American author, dog breeder, and journalist Terhunes book Treve was first published in 1924. (from wikipedia.org)
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The rickety and rackety train was droning along over the desert miles—miles split and sprinkled by cheerless semi-arid foothills. At dusk it had shrieked and groaned its way over a divide and slid clatteringly down the far side amid a screech of brakes.
Out into the desert-like plain with the scatter of less dead foothills it had emerged in early evening. Now, as midnight drew on, the desert ground—with its strewing of exquisite wild flowers here and there among the sick sage brush and crippled Joshua trees—took a less desolate aspect; though it was too dark a night for the few waking passengers to note this.
The Dos Hermanos River lay a few miles ahead—many more miles on the hither side of the Dos Hermanos mountain range. The half-fertile land of the river valley was merging with the encroach of the desert.
Fraser Colt got to his feet in the rank-atmosphered smoking section of the way-train’s one Pullman; hooked a fat finger at the porter to find if his berth had been made up; then loafed through to the baggage car for a last inspection of his collie pup, before turning in.
Now it is a creditable thing for a man to assure himself of his dog’s comfort for the night. Often it bespeaks more or less heart. But, in the case of Fraser Colt it did nothing of the sort; nor was it creditable to anything but his interest in his dog’s money value.
As to heart, Fraser Colt had one;—a serviceable and well-appointed heart. It pumped blood through his plump body. Apart from that function, it did no work at all. Or if it beat tenderly toward any living thing, that living thing was Fraser Colt alone.
Into the ill-lit baggage car he made his way. There were not less than ten occupants of the car. Two of them were normal humans. The third was Fraser Colt. The remaining seven were dogs.
This was by no means the only westbound train, of long or short run, to carry dogs, that night. For at eleven o’clock on the morrow the annual show of the Dos Hermanos Kennel Club was to open. Exhibitors, for two hundred miles, were bringing the best in their kennels to it.
Seven crates were lined up, along the walls of the baggage car, when Colt slouched in. The baggageman was drowsing in his tiptilted greasy chair. In a far corner sat an oldish kennelman who had just taken from a crate a police dog, which he was grooming. Because the night was stiflingly hot, the car’s side door was rolled halfway open to let in a sluice of dust-filled cooler air.
Fraser Colt went over to a crate, unlocked and opened its slatted door and snapped his fingers. At the summons—indeed, as soon as the door was opened wide enough for him to wriggle through—a dog danced out onto the dirty floor.
Then, for an instant, the newly released prisoner halted and glanced up at the man who had let him out. The wavery light revealed him as a well-grown collie pup, about eight months old. Golden-tawny was his heavy coat and snowy were his ruff and frill and paws. He had about him the indefinable air that distinguishes a great dog from a merely good dog—even as a beautiful woman is distinguished from a merely pretty woman.
His deepset dark eyes had the true “look of eagles,” young as he was. His head and fore-face were chiseled in strong classic lines. His small ears had the perfect tulip dip to them, without which no show-collie can hope to excel. But, though three show-collies out of five need to have their ears weighted or otherwise treated, to attain this correct bend of the tips, here was a pup whose ear-carriage was as natural as it was perfect.
You will visit many a fairly good dogshow, before you find an eight-month pup—or grown collie, for that matter—with the points and classic beauty and indefinable air of greatness possessed by the youngster that was now returning Fraser Colt’s appraising gaze.
There was no love in the pup’s upturned glance, as he viewed his owner;—although, normally, a pup of that age regards the whole world as his friend, and lavishes enthusiastic affection on the man who owns him.
This pup was eyeing Colt with no fear, but with no favor. His look was doubting, uncertain, almost hostile. But Colt did not heed this. His expert eye was interested in scanning only the young collie’s perfection, from a show-point. And he was well satisfied.
He had paid a low price for this collie; buying him at his breeder’s ill-attended forced sale, three weeks earlier. Colt was a dog-man; but that does not mean he was a dog fancier. To him, a dog was a mere source of revenue. He had foreseen grand possibilities in the pup.
He had entered him in three classes, for the Dos Hermanos show; whither now he was taking him. This he had not done through any shred of sportsmanship; but because he knew the type of folk who visit such western shows.
He was certain of carrying the pup triumphantly through his various classes and of annexing several goodly cash specials. For there were, and are, few high class show-collies in the Dos Hermanos region; though there are scores of wide-headed and splay-footed sheep-tending collies scattered among the ranches there.
Fraser Colt knew that rich ranchmen and others of their sort would be glad to pay a fancy price for such a pup; especially after he should have won a few blue ribbons under their very eyes. There were certain to be fat offers for the puppy, at the show; and the fattest of these Colt was planning to take.
Thus it was that he had come for a last look at the youngster before going to bed. He wanted to make sure the pup was comfortable enough, to-night, not to look jaded or dull in the ring, to-morrow.
He stooped and ran a rough hand over the golden-tawny coat; not in affection, but in appraisal. The puppy drew back from his touch; in distaste rather than in fear. Then the deepset dark eyes caught sight of the police dog in the far corner.
Perhaps in play, perhaps in lonely craving for friendliness, the collie scampered gayly across to the larger dog.
The latter was submitting in dumb surliness to his handler’s grooming. The big police dog had not relished being yanked from his crate, late at night, for brushing and rubbing. Indeed, he had not relished any part of the joltingly noisy ride. He was not in the sunniest of tempers.
Over to him scampered the friendly collie pup. As he came within a foot or so of his destination, the car gave a drunken lurch, in rounding a bend of the track. The capering puppy was thrown off his unaccustomed car-balance. He collided sharply with the police dog.
The impact set the larger dog’s ruffled temper ablaze. With a roar, he hurled himself bodily upon the unsuspecting collie stripling.
Now a collie comes of a breed that is never taken wholly by surprise. Even as the big dog lunged, the pup recoiled from the onslaught, at the same time bracing himself on the swaying floor of the car. He recoiled; but not far enough.
The larger dog’s ravening teeth missed their mark at the base of the spine; but they seized the puppy’s left ear; biting it through. At the same time the police dog shook the dumbfounded pup savagely from side to side.
Before the puppy could make any effort to defend himself, the handler and Fraser Colt had rushed into the fray. The police dog was hauled back, snapping and snarling. Colt’s rough hand restrained the collie from doing anything in the way of reprisal. The very brief fight was ended.
Colt glanced over his pup, once more; this time with more worry than mere appraisal. Battle-scarred canine visages do not impress dogshow judges favorably.
Then, from Fraser Colt’s thick throat avalanched a torrent of lurid blasphemy. For he saw something which affected him as might the loss of his garish diamond scarfpin.
One of the puppy’s tulip ears still tipped gracefully forward from the point. But the other ear hung down from the side of his head as limply as a sodden handkerchief. In brief, if one ear was tulip, the other was wilted cabbage leaf.
From the down-hanging lacerated ear, blood was trickling; in token of the police dog’s bite. The shaking of the mighty jaws had wrenched and broken the cartilage and muscular system of the stricken ear into raglike loppiness.
Ear-carriage is an all-important detail in the judging of show-collies. Lack of perfect ear-carriage may perhaps be condoned to some extent, if the dog’s other points be good enough to counteract it. But no collie-judge on earth would give a ribbon to a dog with one semi-erect ear and one ear that hangs flappily down the side of his head.
No, the pup’s show possibilities were gone,—absolutely gone. Two minutes earlier he had been worth perhaps $400 of any fancier’s cash. As he stood, he was worth as much, for all show-purposes, as a one-eyed woman in a beauty contest.
That savage wrench of the police dog’s jaws had harmed no vital spot. But it had ripped hundreds of dollars out of Fraser Colt’s bank account. Why, nobody, now, would be willing to pay as much as $50 for the collie, as a pet! Who would want a lopsided, clownish-looking dog, when a handsome mutt could be bought for half the price?
To Colt, a dog was as much an insensate chattel as was a bank note. This particular dog had just deprived him of a rare chance to annex many bank notes. In illogical fury, he brought his open hand down over the puppy’s bleeding head, with a resounding and stingingly painful slap. In Colt’s present frame of mind, he must needs take out his furious disappointment on something.
The blow knocked the puppy half way across the car. Striding after him, Fraser Colt swung his hand—fist clenched, this time—for a second and heavier blow.
In righteous indignation at the injustice, and in unbearable pain, the collie met the second attack, halfway. As Colt’s big fist smote at him, the pup shifted deftly aside from the descending arm. Slashing as he jumped, he scored a deep red furrow in his owner’s wrist.
With a howl of rage, Colt flung himself, mouthing and foaming, upon the luckless puppy. He snatched up the young collie by the nape of the neck, and hurled the vainly protesting furry body out through the open side doorway of the car.
Now, by all laws of averages, a puppy thrown off a train going thirty miles or more an hour, should have landed on the hard track ballast or the right of way, with enough force to break several bones or even his skull.
But the law of averages was kind to this particular puppy. Perhaps out of pity for his wrecked show-career; perhaps because the pup was born for great deeds.
For several seconds the rumble of the train over the ballast had given place to a hollower sound. Also, the thirty-mile speed had slowed down perceptibly. All this by reason of the fact that the engine and front cars had begun to cross the cantilever railroad bridge which spans the Dos Hermanos River in the very heart of the Dos Hermanos Valley.
The pup catapulted out into windy space, in the arc of a wide circle. But he did not smash sickeningly against the hard ground beside the track. There was no ground alongside the track. There was nothing alongside the track but night air.
Through this air, head over heels, spun the flying tawny-gold body. Down and down he fell, past the level of the bridge span; missing an outthrust concrete-and-stone buttress by a fraction of an inch.
With a loud splash that knocked the breath out of him, he struck the sluggish water of the Dos Hermanos River. The rush of his fall was broken, in part, by this breath-expelling impact. But enough momentum remained to carry him several feet below the surface.
The train chugged drearily on. The stillness of midnight crept down again over the lonely valley. The ripples had not died on the disturbed water when a classically wedge-shaped head reappeared above the surface; and four sturdy feet began to strike out in confused but energetic fashion toward the nearer bank. Still in sharp pain and fighting for his lost breath, the puppy swam on; letting the easy current carry him downstream in a slant, rather than to waste extra strength in fighting it.
Lionel Arthur Montagu Brean was far too accustomed to the roar of passing trains to let such sounds awaken him from slumber. As the engine and cars rolled hollowly over the bridge, a hundred yards upstream, they did not so much as penetrate his sleep-mists in the form of a dream. But presently a far less noticeable sound stirred him to wakefulness. This because the lesser sound was also less familiar to the wanderer’s subconscious self.
Through his sleep he heard a despairful panting and an accompanying churn of the quiet stream on whose bank he had pitched camp for the night. Brean sat up, stupidly, rubbing his eyes. In front of him, not twenty feet from shore, something was plowing a difficult way through the yellow water, toward the spot where he sat.
Brean got to his feet, wondering. The advancing shape took on size and form. The swimmer was emerging from the water. Through the dim starlight, the man was able to make out that the oncomer was a very wet and bedraggled collie.
At sight of the man, the pup hesitated, half in and half out of the water. Brean bent toward him and called:
“Come on, son! Nobody’s going to hurt you.”
The voice and the gesture that went with it were reassuringly friendly. The dog read them aright. He was still little more than a baby. He had been cruelly and unjustly manhandled. His heart ached for the human kindness he had known before he fell into Fraser Colt’s possession. Hesitant no longer, he came straight up to the man.
Brean petted him, speaking friendlily. Then, as the light was elusive, he went over to his smoldering camp fire and stirred it into life. The flare showed him every detail of the pup; even to the bleeding and lopped ear. At sight of the injury a long-dormant professional instinct flared up in the wanderer, as suddenly and as brightly as the fire had just flared from its embers.
Lionel Arthur Montagu Brean had once possessed the right to tack the courtesy title of “Honorable” in front of his name. For he was the fifth son of Lord Airstoken, an impecunious Irish peer. There had been four older brothers; and Lionel had been allowed to follow his own yearnings to become a physician. He was a natural-born surgeon; and, from the start, he won for himself an enviable name at Guy’s Hospital.
But he was a natural-born crook, as well. Thus, within three months after his graduation with honors, he was a fugitive from justice; through the clumsy forging of a check, wherewith to meet certain pressing gambling debts.
He smuggled himself to America by steerage.
Penniless, hopeless, afflicted with a love for wandering, he had sunk presently to the philosophical leisure of tramphood. Life was easy for him. He followed the climate, north and south, through a belt of the Far West; picking up food and rudimentary clothes as best he could. Half forgotten was his British home. Wholly forgotten had been his almost uncanny skill at surgery;—until the sight of the collie pup’s broken ear revived it.
Partly in self-derision, partly in amusement, he set to work, before the crackling campfire, treating the ear. In his final year at Guy’s, he had won a wager from a collie-breeding friend. The latter had claimed that a collie’s broken ear is incurable. Brean had made such an ear as good as new. True, then he had had all manner of appliances for the task; while now he was forced to rely on ingenuity and on such meager makeshifts as his battered kit contained. Yet the old skill was throbbing in his fingertips.
The pup did not wince under the deftly light handling. He seemed to know the tramp was trying to help him. If the operation hurt, the accompanying words soothed.
“Puppy,” apostrophized Brean, “you’re a most honored dog. Do you realize that the hand operating on you might now be operating on the King of England, if the luck had broken differently for me? They all said nothing could stop me from going straight to the top. And then a little oblong of scribbled paper sent me straight to the bottom, puppy. But it’s lucky for you that it did. For if I were back in Harley Street, with a ‘Sir’ stuck in front of my name for my surgical preëminence,—why, don’t you see I couldn’t be working over you, now?
“That’d mean you’d have to go through life with one-half of your grand head looking like a lop-eared rabbit’s. Yes, you’re an honored dog; and a lucky dog, too.... Now don’t shake your head or rub it against anything, before that dressing gets set!
“This is known as the ‘Treve Operation.’ Because I tried it, first, on Noel Treve’s dog, you see. I think I’ll name you ‘Treve’ in honor of your own operation. Like the name?
“How about something to eat? I ask the question merely as a bit of rhetoric. For there isn’t a crumb of food in the larder. We’re on our way to the Dos Hermanos ranch, Treve. Last year, when I dropped in there, they gave me a sumptuous breakfast and told me if I was caught on their land again, they’d shoot me. Let’s hope their memory for faces is short, puppy. I’m taking you along as my welcome. It’s only a matter of twelve miles to the ranch house. Now, let’s go back to sleep, shan’t we?”
Neither Royce Mack nor his sour old partner, Joel Fenno, had or ever would have the right to prefix their names with “Honorable”;—either by dint of being the sons of British lords or by election to legislature or Congress. But, unlike the Honorable Lionel Arthur Montagu Brean, they never had had to worry as to where the next meal was coming from.
Their big sheep ranch covered eighteen hundred acres of grazing land. And, in the dry season, their flocks went northward, at an absurdly small price per head, into the richer government grazing lands, on the upper slopes of the twin Dos Hermanos peaks.
They were working hard and they were making fair money. Their chief cause for woe in life was that their neighbors, the cattle ranchers, looked upon them and on all sheepmen as something lower than skunks.
This contemptuous hostility on the part of the cattlemen did not annoy Joel Fenno in the very least; so long as it was confined to mere words and looks. Fenno was ancient and hardbitten and surly and with the mental epidermis of a rhinoceros. Mack, being younger and more sensitive, girded at the thought that any man or collection of men on earth could look on him as an inferior.
The partners had ridden out from the ranch house before daylight this morning to their Number Three camp, where the spring “marking” was going on. Having seen that the marking gang was satisfactorily at work, they walked over to the Number Three foreman’s shack, for breakfast.
The shack was like a thousand of its sort, from Arizona to Oregon; the single room’s walls decked with fading and yellowed and frayed pictures cut from long-ago Sunday Supplements; its untidy furniture sparse and in dire need of repair. Its one distinguishing feature was a fast-graying lump of sugar which adorned a broken corner bracket, in a place of honor among a litter of fossil bits and snake rattles and the like.
This lump of sugar was the sole and treasured memento of the foreman’s sole and treasured spree at Sacramento, three years agone. There he had eaten at a restaurant. In a bowl at the restaurant were many such cubes of white sugar. Never having seen sugar in such shape before, the reveler had stolen one of the lumps and brought it home to show to admiring friends.
The foreman had finished his breakfast and had hurried back to his gang; as is the way of foremen when the boss or the bosses chance to be on hand. But Mack and Fenno were lingering over their flapjacks and black coffee.
Both looked up as a shadow—or rather two shadows—blocked the open doorway. On the threshold stood a man whose clothes and bearing proclaimed him a tramp. Close at his knee, and surveying the partners with gravely inquiring interest, was a tawny-golden young collie dog; one ear bound up in a queer arrangement of splints.
On the way to the ranch house, Brean had skirted the edge of Number Three camp; modestly keeping out of sight of its busy workers. The sight of smoke curling from the foreman’s chimney and the faint-borne aroma of coffee had made him change his plans. Perhaps he could get a satisfactory meal here, without risking ejection by facing the partners at the ranch house. Wherefore, he had made furtively for the shack; and now stood confronting the two he had sought to avoid.
For a moment the men at the table stared dully at the man in the sunlit doorway. The man in the doorway stared embarrassedly at the men at the littered table; and inhaled the smell of coffee and fried meat. The collie also sniffed appreciation of the goodly smells; and continued to eye the eaters with friendly gravity. It was Brean who spoke first.
“I say, you fellows,” he said, dropping for once into the voice and manner that had been his birthright. “I have a really valuable collie, here. I am forced to part with him, because I have decided to abandon my hike through your state, and return East. He is sheep-broken. I know how worthwhile he will be on your sheep-ranges. Do you care to make me an offer for him? I was referred to you by my good friend and former schoolfellow, Carston, of the Beaulieu ranch.”
The last portion of his smoothly spoken harangue was pure inspiration. True, an Englishman named Carston owned an adjoining sheep ranch. And Brean had chanced to hear his name. But never had he set eyes on the rancher; an odd reluctance causing him to avoid fellow-countrymen, in his present straits.
“Why didn’t Carston buy the pup himself?” demanded Royce Mack, breaking the brief silence, as Joel glowered perplexedly at the visitor as though trying to place him in an elusive memory.
“He’s full up, with sheep dogs,” said Brean, glibly.
“So are we,” grunted Fenno. “Say, where have I run across you before?”
“Perhaps at Carston’s?” suggested Brean, trying not to quail. “But I was not in these hiking clothes then. I wonder you recognize me.”
“Maybe,” grumbled Joel. “But I doubt it. I’ll remember, presently. I always do.”
“In the meantime,” urged Brean, with much jauntiness, “do you care to buy this dog?”
“No,” replied Joel. “We don’t.”
“It’s your own loss,” smiled Brean. “I offered you the chance, because Carston told me to. I must be going. By the way,” lingering at the threshold, “will you sell me a mouthful of breakfast? I shall be glad, of course, to pay a fair price for it. I hoped to get over to Carston’s ranch house in time to eat. But I overslept. If it is any trouble—”
He hesitated politely.
“If you had kept your eyes and ears open, on your hike,” supplied Mack, wondering at the British pedestrian’s ignorance of the ranch-country’s ways, “you’d know folks around here don’t let a stranger pay for a meal. If an American had offered to, it’d have been an insult. Being foreign, I s’pose you don’t know any better. Draw up a chair and eat. Stop at the stove and bring the coffee-pot along with you.”
He spoke with no hospitality. Yet he was almost fawningly friendly, compared with his partner, who continued to favor the guest with a deepening scowl of perplexity. Brean was glad he had shaved the beard which had been one of his salient marks when last he had met these men. Also that, this time, he had abandoned his wonted tramplike speech.
Eagerly, yet with no show of his stark eagerness, he drew up a rickety chair to the board; and began to eat. Nor did he abandon the table manners which, like correct speech, were his birthright. Royce, covertly watching, was impressed.
The collie lay down at Brean’s feet. The pup was hungry. But he did not beg. This, too, impressed Royce Mack. Picking up a greasy lump of pork from the central dish, Royce tossed it to the pup. The latter caught it in mid-air—an easy trick his breeder had long since taught him. Then he proceeded to eat it,—not wolfishly, but with a certain highbred daintiness.
“What’s his name?” asked Mack.
“Treve,” said Brean, trying not to sound as if his mouth were chuck-full.
“Funny name for a dog,” commented Royce.
“Not in my country,” civilly contradicted Brean, pouring himself another cup of coffee.
“What’s the matter with his ear?” pursued Mack.
“Torn in a fight,” replied Brean, wishing devoutly there might be more eating and less talking at this meal. “I set it, as best I could. It’s only makeshift. But the splint and the bandage must stay on, for a few days. After that the ear will be as good as new.”
“H’m!” marveled Royce, noting the skill wherewith the bandage was applied. “You dressed it as neat as a doctor.”
“Quite naturally,” assented Brean, transferring two more flabbily cooling flapjacks to his plate. “You see I chance to be a surgeon.”
At this statement and at the confirmation offered by the deft dressing on the ear, Joel Fenno’s face took on new clouds of puzzlement. He felt he had almost cudgeled his memory into placing the visitor. Now, this new development sidetracked his processes. He was quite certain he had not met Brean in any medical capacity. He had been increasingly sure he had met the man under circumstances somehow unfavorable to Brean. But again he was all at sea.
“You say the pup is broke to handlin’ sheep?” demanded Fenno, in hope of finding some clue to bring his thoughts back again to the right trail. “How old is he?”
“A year old, last Monday,” returned Brean, rising as he spoke. “In my country, we begin to break them to sheep at four months. I am sorry you don’t care to buy him. He is a bargain.”
He paused for an instant, then resumed, as he started doorward:
“I must thank you for a good breakfast. I shall not forget your hospitality to a foreigner in disreputable hiking clothes. But, really,” feeling for his pocket, “I should feel more comfortable and less like an intruder, if you would let me pay for what I have eaten.”
Fenno’s curt headshake and his partner’s more vociferous refusal were interrupted by Treve.
Past the shack a herdsman drove a handful of lambs toward the marking yard. As the way was short, and as the Number Three outfit’s only dog was a half mile away herding another and larger bunch of sheep, the man had undertaken to steer the lambs, singlehanded. He was making a ragged job of it.
At sound and scent of the approaching huddle of sheep, Treve leaped to his feet; queer ancestral instincts tugging at the back of his alert young brain. In all his eight months of life he had never seen nor smelt a sheep. But his Scottish ancestors, for a hundred generations, had earned their right to live by tending such creatures as these which came trooping past the shack. Something far stronger than himself urged the pup to action.
At a single bound he cleared the table and bolted madly out through the doorway, straight among the lambs. They scattered in every direction at his onset.
The shepherd yelled aloud in consternation. The lambs’ wild bleating merged with Treve’s wilder barking. The two partners, at these dire omens, jumped up; and dashed out of the shack, to witness the damage menacing their four-footed means of livelihood.
Lionel Arthur Montagu Brean stood, for one brief instant, frozen with horror. Then he bolted through the back window of the shack; and ran at top speed to the nearest patch of cover. Nor did he slacken greatly his rapid retreat until he had put something like five miles between himself and Number Three camp. Even then he did not come to a halt, but kept on at such pace as he could muster.
His haste and his continued flight were due only in part to the unmasking of his pretense that Treve was a trained sheep-worker. As he fled from the shack he snatched Joel Fenno’s vest from the back of the rancher’s chair.
During breakfast he had noted the presence of a broken old wallet in the inside pocket of this momentarily discarded garment. From the ill-fastened top of the wallet he had seen protruding the fringed edges of a little roll of bills. And, as he fled, he took with him the price of his dog.
Meantime, the partners reached the shack’s doorway just in time to see Treve come to a momentary halt as he eyed the far-scattering bunch of lambs.
Something else was clawing at the collie’s heartstrings. Something he could not account for was striking into his young brain. Ancestry was gripping him; even as it has gripped scores of other untrained collies at their first sight of galloping sheep. This atavism takes a murderous turn, in some such dogs; but in a few instances it plays true to form.
Treve halted for only an instant. Then, like a furry whirlwind, he was off after the lambs. Working wholly by instinct, he flashed past three of them that were racing neck and neck. Then, almost without breaking his stride, he wheeled, sweeping the bleating trio ahead of him toward two more strays.
He bunched the five in some semblance of scared order, then darted away to the remaining strays, driving them, singly or in pairs, toward the nucleus he had formed. Again and again he tore around this nucleus, as it tried to scatter; welding it firm again.
When the last stray had been added to it, he set the compact bunch in motion. Brean was somewhere back there by the shack. To Brean, if to any one now, he owed allegiance. And to Brean he resolved to drive his baa-ing and milling lambs.
Thus it was that the partners, in the doorway, saw the young dog round up the bunch and bring it toward them.
“A little ragged in spots, his work is,” commented Royce Mack. “But for a young dog it isn’t so bad. Maybe they train ’em ragged, over in England. We might do worse than take him, if we can buy him cheap. We’re a dog short, since that rattler got Zippy. Besides, the pup’s got a way with him that makes a hit with me. We can easy train that roughness out of him.”
He lowered his voice, and spoke with his lips close to Fenno’s ear; lest Brean catch his words Joel looked about; as, at a wide-arm shooing from the shepherd, the lambs bolted into the marking yard with the joyous collie at their heels.
Treve, his job done, trotted into the shack with them to rejoin his tramp-master. Royce patted him in comradely fashion. To his own surprise, he had begun to take a strong fancy to the beautiful pup.
They did not find Brean in the hut. While the partners were still wondering what had become of him, Joel Fenno discovered the loss of his vest. And Treve’s ears were assailed with language which would have done credit to Fraser Colt.
“Well,” philosophized Mack, when the older man had sworn himself hoarse, “we’ve got the pup, anyhow. It’s up to us to make him worth the fifty bucks that panhandler got with your wallet. The dog’s yours. You’ve sure paid for him.”
“Your money as much as mine,” grunted Fenno. “It was from the ranch cashbox. I brang it over here to give Billings for that lumber he freighted to Number Three last week. He was due, past here, to-day, and—”
“Then it’s our dog,” amended Mack; feeling somehow happier for the knowledge. “Anyhow, we’ll see whose he is. Suppose we match for him?”
Fenno glowered. He had bad luck when he and his partner matched coins for anything. Yet his sporting nature was roused by the suggestion. His glance fell speculatively upon the foreman’s treasured lump of sugar on the bracket.
“Gimme your pencil,” he ordered. “Mine is in my vest.”
With the proffered pencil stub, he fell to work making regular dots on the cube of sugar. Mack, after one questioning glance, saw his intent and grinned.
“Roll dice for him, hey?” he chuckled. “Good boy! Only we’ll have to rub those spots off the sugar afterward. Moyle sets a heap of store by that trophy. He’ll be as sore as a—”
“Roll, first?” asked Joel, finishing the transformation of a smudged lump of sugar into a spotty-looking and irregular die.
“No, you,” said Mack. “Best two out of three. Let ’er roll!”
Treve had come back from a fruitless quartering of the room, for Brean. He stood inquisitively beside the table, as Joel prepared to cast the die. Treve knew well what the spotted object was. In early puppyhood his breeder’s little daughter used to give him lumps of sugar to eat; until her father had caught her at it and had forbidden her to do it any more; telling her that sugar is bad for a dog’s teeth and stomach. The pup had regretted deeply the loss of these delicious treats.
“Say!” snarled Joel, as he paused in the act of rolling the die. “I remember, now. I always remember, sometime or other.”
“Remember what?” asked Royce, impatiently. “Remember you promised your dying great-aunt you’d never shake dice with any man named Mack? Oh, roll it out, man! I want that dog. He sure is—”
“I remember that slick English crook,” went on Joel, unheeding. “He’s the tramp that panhandled us for grub, back at the house, last year; and tried to steal the tobacco jar. I told him, then, I’d put a bullet in him if he ever dast show his face here aga’n.”
Pettishly, cross at memory of the swindle, he rolled the cube of sugar across the table. In his ill-temper, he rolled it an inch too far. It bounced off the table-edge.
But it was not destined to land on the floor. In mid-air Treve caught it. In another second he was crunching it, rapturously.
“And now we won’t ever know what number was on top,” grumbled Joel, disgustedly. “Not without we cut him open and see. We’ll have to match for the measly cuss, after all. And you always win when we match.”
“Nope,” said Royce Mack, taking pity on his disgruntled partner. “We won’t match. Treve’s decided it for us; by swallering our only fair way of deciding. He’s OUR dog.”
Treve lay drowsing, in the early morning sunshine, in front of the Dos Hermanos ranch house. The big young collie sprawled lazily on his left side; his classic head outlined sharply against the warming sand of the dooryard; his tiny white forepaws thrust forward as if in a gallop; the sun’s rays catching and burnishing his massive tawny-gold coat.
Treve was well content to sprawl idly like this. It had been a large night. Mack and Joel Fenno, and three of their men, had spent hours of it in rounding up a bunch of stray sheep that had butted their silly way out of the rotting home fold, after sundown, and had rambled off aimlessly down the coulée.
The sheep had been gone for hours and had traveled with annoying steadiness and speed before their loss was noted. Then, it had taken some time, through the dark, to overhaul them; and far longer to convoy them home.
The sheep might never have started upon their illicit ramble—assuredly they would never have proceeded along ten minutes of it—if Treve had been on the job. But the big young dog had gone with Royce Mack, in the buckboard, over to Santa Carlotta, for the week’s mail; and had not gotten home until dark. It was only during his before-bedtime patrol of the outbuildings that he found the forced wattle; and realized what had befallen the fold’s occupants.
He had dashed up to the ranch house. There, by his clamor of wild barking, he had brought the two partners out of doors on the jump. He led them to the empty fold and obligingly took up the scent there; tracing the strays far faster than his human companions could follow through the dense dark and over the rough ground.
Ahead of him, this morning, was another long day’s work as soon as the partners should finish breakfast. In the meantime, it was pleasant to sprawl sleepily on the dooryard’s soft sand.
Through the open door, rumbled the sound of voices. Being only a real-life collie and not a phenomenon, Treve could not understand one word in ten that reached his keen ears, as he lay there. But he did not need a knowledge of words to tell him the two men were quarreling.
Vaguely, Treve regretted this; not only as a highly developed collie always dislikes the sound of human strife, but because one of those men was his god. He did not like the thought that any one should be speaking unkindly to this deity of his.
However, he had heard quarrels, before, since he came to Dos Hermanos Ranch; and none of them had ended in any harm to his deity. So, he listened drowsily, rather than apprehensively.
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