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   Chapter 5 5

Bruce By Albert Payson Terhune Characters: 32787

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


In the background lay a landscape that had once been beautiful. In the middle distance rotted a village that had once been alive. In the foreground stood an edifice that had once been a church. The once-beautiful landscape had the look of a gigantic pockmarked face, so scored was it by shell-scar and crater. Its vegetation was swept away. Its trees were shattered stumps. Its farmsteads were charred piles of rubble.

The village was unlike the general landscape, in that it had never been beautiful. In spite of globe-trotters' sentimental gush, not all villages of northern France were beautiful. Many were built for thrift and for comfort and for expediency; not for architectural or natural loveliness.

But this village of Meran-en-Laye was not merely deprived of what beauty it once might or might not have possessed. Except by courtesy it was no longer a village at all. It was a double row of squalid ruins, zig-zagging along the two sides of what was left of its main street. Here and there a cottage or tiny shop or shed was still habitable. The rest was debris.

The church in the foreground was recognizable as such by the shape and size of its ragged walls, and by a half-smashed image of the Virgin and Child which slanted out at a perilous angle above its fa?ade.

Yet, miserable as the ruined hamlet seemed to the casual eye, it was at present a vacation-resort-and a decidedly welcome one-to no less than three thousand tired men. The wrecked church was an impromptu hospital beneath whose shattered roof dozens of these men lay helpless on makeshift cots.

For the mixed American and French regiment known as the "Here-We-Comes" was billeted at Meran-en-Laye during a respite from the rigors and perils of the front-line trenches.

The rest and the freedom from risks, supposed to be a part of the "billeting" system, were not wholly the portion of the "Here-We Comes." Meran-en-Laye was just then a somewhat important little speck on the warmap.

The Germans had been up to their favorite field sport of trying to split in half two of the Allied armies, and to roll up each, independently. The effort had been a failure; yet it had come so near to success that many railway communications were cut off or deflected. And Meran-en-Laye had for the moment gained new importance, by virtue of a spur railway-line which ran through its outskirts and which made junction with a new set of tracks the American engineers were completing. Along this transverse of roads much ammunition and food and many fighting men were daily rushed.

The safety of the village had thus become of much significance. While it was too far behind the lines to be in grave danger of enemy raids, yet such danger existed to some extent. Wherefore the presence of the "Here-We-Comes"-for the paradoxical double purpose of "resting up" and of guarding the railway Function.

Still, it was better than trench-work; and the "Here-We-Comes" enjoyed it-for a day or so. Then trouble had set in.

A group of soldiers were lounging on the stone seat in front of the village estaminet. Being off duty, they were reveling in that popular martial pastime known to the Tommy as "grousing" and to the Yankee doughboy as "airing a grouch."

Top-Sergeant Mahan, formerly of the regular army, was haranguing the others. Some listened approvingly, others dissentingly and others not at all.

"I tell you," Mahan declared for the fourth time, "somebody's double-crossing us again. There's a leak. And if they don't find out where it is, a whole lot of good men and a million dollars' worth of supplies are liable to spill out through that same leak. It-"

"But," argued his crony, old Sergeant Vivier, in his hard-learned English, "but it may all be of a chance, mon vieux. It may, not be the doubled cross,-whatever a doubled cross means,-but the mere chance. Such things often-"

"Chance, my grandmother's wall-eyed cat!" snorted Mahan. "Maybe it might have been chance-when this place hadn't been bombed for a month-for a whole flight of boche artillery and airship grenades to cut loose against it the day General Pershing happened to stop here for an hour on his way to Chateau-Thierry. Maybe that was chance-though I know blamed well it wasn't. Maybe it was chance that the place wasn't bombed again till two days ago, when that troop-train had to spend such a lot of time getting shunted at the junction. Maybe it was chance that the church, over across the street, hadn't been touched since the last drive, till our regiment's wounded were put in it-and that it's been hit three times since then. Maybe any one of those things-and of a dozen others was chance. But it's a cinch that ALL of them weren't chance. Chance doesn't work that way. I-"

"Perhaps," doubtfully assented old Vivier, "perhaps. But I little like to believe it. For it means a spy. And a spy in one's midst is like to a snake in one's blankets. It is a not pleasing comrade. And it stands in sore need of killing."

"There's spies everywhere," averred Mahan. "That's been proved often enough. So why not here? But I wish to the Lord I could lay hands on him! If this was one of the little sheltered villages, in a valley, his work would be harder. And the boche airships and the long-rangers wouldn't find us such a simple target. But up here on this ridge, all a spy has to do is to flash a signal, any night, that a boche airman can pick up or that can even be seen with good glasses from some high point where it can be relayed to the German lines. The guy who laid out this burg was sure thoughtless. He might have known there'd be a war some day. He might even have strained his mind and guessed that we'd be stuck here. Gee!"

He broke off with a grunt of disgust; nor did he so much as listen to another of the group who sought to lure him into an opinion as to whether the spy might be an inhabitant of the village or a camp-follower.

Sucking at his pipe; the Sergeant glowered moodily down the ruined street. The village drowsed under the hot midday. Here and there a soldier lounged along aimlessly or tried out his exercise-book French on some puzzled, native. Now and then an officer passed in or out of the half-unroofed mairie which served as regimental headquarters.

Beyond, in the handkerchief-sized village square, a platoon was drilling. A thin French housewife was hanging sheets on a line behind a shell-twisted hovel. A Red Cross nurse came out of the hospital-church across the street from the estaminet and seated herself on the stone steps with a basketful of sewing.

Mahan's half-shut eyes rested critically on the drilling platoon-amusedly on the woman who was so carefully hanging the ragged sheets,-and then approvingly upon the Red Cross nurse on the church steps across the way.

Mahan, like most other soldiers, honored and revered the Red Cross for its work of mercy in the army. And the sight of one of the several local nurses of the Order won from him a glance of real approbation.

But presently into his weather-beaten face came an expression of glad welcome. Out of the mairie gate and into the sleepy warmth of the street lounged a huge dark-brown-and-white collie. The don stretched himself lazily, fore and aft, in true collie style, then stood gazing about him as if in search of something of interest to occupy his bored attention.

"Hello!" observed Mahan, breaking in on a homily of Vivier's. "There's Bruce!"

Vivier's leathery face brightened at sound of the collie's name. He looked eagerly in the direction of Mahan's pointing finger.

"Ce brave!" exclaimed the Frenchman. "I did not know even that he was in the village. It must be he is but new-arriven. Otherwise he would, of an assuredly, have hunted up his old friends. Ohe, Bruce!" he called invitingly.

"The big dog must have gotten here just a few minutes ago," said Sergeant Mahan. "He was coming out of headquarters when I saw him. That must mean he's just struck the town, and with a message for the K.O. He always goes like greased lightning when he's on dispatch duty, till he has delivered his message. Then, if he's to be allowed to hang around a while before he's sent back, he loafs, lazy-like; the way you see him now. If all the courier-dogs were like him, every human courier would be out of a job."

At Vivier's hail the great collie had pricked his ears and glanced inquiringly up and down the street. Catching sight of the group seated in front of the estaminet, he began to wag his plumy tail and set off toward them at a trot.

Ten minutes earlier, Bruce had cantered into Meran-en-Laye from the opposite end of the street, bearing in his collar a dispatch from the corps commander to the colonel of the "Here-We-Comes." The colonel, at the mairie, had read the dispatch and had patted its bearer; then had bidden the dog lie down and rest, if he chose, after his long run.

Instead, Bruce had preferred to stroll out in search of friends.

Top-Sergeant Mahan, by the way, would have felt highly flattered had he chanced to get a glimpse of the dispatch Bruce had brought to the colonel. For it bore out Mahan's own theory regarding the presence of spies at or near the village, and it bade the "Here-We-Come" colonel use every means for tracing them.

It added the information that three troop-trains with nine engines were to pass through the village that night on their way to the trenches, and that the trains were due at the junction at nine o'clock or shortly thereafter. The mairie was on the other side of the street from the estaminet. Incidentally, it was on the shady side of the street-for which reason Bruce,-being wise, and the day being hot,-remained on that side, until he should come opposite the bench where his friends awaited him.

His course, thus, brought him directly past the church.

As he trotted by the steps, the Red Cross nurse, who sat sewing there, chirped timidly at him. Bruce paused in his leisurely progress to see who had accosted him whether an old acquaintance, to be greeted as such, or merely a pleasantly inclined stranger.

His soft brown eyes rested first in idle inquiry upon the angular and white-robed figure on the steps. Then, on the instant, the friendly inquiring look left his eyes and their softness went with it-leaving the dog's gaze cold and frankly hostile.

One corner of Bruce's lips slowly lifted, revealing a tiny view of the terrible white fangs behind them. His gayly erect head was lowered, and in the depths of his furry throat a growl was born. When a dog barks and holds his head up, there is little enough to fear from him. But when he lowers his head and growl-then look out.

Mahan knew dogs. In stark amazement he now noted Bruce's strange attitude toward the nurse. Never before had he seen the dog show active hostility toward a stranger-least of all toward a stranger who had in no way molested him. It was incredible that the wontedly dignified and sweet-tempered collie had thus returned a greeting. Especially from a woman!

Mahan had often seen Red Cross nurses stop to caress Bruce. He had been amused at the dog's almost protective cordiality toward all women, whether the French peasants or the wearers of the brassard of mercy.

Toward men-except those he had learned to look on as friends-the collie always comported himself with a courteous aloofness But he had seemed to regard every woman as something to be humored and guarded and to be treated with the same cordial friendliness that he bestowed on their children-which is the way of the best type of collie. Yet Bruce had actually snarled at this woman who had chirped to him from the steps of the church! And he showed every sign of following up the challenge by still more drastic measures.

"Bruce!" called Mahan sharply. "BRUCE! Shame! Come over here! Come, NOW!"

At the Sergeant's vehement summons Bruce turned reluctantly away from the foot of the church steps and came across the street toward the estaminet. He came slowly. Midway he halted and looked back over his shoulder at the nurse, his fangs glinting once more in a snarl. At a second and more emphatic call from Mahan the dog continued his progress.

The nurse had started back in alarm at the collie's angry demonstration. Now, gathering up her work, she retreated into the church.

"I'm sorry, Miss!" Mahan shouted after her. "I never saw him that way, before, when a lady spoke to him. If it was any dog but old Bruce, I'd give him a whaling for acting like that to you. I'm dead-sure he didn't mean any harm."

"Oh, I was going in, anyway," replied the nurse, from the doorway. "It is of no consequence."

She spoke nervously, her rich contralto voice shaken by the dog's fierce show of enmity. Then she vanished into the church; and Mahan and Vivier took turns in lecturing Bruce on his shameful dearth of courtesy.

The big dog paid no heed at all to his friends' discourse. He was staring sullenly at the doorway through which the nurse had gone.

"That's one swell way for a decently bred dog to treat a woman!" Mahan was telling him. "Least of all, a Red Cross nurse! I'm clean ashamed of you!"

Bruce did not listen. In his heart he was still angry-and very much perplexed as well. For he knew what these stupid humans did not seem to know.

HE KNEW THE RED CROSS NURSE WAS NO WOMAN AT ALL, BUT A MAN.

Bruce knew, too, that the nurse did not belong to his loved friends of the Red Cross. For his uncanny power of scent told him the garments worn by the impostor belonged to some one else. To mere humans, a small and slender man, who can act, and who dons woman's garb, is a woman. To any dog, such a man is no more like a woman than a horse with a lambskin saddle-pad is a lamb. He is merely a man who is differently dressed from other men-even as this man who had chirped to Bruce, from the church steps, was no less a man for the costume in which he had swathed his body. Any dog, at a glance and at a sniff, would have known that.

Women, for one thing, do not usually smoke dozens of rank cigars daily for years, until their flesh is permeated with the smell of tobacco. A human could not have detected such a smell-such a MAN-smell,-on the person who had chirped to Bruce. Any dog, twenty feet away, would have noticed it, and would have tabulated the white-clad masquerader as a man. Nor do a woman's hair and skin carry the faint but unmistakable odor of barracks and of tent-life and of martial equipment, as did this man's. The masquerader was evidently not only a man but a soldier.

Dogs,-high-strung dogs,-do not like to have tricks played on them; least of all by strangers. Bruce seemed to take the nurse-disguise as a personal affront to himself. Then, too, the man was not of his own army. On the contrary, the scent proclaimed him one of the horde whom Bruce's friends so manifestly hated-one of the breed that had more than once fired on the dog.

Diet and equipment and other causes give a German soldier a markedly different scent, to dogs' miraculously keen nostrils,-and to those of certain humans,-from the French or British or American troops. War records prove this. Once having learned the scent, and having learned to detest it, Bruce was not to be deceived.

For all these reasons he had snarled loathingly at the man in white. For these same reasons he could not readily forget the incident, but continued every now and then to glance curiously across toward the church.

Presently,-not relishing the rebukes of the friends who had heretofore pestered him by overmuch petting,-the collie arose quietly from his couch of trampled earth at the foot of the stone bench and strolled back across the street. Most of the men were too busy, talking, to note Bruce's departure. But Sergeant Mahan caught sight of him just as the dog was mounting the last of the steps leading into the church.

As a rule, when Bruce went investigating, he walked carelessly and with his tail slightly a-wag. Now his tail was stiff as an icicle, and he moved warily, on the tips of his toes. His tawny-maned neck was low. Mahan, understanding dogs, did not like the collie's demeanor. Remembering that the nurse had entered the church a few minutes earlier, the Sergeant got to his feet and hastily followed Bruce.

The dog, meanwhile, had passed through the crazily splintered door

way and had paused on the threshold of the improvised hospital, as the reek of iodoform and of carbolic smote upon his sensitive nostrils. In front of him was the stone-paved vestibule. Beyond was the interior of the shattered church, lined now with double rows of cots.

Seated on a camp-chair in the shadowy vestibule was the pseudo Red Cross nurse. At sight of the collie the nurse got up in some haste. Bruce, still walking stiff-legged, drew closer.

Out from under the white skirt flashed a capable and solidly-shod foot. In a swinging kick, the foot let drive at the oncoming dog. Before Bruce could dodge or could so much as guess what was coming,-the kick smote him with agonizing force, square on the shoulder.

To a spirited collie, a kick carries more than the mere pain of its inflicting. It is a grossly unforgivable affront as well-as many a tramp and thief have learned, at high cost.

By the time the kick had fairly landed, Bruce had recovered from his instant of incredulous surprise; and with lightning swiftness he hurled himself at his assailant.

No bark or growl heralded the murderous throatlunge. It was all the more terrible for the noiselessness wherewith it was delivered. The masquerading man saw it coming, just too late to guard against it. He lurched backward, belatedly throwing both hands up to defend his throat. It was the involuntary backward step which saved his jugular. For his heel caught in the hem of his white skirt. And wholly off balance, he pitched headlong to the floor.

This jerky shift of position, on the part of the foe, spoiled Bruce's aim. His fearful jaws snapped together harmlessly in empty air at a spot where, a fraction of a second earlier, the other's throat had been. Down crashed the disguised man. And atop of him the furious dog hurled himself, seeking a second time the throatgrip he had so narrowly missed.

At this point on the program Sergeant Mahan arrived just in time to bury both hands in the mass of Bruce's furry ruff and to drag the snarlingly rabid dog back from his prey.

The place was in an uproar. Nurses and doctors came rushing out into the vestibule; sick and wounded men sat up on their cots and eagerly craned their necks to catch sight of the scrimmage. Soldiers ran in from the street.

Strong as he was, Mahan had both hands full in holding the frantic Bruce back from his enemy. Under the insult of the kick from this masquerader, whom he had already recognized as a foe, the collie had temporarily lost every vestige of his stately dignity. He was for the moment merely a wild beast, seeking revenge for a brutal injury. He writhed and fought in Mahan's grasp. Never once did he seek to attack the struggling man who held him. But he strained every giant sinew to get at the foe who had kicked him.

The dog's opponent scrambled to his feet, helped by a dozen willing hands and accosted by as many solicitous voices. The victim's face was bone-gray with terror. His lips twitched convulsively. Yet, as befitted a person in his position, he had a splendid set of nerves. And almost at once he recovered partial control over himself.

"I-I don't know how it happened," he faltered, his rich contralto voice shaky with the ground-swells of his recent shock. "It began when I was sitting on the steps, sewing. This dog came past. He growled at me so threateningly that I came indoors. A minute later, while I was sitting here sewing, he sprang at me and threw me down. I believe he would-would have killed me," the narrator finished, with a very genuine shudder, "if I had not been rescued when I was. Such bloodthirsty brutes ought to be shot!"

"He not only OUGHT to be," hotly agreed the chief surgeon, "but he is GOING to be. Take him out into the street, one of you men, and put a ball in his head."

The surgeon turned to the panting nurse.

"You're certain he didn't hurt you?" he asked. "I don't want a newcomer, like yourself, to think this is the usual treatment our nurses get. Lie down and rest. You look scared to death. And don't be nervous about the cur attacking you again. He'll be dead inside of three minutes."

The nurse, with a mumbled word of thanks, scuttled off into the rear of the church, where the tumbledown vestry had been fitted up as a dormitory.

Bruce had calmed down somewhat under Mahan's sharp reproof. But he now struggled afresh to get at his vanished quarry. And again the Sergeant had a tussle to hold him.

"I don't know what's got into the big fellow!" exclaimed Mahan to Vivier as the old Frenchman joined the tumultuous group. "He's gone clean daft. He'd of killed that poor woman, if I hadn't-"

"Get him out of here!" ordered the surgeon. "And clear out, yourselves, all of you! This rumpus has probably set a lot of my patients' temperatures to rocketing. Take the cur out and shoot him!"

"Excuse me, sir," spoke up Mahan, as Vivier stared aghast at the man who commanded Bruce's destruction, "but he's no cur. He's a courier-collie, officially in the service of the United States Government. And he's the best courier-dog in France to-day. This is-"

"I don't care what he is!" raged the surgeon. "He-"

"This is Bruce," continued Mahan, "the dog that saved the 'Here-We-Comes' at Rache, and that steered a detail of us to safety one night in the fog, in the Chateau-Thierry sector. If you order any man of the 'Here-We-Comes' to shoot Bruce, you're liable to have a mutiny on your hands-officer or no officer. But if you wish, sir, I can transmit your order to the K.O. If he endorses it-"

But the surgeon sought, at that moment, to save the remnants of his dignity and of a bad situation by stalking loftily back into the hospital, and leaving Mahan in the middle of his speech.

"Or, sir," the Sergeant grinningly called after him, "you might write to the General Commanding, and tell him you want Bruce shot. The Big Dog always sleeps in the general's own room, when he's off-duty, at Division Headquarters. Maybe the general will O.K. his death-sentence, if you ask him to. He-"

Somewhat quickening his stately stride, the surgeon passed out of earshot. At the officers' mess of the "Here-We-Comes," he had often heard Bruce's praises sung. He had never chanced to see the dog until now. But, beneath his armor of dignity, he quaked to think what the results to himself must have been, had he obeyed his first impulse of drawing his pistol and shooting the adored and pricelessly useful collie.

Mahan,-stolidly rejoicing in his victory over the top-lofty potentate whom he disliked,-led the way out of the crowded vestibule into the street. Bruce followed demurely at his heels and Vivier bombarded everybody in sight for information as to what the whole fracas was about.

Bruce was himself again. Now that the detested man in woman's clothes had gone away, there was no sense in continuing to struggle or to waste energy in a show of fury. Nevertheless, in his big heart burned deathless hatred toward the German who had kicked him. And, like an elephant, a collie never forgets.

"But," Vivier was demanding of everybody, "but why should the gentle Bruce have attacked a good nurse? It is not what you call 'make-sense.' C'est un gentilhomme, ce vieux! He would not attack a woman less still a sister of the Red Cross. He-"

"Of course he wouldn't," glumly assented the downhearted Mahan. "But he DID. That's the answer. I saw him do it. He knocked her down and-"

"Which nurse was she?" asked a soldier who had come up after the trouble was over.

"A new one here. I don't know her name. She came last week. I saw her when she got here. I was on duty at the K.O.'s office when she reported. She had a letter from some one on the surgeon-general's staff. But why Bruce should have gone for her to-day-or for any woman-is more than I can see. She was scared half to death. It's lucky she heard the surgeon order him shot. She'll suppose he's dead, by now. And that'll cure her scare. We must try to keep Bruce away from this end of the street till he goes back to headquarters to-morrow."

As a result Bruce was coaxed to Mahan's company-shed and by dint of food-gifts and petting was induced to spend most of the day there.

At sunset Bruce tired of his dull surroundings. Mahan had gone on duty; so had Vivier; so had others of his friends. The dog was bored and lonely. Also he had eaten much. And a walk is good, not only for loneliness, but for settling an overfull stomach. Bruce decided to go for a walk.

Through the irregular street of the village he picked his way, and on toward the open country beyond. A sentry or two snapped fingers of greeting to him as he strolled past them. The folk of the village eyed his bulk and graceful dignity with something like awe.

Beyond the hamlet the ridge of hilltop ran on for perhaps a quarter-mile before dipping into the plain below. At one end of this little plateau a company of infantry was drilling. Bruce recognized Mahan among the marching lines, but he saw his friend was on duty and refrained from going up to him.

Above, the sunset sky was cloudless. Like tiny specks, miles to eastward, a few enemy airships circled above the heap of clustered hills which marked the nearest German position. The torn-up plain, between, seemed barren of life. So, at first, did the farther end of the jutting ridge on which the village was perched. But presently Bruce's idly wandering eye was caught by a flutter of white among some boulders that clumped together on the ridge's brow farthest from the village.

Some one-a woman, from the dress-was apparently picking her way through the boulders. As Bruce moved forward, a big rock shut her off from his view and from the view of the hamlet and of the maneuvering infantry company a furlong away.

Just then a puff of breeze blew from eastward toward the collie; and it bore to him a faint scent that set his ruff a-bristle and his soft brown eyes ablaze. To a dog, a scent once smelled is as recognizable again as is the sight of a once-seen face to a human. Bruce set off at a hand-gallop toward the clump of boulders.

The Red Cross nurse, whom Bruce had so nearly killed, was off duty until the night-shift should go on at the hospital. The nurse had taken advantage of this brief surcease from toil, by going for a little walk in the cool sunset air, and had carried along a bag of sewing.

Up to three months ago this nurse had been known as Heinrich Stolz, and had been a valued member of the Wilhelmstrasse's workingforce of secret agents. Then, acting under orders, Herr Heinrich Stolz had vanished from his accustomed haunts. Soon thereafter a Red Cross nurse-Felicia Stuart by name had reported for duty at Paris, having been transferred thither from Italy, and bearing indubitable credentials to that effect.

From carefully picked-up information Stolz had just learned of the expected arrival of the three troop-trains at the junction at nine that evening. The tidings had interested him keenly, and he knew of other people to whom they would be far more interesting.

Seating himself under the lee of the easternmost rock, Stolz primly opened his sewing-bag and drew forth various torn garments. The garments were for the most part white, but one or two were of gaudy colors.

By way of precaution, in case of discovery, the spy threaded a needle. Thus, if any one should chance to see him shake out a garment, preparatory to laying it on his knee and mending it, there could be no reasonable cause for suspicion. Herr Stolz was nothing if not efficient.

He held up the needle and poked the thread at its eye in truly feminine fashion.

He had just finished this feat of dexterity when he chanced to look up from his work at sound of fast-pattering feet. Not thirty feet away, charging head on at him, rushed the great brown-and-white collie he supposed had been shot.

With a jump of abject terror, Herr Stolz sprang up. Mingled with his normal fear of the dog was a tinge of superstitious dread. He had been so certain the beast was shot! The doctor had given the order for his killing. The doctor was a commissioned officer. Stolz's German mind could not grasp the possibility of a soldier disobeying an officer's imperative command.

The collie was upon him by the time the spy gained his feet. Stolz reached frantically under his dress-folds for the deadly little pistol that he always kept there. But he was still a novice in the mysteries of feminine apparel. And, before his fingers could close on the weapon, Bruce's bared fangs were gleaming at his throat.

Stolz ceased to search for the weapon. And, as before, he threw up both frantic hands to ward off the furious jaws.

He was barely in time. Bruce's white teeth drove deep into the spy's forearm, and Bruce's eighty pounds of furry muscular bulk smote Stolz full in the chest. Down went the spy, under the terrific impact, sprawling wildly on his back, and fighting with both bleeding hands to push back the dog.

Bruce, collie-fashion, did not stick to one grip, but bit and slashed a dozen times in three seconds, tearing and rending his way toward the throat-hold he craved; driving through flesh of hands and of forearms toward his goal.

Like many another German, Stolz was far more adept at causing pain than at enduring it. Also, from birth, he had had an unconquerable fear of dogs. His nerves, too, were not yet recovered from Bruce's attack earlier in the day. All this, and the spectral suddenness of the onslaught, robbed him of every atom of his usual stony self-control.

Sergeant Mahan was a good soldier. Yet a minute earlier he had almost ruined his reputation as such. He had been hard put to it to refrain from leaving the ranks of his drilling company, a furlong from the rocks, and running at record speed toward the boulders. For he had seen the supposed nurse pass that way. And almost directly afterward he had seen Bruce follow her thither. And he could guess what would happen.

Luckily for the sake of discipline, the order of "Break ranks!" was given before Mahan could disgrace himself by such unmartial behavior. And, on the instant, the Sergeant broke into a run in the direction of the rocks.

Wondering at his eccentric action, several of the soldiers followed. The company captain, at sight of a knot of his men dashing at breakneck speed toward the boulders, started at a more leisurely pace in the same direction.

Mahan had reached the edge of the rocks when his ears were greeted by a yell of mortal fear. The captain and the rest, catching the sound, went faster. Screech after screech rang from the rocky enclosure.

Mahan rounded the big boulder at the crest of the ridge and flung himself upon the two combatants, as they thrashed about in a tumultuous dual mass on the ground. And just then Bruce at last found his grip on Stolz's throat.

A stoical German signal-corps officer, on a hilltop some miles to eastward, laid aside his field-glass and calmly remarked to a man at his side

"We have lost a good spy!"

Such was the sole epitaph and eulogy of Herr Heinrich Stolz, from his army.

Meantime, Sergeant Mahan was prying loose the collie's ferocious jaws from their prey and was tugging with all his might to drag the dog off the shrieking spy. The throat-hold, he noted, was a bare inch from the jugular.

The rest of the soldiers, rushing up pell-mell, helped him pull the infuriated Bruce from his victim. The spectacle of their admired dog-hero, so murderously mauling a woman of the Red Cross, dazed them with horror.

"Take him AWAY!" bellowed Stolz, delirious with pain and fear. "He's KILLED me-der gottverdammte Teufelhund!"

And now the crazed victim's unconscious use of German was not needed to tell every one within hearing just who and what he was. For the quavering tones were no longer a rich contralto. They were a throaty baritone. And the accent was Teutonic.

"Bruce!" observed Top-Sergeant Mahan next morning, "I've always said a man who kicks a dog is more of a cur than the dog is. But you'll never know how near I came to kicking you yesterday, when I caught you mangling that filthy spy. And Brucie, if I had kicked you, well-I'd be praying at this minute that the good Lord would grow a third leg on me, so that I could kick myself all the way from here to Berlin!"

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