Albert Payson Terhune
Part 3 out of 3
division commander had written to the colonel, in the dispatch
which Bruce had brought.
German airmen, sailing far above, and dodging as best they could
the charges of the Allied 'planes, had just noted that the "Here-
We-Comes" "salient" was really no salient at all. So far had it
advanced that, for the moment, it was out of touch with the rest
of the division. It was, indeed, in an excellent position to be
cut off and demolished by a dashing nightattack. And a report to
this effect was delivered to a fumingly distracted German major
general, who yearned for a chance to atone in some way for the
day's shameful reverses.
"If they hadn't halted us and made us call it a day, just as we
were getting into our stride," loudly grumbled one Yankee private
to another as the two clumped up to the kitchen, "we'd have been
in Fere-en-Tardenois by now. What lazy guy is running this drive,
"The same lazy guy that will stick you into the hoosgow for
insubordination and leave you to do your bit there while the rest
of us stroll on to Berlin!" snapped Top-Sergeant Mahan, wheeling
upon the grumbler. "Till you learn how to obey orders without
grouching, it isn't up to you to knock wiser men. Shut up!"
Though Mahan's tone of reproof was professionally harsh, his
spirit was not in his words. And the silenced private knew it. He
knew, too, that the top-sergeant was as savage over the early
halt as were the rest of the men.
Bruce, as a rule, when he honored the "Here-We-Comes" with a
visit, spent the bulk of his time with Mahan and old Vivier. But
to-day neither of these friends was an inspiring companion. Nor
were the rest of Bruce's acquaintances disposed to friendliness.
Wherefore, as soon as supper was eaten, the dog returned to his
heap of bedding, for the hour or so of laziness which Nature
teaches all her children to demand, after a full meal,--and which
the so-called "dumb" animals alone are intelligent enough to
Dusk had merged into night when Bruce got to his feet again. Taps
had just sounded. The tired men gladly rolled themselves into
their blankets and fell into a dead sleep. A sentry-relief set
forth to replace the first batch of sentinels with the second.
Mahan was of the party. Though the topsergeant had been a stupid
comrade, thus far to-day, he was now evidently going for a walk.
And even though it was a duty-walk, yet the idea of it appealed
to the dog after his long inaction.
So Bruce got up and followed. As he came alongside the stiffly
marching top-sergeant, the collie so far subverted discipline as
to thrust his nose, in friendly greeting, into Mahan's slightly
cupped palm. And the top-sergeant so far abetted the breach of
discipline as to give the collie's head a furtive pat. The night
was dim, as the moon had not risen; so the mutual contact of
good-fellowship was not visible to the marching men on either
side of Mahan and the dog. And discipline, therefore, did not
suffer much, after all.
At one post after another, a sentinel was relieved and a fresh
man took his place. Farthest in front of the "Here-We-Comes"
lines-- and nearest to the German--was posted a lanky Missourian
whom Bruce liked, a man who had a way of discovering in his deep
pockets stray bits of food which he had hoarded there for the
collie and delighted to dole out to him. The Missourian had a
drawlingly soft voice the dog liked, and he used to talk to Bruce
as if the latter were another human.
For all these reasons--and because Mahan was too busy and too
grumpy to bother with him--Bruce elected to stay where he was,
for a while, and share the Missourian's vigil. So, when the rest
of the party moved along to the next sentry-go, the dog remained.
The Missourian was only too glad to have him do so. It is tedious
and stupid to pace a desolate beat, alone, at dead of night,
after a day of hard fighting. And the man welcomed the
companionship of the dog.
For a time, as the Missourian paced his solitary stretch of
broken and shrub-grown ground, Bruce gravely paced to and fro at
his side. But presently this aimless promenade began to wax
uninteresting. And, as the two came to the far end of the beat,
Bruce yawned and lay down. It was pleasanter to lie there and to
watch the sentinel do the walking.
Stretched out, in a little grass-hollow, the dog followed
blinkingly with his soft brown eyes the pendulumlike progress of
his friend. And always the dog's plumed tail would beat rhythmic
welcome against the ground as the sentry approached him.
Thus nearly an hour wore on. A fat moon butted its lazy way
through the smoke-mists of the eastern skyline.
Then something happened--something that Bruce could readily have
forestalled if the wind had been blowing from the other
direction, and if a dog's eyes were not as nearsighted as his
nose is farsmelling.
The Missourian paused to run his hand caressingly over the
collie's rough mane, and moved on, down the lonely beat. Bruce
watched his receding figure, drowsily. At the end of ninety yards
or more, the Missourian passed by a bunch of low bushes which
grew at the near side of a stretch of hilly and shellpocked
ground. He moved past the bushes, still watched by the somewhat
It was then that Bruce saw a patch of bushshadow detach itself
from the rest, under the glow of the rising moon. The shadow was
humpy and squat. Noiseless, it glided out from among the bushes,
close at the sentry's heels, and crept after him.
Bruce pricked his ears and started to get up. His curiosity was
roused. The direction of the wind prevented him from smelling out
the nature of the mystery. It also kept his keen hearing from
supplying any clue. And the distance would not permit him to see
with any distinctness.
Still his curiosity was very mild. Surely, if danger threatened,
the sentinel would realize it. For by this time the Shadow was a
bare three feet behind him near enough, by Bruce's system of
logic, for the Missourian to have smelled and heard the pursuer.
So Bruce got up, in the most leisurely fashion, preparatory to
strolling across to investigate. But at almost his first step he
saw something that changed his gracefully slouching walk into a
The Shadow suddenly had merged with the sentinel. For an instant,
in stark silence, the two seemed to cling together. Then the
Shadow fled, and the lanky Missourian slumped to the earth in a
sprawling heap, his throat cut.
The slayer had been a deft hand at the job. No sound had escaped
the Missourian, from the moment the stranglingly tight left arm
had been thrown around his throat from behind until, a second
later, he fell bleeding and lifeless.
In twenty leaping strides, Bruce came up to the slain sentinel
and bent over him. Dog-instinct told the collie his friend had
been done to death. And the dog's power of scent told him it was
a German who had done the killing.
For many months, Bruce had been familiar with the scent of German
soldiers, so different from that of the army in which he toiled.
And he had learned to hate it, even as a dog hates the vague
"crushed cucumber" smell of a pitviper. But while every dog
dreads the viper-smell as much as he loathes it, Bruce had no
fear at all of the boche odor. Instead, it always awoke in him a
blood-lust, as fierce as any that had burned in his wolf-
This same fury swept him now, as he stood, quivering, above the
body of the kindly man who so lately had petted him; this and a
craving to revenge the murder of his human friend.
For the briefest time, Bruce stood there, his dark eyes abrim
with unhappiness and bewilderment, as he gazed down on the
huddled form in the wet grass. Then an electric change came over
him. The softness fled from his eyes, leaving them bloodshot and
blazing. His great tawny ruff bristled like an angry cat's. The
lazy gracefulness departed from his mighty body. It became tense
and terrible. In the growing moonlight his teeth gleamed whitely
from under his upcurled lip.
In a flash he turned and set off at a loping run, nose close to
ground, his long stride deceptively swift. The zest of the man-
hunt had obsessed him, as completely as, that day, it had spurred
the advance of the "Here-We-Comes."
The trail of the slayer was fresh, even over such broken ground.
Fast as the German had fled, Bruce was flying faster. Despite the
murderer's long start, the dog speedily cut down the distance
between his quarry and himself. Not trusting to sight, but solely
to his unerring sense of smell. Bruce sped on.
Then, in a moment or two, his hearing re-enforced his scent. He
could catch the pad-pad-pad of running feet. And the increasing
of the sound told him he was gaining fast.
But in another bound his ears told him something else--something
he would have heard much sooner, had not the night wind been
setting so strongly in the other direction. He heard not only the
pounding of his prey's heavy-shod feet, but the soft thud of
hundreds--perhaps thousands--of other army shoes. And now,
despite the adverse wind, the odor of innumerable soldiers came
to his fiercely sniffing nostrils. Not only was it the scent of
soldiers, but of German soldiers.
For the first time, Bruce lifted his head from the ground, as he
ran, and peered in front of him. The moon had risen above the
low-lying horizon vapors into a clear sky, and the reach of
country was sharply visible.
Bruce saw the man he was chasing,--saw him plainly. The German
was still running, but not at all as one who flees from peril. He
ran, rather, as might the bearer of glad tidings. And he was even
now drawing up to a group of men who awaited eagerly his coming.
There must have been fifty men in the group. Behind them--in open
formation and as far as the dog's near-sighted eyes could see--
were more men, and more, and more--thousands of them, all moving
Now, a collie (in brain, though never in heart) is much more wolf
than dog. A bullterrier, or an Airedale, would have charged on at
his foe, and would have let himself be hacked to pieces before
loosing his hold on the man.
But--even as a wolf checks his pursuit of a galloping sheep when
the latter dashes into the guarded fold--Bruce came to an abrupt
halt, at sight of these reenforcements. He stood irresolute,
still mad with vengeful anger, but not foolish enough to assail a
whole brigade of armed men.
It is quite impossible (though Mahan and Vivier used to swear it
must be true) that Bruce had the reasoning powers to figure out
the whole situation which confronted him. He could not have known
that a German brigade had been sent to take advantage of the
"Here-We-Comes" temporarily isolated position--that three
sentries had been killed in silence and that their deaths had
left a wide gap through which the brigade hoped to creep
unobserved until they should be within striking distance of their
unsuspectingly slumbering victims.
Bruce could not have known this. He could not have grasped the
slightest fraction of the idea, being only a real-life dog and
not a fairytale animal. But what he could and did realize was
that a mass of detested Germans was moving toward him, and that
he could not hope to attack them, single-handed; also, that he
was not minded to slink peacefully away and leave his friend
Thwarted rage dragged from his furry throat a deep growl; a growl
that resounded eerily through that silent place of stealthy
moves. And he stepped majestically forth from the surrounding
long grass, into the full glare of moonlight.
The deceptive glow made him loom gigantic and black, and tinged
his snowy chest with the phosphorous gleam of a snowfield. His
eyes shone like a wild beast's.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Corporal Rudolph Freund, of the Konigin Luise Regiment, had just
finished his three-word report to his superior. He had merely
saluted and announced
"He is dead!"
Corporal Freund did not thrill, as usual, to the colonel's grunt
of approval. The Corporal was worried. He was a Black Forest
peasant; and, while iron military life had dulled his native
superstitions, it had not dispelled them.
The night was mystic, in its odd blend of moon and shadows.
However hardened one may be, it is a nerve-strain to creep
through long grass, like a red Indian, to the murder of a hostile
sentinel. And every German in the "Pocket" had been under
frightful mental and physical stress, for the past week.
Corporal Rudolph Freund was a brave man and a brute. But that
week had sapped his nerve. And the work of this night had been
the climax. The desolate ground, over which he had crawled to the
killing, had suddenly seemed peopled with evil gnomes and
goblins, whose existence no true Black Forest peasant can doubt.
And, on the run back, he had been certain he heard some unseen
monster tearing through the underbrush in hot pursuit of him. So
certain had he been, that he had redoubled his speed.
There were no wolves or other large wild animals in that region.
When he had wriggled toward the slow-pacing American sentinel, he
had seen and heard no creature of any sort. Yet he was sure that
on the way back he had been pursued by--by Something! And into
his scared memory, as he ran, had flashed the ofttold Black
Forest tale of the Werewolf--the devil--beast that is entered by
the soul of a murdered man and which tracks the murderer to his
Glad was the unnerved Corporal Freund when his run ceased and he
stood close to his grossly solid and rank-scented fellowmen once
more. Almost he was inclined to laugh at his fears of the fabled
Werewolf--and especially at the idea that he had been pursued. He
drew a long breath of relief. He drew the breath in. But he did
not at once expel it. For on his ears came the sound of a hideous
Corporal Freund spun about, in the direction of the mysterious
threat. And there, not thirty feet from him, in the ghostly
moonlight, stood the Werewolf!
This time there could be no question of overstrained nerves and
of imagination. The Thing was THERE!
Horribly visible in every detail, the Werewolf was glaring at
him. He could see the red glow of the gigantic devil-beast's
eyes, the white flash of its teeth, the ghostly shimmering of its
snowy chest. The soul of the man he had slain had taken this
traditional form and was hunting down the slayer! A thousand
stories of Freund's childhood verified the frightful truth. And
overwrought human nature's endurance went to pieces under the
A maniac howl of terror split the midnight stillness. Shriek
after shriek rent the air. Freund tumbled convulsively to the
ground at his colonel's feet, gripping the officer's booted knees
and screeching for protection. The colonel, raging that the
surprise attack should be imperiled by such a racket, beat the
frantic man over the mouth with his heavy fist, kicking
ferociously at his upturned writhing face, and snarling to him to
The shower of blows brought Freund back to sanity, to the extent
of changing his craven terror into Fear's secondary phase--the
impulse to strike back at the thing that had caused the fright.
Rolling over and over on the ground, under the impact of his
superior's fist blows and kicks, Freund somehow regained his
Reeling up to the nearest soldier, the panic-crazed corporal
snatched the private's rifle and fired three times, blindly, at
Bruce. Then, foaming at the mouth, Freund fell heavily to earth
again, chattering and twitching in a fit.
Bruce, at the second shot, leaped high in the air, and collapsed,
in an inert furry heap, among the bushes. There he lay,--his
career as a courier-dog forever ended.
Corporal Rudolph Freund was perhaps the best sniper in his
regiment. Wildly though he had fired, marksman-instinct had
guided his bullets. And at such close range there was no missing.
Bruce went to earth with one rifle ball through his body, and
another in his leg. A third had reached his skull.
Now, the complete element of surprise was all-needful for the
attack the Germans had planned against the "Here-We-Comes."
Deprived of that advantage the expedition was doomed to utter
failure. For, given a chance to wake and to rally, the regiment
could not possibly be "rushed," in vivid moonlight, before the
nearest Allied forces could move up to its support. And those
forces were only a mile or so to the rear. There can be no
possible hope for a surprise attack upon a well-appointed camp
when the night's stillness has been shattered by a series of
maniac screams and by three echoing rifle-shots.
Already the guard was out. A bugle was blowing. In another
minute, the sentry-calls would locate the gap made by the three
A swift guttural conference among the leaders of the gray-clad
marauders was followed by the barking of equally guttural
commands. And the Germans withdrew as quietly and as rapidly as
they had come.
* * * * * * * * * * *
It was the mouthing and jabbering of the fit-possessed Corporal
Rudolph Freund that drew to him the notice of a squad of Yankees
led by Top-Sergeant Mahan, ten minutes later. It was the shudder
--accompanied pointing of the delirious man's finger, toward the
nearby clump of undergrowth, that revealed to them the still warm
body of Bruce.
Back to camp, carried lovingly in Mahan's strong arms, went all
that was left of the great courier-dog. Back to camp, propelled
between two none-too-gentle soldiers, staggered the fit-ridden
At the colonel's quarters, a compelling dose of stimulant cleared
some of the mists from the prisoner's brain. His nerve and his
will-power still gone to smash, he babbled eagerly enough of the
night attack, of the killing of the sentries and of his encounter
with the Werewolf.
"I saw him fall!" he raved. "But he is not dead. The Werewolf can
be killed only by a silver bullet, marked with a cross and
blessed by a priest. He will live to track me down! Lock me where
he cannot find me, for the sake of sweet mercy!"
And in this way, the "Here-We-Comes" learned of Bruce's part in
the night's averted disaster.
Old Vivier wept unashamed over the body of the dog he had loved.
Top-Sergeant Mahan--the big tears splashing, unnoted, from his
own red eyes--besought the Frenchman to strive for better self-
control and not to set a cry-baby example to the men.
Then a group of grim-faced soldiers dug a grave. And, carried by
Mahan and Vivier, the beautiful dog's body was borne to its
resting-place. A throng of men in the gray dawn stood wordless
around the grave. Some one shamefacedly took off his hat. With
equal shamefacedness, everybody else followed the example.
Mahan laid the dog's body on the ground, at the grave's brink.
Then, looking about him, he cleared his throat noisily and spoke.
"Boys," he began, "when a human dies for other humans, there's a
Christian burial service read over him. I'd have asked the
chaplain to read one over Bruce, here, if I hadn't known he'd say
no. But the Big Dog isn't going to rest without a word said over
his grave, for all that."
Mahan cleared his throat noisily once more, winked fast, then
"You can laugh at me, if any of you feel like it. But there's
some of you here who wouldn't be alive to laugh, if Bruce hadn't
done what he did last night. He was only just a dog--with no
soul, and with no life after this one, I s'pose. So he went ahead
and did his work and took the risks, and asked no pay.
"And by and by he died, still doing his work and asking no pay.
"He didn't work with the idea of getting a cross or a ribbon or a
promotion or a pension or his name in the paper or to make the
crowd cheer him when he got back home, or to brag to the
homefolks about how he was a hero. He just went ahead and WAS a
hero. That's because he was only a dog, with no soul--and not a
"All of us humans are working for some reward, even if it's only
for our pay or for the fun of doing our share. But Bruce was a
hero because he was just a dog, and because he didn't know enough
to be anything else but a hero.
"I've heard about him, before he joined up with us. I guess most
of us have. He lived up in Jersey, somewhere. With folks that had
bred him. I'll bet a year's pay he was made a lot of by those
folks; and that it wrenched 'em to let him go. You could see he'd
been brought up that way. Life must 'a' been pretty happy for the
old chap, back there. Then he was picked up and slung into the
middle of this hell.
"So was the rest of us, says you. But you're wrong. Those of us
that waited for the draft had our choice of going to the hoosgow,
as 'conscientious objectors,' if we didn't want to fight. And
every mother's son of us knew we was fighting for the Right; and
that we was making the world a decenter and safer place for our
grandchildren and our womenfolks to live in. We didn't brag about
God being on our side, like the boches do. It was enough for us
to know WE was on GOD'S side and fighting His great fight for
Him. We had patriotism and religion and Right, behind us, to give
"Brucie hadn't a one of those things. He didn't know what he was
here for--and why he'd been pitched out of his nice home, into
all this. He didn't have a chance to say Yes or No. He didn't
have any spellbinders to tell him he was making the world safe
for d'mocracy. He was MADE to come.
"How would any of us humans have acted, if a deal like that had
been handed to us? We'd 'a' grouched and slacked and maybe
deserted. That's because we're lords of creation and have souls
and brains and such. What did Bruce do? He jumped into this game,
with bells on. He risked his life a hundred times; and he was
just as ready to risk it again the next day.
"Yes, and he knew he was risking it, too. There's blame little he
didn't know. He saw war-dogs, all around him, choking to death
from gas, or screaming their lives out, in No Man's Land, when a
bit of shell had disemboweled 'em or a bullet had cracked their
backbones. He saw 'em starve to death. He saw 'em one bloody mass
of scars and sores. He saw 'em die of pneumonia and mange and
every rotten trench disease. And he knew it might be his turn,
any time at all, to die as they were dying; and he knew the
humans was too busy nursing other humans, to have time to spare
on caring for tortured dogs. (Though those same dogs were dying
for the humans, if it comes to that.)
"Yes, Bruce knew what the end was bound to be. He knew it. And he
kept on, as gay and as brave as if he was on a day's romp. He
never flinched. Not even that time the K.O. sent him up the hill
for reenforcements at Rache, when every sharpshooter in the boche
trenches was laying for him, and when the machine guns were
trained on him, too. Bruce knew he was running into death--,then
and a dozen other times. And he went at it like a white man.
"I'm--I'm getting longwinded. And I'll stop. But--maybe if you
boys will remember the Big Dog--and what he did for us,--when you
get back home,--if you'll remember him and what he did and what
thousands of other war-dogs have done,--then maybe you'll be men
enough to punch the jaw of any guy who gets to saying that dogs
are nuisances and that vivisection's a good thing, and all that.
If you'll just do that much, then--well, then Bruce hasn't lived
and died for nothing!
"Brucie, old boy," bending to lift the tawny body and lower it
into the grave, "it's good-by. It's good-by to the cleanest,
whitest pal that a poor dub of a doughboy ever had. I--"
Mahan glowered across at the clump of silent men.
"If anybody thinks I'm crying," he continued thickly, "he's a
liar. I got a cold, and--"
"Sacre bon Dieu!" yelled old Vivier, insanely. "Regarde-donc! Nom
He knelt quickly beside the body, in an ecstasy of excitement.
The others craned their necks to see. Then from a hundred throats
went up a gasp of amazement.
Bruce, slowly and dazedly, was lifting his magnificent head!
"Chase off for the surgeon!" bellowed Mahan, plumping down on his
knees beside Vivier and examining the wound in the dog's scalp.
"The bullet only creased his skull! It didn't go through! It's
just put him out for a few hours, like I've seen it do to men.
Get the surgeon! If that bullet in his body didn't hit something
vital, we'll pull him around, yet! GLORY BE!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
It was late summer again at The Place, late opulent summer, with
the peace of green earth and blue sky, the heavy droning of bees
and the promise of harvest. The long shadows of late afternoon
stretched lovingly across the lawn, from the great lakeside
trees. Over everything brooded a dreamy amber light. The war
seemed a million miles away.
The Mistress and the Master came down from the vine-shaded
veranda for their sunset walk through the grounds. At sound of
their steps on the gravel, a huge dark-brown-and-white collie
emerged from his resting-place under the wistaria-arbor.
He stretched himself lazily, fore and aft, in collie-fashion.
Then he trotted up to his two deities and thrust his muzzle
playfully into the Mistress's palm, as he fell into step with the
He walked with a stiffness in one foreleg. His gait was not a
limp. But the leg's strength could no longer be relied on for a
ten-mile gallop. Along his forehead was a new-healed bullet-
crease. And the fur on his sides had scarcely yet grown over the
mark of the high-powered ball which had gone clear through him
without touching a mortal spot.
Truly, the regimental surgeon of the "Here-We-Comes" had done a
job worthy of his own high fame! And the dog's wonderful
condition had done the rest.
Apart from scars and stiffness, Bruce was none the worse for his
year on the battle-front. He could serve no longer as a dashing
courier. But his life as a pet was in no way impaired.
"Here's something that came by the afternoon mail, Bruce," the
Master greeted him, as the collie ranged alongside. "It belongs
to you. Take a look at it."
The Master drew from his pocket a leather box, and opened it. On
the oblong of white satin, within the cover, was pinned a very
small and very thin gold medal. But, light as it was, it had
represented much abstinence from estaminets and tobacco-shops, on
the part of its donors.
"Listen," the Master said, holding the medal in front of the
collie. "Listen, while I read you the inscription: 'To Bruce.
From some of the boys he saved from the boches.'"
Bruce was sniffing the thin gold lozenge interestedly. The
inscription meant nothing to him. But--strong and vivid to his
trained nostrils--he scented on the medal the loving finger-
touch of his old friend and admirer, Top Sergeant Mahan.
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