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   Chapter 6 6

Bruce By Albert Payson Terhune Characters: 35026

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


When Bruce left the quiet peace of The Place for the hell of the Western Front, it had been stipulated by the Mistress and the Master that if ever he were disabled, he should be shipped back to The Place, at their expense.

It was a stipulation made rather to soothe the Mistress's sorrow at parting from her loved pet than in any hope that it could be fulfilled; for the average life of a courierdog on the battle-front was tragically short. And his fate was more than ordinarily certain. If the boche bullets and shrapnel happened to miss him, there were countless diseases-bred of trench and of hardship and of abominable food-to kill him.

The Red Cross appeal raised countless millions of dollars and brought rescue to innumerable human warriors. But in caring for humans, the generosity of most givers reached its limit; and the Blue Cross-"for the relief of dogs and horses injured in the service of the Allies"-was forced to take what it could get. Yet many a man, and many a body of men, owed life and safety to the heroism of some war-dog, a dog which surely merited special care when its own certain hour of agony struck.

Bruce's warmest overseas friends were to be found in the ranks of the mixed Franco-American regiment, nicknamed the "Here-We-Comes." Right gallantly, in more than one tight place, had Bruce been of use to the "Here-We-Comes." On his official visits to the regiment, he was always received with a joyous welcome that would have turned any head less steady than a thoroughbred collie's.

Bruce enjoyed this treatment. He enjoyed, too, the food-dainties wherewith the "Here-We-Comes" plied him. But to no man in the army would he give the adoring personal loyalty he had left at The Place with the Mistress and the Master. Those two were still his only gods. And he missed them and his sweet life at The Place most bitterly. Yet he was too good a soldier to mope.

* * *

For months the "Here-We-Comes" had been quartered in a "quiet"-or only occasionally tumultuous-sector, near Chateau-Thierry. Then the comparative quiet all at once turned to pandemonium.

A lanky and degenerate youth (who before the war had been unlovingly known throughout Europe as the "White Rabbit" and who now was mentioned in dispatches as the "Crown Prince") had succeeded in leading some half-million fellow-Germans into a "pocket" that had lately been merely a salient.

From the three lower sides of the pocket, the Allies ecstatically flung themselves upon their trapped foes in a laudable effort to crush the half-million boches and their rabbit-faced princeling into surrender before the latter could get out of the snare, and to the shelter of the high ground and the reenforcements that lay behind it. The Germans objected most strenuously to this crushing process. And the three beleaguered edges of the pocket became a triple-section of hell.

It was a period when no one's nerves were in any degree normal-least of all the nerves of the eternally hammered Germans. Even the fiercely advancing Franco-Americans, the "Here-We-Comes," had lost the grimly humorous composure that had been theirs, and waxed sullen and ferocious in their eagerness.

Thus it was that Bruce missed his wontedly uproarious welcome as he cantered, at sunset one July day, into a smashed farmstead where his friends, the "Here-We-Comes," were bivouacked for the night. By instinct, the big dog seemed to know where to find the temporary regimental headquarters.

He trotted past a sentry, into an unroofed cattle-shed where the colonel was busily scribbling a detailed report of the work done by the "Here-We-Comes" during that day's drive.

Coming to a halt by the colonel's side, Bruce stood expectantly wagging his plumy tail and waiting for the folded message from division headquarters to be taken off his collar.

Usually, on such visits, the colonel made much of the dog. To-day he merely glanced up abstractedly from his writing, at sight of Bruce's silken head at his side. He unfastened the message, read it, frowned and went on with his report.

Bruce continued to wag his tail and to look up wistfully for the wonted petting and word of commendation. But the colonel had forgotten his existence. So presently the collie wearied of waiting for a caress from a man whose caresses, at best, he did not greatly value. He turned and strolled out of the shed. His message delivered, he knew he was at liberty to amuse himself as he might choose to, until such time as he must carry back to his general a reply to the dispatch he had brought.

From outside came the voices of tired and lounging soldiers. A traveling kitchen had just been set up near by. From it arose a blend of smells that were mighty tempting to a healthily hungry dog. Thither, at a decorous but expectant pace, Bruce bent his steps.

Top-Sergeant Mahan was gazing with solicitous interest upon the toil of the cooks at the wheeled kitchen. Beside him, sharing his concern in the supper preparations, was Mahan's closest crony, old Sergeant Vivier. The wizened little Frenchman, as a boy, had been in the surrender of Sedan. Nightly, ever since, he had besought the saints to give him, some day, a tiny share in the avenging of that black disgrace.

Mahan and Vivier were the warmest of Bruce's many admirers in the "Here-We-Comes." Ordinarily a dual whoop of joy from them would have greeted his advent. This afternoon they merely chirped abstractedly at him, and Mahan patted him carelessly on the head before returning to the inspection of the cooking food.

Since an hour before dawn, both men had been in hot action. The command for the "Here-We-Comes" to turn aside and bivouac for the night had been a sharp disappointment to them, as well as to every unwounded man in the regiment.

When a gambler is in the middle of a winning streak, when an athlete feels he has the race in his own hands, when a business man has all but closed the deal that means fortune to him-at such crises it is maddening to be halted at the very verge of triumph. But to soldiers who, after months of reverses, at last have their hated foe on the run, such a check does odd things to temper and to nerves.

In such plight were the men of the "Here-We-Comes," on this late afternoon. Mahan and Vivier were too seasoned and too sane to give way to the bursts of temper and the swirls of blasphemy that swayed so many of their comrades. Nevertheless they were glum and silent and had no heart for jolly welcomings,-even to so dear a friend as Bruce.

Experience told them that a square meal would work miracles in the way of calming and bracing them. Hence, apart from stark hunger, their interest in the cooking of supper.

Bruce was too much a philosopher-and not devoted enough to his soldier friends-to be hurt at the lack of warmth in the greeting. With the air of an epicure, he sniffed at the contents of one of the kitchen's bubbling kettles. Then he walked off and curled himself comfortably on a pile of bedding, there to rest until supper should be ready.

Several times, as he lay there, soldiers passed and repassed. One or two of them snapped their fingers at the dog or even stooped, in passing, to stroke his head. But on the faces of all of them was unrest and a certain wolfish eagerness, which precluded playing with pets at such a time. The hot zest of the man-hunt was upon them. It was gnawing in the veins of the newest recruit, ever, as in the heart of the usually self-contained colonel of the regiment.

The colonel, in fact, had been so carried away by the joy of seeing his men drive the hated graycoats before them that day that he had overstepped the spirit of his own orders from the division commander.

In brief, he had made no effort to "dress" his command, in the advance, upon the regiments to either side of it. As a result, when the signal to bivouac for the night was given, the "Here-We-Comes" were something like a mile ahead of the regiment which should have been at their immediate right, and nearly two miles in front of the brigade at their left.

In other words, the "Here-We-Comes" now occupied a salient of their own, ahead of the rest of the FrancoAmerican line. It was in rebuke for this bit of good progress and bad tactics that the division commander had written to the colonel, in the dispatch which Bruce had brought.

German airmen, sailing far above, and dodging as best they could the charges of the Allied 'planes, had just noted that the "Here-We-Comes" "salient" was really no salient at all. So far had it advanced that, for the moment, it was out of touch with the rest of the division. It was, indeed, in an excellent position to be cut off and demolished by a dashing nightattack. And a report to this effect was delivered to a fumingly distracted German major general, who yearned for a chance to atone in some way for the day's shameful reverses.

"If they hadn't halted us and made us call it a day, just as we were getting into our stride," loudly grumbled one Yankee private to another as the two clumped up to the kitchen, "we'd have been in Fere-en-Tardenois by now. What lazy guy is running this drive, anyhow?"

"The same lazy guy that will stick you into the hoosgow for insubordination and leave you to do your bit there while the rest of us stroll on to Berlin!" snapped Top-Sergeant Mahan, wheeling upon the grumbler. "Till you learn how to obey orders without grouching, it isn't up to you to knock wiser men. Shut up!"

Though Mahan's tone of reproof was professionally harsh, his spirit was not in his words. And the silenced private knew it. He knew, too, that the top-sergeant was as savage over the early halt as were the rest of the men.

Bruce, as a rule, when he honored the "Here-We-Comes" with a visit, spent the bulk of his time with Mahan and old Vivier. But to-day neither of these friends was an inspiring companion. Nor were the rest of Bruce's acquaintances disposed to friendliness. Wherefore, as soon as supper was eaten, the dog returned to his heap of bedding, for the hour or so of laziness which Nature teaches all her children to demand, after a full meal,-and which the so-called "dumb" animals alone are intelligent enough to take.

Dusk had merged into night when Bruce got to his feet again. Taps had just sounded. The tired men gladly rolled themselves into their blankets and fell into a dead sleep. A sentry-relief set forth to replace the first batch of sentinels with the second.

Mahan was of the party. Though the top-sergeant had been a stupid comrade, thus far to-day, he was now evidently going for a walk. And even though it was a duty-walk, yet the idea of it appealed to the dog after his long inaction.

So Bruce got up and followed. As he came alongside the stiffly marching top-sergeant, the collie so far subverted discipline as to thrust his nose, in friendly greeting, into Mahan's slightly cupped palm. And the top-sergeant so far abetted the breach of discipline as to give the collie's head a furtive pat. The night was dim, as the moon had not risen; so the mutual contact of good-fellowship was not visible to the marching men on either side of Mahan and the dog. And discipline, therefore, did not suffer much, after all.

At one post after another, a sentinel was relieved and a fresh man took his place. Farthest in front of the "Here-We-Comes" lines-and nearest to the German-was posted a lanky Missourian whom Bruce liked, a man who had a way of discovering in his deep pockets stray bits of food which he had hoarded there for the collie and delighted to dole out to him. The Missourian had a drawlingly soft voice the dog liked, and he used to talk to Bruce as if the latter were another human.

For all these reasons-and because Mahan was too busy and too grumpy to bother with him-Bruce elected to stay where he was, for a while, and share the Missourian's vigil. So, when the rest of the party moved along to the next sentry-go, the dog remained. The Missourian was only too glad to have him do so. It is tedious and stupid to pace a desolate beat, alone, at dead of night, after a day of hard fighting. And the man welcomed the companionship of the dog.

For a time, as the Missourian paced his solitary stretch of broken and shrub-grown ground, Bruce gravely paced to and fro at his side. But presently this aimless promenade began to wax uninteresting. And, as the two came to the far end of the beat, Bruce yawned and lay down. It was pleasanter to lie there and to watch the sentinel do the walking.

Stretched out, in a little grass-hollow, the dog followed blinkingly with his soft brown eyes the pendulumlike progress of his friend. And always the dog's plumed tail would beat rhythmic welcome against the ground as the sentry approached him.

Thus nearly an hour wore on. A fat moon butted its lazy way through the smoke-mists of the eastern skyline.

Then something happened-something that Bruce could readily have forestalled if the wind had been blowing from the other direction, and if a dog's eyes were not as nearsighted as his nose is farsmelling.

The Missourian paused to run his hand caressingly over the collie's rough mane, and moved on, down the lonely beat. Bruce watched his receding figure, drowsily. At the end of ninety yards or more, the Missourian passed by a bunch of low bushes which grew at the near side of a stretch of hilly and shellpocked ground. He moved past the bushes, still watched by the somewhat bored dog.

It was then that Bruce saw a patch of bushshadow detach itself from the rest, under the glow of the rising moon. The shadow was humpy and squat. Noiseless, it glided out from among the bushes, close at the sentry's heels, and crept after him.

Bruce pricked his ears and started to get up. His curiosity was roused. The direction of the wind prevented him from smelling out the nature of the mystery. It also kept his keen hearing from supplying any clue. And the distance would not permit him to see with any distinctness.

Still his curiosity was very mild. Surely, if danger threatened, the sentinel would realize it. For by this time the Shadow was a bare three feet behind him near enough, by Bruce's system of logic, for the Missourian to have smelled and heard the pursuer. So Bruce got up, in the most leisurely fashion, preparatory to strolling across to investigate. But at almost his first step he saw something that changed his gracefully slouching walk into a charging run.

The Shadow suddenly had merged with the sentinel. For an instant, in stark silence, the two seemed to cling together. Then the Shadow fled, and the lanky Missourian slumped to the earth in a sprawling heap, his throat cut.

The slayer had been a deft hand at the job. No sound had escaped the Missourian, from the moment the stranglingly tight left arm had been thrown around his throat from behind until, a second later, he fell bleeding and lifeless.

In twenty leaping strides, Bruce came up to the slain sentinel and bent over him. Dog-instinct told the collie his friend had been done to death. And the dog's power of scent told him it was a German who had done the killing.

For many months, Bruce had been familiar with the scent of German soldiers, so different from that of the army in which he toiled. And he had learned to hate it, even as a dog hates the vague "crushed cucumber" smell of a pitviper. But while every dog dreads the viper-smell as much as he loathes it, Bruce had no fear at all of the boche odor. Instead, it always awoke in him a blood-lust, as fierce as any that had burned in his wolf-ancestors.

This same fury swept him now, as he stood, quivering, above the body of the kindly man who so lately had petted him; this and a craving to revenge the murder of his human friend.

For the briefest time, Bruce stood there, his dark eyes abrim with unhappiness and bewilderment, as he gazed down on the huddled form in the wet grass. Then an electric change came over him. The softness fled from his eyes, leaving them bloodshot and blazing. His great tawny ruff bristled like an angry cat's. The lazy gracefulness departed from his mighty body. It became tense and terrible. In the growing moonlight his teeth gleamed whitely from under his upcurled lip.

In a flash he turned and set off at a loping run, nose close to ground, his long stride deceptively swift. The zest of the man-hunt had obsessed him, as completely as, that day, it had spurred the advance of the "Here-We-Comes."

The trail of the slayer was fresh, even over such broken ground. Fast as the German had fled, Bruce was flying faster. Despite the murderer's long start, the dog speedily cut down the distance between his quarry and himself. Not trusting to sight, but solely to his unerring sense of smell. Bruce sped on.

Then, in a moment or two, his hearing re-enforced his scent. He could catch the pad-pad-pad of running feet. And the increasing of the sound told him he was gaining fast.

But in another bound his ears told him something else-something he would have heard much sooner, had not the night wind been setting so strongly in the other direction. He heard not only the pounding of his prey's heavy-shod feet, but the soft thud of hundreds-perhaps thousands-of other army shoes. And now, despite the adverse wind, the odor of innumerable soldiers came to his fiercely sniffing nostrils. Not only was it the scent of soldiers, but of German soldiers.

For the

first time, Bruce lifted his head from the ground, as he ran, and peered in front of him. The moon had risen above the low-lying horizon vapors into a clear sky, and the reach of country was sharply visible.

Bruce saw the man he was chasing,-saw him plainly. The German was still running, but not at all as one who flees from peril. He ran, rather, as might the bearer of glad tidings. And he was even now drawing up to a group of men who awaited eagerly his coming. There must have been fifty men in the group. Behind them-in open formation and as far as the dog's near-sighted eyes could see-were more men, and more, and more-thousands of them, all moving stealthily forward.

Now, a collie (in brain, though never in heart) is much more wolf than dog. A bullterrier, or an Airedale, would have charged on at his foe, and would have let himself be hacked to pieces before loosing his hold on the man.

But-even as a wolf checks his pursuit of a galloping sheep when the latter dashes into the guarded fold-Bruce came to an abrupt halt, at sight of these reenforcements. He stood irresolute, still mad with vengeful anger, but not foolish enough to assail a whole brigade of armed men.

It is quite impossible (though Mahan and Vivier used to swear it must be true) that Bruce had the reasoning powers to figure out the whole situation which confronted him. He could not have known that a German brigade had been sent to take advantage of the "Here-We-Comes" temporarily isolated position-that three sentries had been killed in silence and that their deaths had left a wide gap through which the brigade hoped to creep unobserved until they should be within striking distance of their unsuspectingly slumbering victims.

Bruce could not have known this. He could not have grasped the slightest fraction of the idea, being only a real-life dog and not a fairytale animal. But what he could and did realize was that a mass of detested Germans was moving toward him, and that he could not hope to attack them, single-handed; also, that he was not minded to slink peacefully away and leave his friend unavenged.

Thwarted rage dragged from his furry throat a deep growl; a growl that resounded eerily through that silent place of stealthy moves. And he stepped majestically forth from the surrounding long grass, into the full glare of moonlight.

The deceptive glow made him loom gigantic and black, and tinged his snowy chest with the phosphorous gleam of a snowfield. His eyes shone like a wild beast's.

* * *

Corporal Rudolph Freund, of the Konigin Luise Regiment, had just finished his three-word report to his superior. He had merely saluted and announced

"He is dead!"

Corporal Freund did not thrill, as usual, to the colonel's grunt of approval. The Corporal was worried. He was a Black Forest peasant; and, while iron military life had dulled his native superstitions, it had not dispelled them.

The night was mystic, in its odd blend of moon and shadows. However hardened one may be, it is a nerve-strain to creep through long grass, like a red Indian, to the murder of a hostile sentinel. And every German in the "Pocket" had been under frightful mental and physical stress, for the past week.

Corporal Rudolph Freund was a brave man and a brute. But that week had sapped his nerve. And the work of this night had been the climax. The desolate ground, over which he had crawled to the killing, had suddenly seemed peopled with evil gnomes and goblins, whose existence no true Black Forest peasant can doubt. And, on the run back, he had been certain he heard some unseen monster tearing through the underbrush in hot pursuit of him. So certain had he been, that he had redoubled his speed.

There were no wolves or other large wild animals in that region. When he had wriggled toward the slow-pacing American sentinel, he had seen and heard no creature of any sort. Yet he was sure that on the way back he had been pursued by-by Something! And into his scared memory, as he ran, had flashed the ofttold Black Forest tale of the Werewolf-the devil-beast that is entered by the soul of a murdered man and which tracks the murderer to his death.

Glad was the unnerved Corporal Freund when his run ceased and he stood close to his grossly solid and rank-scented fellowmen once more. Almost he was inclined to laugh at his fears of the fabled Werewolf-and especially at the idea that he had been pursued. He drew a long breath of relief. He drew the breath in. But he did not at once expel it. For on his ears came the sound of a hideous menacing growl.

Corporal Freund spun about, in the direction of the mysterious threat. And there, not thirty feet from him, in the ghostly moonlight, stood the Werewolf!

This time there could be no question of overstrained nerves and of imagination. The Thing was THERE!

Horribly visible in every detail, the Werewolf was glaring at him. He could see the red glow of the gigantic devil-beast's eyes, the white flash of its teeth, the ghostly shimmering of its snowy chest. The soul of the man he had slain had taken this traditional form and was hunting down the slayer! A thousand stories of Freund's childhood verified the frightful truth. And overwrought human nature's endurance went to pieces under the shock.

A maniac howl of terror split the midnight stillness. Shriek after shriek rent the air. Freund tumbled convulsively to the ground at his colonel's feet, gripping the officer's booted knees and screeching for protection. The colonel, raging that the surprise attack should be imperiled by such a racket, beat the frantic man over the mouth with his heavy fist, kicking ferociously at his upturned writhing face, and snarling to him to be silent.

The shower of blows brought Freund back to sanity, to the extent of changing his craven terror into Fear's secondary phase-the impulse to strike back at the thing that had caused the fright. Rolling over and over on the ground, under the impact of his superior's fist blows and kicks, Freund somehow regained his feet.

Reeling up to the nearest soldier, the panic-crazed corporal snatched the private's rifle and fired three times, blindly, at Bruce. Then, foaming at the mouth, Freund fell heavily to earth again, chattering and twitching in a fit.

Bruce, at the second shot, leaped high in the air, and collapsed, in an inert furry heap, among the bushes. There he lay,-his career as a courier-dog forever ended.

Corporal Rudolph Freund was perhaps the best sniper in his regiment. Wildly though he had fired, marksman-instinct had guided his bullets. And at such close range there was no missing. Bruce went to earth with one rifle ball through his body, and another in his leg. A third had reached his skull.

Now, the complete element of surprise was all-needful for the attack the Germans had planned against the "Here-We-Comes." Deprived of that advantage the expedition was doomed to utter failure. For, given a chance to wake and to rally, the regiment could not possibly be "rushed," in vivid moonlight, before the nearest Allied forces could move up to its support. And those forces were only a mile or so to the rear. There can be no possible hope for a surprise attack upon a well-appointed camp when the night's stillness has been shattered by a series of maniac screams and by three echoing rifle-shots.

Already the guard was out. A bugle was blowing. In another minute, the sentry-calls would locate the gap made by the three murdered sentinels.

A swift guttural conference among the leaders of the gray-clad marauders was followed by the barking of equally guttural commands. And the Germans withdrew as quietly and as rapidly as they had come.

* * *

It was the mouthing and jabbering of the fit-possessed Corporal Rudolph Freund that drew to him the notice of a squad of Yankees led by Top-Sergeant Mahan, ten minutes later. It was the shudder-accompanied pointing of the delirious man's finger, toward the nearby clump of undergrowth, that revealed to them the still warm body of Bruce.

Back to camp, carried lovingly in Mahan's strong arms, went all that was left of the great courier-dog. Back to camp, propelled between two none-too-gentle soldiers, staggered the fit-ridden Corporal Freund.

At the colonel's quarters, a compelling dose of stimulant cleared some of the mists from the prisoner's brain. His nerve and his will-power still gone to smash, he babbled eagerly enough of the night attack, of the killing of the sentries and of his encounter with the Werewolf.

"I saw him fall!" he raved. "But he is not dead. The Werewolf can be killed only by a silver bullet, marked with a cross and blessed by a priest. He will live to track me down! Lock me where he cannot find me, for the sake of sweet mercy!"

And in this way, the "Here-We-Comes" learned of Bruce's part in the night's averted disaster.

Old Vivier wept unashamed over the body of the dog he had loved. Top-Sergeant Mahan-the big tears splashing, unnoted, from his own red eyes-besought the Frenchman to strive for better self-control and not to set a cry-baby example to the men.

Then a group of grim-faced soldiers dug a grave. And, carried by Mahan and Vivier, the beautiful dog's body was borne to its resting-place. A throng of men in the gray dawn stood wordless around the grave. Some one shamefacedly took off his hat. With equal shamefacedness, everybody else followed the example.

Mahan laid the dog's body on the ground, at the grave's brink. Then, looking about him, he cleared his throat noisily and spoke.

"Boys," he began, "when a human dies for other humans, there's a Christian burial service read over him. I'd have asked the chaplain to read one over Bruce, here, if I hadn't known he'd say no. But the Big Dog isn't going to rest without a word said over his grave, for all that."

Mahan cleared his throat noisily once more, winked fast, then went on:-

"You can laugh at me, if any of you feel like it. But there's some of you here who wouldn't be alive to laugh, if Bruce hadn't done what he did last night. He was only just a dog-with no soul, and with no life after this one, I s'pose. So he went ahead and did his work and took the risks, and asked no pay.

"And by and by he died, still doing his work and asking no pay.

"He didn't work with the idea of getting a cross or a ribbon or a promotion or a pension or his name in the paper or to make the crowd cheer him when he got back home, or to brag to the homefolks about how he was a hero. He just went ahead and WAS a hero. That's because he was only a dog, with no soul-and not a man.

"All of us humans are working for some reward, even if it's only for our pay or for the fun of doing our share. But Bruce was a hero because he was just a dog, and because he didn't know enough to be anything else but a hero.

"I've heard about him, before he joined up with us. I guess most of us have. He lived up in Jersey, somewhere. With folks that had bred him. I'll bet a year's pay he was made a lot of by those folks; and that it wrenched 'em to let him go. You could see he'd been brought up that way. Life must 'a' been pretty happy for the old chap, back there. Then he was picked up and slung into the middle of this hell.

"So was the rest of us, says you. But you're wrong. Those of us that waited for the draft had our choice of going to the hoosgow, as 'conscientious objectors,' if we didn't want to fight. And every mother's son of us knew we was fighting for the Right; and that we was making the world a decenter and safer place for our grandchildren and our womenfolks to live in. We didn't brag about God being on our side, like the boches do. It was enough for us to know WE was on GOD'S side and fighting His great fight for Him. We had patriotism and religion and Right, behind us, to give us strength.

"Brucie hadn't a one of those things. He didn't know what he was here for-and why he'd been pitched out of his nice home, into all this. He didn't have a chance to say Yes or No. He didn't have any spellbinders to tell him he was making the world safe for d'mocracy. He was MADE to come.

"How would any of us humans have acted, if a deal like that had been handed to us? We'd 'a' grouched and slacked and maybe deserted. That's because we're lords of creation and have souls and brains and such. What did Bruce do? He jumped into this game, with bells on. He risked his life a hundred times; and he was just as ready to risk it again the next day.

"Yes, and he knew he was risking it, too. There's blame little he didn't know. He saw war-dogs, all around him, choking to death from gas, or screaming their lives out, in No Man's Land, when a bit of shell had disemboweled 'em or a bullet had cracked their backbones. He saw 'em starve to death. He saw 'em one bloody mass of scars and sores. He saw 'em die of pneumonia and mange and every rotten trench disease. And he knew it might be his turn, any time at all, to die as they were dying; and he knew the humans was too busy nursing other humans, to have time to spare on caring for tortured dogs. (Though those same dogs were dying for the humans, if it comes to that.)

"Yes, Bruce knew what the end was bound to be. He knew it. And he kept on, as gay and as brave as if he was on a day's romp. He never flinched. Not even that time the K.O. sent him up the hill for reenforcements at Rache, when every sharpshooter in the boche trenches was laying for him, and when the machine guns were trained on him, too. Bruce knew he was running into death-, then and a dozen other times. And he went at it like a white man.

"I'm-I'm getting longwinded. And I'll stop. But-maybe if you boys will remember the Big Dog-and what he did for us,-when you get back home,-if you'll remember him and what he did and what thousands of other war-dogs have done,-then maybe you'll be men enough to punch the jaw of any guy who gets to saying that dogs are nuisances and that vivisection's a good thing, and all that. If you'll just do that much, then-well, then Bruce hasn't lived and died for nothing!

"Brucie, old boy," bending to lift the tawny body and lower it into the grave, "it's good-by. It's good-by to the cleanest, whitest pal that a poor dub of a doughboy ever had. I-"

Mahan glowered across at the clump of silent men.

"If anybody thinks I'm crying," he continued thickly, "he's a liar. I got a cold, and-"

"Sacre bon Dieu!" yelled old Vivier, insanely. "Regarde-donc! Nom d'une pipe!"

He knelt quickly beside the body, in an ecstasy of excitement. The others craned their necks to see. Then from a hundred throats went up a gasp of amazement.

Bruce, slowly and dazedly, was lifting his magnificent head!

"Chase off for the surgeon!" bellowed Mahan, plumping down on his knees beside Vivier and examining the wound in the dog's scalp. "The bullet only creased his skull! It didn't go through! It's just put him out for a few hours, like I've seen it do to men. Get the surgeon! If that bullet in his body didn't hit something vital, we'll pull him around, yet! GLORY BE!"

* * *

It was late summer again at The Place, late opulent summer, with the peace of green earth and blue sky, the heavy droning of bees and the promise of harvest. The long shadows of late afternoon stretched lovingly across the lawn, from the great lakeside trees. Over everything brooded a dreamy amber light. The war seemed a million miles away.

The Mistress and the Master came down from the vine-shaded veranda for their sunset walk through the grounds. At sound of their steps on the gravel, a huge dark-brown-and-white collie emerged from his resting-place under the wistaria-arbor.

He stretched himself lazily, fore and aft, in collie-fashion. Then he trotted up to his two deities and thrust his muzzle playfully into the Mistress's palm, as he fell into step with the promenaders.

He walked with a stiffness in one foreleg. His gait was not a limp. But the leg's strength could no longer be relied on for a ten-mile gallop. Along his forehead was a new-healed bullet-crease. And the fur on his sides had scarcely yet grown over the mark of the high-powered ball which had gone clear through him without touching a mortal spot.

Truly, the regimental surgeon of the "Here-We-Comes" had done a job worthy of his own high fame! And the dog's wonderful condition had done the rest.

Apart from scars and stiffness, Bruce was none the worse for his year on the battle-front. He could serve no longer as a dashing courier. But his life as a pet was in no way impaired.

"Here's something that came by the afternoon mail, Bruce," the Master greeted him, as the collie ranged alongside. "It belongs to you. Take a look at it."

The Master drew from his pocket a leather box, and opened it. On the oblong of white satin, within the cover, was pinned a very small and very thin gold medal. But, light as it was, it had represented much abstinence from estaminets and tobacco-shops, on the part of its donors.

"Listen," the Master said, holding the medal in front of the collie. "Listen, while I read you the inscription: 'To Bruce. From some of the boys he saved from the boches.'"

Bruce was sniffing the thin gold lozenge interestedly. The inscription meant nothing to him. But-strong and vivid to his trained nostrils-he scented on the medal the loving finger-touch of his old friend and admirer, Top-Sergeant Mahan.

THE END

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