Further Adventures of Lad
Albert Payson Terhune
Part 4 out of 5
glancing back to see that his father was not looking, he climbed
the bare stony hillock, toward the lean-to; Lad pacing
courteously along beside him.
Arrived at the shed, he took from a nail a rope-length; tied it
around Lad's neck; fastened the dog to one of the uprights;
shouldered the cooking-utensil bag; and started back toward the
He had saved himself, thus, a longer walk; and had obeyed his
father's orders to take Lad away. He was certain the Master, or
one of the others, missing the dog, would see him standing
forlornly there, just outside the lean-to's corner; or that
another errand would bring some of the party to the shed to
release him. At best, the boy was sore of heart and of body, at
his own rough treatment. And he had scant interest anything else.
Twenty minutes later, the truck chugged bumpily off, upon its
trip down the hazardous mountain track. The guide's boy rode in
triumph on the seat beside the truckman;--a position of honor and
"Where's Lad?" asked the Mistress, a minute afterward, as she and
the Master and the guide made ready to get into the car and
"Aboard the truck," responded Barret, in entire good faith. "Him
and my boy got a-skylarkin' here. So I sent Bud over to the truck
"That's queer!" mused the Mistress. "Why, Laddie never
condescends to play,--or 'skylark,' as you call it,--with anyone
except my husband or myself! He--"
"Never mind!" put in the Master. "We'll catch up with the truck
before it's gone a mile. And we can take Laddie aboard here,
then. But I wonder he consented to go ahead, without us. That
isn't like Lad. Holiday-spirits, I suppose. This trip has made a
puppy of him. A stately old gentleman like Laddie would never
think of rounding up bears and skunks, if he was at home." As he
talked, the car got under way; moving at rackety and racking
"first speed" over hummock and bump; as it joggled into the faint
wheeltrack. By reason of this noise and of the Master's stupid
homily, none of the trio heard an amazed little bark, from the
knoll-top, a hundred yards behind them.
Nor did the car catch up with the truck. At the end of the first
half mile, the horrible roadbed began to take toll of the elderly
tires. There were two punctures, in rapid succession. Then came a
blowout. And, at the bottom of the mountain a third puncture
varied the monotony of the ride. Thus, the truck reached the
Place well ahead of the faster vehicle.
The Mistress's first question was for Lad. Terror seized upon the
guide's boy, as he remembered where he had left the dog. He
glanced obliquely at the truckman, who had unloaded and who was
"Now--" said the scared youth, glibly, avoiding his father's
unsuspecting eye. "Now--now, Lad he was settin' 'twixt Simmons
and me. And he hops down and runs off around the house,
towards--towards the lake--soon as we stopped here. Most likely
he was thirsty-like, or something."
The Mistress was busy with details of the car's unpacking. So she
accepted the explanation. It seemed probable that the long and
dusty ride should have made Lad thirsty; and that after his drink
at the lake, he had made the rounds of the Place; as ever was his
wont after his few brief absences from home.
Not until dinnertime did she give another thought to her loved
pet's absence. The guide and his boy had long since departed, on
the truck, for their ten-mile distant home. Nor, even yet, did it
occur to the Mistress to question the truth of the youngster's
story. She merely wondered why, for the first time in his life,
Lad should absent himself at dinnertime from his time-honored
place on the dining-room floor, at the Master's left. And,
amusedly, she recalled what her husband had said of the stately
dog's new propensity for mischief. Perhaps Lad was exploring the
friendly home-woods in search of a bear!
But when ten o'clock came and Lad did not seek the shelter of his
"cave" under the music-room piano, for the night, there was real
worry. The Mistress went out on the veranda and sounded long and
shrilly upon the silver whistle which hung from her belt.
From puppyhood, Laddie had always come, at a sweeping gallop, on
sound of this whistle. Its notes could travel, through still air,
for a half mile or more. Their faintest echoes always brought the
dog in eager response. But tonight, a dozen wait-punctuated
blasts brought no other response than to set the distant village
dogs to barking.
The Mistress went back into the house, genuinely worried. Acting
on a sudden idea, she called up the Place's superintendent, at
"You were down here when the truck came to the house this
afternoon, weren't you?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am," said the man. "I was waiting for it. Mike and I
helped Simmons to unload."
"Did you see which way Lad went, when he jumped out of the
truck?" pursued the Mistress. "Or have any of you seen him since
"Why, no, ma'am," came the puzzled answer. "I haven't seen him at
all. I supposed he was in the car with you, and that maybe he'd
been in the house ever since. He wasn't on the truck: That's one
sure thing. I saw it stop; and I stayed till they finished
emptying it. Lad wasn't there."
There was a moment's pause. Then, the Mistress spoke again. Her
voice slightly muffled, she said:
"Please find out if there is plenty of gas in my car;--enough to
take it--say, forty miles. Thank you."
"What on earth--?" began the Master, as his wife left the
telephone and picked up an ulster.
"Laddie didn't come home on the truck," she made tremulous reply.
"And he wasn't with us. He hasn't come home all."
"He'll find his way, easily enough," returned the Master, albeit
with no great assurance. "Lad's found his way farther than that.
"If he was going to find his way," interrupted the Mistress,
"he'd have found it before now. I know Laddie. So do you. He is
up there. And he can't get back. He--"
"Nonsense!" laughed the Master. "Why, of course, he--"
"He is up there," insisted the Mistress, "and he can't get back.
I know him well enough to be, sure he'd have overtaken us, when
we stopped all those times to fix the tires;--if he had been left
behind. And I know something else: When we started on, after that
first puncture, we were about half a mile below the knoll. And as
we went around the bend, there was a gap in the trees. I was
looking back. For a second, I could see the lean-to, outlined
ever so clearly against the sky. And alongside of it was standing
some animal. It was far away; and we passed out of sight so
suddenly, that I couldn't see what it was; except that it was
large and dark. And it seemed to be struggling to move from where
it stood. I was going to speak to you about it,--I supposed it
was that black bear of Laddie's,--when we had the next puncture.
And that made me forget all about it;--till now. Of course, it
never occurred to me it could be Lad. Because Barret had said he
was in the truck. But--but oh, it WAS Laddie! He--he was
fastened, or caught, in some way. I know he was. Why, I could
see him struggle to--"
"Come on!" broke in the Master, hustling into his mackinaw.
"Unless you'll stay here, while I--"
"No," she protested. "I'm going. And I'm going because I'm
thinking of the same thing that's troubling you. I'm thinking of
those forest fires and of what you said about the wind changing
"Come on!" repeated the Master; starting for the garage.
Which shows how maudlinly foolish two otherwise sane people can
be; when they are lucky enough to own such a dog as Sunnybank
Lad. Naturally, the right course, at so cold and late an hour of
the autumn night, and after a long day of packing and motoring
and unpacking, was to go to bed; and to trust to luck that the
wise old collie would find his way back again. Instead, the two
set off on a twenty-mile wildgoose chase, with worried faces and
fast-beating hearts. It did not occur to either of them to stay
at home; or to send someone else on the long, frosty drive in
search of the missing dog.
Lad had watched the preparations for departure with increasing
worry. Also, the abnormally sensitive old fellow was wretchedly
unhappy. Except at dog-shows, he had never before been tied up.
And at such shows, the Mistress and the Master were always on
hand to pet and reassure him. Yet, here, he had suffered himself
to be tied by a smelly rope to the rotting post of a lean-to, by
a comparative stranger. And, in the open ground below the
hillock, his deities moved back and forth without so much as an
upward glance at him.
Then, to his dismay, truck and car had made off down the
mountainside; and he had been left alone in his imprisonment.
Except for a single unheard bark of protest, Lad made no effort
to call back the departing humans. Never before had they forsaken
him. And he had full trust that they would come back in a few
minutes and set him free.
When the car halted, a half-mile below, Lad felt certain his
faith was about to be justified. Then, as it moved on again, he
sprang to the end of his short rope, and tried to break free and
Then came the dying away of the chugging motor's echoes; and
silence rolled up and engulfed the wilderness hilltop.
Lad was alone. They had gone off and left him. They had with
never a word of goodby or a friendly command to watch camp until
their return. This was not the dog's first sojourn in camp. And
his memory was flawless. Always, he recalled, the arrival and the
loading of the truck and the striking of tents had meant that the
stay was over and that at the party was going home.
Home! The charm and novelty of the wilderness all at once faded.
Lad was desperately lonely and desperately unhappy. And his
feelings were cruelly hurt; at the strange treatment accorded
Yet, it did not occur to him to seek freedom and to follow his
gods to the home he loved. He had been tied here, presumably by
their order; certainly with their knowledge. And it behooved him
to wait until they should come to release him. He knew they would
come back, soon or late. They were his gods, his chums, his
playmates. They would no more desert him than he would have
deserted them. It was all right, somehow. Only, the waiting was
With a tired little sigh, the collie curled up in a miserable
heap on the stony ground, the shortness of his tether making even
this effort at repose anything but comfortable. And he waited.
A dog, that is happy and well, settles himself for a prolonged
wait, by stretching out on his side;--oftenest the left side; and
by dropping off into slumber. Seldom, unless he be cold or ill,
does a big dog curl up into a ball, to rest. Nor is he thoroughly
comfortable in such a posture.
Lad was not comfortable. He was not resting. He was wretched. Nor
did he try to snooze. Curled in a compact heap, his sorrowful
eyes abrim with sorrow, he lay scanning the bumpy mountainside
and straining his ears, for sign of the car's return. His
breathing was not as splendidly easy as usual. For, increasingly,
that earlier twinge of acrid smoke-reek was tickling his throat.
The haze, that had hovered over the farther hilltops and valleys,
was thickening; and it was creeping nearer. The breath of morning
breeze was stiffening into a steady wind; a wind that blew strong
from the west and carried on it the smell of forest fire.
Lad did not enjoy the ever-stronger smoke scent. But he gave only
half-heed to it. His main attention was centered on that winding
wagon-track whence the car and the truck had vanished into the
lowlands. And, through the solemnly spent hours he lay forlornly
But, after sunset, the smoke became too pervasive to be ignored
longer. It was not only stinging his throat and lungs, but it was
making his eyes smart. And it had cut off the view of all save
the nearer mountain-peaks.
Lad got to his feet; whining softly, under his breath. Ancestral
instinct was fairly shouting to his brain that here was terrible
peril. He strained at his thick rope; and looked imploringly down
The wind had swelled into something like a gale. And, now, to
Lad's keen ears came the far-off snap and crack of a million dry
twigs as the flame kissed them in its fast-crawling advance. This
sharper sound rose and fell, as a theme to the endless and
slowly-augmenting roar which had been perceptible for hours.
Again, Laddie strained at his heavy rope. Again, his smoke-stung
eyes explored the winding trail down the mountain. No longer was
the trail so distinguishable as before. Not only by reason of
darkness, but because from that direction came the bulk of the
eddying gusts of wind-driven smoke.
The fire's mounting course was paralleling the trail; checked
from crossing it only by a streambed and an outcrop of granite
which zigzagged upward from the valley. The darkness served also
to tinge the lowering sky to south and to westward with a
steadily brightening lurid glare. The Master had been right in
his glum prophecy that a strong and sudden shift of wind would
carry the conflagration through the tinder-dry undergrowth and
dead trees of that side of the mountain, far faster than any body
of fire-fighters could hope to check it.
The flame-reflection began to light the open spaces below the
knoll, with increasing vividness. The chill of early evening was
counteracted waves of sullen heat, which the wind sent swirling
Lad panted; from warmth as much as from nervousness. He had gone
all day without water. And a collie, more perhaps than any other
dog, needs plenty of fresh, cool water to drink; at any and all
times. The hot wind and the smoke were parching his throat. His
thirst was intolerable.
Behind him, not very many yards away, was the ice-cold mountain
lakelet in which so often he had bathed and drunk. The thought of
it made him hate the stout rope.
But he made no serious effort to free himself. He had been tied
there,--supposedly by the Master's command. And, as a
well-trained dog, it was his place to stay where he was, until
the Master should free him. So, apart from an instinctive tug or
two at his moorings, he submitted to his fate.
But, in mid-evening, something occurred, to change his viewpoint,
in this matter of nonresistance.
The line of fire, climbing the mountain toward him, had
encountered a marshy stretch; where, in normal weather, water
stood inches deep. Despite the drought, there was still enough
moisture to stay the advance of the red line until the dampness
could be turned to dust and tindery vegetation. And, in the
meanwhile, after the custom of its kind, the fire had sought to
spread to either side. Stopped at the granite-outcrop to the
right, it had rolled faster through the herbage to the left.
Thus, by the time the morass was dry enough for the flame to pass
it, there was a great sickle of crawling red fire to the left;
which encircled a whole flank of the mountain and which was
moving straight upward.
Lad knew nothing of this; nor why the advance of the fire's
direct line had been so long checked. Nor did he know,
presumably, that this sickle of flame was girdling the
mountain-flank; like a murderous net; hemming in all live things
within the flaming arc and forcing them on in panic, ahead of its
advance. Perhaps he did not even note the mad scurryings in
undergrowth and bramble, in front of the oncoming blaze. But one
thing, very speedily, became apparent to him:--
From out a screen of hazel and witch-elm (almost directly in
front of the place where the truck, that morning, had been
loaded) crashed a right hideous object. By sight and by scent Lad
knew the creature for his olden foe, the giant black bear.
Growling, squealing, a dozen stinging fiery sparks sizzling
through his bushy coat, the bear tore his way from the hedge of
thicket and out into the open. The fire had roused him from his
snug lair and had driven him ahead of it with a myriad hornets of
flame, in a crazed search for safety.
At sight of the formidable monster, Lad realized for the first
time the full extent of his own helplessness. Tethered to a rope
which gave him scarce twenty-five inches of leeway, he was in no
fit condition to fend off the giant's assault.
He wasted no time in futile struggles. All his race's uncanny
powers of resource came rushing to his aid. Without an instant's
pause, he wheeled about; and drove his keen teeth into the rope
that bound him to the post.
Lad did not chew aimlessly at the thick tether; nor throw away
one ounce of useless energy. Seizing the hempen strands, he
ground his teeth deeply and with scientific skill, into their
fraying recesses. Thus does a dog, addicted to cutting his leash,
attack the bonds which hold him.
It was Lad's first experience of the kind. But instinct served
him well. The fact that the rope had been left out of doors, in
all weathers, for several years, served him far better. Not only
did it sever the more easily; but it soon lost the cohesion
needed for resisting any strong pull.
The bear, lurching half-blindly, had reeled out into the open,
below the knoll. There, panting and grunting, he turned to blink
at the oncoming fire and to get his direction. For perhaps a
half-minute he stood thus; or made little futile rushes from side
to side. And this breathing space was taken up by Lad in the
gnawing of the rope.
Then, while the collie was still toiling over the hempen
mouthfuls, the bear seemed to recover his own wonted cleverness;
and to realize his whereabouts. Straight up the hillock he
charged, toward the lean-to; his splay feet dislodging
innumerable surface stones from the rocky steep; and sending them
behind him in a series of tiny avalanches.
Lad, one eye ever on his foe, saw the onrush. Fiercely he
redoubled his efforts to bite through the rope, before the bear
should be upon him. But the task was not one to be achieved in a
handful of seconds.
Moving with a swiftness amazing for an animal of his clumsy bulk,
the bear swarmed up the hillock. He gained the summit; not three
yards from where Laddie struggled. And the collie knew the rope
was not more than half gnawed through. There was no further time
for biting at it. The enemy was upon him.
Fear did not enter the big dog's soul. Yet he grieved that the
death-battle should find him so pitifully ill-prepared. And,
abandoning the work of self-release, he flung himself ragingly at
the advancing bear.
Then, two things happened. Two things, on neither of which the
dog could have counted. The bear was within a hand's breadth of
him; and was still charging, headlong. But he looked neither to
right nor to left. Seemingly ignorant of Lad's presence, the huge
brute tore past him, almost grazing the collie in his insane
rush; and sped straight on toward the lake beyond.
That was one of the two unforeseen happenings. The other was the
snapping of the rotted rope, under the wrench of Lad's furious
Free, and with the severed rope's loop still dangling uselessly
from around his shaggy throat, the dog stood staring in blank
amaze after his former adversary. He saw the bear reach the
margin of the icy lake and plunge nose deep into its sheltering
waters. Here, as Bruin's instinct or experience had foretold, no
forest fire could harm him. He need but wallow there until the
Red Terror should have swept past and until the scorched ground
should be once more cool enough to walk on.
Lad turned again toward the slope. He was free, now, to follow
the wagon track to the main road and so homeward, guided perhaps
by memory, perhaps by scent; most probably guided by the mystic
sixth sense which has more than once enabled collies to find
their way, over hundreds of miles of strange territory, back to
But, in the past few minutes, the fire's serpent-like course had
taken a new twist. It had flung volleys of sparks across the
upper reach of granite rock-wall, and had ignited dry wood and
brier on the right hand side of the track. This, far up the
mountain, almost at the very foot of the rock-hillock.
The way to home was barred by a three-foot-high crackling fence
of red-gold flame; a flame which nosed hungrily against the
barren rocks of the knoll-foot; as if seeking in ravenous famine
the fuel their bare surfaces denied it.
And now, the side of the hillock showed other signs of forest
life. Up the steep slope thundered a six-antlered buck, snorting
shrilly in panic and flying toward the cool refuge of the little
Far more slowly, but with every tired muscle astrain, a fat
porcupine was mounting the hill; its claws digging frantically
for foothold among the slippery stones. It seemed to flow, rather
than to run. And as it hurried on, it chuckled and scolded, like
some idiot child.
A bevy of squirrels scampered past it. A long snake, roused from
its stony winter lair, writhed eerily up the slope, heedless of
its fellow travelers' existence. A raccoon was breasting the
steep, from another angle. And behind it came clawing a
round-paunched opossum; grinning from the pain of sparks that
were stinging it to a hated activity.
The wilderness was giving up its secrets, with a vengeance. And
the Red Terror, as ever, was enforcing a truce among the
forest-folk; a truce bred of stark fear. One and all--of those
that had been aroused in time to get clear of the oncoming fiery
sickle--the fugitives were making for the cool safety of the
Lad scarce saw or noted any of his companions. The road to home
was barred. And, again, ancestral instinct and his own alert wit
came to his aid. Turning about, and with no hint of fear in his
gait or in the steady dark eyes, he trotted toward the lake.
Already the bear had reached its soothing refuge; and was
standing hip deep in the black waters; now and then ducking his
head and tossing showers of cold spray over his scorched
Lad trotted to the brink. There, stooping--not fifty feet away
from Bruin--he lapped thirstily until he had at last drunk his
fill. Then, looking back once in the direction of the fire-line,
he lay down, very daintily indeed, in shallow water; and prepared
to enjoy his liberty. Scourged by none of the hideous fear which
had goaded his fellow fugitives, he watched with grave interest
the arrival of one after another of the refugees; as they came
scurrying wildly down to the water.
Lad was comfortable. Here, the smoke-reek stung less acutely.
Here, too, were grateful darkness, after the torrid glare of the
fire, and cold water and security. Here were also many diverting
creatures to watch. It would have been pleasant to go home at
once. But, since that was out of the question, there were far
worse things than to lie interestedly at ease until the Master
should come for him.
The fire raged and flickered along the base of the bare rocky
knoll; and, finding no path of advance, turned back on itself,
fire-fashion; seeking new outlet. The thin line of bushes and
other undergrowth at the hillock's foot were quickly consumed;
leaving only a broad bed of ember and spark. And the
conflagration swept on to the left, over the only course open to
it. To the right, the multiple ridges of rock and the dearth of
vegetation were sufficient "No Thoroughfare" enforcement.
This same odd rock-formation had kept the wagon track clear, up
to the twist where it bore to leftward at the base of the knoll.
And the Mistress and the Master were able to guide their
rattlingly protesting car in safety up the trail from the main
road far below. The set of the wind prevented them from being
blinded or confused by smoke. Apart from a smarting of the eyes
and a recurrent series of heat waves, they made the climb with no
great discomfort;--until the final turn brought them to an abrupt
halt at the spot where the wide swath of red coals and flaming
ashes marked the burning of the hillock foot bushes.
The Master jumped to earth and stood confronting the lurid
stretch of ash and ember with, here and there, a bush stump still
crackling merrily. It was not a safe barrier to cross; this
twenty-foot-wide fiery stretch. Nor, for many rods in either
direction, was there any way around it.
"There's one comfort," the Master was saying, as he began to
explore for an opening in the red scarf of coals, "the fire
hasn't gotten up to the camp-site. He--"
"But the smoke has," said the Mistress, who had been peering
vainly through the hazecurtain toward the summit. "And so has the
heat. If only--"
She broke off, with a catch in her sweet voice. And, scarce
realizing what she did, she put the silver whistle to her lips
and blew a piercingly loud blast.
"What's that for?" asked the Master, crankily, worry over his
beloved dog making his nerves raw. "If Lad's alive, he's fastened
there. You say you saw him struggling to get loose, this morning.
He can't come, when he hears that whistle. There's no sense
in--How in blue blazes he ever got fastened there,--if he really
was,--is more than I can--"
"Hush!" begged the Mistress, breaking in on his grumbled
Out of the darkness, beyond the knoll-top, came the sound of a
bark,--the clear trumpeting welcome-bark which Lad reserved for
the Mistress and the Master, alone; on their return from any
Through the night it echoed, gaily, defiantly; again and again;
ringing out above the obscene hiss and crackle and roar of the
forest-fire. And at every repetition, it was nearer and nearer
the dumfounded listeners at the knoll foot.
"It's--it's Laddie!" cried the Mistress, in wondering rapture.
"Oh, it's LADDIE!"
The Master, hearing the glad racket, did a thoroughly asinine
thing. Drawing in his breath and holding his coat in front of
him, he prepared to make a dash through the wide smear of embers,
to the hilltop; where, presumably, Lad was still tied. But,
before he could take the first step, the Mistress stayed him.
"Look!" she cried, pointing to the hither side of the knoll;
lividly bright in the ember-glow.
Down the steep was galloping at breakneck speed a great, tawny
shape. Barking rapturously,--even as he had barked when first
the whistle's blast had roused him from his lazy repose in the
lakeside shallows,--Lad came whizzing toward the two humans who
watched so incredulously his wild approach.
The Master, belatedly, saw that the collie could not avoid
crashing into the spread of embers; and he opened his mouth to
order Lad back. But there was not time.
For once, the wise dog took no heed of even the simplest caution.
His lost and adored deities had called him and were awaiting him.
That was all Lad knew or cared. They had come back for him. His
horrible vigil and loneliness and his deadly peril were ended.
Too insanely happy to note where he was treading, he sprang into
the very center of the belt of smoldering coals. His tiny white
forefeet--drenched with icy water--did not remain among them long
enough to feel pain. In two more bounds he had cleared the
barrier and was dancing in crazy excitement around the Mistress
and the Master; patting at them with his scorched feet; licking
their eagerly caressing hands; "talking" in a dozen different
keys of rapture, his whimpers and growls and gurgles running the
entire gamut of long-pent-up emotions.
His coat and his feet had, for hours, been immersed in the cold
water of the lake. And, he had fled through the embers at
express-train speed. Scarce a blister marked the hazardous
passage. But Lad would not have cared for all the blisters and
burns on earth. His dear gods had come back to him,--even as he
had known they would!
Once more,--and for the thousandth time--they had justified his
divine Faith in them. Nothing else mattered.
CHAPTER IX. Old Dog; New Tricks
A mildewed maxim runs: "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."
Some proverbs live because they are too true to die. Others
endure because they have a smug sound and because nobody has
bothered to bury them. The one about old dogs and new tricks
belongs in both categories. In a sense it is true. In another it
To teach the average elderly dog to sit up and beg, or to roll
over twice, or to do other of the asinine things with which
humans stultify the natural good sense of their canine chums, is
as hard as to teach a sixty-year-old grave-digger to become a
But no dog with a full set of brains is ever past learning new
things which are actually needful for him to learn. And, sad to
say, many an old dog, on his own account, picks up odd new
accomplishments--exploits which would never have occurred to him
in his early prime. Nobody knows why. But it has happened,
And so it was with Sunnybank Lad.
Laddie had passed his twelfth birthday; when, by some strange
freak, he brought home one day a lace parasol. He had found it in
the highroad, on his way back to the Place after a sedate ramble
in the forest. Now, it was nothing new for the great collie to
find missing articles belonging to the Mistress or to the Master.
Every now and then he would lay at their feet a tobacco pouch or
a handkerchief or a bunch of keys that had been dropped,
carelessly, somewhere on the grounds; and which Lad recognized,
by scent, as belonging to one of the two humans he loved.
These bits of treasure trove, he delighted in finding and
restoring. Yes, and--though those who had never seen him do this
were prone to doubt it--he was certain to lay the recovered
object at the feet of whichever of the two had lost it. For
instance, it never occurred to him to drop a filmy square of
lace-and-cambric at the muddied feet of the Master; or a smelly
old tobacco-pouch at the Mistress's little feet.
There was nothing miraculous about this knowledge. To a high-bred
dog, every human of his acquaintance has a distinctive scent;
which cannot be mistaken. Lad used no occult power inn returning
to the rightful owner any article he chanced to find on lawn or
But the lace parasol was different. That, presumably, had fallen
from some passing motor-car. bound for Tuxedo or for the
Berkshires. It did not belong at the Place.
Lad happened to see it, lying there in the highway. And he
brought it, forthwith, to the house; carrying it daintily between
his mighty jaws; and laying it on the living-room floor in front
of the astonished Mistress. Probably, he laid it before her,
instead of before the Master, because she was the first of the
two whom he happened to encounter. It is doubtful if he realized
that a parasol is a purely feminine adjunct;--although the
Mistress always declared he did.
She picked up the gift and looked it over with real admiration.
It was a flimsily beautiful and costly thing; whose ivory handle
was deftly carven and set with several uncut stones; and whose
deep fringe of lace was true Venetian Point.
"Why, Laddie!" she exclaimed, in wondering delight. "Where in the
world did you get this? Look!" she went on, as her husband came
in from his study. "See what Laddie brought me! I saw him coming
down the drive with something in his mouth. But I had no idea
what it was. Isn't it a beauty? Where do you suppose he--?"
"As long as motorists go around curves at forty miles an hour,"
decided the Master, "so long their piled-up valuables are likely
to be jostled out of the tonneau. I found a satchel, last week,
at the curve, up there, you remember; and a hat, the week before.
What are you going to do about this thing?"
"Oh," said the Mistress, with a sigh of renunciation, "I suppose
we'll have to advertise it; and watch the 'Lost and Found'
columns, too. But--wouldn't it be glorious if nobody should see
our advertisement or--or ever advertise for it? It's so lovely! I
hate to think it may belong to somebody who can't appreciate it
as I do."
Now, Laddie had lived on the Place for many more years than he
could remember. And he had spent the bulk of that time in
studying the faces and the voices and the moods of these two
people whom he worshiped. Moreover, he had an intelligence that
is not given to most dogs,--even to collies--and a queer psychic
twist to his brain that had puzzled his owners as much as it had
Watching the Mistress, now, with his classic head on one side and
his deep-set dark eyes fixed on her eager face, he saw that his
roadway gift had made her very happy. Also, that her caressing
hand on his head showed pride in what he had done. And this, as
ever, thrilled the old dog, to the very soul.
He wagged his plumed tail, in gladness, and thrust his nose into
her palm and began to "talk" in gleeful treble. To none but the
Mistress and the Master would Lad deign to "talk." And, none
listening to him could doubt he was trying to copy the human
voice and human meanings.
"Dear old Laddie!" praised the Mistress, running her fingers
through his lion-like ruff. "GOOD Laddie!, Thank you, ever so
much! Nobody but a very, VERY wonderful collie named Lad could
have had the perfect taste to pick out such a parasol. And now
we're going to have a whole handful of animal crackers, for
The crooningly sweet voice, the petting, the gift of animal
crackers of which he was childishly fond--all these delighted Lad
beyond measure. And they confirmed him in the belief that he had
done something most laudable.
What he had done was to pick up a stray object, away from home,
and bring it to the Mistress. He knew that. And that was all he
knew. But, having won high praise for the deed, he resolved then
and there to repeat it.
Which proves that old dogs can be taught new tricks. And which
started all the trouble.
That afternoon, the Mistress and the Master went for a five-mile
ramble through the woods and over the mountains, back of the
Place. With them went old Laddie, who paced gravely between them.
With them, also, went Bruce, the magnificent dark sable collie of
kingly look and demeanor; who was second only to Lad in human
traits and second to no living animal in beauty. Bruce was
glorious to look upon. In physique and in character he had not a
flaw. There was a strange sweetness to his disposition that I
have found in no other dog.
With Lad and Bruce, on this walk, raced Lad's fiery little golden
Of old, Lad had led such runs. Now, advancing age and increased
weight had begun to make him chary of throwing away his fading
energies. Wherefore, he walked between his two deities; and let
the two younger dogs do the galloping and rabbit chasing.
And he had his reward. For, as they neared the highroad on the
way home, Wolf and Bruce chanced to tree a squirrel. Thus, Lad
was first to reach the road with the two humans. Suddenly, he.
darted ahead of them; and snatched up from the wayside the
somewhat worn case of a thermos bottle which had been discarded
there or had fallen from a car-seat. This he bore to the
Mistress; fairly vibrating with pride in his own exploit.
Noting his joy in the deed, she made much of the shabby gift;
praising and thanking Lad, inordinately; and forbearing to throw
away the worn case until the collie was out of sight.
Of late, as Laddie began to show signs of age, she and the Master
had taken to making more and more of him; to atone for his
growing feebleness and to anticipate the dark day which every
dog-owner must face;--the day when his voice and his caress can
no longer mean anything to the pet who once rejoiced so utterly
All of which went to confirm Lad in the natural belief that
anything found on the road and brought to the Mistress would be
looked on with joy and would earn him much gratitude. So,--as
might a human in like circumstances,--he ceased to content
himself with picking up trifles that chanced to be lying in his
path, in the highway, and fell to searching for such flotsam and
He began the hunt, next morning. Pacing gravely along the center
of the road, he headed toward the mile-distant village. By sheer
luck, such few automobiles as chanced along, at that hour, were
driven by folk who had heart enough to slow down or to turn aside
for the majestically strolling old dog. To the end of his long
life, Lad could never be made to understand that he was not
entitled to walk at will in the exact middle of the road. Perhaps
his lofty assurance in taking such a course made motorists check
speed to spare him.
This morning, he had fared but a half-mile when he saw a car
drawn up at the edge of the road, beside a shaded bit of turf.
Several people had just descended from it; and were making
preparations for an early picnic lunch. One of them had finished
depositing a basket on the ground, at the side of the car
farthest from the strip of sward where the others were spreading
a sea-rug and setting an impromptu table.
The man put the basket down in the road. Then he dived back into
the nether regions of the machine for more provender. And he was
engaged in this groping when Lad came in view, around a bend.
The big collie saw the basket standing there, unprotected and, so
far as he knew, ownerless. Gravely he stepped forward, lifted the
heavy receptacle by the handle and turned about with it; still
moving with dignified slowness. The table-setters were busy; and
the car was between him and them.
By the time the other member of the party succeeded in finding
the things he was seeking under the rear seat, Lad had rounded
the bend and was out of sight. To this day, none of the motorists
has the remotest solution to the mystery of the vanished lunch.
Lad had not stolen the basket. He would have suffered himself to
be cut in three, before sinking to theft or to any other sneaking
act. He had found a basket standing alone in the highroad,
several feet away from the nearest humans. He had no way of
guessing it belonged to them. So far as he was concerned, this
was as much a lost article as had been the gorgeous parasol. He
had been praised to the skies for bringing the parasol and the
thermos case to the Mistress. He had every reason to expect the
same meed of praise for this new gift.
Indeed, to Lad's way of thinking, he might well hope for even
higher praise. For the parasol had been an odorless and foolish
thing of no apparent usefulness; while this basket exhaled most
heavenly scents of fried chicken and other delectable foods.
Heavy as was the burden, it did not occur to Lad to set it down.
Fragrant as were its contents, it did not occur to him to nose
the cover off and sample them. There was no tinge of snooping in
his make-up. No, the basket was a gift for the Mistress. And as
such he was bearing it home to her.
"See what Laddie brought me, this time!" cried the Mistress,
coming into her husband's study, a few minutes later, and holding
forth the trophy. "It's full of food, too; and of course he never
touched a mouthful of it. But I gave him two of the frosted
cakes, by way of reward. He's ridiculously happy over them,--and
over the fuss I made about the basket."
"H'm!" mused the Master, inspecting the present. "Jostled off the
car-seat, as some fool of a driver took the curve at top speed!
Well, that same driver has paid for his recklessness, by the loss
of his lunch. It's funny, though--There's not a trace of mud or
dust on this; and even the food inside wasn't jostled about by
the tumble. That curve is paying us big dividends, lately. It's a
pity no bullion trucks pass this way. Still, parasols and picnic
lunches aren't to be sneered at."
Lad was standing in the study doorway, eyes alight, tail waving.
The Master called him over and petted him; praising this newest
accomplishment of his, and prophesying untold wealth for the
Place if the graft should but continue long enough.
There was something pathetic in dear old Laddie's pleasure over
the new trick he had learned; or so it seemed to the two people
who loved him. And they continued to flatter him for it;--even
when, among other trophies, he dragged home a pickaxe momentarily
laid aside by a road mender; and an extremely dead chicken which
a motor-truck wheel had flattened to waferlike thickness.
Which brings us, by degrees to the Rennick kidnaping case.
Claude Rennick, a New York artist of considerable means, had
rented for the summer an ancient Colonial farmhouse high among
the Ramapo hills; some six miles north of the Place, There, he
and his pretty young wife and their six-months-old baby had been
living for several weeks; when, angered at a sharp rebuke for
some dereliction in his work, Schwartz, their gardener, spoke
insultingly to Mrs. Rennick.
Rennick chanced to overhear. Being aggressively in love with his
wife, he did not content himself with discharging Schwartz.
Instead, he thrashed the stalwart gardener, then and there; and
ended the drastic performance by pitching the beaten man, bodily,
out of the grounds.
Schwartz collected his battered anatomy and limped away to his
home in the hills just above. And, that night, he called into
council his two farmhand brothers and his wife.
Several characteristic plans of revenge were discussed in solemn
detail. These included the burning of the Rennick house or barn,
or both; the shooting of Rennick from among the hillside boulders
as the artist sketched; of waylaying him on his walk to the
post-office, by night, and crippling him for life; and other
suggestions equally dear to the hearts of rural malefactors.
But one plan after another was vetoed. To burn any of the
property would cause Rennick nothing worse than temporary
annoyance; as he merely rented the farm. Daylight shooting was a
dangerous and uncertain job; especially since automobiles had
opened up the district to constantly passing outsiders. It was
Schwartz himself who decided against waylaying his foe by night.
He had too recent memories of Rennick's physical prowess to care
about risking a second dose of the same medicine. And so on with
the other proposals. One and all were rejected.
Then it was that Mrs. Schwartz hit upon an idea which promised
not only punishment, but profit. She had done washing for the
Rennicks and she had access to the house. She proposed that they
steal the Rennick baby, on the first night when opportunity
should offer; carry him to a car the brothers were to have
waiting; and thence take him to her sister in Paterson.
There, the youngster would be well cared for. In a family of not
less than seven children, the presence of an extra baby would not
excite police query. Her sister had more than once taken babies
to board with her, during their mothers' temporary absence in
service or in jail. And the newcomer could pass readily as one of
Negotiations could set in; and, if care were taken, a reward of
at least two thousand dollars might be extracted safely from the
frantic parents. Thus, the Rennicks could be made to sweat blood
and money too, in payment of the injuries wrought upon the aching
frame of Schwartz. At first, the three men sheered off from the
plan. Kidnaping is a word with an ugly sound. Kidnaping is a deed
with ugly consequences. Kidnaping is a crime whose perpetrators
can hope for no atom of sympathy from anybody. Kidnaping is
perilous, past words.
But, deftly, Mrs. Schwartz met and conquered the difficulties
raised. In the first place, the baby would come to no harm. Her
sister would see to that. In the second, the matter of the reward
and of the return could be juggled so as to elude detectives and
rural constables. She had known of such a case. And she related
the details;--clever yet utterly simple details, and fraught with
safety to all concerned;--details which, for that very reason,
need not be cited here.
Bit by bit, she went on with her outline of the campaign; testing
each step and proving the practicability of each.
The next Thursday evening, Rennick and his wife went, as usual,
to the weekly meeting of a neighborhood bridge club which they
had joined for the summer. The baby was left in charge of a
competent nurse. At nine o'clock, the nurse went to the telephone
in reply to a call purporting to be from an attendant at a New
This call occupied the best part of twenty minutes. For the
attendant proceeded to tell her in a very roundabout way that her
son had been run over and had come to the hospital with a broken
leg. He dribbled the information; and was agonizingly long-winded
and vague in answering her volley of frightened questions.
Shaken between duty to her job and a yearning to catch the next
train for town, the nurse went back at last to the nursery. The
baby's crib was empty.
It had been the simplest thing in the world for Mrs. Schwartz to
enter the house by the unfastened front door, while one of her
husband's brothers held the nurse in telephone talk; and to go up
to the nursery, unseen, while the other servants were in the
kitchen quarters. There she had picked up the baby and had
carried him gently down to the front door and out of the grounds.
One of Schwartz's brothers was waiting, beyond the gate; with a
disreputable little runabout. Presently, the second brother
joined him. Mrs. Schwartz lifted the baby into the car. One of
the men held it while the other took his place at the steering
wheel. The runabout had started upon its orderly fourteen-mile
trip to Paterson, before the panic stricken nurse could give the
Mrs. Schwartz then walked toward the village, where her husband
met her. The two proceeded together to the local motion picture
theater. There, they laughed so loudly over the comedy on the
screen that the manager had to warn them to be quieter. At once,
the couple became noisily abusive. And they were ordered
ignominiously from the theater. There could scarcely have been a
better alibi to prove their absence of complicity in the
Meanwhile, the two brothers continued quietly on their journey
toward Paterson. The baby slept. His bearer had laid him softly
on the floor of the car. A few drops of paregoric, administered
by Mrs. Schwartz as the child awoke for an instant on the way to
the gate, insured sound slumber. The joggling of the car did not
rouse the tiny sleeper; as he lay snugly between the feet of the
man into whose care he had been given.
The first six miles of the easy journey were soon traversed.
Then, with a pop and a dispiritedly swishing sound, a rear tire
collapsed. Out into the road jumped both men. Their nerves were
none too steady. And, already, in fancy they could hear all the
police cars in New Jersey close at their heels. It behooved them
to change tires in a hurry, and to finish their nerve-twisting
The driver vaulted over the side nearest him and began to explore
the under-seat regions for a jack. The other man picked up the
baby and hurried to the rear of the runabout to detach the spare
tire from its dusty rack. Manifestly, he could not unstrap the
tire while he was carrying a baby in his arms. So he set down his
burden at the roadside, near him.
Then, still obsessed by fear of pursuit, he hit on a safer
scheme. Picking up the sleeper again, he carried the warm little
bundle to the far side of the road, some thirty yards beyond, and
deposited it there, behind a dwarf alder bush which screened it
from any stray automobilist who might be passing. Thus, in case
of pursuit, he and his brother would merely be changing tires;
and would know nothing of any missing baby.
Failing to find a jack under the seat, the driver climbed over
into the adjoining field in search of two or three big stones to
serve the same purpose in holding up the axle. For several
minutes the men worked fast and tensely; blind and deaf to
anything except the need of haste.
Thus it was that neither of them saw a tawny-and-snow
collie,--huge and shaggy except for a pair of absurdly tiny white
forepaws,--come pacing majestically along the road from the
direction in which they were heading. The car lamps played but
faintly upon the advancing Lad; for the dimmers had been applied.
The big dog was taking his usual before-bedtime stroll. Of old,
that evening stroll had been confined to the Place's grounds, a
quarter-mile beyond. But, lately, his new obsession for finding
treasures for the Mistress had lured him often and oftener to the
Tonight, as for a day or so past, he had drawn blank in his
quest. The road had been distressingly bare of anything worth
carrying home. But, now, as he moved along, his near-sighted eyes
were attracted by a dim blur of white, behind a bush, at the
road-edge; just within the dim radiance of the car-lamps. Even
sooner than he saw this, his keen nostrils had told him of human
presence there. He shifted his course to investigate.
Standing over the compactly-fastened swathing of clothes, Laddie
bent down and sniffed. It was a human. He knew that; in spite of
the thick veil that covered the slumberer's face. But it was also
a bundle. It was a bundle which might well be expected to delight
the Mistress almost as much as had the parasol;--far more than
had the defunct chicken.
Daintily, with infinite gentleness, Lad fixed his teeth in the
loosest portion of the bundle that he could find; and lifted it.
It was amazingly heavy, even for so powerful a dog. But
difficulties had never yet swerved Lad from any set purpose.
Bracing his strength, he turned homeward, carrying the burden
between his mighty jaws.
And now, he was aware of some subtler feeling than mere desire to
bring the Mistress one more gift. His great heart had ever gone
out in loving tenderness toward everything helpless and little.
He adored children. The roughest of them could take unpardonable
liberties with him. He would let them maul and mistreat him to
their heart's content; and he reveled in such usage; although to
humans other than the Mistress and the Master, he was sternly
resentful of any familiarity.
His senses told him this bundle contained a child;--a baby. It
had been lying alone and defenseless beside the road. He had
found it. And his heart warmed to the helpless little creature
which was so heavy to carry.
Proudly, now, he strode along; his muscles tensed; moving as if
on parade. The bundle swinging from his jaws was carried as
lovingly as though it might break in sixty pieces at any careless
The spare tire was adjusted. The men glanced nervously up and
down the road. No car or pedestrian was in sight. The driver
scrambled to his place at the wheel. His brother crossed to the
alder bush behind whose shelter he had left the baby. Back he
came, on the run.
"'Tain't there!" he blithered. "'Tain't there! 'Tain't rolled
nowheres, neither. It's been took! Lord! What're we goin' to--?"
He got no further. His brother had scrambled down from the seat;
and pushed him aside, in a dash for the alder. But a few seconds
of frantic search proved the baby was gone. The two men glared at
each other in silent horror. Then by tacit impulse they got into
"It couldn't 'a' walked off, could it?" gurgled the driver. "They
can't walk, can they;--not at six months? Not far, anyhow?"
"It--it was took!" sputtered his brother between chattering
Another moment of scared silence. Then the driver rallied his
awed faculties. Stepping on the self-starter, he brought the
runabout into motion, and headed down the road.
"Where are you goin'?" queried the other. "No use a-keepin' on,
this d'rection. It--"
"If it was took," answered the driver, truculently, " 'twasn't
took by no car. We'd 'a' heard a car or we'd 'a' saw it. If it
had been took by two or three folks a-walkin', we'd 'a' heard 'em
blat to each other when they seen the kid layin' there. That
means it was took by one person, all alone. He didn't pass us,
while we was workin'. Then, unless he's took to the fields, he's
a-goin' the same way we are. An' we're due to overhaul him.
There'll only just be one of him; and there's two of us. I ain't
aimin' to lose my slice of that two thousand; without hittin' a
single lick to get it. If he--SUFFERIN' PINK SNAKES!"
In his sudden dismay, he drove down both feet on the pedals. The
indignant car stalled. Through the blackness ahead, the white ray
from the lamps had picked up a weird object. And the two brethren
stared at it, slack-jawed.
Walking sedately on, in front of the stalled runabout, and in the
exact centre of the dusty road, moved an animal. Huge and
formless it bulked, as it receded into the fainter glow of light.
It might have been anything from a lion to a bear; in that
uncertain glimmer. But, the lamps' rays played strongly enough on
one detail of the apparition to identify it, past doubt, to both
the dumfounded onlookers. They saw, clearly enough, a white
bundle suspended from the monster's jaws;--unquestionably the
bundle which had been laid behind the alder.
For perhaps ten seconds the men sat moveless, gaping goggle-eyed.
Then, the driver murmured in a faraway voice:
"Did you--did you--was you fool enough to think you seen
anything? Was you, Eitel?"
"I-I sure seen SUTHIN', Roodie," quavered Eitel. "Suthin'
with--with the kid in its mouth. It--"
"That's good enough for me!" announced the heroic Roodie,
stamping again on the self-starter.
"If we both seen it, then it was THERE. And I'm goin' after it."
In another brace of seconds the lights once, more picked up the
dark animal with its white bundle. Eitel shrank back in his seat.
But Roodie put on another notch of gas. And, coming closer, both
recognized the strange bundle-carrier as a dark-hued collie dog.
The identification did little to ease their feeling of
incredulous mystification. But it banished their superstitious
dread. Both of them were used to dogs. And though neither could
guess how this particular dog happened to be stealing the
twice-stolen baby, yet neither had the remotest fear of tackling
the beast and rescuing its human plunder.
Roodie brought the abused runabout to another jerky stop within a
few inches of the unconcerned collie. And he and Eitel swarmed
earthward from opposite sides of the machine. In a trice, Roodie
had struck Lad over the head; while Eitel grabbed at the bundle
to drag it away from the dog.
Now, the weight of years was beginning to tell on Laddie. But
that weight had not robbed him of the ability to call, at will,
upon much of his oldtime strength and bewildering swiftness. Nor
had it in any way dampened his hero-spirit or dulled his
uncannily wise brain.
He had been plodding peacefully along, bearing home a wonderful
gift--a gift oftener confided to the care of storks than of
collies--when he had been attacked from two sides in most
unprovoked fashion. He had been struck! His blood surged hot.
There was no Law governing such a case. So, as usual in new
crises, Lad proceeded to make his own Law and to put it into
A deft turn of the head eluded Eitel's snatching hand. With the
lightness of a feather, Lad deposited the bundle in the soft dust
of the road. In practically, the same gesture, the dog's curving
eye-tooth slashed Eitel's outstretched wrist to the bone.
Then, staggering under a second head-blow from Roodie, the collie
wheeled with lightning-swift fury upon this more hostile of his
Hurling himself at the man's throat, in silent ferocity, he
well-nigh turned the nocturnal battle into a killing. But
Roodie's left arm, by instinct, flew up to guard his threatened
Through coat and shirt and skin and flesh,--as in the case of
Lady's slayer,--the great dog's teeth clove their way; their
rending snap checked only by the bone of the forearm. The impetus
of his eighty-pound body sent the man clean off his balance. And
together the two crashed backward to the ground.
Lad was not of the bulldog breed which seeks and gains a hold and
then hangs on to it with locked jaws. A collie fights with brain
as much as with teeth. By the time he and Roodie struck the
earth, Lad tore free from the unloving embrace and whizzed about
to face the second of his foes.
Eitel had taken advantage of the moment's respite to seize with
his uninjured hand his slashed wrist. Then, on second thought, he
released the wounded wrist and bent over the baby; with a view to
picking him up and regaining the comparative safety of the car's
floor. But his well-devised maneuver was not carried out.
For, as he leaned over the bundle, extending his hands to pick it
up, Lad's teeth drove fiercely into the section of Eitel's plump
anatomy which chanced to be presented to him by the stooping down
of the kidnaper. Deep clove his sharp fangs. Nor did Eitel
Schwartz sit down again with any degree of comfort for many a
With resounding howls of pain, Eitel thrashed up and down the
road; endeavoring to shake off this rear attack. The noise
awakened the baby; who added his wails to the din. Roodie got
dizzily to his feet; his left forearm useless and anguished from
the tearing of its muscles:
"Shut up!" he bellowed. "'you want to bring the whole county down
on us? We--"
He ceased speaking; and lurched at full speed to the car and to
the top of its single seat. For, at sound of his voice, Lad had
loosed his grip on the screeching Eitel and whirled about on this
The man reached the car-seat and slammed the door behind him,
perhaps a sixth of a second too soon for Lad to reach him.
Eitel, warned by his brother's bawled command, made a rush for
the other side of the machine and clambered up. He was a trifle
less fortunate than had been Roodie, in making this ascent. For
Lad's flashing jaws grazed his ankle and carried away in that
snap a sample of Eitel's best town-going trousers.
Thus, on the seat of the car, swaying, and clutching at each
other, crouched the two sore-wounded brethren; while Lad ravened
about the vehicle, springing upward now and, again in futile
effort to clear the top of the closed door.
Far down the road shone the lights of an approaching motor. Eitel
dropped into the driving seat and set the runabout into motion.
Once more, the dread of pursuit and of capture and of prison
danced hideously before his frightened mental vision.
Barely missing the crying baby, as the runabout jerked forward,
he made a fruitless attempt to run down the raging collie. Then
he addressed himself to the business of getting himself and his
brother as far out of the way as possible, before the oncoming
car should reach the scene of strife.
As a matter of fact, the other car never reached this spot. Its
occupants were two youths and two damsels, in search of a
sequestered space of road where they might halt for a brief but
delectable "petting party," on their way to a dance in the
village. They found such a space, about a furlong on the thither
side of the curve where the runabout had stopped. And they
advanced no farther.
Lad, for a few rods, gave chase to the retreating Schwartzes.
Then, the heavy exertions of the past minute or two began to
exact toll on his aging body. Also, the baby was still whimpering
in a drowsy monotone, as the paregoric sought to renew its sway
on the racket awakened brain.
The dog turned pantingly back to the bundle; pawed it softly, as
though to make sure the contents were not harmed; then once more
picked it up gingerly between his reddened jaws; and continued
his sedate homeward journey.
The Mistress and the Master. were sitting on the veranda. It was
almost bedtime. The Master arose, to begin his nightly task of
locking the lower windows. From somewhere on the highroad that
lay two hundred yards distant from the house, came the confused
noise of shouts. Then, as he listened, the far-off sounds ceased.
He went on with his task of locking up; and returned in a minute
or two to the veranda.
As he did so, Lad came walking slowly up the porch steps. In his
mouth he carried something large and white and dusty. This he
proceeded to deposit with much care at the feet of the Mistress.
Then he stood back; tail waving, dark eyes mischievously
"Another dividend from the curve!" laughed the Master. "What is
it, this time? A pillow or--?"
He broke off in the middle of his amused query. For, even as he
turned his flashlight on the dusty and blood-streaked bundle, the
baby began once more to cry.
The local chief of police, in the village across the lake, was
making ready for bed, when a telephone summons brought him back
to his lower hallway.
"Hello!" came the Master's hail, over the wire. "Chief, has there
been any alarm sent out for--for a missing baby?"
"Baby?" echoed the Chief. "No. Have you lost one?"
"No. I've found one. At least, Laddie has. He's just brought it
home. It is dressed in unusually costly things, my wife says.
There was a white baby-blanket strapped around it. And there are
dust and streaks of fresh blood on the blanket. But the baby
himself isn't hurt at all. And--"
"I'll be over there, in fifteen minutes," said the Chief, alive
with professional interest.
But in ten minutes he was on the wire once more.
"Has the baby blanket got the monogram, 'B.R.R', on one corner?"
he asked excitedly.
"Yes," answered the Master. "I was going to tell you that, when
you hung up. And on--"
"That's the one!" fairly shouted the Chief. "As soon as you
finished talking to me, I got another call. General alarm out for
a kidnaped baby. Belongs to those Rennick people, up the Valley.
The artists that rented the old Beasley place this summer. The
baby was stolen, an hour ago; right out of the nursery. I'll
phone 'em that he's found; and then I'll be over."
"All right. There's another queer point about all this. Our
"Speaking of dogs," went on the garrulous Chief, "this is a
wakeful evening for me. I just got a call from the drug store
that a couple of fellows have stopped there to get patched up
from dog-bites. They say a dozen stray curs set on 'em, while
they were changing a tire. The druggist thought they acted queer,
contradicting each other in bits of their story. So he's taking
his time, fixing them; till I can drop in on my way to your house
and give 'em the once over. So---"
"Do more than that!" decreed the Master, on quick inspiration.
"What I started to tell you is that there's blood on Lad's jaws;
as well as on the baby's blanket. If two men say they've been
bitten by dogs--"
"I get you!" yelled the other. "Good-by! I got no time to waste,
when a clew like that is shaken in front of me. See you later!"
Long before the Chief arrived at the Place with triumphant
tidings of his success in "sweating" the truth from the mangled
and nerve-racked Schwartzes, the two other actors in the
evening's drama were miles away among the sunflecked shadows of
The baby, industriously and unsanitarily sucking one pudgy thumb,
was cuddled down to sleep in the Mistress's lap. And, in the
depths of his cave under the living-room piano, Lad was stretched
at perfect ease; his tiny white forepaws straight in front of
But his deep breathing was interrupted, now and then, by a
muttered sigh. For, at last, one of his beautiful presents had
failed to cause happiness and praise from his gods. Instead, it
had apparently turned the whole household inside out; to judge by
the noisy excitement and the telephoning and all. And, even in
sleep, the old dog felt justly chagrined at the way his loveliest
present to the Mistress had been received.
It was so hard to find out what humans would enjoy and what they
CHAPTER X. The Intruders
It began with a gap in a line fence. The gap should never have
been there. For, on the far side of it roamed creatures whose
chief zest in life is the finding of such gaps and in breaking
through for forage.
The Place's acreage ended, to northward, in the center of an oak
grove whose northern half was owned by one Titus Romaine; a
crabbed little farmer of the old school. Into his half of the
grove, in autumn when mast lay thick and rich amid the tawny dead
leaves, Romaine was wont to turn his herd of swine.
To Lad, the giant collie, this was always a trying season. For
longer than he could remember, Lad had been the official watchdog
of the Place. And his chief duties were to keep two-footed and
four-footed strays from trespassing thereon.
To an inch, he knew the boundaries of the Master's land. And he
knew that no human intruder was to be molested; so long as such
intruder had the sense to walk straight down the driveway to the
house. But woe to the tramp or other trespasser who chanced to
come cross lots or to wander in any way off the drive! Woe also
to such occasional cattle or other livestock as drifted in from
the road or by way of a casual fence-gap!
Human invaders were to be met in drastic fashion. Quadruped
trespassers were to be rounded up and swept at a gallop up the
drive and out into the highroad. With cattle or with stray horses
this was an easy job;. and it contained, withal, much fun;--at
least, for Lad.
But, pigs were different.
Experience and instinct had taught Lad what few humans realize.
Namely, that of all created beasts, the pig is the worst and
meanest and most vicious; and hardest to drive. When a horse or a
cow, or a drove of them, wandered into the confines of the Place,
it was simple and joyous to head them off, turn them, set them
into a gallop and send them on their journey at top speed. It
took little skill and less trouble to do this. Besides, it was
gorgeous sport. But pigs--!
When a porker wriggled and hunched and nosed a space in the line
fence, and slithered greasily through, Lad's work was cut out for
him. It looked simple enough. But it was not simple. Nor was it
In the first instance, pigs were hard to start running. Oftener
than not they would stand, braced, and glare at the oncoming
collie from out their evil little red-rimmed eyes; the snouts
above the hideous masked tushes quivering avidly. That meant Lad
must circle them, at whirlwind speed; barking a thunderous
fanfare to confuse them; and watching his chance to flash in and
nip ear or flank; or otherwise get the brutes to running.
And, even on the run, they had an ugly way of wheeling, at close
quarters, to face the pursuer. The razor tushes and the pronged
forefeet were always ready, at such times, to wreak death on the
dog, unless he should have the wit and the skill and the speed to
change, in a breath, the direction of his dash. No, pigs were not
pleasant trespassers. There was no fun in routing them. And there
was real danger.
Except by dint of swiftness and of brain; an eighty-pound collie
has no chance against a six-hundred-pound pig. The pig's hide,
for one thing, is too thick to pierce with an average slash or
nip: And the pig is too close to earth and too well-balanced by
build and weight, to be overturned: And the tushes and forefeet
can move with deceptive quickness. Also, back of the red-rimmed
little eyes flickers the redder spirit of murder.
Locomotive engineers say a cow on a track. is far less perilous
to an oncoming train than is a pig. The former can be lifted, by
the impact, and flung to one side. A pig, oftener than not,
derails the engine. Standing with the bulk of its weight close to
the ground, it is well-nigh as bad an obstacle to trains as would
be a boulder of the same size. Lad had never met any engineers.
But he had identically their opinion of pigs.
In all his long life, the great collie had never known fear. At
least, he never had yielded to it. Wherefore, in the autumns, he
had attacked with gay zest such of Titus Romaine's swine as had
found their way through the fence.
But, nowadays, there was little enough of gay zest about anything
Laddie did. For he was old;--very, very old. He had passed the
fourteenth milestone. In other words, he was as old for a dog as
is an octogenarian for a man.
Almost imperceptibly, but to his indignant annoyance, age had
crept upon the big dog; gradually blurring his long clean lines;
silvering his muzzle and eyebrows; flecking his burnished
mahogany coat with stipples of silver; spreading to greater size
the absurdly small white forepaws which were his one gross
vanity; dulling a little the preternaturally keen hearing and
narrowing the vision.
Yes, Lad was old. And he was a bit unwieldy from weight and from
age. No longer could he lead Wolf and Bruce in the forest rabbit
chases. Wherefore he stayed at home, for the most part and seldom
strayed far from the Mistress and the Master whom he worshiped.
Moreover, he deputed the bulk of trespass-repelling to his fiery
little son, Wolf; and to the graver and sweeter Bruce;--"Bruce,
Which brings us by needfully prosy degrees to a morning, when two
marauders came to the Place at the same time, if by different
routes. They could not well have come at a more propitious time,
for themselves; nor at a worse time for those whose domain they
Bruce and Wolf had trotted idly off to the forest, back of the
Place, for a desultory ramble in quest of rabbits or squirrels.
This they had done because they were bored. For, the Mistress and
the Master had driven over for the morning mail; and Lad had gone
with them, as usual. Had it been night, instead of morning,
neither Wolf nor Bruce would have stirred a step from the
grounds. For both were trained watchdogs, But, thus early in the
day, neither duty nor companionship held them at home. And the
autumn woods promised a half-hour of mild sport.
The superintendent and his helpers were in the distant "upper
field," working around the roots of some young fruit trees. But
for the maids, busy indoors, the Place was deserted of human or
Thus, luck was with the two intruders.
Through the fence-gap in the oak-grove, bored Titus Romaine's
hugest and oldest and crankiest sow. She was in search of acorns
and of any other food that might lie handy to her line of march.
In her owner's part of the grove, there was too much competition,
in the food-hunt, from other and equally greedy pigs of the herd.
These she could fight off and drive from the choicest
acorn-hoards. But it was easier to forage without competition.
So through the gap she forced her grunting bulk; and on through
the Place's half of the oak-grove. Pausing now and then to root
amid the strewn leaves, she made her leisurely way toward the
open lawn with its two-hundred-year-old shade-oaks, and its
flower-borders which still held a few toothsome bulbs.
The second intruder entered the grounds in much more open
fashion. He was a man in the late twenties; well-set up, neatly,
even sprucely, dressed; and he walked with a slight swagger. He
looked very much at home and very certain of his welcome.
A casual student of human nature would have guessed him to be a
traveling salesman, finely equipped with nerve and with
confidence in his own goods. The average servant would have been
vastly impressed with his air of self assurance; and would have
admitted him to the house, without question. (The long-memoried
warden of Auburn Prison would have recognized him as Alf Dugan,
one of the cleverest automobile thieves in the East.)
Mr. Dugan was an industrious young man; as well as ingenious. And
he had a streak of quick-witted audacity which made him an
ornament to his chosen profession. His method of work was simple.
Coming to a rural neighborhood, he would stop at some local
hotel, and, armed with clever patter and a sheaf of automobile
insurance documents, would make the rounds of the region's
At these he sold no automobile insurance; though he made
seemingly earnest efforts to do so. But he learned the precise
location of each garage; the cars therein; and the easiest way to
the highroad, and any possible obstacles to a hasty flight
thereto. Usually, he succeeded in persuading his reluctant host
to take him to the garage to look at the cars and to estimate the
insurable value of each. While there, it was easy to palm a key
or to get a good look at the garage padlock for future
skeleton-key reference; or to note what sort of car-locks were
A night or two later, the garage was entered and the best car was
stolen. Dugan, like love, laughed at locksmiths.
Sometimes,--notably in places where dogs were kept,--he would
make his initial visit and then, choosing a time when he had seen
some of the house's occupants go for a walk with their dogs,
would enter by broad daylight, and take a chance at getting the
car out, unobserved. If he were interrupted before starting off
in the machine, why, he was that same polite insurance aunt who
had come back to revise his estimate on the premium needed for
the car; and was taking another look at it to make certain. Once
in the driver's seat and with the engine going, he had no fear of
capture. A whizzing rush to the highroad and down it to the point
where his confederate waited with the new number-plates; and he
could snap his fat fingers at pursuit.
Dugan had called at the Place, a week earlier. He had taken
interested note of the little garage's two cars and of the
unlocked garage doors. He had taken less approving note of the
three guardian collies: Lad, still magnificent and formidable, in
spite of his weight of years;--Bruce, gloriously beautiful and
stately and aloof;--young Wolf, with the fire and fierce agility
of a tiger-cat. All three had watched him, grimly. None had
offered the slightest move to make friends with the smooth-spoken
visitor. Dogs have a queerly occult sixth sense, sometimes, in
regard to those who mean ill to their masters.
This morning, idling along the highroad, a furlong from the
Place's stone gateway, Dugan had seen the Mistress and the Master
drive past in the smaller of the two cars. He had seen Lad with
them. A little later, he had seen the men cross the road toward
the upper field. Then, almost on the men's heels, he had seen
Bruce and Wolf canter across the same road; headed for the
forest. And Dugan's correctly stolid face rippled into a pleased
Quickening his pace, he hurried on to the gateway and down the
drive. But, as he passed the house on his way to the garage where
stood the other and larger car, he paused. Out of an
ever-vigilant eye-corner, he saw an automobile turn in at the
gateway, two hundred yards up the wooded slope; and start down
The Mistress and the Master were returning from the post office.
Dugan's smile vanished. He stopped in his tracks; and did some
fast thinking. Then, mounting the veranda steps, he knocked
boldly at a side door; the door nearest to him. As the maids were
in the kitchen or making up the bedrooms, his knock was unheard.
Half hidden by the veranda vines, he waited.
The car came down the driveway and circled the house to the side
farthest from Dugan. There, at the front door, it halted. The
Mistress and Lad got out. The Master did not go down to the
garage. Instead, he circled the house again; and chugged off up
the drive; bound for the station to meet a guest whose train was
due in another ten minutes. Dugan drew a long breath; and
swaggered toward the garage. His walk and manner had in them an
easy openness that no honest man's could possibly have acquired
in a lifetime.
The Mistress, deposited at the front veranda, chirped to Lad; and
started across the lawn toward the chrysanthemum bed, a hundred
The summer's flowers were gone--even to the latest thin stemmed
Teplitz rose and the last stalk of rose-tinted cosmos. For dining
table, now, and for living-room and guest rooms, nothing was left
but the mauve and bronze hardy chrysanthemums which made gay the
flower border at the crest of the lawn overlooking the lake.
Thither fared the Mistress, in search of blossoms.
Between her and the chrysanthemum border was a bed of canvas.
Frost had smitten the tall, dark stems; leaving only a copse of
brown stalks. Out of this copse, chewing greedily at an uprooted
bunch of canna-bulbs, slouched Romaine's wandering sow. At, sight
of the Mistress, she paused in her leisurely progress and, with
the bunch of bulbs still hanging from one corner of her
shark-mouth, stood blinking truculently at the astonished woman.
Now, Lad had not obeyed the Mistress's soft chirp. It had not
reached his dulling ears;--the ears which, of old, had caught her
faintest whisper. Yet, he would have followed her, as ever,
without such summons, had not his nostrils suddenly become aware
of an alien scent.
Lad's sense of smell, like his hearing, was far less keen than
once it had been. But, it was still strong enough to register the
trace of intruders. His hackles bristled. Up went the classically
splendid head, to sniff the light breeze, for further information
as to the reek of pig and the lighter but more disquieting scent
Turning his head, to reinforce with his near-sighted eyes the
failing evidence of his nostrils, he saw the sow emerge from the
canna-clump. He saw, too--or he divined--the look in her pale
little red-rimmed eyes; as they glared defiantly at the Mistress.
And Lad cleared the porch steps at one long leap.
For the instant, he forgot he was aged and stout and that his
joints ached at any sudden motion; and that his wind and his
heart were not what they had been;--and that his once-terrible
fangs were yellowed and blunt; and that his primal vulnerable
spot, (as Lad knew) in her bristling pigskin armor.
Lad got his grip. And, with all his fragile old strength, he hung
on; grinding the outworn fangs further and further into the
sensitive nose of his squealing foe.
This stopped the sow's impetuous charge; for good and all. With a
heavy collie hanging to one's tortured nose and that collie's
teeth sunk deep into it, there is no scope for thinking of any
other opponent. She halted, striking furiously, with her sharp
cloven fore-hoofs, at the writhing dog beneath her.
One ferociously driving hoof cut a gash in Lad's chest. Another
tore the skin from his shoulder. Unheeding, he hung on. The sow
braced herself, solid, on outspread legs; and shook her head and
forequarters with all her muscular might.
Lad was hurled free, his weakened jaws failing to withstand such
a yank. Over and over he rolled, to one side; the sow charging
after him. She had lost all interest in attacking the Mistress.
Her flaming little brain now held no thought except to kill and
mangle the dog that had hurt her snout so cruelly. And she rushed
at him, the tushes glinting from under her upcurled and bleeding
But, the collie, for all his years and unwieldiness, was still a
collie. And, by the time he stopped rolling, he was scrambling to
his feet. Shrinking quickly to one side, as the sow bore down
upon him, he eluded her rush, by the fraction of an inch; and
made a wolflike slash for her underbody, as she hurtled by.
The blunted eyetooth made but a superficial furrow; which served
only to madden its victim still further. Wheeling, she returned
to the attack. Again, with a ghost of his old elusive speed;
Laddie avoided her rush, by the narrowest of margins; and,
snapping furiously, caught her by the ear.
Now, more than once, in other frays, Lad had subdued and scared
trespassing pigs by this hold. But, in those days, his teeth had
been keen and his jaw strong enough to crack a beef bone.
Moreover, the pigs on which he had used it to such effect were
not drunk with the lust of killing.
The sow squealed, afresh, with pain; and once more braced herself
and shook her head with all her might: Again, Lad was flung aside
by that shake; this time with a fragment of torn ear between his
As she drove slaveringly at him once more, Lad swerved and darted
in; diving for her forelegs. With the collie, as with his
ancestor, the wolf, this dive for the leg of an enemy is a
favorite and tremendously effective trick in battle. Lad found
his hold, just above the right pastern. And he exerted every atom
of his power to break the bone or to sever the tendon.
In all the Bible's myriad tragic lines there is perhaps none
other so infinitely sad,--less for its actual significance than
for what it implies to every man or woman or animal, soon or
late,--than that which describes the shorn Samson going forth in
jaunty confidence to meet the Philistines he so often and so
easily had conquered:
"He wist not that the Lord was departed from him!"
To all of us, to whom the doubtful blessing of old age is
granted, must come the black time when we shall essay a task
which once we could accomplish with ease;--only to find its
achievement has passed forever beyond our waning powers. And so,
this day, was it with Sunnybank Lad.
Of yore, such a grip as he now secured would have ham strung or
otherwise maimed its victim and left her wallowing helpless. But
the dull teeth merely barked the leg's tough skin. And a
spasmodic jerk ripped it loose from the dog's hold.
Lad barely had time to spring aside, to dodge the wheeling sow.
He was panting heavily. His wounds were hurting and weakening
him. His wind was gone. His heart was doing queer things which
made him sick and dizzy. His strength was turning to water. His
courage alone blazed high and undimmed.
Not once did it occur to him to seek safety in flight. He must
have known the probable outcome. For Lad knew much. But the great
heart did not flinch at the prospect. Feebly, yet dauntlessly, he
came back to the hopeless battle. The Mistress was in danger. And
he alone could help.
No longer able to avoid the rushes, he met some of them with
pathetically useless jaws; going down under others and rising
with ever greater slowness and difficulty. The sow's ravening
teeth found a goal, more than once, in the burnished mahogany
coat which the Mistress brushed every day with such loving care.
The pronged hoofs had twice more cut him as he strove to roll
aside from their onslaught after one of his heavy tumbles.
The end of the fight seemed very near. Yet Lad fought on. To the
attack, after each upset or wound, he crawled with deathless
The Mistress, at Lad's first charge, had stepped back. But, at
once she had caught up again the stick and belabored the sow with
all her frail muscular might. She might as well have been beating
the side of a concrete wall. Heedless of the flailing, the sow
ignored her; and continued her maddened assault on Lad. The
maids, attracted by the noise, crowded the front doorway;
clinging together and jabbering. To them the Mistress called now
for the Master's shotgun, from the study wall, and for a handful
She kept her head; though she saw she was powerless to save the
dog she loved. And her soul was sick within her at his peril
which her puny efforts could not avert.
Running across the lawn, toward the house, she met half way the
maid who came trembling forth with the gun and two shells.
Without stopping to glance at the cartridges,--nor to realize
that they were filled with Number Eight shot, for quails,--she
thrust two of them into the breech and, turning, fired pointblank
at the sow.
Lad was down again; and the sow,--no longer in a squealing rush,
but with a new cold deadliness,--was gauging the distance to his
exposed throat. The first shot peppered her shoulder; the tiny
pellets scarce scratching the tough hide.
The Mistress had, halted, to fire. Now, she ran forward: With the
muzzle not three feet from the sow's head, she pulled trigger
The pig's huge jaws road opened with deliberate width. One
forefoot was pinning the helplessly battling dog to earth, while
she made ready to tear out his throat.
The second shot whizzed about her head and face. Two or three of
the pellets entered the open mouth.
With a sound that was neither grunt nor howl, yet which savored
of both, the sow lurched back from the flash and roar and the
anguishing pain in her tender mouth. The Mistress whirled aloft
the empty and useless gun and brought it crashing down on the
pig's skull. The carved mahogany stock broke in two. The jar of
impact knocked the weapon from its wielder's numbed fingers.
The sow seemed scarce to notice the blow. She continued backing
away; and champed her jaws as if to locate the cause of the agony
in her mouth. Her eyes were inflamed and dazed by the flash of
The Mistress took advantage of the moment's breathing space to
bend over the staggeringly rising Lad; and, catching him by the
ruff, to urge him toward the house. For once, the big collie
refused to obey. He knew pig nature better than did she. And he
knew the sow was not yet finished with the battle. He strove to
break free from the loved grasp and to stagger back to his
The Mistress, by main strength, drew him, snarling and
protesting, toward the safety of the house. Panting, bleeding,
reeling, pitiably weak, yet he resisted the tender urging; and
kept twisting his bloody head back for a glimpse of his foe. Nor
was the precaution useless. For, before the Mistress and her
wounded dog were half-way across the remaining strip of lawn, the
sow recovered enough of her deflected wits and fury to lower her
head and gallop down after them.
At her first step, Lad, by a stupendous effort, wrenched free
from the Mistress's clasp; and flung himself between her and the
charging mass of pork. But, as he did so, he found breath for a
trumpet-bark that sounded more like a rallying cry.
For, dulled as were his ears, they were still keener than any
human's. And they had caught the sound of eight flying paws amid
the dead leaves of the drive. Wolf and Bruce, coming home at a
leisurely trot, from their ramble in the forest, had heard the
two reports of the shotgun; and had broken into a run. They read
the meaning in Lad's exhausted bark, as clearly as humans might
read a printed word. And it lent wings to their feet.
Around the corner of the house tore the two returning collies. In
a single glance, they seemed to take in the whole grisly scene.
They, too, had had their bouts with marauding swine; and they
were still young enough to enjoy such clashes and to partake of
them without danger.
The sow, too blind with pain and rage to know reinforcements were
coming to the aid of the half-dead hero, tore forward. The
Mistress, with both hands, sought to drag Lad behind her. The
maids screeched in plangent chorus.
Then, just as the sow was launching herself on the futilely
snapping Lad, she was stupidly aware that the dog had somehow
changed to three dogs. One of these three the Mistress was still
holding. The two others, with excellent teamwork, were assailing
the sow from opposite sides.
She came to a sliding stop in her charge; blinking in bewildered
Bruce had caught her by the torn left ear; and was keeping easily
out of her way, while he inflicted torture thereon. Wolf, like a
furry whirlwind, had stopped only long enough to slash her
bleeding nose to the bone; and now was tearing away at her hind
leg in an industrious and very promising effort to hamstring her.
In front, Lad was still straining to break the Mistress's loving
hold; and to get at his pestered enemy.
This was more than the huge porker had bargained for. Through all
her murder-rage, she had sense enough to know she was outnumbered
and beaten. She broke into a clumsy gallop; heading homeward.
But Bruce and Wolf would not have it so. Delightedly they tore in
to the attack. Their slashing fangs and their keenly nipping
front teeth were everywhere. They were all over her. In sudden
panic, blinded by terror and pain, the sow put her six hundred
pounds of unwieldy weight into the fastest motion she could
summon. At a scrambling run, she set off, around the house; head
down, bitten tail aloft; the two dogs at her bleeding haunches.
Dimly, she saw a big and black obstacle loom up in her path. It
was coming noisily toward her. But she was going too fast and too
blindly to swerve. And she met it, headlong; throwing her vast
weight forward in an attempt to smash through it. At the same
time, Wolf and Bruce left off harrying her flanks and sprang
Dugan had reached the garage unseen. There, he had backed out the
car, by hand; shoving it into the open, lest the motor-whirr give
premature announcement of his presence. Then, as he boarded the
machine and reached for the self-starter, all bedlam broke loose,
from somewhere in the general direction of the house, fifty yards
Dugan, glancing up apprehensively, beheld the first phases of the
fight. Forgetting the need of haste and of secrecy, he sat there,
open-mouthed, watching a scrimmage which was beyond all his
sporting experience and which thrilled him as no prize-fight had
ever done. Moveless, wide eyed, he witnessed the battle.
But the arrival of the two other dogs and the flight of the sow
roused him to a sense of the business which had brought him
thither. The Mistress and the maids had no eyes or ears for
anything but the wounded Lad. Dugan knew he could, in all
probability, drive to the main road unnoticed; if he should keep
the house between him and the women.
He pressed the self-starter; threw off the brake and put the car
into motion. Then, as he struck the level stretch of driveway,
back of the house, he stepped hard on the accelerator. Here, for
a few rods, was danger of recognition; and it behooved him to
make speed. He made it.
Forward bounded the car and struck a forty-mile gait. And around
the house's far corner and straight toward Dugan came flying the
sow and the two collies. The dogs, at sight of the onrushing car,
sprang aside. The sow did not.
In the narrow roadway there was no room for Dugan to turn out.
Nor did he care to. Again and again he had run over dogs, without
harming his car or slackening its pace. And of course it would be
the same with a pig. He stepped harder on the accelerator.
Alf Dugan came to his senses in the hospital ward of the Paterson
jail. He had not the faintest idea how he chanced to be there.
When they told him the car had turned turtle and that he and a
broken-necked pig had been hauled out of the wreckage, he asked
in all honesty:
"What car? What pig? Quit stringing me, can't you? Which of my
legs did you say is bust, and which one is just twisted? They
both feel as bad as each other. How'd I get here, anyhow? What
When the vet had worked over Lad for an hour and had patched him
up and had declared there was no doubt at all about his getting
well, Wolf and Bruce were brought in to see the invalid. The
Mistress thought he might be glad to see them.
He was not.
Indeed, after one scornful look in their direction, Laddie turned
away from the visitors, in cold disgust. Also, he was less
demonstrative with the Mistress, than usual. Anyone could see his
feelings were deeply hurt. And anyone who knew Lad could tell
He had borne the brunt of the fight. And, at the last, these
lesser dogs had won the victory without his aid. Still worse, his
beloved Mistress,--for whom he had so blithely staked his aged
life,--the Mistress had held him back by force from joining in
the delirious last phases of the battle. She had made him stand
tamely by, while others finished the grand work he had begun.
It was not fair. And Laddie let everyone in sight know it was not
fair; and that he had no intention of being petted into a good
Still, when, by and by, the Mistress sat down on the floor beside
him and told him what a darling and wonderful and heroic dog he
was and how proud she felt of his courage, and when her dear hand
rumpled the soft hair behind his ears,--well, somehow Lad found
himself laying his head in her lap; and making croony low sounds
at her and pretending to bite her little white hand.
It was always hard to stay offended at the Mistress.
CHAPTER XI. The Guard
Lad was old--very, very old. He had passed his sixteenth
birthday. For a collie, sixteen is as old as is ninety-five for a
The great dog's life had been as beautiful as himself. And now,
in the late twilight of his years, Time's hand rested on him as
lovingly as did the Mistress's. He had few of the distressing
features of age.
True; his hearing was duller than of yore. The magnificent body's
lines were blurred with flesh. The classic muzzle was snow white;
as were the lashes and eyebrows. And the once mighty muscles were
stiff and unwieldy. Increasing feebleness crept over him, making
exercise a burden and any sudden motion a pain. The once
trumpeting bark was a hollow echo of itself.
But the deep-set dark eyes, with a soul looking out of them, were
as clear as ever. The uncannily wise brain had lost not an atom
of its power. The glorious mahogany-and-snow coat was still
abundant. The fearlessly gay spirit and loyal heart were undimmed
Laddie resented angrily his new limitations. From time to time he
would forget them; and would set off at a run in the wake of
Bruce and Wolf, when the sound of a stranger's approach made them
gallop up the driveway to investigate. But always; after the
first few stiff bounds, he would come to a panting halt and turn
back wearily to his resting place in the veranda's coolest
corner; as indignant over his own weakness, as he would have been
at fetters which impeded his limbs.
He was more and more sensitive about this awkward feebleness of
his. And he sought to mask it; in ways that seemed infinitely
pathetic to the two humans who loved him. For instance, one of
his favorite romps in bygone days had been to throw himself down
in front of the Mistress and pretend to bite her little feet;
growling terrifically as he did it. Twice of late, as he had been
walking at her side, his footing had slipped or he had lost his
balance, and had tumbled headlong Instantly, both times, he had
begun to growl and had bitten in mock fury at the Mistress's
foot. By this pitiful ruse he strove to make her believe that his
fall had been purposeful and a part of the olden game.
But worst of all he missed the long walks on which, from
puppyhood, he had always accompanied the Mistress and the Master.
Unknown to the old dog, these walks had been shortened,
mercifully, and slowed down, to accommodate themselves to Lad's
waning strength: But the time came when even a half-mile, at
snail-pace, over a smooth road, was too much for his wind and
Nowadays, when they were going for a walk, Lad was first lured
into the house and left there. The ruse did not fool him, any
more than it would have deceived a grown man. And his feelings
were cruelly hurt at every instance of this seeming defection on
the part of his two worshiped human chums.
"He still enjoys life," mused the Master, one day in late summer,
as he and the Mistress sat on the veranda, with Lad asleep at
their feet. "And he can still get about a bit. His appetite is
good, and he drowses happily for a good deal of the day; and the
car-rides are still as much fun for him as ever they were. But
when the time comes--and he's breaking fast, these past few
months--when the time comes that life is a misery to him--"
"I know," interposed the Mistress, her voice not quite steady. "I
know. Do you suppose I haven't been thinking about it, on the hot
nights when I couldn't sleep? But, when the time comes--when it
comes--you'll--you'll do it, yourself, won't you?"
"Yes," promised the Master, miserably. "No one else shall. I'd
rather cut off one of my own hands, though. I'VE been doing a bit
Back to Full Books