Ned, the newsboy, bastard son of a whiskey-swilling prostitute in the small mountain town of Glen Alpine, NC, is befriended by the town’s only doctor, who becomes his mentor. They adopt an Army dog called Dawg, whose master, a disabled Army sergeant, has mysteriously disappeared. Only Dawg knows the secret of the disappearance of Sgt. Robert Penton. The Veterans Affairs office mistakes Ned for the disabled sergeant and awards him a large pension, but Ned loses the money to a blackmailer who knows he’s an imposter. He continues to live as Sgt. Robert Penton, marries, and has a son. In time, the father becomes ill, and his identity is suspect when his blood type does not match the one listed in the sergeant’s records. In delirium before death, Ned confesses the fraud and reveals the blackmail. His son becomes a physician and joins the medical practice originally established by the physician who had befriended his father in his youth. Dawg took the secret of the sergeant’s disappearance to his grave but forever haunts the town as he marches with the ghost of the sergeant on the parade ground of the old Army base near Glen Alpine.