great suddenness.

His too-taut nerves forced from his throat a yell that split the deathly stillness with an ear-piercing vehemence. He sprang to his feet, forgetful of orders intent only on thrusting his bayonet through the Hun who had caused such acute torture to his hand. Half way up, the rookie's feet went out from under him in the slimy mud. He caromed against the point, then fell headlong.

The German, doubtless thinking he had stumbled upon a single stray American scout, whirled his own rifle aloft, to dash out the brains of his luckless foe. But before the upflung butt could descend,-before the rookie could rise or dodge,-the point added his quota to the rude breaking of the night's silence. He screamed in panic terror, dropped his brandished gun and reeled backward, clawing at his own throat.

For out of the eerie darkness, something had launched itself at him-something silent and terrible, that had flown to the Missourian's aid. Down with a crash went the German, on his back. He rolled against the Missourian, who promptly sought to grapple with him.

But even as he clawed for the German, the rookie's nerves wrung from him a second yell-this time less of rage than of horror.

"Sufferin' cats!" he bellowed. "Why didn't anybody ever tell me Germans was covered with fur instead of clothes?"

The boche platoon was no longer striding along in hike-formation. It was broken up into masses of wildly running men, all of them bearing down upon the place whence issued this ungodly racket and turmoil. Stumbling, reeling, blindly falling and rising again, they came on.

Some one among them loosed a rifle-shot in the general direction of the yelling. A second and a third German rifleman followed the example of the first. From the distant American trenches, one or two snipers began to pepper away toward the enemy lines, though the fog was too thick for them, to see the German rifle-flashes.

The boches farthest to the left, in the blind rush, fouled with the wires. German snipers, from behind the Hun parapets, opened fire. A minute earlier the night had been still as the grave. Now it fairly vibrated with clangor. All because one rookie's nerves had been less staunch than his courage, and because that same rookie had not only had his hand stepped on in the dark, but had encountered something swirling and hairy when he grabbed for the soldier who had stepped on him!

The American lieutenant, at the onset of the clamor, sprang to his feet, whipping out his pistol; his dry lips parted in a command to charge-a command which, naturally, would have reduced his eleven men and himself to twelve corpses or to an equal number of mishandled prisoners within the next few seconds. But a big hand was clapped unceremoniously across the young officer's mouth, silencing the half-spoken suicidal order.

Sergeant Mahan's career in the regular army had given him an almost uncanny power of sizing up his fellowmen. And he had long ago decided that this was the sort of thing his untried lieutenant would be likely to do, in just such an emergency. Wherefore his flagrant breach of discipline in shoving his palm across the mouth of his superior officer.

And as he was committing this breach of discipline, he heard the Missourian's strangled gasp of:

"Why didn't anybody ever tell me Germans was covered with fur?"

In a flash Mahan understood. Wheeling, he stooped low and flung out both arms in a wide-sweeping circle. Luckily his right hand's fingertips, as they completed the circle, touched something fast-moving and furry.

"Bruce!" he whispered fiercely, tightening his precarious grip on the wisp of fur his fingers had touched. "Bruce! Stand still, boy! It's YOU who's got to get us clear of this! Nobody else, short of the good Lord, can do it!"

Bruce had had a pleasantly lazy day with his friends in the first-line trenches. There had been much good food and more petting. And at last, comfortably tired of it all, he had gone to sleep. He had awakened in a most friendly mood, and a little hungry. Wherefore he had sallied forth in search of human companionship. He found plenty of soldiers who were more than willing to talk to him and make much of him. But, a little farther ahead, he saw his good friend, Sergeant Mahan, and others of his acquaintances, starting over the parapet on what promised to be a jolly evening stroll.

All dogs find it hard to resist the mysterious lure of a walk in human companionship. True, the night was not an ideal one for a ramble, and the fog had a way of congealing wetly on Bruce's shaggy coat. Still, a damp coat was not enough of a discomfort to offset the joy of a stroll with his friends. So Bruce had followed the twelve men quietly into No Man's Land, falling decorously into step behind Mahan.

It had not been much of a walk, for speed or for fun. For the humans went ridiculously slowly, and had an eccentric way of bunching together, every now and again, and then of stringing out into a shambling line. Still, it was a walk, and therefore better than loafing behind in the trenches. And Bruce had kept his noiseless place at the Sergeant's heels.

Then-long before Mahan heard the approaching tramp of feet-Bruce caught not only the sound but the scent of the German platoon. The scent at once told him that the strangers were not of his own army. A German soldier and an American soldier-because of their difference in diet as well as for certain other and more cogent reasons-have by no means the same odor, to a collie's trained scent, nor to that of other breeds of war-dogs. Official records of dog-sentinels prove that.

Aliens were nearing Bruce's friends. And the dog's ruff began to stand up. But Mahan and the rest seemed in no way concerned in spirit thereby-though, to the dog's understanding, they must surely be aware of the approach. So Bruce gave no further sign of displeasure. He was out for a walk, as a guest. He was not on sentry-duty.

But when the nearest German was almost upon them, and all twelve Americans dropped to the ground, the collie became interested once more. A German stepped on the hand of one of his newest friends. And the friend yelled in pain. Whereat the German made as if to strike the stepped-on man.

This was quite enough for loyal Bruce. Without so much as a growl of warning, he jumped at the offender.

Dog and man tumbled earthward together. Then after an instant of flurry and noise, Bruce felt Mahan's fingers on his shoulder and heard the stark appeal of Mahan's whispered voice. Instantly the dog was a professional soldier once more-alertly obedient and resourceful.

"Catch hold my left arm, Lieutenant!" Mahan was exhorting. "Close up, there, boys-every man's hand grabbing tight to the shoulder of the man on his left! Pass the word. And you, Missouri, hang onto the Lieutenant! Quick, there! And tread soft and tread fast, and don't let go, whatever happens! Not a sound out of any one! I'm leading the way. And Bruce is going to lead me."

There was a scurrying scramble as the men groped for one another. Mahan tightened his hold on Bruce's mane.

"Bruce!" he said, very low, but with a strength of appeal that was not lost on the listening dog. "Bruce! Camp! Back to CAMP! And keep QUIET! Back to camp, boy! CAMP!"

He had no need to repeat his command so often and so strenuously. Bruce was a trained courier. The one word "Camp!" was quite enough to tell him what he was to do.

Turning, he faced the American lines and tried to break into a gallop. His scent and his knowledge of direction were all the guides he needed. A dog always relies on his nose first and his eyes last. The fog was no obstacle at all to the collie. He understood the Sergeant's order, and he set out at once to obey it.

But at the very first step, he was checked. Mahan did not release that feverishly tight hold on his mane, but merely shifted to his collar.

Bruce glanced back, impatient at the delay. But Mahan did not let go. Instead he said once more:

"CAMP, boy!"

And Bruce understood he was expected to make his way to camp, with Mahan hanging on to his collar.

Bruce did not enjoy this mode of locomotion. It was inconvenient, and there seemed no sense in it; but there were many things about this strenuous war-trade that Bruce neither enjoyed nor comprehended, yet which he performed at command.

So again he turned campward, Mahan at his collar and an annoyingly hindering tail of men stumbling silently on behind them. All around were the Germans-butting drunkenly through the blanket-dense fog, swinging their rifles like flails, shouting confused orders, occasionally firing. Now and then two or more of them would collide and would wrestle in blind fury, thinking they had encountered an American.

Impeded by their own sightlessly swarming numbers, as much as by the impenetrable darkness, they sought the foe. And but for Bruce they must quickly have found what they sought. Even in compact form, the Americans could not have had the sheer luck to dodge every scattered contingent of Huns which starred the German end of No Man's Land-most of them between the fugitives and the American lines.

But Bruce was on dispatch duty. It was his work to obey commands and to get back to camp at once. It was bad enough to be handicapped by Mahan's grasp on his collar. He was not minded to suffer further delay by running into any of the clumps of gesticulating and cabbage-reeking Germans between him and his goal. So he steered clear of such groups, making several wide detours in order to do so. Once or twice he stopped short to let some of the Germans grope past him, not six feet away. Again he veered sharply to the left-increasing his pace and forcing Mahan and the rest to increase theirs-to avoid a squad of thirty men who were quartering the field in close formation, and who all but jostled the dog as they strode sightlessly by. An occasional rifle-shot spat forth its challenge. From both trench-lines men were firing at a venture. A few of the bullets sang nastily close to the twelve huddled men and their canine leader. Once a German, not three yards away, screamed aloud and fell sprawling and kicking, as one such chance bullet found him. Above and behind, sounded the plop of star-shells sent up by the enemy in futile hope of penetrating the viscid fog. And everywhere was heard the shuffle and stumbling of innumerable boots.

At last the noise of feet began to die away, and the uneven groping tread of the twelve Americans to sound more distinctly for the lessening of the surrounding turmoil. And in another few seconds Bruce came to a halt-not to an abrupt stop, as when he had allowed an enemy squad to pass in front of him, but a leisurely checking of speed, to denote that he could go no farther with the load he was helping to haul.

Mahan put out his free hand. It encountered the American wires. Bruce had stopped at the spot where the party had cut a narrow path through the entanglement on the outward journey. Alone, the dog could easily have passed through the gap, but he could not be certain of pulling Mahan with him. Wherefore the halt.

* * *

The last of the twelve men scrambled down to safety, in the American first-line trench, Bruce among them. The lieutenant went straight to his commanding officer, to make his report. Sergeant Mahan went straight to his company cook, whom he woke from a snoreful sleep. Presently Mahan ran back to where the soldiers were gathered admiringly around Bruce.

The Sergeant carried a chunk of fried beef, for which he had just given the cook his entire remaining stock of cigarettes.

"Here you are, Bruce!" he exclaimed. "The best in the shop is none too good for the dog that got us safe out of that filthy mess. Eat hearty!"

Bruce did not so much as sniff at the (more or less) tempting bit of meat. Coldly he looked up at Mahan. Then, with sensitive ears laid flat against his silken head, in token of strong contempt, he turned his back on the Sergeant and walked away.

Which was Bruce's method of showing what he thought of a human fool who would give him a command and who would then hold so tightly to him that the dog could hardly carry out the order.

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