Albert Payson Terhune
Part 2 out of 3
beating. As soon would an impresario think of thrashing Caruso or
Paderewski as would Bruce's glum Scottish trainer have laid whip
to this best pupil of his. Life was bare and strict for Bruce.
But life was never unkind to him, in these first months of exile
from The Place. And, bit by bit, he began to take a joy in his
Not for a day,--perhaps not for an hour, did the big collie
forget the home of his babyhood or those he had delighted to
worship, there. And the look of sadness in his dark eyes became a
settled aspect. Yet, here, there was much to interest and to
excite him. And he grew to look forward with pleasure to his
At the end of three months, he was shipped to France. There his
seemingly aimless studies at the training camp were put to active
* * * * * * * * * *
At the foot of the long Flanders hill-slope the "Here-We-Come"
Regiment, of mixed American and French infantry, held a
caterpillar-shaped line of trenches.
To the right, a few hundred yards away, was posted a Lancashire
regiment, supported by a battalion from Cornwall. On the left
were two French regiments. In front, facing the hill-slope and
not a half-mile distant, was the geometric arrangement of
sandbags that marked the contour of the German first-line
The hill behind them, the boches in front of them, French and
British troops on either side of them--the Here-We-Comes were
helping to defend what was known as a "quiet' sector. Behind the
hill, and on loftier heights far to the rear, the Allied
artillery was posted. Somewhere in the same general locality lay
a division of British reserves.
It is almost a waste of words to have described thus the
surroundings of the Here-We-Comes. For, with no warning at all,
those entire surroundings were about to be changed.
Ludendorff and his little playmates were just then engaged in the
congenial sport of delivering unexpected blows at various
successive points of the Allied line, in an effort to find some
spot that was soft enough to cave in under the impact and let
through a horde of gray-clad Huns. And though none of the
defenders knew it, this "quiet" sector had been chosen for such a
The men in higher command, back there behind the hill crest, had
a belated inkling, though, of a proposed attack on the lightly
defended front trenches. For the Allied airplanes which drifted
in the upper heavens like a scattered handful of dragon-flies
were not drifting there aimlessly. They were the eyes of the
snakelike columns that crawled so blindly on the scarred brown
surface of the earth. And those "eyes" had discerned the massing
of a force behind the German line had discerned and had duly
The attack might come in a day. It might not come in a week. But
it was coming--unless the behind-the-lines preparations were a
A quiet dawn, in the quiet trenches of the quiet sector.
Desultory artillery and somewhat less desultory sniping had
prevailed throughout the night, and at daybreak; but nothing out
of the ordinary.
Two men on listening-post had been shot; and so had an
overcurious sentry who peeped just an inch too far above a
parapet. A shell had burst in a trench, knocking the telephone
connection out of gear and half burying a squad of sleepers under
a lot of earth. Otherwise, things were drowsily dull.
In a dugout sprawled Top-Sergeant Mahan,--formerly of Uncle Sam's
regular army, playing an uninspiring game of poker with Sergeant
Dale of his company and Sergeant Vivier of the French infantry.
The Frenchman was slow in learning poker's mysteries.
And, anyway, all three men were temporarily penniless and were
forced to play for I.O.U's--which is stupid sport, at best.
So when, from the German line, came a quick sputt-sputt-sputt
from a half-dozen sharpshooters' rifles, all three men looked up
from their desultory game in real interest. Mahan got to his feet
with a grunt.
"Some other fool has been trying to see how far he can rubber
above the sandbags without drawing boche fire," he hazarded,
starting out to investigate. "It's a miracle to me how a boche
bullet can go through heads that are so full of first-quality
ivory as those rubberers'."
But Mahan's strictures were quite unwarranted. The sharpshooters
were not firing at the parapet. Their scattering shots were
flying high, and hitting against the slope of the hill behind the
Adown this shell--pocked hillside, as Mahan and the other
disturbed idlers gazed, came cantering a huge dark-brown-and-
white collie. The morning wind stirred the black stippling that
edged his tawny fur, showing the gold-gray undercoat beneath it.
His white chest was like a snowdrift, and offered a fine mark for
the German rifles. A bullet or two sang whiningly past his gayly
A hundred voices from the Here-We-Come trenches hailed the
"Why, it's Bruce!" cried Mahan in glad welcome. "I might 'a'
known he or another of the collies would be along. I might 'a'
known it, when the telephones went out of commission. He--"
"Regardez-donc!" interrupted the admiring Vivier. "He acts like
bullets was made of flies! Mooch he care for boche lead-pills, ce
"Yes," growled Dale worriedly; "and one of these days a bullet
will find its way into that splendid carcass of his. He's been
shot at, a thousand times, to my own knowledge. And all I ask is
a chance, with a rifle-butt, at the skull of the Hun who downs
"Downs Bruce?" queried Vivier in fine scorn. "The boche he is no
borned who can do it. Bruce has what you call it, in Ainglish,
the 'charm life.' He go safe, where other caniche be pepper-
potted full of holes. I've watch heem. I know."
Unscathed by the several shots that whined past him, Bruce came
to a halt at the edge of a traverse. There he stood, wagging his
plume of a tail in grave friendliness, while a score of khaki-
clad arms reached up to lift him bodily into the trench.
A sergeant unfastened the message from the dog's collar and
posted off to the colonel with it.
The message was similar to one which had been telephoned to each
of the supporting bodies, to right and to left of the Here-We-
Comes. It bade the colonel prepare to withdraw his command from
the front trenches at nightfall, and to move back on the main
force behind the hill-crest. The front trenches were not
important; and they were far too lightly manned to resist a mass
attack. Wherefore the drawing-in and consolidating of the whole
Bruce, his work done now, had leisure to respond to the countless
offers of hospitality that encompassed him. One man brought him a
slice of cold broiled bacon. Another spread pork-grease over a
bit of bread and proffered it. A third unearthed from some
sacredly guarded hiding-place an excessively stale half-inch
square of sweet chocolate.
Had the dog so chosen, he might then and there have eaten himself
to death on the multitude of votive offerings. But in a few
minutes he had had enough, and he merely sniffed in polite
refusal at all further gifts.
"See?" lectured Mahan. "That's the beast of it! When you say a
fellow eats or drinks 'like a beast,' you ought to remember that
a beast won't eat or drink a mouthful more than is good for him."
"Gee!" commented the somewhat corpulent Dale. "I'm glad I'm not a
beast--especially on pay-day."
Presently Bruce tired of the ovation tendered him. These ovations
were getting to be an old story. They had begun as far back as
his training-camp days--when the story of his joining the army
was told by the man to whom The Place's guest had written
commending the dog to the trainers' kindness.
At the training-camp this story had been reenforced by the chief
collie-teacher--a dour little Hieland Scot named McQuibigaskie,
who on the first day declared that the American dog had more
sense and more promise and more soul "than a' t'other tykes south
o' Kirkcudbright Brae."
Being only mortal, Bruce found it pleasanter to be admired and
petted than ignored or kicked. He was impersonally friendly with
the soldiers, when he was off duty; and he relished the dainties
they were forever thrusting at him.
But at times his soft eyes would grow dark with homesickness for
the quiet loveliness of The Place and for the Mistress and the
Master who were his loyally worshiped gods. Life had been so
happy and so sweetly uneventful for him, at The Place! And there
had been none of the awful endless thunder and the bewilderingly
horrible smells and gruesome sights which here met him at every
The dog's loving heart used to grow sick with it all; and he
longed unspeakably for home. But he was a gallant soldier, and he
did his work not only well, but with a snap and a dash and an
almost uncanny intelligence which made him an idol to the men.
Presently, now, having eaten all he wanted and having been patted
and talked to until he craved solitude, Bruce strolled ever to an
empty dugout, curled up on a torn blanket there, put his nose
between his white paws and went to sleep.
The German artillery-fire had swelled from an occasional
explosion to a ceaseless roar, that made the ground vibrate and
heave, and that beat on the eardrums with nauseating iterance.
But it did not bother Bruce. For months he had been used to this
sort of annoyance, and he had learned to sleep snugly through it
Meanwhile, outside his dugout, life was speeding up at a dizzying
rate. The German artillery had sprung to sudden and wholesale
activity. Far to the right of the Here-We-Come regiment's
trenches a haze had begun to crawl along the ground and to send
snaky tendrils high in air-tendrils that blended into a single
grayish-green wall as they moved forward. The hazewall's gray-
green was shot by yellow and purple tinges as the sun's weak rays
touched it. To the left of the Here-We-Comes, and then in front
of them, appeared the same wall of billowing gas.
The Here-We-Comes were ready for it with their hastily donned
masks. But there was no need of the precaution. By one of the
sudden wind--freaks so common in the story of the war, the gas-
cloud was cleft in two by a swirling breeze, and it rolled dankly
on, to right and left, leaving the central trenches clear.
Now, an artillery barrage, accompanied or followed by a gas-
demonstration, can mean but one thing: a general attack.
Therefore telephonic word came to the detachments to left and
right of the Here-We-Comes, to fall back, under cover of the gas-
cloud, to safer positions. Two dogs were sent, with the same
order, to the Here-We-Comes. (One of the dogs was gassed. A bit
of shrapnel found the other.)
Thus it was that the Here-We-Comes were left alone (though they
did not know it), to hold the position,--with no support on
either side, and with a mere handful of men wherewith to stem the
On the heels of the dispersing gas-cloud, and straight across the
half-mile or less of broken ground, came a line of gray. In five
successive waves, according to custom, the boches charged. Each
wave hurled itself forward as fast as efficiency would let it, in
face of the opposing fire, and as far as human endurance would be
goaded. Then it went down, and its survivors attached themselves
to the succeeding wave.
Hence, by the time the fifth and mightiest wave got into motion,
it was swelled by the survivors of all four of its predecessors
and was an all-but-resistless mass of shouting and running men.
The rifles and machine-guns of the Here-We-Comes played merrily
into the advancing gray swarms, stopping wave after wave, and at
last checking the fifth and "master" wave almost at the very
brink of the Franco-American parapet.
"That's how they do!" Mahan pantingly explained to a rather shaky
newcomer, as the last wave fell back. "They count on numbers and
bullrushes to get them there. If they'd had ten thousand men, in
that rush, instead of five thousand, they'd have got us. And if
they had twice as many men in their whole army as they have,
they'd win this war. But praise be, they haven't twice as many!
That is one of the fifty-seven reasons why the Allies are going
to lick Germany."
Mahan talked jubilantly. The same jubilation ran all along the
line of victors. But the colonel and his staff were not
rejoicing. They had just learned of the withdrawal of the forces
to either side of them, and they knew they themselves could not
hope to stand against a second and larger charge.
Such a charge the enemy were certain to make. The Germans, too,
must soon learn of the defection of the supports. It was now only
a question of an hour or less before a charge with a double-
enveloping movement would surround and bag the Here-We-Comes,
catching the whole regiment in an inescapable trap.
To fall back, now, up that long bare hillside, under full fire of
the augmented German artillery, would mean a decimating of the
entire command. The Here-We-Comes could not retreat. They could
not hope to hold their ground. The sole chance for life lay in
the arrival of strong reenforcements from the rear, to help them
hold the trenches until night, or to man the supporting
positions. Reserves were within easy striking distance. But, as
happened so many times in the war, there was no routine way to
summon them in time.
It was the chance sight of a crumpled message lying on his
dugout-table that reminded the colonel of Bruce's existence and
of his presence in the front trench. It was a matter of thirty
seconds for the colonel to scrawl an urgent appeal and a brief
statement of conditions. Almost as soon as the note was ready, an
orderly appeared at the dugout entrance, convoying the newly
The all-important message was fastened in place. The colonel
himself went to the edge of the traverse, and with his own arms
lifted the eighty-pound collie to the top.
There was tenderness as well as strength in the lifting arms. As
he set Bruce down on the brink, the colonel said, as if speaking
to a fellow-human:
"I hate to do it, old chap. I HATE to! There isn't one chance in
three of your getting all the way up the hill alive. But there
wouldn't be one chance in a hundred, for a MAN. The boches will
be on the lookout for just this move. And their best
sharpshooters will be waiting for you--even if you dodge the
shrapnel and the rest of the artillery. I'm sorry! And--good-by."
Then, tersely, he rasped out the command--
"Bruce! Headquarters! Headquarters! QUICK!"
At a bound, the dog was gone.
Breasting the rise of the hill, Bruce set off at a sweeping run,
his tawny-and-white mane flying in the wind.
A thousand eyes, from the Here-We-Come trenches, watched his
flight. And as many eyes from the German lines saw the huge
collie's dash up the coverless slope.
Scarce had Bruce gotten fairly into his stride when the boche
bullets began to sing--not a desultory little flurry of shots, as
before; but by the score, and with a murderous earnestness. When
he had appeared, on his way to the trenches, an hour earlier, the
Germans had opened fire on him, merely for their own amusement--
upon the same merry principle which always led them to shoot at
an Ally war-dog. But now they understood his all-important
mission; and they strove with their best skill to thwart it.
The colonel of the Here-We-Comes drew his breath sharply between
his teeth. He did not regret the sending of the collie. It had
been a move of stark military necessity. And there was an off
chance that it might mean the saving of his whole command.
But the colonel was fond of Bruce, and it angered him to hear the
frantic effort of the boche marksmen to down so magnificent a
creature. The bullets were spraying all about the galloping dog,
kicking up tiny swirls of dust at his heels and in front of him
and to either side.
Mahan, watching, with streaming eyes and blaspheming lips,
recalled the French sergeant's theory that Bruce bore a charmed
life. And he prayed that Vivier might be right. But in his prayer
was very little faith. For under such a fusillade it seemed
impossible that at least one highpower bullet should not reach
the collie before the slope could be traversed. A fast-running
dog is not an easy mark for a bullet--especially if the dog be a
collie, with a trace of wolf--ancestry in his gait. A dog, at
best, does not gallop straight ahead as does a horse. There is
almost always a sidewise lilt to his run.
Bruce was still further aided by the shell-plowed condition of
the hillside. Again and again he had to break his stride, to leap
some shell-hole. Often he had to encircle such holes. More than
once he bounded headlong down into a gaping crater and scrambled
up its far side. These erratic moves, and the nine-hundred-yard
distance (a distance that was widening at every second) made the
sharpshooters' task anything but an exact science.
Mahan's gaze followed the dog's every step. Bruce had cleared
more than three-fourths of the slope. The top-sergeant permitted
himself the luxury of a broad grin.
"I'll buy Vivier all the red-ink wine he can gargle, next pay-
day!" he vowed. "He was dead right about the dog. No bullet was
ever molded that can get--"
Mahan broke off in his exultation, with an explosive oath, as a
new note in the firing smote upon his trained hearing.
"The swine!" he roared. "The filthy, unsportsmanly, dog-eating
Prussian swine! They're turning MACHINE-GUNS on him!"
In place of the intermittent rattle of rifleshots now came the
purring cough of rapidfire guns. The bullets hit the upper
hillside in swathes, beginning a few yards behind the flying
collie and moving upward toward him like a sweeping of an unseen
"That's the wind-up!" groaned Mahan. "Lord, send me an even break
against one of those Hun machinegunners some day! If--"
Again Mahan failed to finish his train of thought. He stared
open-mouthed up the hill. Almost at the very summit, within a rod
or two of the point where the crest would intervene between him
and his foes, Bruce whirled in mid-air and fell prone.
The fast-following swaths of machine-gun bullets had not reached
him. But another German enemy had. From behind a heap of offal,
on the crest, a yellow-gray dog had sprung, and had launched
himself bodily upon Bruce's flank as the unnoticing collie had
flashed past him.
The assailant was an enormous and hyena-like German police-dog.
He was one of the many of his breed that were employed (for work
or food) in the German camps, and which used to sneak away from
their hard-kicking soldier-owners to ply a more congenial trade
as scavengers, and as seekers for the dead. For, in traits as
well as in looks, the police-dog often emulates the ghoulish
Seeing the approaching collie (always inveterate foe of his
kind), the police-dog had gauged the distance and had launched
his surprise attack with true Teuton sportsmanship and
efficiency. Down went Bruce under the fierce weight that crashed
against his shoulder. But before the other could gain his coveted
throat-grip, Bruce was up again. Like a furry whirlwind he was at
the police-dog, fighting more like a wolf than a civilized collie
--tearing into his opponent with a maniac rage, snapping,
slashing; his glittering white fangs driving at a dozen
vulnerable points in a single second.
It was as though Bruce knew he had no time to waste from his
life-and-death mission. He could not elude this enemy, so he must
finish him as quickly as possible.
"Give me your rifle!" sputtered Mahan to the soldier nearest him.
"I'll take one potshot at that Prussian cur, before the machine-
guns get the two of 'em. Even if I hit Bruce by mistake, he'd
rather die by a Christian Yankee-made bullet than--"
Just then the scythelike machine-gun fire reached the hillcrest
combatants. And in the same instant a shell smote the ground,
apparently between them. Up went a geyser of smoke and dirt and
rocks. When the cloud settled, there was a deep gully in the
ground where a moment earlier Bruce and the police-dog had waged
"That settles it!" muttered the colonel.
And he went to make ready for such puny defense as his men might
hope to put up against the German rush.
While these futile preparations were still under way, terrific
artillery fire burst from the Allied batteries behind the hill,
shielding the Here-We-Come trenches with a curtain of fire whose
lower folds draped themselves right unlovingly around the German
lines. Under cover of this barrage, down the hill swarmed the
"How did you get word?" demanded the astonished colonel of the
Here-We-Comes, later in the day.
"From your note, of course," replied the general he had
questioned. "The collie--old Bruce."
"Bruce?" babbled the colonel foolishly.
"Of course," answered the general. "Who else? But I'm afraid it's
the last message he'll ever deliver. He came rolling and
staggering up to headquarters--one mass of blood, and three
inches thick with caked dirt. His right side was torn open from a
shell-wound, and he had two machine-gun bullets in his shoulder.
He's deaf as a post, too, from shell-shock. He tumbled over in a
heap on the steps of headquarters. But he GOT there. That's
Bruce, all over. That's the best type of collie, all over. Some
of us were for putting him out of his misery with a shot through
the head. We'd have done it, too, if it had been any other dog.
But the surgeon-general waded in and took a hand in the game--
carried Bruce to his own quarters. We left him working over the
dog himself. And he swears Bruce will pull through!"
CHAPTER IV. When Eyes Were No Use
"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
"No," contradicted Mahan. "A Scotch collie. If you were dry
behind the ears, in this life, you wouldn't have to ask who Bruce
"I don't understand," faltered the rookie, suspicious of a
"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
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
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
"I wonder which of you he'll come to, first," said the interested
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
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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 l ieutenant, 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
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
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
one 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
Mahan whispered to the man on his immediate left, the rookie from
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
Bruce glanced back, impatient at the delay. But Mahan did not let
go. Instead he said once more:
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
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.
CHAPTER V The Double Cross
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 fašade.
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
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.
"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
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
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.
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
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!
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
"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
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
doorway 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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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!"
CHAPTER VI. The Werewolf
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
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
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
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 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
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
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