Part 3 out of 5
forward to accept the gift. As his teeth were about to close
daintily on the cake, Cyril whipped it back out of reach; and
with his other hand rapped Lad smartly across the nose.
Had any grown man ventured a humiliating and painful trick of
that sort on Lad, the collie would have been at the tormentor's
throat, on the instant. But it was not in the great dog's nature
to attack a child. Shrinking back, in amaze, his abnormally
sensitive feelings jarred, the collie retreated majestically to
his beloved "cave" under the music-room piano.
To the Mistress's remonstrance, Cyril denied most earnestly that
he had done the thing. Nor was his vehemently tearful denial
shaken by her assertion that she had seen it all.
Lad soon forgave the affront. And he forgave a dozen other and
worse mal-treatments which followed. But, at last, the dog took
to shunning the neighborhood of the pest. That availed him
nothing; except to make Cyril seek him out in whatsoever refuge
the dog had chosen.
Lad, trotting hungrily to his dinner dish, would find his food
thick-strewn with cayenne pepper or else soaked in reeking
Lad, seeking peace and solitude in his piano cave, would discover
his rug, there, cleverly scattered with carpet tacks, points
Lad, starting up from a snooze at the Mistress's call, would be
deftly tripped as he started to bound down the veranda steps, and
would risk bruises and fractures by an ugly fall to the driveway
Wherever Lad went, whatever Lad did, there was a cruel trick
awaiting him. And, in time, the dog's dark eyes took on an
expression of puzzled unhappiness that went straight to the
hearts of the two humans who loved him.
All his life, Lad had been a privileged character on the Place.
Never had he known nor needed whip or chain. Never had he,--or
any of the Place's other dogs,--been wantonly teased by any
human. He had known, and had given, only love and square
treatment and stanch friendliness. He had ruled as benevolent
monarch of the Place's Little People; had given loyal service to
his two deities, the Mistress and the Master; and had stood
courteously aloof from the rest of mankind. And he had been very,
Now, in a breath, all this was changed. Ever at his heels, ever
waiting to find some new way to pester him, was a human too small
and too weak to attack;--a human who was forever setting the
collie's high-strung nerves on edge or else actively hurting him.
Lad could not understand it. And as the child gained in health
and strength, Lad's lot grew increasingly miserable.
The Mistress and the Master were keenly aware of conditions. And
they did their best,--a useless best,--to mitigate them for the
dog. They labored over Cyril, to make him leave Lad alone. They
pointed out to him the mean cowardice of his course of torture.
They even threatened to send him to nearer relatives until his
parents' return. All in vain. Faced with the most undeniable
proofs, the child invariably would lie. He denied that he had
ever ill-used Lad in any way; and would weep, in righteous
indignation, at the charges. What was to be done?
"I thought it would brighten up the house so, to have a child in
it again!" sighed the Mistress as she and her husband discussed
the matter, uselessly, for the fiftieth time, after one of these
scenes. "I looked forward so much to his coming here! But
he's--oh, he isn't like any child I ever heard of before!"
"If I could devote five busy minutes a day to him," grunted the
Master, "with an axe-handle or perhaps a bale-stick--"
"You wouldn't do it!" denied his wife. "You wouldn't harm him;
any more than Lad does. That's the trouble. If Cyril belonged to
us, we could punish him. Not with a--a balestick, of course. But
he needs a good wholesome spanking, more than anyone else I can
think of. That or some other kind of punishment that would make
an impression on him. But what can we do? He isn't ours--"
"Thank God!" interpolated the Master, piously.
"And we can't punish other people's child," she finished. "I
don't know what we CAN do. I wouldn't mind half so much about the
other sneaky things he does; if it wasn't for the way he treats
"Suppose we send Lad to the boarding kennels, at Ridgewood, till
the brat is gone? " suggested the Master. "I hate to do it. And
the good old chap will be blue with homesickness there. But at
least he'll get kind treatment. When he comes over to me and
looks up into my eyes in that terribly appealing way, after Cyril
has done some rotten thing to him,--well, I feel like a cur, not
to be able to justify his faith that I can make things all right
for him. Yes, I think I'll send him to the boarding kennels. And,
if it weren't for leaving you alone to face things here, I'd be
tempted to hire a stall at the kennels for myself, till the pest
The next day, came a ray of light in the bothered gloom. And the
question of the boarding kennels was dropped. The Mistress
received a letter from Cyril's mother. The European trip had been
cut short, for business reasons; and the two travelers expected
to land in New York on the following Friday.
"Who dares say Friday is an unlucky day?" chortled the Master in
glee, as his wife reached this stage of the letter.
"And," the Mistress read on, "we will come out to the Place, on
the noon train; and take darling Cyril away with us. I wish we
could stay longer with you; but Henry must be in Chicago on
Saturday night. So we must catch a late afternoon train back to
town, and take the night train West. Now, I--"
"Most letters are a bore," interpolated the Master. "Or else
they're a bother. But this one is a pure rapture. Read it more
slowly, won't, you, dear? I want to wallow in every blessed word
of hope it contains. Go ahead. I'm sorry I interrupted. Read on.
You'll never have such another enthusiastic audience."
"And now," the Mistress continued her reading, "I am going to ask
both of you not to say a single word to precious Cyril about our
coming home so soon. We want to surprise him. Oh, to think what
his lovely face will be like, when he sees us walking in!"
"And to think what MY lovely face will be like, when I see him
walking out!" exulted the Master. "Laddie, come over here. We've
got the gorgeousest news ever! Come over and be glad!"
Lad, at the summons, came trotting out of his cave, and across
the room. Like every good dog who has been much talked to, he was
as adept as any dead-beat in reading the varying shades of the
human voice. The voices and faces alike of his two adored deities
told him something wonderful had happened. And, as ever, he
rejoiced in their gladness. Lifting his magnificent head, he
broke into a salvo of trumpeting barks; the oddly triumphant form
of racket he reserved for great moments.
"What's Laddie doing?" asked Cyril, from the threshold. "He
sounds as if he was going mad or something."
"He's happy," answered the Mistress.
"Why's he happy?" queried the child.
"Because his Master and I are happy," patiently returned the
"Why are YOU happy?" insisted Cyril.
"Because today is Thursday," put in the Master. "And that means
tomorrow will be Friday."
"And on Friday," added the Mistress, "there's going to be a
beautiful surprise for you, Cyril. We can't tell you what it is,
"Why can't you tell me?" urged the child. "Aw, go ahead and tell
me! I think you might."
The Master had gone over to the nearest window; and was staring
out into the gray-black dusk. Mid-winter gripped the dead world;
and the twilight air was deathly chill. The tall naked treetops
stood gaunt and wraithlike against a leaden sky.
To the north, the darkness was deepest. Evil little puffs of gale
stirred the powdery snow into myriads of tiny dancing white
devils. It had been a fearful winter, thus far; colder than for a
score of years; so cold that many a wild woodland creature, which
usually kept far back in the mountains, had ventured down nearer
to civilization for forage and warmth.
Deer tracks a-plenty had been seen, close up to the gates of the
Place. And, two days ago, in the forest, half a mile away, the
Master had come upon the half-human footprints of a young bear.
Starvation stalked abroad, yonder in the white hills. And need
for provender had begun to wax stronger among the folk of the
wilderness than their inborn dread of humans.
"There's a big snowstorm coming up," ruminated the Master, as he
scanned the grim weather-signs. "A blizzard, perhaps. I--I hope
it won't delay any incoming steamers. I hope at least one of them
will dock on schedule. It--"
He turned back from his musings, aware for the first time that a
right sprightly dialogue was going on. Cyril was demanding for
the eighth time:
"WHY won't you tell me? Aw, I think you might! What's going to
happen that's so nice, Friday?"
"Wait till Friday and see," laughed the Mistress.
"Shucks!" he snorted. "You might tell me, now. I don't want to
wait and get s'prised. I want to know, NOW. Tell me!"
Under her tolerant smile, the youngster's voice scaled to an
impatient whine. He was beginning to grow red.
"Let it go at that!" ordained the Master. "Don't spoil your own
fun, by trying to find out, beforehand. Be a good sportsman."
"Fun!" snarled Cyril. "What's the fun of secrets? I want to
"It's snowing," observed the Mistress, as a handful of flakes
began to drift past the windows, tossed along on a puff of wind.
"I want to KNOW!" half-wept the child; angry at the change of
subject, and noting that the Mistress was moving toward the next
room, with Lad at her heels. "Come back and tell me!"
He stamped after her to bar her way. Lad was between the irate
Cyril and the Mistress. In babyish rage at the dog's placid
presence in his path, he drew back one ungainly foot and kicked
the astonished collie in the ribs.
At the outrage, Lad spun about, a growl in his throat. But he
forbore to bite or even to show his teeth. The growl had been of
indignant protest at such unheard-of treatment; not a menace.
Then the dog stalked haughtily to his cave, and lay down there.
But the human witnesses to the scene were less forbearing;--being
only humans. The Mistress cried out, in sharp protest at the
little brute's action. And the Master leaned forward, swinging
Cyril clear of the ground. Holding the child firmly, but with no
roughness, the Master steadied his own voice as best he could;
"This time you've not even bothered to wait till our backs were
turned. So don't waste breath by crying and saying you didn't do
it. You're not my child; so I have no right to punish you. And
I'm not going to. But I want you to know you've just kicked
something that's worth fifty of you."
"You let me down!" Cyril snarled.
"Lad is too white and clean and square to hurt anything that
can't hit back," continued the Master. "And you are not. That's
the difference between you. One of the several million
differences,--all of them in Lad's favor. When a child begins
life by being cruel to dumb animals, it's a pretty bad sign for
the way he's due to treat his fellow-humans in later years,--if
ever any of them are at his mercy. For your own sake, learn to
behave at least as decently as a dog. If--"
"You let me down, you big bully!" squalled Cyril, bellowing with
impotent fury. "You let me down! I--"
"Certainly," assented the Master, lowering him to the floor. "I
didn't hurt you. I only held you so you couldn't run out of the
room, before I'd finished speaking; as you did, the time I caught
you putting red pepper on Lad's food. He--"
"You wouldn't dare touch me, if my folks were here, you big
bully!" screeched the child, in a veritable mania of rage;
jumping up and down and actually foaming at the mouth. "But I'll
tell 'em on you! See if I don't! I'll tell 'em how you slung me
around and said I was worsen a dirty dog like Lad. And Daddy'll
lick you for it. See if he don't! He--"
The Master could not choke back a laugh; though the poor Mistress
looked horribly distressed at the maniac outburst, and strove
soothingly to check it. She, like the Master, remembered now that
Cyril's doting mother had spoken of the child's occasional fits
of red wrath. But this was the first glimpse either of them had
had of these. Hitherto, craft had served Cyril's turn better than
At sound of the Master's unintentional laugh the unfortunate
child went quite beside himself in his transport of rage.
"I won't stay in your nasty old house!" he shrieked. "I'm going
to the very first house I can find. And I'm going to tell 'em how
you hammered a little feller that hasn't any folks here to stick
up for him. And I'll get 'em to take me in and send a tel'gram to
Daddy and Mother to come save me. I--"
To the astonishment of both his hearers, Cyril broke off
chokingly in his yelled tirade; caught up a bibelot from the
table, hurled it with all his puny force at Lad, the innocent
cause of the fracas; and then rushed from the room and from the
The Mistress stared after him, dumfounded; his howls and the
jarring slam of the house door echoing direfully in her ears. It
was the Master who ended the instant's hush of amaze.
"Whenever I've heard a grown man say he wished he was a boy
again," he mused, "I always set him down for a liar. But, for
once in my life, I honestly wish I was a boy, once more. A boy
one day younger and one inch shorter and one pound lighter than
Cyril. I'd follow him out of doors, yonder, and give him the
thrashing of his sweet young life. I'd--"
"Oh, do call him back!" begged the Mistress. "He'll catch his
death of cold, and--"
"Why will he?" challenged the Master, without stirring. "For all
his noble rage, I noticed he took thought to grab up his cap and
his overcoat from the hall, as he wafted himself away. And he
still had his arctics on, from this afternoon. He won't--"
"But suppose he should really go over to one of the neighbors,"
urged the Mistress, "and tell such an awful story as he
threatened to? Or suppose--"
"Not a chance!" the Master reassured her. "Now that the summer
people are away, there isn't an occupied house within half a mile
of here. And he's not going to trudge a half-mile through the
snow, in this bitter cold, for the joy of telling lies. No, he's
down at the stables or else he's sneaked in through the kitchen;
the way he did that other time when he made a grandstand exit
after I'd ventured to lecture him on his general rottenness.
Remember how worried about him you were, that time; till we found
him sitting in the kitchen and pestering the maids? He--"
"But that time, he was only sulky," said the Mistress. "Not
insanely angry, as he is now. I do hope--"
"Stop worrying!" adjured the Master. "He's all right."
Which proved, for perhaps the trillionth time in history, that a
woman's intuitions are better worth following than a man's saner
logic. For Cyril was not all right. And, at every passing minute
he was less and less all right; until presently he was all wrong.
For the best part of an hour, in pursuance of her husband's
counsel, the Mistress sat and waited for the prodigal's return.
Then, surreptitiously, she made a round of the house; sent a man
to ransack the stables, telephoned to the gate lodge, and finally
came into the Master's study, big-eyed and pale.
"He isn't anywhere around," she reported, frightened. "It's
dinner time. He's been gone in hour. Nobody's seen him. He isn't
on the Place. Oh, I wonder if--"
"H'm!" grumbled her husband. "He's engineering an endurance
contest, eh? Well, if he can stand it, we can."
But at sight of the deepening trouble in his wife's face, he got
up from his desk. Going out into the hall, he summoned Lad.
"We might shout our heads off," he said, "and he'd never answer;
if he's really trying to scare us. That's part of his lovable
nature. There's just one way to track him, in double time. LAD!"
The Master had been drawing on his mackinaw and hipboots as he
spoke. Now he opened the front door.
"Laddie!" he said, very slowly and incisively to the expectantly
eager collie. "Cyril! Find CYRIL! FIND him!"
To the super-wise collie, there was nothing confusing in the
command. Like many another good dog, he knew the humans of the
household by their names; as well as did any fellow-human. And he
knew from long experience the meaning of the word, "Find!"
Countless times that word had been used in games and in earnest.
Its significance, now, was perfectly plain to him. The Master
wanted him to hunt for the obnoxious child who so loved to annoy
and hurt him.
Lad would rather have found anyone else, at the Master's behest.
But it did not occur to the trained collie to disobey. With a
visible diminishing of his first eager excitement, but with
submissive haste, the big dog stepped out on to the veranda and
began to cast about in the drifts at the porch edge.
Immediately, he struck Cyril's shuffling trail. And, immediately,
he trotted off along the course.
The task was less simple than ordinarily. For, the snow was
coming down in hard-driven sheets; blotting out scent almost as
effectively as sight. But not for naught had a thousand
generations of Lad's thoroughbred ancestors traced lost sheep
through snowstorms on the Scottish moors. To their grand
descendant they had transmitted their weird trailing power, to
the full. And the scent of Cyril, though faint and fainter, and
smothered under swirling snow, was not too dim for Lad's
sensitive nostrils to catch and hold it.
The Master lumbered along, through the rising drifts, as fast as
he could. But the way was rough and the night was as black dark
as it was cold. In a few rods, the dog had far outdistanced him.
And, knowing how hard must be the trail to follow by sense of
smell, he forbore to call back the questing collie, lest Lad lose
the clew altogether. He knew the dog was certain to bark the
tidings when he should come up with the fugitive.
The Master by this time began to share his wife's worry. For the
trail Lad was following led out of the grounds and across the
highway, toward the forest.
The newborn snowstorm was developing into a very promising little
blizzard. And the icy lash of the wind proved the fallacy of the
old theory, "too cold to snow." Even by daylight it would have
been no light task to steer a true course through the whirling
and blinding storm. In the darkness, the man found himself
stumbling along with drunkenly zigzag steps; his buffeted ears
strained, through the noise of the wind for sound of Lad's bark.
But no such sound came to him. And, he realized that snow and
adverse winds can sometimes muffle even the penetrating bark of a
collie. The man grew frightened. Halting, he shouted with all the
power of his lungs. No whimper from Cyril answered the hail. Nor,
at his master's summons, did Lad come bounding back through the
drifts. Again and again, the Master called.
For the first time in his obedient life, Lad did not respond to
the call. And the Master knew his own voice could not carry, for
a single furlong, against wind and snowfall.
"I'll go on for another half-hour," he told himself, as he sought
to discern the dog's all-but obliterated footsteps through the
deepening snow. "And then I'll go back and raise a search party."
He came to a bewildered stop. Fainter and more indistinguishable
had Lad's floundering tracks become. Now,--by dint of distance
and snow,--they ceased to be visible in the welter of drifted
whiteness under the glare of the Master's flashlight.
"This means a search-party," decided the man.
And he turned homeward, to telephone for a posse of neighbors.
Lad, being only a dog, had no such way of sharing his burden. He
had been told to find the child. And his simple code of life and
of action left him no outlet from doing his duty; be that duty
irksome or easy. So he kept on. Far ahead of the Master, his keen
ears had not caught the sound of the shouts. The gale and the
snow muffled them and drove them back into the shouter's throat.
Cyril, naturally, had not had the remotest intent of laboring
through the bitter cold and the snow to the house of any
neighbor; there to tell his woeful tale of oppression. The
semblance of martyrdom, without its bothersome actuality, was
quite enough for his purpose. Once before, at home, when his
father had administered a mild and much-needed spanking, Cyril
had made a like threat; and had then gone to hide in a chum's
home, for half a day; returning to find his parents in agonies of
remorse and fear, and ready to load him with peace-offerings. The
child saw no reason why the same tactics should not serve every
bit as triumphantly, in the present case.
He knew the maids were in the kitchen and at least one man was in
the stables. He did not want his whereabouts to be discovered
before he should have been able to raise a healthy and
dividend-bringing crop of remorse in the hearts of the Mistress
and the Master, so he resolved to go farther afield.
In the back of the meadow, across the road, and on the hither
side of the forest, was a disused cattle-barrack, with two stalls
under its roof-pile of hay. The barrack was one of Cyril's
favorite playhouses. It was dry and tight. Through his thick
clothing he was not likely to be very cold, there, for an hour or
two. He could snuggle down in the warm hay and play Indians, with
considerable comfort; until such time as the fright and penitence
of his hosts should have come to a climax and make his return an
Meanwhile, it would be fun to picture their uneasiness and fear
for his safety; and to visualize their journeyings through the
snow to the houses of various neighbors, in search of the lost
Buoyed up by such happy thoughts as these, Cyril struck out at a
lively pace for the highroad and into the field beyond. The
barrack, he knew, lay diagonally across the wide meadow, and near
the adjoining woods. Five minutes of tramping through the snow
ought to bring him to it. And he set off, diagonally.
But, before he had gone a hundred yards, he lost his first zest
in the adventure. The darkness had thickened; and the vagrant
wind-gusts had tightened into a steady gale; a gale which carried
before it a blinding wrack of stingingly hard-driven snow.
The gray of the dying dusk was blotted out. The wind smote and
battered the spindling child. Mechanically, he kept on for five
or six minutes, making scant and irregular progress. Then, his
spirit wavered. Splendid as it would be to scare these hateful
people, there was nothing splendid in the weather that numbed him
with cold and took away his breath and half-blinded him with
What was the fun of making others suffer; if he himself were
suffering tenfold more? And, on reaching the barrack, he would
have all that freezing and blast-hammering trip back again. Aw,
what was the use?
And Cyril came to a halt. He had definitely abandoned his high
enterprise. Turning around, he began to retrace his stumbling
steps. But, at best, in a large field, in a blizzard and in pitch
darkness, and with no visible landmarks, it is not easy to double
back on one's route, with any degree of accuracy. In Cyril's
case, the thing was wholly impossible.
Blindly, he had been traveling in an erratic half-circle. Another
minute of walking would have brought him to the highroad, not far
from the Place's gateway. And, as he changed his course, to seek
the road, he moved at an obtuse angle to his former line of
Thus, another period of exhausting progress brought him up with a
bump against a solid barrier. His chilled face came into rough
contact with the top rail of a line fence.
So relieved was the startled child by this encounter that he
forgot to whine at the abrasion wrought upon his cheek by the
rail. He had begun to feel the first gnawings of panic. Now, at
once, he was calm again. For he knew where he was. This was the
line fence between the Place's upper section and the land of the
All he need do was to walk along in the shelter of it, touching
the rails now and then to make certain of not straying, until he
should come out on the road, at the gate lodge. It was absurdly
easy; compared to what he had been undergoing. Besides, the lee
of the fence afforded a certain shelter from wind and snow. The
child realized he had been turned about in the dark; and had been
going in the wrong direction. But now, at last, his course seemed
plain to him.
So he set off briskly, close to the fence;--and directly away
from the nearby road.
For another half-hour he continued his inexplicably long tramp;
always buoyed up by the hope of coming to the road in a few more
steps; and doggedly sure of his bearings. Then, turning out from
the fence, in order to skirt a wide hazel thicket, he tripped
over an outcrop of rock, and tumbled into a drift. Getting to his
feet, he sought to regain the fence; but the fall had shaken his
senses and he floundered off in the opposite direction. After a
rod or two of such futile plunging, a stumbling step took him
clean off the edge of the world, and into the air.
All this, for the merest instant. Then, he landed with a jounce
in a heap of brush and dead leaves. Squatting there, breathless,
he stretched out his mittened hand, along the ground. At the end
of less than another yard of this exploring, his fingers came
again to the edge of the world and were thrust out over
With hideous suddenness, Cyril understood where he was; and what
had happened to him and why. He knew he had followed the fence
for a full mile, AWAY from the road; through the nearer woods,
and gradually upward until he had come the line of hazels on the
lip of the ninety-foot ravine which dipped down into a
swamp-stretch known as "Pancake Hollow."
That was what he had done. In trying to skirt the hazels, he had
stepped over the cliff-edge, and had dropped five feet or more to
a rather narrow ledge that juts out over the ravine.
Well did he remember this ledge. More than once, on walks with
the Mistress and the Master, he had paused to look down on it and
to think fun it would be to imprison someone there and to stand
above, guying the victim. It had been a sweet thought. And now,
he, himself, was imprisoned there.
But for luck, he might have fallen the whole ninety feet; for the
ledge did not extend far along the face of the cliff. At almost
any other spot his tumble might have meant--
Cyril shuddered a little; and pursued the grisly theme no
further. He was safe enough, till help should come. And, here,
the blast of the wind did not reach him. Also, by cuddling low in
the litter of leaves and fallen brush, he could ward off a little
of the icy cold.
He crouched there; shaking and worn out. He was only eleven. His
fragile body had undergone a fearful hour of toil and hardship.
As he was drawing in his breath for a cry to any chance
searchers, the boy was aware of a swift pattering, above his
head. He looked up. The sky was shade or two less densely black
than the ravine edge. As Cyril gazed in terror, a shaggy dark
shape outlined itself against the sky-line, just above him.
Having followed the eccentric footsteps of the wanderer, with
great and greater difficulty, to the fence-lee where the tracing
was much easier, Lad came to the lip of the ravine a bare five
minutes after the child's drop to the ledge.
There, for an instant, the great dog stood; ears cocked, head
inquiringly on one side; looking down upon the ledge. Cyril
shrank to a quivering little heap of abject terror, at sight of
the indistinct animal shape looming mountain-high above
This for the briefest moment. Then back went Lad's head in a
pealing bark that seemed to fill the world and to reecho from a
myriad directions at once. Again and again, Lad gave clamorous
voice to his discovery of the lost child.
On a clear or windless night, his racket must have penetrated to
the dullest ears at the Place, and far beyond. For the bark of a
dog has more carrying power than has any other sound of double
its volume. But, in the face of a sixty-mile gale laden with tons
of flying snow, the report of a cannon could scarce have carried
over the stretch of windswept ground between the ravine and the
Lad seemed to understand this. For, after a dozen thunderous
barks, he fell silent; and stood again, head on one side, in
At first sound of the barking, Cyril had recognized the dog. And
his terror had vanished. In its place surged a peevish irritation
against the beast that had so frightened him. He groped for a
rock-fragment to hurl up at the rackety collie.
Then, the child paused in his fumbling. The dog had scant reason
to love him or to seek his society. Of late, Lad had kept out of
his way as much as possible. Thus it was not likely the collie
had come here of his own accord, on such a night; for the mere
joy of being with his tormentor.
His presence must mean that the Master was close behind; and that
the whole Place was in a ferment of anxiety about the wanderer.
By stoning Lad away and checking the barks, Cyril might well
prevent the searchers from finding him. Too weak and too numb
with cold to climb up the five-foot cliff-face to the level
ground above, he did not want to miss any chance for rescue.
Hence, as Lad ceased to bark, the child set up a yell, with all
his slight lung-power, to attract the seekers' notice. He ordered
Lad to "Speak!" and shook his fist angrily at the dog, when no
answering bark followed.
Despairing of making anyone hear his trumpeting announcement that
he had found the child, Lad presently made up his mind as to the
only course that remained. Wheeling about, head down, he faced
the storm again; and set off at what speed he could compass,
toward home, to lead the Master to the spot where Cyril was
trapped. This seemed the only expedient left. It was what he had
done, long ago, when Lady had caught her foot in a fox-trap, back
in the woods.
As the dog vanished from against the gray-black sky-line, Cyril
set up a howl of wrathful command to him to come back. Anything
was better than to be in this dreary spot alone. Besides, with
Lad gone, how could Lad's Master find the way to the ledge?
Twice the child called after the retreating collie. And, in
another few steps, Lad had halted and begun to retrace his way
toward the ledge.
He did not return because of Cyril's call. He had learned, by
ugly experience, to disregard the child's orders. They were wont
to mean much unpleasantness for him. Nevertheless, Lad halted.
Not in obedience to the summons; but because of a sound and a
scent that smote him as he started to gallop away. An eddy of the
wind had borne both to the dog's acute senses.
Stiffening, his curved eyeteeth baring themselves, his hackles
bristling, Lad galloped back to the ravine-lip; and stood there
sniffing the icy air and growling deep in his throat. Looking
down to the ledge he saw Cyril was no longer its sole occupant.
Crouched at the opening of a crevice, not ten feet from the
unseeing child, was something bulky and sinister;-- a mere
menacing blur against the darker rock.
Crawling home to its lair, supper-less and frantic with hunger,
after a day of fruitless hunting through the dead forest world, a
giant wildcat had been stirred from its first fitful slumber in
the ledge's crevice by the impact of the child upon the heap of
leaves. The human scent had startled the creature and it had
slunk farther back into the crevice. The more so when the bark
and inimical odor of a big dog were added to the shattering of
the ravine's solitude.
Then the dog had gone away. Curiosity,--the besetting trait of
the cat tribe,--had mastered the crevice's dweller. The wildcat
had wriggled noiselessly forward a little way, to learn what
manner of enemy had invaded its lair. And, peering out, it had
beheld a spindling child; a human atom, without strength or
Fear changed to fury in the bob-cat's feline heart. Here was no
opponent; but a mere item of prey. And, with fury, stirred
long-unsatisfied hunger; the famine hunger of mid-winter which
makes the folk of the wilderness risk capture or death by raiding
Out from the crevice stole the wildcat. Its ears were flattened
close to its evil head. Its yellow eyes were mere slits of fire.
Its claws unsheathed themselves from the furry pads,--long,
hooked claws, capable of disemboweling a grown deer at one
sabre-stroke of the muscular hindlegs. Into the rubble and litter
of the ledge the claws sank, and receded, in rhythmic motion.
The compact yellow body tightened into a ball. The back quivered.
The feet braced themselves. The cat was gauging its distance and
making ready for a murder-spring. Cyril, his head turned the
other way, was still peering up along the cliff-edge for sight of
This was what Lad's scent and hearing,--and perhaps something
else,--had warned him of, in that instant of the wind's eddying
shift. And this was the scene he looked down upon, now, from the
ravine-lip, five feet above.
The collie brain,--though never the collie heart,--is wont to
flash back, in moments of mortal stress, to the ancestral wolf.
Never in his own life had Sunnybank Lad set eyes on a wildcat.
But, in the primal forests, wolf and bob-cat had perforce met and
clashed, a thousand times. There they had begun and had waged the
eternal cat-and-dog feud, of the ages.
Ancestry now told Lad that there is perhaps no more murderously
dangerous foe than an angry wildcat. Ancestry also told him a
wolf's one chance of certain victory in such a contest.
Ancestry's aid was not required, to tell him the mortal peril
awaiting this human child who had so grievously and causelessly
tormented him. But the great loyal heart, in this stark moment,
took no thought of personal grudges. There was but one thing to
do,--one perilous, desperate chance to take; if the child were to
The wildcat sprang.
Such a leap could readily have carried it across double the space
which lay between it and Cyril. But not one-third of that space
was covered in the lightning pounce.
From the upper air,--apparently from nowhere,--a huge shaggy body
launched itself straight downward. As unerringly as the swoop of
an eagle, the down-whizzing bulk flew. It smote the leaping
wildcat, in mid-flight.
A set of mighty jaws,--jaws that could crack a beef-bone as a man
cracks a filbert,--clove deep and unerringly into the cat's back,
just behind the shoulders. And those jaws flung all their
strength into the ravening grip.
A squall,--hideous in its unearthly clangor,--split the night
silences. The maddened cat whirled about, spitting and yowling;
and set its foaming teeth in the dog's fur-armored shoulder. But
before the terrible curved claws could be called into action,
Lad's rending jaws had done their work upon the spine.
To the verge of the narrow ledge the two combatants had rolled in
their unloving embrace. Its last lurch of agony carped the
stricken wildcat over the edge and out the ninety-foot drop into
the ravine. Lad was all-but carried along with his adversary. He
clawed wildly with his toes for a purchase on the smooth cliff
wall; over which his hindquarters had slipped. For a second he
hung, swaying, above the abyss.
Cyril, scared into semi-insanity by sight of the sudden brief
battle, had caught up a stick from the rubbish at his feet. With
this, not at all knowing what he did, he smote the struggling Lad
with every atom of his feeble force, over the head.
Luckily for the gallant dog, the stick was rotten. It broke, in
the blow; but not before its impact had well-nigh destroyed Lad's
One clawing hindfoot found toe-room in a flaw of rock. A
tremendous heave of all his strained muscles; and Lad was
scrambling to safety on the ledge.
Cyril's last atom of vigor and resistance had gone into that
panic blow at the dog. Now, the child had flung himself
helplessly down, against the wall of the ledge; and was weeping
in delirious hysterics. Lad moved over to him; hesitated a
moment, looking wistfully upward at the solid ground above. Then,
he seemed to decide which way his duty pointed. Lying down beside
the freezing child, he pressed his great shaggy body close to
Cyril's; protecting him from the swirling snow and from the worst
of the cold.
The dog's dark, deep-set eyes roved watchfully toward the
crevice, alert for sign of any other marauder that might issue
forth. His own shaggy shoulder was hurting him, annoyingly, from
the wildcat's bite. But to this he gave no heed. Closer yet, he
pressed his warm, furry body to the ice-cold youngster; fending
off the elements as valorously as he had fended off the wildcat.
The warmth of the great body began to penetrate Cyril's numbed
senses. The child snuggled to the dog, gratefully. Lad's pink
tongue licked caressingly at the white face; and the collie
whimpered crooning sympathy to the little sufferer.
So, for a time the dog and the child lay there; Cyril's numb body
warming under the contact.
Then, at a swift intake of the windy air, Lad's whimper changed
to a thunder of wild barking. His nostrils had told him of the
search party's approach, a few hundred yards to the windward.
Their dispiritingly aimless hunt changing into a scrambling rush
in the direction whence came the faint-heard barks, the searchers
trooped toward the ledge.
"Here we are!" shrilled the child, as the Master's halloo sounded
directly above. "Here we are! Down here! A--a lion tackled us,
awhile back. But we licked him;--I and Laddie!"
CHAPTER VII. The Juggernaut
Long shadows were stretching lazily athwart the lawn from the
gnarled old giant trees. Over the whole drowsing world brooded
the solemn hush of late summer afternoon.
An amber light hung in the sleepy air; touching with gold the
fire-blue lake, the circle of lovingly protecting green hills;
the emerald slope which billowed up from the water-edge to the
red-roofed gray house in its setting of ancient oaks.
On the bare flooring, in the coolest corner of the veranda, two
collies lay sprawled. They were fast asleep; which means that
they were ready to come back to complete wakefulness at the first
Of the two slumbrous collies, one was slenderly graceful of
outline; gold-and-white of hue. She was Lady; imperious and
temperamental wisp of thoroughbred caninity.
The second dog had been crowded out of the shadiest spot of the
veranda, by his mate; so that a part of his burnished mahogany
coat was under the direct glare of the afternoon sun. Shimmering
orange tints blazed back the reflection of the torrid light.
He was Sunnybank Lad; eighty-pound collie; tawny and powerful;
with absurdly tiny white forepaws and with a Soul looking out
from his deep-set dark eyes. Chum and housemate he was to his two
human gods;--a dog, alone of all worshipers, having the privilege
of looking on the face of his gods and of communing with them
without the medium of priest or of prayer.
Lady, only, of the Place's bevy of Little People, refused from
earliest puppyhood to acknowledge Lad's benevolent rulership. She
bossed and teased and pestered him, unmercifully. And Lad not
only let her do all this, but he actually reveled in it. She was
his mate. More,--she was his idol. This idolizing of one mate, by
the way, is far less uncommon among dogs than we mere humans
The summer afternoon hush was split by the whirring chug of a
motor-car; that turned in from the highroad, two hundred yards
beyond the house, and started down through the oak grove, along
the winding driveway. Immediately, Lady was not only awake, but
on her feet, and in motion. A furry gold-white whirlwind, she
flashed off of the vine-shaded veranda and tore at top speed up
the hill to meet the coming car.
No, it was not the Mistress and the Master whose approach stirred
the fiery little collie to lightning activity. Lad knew the purr
of the Place's car and he could distinguish it from any other, as
far as his sensitive ears could catch its sound. But to Lady, all
cars were alike; and all were signals for wild excitement.
Like too many other collies, she had a mania for rushing at any
motor vehicle, and for whizzing along beside it, perilously close
to its fast-moving wheels, barking and screaming hysterically and
bounding upward at its polished sides.
Nor had punishment and scolding cured her of the trait. She was
an addict at car-chasing. She was wholly incurable. There are
such dogs. Soon or late, many of them pay high for the habit.
In early days, Lad also had dashed after motors. But a single
sharp lecture from the Master had taught him that this was one of
the direst breaches of the Place's simple Law. And,
thenceforth,--though he might tremble with eagerness,--he stood
statue-still when an automobile spun temptingly past him.
More,--he had cured pup after pup, at the Place, of car-chasing.
But Lady he could not cure; though he never gave up the useless
Down the drive came a delivery truck; driven fast and with none
too great skill. Before it had covered half the distance between
gate and house, Lady was alongside. A wheel grazed her shoulder
fur as, deftly, she slipped from in front of the vehicle and
sprang up at its tonneau. With a ceaseless fanfare of barks,
--delirious in her excitement,--she circled the car; springing,
The delivery boy checked speed and shouted futile warnings to the
insane collie. As he slowed down a bit on the steep grade, Lady
hurled herself in front of the machine, as though taunting it for
cowardice in abating its hot pace on her account.
Again and again had she run, head on, at advancing cars. It
seemed to delight her when such cars slackened speed or swerved,
in order not to kill her.
Now, as she whizzed backward, her vibrant muzzle a bare six
inches from the shiny buffer, one of her flying feet slipped in a
mud rut. Her balance gone, she tumbled.
A collie down is a collie up, in less than a second. But there
was still less than a second's space between to overthrown Lady
and the car's front wheels.
The boy slammed on the emergency brake. Through his mind ran the
formless thought of his fate at the hands of his employer when he
should return to the store with tidings that he had run over and
killed a good customer's costly collie; and on the customer's own
In that single breathless instant, a huge mahogany-and-snow shape
flashed forward, into the path of the machine.
Lad, following his mate, had tried to shoulder her aside and to
herd her too far back from the drive for any possible return to
the danger zone, until the car should have passed. More than
once, at other times, had he done this. But, today, she had
eluded his mighty shoulder and had flung herself back to the
As she fell, she rolled over, twice, from her own momentum. The
second revolution left her directly in front of the skidding
wheels. One of them had actually touched her squirming spine;
when white teeth gripped her by the scruff of the neck. Those
teeth could crush a mutton-bone as a child cracks a peanut. But,
on Lady, today, their power was exerted only to the extent of
lifting her, in one swift wrench, clear of the ground and high in
The mischievous collie flew through space like a lithe mass of
golden fluff; and came to earth, in a heap, at the edge of the
drive; well clear of the menacing wheels. With Lad, it fared
The great dog had braced himself, with all his might, for the
muscle-wrenching heave. Wherefore, he had no chance to spring
clear, in time to avoid the car. This, no doubt, he had realized,
when he sprang to his adored mate's rescue. For Lad's brain was
uncanny in its cleverness. That same cleverness, more likely than
mere chance,--now came to his own aid.
The left front wheel struck him and struck him fair. It hit his
massive shoulder, dislocating the joint and knocking the
eighty-pound dog prone to earth, his ruff within an inch of the
wheel. There was no time to gather his feet under him or to
coerce the dislocated shoulder into doing its share toward
lifting him in a sideways spring that should carry him out of the
machine's way. There was but one thing Lad could do. And he did
His body in a compact bunch, he rolled midway between the wheels;
making the single revolution at a speed the eye could scarce
follow,--a speed which jerked him from under the impending left
wheel which already had smitten him down.
Over him slid the wheel-locked car, through the mud of a recent
rain; while the boy clung to the emergency brake and yelled.
Over him and past him skidded the car. It missed the prostrate
dog,--missed him with all four wheels; though the rear axle's
housing smeared his snowy ruff with a blur of black grease.
On went the machine for another ten feet, before it could halt.
Then a chalk-faced delivery boy peered backward in fright,--to
see Lad getting painfully to his feet and holding perplexedly
aloft his tiny right forepaw in token of the dislocated shoulder.
The delivery boy saw more. In a swirl of black bad temper, Lady
had gathered herself up from the ditch where Lad's toss had
landed her. Without a moment's pause she threw herself upon the
luckless dog whose rough toss had saved her life. Teeth aglint,
growling ferociously, she dug her fangs into the hurt shoulder
and slung her whole weight forward in the bite.
Thus was it the temperamental Lady's wont to punish real or
fancied injuries from the Place's other animals,--and from humans
as well, except only the Mistress and the Master. She charged
first, and did her thinking afterward. Apparently, her brain,
just then, could hold no impression except that her interfering
mate had picked her up by the neck-scruff and had thrown her,
head over heels, into a ditch. And such treatment called for
Under her fifty-pound impact, poor Lad's three-cornered balance
gave way. Down he went in an awkward heap; while Lady snarled
viciously and snapped for his momentarily exposed throat. Lad
turned his head aside to guard the throat; but he made no move to
resent this ungrateful onslaught; much less to fight back. Which
was old Lad's way,--with Lady.
Dislocated shoulder or not, he would have flown at any male dog
that assailed him; and would have made the aggressor fight for
dear life. But his mate was sacred. And he merely protected his
throat and let her nip agonizingly at his ears and paws; until
her brief flurry of wrath should be past.
A shout from the veranda,--whither the racket had drawn the
Master from his study,--put a sudden stop to Lady's brainstorm.
Obedience was the first and foremost rule drilled into the Little
People of the Place. And, from puppy days, the collies were
taught to come,--and to come at a run,--at call from the Mistress
or the Master.
Lady, with no good grace, desisted from her punitive task, and
galloped down the drive to the house. Lad, rising with
difficulty, followed; as fast as a three-legged gait would
permit. And behind them chugged the delivery boy, bawling
A sharp word of reproof sent Lady skulking into a corner; anger
forgotten in humiliation at the public rebuke. The Master paid no
heed to her. Running up the drive, he met Lad, and picked up the
suffering collie in his arms. Carrying him into the study, the
Master gave first aid to the serious dislocation; then phoned for
the nearest good vet.
As he left the study, to telephone, he encountered Lady, very
woebegone and cringing, at the door. When he returned, he beheld
the remorseful little gold-and-white vixen licking her mate's
hurt shoulder and wagging a propitiatory tail in plea for
forgiveness from the dog she had bitten and from the Master whose
Law she had broken by her attack on the car.
Always, after her brief rages, Lady was prettily and genuinely
repentant and eager to make friends again. And, as ever, Lad was
meeting her apologies more than half-way;--absurdly blissful at
her dainty attentions.
In the days that followed, Lady at first spent the bulk of her
time near her lame mate. She was unusually gentle and
affectionate with him; and seemed trying to make up to him for
the enforced idleness of strained sinews and dislocated joint. In
her friendliness and attention, Lad was very, very happy.
The vet had bandaged his shoulder and had anointed it with
pungently smelly medicines whose reek was disgusting and even
painful to the thoroughbred's supersensitive nostrils. Moreover,
the vet had left orders that Lad be made to keep quiet until the
hurt should heal; and that he risk no setback by undue exertion
of any sort. It was sweet to lie in the Master's study,--one
white forepaw or the great shapely head laid lovingly on the
man's hiking boot; and with an occasional pat or a friendly word
from his deity, as the latter pounded away on a clicky typewriter
whose jarring noise Lad had long ago taught himself to tolerate.
Sweeter it was to be made much of and "poored" by the Mistress;
and to have her light hands adjust his bandages; and to hear her
tell him what a dear dog he was and praise his bravery in
Perhaps sweetest of all, in those early days of convalescence,
was the amazing solicitude of Lady herself ; and her queerly
maternal tenderness toward him.
But, as the summer days dreamed themselves away and Lad's
splendid health brought him nearer and nearer to recovery, Lady
waxed restive under the long strain of indolence and of good
temper. Lad had been her companion in the early morning rambles
through the forest, back of the Place; in rabbit quests; in swims
in the ice, cool lake at the foot of the lawn; in romps on the
smooth green grass and in a dozen of the active pursuits wherein
country-bred collies love to squander the outdoor days.
Less and less did Lady content herself with dull attendance on
the convalescent. More and more often did she set forth without
him on those cross-country runs that had meant so much to them
both. Lad would watch her vanish up the drive,--their fiery
little son, Wolf, cantering gleefully at her side. Then, his dark
eyes full of sorrow, he would gaze at the Master and, with a
sigh, would lie back on his rug--and wait.
There was something so human,--so uncomplainingly wretched,--in
look and in sigh,--that the Master was touched by the big dog's
loneliness and vexed at the flighty Lady's defection. Stooping
down, at one such time, he ran his hand over the beautiful silky
head that rested against his knee; and said in lame attempt at
"Don't let it get under your skin, Laddie! She isn't worth it.
One of your honest paws is worth more than her whole fly-away
body.--Not that anyone ever was loved because he or she was
worthy!--You're up against the penalty that is bound to get
everybody with a soul, who is fool enough to love something or
somebody without one . . . . We're going over for the mail,--the
Mistress and I. Want to come along?"
At once the melancholy in Lad's deep eyes gave place to
While, naturally, he did not understand one word in ten of the
Master's frequent prosy homilies to him, or of the Mistress's
more melodious speech, yet, from puppyhood, he had been talked to
by both of them. And, as ever with a highbred collie, such
constant conversation had borne ample fruit;--not only in giving
the dog a startling comprehension of voice-meanings, but also in
teaching him to understand many simple words and phrases.
For example, he recognized, as readily as would any five-year-old
child, this invitation to go motoring. And it banished the memory
of Lady's fickleness.
This morning, for the first time since his accident, Lad was able
to spring into the car-tonneau, unaided. His hurt was all-but
well. Enthroning himself in the precise center of the rear seat,
he prepared to enjoy every inch of the ride.
No matter how long or how tedious were these jaunts, Lad never
went to sleep or ceased to survey with eager attention the myriad
details of the trip. There was something half-laughable,
half-pathetic, in his air of strained interest.
Only when the Mistress and the Master both chanced to leave the
car at the same time, at market or bank or postoffice, would Lad
cease from this genial and absorbed inspection of everything in
sight. Left alone in the machine, he always realized at once that
he was on guard. Head on paws he would lie, intently scanning
anyone who might chance to pause near the auto; and, with a glint
of curved white fang beneath sharply upcurled lip, warning away
such persons as ventured too close.
Marketing done, today, the trio from the Place started homeward.
Less than a quarter-mile from their own gateway, they heard the
blaring honk of a motor horn behind them.
Within a second thereafter, a runabout roared past, the cut-out
making echoes along the still road; and a poisonously choking
cloud of dust whirling aloft in the speedster's wake.
The warning honk had not given the Mistress time to turn out.
Luckily she was driving well on her own side of the none-too-wide
road. As it was, a sharp little jar gave testimony to the light
touch of mudguards. And the runabout whizzed on.
"That's one of the speed-idiots who make an automobile an insult
to everybody except its owner! The young fool!" stormed the
Master, glowering impotently at the other car, already a hundred
yards ahead; and at the back of its one occupant, a sportily-clad
youth in the early twenties.
A high-pitched yelping bark,--partly of dismay, partly of
warning,--from Lad, broke in on the Master's fuming remonstrance.
The big dog had sprung up from his rear seat cushion and, with
forepaws gripping the back of the front seat, he was peering
forward; his head and shoulders between the Mistress and the
Never before in all his rides had Lad so transgressed the rules
of motoring behavior as to thrust himself forward like this. A
word of rebuke died on the Master's tongue; as the Mistress, with
a gasp of fear, pointed ahead, in the path of the speeding
Lady and Wolf had had a jolly gallop through the summer
woodlands. And at last they had turned their faces homeward; for
the plunge in the cool lake which was wont to follow a hot
weather run. Side by side they jogged along, to the forest
edge--and into the sixteen-acre meadow that stretches from forest
A few rods on the far side of the road which separated the meadow
from the rest of the Place, Wolf paused to investigate a chipmunk
hole. Lady was more interested just then in splashing her hot
body in the chill of the lake than in exploring for hypothetical
Moreover, her keen ears caught a sound which rapidly swept nearer
and nearer. A motor-car with the muffler cut out was approaching,
at a most gratifyingly high speed.
The noise was as martial music to Lady. The speed promised
exhilarating sport. Her trot merged into a headlong run; and she
dashed out into the road.
The runabout was a bare fifty yards ahead of her, and it was
coming on with a speed which shook even Lady's excitement-craving
nerves. Here, evidently, was a playmate which it would be safer
to chase than to confront head-on.
It was at this juncture, by the way, that Lad lurched forward
from the rear seat and that the Mistress pointed in terror at the
Lady, for once overawed by speed, leaped to one side of the road.
Not far, but leaving ample space for the driver to miss her by at
least a yard. He had honked loudly, at sight of her. But, he had
abated not an atom of his fifty-mile-an-hour pace.
Whether the man was rattled by the collie's antics,--whether he
acted in sudden rage at her for startling him, whether he
belonged to the filthy breed of motorist who recites chucklingly
the record of his kills,--he did not hold his midroad course.
Instead,--still without checking speed,--he veered his machine
slightly to the right; aiming the flying juggernaut directly at
the mischievously-poised little collie who danced in imagined
safety at the road-edge.
The rest was horror.
Merciful in its mercilessness, the hard-driven right front wheel
smote the silky golden head with a force that left no terrible
instant of fear or of agony. More lucky by far than the myriad
innocent and friendly dogs that are left daily to scream out
their lives writhingly in the wake of speeding motor-cars, Lady
was killed at a single stroke.
The fluffy golden body was hurled far in front of its slayer; and
the wheels struck it a second time. The force of the impact
caused the runabout to skid, perilously; and the youthful driver
brought it to a jarring and belated halt. Springing to the
ground, he rolled the dead collie's impeding body into the
shallow wayside ditch, clear of his wheels. Then, scrambling
aboard again, he jammed down the accelerator.
Lad had made a flying leap over the door of the Master's car. He
struck ground with a force which crumpled his healing right
shoulder under him. Heedless of the pain, he hurled himself
forward, on three legs, at an incredible speed; straight for the
runabout. His great head low, his formidable teeth agleam beneath
drawn-back lips, his soft eyes a-smolder with red flame, Lad
But, for all his burst of speed, he was too late to avenge; even
as he had been too late to save. By the time he could reach the
spot where Lady lay crumpled and moveless in the ditch, the
runabout had gathered full speed and was disappearing down the
bend of the highway.
After it flew Lad, silent, terrible,--not stopping to realize
that the fleetest dog,--even with all four of his legs in
commission,--cannot hope to overhaul a motor-car driven at fifty
miles an hour.
But, at the end of a furious quarter-mile, his wise brain took
charge once more of his vengeance-craving heart. He halted,
snarled hideously after the vanished car, and limped miserably
back to the scene of the tragedy.
There, he found the Mistress sitting in the roadside dust, Lady's
head in her lap. She was smoothing lovingly the soft rumpled fur;
and was trying hard not to cry over the inert warm mass of
gold-and-white fluffiness which, two minutes earlier, had been a
beautiful thoroughbred collie, vibrant with life and fun and
The Master had risen from his brief inspection of his pet's fatal
injuries. Scowling down the road, he yearned to kick himself for
his stupidity in failing to note the Juggernaut's number.
Head and tail a-droop, Lad toiled back to where Lady was lying. A
queer low sound, strangely like a human sob, pulsed in his shaggy
throat, as he bent down and touched his dead mate's muzzle with
his own. Then, huddling close beside her, he reverted all at once
to a trait of his ancestors, a thousand generations back.
Sitting on his haunches and lifting his pointed nose to the
summer sky, he gave vent to a series of long-drawn wolf howls;
horrible to hear. There was no hint of a housebred twentieth
century dog in his lament. It was the death-howl of the primitive
wolf;--a sound that sent an involuntary shiver through the two
humans who listened aghast to their chum's awesome mourning for
his lost mate.
The Master made as though to say something,--in comfort or in
correction. The Mistress, wiser, motioned to him not to speak.
In a few seconds, Lad rose wearily to his feet; the spasm of
primal grief having spent itself. Once more he was himself;
sedate, wise, calm.
Limping over to where the car had halted so briefly, he cast
about the ground, after the manner of a bloodhound.
Presently, he came to an abrupt halt. He had found what he
sought. As motionless as a bird-dog at point, he stood there;
nose to earth, sniffing.
"What in blazes--?" began the Master, perplexed.
The Mistress was keener of eye and of perception. She understood.
She saw the Lad's inhalingly seeking muzzle was steady above a
faint mark in the road-dust;--the mark of a buckskin shoe's
print. Long and carefully the dog sniffed. Then, with heavy
deliberation he moved on to the next footprint and the next. The
runabout's driver had taken less than a half dozen steps in all;
during his short descent to the ground. But Lad did not stop
until he had found and identified each and every step.
"He knows!" marveled the Mistress. "He saw the brute jump down
from his car. And he has found his footsteps. He'll remember
"Little good it will do the poor chap!" commented the Master. "He
can't track him, that way. Get aboard, won't you?" he went on.
"I'll make Lad go back into the tonneau again, too. Drive down to
the house; and take Lad indoors with you. Better telephone to the
vet to come over and have another look at his shoulder. He's
wrenched it badly, in all that run. Anyway, please keep him
He finished his sentence by a glance at Lady. At the Master's
order, Lad with sore reluctance left the body of his mate;
whither he had returned after his useless finding of the
footmarks. He had just curled up, in the ditch, pressing close to
her side; and again that unnatural sobbing sound was in his
throat. On the Master's bidding, Lad crossed to the car and
suffered himself to be lifted aboard. The Mistress started down
the drive. As they went, Lad ever looked back, with suffering
despair in his dark eyes, at that huddle of golden fur at the
The Master carried the pitifully light armful to a secluded spot
far beyond the stables; and there he buried it. Then, satisfied
that Lad could not find his mate's grave, he returned to the
His heart was heavy with helpless wrath. Again and again, in the
course of their drives, he and the Mistress had sickened at sight
of mutely eloquent little bodies left in mid-road or tossed in
some ditch,--testimony to the carelessness and callous
hoggishness of autoists. Some few of these run-over dogs,--like
poor Lady,--had of course tempted fate; spurred on by that
strange craving which goaded them to fly at cars. But the bulk of
them had been strolling peacefully along the highways or crossing
to or from their own dooryards, when the juggernauts smashed them
into torture or into instant death.
The Master reflected on the friendly country folk who pay taxes
for the scenery and for the fine roads which make motoring so
pleasant;--and on the reward so many motorists bestow upon these
rural hosts of theirs by wanton or heedless murder of pet
animals. For the first time, he could understand how and why
farmers are tempted to strew glass or tacks in the road to
revenge the slaying of a beloved dog.
For the next few days, until his shoulder was again in condition
to bear his eighty-pound weight on it, Lad was kept indoors or on
the veranda. As soon as he was allowed to go out alone, the big
collie went straight to the spot where last he had seen Lady's
body. Thence, he a made a careful detour of the Place,--seeking
for--something. It was two days before he found what he sought.
In the meantime,--as ever, since his mate's killing,--he ate
practically nothing; and went about in a daze.
"He'll get over it presently," prophesied the Master, to soothe
his wife's worry.
"Perhaps so," returned the Mistress. "Or perhaps not. Remember
he's a collie, and not just a human."
On the third day, Lad's systematic quartering of the Place
brought him to the tiny new mound, far beyond the stables. Twice,
he circled it. Then he lay down, very close beside it; his mighty
head athwart the ridge of upflung sod.
There,--having seen him from a distance,--the Master came across
to speak to him. But at sight of the man, the collie got up from
his resting place and moved furtively away.
Time after time, during the next week, the Master or the Mistress
found him lying there. And always, at their approach, he would
get up and depart. Nor did he go direct to the mound, on these
pilgrimages; but by devious paths; as though trying to shake off
possible pursuit. No longer did he spend the nights, as from
puppyhood, in his beloved "cave" under the piano in the music
room. On one pretext or another, he would manage to slip out of
the house, during the evening. Twice, in gray dawn, the Master
found him crouched beside the mound, where, sleepless, he had
lain all night.
The Mistress and the Master grew seriously troubled over their
collie chum's continued grief. They thought, more than once, of
sending him away to boarding kennels or to some friend, for a
month or two; to remove him from the surroundings which made him
so wretched. Oddly enough, his heartbreak struck neither of them
They had made a long study of collie nature in all its million
queer and half-human phases. They knew, too, that a grieving dog
is upheld by none of the supports of Faith nor of Philosophy; and
that he lacks the wisdom which teaches the wondrous anaesthetic
powers of Time. A sorrowing dog sorrows without hope.
Nor did Lad's misery seem ridiculous to the Place's many kindly
neighbors; with whom the great dog was a favorite and who were
righteously indignant over the killing of Lady.
Then in a single minute came the cure.
On Labor Day afternoon, the finals in a local tennis tournament
were to be played at the mile distant country club. The Mistress
and the Master went across to the tournament; taking Lad along.
Not that there could be anything of the remotest interest to a
dog in the sight of flanneled young people swatting a ball back
and forth. But Lad was a privileged guest at all outdoor
functions; and he enjoyed being with his two deities.
Thus, when the two climbed the clubhouse veranda, Lad was at
their heels; pacing along in majestic unhappiness and not turning
his beautiful head in response to any of a dozen greetings flung
at him. The Mistress found a seat among a bevy of neighbors. Lad
lay down, decorously, at her feet; and refused to display the
faintest interest in anything that went on around him.
The playing had not yet begun. New arrivals were drifting up the
steps of the clubhouse. Car after car disgorged women in sport
clothes and men in knickerbockers or flannels. There was plenty
of chatter and bustle and motion. Lad paid no heed to any of it.
Then, up to the foot of the veranda steps jarred a flashy
runabout; driven by a flashier youth. At word from the policeman
in charge he parked his car at the rear of the clubhouse among
fifty others, and returned on foot to the steps.
"That's young Rhuburger," someone was confiding to the Mistress.
"You must have read about him. He was arrested as a Conscientious
Objector, during the war. Since then, his father has died, and
left him all sorts of money. And he is burning it; in double
handfuls. No one seems to know just how he got into the club,
here. And no one seems to--"
The gossipy maundering broke off short; drowned in a wild beast
Both the Mistress and her husband had been eyeing Rhuburger as he
ascended the veranda steps in all the glory of unbelievably
exquisite and gaudy raiment. There seemed to both of them
something vaguely familiar about the fellow; though neither could
place him. But, to Lad, there was nothing at all vague in his
recollections of the gorgeous newcomer.
As Rhuburger reached the topmost step, the collie lifted his
head, his nostrils dilating wide. A thrill went through him. His
nearsighted eyes swept the crowd. They rested at last on
Rhuburger. Another deep inhalation told him all he needed to
know. Not in vain had Lad sniffed so long and so carefully at
those faint footprints in the road dust, at the spot where Lady
died. In his throat a deep growl was born.
"Hello, folks!" Rhuburger was declaiming, to a wholly
unenthusiastic circle of acquaintances. "Made another record,
just now. The little boat spun me here from Montclair in exactly
nineteen minutes. That's--that's roughly an average rate of a
mile in seventy-five seconds. Not so bad, eh? That car sure made
a hit with ME, all right. Not so much of a hit, maybe, with a
couple of chickens and a fat old dog that had the bad luck to be
asleep in the middle of the--"
His plangent brag was lost in a sound seldom heard on the hither
side of jungle or zoo. From the group of slightly disgusted
onlookers, a huge and tawny shape burst forth; hurtling through
the air, straight for the fat throat of the boaster.
Rhuburger, by some heaven-sent instinct, flung up his arms to
shield his menaced jugular. He had no time to do more.
Lad's fury-driven eighty pounds of muscular weight crashed full
against his chest. Lad's terrible teeth, missing their
throat-goal, drove deep into the uplifted right forearm; shearing
through imported tweed coat-sleeve and through corded silken
shirt, and through flabby flesh and clean to the very bone.
The dog's lion-roar blended with the panic-screeches of the
victim. And, under that fearful impact, Rhuburger reeled back
from the stairhead, and went crashing down the steps, to the
broad stone flagging at the bottom.
Not once, during that meteoric, shriek-punctured downward flight,
did Lad loose his grip on the torn forearm. But as the two struck
the flagging at the bottom, he shifted his hold, with lightning
speed; stabbing once more for the exposed jugular.
He lunged murderously at his mark. Yes, and this time he found
it. His teeth had touched the pudgy throat, and began to cleave
their remorseless way to the very life of the man who had slain
But, out of the jumble of cries and stamping feet and explosive
shouts from the scared onlookers on the veranda above, one
staccato yell pierced the swirl of rage-mists in the avenging
"LAD!" came the Master's sharp, scandalized mandate. "LAD!!!"
Hating the thought of desisting from his cherished revenge, the
dog heard and heeded. With visible reluctance, he drew back from
the slaughter; and turned his noble head to face the man who was
running down the steps toward him.
Lad knew well what he might expect, for this thing he had done.
He knew the Law. He knew, almost from birth, the courteous
tolerance due to folk among whom his deities took him. And now he
had made an industrious effort to kill one of these people.
It was no light offense for a dog to attack a human. Lad, like
every well-trained collie, knew that. His own death might well
follow. Indeed, from the babel of voices on the veranda,
squalling confusedly such hackneyed sentiments as "Mad dog!" and
"Get a gun!" it seemed highly probable that Lad was due to suffer
full penalty, from the man-pack.
Yet he gave no heed to the clamor. Instead, turning slowly, he
faced the Master; ready for whatever might follow. But nothing
followed,--nothing at least that he expected.
The Master simply commanded:--
As the dog, obediently, dropped to the ground, the Master bent to
examine the groaning and maudlinly weeping Rhuburger. In this
Samaritan task he was joined by one or two of the club's more
venturesome members who had followed him down the steps.
Rhuburger was all-but delirious with fright. His throat was
scored by the first raking of Lad's teeth; but in the merest of
flesh-wounds. The chewed arm was more serious; but no bone or
tendon was injured. A fortnight of care would see it as good as
new. By more or less of a miracle, no bones had been broken and
no concussion caused by the backward dive down the flight of
steps. There were bad bruises a-plenty; but there was nothing
As the Master and the few others who had descended the steps were
working over the fallen man, the Mistress checked the turmoil on
the veranda. At Lad's leap, memory of this speed-mad motorist had
rushed back to her.
Now, tersely, for the benefit of those around, she was
identifying him with the killer of Lady; whose death had roused
so much indignation in the village. And, as she spoke, the people
who had clamored loudest of mad dogs and who had called so
frantically for a gun, waxed silent. The myriad glances cast at
the prostrate and blubbering Rhuburger were not loving. Someone
even said, loudly
"GOOD old Laddie!"
As the Mistress and the Master were closing the house for the
night, a car came down the drive. Out of it stepped their friend
of many years, Maclay, the local Justice of the Peace.
"Hello, Mac!" hailed the Master. "Here to take us all to jail for
assault-and-battery; or just to serve a 'dangerous dog' notice on
He spoke lightly; but he was troubled. Today's escapade might
well lead the village law to take some cognizance of Lad's
"No," laughed Maclay. "Neither of those things. I'm here,
unprofessionally. I thought you people might like to know a few
things, before you go to bed. In the first place, the doctor
patched up Rhuburger's bites and took him home. He couldn't take
him home in Rhuburger's own car. For some of the tennis crowd had
gotten at that. What they did to that $6,000 runabout was a
crime! They stripped it of everything. They threw the carburetor
and the wheels and the steering gear and a lot of other parts
into the lake."
"Then they left their cards pinned to the dismantled machine's
cushions;--in case Rhuburger cares to go further into the matter.
While they were doing all that, the club's Governors had a
hurry-call meeting. And for once the Board was unanimous about
something. It was unanimous--in expelling Rhuburger from the
club. Then we--By the way, where's Laddie? Curled up by Lady's
grave, as usual, I suppose? Poor old dog!"
"No," denied the Mistress. "He's asleep in his 'cave' under the
piano. He went there, of his own accord. And he ate a perfectly
tremendous supper, tonight. He's--he's CURED!"
CHAPTER VIII. In Strange Company
Lad was getting along in years.
Not yet had age begun to claw at him; blearing the wondrous
deep-set dark eyes and silvering the classic muzzle and
broadening the shapely skull and stiffening the sweepingly free
gait; dulling the sharp ears or doing any of the other pitiably
tragic things that nature does to the dog who is progressing in
his teens. Those, humiliations were still waiting for Lad, one by
one; beyond the next Turn of the Road.
Yet the romp and the spirit of bubbling fun and the lavishly
needless exercise--these were merging into sobriety. True, at
rare times, with the Mistress or the Master--especially with the
Mistress, Lad would forget he was middle-aged and dignified; and
would play like a crazy puppy. But, for the most part he had
begun to carry his years a trifle seriously.
He was not yet in the winter or even the Indian Summer of his
beautiful life. But, at least, he had strolled into its early
And this, be it well remembered, is the curse which Stepmother
Nature placed upon The Dog, when he elected to turn his back on
his own kind, and to become the only one of the world's
four-footed folk to serve Man of his own accord. To punish the
Dog for this abnormality, Nature decreed that his life should
begin to fail, almost as soon as it had reached the glory of its
A dog is not at his best, in mind or in body, until he has passed
his third year. And, before he nears the ten-year mark, he has
begun to decline. At twelve or thirteen, he is as decrepit as is
the average human of seventy. And not one dog in a hundred can be
expected to live to fourteen.
(Lad, by some miracle, was destined to endure past his own
sixteenth birthday; a record seldom equaled among his race.)
And so to our story:--
When the car and the loaded equipment-truck drew up at the door,
that golden October day, Lad forgot his advancing years. In a
moment, he was once more a puppy. For he knew what it all meant.
It did not need the advent of the Mistress and the Master from
the house, in rough outing clothes, nor the piling of duffle-bags
and the like into the car's tonneau, to send Laddie into a
transport of trumpeting and gyrations. The first sight and sniff
of the tents, rolled tight in the truck, had done that. Lad
understood. Lad always understood.
This gear meant the annual fall camping trip in the back reaches
of the Ramapo Mountains, some twenty-odd miles north of the
Place; the fortnight of tent-life, of shooting, of fishing, of
bracingly chill nights and white-misted dawns and of drowsily
happy campfire evenings. It meant all manner of adventure and fun
Now, on a fishing jaunt, the presence of any kind of dog is a
liability; not an asset. A thousand dog-fancier fishermen can
attest to that. And, when humans are hunting any sort of game, a
collie is several degrees worse than worthless.
Thus, Lad's usefulness, as a member of the party, was likely to
be negligible;--except in the matter of guarding camp and as an
all-round pal for the two campers.
Yet, as on former years, there was no question of leaving him at
home. Where the Mistress and the Master went, he went, too;
whenever such a thing were possible. He was their chum. And they
would have missed him as much as he would have missed them.
Which, of course, was an absurd way for two reasonably sane
people to regard a mere dog. But, then, Lad was not a "mere" dog.
Thus it was that he took his place, by invitation, in the car's
tonneau, amid a ruck of hand-luggage; as the camp-ward pilgrimage
began. Ten miles farther on, the equipment truck halted to take
aboard a guide named Barret, and his boy; and their
professionally reliable old Irish setter.
This setter had a quality, not over-common with members of his
grand breed; a trait which linked his career pathetically with
that of a livery-plug. He would hunt for anybody. He went through
his day's work, in stubble or undergrowth, with the sad
conscientiousness of an elderly bookkeeper.
Away from the main road, and up a steadily rising byway that
merged into an axle-snapping mountain-track, toiled the cars; at
last coming to a wheezy and radiator-boiling halt at the foot of
a rock-summit so steep that no vehicle could breast it. In a cup,
at the summit of this mountain-top hillock, was the camp-site;
its farther edge only a few yards above a little bass-populated
The luggage was hauled, gruntily, up the steep; and camp was
pitched. Then car and truck departed for civilization. And the
two weeks of wilderness life set in.
It was a wonderful time for old Lad. The remoteness and wild
stillness of it all seemed to take him back, in a way, to the
wolf-centuries of his ancestors. It had been monstrous pleasant
to roam the peaceful forest back of the Place. But there was a
genuine thrill in exploring these all-but manless woods; with
their queer scents of wild things that seldom ventured close to
the ordained haunts of men.
It was exciting, to wake at midnight, beside the smoldering
campfire, and to hear, above the industrious snoring, of the
guide and his boy, the stealthy forest noises; the pad-pad-pad of
some wary prowler circling at long range the twinkling embers;
the crash of a far-off buck; the lumbering of some bear down to
the lake to drink. The almost moveless sharp air carried a myriad
fascinating scents which human nostrils were too gross to
register; but which were acutely plain and understandable to the
Best of all, in this outing, Lad's two deities, the Mistress and
the Master, were never busy at desk or piano, or too much tangled
up with the society of silly outsiders, to be his comrades and
playmates. True, sometimes they hurt his supersensitive feelings
most distressingly, by calling to him: "No, no, Laddie. Back!
Watch camp'" when he essayed to join them as they set forth with
rods over their shoulders for a half-day's fishing; or as, armed
with guns, they whistled up the bored but worthy setter for a
shooting trip. But, for the most, Lad was close at their sides,
during these two wonderful weeks. And he was very happy.
Once, during a solitary ramble, before the humans had awakened in
the morning, Lad caught an odd scent; and followed it for a
quarter mile down the mountainside. It waxed stronger and ranker.
At last, a turn around a high boulder brought him face to face
with its source. And he found himself confronting a huge black
The bear was busy looting a bee-tree. It was the season when he
and his like are stocking up, with all the fatmaking food they
can gorge, in preparation for the winter's "holing-in." Thus, he
viewed with sluggish non-interest the advent of the dog. He had
scented Lad for as long a time as Lad had scented him. But he had
eaten on, unperturbed. For he knew himself to be the match of any
four dogs; especially if the dogs were unaccompanied by men. And,
a long autumn of food had dulled his temper.
So, he merely checked his honey-gorging long enough to roll a
rotted log to one side and to scoop up from under it a pawful of
fat white grubs which had decided to winter beneath the decayed
trunk. Then, absent-mindedly brushing aside a squadron of
indignant bees, he continued his sweet feast.
As Lad rounded the boulder and came to a growling halt, the bear
raised his honey-smeared head, showed a yellowing fang from under
one upcurled corner of his sticky lips; and glowered evilly at
the collie from out of his reddening little eyes. Then he made as
though to go on eating.
But Lad would not have it so. Into his rejuvenated heart stole a
tinge of the mischief which makes a collie puppy dash harrowingly
at a tethered cow. Barking with sheer delight in the excitement
of meeting this savage-looking monster, the dog rushed merrily at
the bear. His teeth were not bared. His hackles were not
bristling. This was no fight; but a jolly game. Lad's dark eyes
danced with fun.
Midway of his charge, he checked himself. Not through fear, but
from utter astonishment. For his new acquaintance had done a
right non-quadrupedal thing. Bruin had reared himself upon his
hind legs; and was standing there, like a man, confronting the
dog. He towered, thus, ever so high above Lad's head.
His short arms, with their saber-shaped claws, were outstretched
toward Lad, as if in humble supplication. But there was nothing
supplicating or even civil in the tiny red eyes that squinted
ferociously down at the collie. Small wonder that Laddie halted
his own galloping advance; and stood doubtful!
The Master, a minute earlier, had turned out of the blankets for
his painfully icy morning plunge in the lakelet. The fanfare of
barking, a quarter-mile below, changed his intent. A true dogman
knows his dog's bark,--and its every shade of meaning,--as well
as though it were human speech. From the manner wherewith Lad had
given tongue, the Master knew he had cornered or treed something
quite out of the common. Catching up his rifle, he made for the
direction of the bark; running at top speed.
The bear put an end to the moment of hesitancy. Lunging forward,
he raked at the crouching collie, with one of his murderous
claws; in a gesture designed to gather the impudent dog into his
Now, even from humans, except only the Mistress and the Master,
Lad detested patting or handling of any kind. Whether he thought
this maneuver of the bear's an uncouth form of caress or knew it
for a menace,--he moved back from it. Yet he did so with a
leisurely motion, devoid of fear and expressive of a certain
lofty contempt. Perhaps that is why he moved without his native
At all events, the tip of one of the sweeping claws grazed his
ear, opening the big vein, and hurting like the very mischief.
On the instant, Lad changed from a mischievous investigator to a
deeply offended and angry dog. No longer in doubt as to Bruin's
intent, he slithered out of reach of the grasping arms, with all
the amazing speed of a wolf-descended collie of the best sort.
And, in practically the same fraction of a second, he had flashed
back to the attack.
Diving in under the other's surprisingly agile arms, he slashed
the bear's stomach with one of his razorlike eyeteeth; then spun
to one side and was out of reach. Down came the bear, on all
fours; raging from the slash. Lurching forward, he flung his huge
bulk at the dog. Lad flashed out of reach, but with less leeway
than he would have expected. For Bruin, for all his awkwardness,
could move with bewildering speed.
And, as the bear turned, Lad was at him again, nipping the hairy
flank, till his teeth met in its fat; and then diving as before
under the lunging body of the foe.
It was at this point the Master hove in sight. He was just in
time to see the flank-bite and to see Lad dance out of reach of
the furious counter. It was an interesting spectacle, there in
the gray dawn and in the primeval forest's depths;--this battle
between a gallant dog and a ragingly angry bear. If the dog had
been other than his own loved chum, the Master might have stood
there and watched its outcome. But he was enough of a woodsman to
know there could, in all probability, be but one end to such a
Lad weighed eighty pounds,--an unusually heavy weight for a
collie that carries no loose fat,--and he was the most compactly
powerful dog of his size the Master had ever seen. Also, when he
chose to exert it, Lad had the swiftness of a wildcat and the
battling prowess of a tiger.
Yet all this would scarce carry him to victory, or even to a
draw, against a black bear several times heavier than himself and
with the ability to rend with his claws as well as with his
teeth. Once let Lad's foot slip, in charge or in elusive
retreat,--once let him misjudge time or distance--and he must be
crushed to a pulp or ripped to ribbons.
Wherefore, the Master brought his rifle to his shoulder. His
finger curled about the trigger. But it was no easy thing, by
that dim light, to aim with any accuracy. Nor was there the
slightest assurance that Lad,--dancing in and out and everywhere
and nowhere at once,--might not come in line with the bullet.
Thus,--from a tolerable knowledge of bears and of their
comparative mildness in the plump season of the year,--he shouted
at the top of his lungs; and, at the same time, fired into the
The bluff sufficed. Even as Lad jumped back from close quarters
and whirled about, at sound of the voice and the shot,--the bear
dropped to all fours, with ridiculous haste; and shambled off at
very creditable speed into the tangle of undergrowth.
Not so far gone in the battle-lust had Bruin been that he cared
to risk conflict with an armed man. Twice, before, in his
somewhat long life, had he heard at close quarters the snap of a
rifle, in the forest stillness, and the whine of a bullet. Once,
such a bullet had found its mark by scoring a gouge on his scalp;
a gouge which gnats and mayflies and "no-see-'ems" and less
cleanly pests had made a torment for him, for weeks thereafter.
Bruin had a good memory. Just now, he had nothing to defend. He
was not at bay. Nor had the fight-fury possessed him to the
exclusion of sanity. Thus, he fled. And, eagerly, Lad gave chase.
But, at the very edge of the bush-rampart, the Master's call
brought the collie back, to heel, exceeding glum and reluctant.
Reproachfully, Lad gazed up at the man who had spoiled his
morning of enthralling sport. Halfheartedly, Lad listened to the
Master's rebuke, as he followed back to camp. His day had begun
so delightfully! And, as usual, a human had interrupted the fun,
at the most exciting time; and for no apparent reason. Humans
were like that.
Barring one other incident, Lad's two weeks at camp were
uneventful,--until the very last day. That "one incident" can be
passed over, with modest brevity. It concerned a black-and-white
cat which Lad saw, one evening, sneaking past the campfire's
farthest shadows. He gave chase. The chase ended in less than ten
seconds. And, Lad had to be bathed and scoured and rubbed and
anointed, for the best part of twenty-four hours, before he was
allowed to come again within fifty feet of the dining tent.
On a raw morning, the car and the truck made their appearance at
the foot of the rocky mountaintop hillock. The tents had been
struck, at daylight; and every cooking utensil and dish had been
scoured and put into the crate as soon as it was used. Camp was
policed and cleaned. The fire was beaten to death; a half-score
pails of water were dowsed over its remains; and damp earth was
flung upon it.
In short, the camping spot was not only left as it had been found
and as one would want it to be found again, but every trace of
fire was destroyed.
And all this, be it known, is more than a mere rule for campers.
It should be their sacred creed. If one is not thoroughgoing
sportsman enough to make his camp-site scrupulously clean, at
least there is one detail he should never allow himself to
neglect;--a detail whose omission should be punished by a term in
prison: Namely, the utter extinction of the campfire.
Every year, millions of dollars' worth of splendid trees and of
homes are wiped out, by forest fires. No forest fire, since the
birth of time, ever started of its own accord. Each and every one
has been due to human carelessness.
A campfire ill-extinguished;--a smolder of tobacco not stamped
out;--the flaming cinders of a railroad train,--a match dropped
among dry leaves before spark and blaze have both been
destroyed,--these be the first and only causes of the average
forest fire. All are avoidable. None is avoided. And the loss to
property and to life and to natural resources is unbelievably
Any fool can start a forest fire. Indeed, a fool generally does.
But a hundred men cannot check it. Forest wardens post warnings.
Forest patrols, afoot or in airships, keep sharp watch. But the
selfish carelessness of man undoes their best precautions.
Sometimes in spring or in lush summer, but far oftenest in the
dry autumn, the Red Terror stalks over mountain and valley;
leaving black ruin in its wake. Scarce an autumn passes that the
dirty smoke reek does not creep over miles of sweet woodland,
blotting out the sunshine for a time and blotting out rich
vegetation for much longer.
This particular autumn was no exception. On the day before camp
was broken, the Mistress had spied, from the eyrie heights of the
knoll, a grim line of haze far to southward; and a lesser
smoke-smear to the west. And the night sky, on two horizons, had
been faintly lurid.
The campers had noted these phenomena, with sorrow. For, each
wraithlike smoke-swirl meant the death of tree and shrub. Lad
noted the smudges as distinctly as did they. Indeed, to his
canine nostrils, the chill autumn air brought the faint reek of
wood-smoke; an odor much too elusive, at that distance, for
humans to smell. And, once or twice, he would glance in worried
concern at these humans; as if wondering why they took so coolly
a manifestation that a thousand-year-old hereditary instinct made
the dog shrink from.
But the humans showed no outward sign of terror or of rage. And,
as ever, taking his tone from his gods, Lad decided there was
nothing to fear. So, he tried to give no further heed to the
The driver of the truck and his assistant were full of tales of
the fire's ravages in other sections. And their recital was heard
with active interest by the folk who for fourteen days had been
out of touch with the world.
"It's well we're lighting out for civilization," said the Master,
as he superintended the loading of the truck. "The woods are as
dry as tinder. And if the wind should change and grow a bit
fresher, the blaze over near Wildcat Mountain might come in this
direction. If ever it does, it'll travel faster than any gang of
fire-fighters can block it. This region is dead ripe for such a
thing. Not a drop of rain in a month . . . . No, no, Laddie!" he
broke off in his maunderings, as the collie sought to leap aboard
the truck in the wake of a roll of bedding. "No, no. You're going
with us, in the car."
Now, long usage and an uncanny intelligence had given Lad a more
than tolerable understanding of the English language's simpler
phrases. The term, "You're going with us in the car," was as
comprehensible to him as to any child. He had heard it spoken,
with few variations, a thousand times, in the past nine years. At
once, on hearing the Master's command, he jumped down from the
truck; trotted off to the car, a hundred yards distant; and
sprang into his wonted place in the luggage-cluttered tonneau.
He chanced to jump aboard, from one side; just as the guide's
hobbledehoy son was hoisting a heavy and cumbersome duffle bag
into the tonneau, from the other. Lad's eighty pounds of nervous
energy smote the bag, amidships; as the boy was balancing it high
in air, preparatory to setting it down between two other sacks.
As a result, boy and bag rolled backward in a tangled embrace,
across several yards of stony ground.
Lad had not meant to cause any such catastrophe. Yet he stood
looking down in keen enjoyment at the lively spectacle. But as
the boy came to a halt, against a sharp-pointed rock, and sat up,
sniveling with pain, the great dog's aspect changed. Seeming to
realize he was somehow to blame, he jumped lightly down from the
car and went over to offer to the sufferer such comfort as
patting forepaw and friendly licking tongue could afford.
"Here!" called the guide, who had seen but a crosssection of the
collision. "Here, you! Stop a-playin' with the dorg, and hustle
them bags onto--"
"I wa'n't playin' with him," half-blubbered the boy, glowering
dourly at the sympathetic Lad; and scrambling up from his
bruise-punctured roll on the ground. "He came a-buntin' me; and
"That'll do, Sonny!" rasped Barret, who was strong on discipline
and who fancied he had witnessed the climax of a merry game
between boy and dog, "I seen what I seen. And I don't aim to take
no back-talk from a wall-eyed, long-legged, chuckle-headed brat;
that's hired to help his poor old dad and who spends his time
cuttin' monkeyshines with a dorg. You take that collie over to
the truck, and ask his boss to look after him and to see he don't
pester us while we're aworkin'. On the way back, stop at the
lean-to and catch me that bag of cookin' things I left there.
The's just room for 'em, under the seat. Chase!"
Woefully, the boy limped off; his hand clinched in the fur of
Lad's ruff. The dog, ordinarily, would have resented such
familiarity. But, still seeking to comfort the victim's manifest
unhappiness, he suffered himself to be led along. Which was Lad's
way. The sight of sorrow or of pain always made him ridiculously
gentle and sympathetic.
The boy's bruises hurt cruelly. The distance to the truck was a
full hundred yards. The distance to the lean-to (a permanent
shed, back of the camp-site) was about the same, and in almost
the opposite direction. The prospect of the double journey was
not alluring. The youth hit on a scheme to shorten it. First