WE returned innocently to camp about midday with the warm little dog smuggled in my shirt. At our tent all the Rebels were "bashing the spine", sprawled out in various attitudes of "I don't care".
"What on earth have you got there?" exclaimed the Gogg as he stared towards my distended waist.
"Apparently a midwife is needed," grinned Feathers.
"Introducing our mascot!" declared Don with a haughty sweep of the arm.
I produced the pup. He was an immediate success; he said plainly "Glad to meet you all". He stood on his ridiculous legs in the centre of the tent, his tail wagging furiously, a quaint grin about his little open mouth, his appealing brown eyes surveying all.
"Where on earth did you get him?" asked Murchie.
"Out in the desert."
"He's asking to be taken on the strength," laughed Gordie.
It was a foregone conclusion; nobody could resist the pup. We gathered around him, discussing the problem in dark conspiratorial whispers. Would it be possible to keep him when eventually we must march out off camp and yet evade the rule of "No Pets"? Our own officer was a very decent sort but he might not care to connive at the breaking of a strict rule. We felt confident of our sergeant however, old "Poppa the Sarge". He was human as well as a soldier.
"It will all work itself out," said Fitz hopefully. "We'll solve each setback just as it comes along."
Enthusiastically we agreed to adopt the pup as our battalion mascot, to care for him with might and main and crafty subterfuge and, if necessary, defy the powers that be.
"The first job is to feed him," declared Feathers. "He needs it."
"We'll each smuggle across a little from the cookhouse," suggested Gordie, "when the bugle blows. The next thing now is a name. "
This was a poser. He looked so comical we could think of nothing at the moment to fit him.
"Call him 'Longfeller'," suggested Feathers.
The name fitted the pup with his quaint long body on little stumpy legs. But somehow his intelligent little face suggested something better.
Just then our officer, "Big Jim", stepped into the tent. He stared down at the funny little thing gazing up at him, with a wag of tail stump.
"What on earth is it?" he exclaimed.
"We found him out in the desert, sir," explained Don
Big Jim leaned down, patted the little pup and took him up in his arms. The pup immediately tried to kiss him.
"What name this feller dog?" grinned Big Jim. And we knew "Big Jim" would be all right.
"A quaint little fellow," he said; then gave a quiet order and walked away to his own quarters.
"We can't walk about calling out 'Longfeller, Longfeller'!" declared the Gogg. "The camp would think we were 'desert happy'."
"How about George?" suggested someone.
"George, my foot!" protested Gordie. "You'd have all the Wogs in Egypt answering the call." (Our name for the native Bedouin was "Wog".)
"Call him 'Roy' after good old Poppa," suggested Don.
"Won't do," declared Murchie. "It wouldn't be fair to the pup, he looks so intelligent."
"Could we get at his name through his breed?" suggested Murchie. "Anyway, what breed is he?"
"Nothing on earth," laughed Feathers.
"He must possess a family history of some sort," smiled Fitz.
"He couldn't be an Arab dog," said the Gogg. "He's too well bred."
"That's it!" declared Fitz. "Arab dog — Wog-dog!"
We all laughed. "Wog-dog" really did seem to suit the funny little fellow.
"Wog" was the Aussie soldiers' nickname for the Arabs. The Arabic meaning of Wog is "worthy Oriental gentleman." But the Aussie soldiers' interpretation was something very different as you would readily understand if you knew the type of Arabs that pestered us.
"We cannot insult him by such a name," declared the Gogg. "How about adding 'Horrie', a good old Aussie name. 'Horrie the Wog-dog'."
It fitted the pup like a glove.
"Mess parade — headquarters!" came a yell from the orderly N.C.O. outside the tent. We tied the pup to the tent post and wandered across to dinner, from which we soon returned each with a scrap of meat for the pup.
We put the collection on an old plate and confidently offered Horrie his dinner — a huge dinner. To our surprise he inquiringly sniffed here and there around the plate, one little ear cocked in quaintly surprised interrogation. Then he got to work, turned his tail to the plate and showered it with sand, occasionally turning round to use his snout as a shovel and poke the meat well down. Soon he had completely buried the meat. He gave a final sniff at the little mound and then, satisfied there was no smell left, gazed up at us with a "What's next?" expression.
"Now wouldn't that rip yer?" drawled Murchie.
We couldn't understand it; the pup was obviously ravenously hungry.
"Perhaps the meat is too much on the bugle (smelly)," suggested Fitz doubtfully.
"You bet it is— as usual," said the Gogg. "We cannot blame the dog; I admire his sense. What's supposed to be good enough for soldiers isn't good enough for him. I wonder if he could be an 'Eyetie' dog," he added, "an Italian dog. That's it!" he said excitedly. "He's used to olive oil on his food."
"I'll scrounge a little from the R.S.P.," I volunteered. Meanwhile Don dug up the meat and washed it clean of sand. We sprayed it with olive oil and offered it to Horrie.
Did he eat? He fairly hogged into that meat; it vanished. We felt quite proud at having solved the riddle of the olive oil.
"A dinkum brain-wave," said Fitz admiringly. The Gogg bowed in grave acknowledgment.
"However did you work that one out, Gogg?" inquired Don.
"Just fluked it," answered the Gogg modestly. But he was secretly pleased.
"You blokes on your feet?" inquired a grim voice as Poppa stepped into the tent. "Hullo, what's going on here!"
"Meet Horrie the Wog-dog," introduced Gordie with a gesture.
"Don't go near him," cautioned Murchie.
"Why?" asked Poppa.
"Because he's free of fleas so far."
"Oh yeh!" replied Poppa. "Well he's among a lot of then now, anyway. You funny little sausage. Are you going to be our mascot?" And the Wog-dog gazed up at him with his tail plainly wagging "Yes".
"Murchie's snakes will have to go, though," said Feathers.
The first setback. Murchie was a wizard with snakes; he kept a box full of them under his bunk.
"I'll get rid of them," promised Murchie surprisingly. "There's no damn kick in them, anyway." And we sighed our relief.
"He's a bit lousy," Murchie remarked towards the pup.
"So are you," admonished Poppa.
"All dogs have fleas," quoted Gordie and scratched himself lingeringly.
"We'll give him a bath," suggested Don. "Scrub the desert off him. He must be a respectable soldier-dog from now on."
"How can he become a soldier-dog," demanded Fitz, "if you take his fleas away."
"Some soldiers I know," said Poppa quietly, "would feel lonely without them."
"You'll never be short of company, anyway," replied Fitz.
Just then Don returned with a tin and hot water from the cookhouse. We all gathered round and dumped the little dog into the tin.
"Now then, you blokes," said Sergeant Poppa ominously, "the sarn-major sent me here to detail men for a working job. How about it?"
In the sudden buzz of conversation no one seemed to have noticed the request for labour. It was uncanny how all hands vanished, leaving Don and me and the pup.
"Can you beat that!" declared Poppa wrathfully as he jumped up and strode for the tent door. "Call themselves soldiers! They're not soldiers' bootlaces!"
Don laughed at Poppa's retreating footsteps as he strode out to hunt for the Rebels.
"He's got as much chance of picking any of them up as I have of hopping to Cairo," grinned Don.
"Here's my chance to pinch Fitz's soap," I said.
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