And then upon my word, I don't know what I did next, only I think, as I looked at my darling's poor crushed limbs, with the blood oozing from them, and heard his choking gasps for breath--I--I forgot for a moment or two that I was a man at all, and burst out crying like a child.
"Boys, you don't know what it is to feel that a living creature has tried to give up his life for you, even though the creature is only a soulless dog. Do you think I had another friend in the world who would have done what Rolf had done for me? If I had, I did not know it. And then when I thought that it was while he had been trying to save my life that I had taken up my gun and struck him! There are some things, my lads, that a man does without meaning any harm by them, which yet, when he sees them by the light of after events, he can never bear to look back upon without a sort of agony; and those blows I gave to Rolf are of that sort. _He_ forgave them,--my noble dog; but I have never forgiven myself for them to this hour.
When I saw him lying before me, with his blood trickling out upon the sand, I think I would have given my right hand to save his life. And well I might, too, for he had done ten times more than that to save mine.
"He licked the tears off my cheeks, my poor old fellow; I remember that. We looked a strange pair, I dare say, as we lay on the ground together, with our heads side by side. It's a noble old head still, isn't it, boys? (I don't mean mine, but this big one down here. All right, Rolf! We're only talking of your beauty, my lad.) It's as grand a head as ever a dog had. I had his picture taken after I came home. I've had him painted more than once, but somehow I don't think the painters have ever seen quite into the bottom of his heart. At least, I fancy that if I were a painter I could make something better of him than any of them have done yet. Perhaps it's only a notion of mine, but, to tell the truth, I've only a dozen times or so in my life seen a painting of a grand dog that looks quite right. But I'm wandering from my story, though, indeed, my story is almost at an end.
"When I had come to my senses a little, I had to try to get my poor Rolf moved. We were a long way from any house, and the creature couldn't walk a step. I tore up my shirt, and bound his wounds as well as I could, and then I got my clothes on, and called to my horse, and in some way, as gently as I could,--though it was no easy thing to do it,--I got him and myself together upon the horse's back, and we began our ride. There was a village about four or five miles off, and I made for that. It was a long, hard jolt for a poor fellow with both his hindlegs broken, but he bore it as patiently as if he had been a Christian. I never spoke to him but, panting as he was, he was ready to lick my hands and look lovingly up into my face. I've wondered since, many a time, what he could have thought about it all; and the only thing I am sure of is that he never thought much of the thing that he himself had done. That seemed, I know, all natural and simple to him; I don't believe that he has ever understood to this day what anybody wondered at in it, or made a hero of him for. For the noblest people are the people who are noble without knowing it; and the same rule, I fancy, holds good, too, for dogs.
"I got him to a resting-place at last, after a weary ride, and then I had his wounds dressed; but it was weeks before he could stand upon his feet again, and when at last he began to walk he limped, and he has gone on limping ever since. The bone of one leg was so crushed that it couldn't be set properly, and so that limb is shorter than the other three. _He_ doesn't mind it much, I dare say,--I don't think he ever did,--but it has been a pathetic lameness to me, boys. It's all an old story now, you know," said Uncle Dick, abruptly, "but it's one of those things that a man doesn't forget, and that it would be a shame to him if he ever _could_ forget as long as his life lasts."
Uncle Dick stooped down again as he ceased to speak, and Rolf, disturbed by the silence, raised his head to look about him. As his master had said, it was a grand old head still, though the eyes were growing dim now with age. Uncle Dick laid his hand upon it, and the bushy tail began to wag. It had wagged at the touch of that hand for many a long day.
"We've been together for fifteen years. He's getting old now," said Uncle Dick.
By Lucia Chamberlain
At the gray end of the afternoon the regiment of twelve companies went through Monterey on its way to the summer camp, a mile out on the salt-meadows; and it was here that Scrap joined it.
He did not tag at the heels of the boys who tagged the last company, or rush out with the other dogs who barked at the band; but he appeared somehow independent of any surroundings, and marched, ears alert, stump tail erect, one foot in front of the tall first lieutenant who walked on the wing of Company A.
The lieutenant was self-conscious and so fresh to the service that his shoulder-straps hurt him. He failed to see Scrap, who was very small and very yellow, until, in quickening step, he stumbled over him and all but measured his long length. He aimed an accurate kick that sent Scrap flying, surprised but not vindictive, to the side lines, where he considered, his head cocked. With the scratched ear pricked and the bitten ear flat, he passed the regiment in review until Company K, with old Muldoon, sergeant on the flank, came by.
As lean, as mongrel, as tough, and as scarred as Scrap, he carried his wiry body with a devil-may-care assurance, in which Scrap may have recognized a kindred spirit. He decided in a flash. He made a dart and fell in abreast the sergeant of Company K. Muldoon saw and growled at him.
"Gr-r-r-r!" said Scrap, not ill-naturedly, and fell back a pace.
But he did not slink. He had the secret of success. He kept as close as he could and yet escape Muldoon's boot. With his head high, ears stiff, tail up, he stepped out to the music.
Muldoon looked back with a threat that sent Scrap retreating, heels over ears. The sergeant was satisfied that the dog had gone; but when camp was reached and ranks were broken he found himself confronted by a disreputable yellow cur with a ragged ear cocked over his nose.
"Well, I'm domned!" said Muldoon. His heart, probably the toughest thing about him, was touched by this fearless persistence.
"Ar-ren't ye afraid o' nothin', ye little scrap?" he said. Scrap, answering the first name he had ever known, barked shrilly.
"What's that dog doing here?" said the tall lieutenant of Company A, disapprovingly.
"I'm afther kickin' him out, sor," explained Muldoon, and, upon the lieutenant's departure, was seen retreating in the direction of the cook-tent, with the meager and expectant Scrap inconspicuously at his heels.
He went to sleep at taps in Muldoon's tent, curled up inside Muldoon's cartridge-belt; but at reveille the next morning the sergeant missed him. Between drill and drill Muldoon sought diligently, with insinuations as to the character of dog-stealers that were near to precipitating personal conflict. He found the stray finally, in Company B street, leaping for bones amid the applause of the habitants.
Arraigned collectively as thieves, Company B declared that the dog had strayed in and remained only because he could not be kicked out. But their pride in the height of his leaps was too evidently the pride of possession; and Muldoon, after vain attempts to catch the excited Scrap, who was eager only for bones, retired with threats of some vague disaster to befall Company B the next day if _his_ dog were not returned.
The responsibility, with its consequences, was taken out of Company B's hands by Scrap's departure from their lines immediately after supper. He was not seen to go. He slid away silently, among the broken shadows of the tents. Company B reviled Muldoon. Scrap spent the night in a bugler's cape, among a wilderness of brasses, and reappeared the next morning at guard mount, deftly following the stately maneuvers of the band.
"Talk about a dorg's gratitude!" said the sergeant of Company B, bitterly, remembering Scrap's entertainment of the previous evening.
"I'm on to his game!" muttered old Muldoon. "Don't ye see, ye fool, he don't belong to any _wan_ of us. He belongs to the crowd--to the regiment. That's what he's tryin' to show us. He's what that Frinchman down in F calls a--a mascot; and, be jabers, he moves like a soldier!"
The regiment's enthusiasm for Scrap, as voiced by Muldoon, was not extended to the commanding officer, who felt that the impressiveness of guard mount was detracted from by Scrap's deployments. Also the tall lieutenant of Company A disliked the sensation of being accompanied in his social excursions among ladies who had driven out to band practise by a lawless yellow pup with a bitten ear. The lieutenant, good fellow at bottom, was yet a bit of a snob, and he would have preferred the colonel's foolish Newfoundland to the spirited but unregenerate Scrap.
But the privates and "non-coms" judged by the spirit, and bid for the favor of their favorite, and lost money at canteen on the next company to be distinguished as Scrap's temporary entertainers. He was cordial, even demonstrative, but royally impartial, devoting a day to a company with a method that was military. He had personal friends,--Muldoon for one, the cook for another,--but there was no man in the regiment who could expect Scrap to run to his whistle.
Yet independent as he was of individuals, he obeyed regimental regulations like a soldier. He learned the guns and the bugles, what actions were signified by certain sounds. He was up in the morning with the roll of the drums. He was with every drill that was informal enough not to require the presence of the commanding officer, and during dress parade languished, lamenting, in Muldoon's tent. Barking furiously, he was the most enthusiastic spectator of target practise. He learned to find the straying balls when the regimental nine practised during "release," and betrayed a frantic desire to "retrieve" the shot that went crashing seaward from the sullen-mouthed cannon on the shore. More than once he made one of the company that crossed the lines at an unlawful hour to spend a night among the crooked ways of Monterey.
The regiment was tiresome with tales of his tricks. The height of his highest leap was registered in the mess, and the number of rats that had died in his teeth were an ever increasing score in the canteen. He was fairly aquiver with the mere excitement and curiosity of living. There was no spot in the camp too secure or too sacred for Scrap to penetrate. His invasions were without impertinence; but the regiment was his, and he deposited dead rats in the lieutenant's shoes as casually as he concealed bones in the French horn; and slumbered in the major's hat-box with the same equanimity with which he slept in Muldoon's jacket.
The major evicted Scrap violently, but, being a good-natured man, said nothing to the colonel, who was not. But it happened, only a day after the episode of the hat-box, that the colonel entered his quarters to find the yellow mascot, fresh from a plunge in the surf and a roll in the dirt, reposing on his overcoat.
To say that the colonel was angry would be weak; but, overwhelmed as he was, he managed to find words and deeds. Scrap fled with a sharp yelp as a boot-tree caught him just above the tail.
His exit did not fail to attract attention in the company street.
The men were uneasy, for the colonel was noticeably a man of action as well as of temper. Their premonitions were fulfilled when at assembly the next morning, an official announcement was read to the attentive regiment. The colonel, who was a strategist as well as a fighter, had considered the matter more calmly overnight. He was annoyed by the multiplicity of Scrap's appearances at times and places where he was officially a nuisance. He was more than annoyed by the local paper's recent reference to "our crack yellow-dog regiment." But he knew the strength of regimental sentiment concerning Scrap and the military superstition of the mascot, and he did not want to harrow the feelings of the "summer camp" by detailing a firing squad. Therefore he left a loop-hole for Scrap's escape alive. The announcement read: "All dogs found in camp not wearing collars will be shot, by order of the commanding officer."
Now there were but two dogs in camp, and the colonel's wore a collar. The regiment heard the order with consternation.
"That'll fix it," said the colonel, comfortably.
"Suppose some one gets a collar?" suggested the major, with a hint of hopefulness in his voice.
"I know my regiment," said the colonel. "There isn't enough money in it three days before pay day to buy a button. They'll send him out to-night."
Immediately after drill there was a council of war in Muldoon's tent, Muldoon holding Scrap between his knees. Scrap's scratched ear, which habitually stood cocked, flopped forlornly; his stump tail drooped dismally. The atmosphere of anxiety oppressed his sensitive spirit. He desired to play, and Muldoon only sat and rolled his argumentative tongue. From this conference those who had been present went about the business of the day with a preternatural gloom that gradually permeated the regiment. The business of the day was varied, since the next day was to be a field day, with a review in the morning and cavalry maneuvers in the afternoon.
All day Scrap was conspicuous in every quarter of the camp, but at supper-time the lieutenant of Company A noted his absence from his habitual place at the left of Muldoon in the men's mess-tent. The lieutenant was annoyed by his own anxiety.
"Of course they'll get him out, sir?" he said to the major.
"Of course," the major assented, with more confidence than he felt.
The colonel was fairly irritable in his uncertainty over it.
Next morning the sentries, who had been most strictly enjoined to vigilant observation, reported that no one had left camp that night, though a man on beat four must have failed in an extraordinary way to see a private crossing his line six feet in front of him.
The muster failed to produce any rag-eared, stub-tailed, eager-eyed, collarless yellow cub. Nor did the mess-call raise his shrill bark in the vicinity of the cook's tent. The lieutenant felt disappointed.
He thought that the regiment should at least have made some sort of demonstration in Scrap's defense. It seemed a poor return for such confidence and loyalty to be hustled out of the way on an official threat.
It seemed to him the regiment was infernally light-hearted, as, pipe-clay white and nickel bright in the morning sun, it swung out of camp for the parade-ground, where the dog-carts and runabouts and automobiles were gathering from Del Monte and the cottages along the shore.
The sight of the twelve companies moving across the field with the step of one warmed the cockles of the colonel's pride. The regiment came to parade rest, and the band went swinging past their front, past the reviewing-stand. As it wheeled into place, the colonel, who had been speaking to the adjutant, who was the lieutenant of Company A, bit his sentence in the middle, and glared at something that moved, glittering, at the heels of the drum-major.
The colonel turned bright red. His glass fell out of his eye-socket.
"What the devil is the matter with that dog?" he whispered softly.
And the adjutant, who had also seen and was suffocating, managed to articulate, "Collars!"
The colonel put his glass back in his eye. His shoulders shook. He coughed violently as he addressed the adjutant: