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Title: Jan - A Dog and a Romance
Author: Dawson, A. J.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Frontispiece]

JAN

A DOG AND A ROMANCE

BY

A.J. DAWSON



NEW YORK

GROSSET & DUNLAP

PUBLISHERS

Published by Arrangement with Harper & Brothers


JAN: A DOG AND A ROMANCE
Copyright, 1915, by Harper & Brothers
Printed in the United States of America
Published October, 1915



_CONTENTS_

I.       HOW FINN CAME HOME

II.      NUTHILL AND SHAWS

III.     INTRODUCING THE LADY DESDEMONA

IV.      THE OPEN-AIR CALL

V.       DESDEMONA'S WANDERINGS

VI.      HOW DESDEMONA FOUND HER NEST

VII.     DESDEMONA FORGETS HER MANNERS

VIII.    FINN IS ENLIGHTENED

IX.      THE LONE MOTHER

X.       FAMILY LIFE--AND DEATH

XI.      JAN GOES TO NUTHILL

XII.     SOME FIRST STEPS

XIII.    SAPLING DAYS

XIV.     WITH REFERENCE TO DICK VAUGHAN

XV.      JAN'S FIRST FIGHT

XVI.     GOOD-BY TO DICK

XVII.    JAN BEFORE THE JUDGES

XVIII.   FIT AS A TWO-YEAR-OLD

XIX.     DISCIPLINE

XX.      SUSSEX TO SASKATCHEWAN

XXI.     INTRODUCING SOURDOUGH

XXII.    MURDER!

XXIII.   THE FIGHT ON THE PRAIRIE

XXIV.    PROMOTION

XXV.     JAN GOES ON HIS TRAVELS

XXVI.    THE RULE OF TRACE AND THONG

XXVII.   MUTINY IN THE TEAM

XXVIII.  THE FEAST AND THE FASTER

XXIX.    THE FIGHT IN THE WOODS

XXX.     REAL LEADERSHIP

XXXI.    THE COST OF INCOMPETENCE

XXXII.   JAN OBEYS ORDERS AT THE GREAT DIVIDE

XXXIII.  BACK TO THE TRAIL

XXXIV.   THE PEACE RIVER TRAIL

XXXV.    THE END OF JAN'S LONE TRAIL

XXXVI.   "SO LONG, JAN!"

XXXVII.  BACK TO REGINA

XXXVIII. THE FALL OF SOURDOUGH

XXXIX.   HOW JAN CAME HOME



_JAN_



I

HOW FINN CAME HOME


Rightly to appreciate Jan's character and parts you must understand
his origin. For this you must go back to the greatest of modern Irish
wolfhounds, Finn; and to the Lady Desdemona, of whom it was said, by
no less an authority than Major Carthwaite, that she was "the most
perfectly typical bloodhound of her decade." And that was in the
fifteenth month of her age, just six weeks before Finn's arrival at
Nuthill.

When the Master was preparing to leave Australia with Finn he said,
"It's 'Sussex by the sea' for us, Finn, boy, in another month or so;
and, God willing, that's where you shall end your days."

Just fourteen weeks after making that remark (and, too, after a deal
more of land and sea travel for Finn than comes into the whole lives
of most hounds) the Master bought Nuthill, the little estate on the
lee of the most beautiful of the South Downs from the upper part of
which one sees quite easily on a clear day the red chimneys and white
gables of the cottage in which Finn was born. But at the time of that
important purchase Finn was lying perdu in quarantine, down in
Devonshire; a melancholy period for the wolfhound, that. The Master
spent many shipboard hours in discussing this very matter with the
Mistress of the Kennels on their passage home from Australia, and he
tried hard to find a way out of the difficulty, for Finn's sake. But
there it was. You cannot hope to smuggle ashore, even in the most
fashionably capacious of lady's muffs, a hound standing thirty-six
inches high at the shoulder and weighing nearer two hundred than one
hundred pounds. It was a case of quarantine or perpetual exile, and so
Finn went into quarantine. But, as you may guess, there were pretty
careful arrangements made for his welfare.

The wolfhound had special quarters of his own in quarantine, and his
enforced stay there had just this advantage about it, that when the
great day of his release arrived there was no more travel and hotel life
to be suffered, for by this time the Master was thoroughly settled down
at Nuthill, the Mistress of the Kennels had made that snug place a real
home, and her niece, Betty Murdoch, was already an established member of
the household. So Finn went straight from quarantine at Plymouth to the
best home he had ever known, and to one in which his honored place was
absolutely assured to him.

But it must not be supposed that, because of his much-honored place in
the Master's world, Finn had entirely put behind him and forgotten his
strange life among the wild kindred in Australia. That could hardly be.
The savor of that life would remain for ever in his nostrils, no matter
how ordered and humanized his days at Nuthill; just as consciousness of
human cruelty and the torture of imprisonment had been burned into his
memory and nature, indelibly as though branded there by the hot irons of
the circus folk in New South Wales. Finn adapted himself perfectly to
the life of the household at Nuthill, and with ease. Had he not a
thousand years of royal breeding in his veins? But he never forgot the
wild. He never forgot his days of circus imprisonment as a wild beast.
He never for one instant reverted to the gaily credulous attitude toward
mankind which had helped the dog-stealers to kidnap him after the first
great triumph of his youth, when he defeated all comers, from puppy and
novice to full-fledged champion, and carried off the blue riband of his
year at the Crystal Palace. Well-mannered he would always be; but in
these later days his attitude toward all humans, and most animal folk
outside his own household, was characterized by a gravely alert and
watchful kind of reserve. As the Master once said, in talking on his
homeward way to England of that dog-stealing episode of the wolfhound's
salad days:

"It would take a tough and wily old thief to tempt Finn across a
garden-path nowadays, with the best doctored meat ever prepared. And as
for really getting away with him--well, they're welcome to try; and I
fancy they'd get pretty well all they deserve from old Finn, without the
law's assistance."

Betty Murdoch--round-figured, rosy, high-spirited, a great lover of out
of doors, and aged now twenty-two--had been much exercised in her mind
as to what Finn would think of her, when he arrived at Nuthill, after
the long railway journey from Plymouth. She had seen the wolfhound only
once before, when she was somewhat less grown-up and he was still in
puppyhood, before the visit to Australia. The Master, who went specially
to Plymouth to fetch Finn, said Betty must expect a certain reserve at
first in the wolfhound's attitude.

"He can't possibly remember you, of course, and, nowadays, he is not
effusive, not very ready to make new friends."

The Mistress of the Kennels, on the other hand--she still was spoken of
as "the Mistress," though at Nuthill there never were any
kennels--insisted that Finn would know perfectly well that Betty was one
of the family; as, of course, he did. Apart from her physical
resemblance to her aunt, Betty had very many of the Mistress's little
ways, and especially of her ways in dealings with and thinking of animal
folk.

Finn's heart had swelled almost to bursting when the Master came to him
in the quarantine station at Plymouth, for, to tell the truth, he never
had been able to make head or tail of being left alone in this place,
though the Master had tried hard to explain. But he had been well
treated there, and was certain the Master would eventually return to
him. Yet, when the moment came, there was a sudden overwhelming swelling
of his heart which made Finn gasp. He almost staggered as the Master
greeted him. The emotion of gladness hurt him, and his dark eyes were
flooded.

After that there were no further surprises for Finn. Once he had felt
the Master's hand burrowing in the wiry gray hair of his neck, Finn knew
well that they were homeward bound, that the unaccountable period of
separation was over, and that he would very presently see the Mistress
of the Kennels; as in fact he did, that very night, at Nuthill by the
Downs. And Betty--well, it was perfectly clear to Finn that she was
somehow part and parcel with the Mistress; and whilst never now effusive
to any one, he made it clear at once that he accepted Betty as one of
his own little circle of human folk, to be loved and trusted, and never
suspected. In the evening the great hound lay extended on the hearthrug
of the square, oak-paneled hall at Nuthill. (He occupied a good six feet
of rug.) Betty stepped across his shoulders once, to reach matches from
the mantel; and Finn never blinked or moved a hair, save that the tip of
his long tail just languidly rose twice, ever so gently slapping the
rug. The Master, who was watching, laughed at this.

"You may account yourself an honored friend already, Betty," he said.
"I'll guarantee no other living soul, except the Mistress or I, could
step over old Finn like that without his moving. In these days he
doesn't unguard to that extent with any one else."

"Ah, well," laughed Betty; "even less wise dogs than Finn know who loves
them--don't they, old man?"

Finn blinked a friendly response as she rubbed his ears. But as yet it
was not that. Finn had given no thought to Betty's loving him; but he
had realized that she was kin to the Mistress and the Master, and
therefore, for him, in a category apart from all other folk, animal or
human; a person to be trusted absolutely, even by a hound of his unique
experience.



II

NUTHILL AND SHAWS


In a recess beside the hearth in the hall at Nuthill Finn found an oaken
platform, or bench, five feet long by two and a half feet wide. It stood
perhaps fifteen inches from the floor, on four stout legs, and its two
ends and back had sides eight inches high. The front was open, and the
bench itself was covered by a 'possum-skin rug.

"This, my friend, is your own bed," said the Master, when he showed the
bench to Finn, after all the household had retired that night. "You've
slept hard, old chap, and you've lived hard, in your time; but when you
want it, there will always be comfort for you here. But you're free, old
chap. You can go wherever you like; still, I'd like you to try this.
See! Up, lad!"

Finn sniffed long and interestedly at the 'possum-rug which had often
covered the Mistress's feet on board ship and elsewhere. Then he stepped
on to the bed and lowered his great bulk gracefully upon it.

"How's that?" asked the Master. And Finn thrust his muzzle gratefully
into the hand he loved. The bed was superlatively good, as a matter of
fact. But when, in the quite early morning hours, the Master opened his
bedroom door, bound for the bath, he found Finn dozing restfully on the
doormat.

So that was the end of the hall bed as a hall bed. That night Finn
found it beside the Master's bedroom door; and there in future he
slept of a night, when indoors at all. But he was allowed perfect
freedom, and there were summer nights he spent in the outer porch and
farther afield than that, including the queer little Sussex slab-paved
courtyard outside the kitchen door, where he spent the better part of
one night on guard over a smelly tramp who, in a moment unlucky for
himself, had decided to try his soft and clumsy hand at burglary. The
gardener found the poor wretch in the morning aching with cramp and
bailed up in a dampish corner by the dust-bin, by a wolfhound who kept
just half an inch of white fang exposed, and responded with a truly
awe-inspiring throaty snarl to the slightest hint of movement on the
tramp's part.

"Six hours 'e's kep' me there, an', bli'me, I'd sooner do six months
quod," the weary tramp explained, when the Master had been roused and
Finn called off.

On the morning of his third day at Nuthill it was that Finn first met
the Lady Desdemona. And it happened in this wise: Colonel Forde, of
Shaws, which, as you may know, lies just across the green shoulder of
Down from Nuthill--its fault is that the house is reached only by the
westering sun, while Nuthill's windows catch the first morning rays on
one side and hold some of any sunshine there may be the day
through--wrote, saying that he had heard of Finn's arrival, and would
the Master come across to luncheon with the Mistress and Miss Murdoch,
and bring the wolfhound.

"I hope you will have a look through my kennels with me in the
afternoon," added the Colonel; and that was the kind of invitation
seldom refused by the Master.

It is, of course, a good many years now since the Shaws kennels first
earned the respect of discerning breeders and lovers of bloodhounds. But
to this day there is one kind of doggy man (and woman) who smiles a
shade disdainfully when Colonel Forde's name is mentioned.

"Very much the amateur," they say. And--"A bit too much of a
sentimentalist to be taken seriously," some knowing fellow in a kennel
coat of the latest style will tell you. Perhaps they do not quite know
what they mean. Or perhaps they are influenced by the known fact that
the Colonel has more than once closed his kennel doors to a long
string of safe prizes by refusing to exhibit a second time some hound
who, on a first showing, has won golden opinions and high awards. But
these refusals were never whimsical. They were due always to the
Colonel's decision, based upon close and sympathetic observation,
that, for the particular hound in question, exhibition represented a
painful ordeal.

Among the breeders who at one time or another have visited the Shaws
kennels are a few of the knowing fellows who smile at mention of the
Colonel's name. Well, let them smile. It is perhaps as well for them
that the Colonel is pretty tolerably indifferent alike to their smiles
and to the awards of show judges; for, if Colonel Forde were seriously
bent upon "pot-hunting," there would not be anything like so many "pots"
about for other people; and these particular gentry would not at all
like that.

"Kennels!" said one of them at a dog-show in Brighton, "why, it's more
like a kindergarten. There's a sitting-room, a kind of drawing-room, if
you'll believe me, in the middle of the kennels, for tea-parties! And as
for the dogs, well, they just do whatever they like. As often as not the
kennels are empty, except for pups, and the hounds all over the garden
and house--a regular kindergarten."

It will be seen then that the Colonel must clearly have merited the
disdainful smiles. But I am bound to say I never heard of any one
being bitten or frightened by a dog at Shaws, and it is notorious
that, difficult though bloodhound whelps are to rear, the Colonel
rarely loses one in a litter. Still, "kindergarten" is certainly a
withering epithet in this connection; and one can perfectly understand
the professional's attitude. A sitting-room, nay, worse--"A kind of
drawing-room," in the midst of the kennels! Why, it almost suggests
that, forgetful of prize-winning, advertising, and selling, the
Colonel must positively have enjoyed the mere pleasure of spending a
leisure hour among his dogs; not at a show or in the public eye, but
in the privacy of his own home! Glaring evidence of amateurishness,
this. The knowing ones, as usual, were perfectly correct. That is
precisely what the Colonel was; a genuine amateur of hounds.



III

INTRODUCING THE LADY DESDEMONA


April was uniformly dull and wet that year, but May seemed to bring full
summer in her train; and it was on the morning of the third of May that
Finn went to Shaws with the Nuthill house party.

The turf of the Downs was so springy on this morning that one felt
uplifted by it in walking. Each separate blade of the clover-scented
carpet seemed surcharged with young life. The downland air was as a
tonic wine to every creature that breathed it. The joy of the day was
voiced in the liquid trilling of two larks that sang far overhead. The
place and time gave to the Nuthill party England at her best and
sweetest, than which, as the Master often said, the world has nothing
more lovely to offer; and he was one who had fared far and wide in other
lands.

There is the tiny walled inclosure above the stables at Shaws, once used
as a milking-yard, and just now a veritable posy of daisies, buttercups,
rich green grass, and apple-blossom. For in it there are six or seven
gnarled and lichen-grown old apple-trees, whose fruit is of small
account, but whose bloom is a gift sent straight from heaven to gladden
the hearts of men and beasts, birds and bees. The big double doors in
the ivy-grown flint wall of this inclosure stood wide open. Humming bees
sailed booming to and fro, like ships in a tropical trade-wind. And
through the lattice-work of the gray old apple-trees' branches (so
virginally clothed just now) clean English sunshine dappled all the
earth and grass in moving checkers of light and shade.

When the Nuthill party looked in through the gates of this delectable
pleasaunce they beheld in its midst the Lady Desdemona, gazing solemnly
down her long nose at the moving checkers of sunlight on the grass. Her
head was held low--the true bloodhound poise--and that position
exaggerated the remarkable wealth of velvety "wrinkle" with which her
forehead had been endowed by nature, after the selective breeding of
centuries. Low hung her golden dewlap over the grass at her feet; and
all across the satin blackness of her saddle intricately woven little
patterns of sunlight flicked back and forth as the breeze stirred the
branches overhead.

"There's all the wisdom and philosophy of the ancients in her face,"
said the Master, as the beautiful young bloodhound bitch winded them and
raised her head.

As a fact, her thought had been far from abstruse. She was merely
watching the moving patches of sunlight, and not reflecting upon it as
humans do, but feeling the joyousness and beauty of that time and place.
She gave no thought to these matters, but was, as it were, inhaling
them, and enjoying them profoundly; more profoundly than most men-folk
would.

Finn eyed her gravely, appraisingly, yet also without thought. He, too,
had been unreflectingly absorbing the beauty of the morning; and now his
enjoyment became suddenly narrowed down and concentrated. The rest of
the world dropped out of the picture, or rather it became merged for
Finn in the picture he beheld of the Lady Desdemona; a study in tawny
orange-gold and jetty black, gleaming where the sun touched her and
embodying the quintessence of canine health, youth, and high-breeding.

So the world stood still for a moment while all concerned felt, without
thought, how good it was. Then her youth and sex spoke in the
bloodhound, and Lady Desdemona, head and stern uplifted now, came
passaging gaily, proudly forward down the grassy slope to the gateway,
entirely ignoring the human people, as was natural, and making direct
for Finn, the tallest, most stately representative of her own kind she
had ever seen. The Master stepped aside, with a smile, the better to
watch the meeting of the hounds. It was worth watching. Till they met,
the movement, the provocativeness was all on Lady Desdemona's side, Finn
standing erect and still as graven bronze. Then they met, and at a given
signal the tactics of each were sharply reversed. The signal consisted
of a little flicking contact, light as thistle-down. As Desdemona
curveted down past Finn the tip of her gaily-waving tail was allowed
once to glance over the Irish wolfhound's wiry coat; the merest
suggestion of a touch. But it seemed this was a magic signal, converting
the dancing Desdemona into a graven image and transforming the
statuesque Finn into a hound of abounding and commanding activity.

They made quite a notable picture. The Lady Desdemona stood now, tense,
rigid, immobile as any rock, though instinct with life in every hair.
Finn became the very personification of action, eager movement, alert
interest. Inside of one minute he had examined the motionless Desdemona
(by means of the most searchingly concentrated application of his senses
of sight and smell) at least as thoroughly as your Harley Street expert
examines a patient in half an hour. Finn needed no stethoscope to assure
him of Desdemona's soundness. But, having seen her in the inclosure, and
been interested so far, he now examined her with his keen eyes and
nostrils at close quarters, in order that he might know her. And so
superior to our own faculties are some of a hound's senses, that at the
end of this examination Finn the wolfhound actually did know Lady
Desdemona the bloodhound quite as thoroughly as humans know anybody
after a dozen or so of meetings and much beating of the air in speech.

This process ended, the two hounds turned and, with many friendly nudges
and shoulder-rubbings, proceeded up the meadow together in the wake of
the Nuthill party, toward the house of Shaws. One cannot translate
precisely Finn's remark to Desdemona at the end of the examination, but
the sense of it was probably something of this sort:

"Yes, you are all right. I like you. Let's be friends."



IV

THE OPEN-AIR CALL


That meeting with Desdemona in the walled inclosure at Shaws was the
beginning of many jolly days for Finn. Colonel Forde and his family were
both interested and amused by the warm friendship struck up between
their beautiful young bloodhound and the famous Finn, with his long
record of unique experiences on both sides of the world. Neither hound
found any meaning whatever, of course, in the laughing remark made to
the Master by Colonel Forde that afternoon, as they strolled round the
kennels, followed by the now inseparable Finn and Desdemona. The Colonel
paused to lay a hand affectionately on Finn's head, and, with a smile in
the Master's direction, he said:

"I suppose it's the old Shakespearian story over again, eh, Finn?
Desdemona loves you for the dangers you have passed--is that it? Well,
your friendship will have to be strictly platonic, my son, for this
particular Desdemona is pledged to no less puissant a prince than
Champion Windle Hercules, the greatest bloodhound sire of this age. 'A
marriage has been arranged,' as the papers say, Finn; and I hope it
won't put your long muzzle too badly out of joint--what?"

The Master laughed, and both men passed on, Finn following cheerfully
enough by Desdemona's side, conscious only that the men-folk were
talking in friendly, kindly fashion, and reeking nothing of the meaning
of their words. From his point of view, men-folk use such a mort of
words at all times, most of them quite unnecessary, and only a few of
them comprehensible. To folk accustomed, like the dog people, to
intercourse confined chiefly to looks and movements, the continuous
babble of words which humans indulge in is one of their most puzzling
attributes. When the Master really wanted Finn to understand anything,
the wolfhound very rarely failed him. But Colonel Forde's references to
Othello--well, it was all so much puppy talk, just amiable, meaningless
nickering to Finn and Desdemona.

That evening, while the Master and his folk were dining at Nuthill, Finn
arose from a nap in the hall and, strolling out through the garden,
loped easily away across the shoulder of Down betwixt Shaws and Nuthill
to visit Desdemona. He found her close to the walled inclosure by the
stable, and together they whiled away a couple of evening hours on the
springy thyme-and-clover-scented turf of the Downs. Just as darkness was
taking the place of twilight the scuttering of an over-venturesome
rabbit's tail caught Finn's eye, and cost that particular bunny its
life. Desdemona, to whom this little event opened up a quite new chapter
in life, was hugely excited over the kill, and could hardly allow Finn,
with his veteran's skill, to tear the pelt from the creature's warm body
before she made her first meal of rabbit's hind quarters.

It was a trivial episode enough, and especially so for a hunter of
Finn's experience, who, in his time, had pulled down dozens of old-men
kangaroos, not to mention the smaller fry of the Australian bush. And
yet, though he did not show it as Desdemona did, this trifling incident
was of quite epoch-marking importance for Finn, and stirred him
profoundly.

"Hullo, old friend! What of the hunting? I declare, you've quite the old
bush-ranging air to-night. Where have you been?" asked the Master, when
Finn rejoined his own family circle in the hall at Nuthill, toward
bedtime that night. Finn silently nuzzled the under side of the Master's
right wrist; but, though his dark eyes were eloquent, it was beyond him
to explain either his doings or his emotions. Yet the Master was not
altogether without understanding of these.

"Fact is," he said to Betty Murdoch, as he affectionately rubbed one of
Finn's ears, "I believe this old gallant has quite fallen in love with
Miss Desdemona, and I could swear he's been hunting in her company
to-night. He has all the look of it. I suspect it carries him back to
old days, past the quarantine, past even Australia--eh, old chap?--and
back to his hunting days about these very Downs, when we were at the
cottage, you know. I had to be a great deal in town in those days,
before we went to Australia, and Finn ran pretty much wild through his
last summer in England."

So the Master did know something of what passed in the wolfhound's mind,
though they had no common language. As a matter of fact, the evening
meeting with Desdemona, the frolic on the Downs, and, at the last, the
running down of that rabbit, had combined to stir Finn more than
anything else had stirred him since he had fought for the Master's life
in a drought-smitten corner of the bush in Australia. Much that had lain
dormant in the great hound since the adventurous days of his leadership
of a dingo pack had waked into active, insistent life that evening, and,
brushing aside the habits of a year's soft living, had filled him once
more with the keenness of the hunter and the fire of the masterful mate
and leader.

It must not be supposed that nostalgia is a modern weakness, or the
monopoly of human minds. When Finn looked out across the moonlit Downs
that night, while strolling round the house with the Master before going
to bed, nostalgia filled his heart to aching-point and clouded his mind
with its elusive, tormenting vapors as surely as ever it clouded the
brain of any human wanderer. It was the nostalgia of the wilderness, of
the life of the wild; and, as he looked out into the moonlight, Finn saw
again in fancy, the boundary-rider's lonely humpy, the rugged, rocky
hills of the Tinnaburra; a fleeing wallaby in the distance, himself in
hot pursuit. He smelt again the tang of crushed gum-leaves, and heard
the fascinating rustle which tells of the movements of game, of live
food, over desiccated twigs and leaves, in bush untrodden by human feet.

Yes, Finn tasted to the full that night the nostalgia of the wilderness.
But if it stirred him deeply, it by no means made him unhappy. Across
the Downs' shoulder there was Desdemona; and he was free, save for the
ties of affection--stronger these than any dog-chain--which bound him to
the Nuthill folk. And as for Desdemona; owing to what many fanciers
would have regarded as the reprehensible eccentricity of the owner of
Shaws, Desdemona was almost as free as Finn.



V

DESDEMONA'S WANDERINGS


A week later, even easy-going Colonel Forde was a little perturbed by
the news that Lady Desdemona had been away all night and that nobody
knew of her whereabouts. However, the bitch strolled into the house
during the forenoon, looking none the worse for her night out, and, much
to his kennelman's annoyance, the Colonel refused to have her confined
to the kennels. He did not know that Finn was schooling this blood-royal
princess in the ways of the wild; but he could see that she looked fit
as a fiddle and was obviously very much enjoying her life. And so he
turned a deaf ear to his kennelman, even when the good fellow said,
protestingly:

"You don't see such a bitch once in twenty years, sir. She's just on her
eighteenth month and she's worth taking care of."

"She certainly is, Bates," replied the Colonel, "and you must keep a
sharp lookout. Look to her each day. But, upon my word, I think she's
also worth giving a good time to. Give her her head, and I don't think
she will ever disappoint us. Thank goodness, there are no traps or
poison about here, or none that I ever heard of."

"No, it's not that, sir," persisted the kennelman; "but Desdemona she's
good enough to win in the best company, and to mother winners, too. And
you know, sir, if a dog's to do hisself justice on the bench, you can't
let him go skirmishing around the country like a gipsy's lurcher. It
sorter roughs 'em somehow. The judges don't like it, and the Fancy
don't, neither, sir. Look at the chalk an' that on her coat this
morning, sir."

"Ah well," said the Colonel, with a little laugh, "we never have bred
for the judges, Bates; nor yet for the Fancy, either; and if they can't
recognize the merits of a bitch like that because she's been living a
natural, happy sort of life, instead of a cage-life--why, then, that's
their loss, not ours, and we must chance it."

And so the kennelman shrugged his shoulders and the Lady Desdemona
continued to enjoy life, the new and wider life to which she was being
introduced by that hardened wanderer and past-master in the lore of the
wild--Finn.

It may be that Colonel Forde himself was more than a little worried
about it when, a week later, the young bloodhound disappeared one
afternoon and did not show up again next day. There had been further
communications with the house of the redoubtable champion Windle
Hercules in Hampshire. The Lady Desdemona's line of travel had been
chosen. Bates was to escort her on the nuptial journey, and all
arrangements for the wedding of the distinguished pair had been
completed. And now--"Just as if she mighter bin any tramp's cur," as
Bates feelingly put it--Desdemona had elected to stay away and to remain
away. And the news from Nuthill showed that--"That there plaguy great
wolfhound" was also on the missing list.

On the fourth day of absence, all search having proved unsuccessful, the
police were notified. Then, bright and early on the morning of the fifth
day, the Lady Desdemona walked quietly up to the kitchen door at Shaws,
followed leisurely by Finn, who, after seeing his mate welcomed with
some enthusiasm by the cook and several members of her excited staff,
turned about and loped easily away in the direction of Nuthill.

But to the experts concerned it speedily became apparent that the
alliance with Champion Windle Hercules must be indefinitely postponed.
Lady Desdemona would have none of him. It seemed she knew her own mind
very well, was perfectly calm and content, but quite determined in her
opposition to any hint of matrimonial _pourparlers_ with the admitted
champion of her race. Bates the kennelman pished and tushed, and thought
he knew all about it. The Master felt pretty sure he knew all about it.
The Colonel just smiled and said that Desdemona was young yet, and that,
for his part, he always had thought two years a better marrying age than
eighteen months.

Meantime, you could not have found a more placidly happy and contented
hound in England than the Lady Desdemona; and there were very few days
on which she did not meet Finn, either at Nuthill or at Shaws.

The beautiful early summer weeks slid by, and the young bloodhound grew
more sedate and less given to violent exercise. And then Bates succeeded
in persuading the Colonel into allowing him to kennel the Lady
Desdemona. It is true the kennel given her was pretty nearly the size of
a horse's loose box, and had a little covered outside yard of its own.
But it was a kennel, and securely inclosed. Despite the watchfulness of
Bates, Finn the wolfhound came nuzzling round its sides fairly often in
search of the prisoner.

After four days of confinement the bitch was released by Colonel Forde's
orders. For two days she had taken no food; and as she obviously fretted
when Finn was kept away from her, the wolfhound was allowed to come and
go at Shaws as he chose, and as he did at Nuthill.

Thus a week passed, and it was seen that the Lady Desdemona grew
restless and uneasy.

"Take my advice and leave them severely alone," said the Master. "Finn
will go his own way whether we like it or not. He's too old a hand to be
cajoled, and I've sworn I'll never coerce him. The bitch will be better
left to go her own way. She's got a good mate."

Bates sighed, but the Colonel agreed; and very little was said about it
when, a few days later, Desdemona passed out beyond the ken of her
friends at Shaws and Nuthill, and for the time was seen no more.

What did rather surprise the Master, however, was that after an absence
of a few hours, on the day of Desdemona's disappearance, Finn turned up
as usual in the evening at Nuthill, and spent the night on his own bed.
This fact did strike the Master as odd when he heard that nothing had
been seen at Shaws of the bloodhound.

"Evidently, then, Finn has nothing to do with her disappearance," said
Colonel Forde next day.

"Ah!" replied the Master, musingly. "I wonder!" And he thoughtfully
pulled Finn's ears, as though he thought this might extract information
regarding the whereabouts of Desdemona. But Finn, as his way was, said
nothing. He maintained in this matter a policy of masterly reserve.



VI

HOW DESDEMONA FOUND HER NEST


It would, of course, be highly interesting if one were able to map out
precisely the effect produced in Desdemona's mind by the influence of
Finn the wolfhound. One would very much like to trace the mental
process; to know exactly how much and in what manner the influence of
the wolfhound, with his experiences of life among the wild kindred of
Australia, affected the development of the highly domesticated, the
thoroughly sophisticated, young bloodhound. This one cannot pretend to
do. But, as it happens, one is able faithfully to record the Lady
Desdemona's actions and experiences; and from that record, in the light
of her previous intercourse with the Irish wolfhound, one is free to
draw one's own conclusions as to motives and inspirations.

During the course of their various absences from Shaws and Nuthill, Finn
and the Lady Desdemona very thoroughly scoured the South Downs within a
radius of a dozen miles from home. In the beginning of their longest
jaunt, which kept the pair of them five days away, Desdemona made a
discovery that greatly interested both of them.

It happened that Finn ran down and killed a rabbit, rather, perhaps,
from lightness of heart, or by way of displaying his powers to
Desdemona, than from any desire for food. And so it fell out that,
having slain the bunny, the hunter and his mate proceeded to amuse
themselves in the vicinity, leaving the rabbit lying where it had
received its _coup de grâce_, at the foot of a stunted, wind-twisted
thorn-bush.

It might have been an hour later when (with appetites whetted, no doubt,
by exercise in the finest air to be found in southern England) Finn and
Desdemona forsook their play and made for the thorn-bush, with a view to
a cold rabbit supper. But a glance at the spot showed that the very
thoroughly killed rabbit was no longer there. Finn's eyes blazed for a
moment with the sort of masterful wrath he had not shown since his
dingo-leading days in the Tinnaburra. Desdemona noticed this exhibition
of lordly anger and thought it rather fine. But, being female, she was
more practical than Finn; and being a bloodhound, she had a sense of
smell by comparison with which Finn's scenting powers were as naught--a
mere gap in his equipment; and this despite the fact that the training
his wild life had given him in this respect placed him far ahead of the
average wolfhound. But by comparison with bloodhounds, the fleet dogs
who hunt by sight and speed--deerhounds, greyhounds, Irish wolfhounds
and the like--have very little sense of smell.

Now the Lady Desdemona, having no experience of wild life, did not know
in the least what had become of that rabbit. She formed no conclusions
whatever about it. But obeying one of her strongest instincts, she
picked up a trail leading in the direction opposite to that from which
Finn had overtaken the bunny, and, with one glance of encouragement over
her shoulder at Finn, began to follow this up at a loping trot. As she
ran, her delicate, golden-colored flews skimmed the ground; her
sensitive nostrils questioned almost every blade of grass, her brain
automatically registering every particle of information so obtained, and
guiding her feet accordingly. Her strong tail waved above and behind her
in the curve of an Arab scimitar. She ceased to be the Lady Desdemona
and became simply a bloodhound at work; an epitome of the whole complex
science of tracking. Finn trotted admiringly beside her, his muzzle
never passing her shoulder; and now and again when he happened to lower
his head from its accustomed three-foot level, his nostrils caught a
whiff or two of something reminiscent of long-past hunting excursions
when he was barely out of puppyhood.

The dog-folk are not greatly given to discussion. It was obvious that
Desdemona had some purpose earnestly in view. (As a fact, she herself
did not as yet know what that purpose was.) And that was enough for
Finn. The bloodhound's pace was slow, and Finn could have kept up this
sort of traveling for a dozen hours on end without really exerting
himself.

But this was not to be a long trail as the event proved, though it was
mostly up-hill. Before a mile and a half had been covered Desdemona
began to show excitement and emitted a single deep bay, mellow as the
note of an organ. Finn remarked her fine voice with sincere approval.
Like all hounds, he detested a sharp, high, or yapping cry. A few
seconds later Desdemona came to a standstill beside the stem of a
starveling yew-tree, and just below the crest of the Down. Her muzzle
was thrust into an opening in the steep side of the Down, over which
there hung a thatch of furze. But though her head entered the opening,
her shoulders could not pass it and there was wrath and excitement in
the belling note she struck as she drew back.

This was Finn's opportunity and, stepping forward, he attacked the
overhanging furze and stony chalky earth with both his powerful fore
feet. He had winded now a scent that roused him; and what is more, he
remembered precisely what that twangy, acrid scent betokened. The chalky
earth flew from under his great paws faster than two men could have
shifted it with mattocks; and, as the shelving crust was thin, it took
him no more than one or two minutes to make an opening through which
even his great bulk could pass with a little stooping.

Another moment and Desdemona had forced her way past Finn, baying
hoarsely, and was inside the cave. There followed a yowling, snarling
cry, a scuffling sound, and a big red fox emerged, low to the ground
like a cat, his brush between his legs, fight in his bared jaws, and
flight in his red rolling eyes. But fate had knocked at Reynard's door,
and would not be denied. His running did not carry him far. It is
probably somewhat disturbing to be rooted out of one's own particular
sanctuary by a baying bloodhound. But it is worse to find at one's front
door a vision of vengeance and destruction in the shape of a giant Irish
wolfhound whose kill one has purloined.

In Finn's salad days it might have meant a fight. As things were, it was
rather an execution; and though the fox died snapping, his neck was
broken before he had decided upon his line of action. As Finn flung the
furry corpse aside, Desdemona appeared in the mouth of the cave with
most of the stolen rabbit between her jaws. It was noteworthy that she
gave no heed at all to the fox. Her business as a tracker had been with
her mate's stolen kill. In the absence of Finn, Reynard would have paid
no other penalty for his theft than the loss of the rabbit. As it was,
the incident cost him his life; and he was a master fox, too, who had
ranged that countryside with considerable insolence for some years; a
terribly familiar foe in a number of neighboring farm-yards.

Neither Finn nor Desdemona ate the remains of that rabbit. For one
thing, they were not yet really hungry, and for another thing they did
not relish the musky tang left by Reynard's jaws. Apart from this (and
despite its strong scent) they were both keenly interested in the cave
which had been Reynard's home; especially Desdemona.

It seemed the bloodhound would never tire of investigating the cave,
once she had satisfied herself as to Finn fully understanding that she
alone, unaided, and with most complete success, had tracked down and
retrieved the stolen rabbit. This fact had to be clearly appreciated
before Desdemona could bring herself to lay aside the mangled rabbit.
Then she invited Finn's attention to the interior of the cave. Together
they explored its resources till Finn felt almost nauseated by the smell
of fox which filled the place. But Desdemona, with her far more delicate
sense of smell, seemed quite unaffected by this. To and fro she padded,
closely examining every inch of the place, and dragging out into the
open scores of bones and other oddments which told of its long
occupancy.

It really was a rather fascinating lair, despite its musky smell; and
its position was superb. Being on a southern slope, and just below the
crest of the highest point of Downs thereabouts, one plainly saw the
sparkle of sunlight on the waters of the Channel from the mouth of this
cave. On the other hand, an obliging cup-shaped hollow of the Downs,
some hundred yards away to the west, gave one a vista of Sussex
farm-lands extending over scores of miles; a view that many a caveless
millionaire would give a fortune to secure for his home.

Again, the extreme steepness of the particular little spur, or swelling
of the Downs, in which this cave had been formed, made it highly
improbable that the feet of man would ever come that way. The
surrounding turf had doubtless known the sharp little feet of many
hundreds of generations of sheep; but it had never known the plow. It
was the same unbroken turf which our early British ancestors knew in
these parts, and had remained unscathed by any such trifling happenings
as the Roman invasion, the Fire of London, the Wars of the Roses, or the
advent of Mr. Lloyd George. The very cave itself may easily have been
older than Westminster Abbey; and if there is a lord in the land whose
ancestral hall can boast a longer record of un-"restored" antiquity, he
may fairly claim that his forebears built most superlatively well.

At all events, the place appealed most strongly to the Lady Desdemona,
and since her heart seemed set upon it, Finn cheerfully endeavored to
forget the foxy smell, busied himself in securing a fresh, rabbit for
supper, and generally behaved as a good mate should in the matter of
helping to make a new home. And that is the plain truth in the matter of
how Desdemona found her nest.



VII

DESDEMONA FORGETS HER MANNERS


It has been recorded that, as the weeks slipped by after Desdemona's
first little term of absence from her home at Shaws, she grew daily more
sedate in her manner and less given to the irresponsible activities of
hound youth.

It was also noticed that she developed a habit of carrying off all her
best bones, or other solid comestibles, instead of despatching them
beside her dish as her sophisticated habit had always been. What was not
known, even to the astute Bates, was that the most of such eatables were
laboriously carried over close upon four miles of downland by the Lady
Desdemona, for ultimate storage in her cave, where, a little
reluctantly, she devoured some of them and stowed away others to be more
or less devoured by insects, and, it may be, by prowling stoats and
other vermin, during the bloodhound's periods of residence in her own
proper home.

Finn accompanied his mate, as a matter of course, upon most of her
pilgrimages to the cave. But, somewhat to his chagrin, he found, as time
went on, that Desdemona became less and less keen upon his company.
Latterly, in fact, she came as near as so courtly a creature could to
sending him about his business flatly, and she formed a habit of lying
across the mouth of her cave in a manner which certainly suggested that
she grudged Finn entry to the old place--a thing which ruffled him more
than he cared to admit.

As a matter of fact, the Lady Desdemona had not the faintest idea why
she should adopt this tone and manner toward her mate. She admired Finn
as much as ever; she liked him well, and had no shadow of a reason for
mistrusting him. But she had her own weird to dree; and inherited
memories and instincts far stronger than any wish or inclination of her
daily life, were just now dominating her utterly.

She was full of a vague anxiousness; a sense of impending difficulties;
a blind but undeniable determination to be forearmed against she knew
not what dangers and needs. And among other things, other vague
instincts the which she must obey with or without understanding, there
was the desire to store up food, and to preserve intact her sole command
of the privacy of her cave. If Finn had been human, he would have
shrugged his shoulders, and in private given vent to generalizations
regarding the inscrutability of females. As it was, he very likely
shrugged his great gray shoulders, but went his way without remark.

Then came the day upon which Desdemona disappeared from Shaws, and Finn,
to the Master's surprise, slept in his own proper bed at Nuthill.

The fact was he had parted with Desdemona that evening under rather
painful circumstances. In the early evening he had journeyed with her to
the cave--she carrying a large mutton-bone which she made no pretense of
offering to share with her mate--and her attitude throughout had been
one of really unaccountable chilliness and reserve. They had drunk
together--the cold nectar of a prehistoric dew-pond that lay within a
hundred yards of the cave--and Desdemona had turned away curtly and
hurried back to the cave, with never a lick or a look in Finn's
direction, as though she feared he might take the place away in his
teeth. Finn had noticed that she moved wearily, as though action taxed
her strength; yet he thought her unaccountably ready to walk away from
him.

He ran down a rabbit for his mate, and deposited it before her at the
cave's mouth in the most friendly manner. Then, before he could get time
to tear the pelt off for her, the Lady Desdemona, with a snappishness
more suggestive of a hedge-side cur than of a hound of her rank,
actually snatched away the rabbit, and with never a "Thank you," or a
"By your leave," carried it right inside the cave, dropping it there and
returning to bar the entrance, with a look in her red-hawed eyes and a
lift of her golden flews which, if not actual snarling, was, as folks
say, near enough to make no difference. At least it very plainly told
Finn he was not wanted there; and the limits of his punctilious courtesy
having now been passed, he had turned away without look or sound and
descended the Down in high dudgeon.

It was clear to Finn that his mate needed a lesson in manners, and so,
moodily, he stalked away and went hungry to bed like the illogical male
creature he was, vaguely surmising that in his discomfort there must be
something of retribution for Desdemona. Had he but known it, he had a
long line of human precedents in the matter of this particular piece of
foolishness, even to the detail of the untasted dinner-dish which he
left in the back porch when he went to bed at Nuthill.



VIII

FINN IS ENLIGHTENED


Next morning courtesy demanded that Finn should accept Betty Murdoch's
invitation to accompany her on a rather long walk. She had bills to pay
and calls to make in the village. Finn went, of course, stalking
silently beside pretty, cheery Betty. But he made a poor companion, and
Betty even told the Master at luncheon that she thought Finn was not
very well, so dull and uninterested in anything he had appeared all the
morning.

"H'm! I suspect he misses Lady Desdemona," said the Master. "Puzzling
thing, that. I can't make out why they're not together."

The fact was, Finn found the nursing of his offended dignity a wearisome
task. It was all very well to rebuke Desdemona by ignoring her
existence; but could he be quite sure that she noticed his absence or
cared about it? And in any case, whether or not it affected her, it
certainly bored him very much. He missed greatly the companionship of
his mate, and not a bit the less because she had been so rude to him the
day before.

The upshot of it was that, after disposing of a good portion of the
dinner placed in his big dish at six o'clock that evening (in the little
courtyard in which he had once held a tramp bailed up all night), he
picked up the large, succulent, and still decently covered knuckle-bone
designed for his dessert, and, carrying this in his mouth, set out for
the cave on the Downs. He probably had some small twinges of misgiving,
but endeavored to dismiss these by assuring himself that poor Desdemona
was no doubt very sorry for her ill-temper of the previous day; that she
doubtless was feeling his protracted absence keenly, and that it would
be only courteous and fair now to let bygones be bygones, and present
her with a really choice knuckle-bone by way of proving his forgiveness.

This was more or less the way in which the wolfhound's mind worked as he
ambled over the Downs that evening with his big knuckle-bone. (The cook
at Nuthill was one of Finn's most devoted admirers. In addition to the
appetizing golden-brown skin that coated it, this bone carried quite a
good deal of the short, dark-colored sort of meat which, though devoid
of juice, makes very agreeable eating, and lends itself well to canine
mastication.) And in view of this attitude of mind of his, Finn was
rather grievously disappointed by the result of his visit.

He found the Lady Desdemona uneasily prowling back and forth, and in and
out of the entrance to her cave. She perfunctorily touched Finn's nose
with her own (rather rough and hot) muzzle in greeting and, accepting
the knuckle-bone with somewhat unmannerly eagerness, carried it at once
to the rear of the cave. But when Finn made to follow her she returned
nervously to the mouth of the cave and stood there, blocking the
entrance. Most strangely stiff, preoccupied, and ill-at-ease, Finn
thought her.

"Glad to see you, and all that," her manner suggested; "but I don't much
think you'd better stay. I'm--er--busy, and--er--don't let me detain you
here."

That was the suggestion conveyed; and Finn would have been the more
angered about it, but for a vague feeling he had which he could in no
way account for--a sort of yearning desire to help his mate and do
something for her.

"She certainly doesn't seem to want me," he thought. And he tried to
brace himself by means of resentful recollection of the eager way she
had taken the bone he brought her. But much as he would have preferred
to sniff, look coldly down his muzzle, and walk off, he found himself
licking one of Desdemona's heavily pendulous ears in quite a humble and
solicitous manner. It was really rather annoying.

She jerked herself nervously away from him, with no more of deference
than she might have shown some too effusive and presumptuous puppy. And
yet, and yet the great wolfhound's bowels yearned in kindliness toward
this ungracious bloodhound mate of his; and when he did finally accept
her numerous hints and take his leave, it was with no thought of
resentment in his mind, but, on the contrary, with many a backward
glance over his wire-coated shoulder, and several low whines of farewell
from deep down in his throat. Altogether the evening, like the day
preceding it, was a depressing one for Finn, and he was not sorry when
the time came to stretch his great length upon his bed by the door of
the Master's room and sleep.

But when morning arrived Finn surprised his friend the cook by not
waiting for his customary dish of milk. Directly the back door was
opened he slipped out into the sweet, early sunshine of that fragrant
neighborhood, and was off at a good loping gait for the Downs. (It was a
thousand pities he could not have carried his milk with him as a morning
draught for Desdemona.)

There was no sign of the bloodhound near the mouth of the cave when Finn
breasted the steep rise it faced. But as he drew nearer there came
sounds from out the cave which, while altogether bewildering in
themselves, did at least indicate Desdemona's presence there. The first
sound to reach him was a hoarse and threatening growl, a quite
unmistakably minatory growl, from the throat of his own mate as she got
her first wind of his, Finn's, approach to the cave he had helped to
make a home. Finn paused for a moment, head raised and ears cocked, to
consider this truly remarkable manifestation. And as he listened, there
issued from the den other small sounds of a totally different kind:
mild, twittering little bleatings; several voices, each weak and thin,
and in some subtle way most curiously appealing to the wolfhound.

Then, in one flash of memory and reason, came vivid understanding of the
whole business; as usual, in the form of a picture, Finn saw again, from
that sun-washed English hill-side, the gaunt, bald foothills around
Mount Desolation. He saw the heat shimmering above the scorched rocks on
which he slew Lupus in open fight, and witnessed the terrible
disintegration of that fighter's redoubtable sire, Tasman, under the
foaming jaws and flashing feet of his own dingo mate, Warrigal. But the
picture did not show Finn any fighting. It showed himself, at the den's
mouth, gazing in upon Warrigal, and Warrigal's curved flank supporting a
little bunch of wolfhound-dingo pups, helpless, blind, new-born, and
cheeping thinly like caged birds. Again came the sound of the small
bleatings from the cave on the South Downs. The Australian picture faded
out from Finn's excited mind, its task accomplished. He knew now; and
into the gentle whining which escaped his throat as he stepped forward
to the cave's entrance Finn introduced a note of reassurance and
soothing understanding which even human ears would have comprehended and
been satisfied by.

"All right, my mate," said Finn's gentle whining. "I know, I know. I'll
be very careful."

And then came Desdemona's answer as Finn's great bulk blocked the
entrance. This time her voice struck a note quite new to her. She
understood now that Finn understood; she knew she was not to be called
upon to shield that which she cherished in the cave there from immediate
peril. There was rest and thankfulness in Desdemona's voice now; but
withal, as Finn entered, there was more.

"Oh, please be very careful! Be very careful!" said her whine, as her
swimming eyes, with their deep-pouched crimson haws, looked up at Finn.
It would have been hard for Desdemona if she had been obliged now to
take the defensive, for Finn found the beautiful bitch most utterly
exhausted. But, as he well knew, it had gone hardly too with the man or
beast who should have forced the Lady Desdemona to her defense. Weak and
exhausted though she clearly was, the mother-passion looked out from her
brimming eyes, and the call of need would have found her a living flame
for valor, a most deadly force in a fight.

"All right! All right! Don't stir, my mate," said Finn's low whine. And
then he entered the cave and gazed down upon the miracle the night had
brought. Five sleek-sided puppies nestled in a row within the Lady
Desdemona's carefully curved flank. They were so new to the world as to
be no more than a few hours' old; they were blind and helpless as
stranded jellyfish. But they were vigorously breakfasting, none the
less; and as Finn gazed down upon them from his three-foot height, their
mother proceeded to wash and groom their fat bodies for the twentieth
time that morning, interrupting herself from time to time to glance
proudly up into her mate's face, as who should say: "See what I have
given you! Now you understand. These, my lord, are princes of your royal
blood and mine."

Neither she nor Finn could realize, of course, just why these children
of their union--their lamentable _mésalliance_, as the fanciers would
have said--were the first of their kind the world had ever seen: the
offspring of an Irish wolfhound champion and a daughter of generations
of bloodhound champions. But to Desdemona it was clear enough that a
miracle unique in history had occurred; and as for Finn, he looked and
looked, and his bowels yearned over the group at his feet even more
mightily than over Desdemona, his mate, on the previous evening.

Here certainly was food for wonder and astonishment. Two dog people had
met outside this lonely cave the night before; and here there were
seven. The new-comers were, with one exception, black and golden-brown
in color, like their mother; yet their short coats were sensibly
different from hers in texture. The exception was black as to his saddle
and head, but iron-gray for the rest, a blend one sometimes sees in
other hounds. And Finn noticed that this exception was somewhat larger
than either of his four brothers and sisters. (Two of them were
brothers, and two sisters; the black-and-gray fellow was a brother.)

Finn gently licked the round back of one of the pups. A moment before
Desdemona's tongue had crossed the same fat back. Yet its blind little
owner whimpered instant complaint at the very gentle touch of Finn's
tongue.

"Be very careful!" whined the mother.

So Finn turned to the bigger pup, the black-and-gray, and licked him
carefully. There was no sign of a whimper from this sturdy chap. On the
contrary, he wriggled over on his round back and presented his equally
round, gray belly for the same treatment. So Finn gravely licked his
largest son all over in the approved maternal fashion, while Desdemona
looked on with a quaint mixture of expressions in her pain-drawn eyes.
The mixture was of pride and jealousy, approval and solicitude,
motherhood and matehood--quite a curious little study in expression.

And then came an odd, rather touching little incident. Using infinite
care to avoid disturbing or unsettling her full-fed little ones, the
bloodhound mother slowly, gently, and with much effort, raised her
aching body from the ground and stood a moment tremulously resting. Then
she nudged Finn with her nose, and gently, but quickly, nervously, edged
him out to the mouth of the cave. There the appeal of her liquid eyes,
no less than the meaning little whine which escaped her, said, plainly:

"Don't go inside! Stay there, on guard!"

And with a rush (despite her pain-racked state) Desdemona ran down the
slope in obedience to an imperative natural call. A few seconds later
and she stood drinking eagerly, quickly, beside the dew-pond. But for
all her haste and her parched throat and aching body, the mother bitch
was careful not to wet her coat, since that might have made their bed
chilly for the pups. Returning hotfoot, she found Finn immovable beside
the mouth of the cave, a formidable sentry.

But while yet distant some ten or twelve yards, Desdemona heard a
whimper from within-sides (doubtless a pup had turned over on its back
and forgotten how to roll round again); and accordingly her weary limbs
must lift her up the steep slope almost at a bound, leaving her no time
for thanks to Finn, and care for nothing but her little ones.

To see her lower herself again to make of her aching body a nest and
bulwark for the pups was to see a really beautiful study of animal
motherhood. The deep wrinkles of her long forehead were all twisted from
the pains of the night; but not by one hair's-breadth did she
miscalculate the place for her descent to earth, or the nice disposition
of her body to secure the maximum of comfort and shelter for her brood.

If her mate looked for any companionable attention now, he looked in
vain. Each of the five young ones must be scrupulously washed and
groomed once more to make up for the neglect of the past few minutes.
And by that time they were greedily pounding at her dugs for another
meal. However, Finn understood now; and as sentry he spent the rest of
the forenoon by the cave.



IX

THE LONE MOTHER


Through many, many generations past the forebears of the Lady Desdemona
had been wont at all such crises in their lives as she was now
experiencing to receive the closest and most unremitting human care and
supervision. In the Shaws breeding-kennels, for example, there would
always be at such times an abundance of fresh warm milk, clean, warm
bedding for the new arrivals and their mother, and every other sort of
comfort and attention which men-folk have devised for the benefit of the
aristocrats among dog-folk.

Thus, if the alliance between the Lady Desdemona and the great champion
of her race, Windle Hercules, had been consummated, a foster-mother
would have been held in readiness to share the task of nursing her
family when it came. Two or three pups would have been left with
Desdemona; the others would have been taught to derive their nutriment
and nursing from some plebeian little shepherd bitch, specially bereaved
of her own offspring for this purpose. But in the cave on the Downs, and
in the aftermath of the runaway match of Finn and Desdemona, no human
eye saw Desdemona's family, and no human care played any part in its
rearing. Now, since we are all, in greater or less measure, the product
of our respective environments, and as for centuries before her time
Desdemona's ancestors had been accustomed to the fostering care of
humankind, she and her family must have been profoundly affected by the
peculiar circumstances of her first maternal experiences.

It did not take long for Finn to realize that his mate attached more
importance than she ever had before to the food-supply question. It was
easy to bring her a bone from his own daily supply at Nuthill, though
that did involve carrying the bone over four or five miles of Downs.
But, as was natural, Desdemona wanted more than bones. It was not for
nothing that five little mouths (armed with teeth like pin-points)
tugged and pounded at her dugs by day and by night. Whenever Finn
thought of it, he would run down and kill a rabbit for his mate, and for
these the bloodhound was duly grateful. But dogs do not discuss such
needs. Finn himself was well fed each day at Nuthill, as a matter of
course. Frequently though he visited the down-ridge cave, he did not
live there, and being still attached to a regular man-made home, he
never adopted any set hunting routine, any more than he reverted to any
other among the habits of wild life. He did not reason with himself
regarding Desdemona's position or needs. When he thought of it, he gave
her food; but these thoughts of his were, quite naturally, less frequent
than the recurrence of Desdemona's conscious needs, underlined and
emphasized as these were by the tireless assertiveness of her five
children.

One result was that, within three days of the arrival of the puppies,
Desdemona was doing a certain amount of hunting on her own account,
especially in the seasons of twilight, both morning and evening. In her
movements she was, of course, infinitely slower than her wolfhound mate.
He could easily have run circles round her when she was traveling at her
fastest. Her sense of smell and tracking ability were immeasurably ahead
of Finn's powers in these directions, and in some countries this would
have stood her in good stead. It was no very great help to her, however,
in rabbit-hunting; and many a long and patient tracking ended for
Desdemona in nothing more nutritious than a view of her intended quarry
disappearing into the security of its earth or burrow while the hungry
hunter was still twenty paces distant. Then, perforce, poor Desdemona
would hurry back to her nursing, hungry as when she left it.

If Finn should arrive with food on such an evening or morning, so much
the better. If not--well, Desdemona gave herself utterly to her puppies.
There was no thought of grievance or complaint in her mind, but only the
earnest endeavor to satisfy, so far as she was able, all the calls of
her little blind tyrants. Her will to succeed as a mother was at least
equal to that which any creature of the wild could have known. But her
powers of contrivance, her cunning, endurance, and, in short, her
command of success, in conditions approximating to those of motherhood
in lined and emphasized as these were by the tireless assertiveness of
her five children.

One result was that, within three days of the arrival of the puppies,
Desdemona was doing a certain amount of hunting on her own account,
especially in the seasons of twilight, both morning and evening. In her
movements she was, of course, infinitely slower than her wolfhound mate.
He could easily have run circles round her when she was traveling at her
fastest. Her sense of smell and tracking ability were immeasurably ahead
of Finn's powers in these directions, and in some countries this would
have stood her in good stead. It was no very great help to her, however,
in rabbit-hunting; and many a long and patient tracking ended for
Desdemona in nothing more nutritious than a view of her intended quarry
disappearing into the security of its earth or burrow while the hungry
hunter was still twenty paces distant. Then, perforce, poor Desdemona
would hurry back to her nursing, hungry as when she left it.

If Finn should arrive with food on such an evening or morning, so much
the better. If not--well, Desdemona gave herself utterly to her puppies.
There was no thought of grievance or complaint in her mind, but only the
earnest endeavor to satisfy, so far as she was able, all the calls of
her little blind tyrants. Her will to succeed as a mother was at least
equal to that which any creature of the wild could have known. But her
powers of contrivance, her cunning, endurance, and, in short, her
command of success, in conditions approximating to those of motherhood
in the wild, were necessarily not equal to those of wild-born folk.

For the first time in her life the Lady Desdemona was now living hardly,
but it must not be supposed that this meant unhappiness for her. That
would be far from the truth. The modern hound's sophisticated ancestry
is almost as ancient as that of men-folk; but withal he remains very
much nearer in every way to the life of the wild, and can revert to it
with far more ease. There are penalties attaching to the process,
however, and even at the time her puppies were born the Lady Desdemona
had grown noticeably less sleek than her habit had been at Shaws; just
as even a few days of unsheltered life in the woods--nay, even
twenty-four hours without a bedroom--will make a man or woman notably
less sleek.

The fact was that, upon her present diet, at all events, the young
bloodhound was not quite equal to the task of nourishing five puppies.
No doubt Nature--whose wisdom so often is mistaken for ruthlessness by
pessimistically inclined observers of the surfaces of things--had a
watchful eye upon Desdemona in her cave.

On the morning of the fifth day of the puppies' lives Desdemona was out
and about before the sun, and her hunting took her somewhat far afield.
While she hunted--doubtless introducing fear into several rabbit earths,
and tragedy into one--Destiny came knocking at the door of her own cave,
and left his sign manual there in letters of blood. On her homeward way,
the half of a young rabbit gripped between her jaws, Desdemona suddenly
picked up a fresh trail close to the cave. In the same instant the
half-rabbit fell from her parted jaws and her nose went to earth, while
premonition of disaster smote at her heart and all the channeled lines
of her forehead deepened.

A few urgent bounds carried her to the mouth of the cave. Two more
steps, and the events of the last half-hour lay plain before her eyes.
Two of her puppies lay dead, and in the throat of one of them there
still were fastened the teeth of their slayer: a full-grown,
tawny-coated stoat. The blood-drinking stoat was of no greater length
than one of Desdemona's low-hanging ears, yet without the smallest
flicker of hesitation the terrible little beast wheeled about to attack
the bereaved mother of his quarry. With bared fangs--flecked now with
blood--the stoat crouched, breathing quite fearless defiance.

For the moment Desdemona gave no thought to the stoat, but lowered her
massive head to the inspection of the dead puppy which lay nearest. In
that moment the fearless stoat saw his chance. Brave though he was--and
no creature is more brave--the stoat did not court death; and so, like a
yellow snake, he slid out of the cave and down the steep slope beyond.
But, being fearless, he halted when he came to the remains of
Desdemona's rabbit. Fresh-killed meat was something he could not pass,
even though the investigation should cost him his life.

In the cave, a very few seconds showed Desdemona that two of her pups
were dead. A frantically hurried licking sufficed to assure her that the
remaining three were unhurt. And then, the fire of judgment in her
red-brown eyes, she swept out from the cave on the trail of her enemy.
In three bounds she reached the stoat, who was perfectly prepared now to
fight an elephant for possession of the half-rabbit he had found. The
tiny creature did, as a fact, draw blood, with one slashing bite, from
Desdemona's muzzle. And then he died (snarling defiance), his spine
smashed through in two places between the bloodhound's powerful jaws.

Without a moment's pause, after completing this act of vengeance,
Desdemona hurried back to her young. With a fine effort of will she
ignored the two corpses and settled herself down, as though thoroughly
at ease in mind and body, to the task of suckling her three remaining
youngsters. It is worth noting that, whereas a tithe of the strain and
shock she had sustained during the past hour would have made worse than
useless the ministrations of a human nursing mother, there was no fault
in the quality of this particular meal taken by the puppies, nor any
momentary imperfection about the manner in which it was made available
to them, or the way in which they were washed and groomed after it, and
disposed for their nap.

That Desdemona was none the less acutely conscious of her bereavement is
proved by the fact that, so soon as her three full-fed pups were asleep,
she rose very deftly and carefully, and drew out to the mouth of the
cave the body of the puppy at whose throat she had found the stoat.
Depositing the limp little body upon the chalky ledge before the cave,
Desdemona regarded it mournfully, sitting on her haunches the while, her
muzzle pointing earthward, her splendid brow deeply wrinkled--a true
bloodhound.

After a few minutes given to sad contemplation she went inside again,
and carried out the other little corpse, laying it near by its fellow
and nosing it sadly, till the two were touching. There was another
interval of melancholy contemplation. And then, suddenly lifting her
muzzle heavenward, so that its deep flews swayed in the breeze,
Desdemona broke into vocal mourning, in a long, deep, baying howl; a
less eerie sound, perhaps, than the siren-like howl of an Irish
wolfhound in distress, yet withal, in its different, deeper, more
resonant way, a cry quite equally impressive.

It was at this employ that Finn found his mate when he arrived at the
cave that morning from Nuthill. For some moments Finn also gazed down at
the victims, pondering over their immobility and his mate's mournful
cries. Then, very tenderly at first, he nuzzled the dead puppies. That
process flashed a picture into his mind, and he saw again Warrigal's
dead children in the Mount Desolation cave. So he understood. His head
moved now far more vigorously, almost roughly, indeed, as he pushed the
little bodies forward with his nose, thrusting them out upon the turf,
so that they rolled, one over the other, down the steep part of the
slope.

Then Finn turned to his mate and affectionately licked her low-hanging
ears, flews, and dewlap. It was perfectly obvious that he understood her
grief and sought to assuage it. Finding that she paid no heed to him,
Finn turned from her gravely and walked within to where the three
remaining pups lay. Carefully he licked the big black-and-gray dog pup.
Still Desdemona remained outside. So Finn proceeded to lick one of the
other pups, the weakling of the group. This produced at once a faint
whimpering from the puppy, and that brought her mother quickly to her
side. Standing aside now, Finn watched the bloodhound settle herself
down to the task of nursing. Contented then, he walked to the mouth of
the cave and lay down there, gazing out reflectively across the green
ridge to the far-off Sussex weald.

It is easy for scientists to affirm that dogs cannot think. Call the
process what one may, Finn saw and understood his mate's grief. He
recognized that he could not give her comfort. He knew that if Desdemona
would not answer to a call from him she would respond immediately to the
claims of her offspring, and to her offspring he led her. This is what
actually occurred, and no matter what the theorists may say in their
learned generalizations, the rest of us are free to draw our own
conclusions.

What happened was that Finn led his mate from the abandonment of her
lonely mourning to renewed absorption in her motherly duties. It is true
enough that nature was at work on Finn's side in this matter, and
without the wolfhound's aid would presently have achieved the same
result. But Finn assisted and hastened the process; and is that not as
much as one can often say of the high task of the physician?



X

FAMILY LIFE--AND DEATH


In the very early morning of their ninth day in the world, one of
Desdemona's three pups died--it was the weakling sister--and the eyes of
the big black-and-gray dog pup began to open. It seemed he had absorbed
all the strength of his weakling sister to add to his own, and, as is so
often the case with the largest pup of a litter, he thrived apace;
growing almost visibly "like a weed" as the breeders say.

Desdemona paid very little heed to the puppy that died. Had it been a
human child, skilled nurture would likely have sustained its weakling
life, possibly for many years. But it was not part of Nature's plan that
any of the bloodhound mother's energies should be wasted over the
weakling of her little brood. The race is to the swift in Nature's
scheme. The black-and-gray pup always secured the most warmth because he
burrowed forcibly under his brothers and sisters. He secured the lion's
share of nutriment because he was strong enough to force his way from
teat to teat, ousting all other comers, till his lusty appetite was
satisfied. He secured the most of his mother's attention, partly because
of his ability and will to thrust himself to the fore at all times, and
partly, it may be, by compelling her prideful admiration.

When Finn found the little dead body he silently nosed and drew it out
from the cave. Out there on the open turf of the Down Nature would see
speedily to its sepulture, for Nature employs many grave-diggers and
suffers no unseemly waste. She works on a huge scale, but only the
superficial see wastefulness in Nature's plans.

So now Desdemona's family was reduced to two--the big black-and-gray dog
pup and one black-and-tan bitch pup. The reduction was probably a
beneficent one for Desdemona, for her flanks were very hollow now. Two
puppies were quite enough for her to nourish, more especially since one
of the two already demanded as much nourishment as any two ordinary
youngsters of his age. The sunken hollows of the Lady Desdemona's sides
gave extraordinary prominence to her low-hanging and not too well-filled
dugs. Her shape and general appearance were strangely different from
those of the sleek and shining young bitch whose beauty had aroused so
much enthusiasm in the minds of all judges who had seen her at Shaws. An
uninformed outsider would scarcely have recognized her as the
satin-coated beauty whose supple grace had so impressed Finn a few
months back, in the walled inclosure above the stables.

Yet in some ways the Lady Desdemona of the cave was a more admirable
creature than the beautiful young hound who won so much admiration at
Shaws. Desdemona had learned more during the past few weeks than in all
the rest of her life. Sustained effort for others and consistent
self-sacrifice had set their distinctive seal upon a merely beautiful
young animal; and now she had elements of grandeur and dignity, of
fineness and nobility, such as no amount of human care and kindness can
give even to the handsomest of creatures. She had gone out into the open
to meet life and deal with it in her own way; she had brought new life
into the world, and nurtured it with loving devotion and
self-forgetfulness; she had freely courted some of the severest of
Nature's tests, and withstood them with credit to herself. So that,
whatever the show judges might have said or thought, she was a finer,
better creature to-day than she had ever been at Shaws.

As the days slipped past in that early summer-time, the black-and-gray
dog pup thrived wonderfully in Desdemona's cave. Having keen sight now
in addition to the wonderful sense of smell which was his at birth, the
black-and-gray had become a definite person already. Young though he
was, he already knew the taste of rabbit's flesh, and would growl
masterfully at his own mother if she claimed his attention--say, for a
washing--when he had stolen one of her bones, and was busily engaged in
gnawing and scraping it with his pin-point teeth. When Finn appeared,
this masterful youngster would waddle purposely forward, growling at
times so forcibly as to upset his precarious equilibrium.

Twice he had adventured alone to the cave's mouth, and tumbled headlong
down the steep slope outside, grunting and growling the while (instead
of whimpering, as his sister would have done), and threatening the whole
South Downs with his displeasure. With never a hint of anything to fill
the place of the much-discussed attribute we call filial instinct in the
young of human kind, the black-and-gray pup conceived the greatest
admiration for his father. But it was little he recked of fatherhood and
he always vigorously challenged Finn's entry to the cave, which he
regarded as his property and his mother's. Her authority he was, of
course, obliged to recognize, and, too, he liked her well. But though he
recognized Desdemona's authority, he disputed it a dozen times a day,
and made a brave show of resistance every time he was washed.

His little sister was his abject slave, and if in her slow
peregrinations about the cave she should stumble upon a scrap of
anything edible, he would promptly roll her over with one of his
exaggeratedly podgy front paws and snatch the morsel from her without
the slightest compunction. In the same way he would chase her from teat
to teat when they both were nursing, and when full-fed himself would
ruthlessly scratch and tug at his mother's aching flanks from sheer
boisterous wantonness. At such times he would climb about her hollow
sides, holding on by his sharp claws, and scratch and chew her huge
pendulous ears, rarely meeting with any more serious check or rebuke
than a low, rumbling hint of a maternal growl, which, as a matter of
fact, alarmed his little sister more than it impressed him. In fact,
Master Black-and-Gray was a healthily thriving and insolent young cub,
who enjoyed every minute of his life and gave every promise of growing
into a big hound--providing he should chance to escape the
thousand-and-one pitfalls that lay before him, regarding the whole of
which his ignorance was, of course, complete.

The greatest adventure of his infancy came when he was just twenty-eight
days old. The time was late afternoon on a warm day. Having thrust his
sister out from the coolest innermost corner of the cave, the
black-and-gray pup had curled himself up there, and was sleeping
soundly, while his sister lay somewhat nearer the opening of the cave.
Had the weather been less warm, the black-and-gray pup would have used
his sister as a pillow, a blanket, or a mattress, and in that case the
adventure might have ended differently. As it was, his dream fancies
were suddenly dispelled by the coming of a musky, acrid odor that swept
across his small but sensitive nostrils with much the same effect that a
sound box on the ear would have upon a sleeping child.

He awoke with a jerk, to see silhouetted against the irregular path of
sky that was framed by the cave's mouth the figure of a full-grown
mother fox. This vixen was closely related to the red fox to whom this
cave had formerly belonged. She had long since learned of Reynard's end,
of course, and, indeed, had seen his corpse within twenty-four hours of
the execution. Though frequently moved by curiosity, she had never
before ventured so near to the cave and would hardly have been there now
but for the fact that she had seen Desdemona hunting a mile away and
more. Now she peered in at the cave's mouth, informing herself chiefly
through her sharp nose regarding its condition and inhabitants.

The black-and-gray pup snarled furiously, and the vixen leaped backward
on the instant. Reflection made her scornfully ashamed of this movement,
and she stepped delicately forward again. The smaller pup whimpered
fearfully, and that was the poor thing's death-knell. The vixen promptly
broke its neck with one snap of her powerful jaws and dragged the little
creature out into the sunshine. All this time Master Black-and-Gray had
been growling fiercely--his entire small body quivering under the strain
of producing this martial sound. His fat back was pressed hard against
the rear wall of the cave--partly, perhaps, to give him courage, and
partly, no doubt, by way of getting a better purchase, so to say, for
the task of growling, which really required all his small stock of
strength.

Outside the cave, in the sunshine, the vixen was sniffing and nosing at
the body of the puppy she had killed. She presented her flank to
Black-and-Gray's view, and, for herself, could see nothing inside the
cave now. Black-and-Gray had seen his sister slain. The blood of great
aristocrats and heroes was in his veins. His wrath was tremendous,
overwhelming, in fact, and, but for the support of the cave's wall,
would certainly have been too much for his still uncertain sense of
balance. Suddenly now his ancestry spoke in this undeveloped creature.
Determination took and shook him, and spurred him forward. With a sort
of miniature roar--the merest little mixture of breathless growl, snarl,
and embryonic bark--he blundered forth from his dark corner, hurtling
over the cave's floor at a gait partaking of roll, crawl, and gallop,
and flung himself straight at the well-furred throat of the unsuspecting
vixen.

Even as an accomplished swordsman may be wounded by the unexpectedness
of the onslaught of some ignorant youngster who hardly knows a sword's
pommel from its point, so this murderously inclined vixen was bowled
over by the astounding attack of Master Black-and-Gray. The slope was
very steep and the pup's spring a bolt from the blue. The vixen slipped,
lost her footing, and went slithering down the dry grass from the ledge,
snapping at the air as she slid, with bites, any one of which would
easily have closed Black-and-Gray's career if they had reached him. But
the puppy was quite powerless to put on the brake, so to say, and his
progress down the slope was therefore far more rapid than that of the
vixen. The breath was entirely knocked out of Black-and-Gray when he
finally was brought up, all standing, by a sharp little rise of ground
alongside the gap past which one saw across the Sussex weald from
Desdemona's cave. Here it seemed he must pay the ultimate penalty of his
unheard-of temerity, and be despatched by the now thoroughly angered
vixen at her leisure.

But in that same moment a number of other things happened. In the first
place, having reached it from the far side of the ridge, Desdemona
appeared beside the mouth of her cave, dangling a young rabbit from her
jaws. In the second place, Finn appeared, climbing from the landward
side, in the gap beside which the puppy came to the end of its long
tumbling flight. Midway between the gap and the cave, the startled vixen
crouched on the slope, turning her head from the terrible vision of
Finn, upward to the scarcely less alarming vision of Desdemona, now
sniffing in the fact of her little daughter's murder.

The position was a parlous one for the vixen, and as she pulled herself
together for flight along the side of the slope she doubtless regretted
bitterly the curiosity which had impelled her to visit the den of her
departed relative.

The vixen leaped warily and doubled with real agility. But Finn was
easily her master in the arts of the chase, and his strength was ten
times greater than that of any fox in Sussex. The vixen was still well
within sight from Desdemona's cave when her time came. She leaped and
snapped, and faced overwhelming odds without wavering, but her race was
run when the wolfhound's great weight bore her to the earth and his
massive jaw closed about her ruff as a vise grips wood.

And in the moment of the vixen's death, just as Master Black-and-Gray so
far recovered his breath and his senses as to sit up and take stock of
himself; a pony's nose appeared in the gap alongside him and introduced
another new experience into this adventurous puppy's life. The pony must
have appeared to his gaze very much as an elephant would appear to a
child upon first view. But Black-and-Gray growled threateningly, though
he did take two or three backward steps. On the pony's back sat Betty
Murdoch, who now slid to the ground and knelt down beside the pup.

Then Desdemona came shuffling down the slope with reassuring little
whines of response to her son's growling. And to these there came Finn,
a trifle winded, and bearing traces of blood and fur about his bearded
gray muzzle. So Master Black-and-Gray, whose knowledge of his
fellow-inhabitants of the earth had hitherto been confined to Finn and
Desdemona and his own brothers and sisters--now defunct--found himself,
at the close of this most adventurous afternoon, the center of an
admiring, wondering circle formed by his mother and her wolfhound mate,
and the pony and Betty Murdoch. Having regarded each one among his
audience in turn questioningly, he finally waddled out to his mother and
thrust his somewhat bruised little nose greedily into her hanging dugs,
so that Desdemona, forgetful for the moment of other matters, was
impelled to lower herself to the turf and yield sustenance to her only
surviving offspring.



XI

JAN GOES TO NUTHILL


The idea came to me quite suddenly when I saw Finn walk off with the
best of his dinner bones to the Downs. I'd just come in from the
village, and Punch was hitched to the gate-post, so I got into the
saddle again and set out on Master Finn's trail.

Thus Betty Murdoch, later on in the evening, explaining the position to
the Master and to the Mistress of the Kennels.

"I felt sure he must be going to Desdemona," continued Betty. "And--"

"It really is a wonder we none of us thought of that before," said her
aunt.

They were all assembled now in a roomy loose box in the Nuthill stables.
Comfortably ensconced in a bed of clean straw, Desdemona was nursing her
puppy under the approving gaze of Finn, who sat on his haunches beside
the Master, gravely reviewing his mate's changed situation.

"I think the cave must be quite four miles away; right out past Fritten
Ring and the long barrow, you know, and I fancy poor Desdemona must have
had quite a family, because, besides the one dead pup close to the cave,
I saw several little skeletons; quite a lot of animal remains scattered
about--pieces of rabbit and the remains of another fox besides the one
Finn killed. The extraordinary thing is that Jan, here, appeared to me
to have been fighting the fox that killed his sister. He was growling
away most ferociously when I found him."

"Yes, he's a real 'well-plucked un,' is Jan, as you call him," said the
Master. "Your pup, Betty. I'm sure the Colonel will say he must be
yours, for you found him, and there's fully as much Finn as Desdemona
about him. He will make a wonderful dog, that, unless I'm greatly
mistaken. Well, now I must get over to Shaws and let them know about
Desdemona. I dare say the Colonel will want to come back with me to see
the bitch; so I'll ask him to have dinner with us."

As the event proved, the Nuthill family and Colonel Forde spent most of
the evening in that loose box. Stools were brought in from the
harness-room; and Betty Murdoch had to tell her story all over again,
while the others made suggestions and filled in gaps with their
surmises; and everybody's gaze centered upon Desdemona and her son,
lying among the fresh straw. It is likely that Desdemona might have
noticed the confinement of that loose box a good deal more than she did,
but for the fact that she was thoroughly tired out. Her health was not
good just then, and the events of the day seemed rather to have overcome
her.

To the eyes of Colonel Forde and the Nuthill folk she appeared most
cruelly emaciated. She certainly was thinner than hounds who live with
men-folk grow; for she had gone rather short of food while nursing her
pups and had had to hunt for most of the food she did get. But in any
case unless specially nourished for the task, and given the abundant
rest of kennel or stable life, a bitch will always lose a lot of flesh
over suckling her young. Desdemona was not really so emaciated as her
friends thought her; but she was much thinner than she had ever been
before; and above all, had not a trace left of that sleekness which
sheltered life gives. The veterinary surgeon who came to see her next
morning, by Colonel Forde's request, had never before seen a dog fresh
from wild life; and he, too, thought Desdemona more dangerously
emaciated than she was.

"We must get that pup away from her just as soon as ever we can," said
the vet.

"But won't that make her fret?" asked the Mistress of the Kennels.

"Not very much if we let Finn be with her, I think," said the Master.

"And, in any case, she really isn't fit to go on feeding of that great
pup," repeated the vet. He even spoke of threatening trouble of the
milk-glands, which might mean losing Desdemona altogether. Her complete
loss of that smooth sleekness which life with humans gives deceived the
vet more than a little. And the upshot of it all was that Betty Murdoch
took over the sole management of the black-and-gray pup--her pup, as
Colonel Forde called him; and Desdemona and Finn were taken over to
Shaws in a cart, Finn being kept with the bloodhound to prevent her from
fretting for her puppy. At Shaws, Desdemona was established in a loose
box under the vet's supervision, and Finn spent some days there with
her.

Betty always said she had no earthly reason for christening her
black-and-gray pup Jan; but that, somehow, the name occurred to her as
fitting him from the moment at which she first saw him endeavoring to
stand up and growl at her pony, Punch, at the vixen, and at the world
generally on the Downs. From that same time Jan seemed to every one else
to fit his name; and it was clear he had taken a great fancy to Betty
Murdoch ever since she had wrapped him in her jacket and carried him
home triumphantly on her saddle-bow from the cave on the Downs.

If the season had been winter instead of midsummer, the orphaned Jan
would doubtless have missed greatly the warmth of his mother's body. As
it was, the harness-room stove was kept going at night to insure warmth
in the stable; and a large box, too deep for Jan to climb out from, and
snugly lined with carefully dried hay, was provided for his use o'
nights. Just at first, the deeply interested Betty tried feeding her new
pet with warm milk food in a baby's bottle. But Jan soon showed her that
though only a month old he was much too far advanced for such childish
things as this. He needed little teaching in the matter of lapping up
milk food from a dish (especially as he was allowed to suck one of
Betty's rosy finger-tips under the milk for a beginning); and as for
gravy and meat and bones, it might be said that he tackled these things
with the enthusiasm of a practised gourmet.

As a matter of fact, Desdemona did sorely miss Jan for a couple of days,
despite the comforting society of her mate; but Jan did not miss her a
scrap. At present there was not an ounce of sentiment in his
composition. He was kept warm, he lay snugly soft, and his stomach was
generally full. He had great gristly bones to gnaw and play with, and
Betty Murdoch, with a little solid-rubber ball, played with him also by
the hour together. Beyond these things Jan had no thought or desire at
present. He grew fast, and enjoyed every minute of the growing.

The Master's intimate knowledge of puppy needs caused certain mixtures
to be introduced into Jan's food from time to time, which saved the
youngster (without his knowing anything about it) from the worst of the
minor ills to which puppy flesh is heir. The same carefully exercised
knowledge, born of long practice, introduced other specially blended
elements into the pup's food which made for rapid bone and muscle
development. In a variety of ways the resources of man's civilization
and skill were made to serve Jan's welfare; and it must be admitted that
in most respects he gained considerably by losing his mother and the
life of the cave.

With Desdemona matters were somewhat different. For a little while she
was moodily conscious of the loss of her pups; and, too, missed the wide
open freedom of her cave life on the Downs. But, physically, she was in
some disorder, and the treatment now meted out to her was very helpful
and soothing in that direction. The fomenting of her sore and badly
scratched dugs was most comforting. The cleansing, healing medicine
given her was helpful. The gradually increased generosity of her diet
was gratifying; and at the end of a week her coat began to shine once
more under the application of Bates's grooming-gloves.

It is to be remembered that Desdemona, so far from being a creature of
the wild, had centuries of high civilization behind her. Her little
excursion into wild life was chiefly due to the inspiration of Finn's
society; and Finn himself, despite occasional attacks of the nostalgia
of the bush, was none the less a product of civilization; a deal more
subtle and complex in many ways than the native folk of the wild.



XII

SOME FIRST STEPS


The phase upon which little Jan now entered A was as jolly and enjoyable
as any form of sheltered dog life could well be. There were no kennels
at Nuthill, and it must be admitted that kennel life is never the
happiest sort of existence for a dog, though in some establishments it
is so organized, as to be a very healthy one.

Jan speedily became an object of affectionate interest for every member
of the Nuthill household, and was, from the first, the special and
well-loved protégé of Betty Murdoch, a privilege which, of itself, would
have insured his well-being. For Betty was an eminently sensible girl,
besides being a kindly, merry lover of animals and outdoor life. And in
her aunt and the Master she had perhaps the best sources of doggy
information to be found in Sussex.

Thus Jan was never subjected to the cruel kind of ordeals from which so
many petted dogs suffer. He was not treated as a delicate infant in arms
for a day or so, and then ignored for a week. His internal economy was
never poisoned or upset by means of absurd gifts of sweetmeats. His
meals reached him with the unfailing regularity of clockwork, and were
so carefully designed that, whilst his growth never was retarded for
lack of frequent nutriment, the finish of a meal always left him with
some little appetite. And he never saw food save at his mealtimes.

But, be it said, Betty did not forget that in Jan's case weaning had
been a very abrupt process. During his first few days at Nuthill he had
as many as nine meals in the twenty-four hours, and for a week or more
after that he had eight. Six daily meals was his allowance for several
weeks, and in the later stage of four a day he was kept for months.
After the first two days he never had two consecutive meals of the same
composition. That fact affected his appetite and, in consequence, his
bodily development, very materially. In fact, when Jan had been only a
few days at Nuthill, and but thirty-four days in the world, he turned
the big kitchen scale at 13 lb. 7-1/2 oz. In point of size and weight
his thirty-fourth day found him pretty much on a level with a fully
grown fox-terrier; though he was, of course, still quite unshapen, and
somewhat insecure upon his thick, gristly legs.

"He's going to be a slashing big hound, Betty," said the Master, after
weighing Jan. "And I think he's going to do you credit in every way. You
stick religiously to the feeding chart and the phosphates, and we shall
presently have Jan lording it over his own father--eh, Finn, boy!"

The wolfhound had been gravely watching the weighing operation, and now
nuzzled the Master's hand, his invariable method of answering
unimportant inquiries of this sort. Then he walked forward and
good-humoredly sniffed round the puppy's head; whereupon Jan impudently
bit at his wolfhound father's gray beard, and had to be rolled over on
his back under one of Finn's massive fore feet. There followed upon this
a few minutes of romping that was most amusing to watch. Little Jan
would rush forward at Finn, growling ferociously. Finn would spread out
his fore legs widely, and lower his great frame till his muzzle almost
reached the ground, while his tail waved high astern. Just as the
bellicose pup reached his muzzle, Finn would spring forward or sideways,
often clean over Jan, alighting at some little distance, and wheeling
round upon the still growling pup with a grin that said, plainly:

"Missed me again! You're not half quick enough, young man!"

And then, by way of encouraging the youngster, Finn would lower himself
to the ground, head well out, and, covering his eyes and muzzle with his
two fore legs, would allow Jan to plunge like a little battering-ram
upon the top of his head, furiously digging into the wolfhound's wiry
coat in futile pursuit of flesh-hold for his teeth, and still exhausting
fifty per cent. of his energies in maintaining a warlike growl.

Hardly a day passed now that did not bring the introduction of some new
interest for the black-and-gray pup. Novel experiences crowded upon him
at such a rate that he was always in some way absorbed. Meals were
frequent, and, of course, a matter of unfailing interest. Sleep also was
frequent, as it is with all healthy young things. Given, as he was,
plentiful liberty and abundance of fresh air and sunshine, Jan exhausted
himself about once an hour, and took a nap, from which he would awake
within five, ten, fifteen, or thirty minutes, as the case might be, once
more charged to the throat with high spirits, energy, and puppyish
abandon.

More by luck than good management, it happened in his seventh week that
he killed a mouse in the stable. For some time he mounted guard over his
kill, solemnly parading round and about it, emitting from time to time
blood-curdling growls and snarls intended to warn the dead mouse of the
frightful penalties it would incur as the result of any attempt to come
to life again.

Then, the stable door having been left ajar, Jan valorously gripped the
small corpse between his jaws and went swaggering off toward the house
with it, questing kudos. In the garden he met Finn, who with careless
good humor strolled toward him, offering a game. Jan tried his best to
growl and to turn up his nose at the same time, indicating serious
preoccupation with matters more weighty than play. But finding that his
hold upon the mouse was gravely endangered by this process, he gave up
the attempt, and swaggered on toward the front entrance, followed
quizzingly by the wolfhound. Finding nobody in the porch, Jan fell over
the step, dropped his mouse, growled fiercely, and then with a plunge
regained his prize, and so, past the place where the caps and coats
hung, over the mats into the hall.

Here he found Betty and the Mistress, and at their feet deposited his
now rather badly mangled mouse; while Finn, like a big nurse taking
pride in the escapades of her charge, stood at one side and smiled, with
lolling tongue.

"Oh, what a fearsome beast it is!" laughed Betty, and ran to call the
Master. Then Jan was patted and petted, and told what a fine fellow he
was; what a mighty hunter before the Lord; and Finn smiled more broadly
than ever. This over, Jan was taken into the kitchen to be weighed (he
being now seven weeks old), and was told in an impressive manner that he
was within four ounces of twenty pounds.

"Pretty nearly half-a-pound-a-day increase. You'll have to take a cure
soon, my friend, if this goes on," said the Master.

From this time onward many of Jan's games were sensibly affected by his
slaughter of the mouse. He now treated the big shin-bones that were
provided for his delectation as live game of a peculiarly treacherous
sort. He stalked, tracked, hunted, and slew those bones with unerring
skill and remarkable daring. Their tenacity of life was most striking.
There were times when, having slain a bone after a long chase, poor Jan
would give way to his natural exhaustion and fall sound asleep with his
head pillowed on one end of the apparently well-killed and harmless
bone. Yet as often as not, when he would wake, perhaps a quarter of an
hour later, this same bone would once more betray its desperate and
treacherous vitality by means of an attempt at escape. So that even in
the very moment of waking the dauntless Jan would be obliged to growl
fiercely and plunge straightway into hard fighting again.

His first real bark was another dazzling experience. It came in his
eleventh week, when he was as heavy as two terriers, though still
somewhat shapeless, and gristly, rather than bony, as to his limbs.
Colonel Forde walked into the garden one afternoon, followed very
sedately by the Lady Desdemona, now sleek and shining, and more
aristocratic-looking than ever. Jan was dozing in the front porch, and
Finn away somewhere in the orchard. Jan sprang rashly to his feet and,
losing his balance, rolled over. Rising again, with more of caution and
considerable anger, he took a good look at the visitors, and glared with
special severity at Desdemona, who serenely ignored his existence.

Then, bracing himself firmly against the door-jamb, Jan opened his jaws
and--barked. But the novelty of the performance, superimposed upon the
concussion and the exertion involved, was too much for his stability,
and with one prolonged but unsuccessful effort to hold on to his dignity
Jan rolled over on the side farthest from the door-jamb. It was not to
be denied, however, that he had barked; and the strange sound--it was
part bark, part growl, and in part a bloodhound's bay--brought Finn from
the near-by orchard, and Betty Murdoch from the morning-room, and the
Master from his study, and the Persian cat from her perch on the hall
mantelshelf; so Master Black-and-Gray had no lack of audience, and,
indeed, received an almost embarrassing amount of congratulation, in the
course of which he made shift to get a good sniff at Desdemona's legs
and satisfy himself that she was art inoffensive person.

That Desdemona was any relation of his own neither he nor she seemed for
one moment to guess, though less than a couple of months had passed
since he ceased to derive his sole nutriment and support in life from
this same stately hound, at whose golden-brown fore legs and low-hanging
dewlap he now sniffed so curiously.

One result of her return to the sheltered life was that Desdemona looked
almost twice as big and massive as she had looked in her nursing days.
The pendulous dugs were no longer in evidence; but the rich, silky rolls
about her neck lay fold in fold; the immensely long ears were veritable
buttresses to her massy head. Her black nose gleamed like satin at the
end of her long muzzle, above which lay an interminable array of deep
wrinkles, radiating out and downward from her high-peaked crown. Just
once the noble head was lowered--as that of an ancient Greek philosopher
to an inquisitive child--and the crimson-hawed eyes directed downward
as, in a calm, aloof spirit of investigation, the Lady Desdemona took
note of the fussy movements of her own son.

"I don't think we have been introduced, have we?" she seemed to say. It
was difficult to realize that, not many weeks before, hollow of flank,
with the mother anxiety in her eyes, the same noble creature had battled
and contrived to keep life in herself and in this same lusty pup out
there on the open Down, four miles and more away, among the small wild
creatures and the débris of her cave home.

Among the dog-folk Nature has arranged matters in this way, wisely and
kindly. Separated from her good master, Colonel Forde, for many months,
or even years, Desdemona would have recognized him again without
hesitation. But like every other canine mother, and like every creature
of the wild, her own flesh and blood became utterly strange to her
within a very few weeks, when separated from her during its first months
of life. And from Nature's standpoint this is a highly necessary
ordinance, since, after a few more months, Desdemona, mated elsewhere,
might easily find herself called upon to rear an entirely new family in
new surroundings. So it is that whilst among her kind, as among the
creatures of the wild, there is nothing to prevent mother and son or
daughter from becoming friends in the youngster's adult life; yet never,
after the first separation, can they meet consciously as mother and
offspring.

It was an interesting picture for the Nuthill folk and Colonel Forde to
see Finn and Desdemona sedately strolling across the lawn together,
tried friends and mates, divided sometimes by the impudent gambols and
even by the mock attacks and invitations to play of their own lusty
son--the only whelp in existence, probably the only one who ever had
lived, to carry in his veins in equal parts the blood of centuries of
Irish wolfhound and bloodhound champions.

"Do keep them there!" cried pretty Betty Murdoch. "I simply must have
that picture; I'll fetch my camera." And after some skilled manoeuvering
to secure the son's collaboration, the promised picture was secured.



XIII

SAPLING DAYS


At the age of six months, Jan, the son of Finn and Desdemona, weighed
just ninety-eight and one-half pounds, and by reason of his
well-furnished appearance might easily have been mistaken by many people
for a grown hound. He was not really anything like fully grown and
furnished, of course, nor would be until his second year was far
advanced. But the free and healthy life he led, combined with a generous
and correctly thought-out diet, had given him remarkably rapid
development, and the strength to carry it without strain.

At this time Jan had, in outline, assumed his adult appearance. As time
went on he would increase greatly in weight, and to some extent in
height and length. His body would thicken, and his frame would harden
and set; his coat would improve, and his muscles would develop to more
than double their present growth. But in his seventh month one knew what
Jan's appearance was to be; his type had declared itself, and so, to a
considerable extent, had his personality.

There was not a brown hair in Jan's coat; not one hair of any other
color than black or iron-gray. His saddle and haunches were jetty black,
so was the crown of his head. But his muzzle was the right wolfhound
steel-gray. So were his chest, belly, and legs, though the black hairs
crept fairly low down on the outsides of his thighs and hocks, the inner
sides being all hard gray. The gray of his chest extended, like a ruff,
right round the upper part of his neck, forming a break of three or four
inches between the silky blackness of his head and saddle. And all his
coat was thicker, more dense, and longer in the hair than his sire's
coat, which, again, was of course much longer than Desdemona's.

Thus, in color and texture of coat Jan was neither all wolfhound nor all
bloodhound. For the rest, his bodily appearance and build favored his
mother's race more than his father's. The depth and solidity of his head
and muzzle, the length and shape of his ears, the rolling elasticity and
plenitude of his skin and the deep wrinkles it had already formed about
his face, were all features true to bloodhound type, as were also the
thickness and solidity of his frame, the downward poise of his head, and
his deep-pouched crimson-hawed eyes.

But when one saw Jan extended at the gallop, or in the act of leaping a
gate or other obstruction, one was apt to forget the bloodhound in him,
and to remember only his kinship with Finn, the fleetest son of a fleet
race of hunters. Jan had all the wonderfully springy elasticity of the
wolfhound. Already he leaped and ran as a greyhound leaps and runs.
Already, too, his accuracy of balance and his agility were remarkable.
He could trot quickly across the long drawing-room at Nuthill without
sound, and without grazing anything. Occasional tables and the like were
perfectly safe in his path. Despite his ninety-eight and a half pounds
of weight (still rapidly increasing), he could, on occasion, tread
lightly as a cat.

But the bloodhound came out in Jan in other ways besides his appearance.
He was for ever trailing, and used his dark hazel eyes far less than any
wolfhound uses his. In questing about the place for Betty Murdoch, one
noticed that Jan often did not raise his eyes or muzzle from the ground
until he almost touched her skirt. Withal, his vision was keener than
that of Desdemona's or any other typical bloodhound. His eyes served him
well for scanning the Downs; and often he would see a rabbit in the far
distance before picking up its trail. Still, once he did pick up a
trail, he would follow it as no wolfhound could, with unfailing
certitude, and without troubling to use his eyes.

The first notable demonstration of his trailing powers was his tracking
down of a missing ewe, across several miles of open Down, to the edge of
a remote, disused chalk-pit, into which the foolish creature had fallen
and broken its neck.

The trifling episode which served to draw more general attention to
Jan's all-round intelligence--which actually was considerably above the
average level for a half-grown youngster--concerned Betty Murdoch in
particular. It chanced that on a certain gray morning toward the close
of the year Betty had a sudden curiosity to see again the hill-side cave
beside which she had found Desdemona and Jan six months before. The gray
weather, so far from depressing Betty, often moved her to take long
walks; and if no other companion happened to be available, she could
always be sure of Jan's readiness to bear her company, as he did on this
occasion.

The fact that Betty did not appear at luncheon-time roused little
comment. She often was late for luncheon, and the only meal over which
Nuthill folk made a special point of being punctual was dinner. Still,
when three o'clock brought no sign of Betty, and the short day's decline
was at hand, the Master and the Mistress did begin to wonder. Then Jan
arrived, apparently rather in a hurry, and very talkative. His short
barks and little whines left no doubt about his determination to attract
attention; and the manner in which he bustled into the hall, hastily
nuzzled the Master's hand or coat-sleeve, and bustled, whining, back to
the porch, told those concerned, as plainly as words could, that he
wanted them to accompany him.

"Why, what's this?" said the Master. "I wonder if Betty is in sight."

Out in the garden nothing could be seen of Betty; but having led his
friends so far, Jan became more than ever insistent in demanding their
attendance on the path leading to the little orchard gate that opened
upon the Downs.

"H'm! Looks to me as though Betty were in a difficulty. I wish you'd
send out word to the stable for Curtin to saddle Punch and ride on after
me. Or, wait a moment. You stay here with Jan. I'll send the message,
and get my brandy--flask. One never knows. I'll be out again in a
minute."

But this hardly met with Jan's views. He seemed determined that the
Master should not go back. Whining and barking very urgently, he
actually laid hold upon the Master's coat with his teeth, dragging with
all his strength to prevent a return to the house.

"So, then. All right, good dog. I'll come, Jan."

And after all, the Mistress had to go back for the flask, and to send
word to the stable, while the Master walked out to the Downs. Jan was
overjoyed by his victory; but within a few moments he was urging haste,
and expressing obvious dissatisfaction with the Master's slow pace.

"Now you just simmer down, my son, simmer down," said the Master,
soothingly. "We haven't all got your turn of speed, so you might as well
make up your mind to it. I'll have a horse here directly, and then you
shall have your head I promise you. Meantime, just keep your teeth out
of this shooting-jacket. It may be old, but I won't have it tattered. So
you simmer down, my son."

Jan did his best, but it clearly did seem to him that the Master's pace
was maddeningly slow; and so, to make up for this, Jan tried the
experiment of covering just six times as much ground himself, apparently
with the idea that hurrying ought to be done, and that if he could not
make the Master do it the next best thing was to put in a double share
himself. So Jan led the way downward in loops. He would gallop on for
fifty yards, turn sharply, and canter back to the Master, emitting
little whining noises through his nose. Having described a circle about
the Master, on he would dash again, with more whines, only to repeat the
process a few moments later.

Then Curtin, the groom, overtook them, riding Betty's cob, Punch, and
carrying the flask which had been given him by the Mistress, who herself
was following on foot. The Master slipped the flask into his coat pocket
and mounted Punch.

"Now then, Jan, my son," said he, "I'm with you. Off you go!"

They were soon out of Curtin's sight. Jan perfectly understood the
position; and it seemed, too, that he communicated some idea of it to
Punch, upon whose velvety nose he administered one hurried lick before
starting. Then, with frequent backward glances over one shoulder, Jan
lay down to his task, and, followed by Punch and the Master, began to
fly over the springy turf with occasional short bays, his powerful tail
waving flagwise over his haunches.

Within eighteen or twenty minutes they were a good four miles from
Nuthill and nearing the gap in the high ridge through which one looked
out over the Sussex weald from Desdemona's cave. In another couple of
minutes the Master was on the ground beside Betty, and Punch, with the
nonchalance of his kind, was nosing the turf, as though to distract
attention from his hard breathing. The gallop had been mostly up-hill.

Betty was genuinely glad to welcome her visitors, for she had already
spent several hours in the chalky hollow where she now sat; the evening
air was cold, and Betty was in some pain. Clambering on the steep
Downside below Desdemona's cave, she had trodden on a loose piece of
chalk, her ankle had twisted as the chalk rolled, and Betty had fallen,
with a sharp cry of pain, quite unable to put her injured foot to the
ground. For a long while neither she nor Jan had thought of any way of
obtaining assistance.

"Then I thought of sending a message by Jan," said Betty, in explaining
matters to the Master, after she had been given a sip from his flask,
which brought some color back to her pale lips. "I told him again and
again to go home, waving my arm and trying hard to drive him off on the
way. But he would only go backward a few yards, and then return to me. I
had almost given it up when the thought came into my head that I ought
to have had pencil and paper, and been able to tie a note to his collar.
But I thought my handkerchief would do just as well, without any
writing. I was on the point of calling Jan to me again, so that I could
tie my handkerchief to his collar, when, quite suddenly, he also had a
brilliant idea. You could see it plainly in his face. He had suddenly
realized what I wanted. He gave one bark, blundered up against my
shoulder, tore my hair-net by the hurried lick he gave me, and was off
like the wind for Nuthill. It really was most odd the way the
inspiration came to him."

The Master nodded agreement. "It was extraordinarily intelligent for an
untrained pup of six months. I doubt if either his father or his mother
would have had wit enough for that at the same age. Very few dogs
would."

After another little sip of brandy Betty was lifted carefully into the
saddle and, Jan and the Master pacing beside him, Punch began the
homeward journey. Jan was quite sedate again now, but he had fussed
about a good deal, upon first arrival at the hollow, in his capacity as
guide and messenger. An hour later and Betty was comfortably settled on
the big couch beside the hall fire at Nuthill, and very shortly after
that Dr. Vaughan was in attendance, so that when tea came to be handed
round everybody's mind was at ease again. The doctor was for giving Jan
a share of his plum cake as a reward for meritorious conduct. But Betty
would have none of this.

"I'm surprised at you, Doctor," said Betty. "Bad habits and an impaired
digestion as a reward for heroism! Never! Extra meat, and an
extra-choice bone at supper-time, if you like; but no plum cake for my
Jan boy, if I know it."

But this sensible decision did not prevent Jan being made much of by the
whole household that evening; and partly by way of compliment, and in
part because Betty could not go to the stable, he was promoted to
grown-up privileges and allowed to take his supper in the porch that
night beside his father. Upon showing a casual inclination to
investigate his sire's supper-dish, he was firmly but good-humoredly put
into his place by the wolfhound. Upon the whole, Jan bore his new honors
well during this his first evening spent in a house. No doubt he
received useful hints from Finn. In any case, it was decided next
morning, by the Master's full consent, that from this time on, subject
to his proper behavior, Jan need not again be sent to his bench in the
stable.



XIV

WITH REFERENCE TO DICK VAUGHAN


One might search the English villages through without finding another
such medical practitioner as Dr. Vaughan, the man who dressed Betty
Murdoch's sprained ankle. For example, he was a Fellow of the Royal
Society, and the records of his original-research work won respectful
attention in at least four languages. When he inherited Upcroft (the
estate which flanks Nuthill to the eastward) and decided to establish
himself there, it certainly was not with any idea of playing the general
practitioner. But, as the event proved, he was given small choice. For
Sussex this district is curiously remote. It contains a few scattered
large houses, and outside these the population is made up of small
farmers and shepherds, very good fellows, most of them, but not at all
typical of home-county residents, and having more than a little in
common with the dalesmen of the north country. Their nearest resident
medical practitioner, before Dr. Vaughan came, was eight miles away, in
Lewes.

Dr. Vaughan used to say that his only son, Dick, should relieve him by
forming a practice in the district. But that was before Dick was sent
down from Oxford for ducking his tutor in the basin of a fountain and
then trying to revive that unfortunate gentleman by plastering his head
and face in chocolate meringues. It was prior also to Dick's unfortunate
expulsion from Guy's as the result of a stand-up fight with a
house-surgeon, and to his final withdrawal from the study of medicine as
a profession he was adjudged unworthy to adorn. The judgment was
emphatically indorsed by the young man himself, and so could not be
called over-severe.

When it became apparent that Dick was never to be a G.P., Dr. Vaughan
obtained the services of Edward Hatherley, a young doctor in search of a
practice, and specially altered and enlarged for his occupancy one of
the Upcroft cottages. This enabled Dr. Vaughan to decline the work of a
general practitioner without hurt to his naturally sensitive conscience.
But there still were people in the district whom he visited upon
occasion as a doctor, and his friends at Nuthill were among the favored
few. Such visits, however, did not in any way affect his income, which,
as the result of an unexpected legacy some twelve or fourteen years
before this time, was a substantial one, even apart from professional
earnings or the rents of Upcroft.

Riding, shooting, fishing, coursing, breaking in young horses and dogs,
and playing polo when opportunity offered--these, with occasional rather
wild doings in London and Brighton, made up the sum of Dick Vaughan's
contribution to the world's work so far, since the period of what he
euphemistically called his retirement from the practice of pill-making.
And it must be confessed that, until some time after the establishment
of the Nuthill household in that locality, Dick Vaughan had shown no
symptom of dissatisfaction with his lot, or of desire to tackle any more
serious sort of occupation.

What was generally regarded as Dick's idleness, and, by the more rigid
moralists, as his worthlessness, was a source of some anxiety and much
disappointment to that distinguished man, his father. From the doctor's
standpoint a life given to sport meant a life wasted; and, gifted man of
science that he was, it puzzled him completely that a son of his should
have no ability as a student. Withal, he had never brought himself to
show any harshness to Dick; for, "wild" as the young man undoubtedly had
been, he was a lovable fellow, and for the doctor his fair face was a
reflection of the face of the woman Dick had never really known; of the
mother he had lost while still a child; the wife whose loss had
withdrawn Dr. Vaughan from the world of successful men and women and
prematurely whitened his hair and lined his lofty brow.

Yet in one respect the doctor had shown a certain sternness. He had told
his son, with some emphasis, that, until he accomplished some creditable
work in the world, he must never expect one penny more than his present
allowance of £150 a year. There were good horses and dogs at Upcroft,
however, and a very comfortable home. The farmers' sons of the district,
like their social superiors, mostly liked Dick Vaughan well. He need
never lack a companion in his sporting enterprises, and so far had never
felt very urgently the need of money. Indeed, the bulk of his allowance
was wasted during the trips he made to town after quarter-days. Money
was not very necessary to him at Upcroft, where most people were quite
content to "put it down to the Doctor," and all were ready to oblige
"young Mr. Vaughan."

And then had come Betty Murdoch, and a certain all-round modification of
Dick Vaughan's outlook upon life.

It happened that one reason why Betty had no other companion than Jan on
the day of her accident was the fact that the Master had an appointment
at Upcroft that morning with Dick. The Master was very good-natured in
his talk with Dick, but he was also quite firm and straightforward. Dick
rather shamefacedly pleaded guilty to having paid pointed attentions to
Betty, and admitted that he was in love with her.

"Well, there's nothing to be ashamed of in that, old chap. I'm in love
with her myself, if you come to that," said the Master, with a smile.
"If you'd said you meant nothing and were not in love with her, I--well,
I should be taking a rather different tone, perhaps. But you are, and I
knew it."

Dick's characteristic smile, the sunny, affectionate smile that won him
friends wherever he went and had given him a champion even in the tutor
he ducked, broke momentarily through the rueful expression of his face,
as he said: "Oh, there's no sort of doubt about that, sir."

"Exactly. Well, now, my friend, what I have to point out to you is this:
Betty is not only very dear to me; she is also my heir and my ward. I'm
speaking to you about it earlier than some men might have spoken,
because I don't want to cure heartaches--I want to prevent 'em. I'm
pretty certain there's no harm done as yet."

The Master managed to keep a straight face when Dick absently intimated
that he was afraid there was no harm done as yet.

"It would make Betty miserable to go against my wishes, I think,"
continued the Master, "and I don't want her to be made miserable. That's
why I'm talking to you now. She could not possibly become engaged,
except against my very strongest wishes, to a man who had never earned
his own living or done any work at all in the world. And that--well,
that--"

"That's me, of course," said the rueful Dick, cutting at his gaiters
with a crop.

"Well, so far it does rather seem to fit, doesn't it?" continued the
Master. "But, mind you, Dick, don't you run away with the idea that I
have any down on you or want to put any obstacles in your way. Not a bit
of it. God knows I'm no Puritan, neither have I any quarrel with a man's
love of sport and animals; not much. But there's got to be something
else in a real man's life, you know, Dick. Beer and skittles are all
very well--an excellent institution, especially combined with the sort
of admirable knowledge of horses and dogs, and the sort of seat in the
saddle that you have, my friend. But over and above all that, you know,
I want something else from the man who is to marry our Betty. I don't
ask you to become an F.R.S., but, begad! Dick, I do ask you to prove
that you can play a man's part in the world, outside sport as well as in
it; and that, if you're put to it, you can earn your own living and
enough to give a wife bread and butter. And if you'll just think of it
for a minute, I believe you'll see that it's not too much to ask,
either. It's what I'd ask of a man before I'd trust him to carry out a
piece of business for me; and Betty--well, she's more than any other
piece of business I can think of to me."

Dick Vaughan saw it all very clearly. He quite frankly admitted the
justification for the Master's remarks.

"And so," he added, rather despondently--"so this is my notice to quit,
eh?"

"If you took it as that, and acted on it permanently, I should think I
had greatly overrated you, my friend," replied the Master, with warmth.
"No; but, as between men, it's my notice to you that I appeal to your
sense of honor to say nothing to Betty, to go no farther in the matter,
until--until you've proved yourself as well in other ways as you've
already proved yourself over the hurdles."

"Oh, that! But, of course, I love riding, and--"

"You'll find you'll love some other things, too, once you've mastered
them, as you have horses and dogs. I can tell you there's just as much
fun in mastering men as there is in handling horses. I used to think the
only thing I could do, besides breeding wolfhounds, was to write. And I
suppose I didn't do the writing very well. Anyway, it didn't bring in
money enough for the wolfhounds and--and some other matters. So I went
out to Australia and did something else. Now I can do the writing when I
like, and--well, old Finn there is in no danger of being sold to pay the
butcher."

"Ah yes, in Australia. I wanted the governor to let me go there when I
left Rugby, boundary-riding, and that. But of course he was dead set on
the pill-making for me, then. And now--"

"Now there's been a rather empty interval of seven years. Yes, I know.
Well, you think it over, old chap. I lay down no embargoes, not I. But I
do trust to your honor in this matter--for Betty's sake--and I'm sure
I'm safe. You think it over, and come and talk to me any time you feel
like it. Be sure I'll be delighted to give any help I can. Look here!
there's a friend of mine staying at the White Hart in Lewes: Captain
Arnutt, of the Royal North-west Mounted Police. Go and look him up and
have a yarn with him about how he made his start. He nearly broke his
heart trying to pass into Sandhurst without getting the necessary stuff
into his hard head. But, begad! there isn't a finer man in the
North-west to-day than Will Arnutt. I'll write him a letter if you'll
go. Will you?"

Dick agreed readily, and as a matter of fact he lunched in Lewes with
Captain Arnutt that very day, thereby missing all the excitement over
Betty Murdoch's sprained ankle and Jan's clever rescue-work, but gaining
quite a good deal in other ways.



XV

JAN'S FIRST FIGHT


Dick Vaughan was away from home a good deal during the next few weeks,
and Jan and Finn often missed him, for his frequent visits to Nuthill
had been full of interest for them. It may be, too, that Jan's mistress
missed Dick Vaughan; but according to the Master, the young man was well
employed and by no means wasting his time. And Jan did have at least one
useful lesson in the week following Betty's accident on the Downs; and
it was a lesson which he never entirely forgot.

Jan was busily doing nothing in particular--"mucking about" as the
school-boys elegantly put it--in the little lane which forms a
right-of-way across the Downs, between the Nuthill orchard and the
westernmost of the Upcroft fields. Betty Murdoch was still nursing her
ankle; and, fast asleep in the hall beside her couch, Finn, the
wolfhound, was dreaming of a great kangaroo-hunt in which he and the
dingo bitch Warrigal were engaged in replenishing their Mount Desolation
larder. Suddenly Jan looked up, sniffing, from his idle play, and saw
against the sky-line, where the narrow lane rises sharply toward the
Downs, a gray-clad man in gaiters, with a long ash staff in his hand and
a big sheep-dog of sorts, descending together from the heights.

The man was David Crumplin, the sheep-dealer, and the dog was Grip,
whose reputation, all unknown though it was to Jan, reached from the
Romney marshes to the Solent; even as his sire's had carried weight from
York to the Border. Grip's dam, so the story went, had been a gipsy's
lurcher with Airedale blood in her. If so, his size and weight were
rather surprising; but his militant disposition may, to some extent,
have been explained. At all events, there was no sheep-dog of experience
between Winchelsea and Lewes who would have dreamed of treating Grip
with anything save the most careful respect and deference, since, while
hardly to be called either quarrelsome or aggressive, he was a noted
killer, a most formidable fighter when roused. He was also a past-master
in the driving of sheep, his coat was of the density of several
door-mats, and he had china-blue eyes with plenty of fire in them, but
no tenderness.

These things would, of course, have been ample in the shape of
credentials and introduction for any dog of ripe experience. For puppy
Jan (despite his hundred pounds of weight) they all went for nothing at
all. His salutation was a joyous, if slightly cracked, bark; a sort of--

"Hullo! a stranger! Come on! What larks!"

And he went prancing like a rocking-horse up the lane to meet Grip,
prepared to make a new friend, to romp, or do any other kind of thing
that was not serious. But, as it happened, the dour Grip was far more
than usually serious that morning. By over-severity in driving he had
lost a lamb that day in rounding up a flock across the Downs. The little
beast had slipped, under the pressure of the drive, and broken both fore
legs at the bottom of a deep pit. Grip had not made three such blunders
in his life, and the lambasting he had received for this one had bruised
every bone in his body. But for all this, he might have shown a shade
more tolerance toward Jan, since ninety-nine dogs in a hundred, even
among the fighters, will show patience and good humor where puppies are
concerned.

Jan's actual greeting of the sheep-dog was exceedingly clumsy and
awkward.

"Hullo, old hayseed!" he seemed to say as he bumped awkwardly into
Grip's right shoulder. "Come and have a game!"

That shoulder ought to have warned him. Its wiry mat of coat stood out
like quills upon the fretful porcupine. But the rollicking, galumphing
Jan was just then impervious to any such comparatively subtle indication
as this.

Grip spake no single word; but his wall-eyes flashed white firelight and
his long jaws snapped like a spring trap as Jan rebounded from the bump
against his buttress of a shoulder. When those same steel jaws parted
again, as they did a moment later, an appreciable piece of Jan's left
ear fell from them to the ground. Jan let out a cry, an exclamation of
mingled anger, pain, bewilderment, and wrath. He turned, leaning
forward, as though to ask the meaning of this outrage. On the instant,
and again without a sound, the white-toothed trap opened and closed once
more; this time leaving a bloody groove all down the black-and-gray side
of Jan's left shoulder.

At that point the sheep-dealer spoke, just a little too late.

"Get out o' that!" he said, with a thrust of his staff at Jan.
And--"Come in here, Grip," he added to his own dog. But his orders came
too late.

For his part, Jan had lost blood and realized that he was attacked in
fierce earnest. As for Grip, he had tasted blood, and found it as balm
to his aching ribs. This big blundering black-and-gray thing was no
sheep, at all events. Then let it keep away from him, or take the
consequences. Life was no game for Grip; but rather a serious routine of
work, of fighting to kill, of getting food, of resting when he might,
and of avoiding his master's ashen staff. Nothing could be more
different from Jan's gaily irresponsible and joyously immature
conception of life.

However, Jan was in earnest now; more so than he had ever been since,
more than five months earlier, he had flung his gristly bulk upon the
vixen fox who slew his sister in the cave. Some breath he wasted in a
second cry--all challenge and fury, and no questioning wonder this
time--and then, like a Clydesdale colt attacking a leopard, he flung
himself upon the sheep-dog, roaring and grappling for a hold. It seemed
that Grip was made of steel springs and india-rubber. The shock of Jan's
assault was doubtless something of a blow; for Jan weighed more than the
sheep-dog; but he tossed it from him with a twist of his densely clad
shoulders, and again as the youngster blundered past him he took toll
(this time of the loose skin on the right side of the hound's neck) in
his precisely worked jaws.

All unlearned though he was in these wolf-like (or any other) fighting
tactics, Jan presented an imposing picture of rampant fury as he wheeled
again to face his calmly resourceful enemy. David Crumplin had now
recognized the young hound as an animal of value and consequence in the
world, and in all sincerity was doing his best to separate the pair. But
the fight had gone too far now for verbal remonstrances to have any
effect, even with disciplined Grip; and as for Jan, he was merely
unconscious, alike in the matter of David's adjurations and the thrusts
and thwacks of his stave.

In the pages of a correctly conceived romance, one man (providing, of
course, that he is a hero) is always able without much difficulty to
separate two fighting dogs, even though he be innocent of doggy lore and
attired blamelessly, as judged by the illustrator's standards for
walking out with the heroine. But in real life the thing is somehow
different. Not only are two pairs of strong hands needed, but it is
necessary that the possessors of those hands should approach the fray
from opposite sides, and be nimble and strong enough to get clear away,
one from the other, when each pair has grabbed its dog. No single pair
of hands can manage it in the case of big dogs, and a man's feet are not
far enough removed from his hands to make them an adequate substitute
for a second pair of hands.

David Crumplin, having speedily given up persuasion, yelled for help,
and cursed and swore vehemently at the dogs, banging and thrusting at
each in turn, without prejudice and without effect. Much they cared for
his curses, or his ashen staff. Jan was bleeding now from half a dozen
gaping wounds; and Grip, the famous killer, was in an icy fury of wrath,
for the reason that this blundering young elephant of a puppy was
actually pressing and hurting him--the best feared dog in that
countryside. For, be it said, Jan learned with surprising quickness. He
could not acquire in a minute or in a month the sort of fighting craft
that made Grip terrible; but he did learn in one minute that he could
not afford to repeat the blundering rushes which had lost him his first
blood.

At first he strove hard to bowl the sheep-dog over by sheer weight and
strength. Then he struggled bravely to get his teeth through Grip's coat
of mail at the neck. And if all the time he was getting punishment, he
also was getting learning; as was proved by the fact that immediately
after his own third wound he tore one of Grip's ears in sunder, and, a
minute later, got home on the sheep-dog's right fore leg (where the coat
of mail was thin) with a bite which would surely mean a week of limping
for Grip. It was this last thrust that placed Grip definitely outside
his master's reach, by fanning into white flame the smoldering fire of
his nature. Indeed, for a minute or two it even made the sheep-dog
forgetful of his cunning, so angry was he; with the result that he lost
a section from his sound ear and came near to being overturned by the
impetuosity of Jan's onslaught.

And then suddenly the sheep-dog completely changed, as though by magic.
His flame died down to still, white fire; his jaws ceased to clash; his
ferocious snarl died away into deadly silence; he crouched like a lynx
at bay. At that moment Jan's number was very nearly up, for Grip had
coldly determined to kill. He had practically ceased fighting. He was
merely sparring defensively now, with bloody murder in his blue eyes,
watching grimly for his opening--the opening through which he was wont
to end his serious fights, the opening which would yield him the
death-hold.

Jan, who knew naught of death-holds, and was at this moment blind to
every consideration in life save that of combat, would assuredly yield
the fatal opening within a very few seconds; and that being so, it was a
small matter to Grip that in the mean time the youngster should rob him
of a little fur and blood and skin. No orders, no suasion, could touch
Grip now; neither could any form of attack move his anger. He was about
to kill; and, for him, that fact filled the universe.

At last the moment arrived. When the breath was out of Jan's body after
a missed rush, he stumbled badly in wheeling, and almost choked as the
spume of blood and froth and fur flew from his aching jaws. At that
psychological moment Grip, balanced to the perfection of a hair-spring,
and calmly calculating, leaped upon him from the side, and brought the
youngster's four feet into the air at one time. That was the opening,
and, in the same second, Grip's jaws sprang apart to profit by it and to
inclose Jan's throat in a final and sufficing hold.

And then, as a medieval observer might have said, the heavens opened and
a whirling vision of gray-clad muscle and gleaming fangs descended from
the high hedge-top, landing fairly and squarely athwart Grip's back. For
a moment the sheep-dog sprawled, paralyzed by this inexplicable event.
In that moment his last chance was lost. The new arrival had whirled his
huge body clear and gripped the sheep-dog's neck in jaws longer and more
powerful than those of any other dog in Sussex. Grip weighed close upon
ninety pounds; but he was shaken and battered now from side to side,
very much as a rat is shaken by a terrier. And, finally, with one
tremendous lift of the greatest neck the hound world has known, Grip was
flung clear to the far side of the lane, at the very feet of his master,
who promptly grabbed him by the collar and, as though to complete Finn's
prescription, hammered him repeatedly upon the nose with his clenched
fist.

"I'll larn'ee to answer me--by cripes, I will!" quoth David.

By this time the sorely trounced Jan was on his feet and Finn had begun
to lick his son's streaming ears. From the inside of the high hedge came
hurrying footsteps; and in another moment the Master appeared at the
white gate, twenty paces lower down the lane. David Crumplin was offered
the hospitality of the scullery for the examination of his dog, but
preferred to get Grip away with him after an admission that--

"Your puppy there will do some killin' in his day, sir, if he lives to
see it. But as for this other fellow"--pointing to Finn--"he could down
any dog this side o' Gretna Green, an' you can say as I said so. I know
most of 'em."

That was how Jan learned his first big lesson, and the good of it never
left him, and often saved his life; just as surely as his father's great
speed and strength saved it on this morning, in the very breathless nick
of time when his throat had been bared to the knife that was between
Grip's killing jaws.

In the beginning of Jan's first fight Finn had been dreaming of a hunt
in the Australian bush. Once or twice, as David Crumplin cursed and
ranted in the lane, Finn's dark ears had twitched as though in
semi-consciousness of the trouble. Later, as Jan had snarlingly roared
in his fourth or fifth attack, his sire's brown eyes had opened wide and
he had lain a moment with ears pricked and head well up, at Betty's
feet. And then with a long, formidable growl he had leaped for the
porch. Half a dozen great bounds took him through the garden. A leap
which hardly broke his stride carried him across the iron fence into the
orchard, and a score of strides from there brought him to the
hedge-side. The hedge was six feet high here. In the lane, which lay
low, it was ten feet high. There was a gate twenty yards away. Finn
scorned this and went soaring through the bramble-ends at the top of the
hedge, and thence, a bolt of fire from the blue, to Grip's shoulders.

There was that in Finn's preliminary growl which told Betty serious
things were toward. She dared not try to walk; but she shouted to the
Master, and he very speedily was in the orchard upon Finn's trail.

A Fellow of the Royal Society, with a score of letters after his name
and a reputation in two hemispheres, stitched the worst of Jan's wounds
that morning, on the couch in the Master's study. Even Dr. Vaughan could
not replace the missing section of Jan's right ear; but, short of that,
he made a most masterly job of the repairs. And all the while wise, gray
old Finn sat erect on his haunches beside the writing-table, looking on
approvingly, and reflecting, no doubt, upon the prowess of the youngster
who had caused all this pother.



XVI

GOOD-BY TO DICK


On a day in February, Dr. Vaughan and his son Dick ate their dinner at
Nuthill, and spent most of the evening there, around the hall fire. On
the flanks of the big recessed fireplace, one on either side, Finn and
Jan lay stretched, dozing happily. Jan's wounds were long since healed
now, and the rapid growth of his thick coat had already gone far toward
hiding the scars, though it could not quite mask the fact that a piece
of his right ear was missing. Jan was more than eight months old now,
and scaled just over a hundred and twenty pounds.

Late in the evening Dick Vaughan (who had honorably held to his pact
with the Master where Betty Murdoch was concerned) had a little chat
with Jan, whose ears he pulled affectionately, while the youngster sat
with muzzle resting on Dick's knee.

"Don't much like saying good-by to you, Jan, boy," said Dick Vaughan.

"Ah, well, there need not be any good-bys to-night, Dick," said the
Master. "We'll all be at the station in the morning, Finn and Jan as
well."

"Ha! that's good of you," said Dick. "But you'll never let that
youngster run five miles behind a carriage, will you? Isn't he too
gristly in the legs yet, for the weight he carries?"

The Master smiled. "Trust me for that, Dick. I've reared too many big
wolfhound pups to make that mistake. A few such road trips as that, and
Master Jan would never again show a real gun-barrel fore leg. Why, he
weighs a hundred and twenty pounds! No; old Finn will lope alongside of
us, but Master Jan can have a seat inside. I have seen some of the best
and biggest hounds ever bred spoiled for life by being allowed to follow
horses on the road in their first year. There was Donovan, by Champion
Kerry, you know. He might have beaten Finn, I believe, if they hadn't
ruined him in his sixth month, trying to harden his feet behind a
dog-cart on the great north road. The result was, when he was shown at
the Palace in his eleventh month, his fore legs had gone for ever--like
a dachshund's."

"Ah! When I get back," said Dick, musingly, you'll be pretty nearly a
two-year-old, Jan, boy."

"And if all goes well, he will be as strong a hound as any in England;
won't he, Betty? You'll see to that."

"I will if you'll help to keep us going the right way," said Betty,
smiling at the Master.

And so, directly after an early breakfast, the Nuthill party drove to
the station, with Jan on the floor of the wagonette and Finn pacing
easily beside it. There was quite an assembly on the platform of the
little station to see "young Mr. Vaughan" off. For he was bound for
Liverpool that day, where he was to meet Captain Will Arnutt, of the
Royal North-west Mounted Police of Canada, with whom he was to embark
for Halifax, _en route_ for Regina, in Saskatchewan, the headquarters of
the R.N.W.M.P., for which fine service Dick Vaughan had enlisted, after
a stiff course of training under Captain Arnutt's personal supervision.

"Between ourselves," the captain had told the Master, in Lewes, a week
or two earlier, "neither I nor the Royal North-west have much to teach
young Vaughan in the matter of horsemanship, and I look to see him make
as fine a trooper as any we've got. But there's one thing we can give
him, and that's discipline. We can teach him to face the devil himself
at two o'clock in the morning without blinking--and I think he'll take
it well. I don't mind a scrap about his having been a bit wild. He's got
the right stuff in him; and, man, he's got as pretty a punch, with the
gloves on, as ever I saw in my life. An archangel couldn't make better
use of his left than young Vaughan."

This rather tickled the Master, who up till then had never considered
archangelic possibilities in boxing.

"I was certain the boy was all right," he said.

There was a rousing cheer from the group on the platform as the up-train
moved off, with Dick Vaughan leaning far out from one of its windows.

"I'll be home in eighteen months," Dick had said when he bade Betty
Murdoch good-by. And the Master, who was beside her, nodded his sympathy
and approval.

"You'll lose nothing by the five-thousand-mile gap, old chap, and you'll
gain a whole lot," he said.

"You'll larn 'em about 'osses, Master Dick," shouted old Knight, the
head groom, to the M.F.H. And the farmers' sons roared lustily at that.
Jan barked once as the train began to move, and the Master's hand fell
sharply over Betty's upon his collar; for Jan, though not yet half so
strong as his sire, was a deal harder to hold when anything excited him.
Like his friend Dick Vaughan, he was of good stuff, but had not as yet
learned much of discipline.

As the Nuthill party walked down the station approach to their
wagonette, among quite a crowd of other people, Betty felt Jan's collar
suddenly tighten--his height, even now, allowed her to hold the young
hound's collar easily without using a lead, for he stood over thirty-one
inches at the shoulder--and, glancing down, saw the hair all about his
neck and shoulder-bones rise, stiffly bristling. In the same moment came
a low growl from Finn, who walked at large on the far side of Jan and a
little behind the Master. There was no anger in this growl of Finn's;
but it was eloquent of warning, and magisterial in its hint of penalties
to follow neglect of warning.

"Why, what's wrong now, old--Ah! I see!" exclaimed the Master.

On the opposite side of the approach was David Crumplin, walking toward
the goods-shed of the little station, and followed closely by the
redoubtable Grip. Grip's hackles were well up, too, for the three dogs
had seen one another before their human friends had noticed anything out
of the ordinary. But though Grip's bristles had risen just as stiffly as
Jan's, and though the sensitive skin over his nostrils had wrinkled
harshly and his upper lip lifted slightly, the gaze of his wall-eyes was
fixed straight before him upon his master's gaiters. He saw Finn and Jan
just as plainly as they saw him, but he never turned a hair's-breadth in
their direction, or betrayed his recognition by a single glance.

Grip was no swashbuckler, and he never played. Life, as he saw it, was
too serious a business for that. But and if fighting was toward, well,
Grip was ready; not eager, but deadly ready, and nothing backward. Grip
had his black cap either in place on his head or very close at hand all
the time. It was doubtless with a sufficiently sardonic sneer that he
presently saw Jan jump obediently into the wagonette. Grip had seen to
the carting of thousands of lambs and sick ewes; but for himself to
climb into a horse-drawn vehicle at the bidding of a lady!--one can
imagine how scornfully Grip breathed through his nostrils as he saw Jan
driven off, with Finn, as escort, trotting alongside.

He bore no particular malice against Jan, and in his hard old heart
probably thought rather well of the bellicose youngster. But, given
reasonable excuse for the fray, he had been blithe to tear out the same
youngster's jugular; and, be the odds what they might, he would quite
cheerfully have stood up to mortal combat with Finn himself. But as
things were, the first meeting of these three since the fight in the
lane passed off quite peacefully.

All the same, there was a ragged fringe to one of Grip's ears, and for
weeks he had limped sorely on his near fore leg. It was written in his
mind that Jan must pay, and pay dearly, for those things, when a
suitable occasion offered. He was no swashbuckler, and did not know what
it meant to ruffle it among the peaceably inclined for the fun of the
thing; but, or it may be because of that, Grip never forgot an injury,
and, if he had known what forgiveness meant, would have regarded it as
an evidence of silly weakness unworthy any grown dog.

It is certain that Finn bore Grip no malice. That was not his way. Grip
had offended by his ruthless onslaught upon a half-grown pup, and Finn
had trounced him soundly for that. Now that they met, some months
afterward, Finn thought it wise to give warning, by way of showing that
he, in his high place, was watchful. Hence his long, low growl. In his
adventurous life Finn had many times killed to eat, as he had frequently
killed in fighting and as an administrator of justice. But he never had
borne malice and never would, for that would have been clean contrary to
the instincts of his nature and breeding.

As for Jan, it would not be easy nor yet quite fair to analyze his
feelings toward the wall-eyed sheep-dog. Jan's mind, like his big frame,
was not yet half developed. It may be that he could never be quite so
fine a gentleman as his sire; and in any case it were foolish to look
for old heads on puppy shoulders. He did not think at all when he saw
Grip. But in that instant he tugged at his collar, without conscious
volition, just as his hackles rose, just as sharp consciousness
penetrated every part of him, of the wounds he had sustained under
Grip's punishing jaws. It was not malice, but a sudden heady rush in his
veins of the lust of combat, that kept his thick coat so erectly
bristling, the soft skin about his nostrils wrinkling so actively, for
several minutes after his recognition of the sheep-dog. Unlike Grip, it
might be that Jan would, as he developed, learn easily to forgive; but
it was already tolerably obvious that he was not of the stuff of which
those dogs who forget are made.

"They don't forget the affair in the lane, either of them," said the
Master, with a smile, after the wagonette had started. It may be Jan
understood the words had reference to his first fight. In any case, he
looked eagerly up into the Master's face, and from that to Betty's; and
in that moment he was living over again through the strenuous rounds of
his struggle with Grip.

"Silly old Jan," said Betty, as her hand smoothed his head
affectionately.

"Truculent infant," laughed the Master. "Take note of the easy
sedateness of your father in the road there." (The round trot of the
Nuthill horses--and they frequently did the trip to the station in
twenty-five minutes--was no more than a comfortable amble for Finn.)

"Jan," said Betty Murdoch to her favorite, as they walked together on
the Downs some three or four hours later; "he's gone away to
Sas-sas-katchewan; and--he never said a word, Jan! I wonder if he
thought--what he thought."

If Jan had been human, he might so far have failed, as a companion, as
to have reminded Betty that, in fact, Dick had said a good many words
before starting for "Sas-sas-katchewan." Being only a dog, Jan failed
not at all in the sympathy he exchanged for Betty's confidence. He just
gently nuzzled her hand, thrusting his nose well up to her coat-cuff,
and showed her the loving devotion in his dark hazel eyes.



XVII

JAN BEFORE THE JUDGES


Eighteen months went by before Dick Vaughan returned to England; and
this period was one of happy and largely uneventful development for Jan,
the son of Finn and Desdemona. (It brought high honors to the Lady
Desdemona, by the way, both as a champion bloodhound and as the dam of
some fame-winning youngsters.) It brought no very marked signs of
advancing age to Finn, for the life the wolfhound led, while admittedly
devoid of any kind of hardship, was sufficiently active in a moderate
way, and very healthy. Jan made no history during this time, beyond the
smooth record of happy days and healthy growth.

"Just for the fun of the thing," he was entered in the "variety" class
at the Brighton dog-show, when twenty months old, and that was certainly
a memorable experience for him. There were bloodhound men at the show
who vowed he would have won a card in their section; and there were
wolfhound breeders who said the same thing of Jan with reference to
their particular division. Be that as it may, Finn's son won general
admiration when led out into the judging ring with the other entrants of
the "variety" class.

The judge was a specially great authority on bulldogs and terriers; but
it was admitted that there was no better or fairer all-round dog judge
in the show, and his experience in the past at hound field trials and
such like events proved him qualified to judge of such an animal as Jan.
Still, his special association with bulldogs and terriers was regarded
as something of a handicap by the exhibitors of other kinds of dogs in
this class, which, as it happened, was an unusually full one.

As Jan had never before been shown and was quite unaccustomed to being
at close quarters with numbers of strange dogs, Betty asked the Master
to take him into the ring for her. (Jan weighed one hundred and
forty-eight pounds now, and a pretty strong arm was required for his
restraint among strangers, the more so as he was quite unaccustomed to
being led.) So Betty and the Mistress secured stools for themselves
outside the ring and the Master led in Jan to a place among no fewer
than twenty-seven other competitors, ranging all the way from a queer
little hairless terrier from Brazil, to a huge, badly cow-hocked animal,
of perhaps two hundred pounds in weight, said to combine St. Bernard and
mastiff blood in his veins.

There was also an Arab hunting-dog, a slogi from Morocco, two boarhounds
of sorts, some Polar dogs, several bulldogs and collies, and a
considerable group of terrier varieties in one way or another
exceptional. One of the bulldogs was a really magnificent creature of
the famous Stone strain, whose only fault seemed to be a club-foot.
There was also a satanic-looking creature of enormous stature; a great
Dane, with very closely cropped prick ears, and a tail no more than five
inches long. This gentleman was further distinguished by wearing a
muzzle, and by the fact that his leader carried a venomous-looking whip.
The lady with the hairless terrier was particularly careful to avoid the
proximity of this rather ill-conditioned brute, and of the weedy-looking
little man in a frock-coat who led him.

In the course of ten or fifteen minutes, during which the ring was
uncomfortably crowded, the judge managed to reduce his field of
selection down to a group of six, which did not include the crop-eared
Dane or exclude Jan.

"Well, come," said the Mistress to Betty, "this does not look like
prejudice against the larger breeds: Jan, and two other big dogs, with
one bulldog and two terriers." Betty only nodded. She was too much
excited on Jan's behalf for conversation; and her bright eyes missed no
single movement in the ring. It was all very well to say that Jan was
only shown "for the fun of the thing," and because "a one-day show is
rather a joke, and not long enough to bore him." But from the moment her
Jan had entered that ring with the Master, Betty knew that in all
seriousness she badly wanted him to--well, if not to win outright, at
all events to "get a card"; to come honorably through the ordeal.

The dogs now left in the ring were the Moorish hound--a creature full of
feline grace and suppleness, with silky drop-over ears and a tufted
tail--an exceptionally fine cross-bred collie, the Stone bulldog, a
Dandie Dinmont, and a Welsh terrier, the last extraordinarily small,
bright, shapely, and game. The slogi had apparently been most carefully
trained for the ring. He entirely ignored the other dogs, stood erect on
his hind feet at his master's word of command, jumped a chair with
exquisite grace and agility, and in a variety of other ways exhibited
both wonderful suppleness and remarkable docility. The collie was
handsome, beautifully groomed, and rather snappish. The Stone bulldog
made a picture of good-humored British stolidity, and if his hind
quarters had been equal to his superbly massive front and marvelously
"smashed-up" face he would have been tolerably sure of a win in any
class. The Dandie Dinmont had the most delightful eyes imaginable, and
was a good-bodied dog, faulty only in tail and in a tendency to be
leggy. The Welshman was a little miracle of Celtic grace--the very
incarnation of doggy sharpness.

The only member of this select company whose presence was really
distasteful to Jan was the collie. This lady's temper was clearly very
uncertain; she had a cold blue eye, and in some way she reminded Jan
strongly of Grip, a fact which served to lift his hackles markedly every
time he passed the bitch. The Master quickly noticed this, and did his
best to keep a good wide patch of ring between them.

The six were each favored with a long and careful separate examination
by the judge, upon a patch of floor space which, fortunately, was right
opposite to Betty Murdoch's seat. Betty rustled her show catalogue to
call Jan's attention when his turn came, and kept up direct telepathic
communication with him during the whole operation. This, combined with
the Master's studious care in handling--a business of which he had had
considerable experience--served to keep Jan keyed up to concert-pitch
while in the judge's hands.

When these individual examinations were ended, the collie and the Dandie
were allowed to leave the ring. Their leaders creditably maintained the
traditional air of being glad _that_ was over, as they escorted their
entries back to their respective benches; and then the judge settled
down to further study of the bulldog, the Welshman, the Moor, and Jan.

Long time the judge pondered over the honest, beautifully ugly head of
the bulldog, while that animal's leader did his well-meaning but quite
futile best to distract attention from his charge's hind quarters. He
would jam the dog well between his own legs, and with a brisk lift under
the chest, endeavor to widen the dog's already splendid frontage. But,
gaze as he might into Bully's wrinkled mask, the judge never for an
instant lost consciousness of the weak hind quarters, the sidelong drag
of the club-foot.

Very nippily the clever little Welshman went through his nimble paces,
dancing to the wave of his master's handkerchief on toes as springily
supple as those of any ballerina. For the admiration of the judge and
his attendants, the Moorish hound performed miracles of sinuous agility.
With the size of a deerhound the Moor combined the delicate graces of an
Italian greyhound.

Jan offered no parlor tricks. Indeed, in these last minutes his young
limbs wearied somewhat--the morning had been one of most exceptional
stress and excitement for him--and while the other three were being
passed in a final review, Jan lay down at full length on his belly in
the ring, his muzzle outstretched upon his paws, neck slightly arched,
crown high and nose very low--a pose he inherited from his distinguished
mother, and in part, it may be, from his paternal grandam, old Tara, who
loved to lie that way. The position was so beautiful, so characteristic,
and so full of breeding that, rather to Betty's consternation, the
Master refrained from disturbing it, unorthodox though such behavior
might be in a judging ring. The Master nodded reassuringly to anxious
Betty, and, after all, he knew even when the judge paced slowly forward,
pencil in mouth, Jan was not disturbed.

"I suppose he's hardly done furnishing yet?" asked the judge.

"No, he still has, perhaps, half a year for that; four months, anyhow,"
replied the Master. "He is only twenty months, and weighs just on a
hundred and fifty pounds."

"Does he indeed? A hundred and fifty. Now, I put him down as twenty
pounds less than that."

"A tribute to his symmetry, sir," said the Master, with a smile.

"Ye--es, to be sure. May I see him on the scale?"

So Jan was carefully weighed by the judge himself, and scaled one
hundred and forty-eight and one-half pounds. And then he was carefully
measured for height--at the shoulder-bone--and touched the standard at a
fraction over thirty-two and one-half inches.

"Re--markable," said the judge; "especially in the weight. He certainly
is finely proportioned. Would you mind just running him across the ring
as quickly as you can?"

The owners of the other three dogs wore during this time an expression
of inhuman selflessness of superhumanly kind interest in Jan and his
doings.

"It's a thousand pities he's so very coarse," murmured one disinterested
admirer, the owner of the Welsh terrier. A moment later the Master had
to hide a smile as he heard the owner of the bulldog whisper: "Nice
beast. Pity he's so weedy. A little less on the fine side and one could
back him as a winner."

To run well while on the lead is an accomplishment rare among large
dogs, and one which demands careful training. So the Master took
chances. He signaled Betty to call Jan to her, and then loosed Jan's
lead. This was a signal of delight for Jan. He was tired of the judging
now and thought this ended it. Not only did he canter very springily
across the ring, but he cleared the four-foot barricade as though it had
not been there and greeted Betty with effusion. A moment later, at her
urgent behest, and in response to the Master's call, he returned as
easily to the ring. Then the judge, thoughtfully tapping his note-book
with his pencil, bowed to the exhibitors, and said:

"Thank you, gentlemen; I think that will do."

The order of the awards was:

No. 214      1
No. 23       2
No. 97       3
No. 116      H.C.

which meant that the Welshman was highly commended--and deserved it--the
Moor took third prize, the bulldog second prize, and Jan, the son of
Finn and Desdemona, first prize. And so, in the only show-ring test to
which he had been submitted, Jan did every credit to both the noble
strains represented in his ancestry. Finn was never beaten. The Lady
Desdemona had never lowered her flag to any bloodhound. Jan had passed
his first test at the head of the list, among twenty-seven competitors,
and despite his judge's special predilection for terriers and bulldogs.

"Wouldn't Dick Vaughan have been proud of him!" said the Master. And
when Betty nodded her excited assent, he added: "I'll tell you what,
we'll send him a cable."

And so it was that, a few hours later, a trooper in the Regina Barracks
of the R.N.W.M. Police, five thousand miles away, read, with keen
delight, this message:

     Greeting from Nuthill. Jan won first prize any variety class
     Brighton.



XVIII

FIT AS A TWO-YEAR-OLD


Outside the highly beneficial advantages of very healthy surroundings
and a generous, well-chosen dietary, Jan's development during all this
time was largely influenced by two factors--the constant companionship
of Finn, and the fact that all the human folk with whom he came into
contact, barring a largely negligible under-gardener, loved him.

His mistress, fortunately for Jan, was not alone a cheery, wise little
woman, but also a confirmed lover of out of doors. But all the same, if
it had not been for Finn's influence, Jan would probably have been
somewhat lacking in hardihood, and too great a lover of comfort. The
circumstances of his birth had all favored the development of alert
hardiness; but his translation to the well-ordered Nuthill home had come
at a very early stage. The influence of Finn, with his mastery of
hunting and knowledge of wild life, formed a constant and most wholesome
tonic in Jan's upbringing; a splendid corrective to the smooth comforts
of Nuthill life.

From his memorable struggle in the lane with Grip, Jan had learned much
regarding general deportment toward other dogs. Under Finn's influence,
and his own inherited tracking powers, Jan became proficient as a hunter
and confirmed as a sportsman. But experience had brought him none of
those lessons which had given Finn his prudent reserve, his carefully
non-committal attitude where human strangers were concerned.

For example, supposing Finn and Jan to be lying somewhere in the
neighborhood of the porch at Nuthill when a strange man whom neither had
ever seen before appeared in the garden, both dogs would immediately
rise to their feet. Jan would probably give a jolly, welcoming sort of
bark. Finn would make no sound. Jan would amble amiably forward, right
up to the stranger's feet, with head upheld for a caress. Finn would
sooner die than do anything of the sort. He would keep his ground,
motionless, showing neither friendliness nor hostility; nothing but
grave unwinking watchfulness. If that stranger should pass the threshold
without knocking and without invitation from any member of the
household, Finn might safely be relied upon to bark and to follow
closely the man's every step. Jan would probably gambol about him with
never a thought of suspicion.

If a tramp on the road carried a big stick, that fact would not deter
Jan from trotting up to make the man's acquaintance, whereas Finn,
without introduction, never went within reach of any stranger with any
amiable intent. Again, if any person at all, with the exception of
Betty, the Master, or the Mistress, approached Finn when he was in a
recumbent position, he would invariably rise to his feet. Jan would loll
at full length right across a footpath when he felt like taking his
ease, even to the point of allowing people to step across his body. On
the strength of a ten minutes' acquaintance he would go to sleep with
his head under your foot, if it chanced that he was sleepy at the time.

Yet, for all his trustfulness, Jan probably growled a score of times or
more for every one that Finn growled, and no doubt barked more often in
a day than Finn barked in a month. Jan hunted with joyous bays; Finn in
perfect silence. Jan trusted everybody and observed folk--when they
interested him and he felt like observing. Finn, without necessarily
mistrusting anybody, observed everybody watchfully and trusted only his
proven friends. Jan, in his eagerness for praise and commendation,
sought these from any one. Finn would not seek praise even from the
Master, and was gratified by it only when it came from a real friend.

By the same token Finn was far more sensitive to spoken words than Jan.
It was not once in three months that the Master so much as raised or
sharpened his voice in speaking to Finn. If Finn were verbally
reproached by a member of the household, one saw his head droop and his
eyes cloud. Jan would wag his tail while being scolded, even vehemently,
and five minutes later would require a second call, and in a sharp tone,
before turning aside from an interesting scent or a twig in the path.

Withal, Jan's faults, such as they were, were no more seriously
objectionable than the faults of a well-bred, high-spirited,
good-hearted English school-boy. Finn's disposition was knightly; but it
was the disposition of a tried and veteran knight and not of a dashing
young gallant. Under his thick black-and-gray coat Jan did carry a few
scars, so shrewdly had Grip's fangs done their work; but life had hardly
marked him as yet; certainly he carried none of life's scars. Also, good
and sound as his heart was, clean and straight though he was by nature,
he never had that rare and delicate courtliness which so distinguished
his sire among hounds. Even Desdemona, great lady that she undoubtedly
was, had not the wolfhound's grave courtesy. Neither had Jan. He was
more bluff. The bloodhound in him made him look solemn at times; but he
was not naturally a grave person at all.

On the other hand, Jan was no longer a puppy. The hardening and
furnishing process would continue to improve his physique till after the
end of his second year; but he had definitely laid aside puppyhood in
his eighteenth month and had a truly commanding presence. He was three
inches lower at the shoulder than his sire--the tallest hound in
England--yet looked as big a dog because built on slightly heavier
lines. He had the wolfhound's fleetness, but with it much of the massy
solidity of the bloodhound. His chest was immensely deep, his fore legs,
haunches, and thighs enormously powerful. And the wrinkled massiveness
of his head, like the breadth of his black saddle, gave him the
appearance of great size, strength, and weight.

As a fact he scaled one hundred and sixty-four pounds on his second
birthday, and that was eight pounds heavier than his sire; a notable
thing in view of the fact that he was in no way gross and carried no
soft fat, thanks to the many miles of downland he covered every day of
his life in hunting with Finn and walking with Betty Murdoch.

Taking him for all in all, Jan was probably as finely conditioned and
developed a hound as any in England when he reached his second birthday,
and it is hardly likely that a stronger hound could have been found in
all the world. It may be that for hardness and toughness and endurance
he might have found his master without much difficulty; for hardship
begets hardihood, and Jan had known no hardship as yet. But at the end
of his second year he was a very splendid specimen of complete canine
development, and, by reason of his breeding, easily to be distinguished
from all other hounds.

And then, two months after that second birthday, Dick Vaughan came home
on short furlough, a privilege which, as Captain Will Arnutt wrote to
Dr. Vaughan, he had very thoroughly earned.



XIX

DISCIPLINE

Dick Vaughan's home-coming was something of an event for the district,
as well as for Dr. Vaughan and the Upcroft household, and for Betty
Murdoch and the Nuthill folk. He was a totally different person from the
careless, casual, rather reckless Dick Vaughan who had left for Canada
eighteen months before. Every one had liked the old Dick Vaughan who had
disappeared; yet nobody now regretted the apparently final loss of him,
and all were agreed in admiring the new Dick with more or less
enthusiasm.

Already he had won promotion in the fine corps to which he belonged, and
his scarlet uniform coat had a stripe on one sleeve. But this was a
small matter--though Dr. Vaughan was prouder of it than of any of his
own long list of learned degrees and other honors--by comparison with
the other and unofficial promotion Dick had won in the scale of manhood.
No uniform was needed to indicate this. One became aware of it the
moment one set eyes upon him. It showed itself in the firm lines of his
thin, tanned face, in the carriage of his shoulders, the swing of his
walk, the direct, steady gaze of his eyes, and the firm, assured tone of
his voice.

Always a sportsman and a good fellow, Dick Vaughan was now a full man, a
man handled and made; a strong, disciplined man, decently modest, but
perfectly conscious of his strength, and easily able to control other
men. This was what Canada and membership of the Royal North-west Mounted
Police had done for Dick Vaughan in a short eighteen months.

For young and healthy men there is perhaps no other country which has
more to give than Canada in the shape of discipline; of that kind of
mental, moral, and physical tonic which makes for swift, sure
character-development, and the stiffening and bracing of the human
fibers. In English life there has been of late years a rather serious
scarcity of this tonic influence. Canada is very rich in her supply of
it; but the tonic is too potent for the use of weaklings.

Then, too, there were the R.N.W.M.P. influences, representing a
concentrated distillation of the same tonic. The traditions of this fine
force form a great power for the shaping and making of men. First, they
have a strongly testing and selective influence. They winnow out the
weeds among those who come under their influence with quite
extraordinary celerity and thoroughness. Those who come through the
selective process satisfactorily may be relied upon as surely as the
grain-buyer may rely on the grade of wheat which comes through its tests
as "No. 1, hard." The trooper who comes honorably out of his first year
in the R.N.W.M.P. is quite certainly "No. 1, hard," as much to be relied
upon as any other single product of the prairies.

"It is not only that the man in any way weak is quite unable to stand
the steady test of R.N.W.M.P. life. Apart from that, no blatherskite can
endure it; no vain boaster, no aggressive bully, no slacker, and no
humbug of any kind can possibly keep his end up in the force." So wrote
a widely experienced and keen-witted "old-timer," in 1908, and he was
perfectly right.

For example, the R.N.W.M.P. man who made an unnecessary use or display
of weapons, by way of enforcing his authority, would be laughed and
ridiculed out of the force. The thing has been done, and will be done
again, if necessary. Aided only by the weight of the fine traditions
belonging to his uniform, the R.N.W.M.P. man is expected to be capable,
without any fuss at all, of arresting a couple of notorious toughs, and,
with his naked hands, of taking them away with him from among the
roughest sort of crowd of their associates.

And in the R.N.W.M.P., if a man does not show himself consistently
capable of doing that which the traditions of the force say is to be
expected of him, his place in the force will know him no more. There are
no failures in the R.N.W.M.P.--they are not allowed. The force could not
afford to allow them, because their existence--the existence of any of
them--would weaken R.N.W.M.P. prestige; and that prestige is the armor
without which the work of the force would be utterly impossible; not
merely for the average trooper, but even for an individual possessed of
the combined genius of a Napoleon, a Sherlock Holmes, and an Admirable
Crichton.

As things stand, the maintenance of law and order in the western and
north-western prairies, with their vast, trackless stretches of as yet
almost uninhabited territory, is fully equal to the level attained in
London or New York. The law is quite as much respected there;
infractions of it are quite as surely punished; peace and security are
to the full as well preserved. This truth is speedily understood even by
the least desirable brand of foreign immigrant. The fugitive from
justice reckons his chances considerably better in any other place than
the territory of the Riders of the Plains. And all this because of a
handful of mounted men in red coats.

"The fact is," said a Minnesota farmer to the present writer, "it don't
matter a cent what sort of a pull a man has, how many guns he carries,
or how many dollars are behind him; if he breaks the law up there in the
North-west, he knows he's just got to be jailed for it, sure as he's
alive. It may take a day, or it may take a year. It may cost the
authorities a dollar, or it may cost 'em a million, and a life or two
thrown in. But that tough is just going to be jailed, and he durned well
knows it. That's what the R.N.W.M.P. means to the North-west; and you
take it from me, it's a pretty big thing to mean."

It is a big thing. And what makes it possible for that handful of
redcoats is not money, or guns, or numbers, but a solid, four-square
foundation of irreproachable prestige; an unspotted tradition of
incorruptible honesty, tirelessness, braveness, fairness, and real
_decency_. This is the reason why no failures are allowed in the
R.N.W.M.P.; this is the reason why eighteen months of service in that
corps, of a sort that earns promotion, means so much for the man who
accomplishes it. It demands a great deal of him. It gives him an
indisputable title to complete manhood.

       *       *       *       *       *

Though the point was often discussed, it never was made quite clear who
first suggested that Jan should accompany Dick Vaughan when, after three
short weeks at home, he set out again for the West. The Master privately
believed the first suggestion came from him. Dick was sure he had begun
by begging for the privilege. Betty cherished the idea that her gift was
unsought and quite spontaneous. At all events, once the thing was
decided, nobody concerned doubted for a moment the fitness of it.
Betty's own arrangements may have had something to do with it. For the
Master and the Mistress had set their hearts upon Betty having a season
in London and a month or two on the Continent, in part with her Nuthill
friends, and, for a portion of the time, with another relative. This
made the prospect of parting for a time with Jan a good deal easier.

Then, again, Dick Vaughan had certainly "said a word" to Betty now. He
had, indeed, said a good deal to her. And there was one little
affirmative word she had given him which he held more preciously
significant than all the rest of the world's oratory put together. It
was Dick Vaughan's own suggestion that he should serve a further
probationary term. It was his own idea that he should earn the Master's
blessing by winning sergeant's rank in the R.N.W.M.P.; and that not till
then should he allow his father to set him up in England. His decision
in this delighted Dr. Vaughan and confirmed the Master in his faith. It
meant a further term of absence, but Betty Murdoch was sensible enough
to be proud of the pride behind Dick's plan; and thus all were agreed.

Jan's opinion in the matter could hardly be ascertained; but no one who
had ever seen Dick and Betty on the Downs with Jan and Finn, and noted
the wonderful responsiveness of the young hound to Dick's control, would
have entertained any doubt about this. Dick's mastery of animals had
always been remarkable; his hold upon their affections had been one of
the most striking characteristics of his life. And in this, as in other
matters, his experiences in the West had taught him a good deal.

At home in Sussex, and even as a youngster, it had been recognized that
Dick Vaughan could get rather more out of an average horse than any one
else in the district. On the prairies he had so far developed this gift
of his that his charger would lie down on the ground at a word from him,
and remain lying, as though dead, without ever injuring or displacing
his saddle, until given the word to rise; and this even though his neck
were used as a gun-rest, and Dick's rifle fired from it.

Dick's horses in Canada--and he trained many--required no tethering.
They would remain, all day if need be, upon the exact spot at which he
bade them stand. They would push and nuzzle a man along a road, and
never upset him. They would gallop, unridden, in any given direction, at
the word of command, and halt as if shot at the sound of Dick's voice.
He actually taught a mare to leave her foal and come to him at the word
of command. Not the wildest and most vicious of broncos could resist him
when he set his mind to their subjugation, yet he wore drilled sixpences
in place of rowels in his spurs, and rarely carried a whip; though on
certain occasions he might borrow one for a specific use.

During his walks on the Downs with Betty and the two hounds he taught
Jan to lie down, stand to attention, gallop in any direction, wheel and
return without hesitation; and all this upon the instant of the word of
command, or in obedience to a wave of the hand. He arranged for Betty to
take Jan away with her for, say, a quarter of a mile, and then, short of
holding him, to use every persuasion she could to keep him beside her.
Then Dick would give a long call, and then another. It was almost
uncanny to see, from the expression on his face, the struggle going on
in Jan's mind. But the end was always the same. The second call took him
away at the gallop, even from Betty. Then Jan was taught to remain on
guard over any object, such as a stick, a glove, or a cap, while Dick
and Betty, and Finn, too, went right away out of sight for, it might be,
half an hour.

Jan learned these things readily, and with apparent ease. Yet his only
rewards were an occasional caress and words of praise. And, apparently,
there were no punishments in Dick's educational system. At least he
never struck Jan. He really seemed so to influence the young hound that
the withholding of praise became a sharp rebuke. Jan himself had no
notion why he allowed Dick to school him, or why he yielded this man a
measure of obedience and instant devotion that he had given to no one
else. The basis of Dick's power was the exceptional gift of magnetism he
had--the special kind of magnetism which makes for the subjugation of
their wills and personalities, be they human or animal.

But, over and above this gift, Dick had faultless patience with animals.
He never gave an order without making perfectly certain that it was
understood. And he never betrayed the smallest hint of indecision or
lack of assured confidence.

"Stay--right--there--Jan," he would say. "Guard--that." His voice was
low, his speech slow, emphatic, distinct. It was a compelling form of
speech, and yet, withal, hardly ever harsh or even peremptory. And when,
in the earlier stages, he had occasion to say: "No, no; that's no good.
That won't do at all, Jan"; or, "You've got to do a heap better than
that, Jan," the words or their tone seemed to cut the dog as it might
have been with a whip-lash. You could see Jan flinch; not cowed or
disheartened, as the dogs trained by public performers often are, but
touched to the very quick of his pride, and hungrily eager to do better
next time and win the low-voiced: "Good dog! That's fine! Good dog,
Jan!" with, it may be, a caressing pat on the head or a gentle rubbing
of both ears.

Jan did not know why he learned, why he loved the lessons and the
teacher, why he obeyed so swiftly, or why praise filled him to the
throat with glad, swelling pride, while the withholding of it, or an
expression of disapproval, sent his flag down between his hocks, and his
spirits with it, to zero. Jan did not know, but he was merely
exemplifying a law as old as the hills. The Israelites found out that
righteousness was happiness, and that no joy existed outside of it.
Righteousness--do ye right--is another word for discipline. The proudest
and the happiest people in the world are the best disciplined people.
Perfect discipline is righteousness for righteousness' sake. According
to his lights, obedience to Dick was righteousness for Jan. Hence his
joyous pride in the progress of his education. No form of
self-indulgence could yield Jan (or any one else) a tithe of the
satisfaction he derived from this subordination of himself.

His greatest trial, and, by that token, once he really understood it,
his greatest source of pride, came in the severe lesson of being sent
home in the early stages of a morning's walk. First it was from the
garden gate; then from the orchard gate in the lane; and later from the
open Down, perhaps half a mile or more away. He would be gamboling to
and fro with Finn, exulting in the joy of out of doors, and swift and
unanswerable would come the order to return home and wait. Finn was to
go on and enjoy the ramble. Jan, for no fault, was to go home alone to
wait. And in the end he did it with no pause for protest or hesitation,
and at length with no regret, all that being swallowed up by his immense
pride in his own understanding and perfect subordination.

He might have to wait ten minutes or an hour or more on the door-step at
Nuthill; but it was notable that he never went unrewarded for this
particular performance of duty. He was always specially commended and
caressed for this; and he never altogether lost a ramble by it, for Dick
would make a point of taking him out again, either at once or at some
time during the same day. It was a stiff lesson to learn, this; and that
was why, once learned, the practice of it was highly stimulating to
Jan's self-respect and dignity of bearing.

Upon the whole, in the course of those three crowded weeks of holiday
happiness and courting Dick Vaughan managed to pass on to Jan a quite
appreciable simulacrum of all the benefits which had made so markedly
for his own development during the preceding eighteen months. And most
notably was Jan developed in the process.

"We gave Jan a good physique, didn't we, Betty?" said the Master,
admiringly; "but in three weeks this wizard has made a North-west
Mounted Policeman of him, absolutely fully equipped, bar speech and a
uniform!"

"Oh, well," replied Dick, with a laugh, "we don't reckon to be very much
as speakers out West, you know; and for uniform, Jan's black and
iron-gray coat is good tough wear, and will outlast the best of tunics,
and turn snow or hail or rain a deal better. Won't it, Jan?"



XX

SUSSEX TO SASKATCHEWAN


In the absence of that three weeks' schooling, there is no doubt the
journey to Regina would have been a pretty dismal business for Jan. It
occupied close upon a fortnight, and there was very little liberty for
Jan during that time.

Unlike his great sire, Jan had never been stolen, and had learned
nothing of the dire possibilities connected with confinement behind iron
bars. He tasted some tolerably close confinement during this journey;
but he thought each day would bring an end to it; and, meantime, nobody
ill-treated him, and, what was more to the point, he had some converse
with Dick each day.

As the habit of his kind is, he had, of course, parted with Finn and the
Nuthill folk without the slightest premonition regarding the duration of
their separation. In the confinement of the cupboard beside the
butcher's shop which he occupied while crossing the Atlantic, Jan
thought a good deal of Finn, of Betty, and of Nuthill; yet not with
melancholy. While at sea he had several visits each day from Dick
Vaughan, and during the preceding few weeks Dick had become very
securely established as Jan's hero and sovereign lord.

Jan would never cease to love Betty Murdoch; but in the nature of things
it was impossible for gentle, merry Betty to give this big hound quite
all that masterful Dick Vaughan could give him. His heart had often
swelled in answer to a caress from Betty; but his whole being thrilled
again to the touch of Dick's strong hand or to a word of command or
praise or deprecation from him. Jan was a grown hound now, and newly
initiated to the joys of disciplined service.

The train was worse, far worse, than the ship; but it came after the
major part of a day at large with Dick in the picturesque streets of
Quebec. And even on the train, with its demoniacal noises, and groaning,
jarring, jolting lack of ease, each day brought its glimpses of Dick,
and its blessed respites of ten minutes or so at a time on station
platforms. Jan had traveled before in an English train; but that had
been as a passenger, and with passengers, in an ordinary compartment. In
the dark, cramped, and incredibly noisy hole of a dog-box on "No. 93"
(as this particular west-bound train was called) Jan realized that
railway traveling could be a very unpleasant business for a hound. A
month earlier the experience would have exhausted him, because he would
have frittered away his energies in futile fretting and fuming, and in
equally futile efforts to force his way out through steel walls. Now his
cramped quarters were made tolerable by the fact that quiet submission
to them represented obedience to a personal order from his sovereign.
What had otherwise been wretchedness and misery was now willingly
accepted discipline, the earning of a substantial reward: his
sovereign's approval and his own pride of subordination--a totally
different matter from mere painful imprisonment.

Captain Will Arnutt had heard all about Jan by letter from Nuthill. One
would not altogether say that so important a person as the captain went
to Regina station expressly to meet Dick and Jan; but it certainly did
happen that he was admiring the flower-beds in the station's garden when
No. 93 hove in sight from the eastward; and being there, he decided to
stroll on to the platform and watch the train's arrival, along with
every one else who happened to be in sight at the time.

It might, perhaps, lead to awkward consequences if every
non-commissioned man of the R.N.W.M.P. took to keeping animals in
barracks. Both Dick and Captain Arnutt had thought of this, and,
accordingly, Jan, the son of Finn and Desdemona, was welcomed upon his
first appearance in the capital of Saskatchewan as Captain Arnutt's
hound, brought from England by Dick Vaughan, and to be looked after for
Captain Arnutt by the same man. Jan would have been tickled could he
have perceived this harmless piece of human deception; but it was just
as well he did not understand, since he would never have lent himself to
it very convincingly.

By reason of his breeding Jan was, as a matter of fact, unique among
hounds. Apart from this, no hound of his size or splendid development
had ever before been seen upon Regina station platform. The people of
the West are a forthright, plain-spoken, and enterprising folk, and
before he left the station Captain Arnutt was offered fifty dollars for
Jan. Nothing damped by the captain's smiling refusal of his offer, the
sporting stranger said:

"Well, an' I don't blame ye, Colonel, neither. But, say, it's a pity to
miss a good deal. I like the looks o' that dog, and"--drawing out a fat
wallet from his hip-pocket--"we'll make it a hundred dollars, an' the
deal's done."

As Dick subsequently explained to Captain Arnutt, two thousand dollars
had been offered, and refused, for Jan's mother. "And I'm dead sure
twenty thousand wouldn't buy his sire."

But these figures were for private consumption, of course. Dick had no
wish to invite the attention of the predatory; and, in any case, buyers
and sellers of dogs do not talk in thousands of dollars on the prairie.

At the entrance to the R.N.W.M.P. barracks the unsuspecting Jan was
violently attacked by a fox-terrier, the pet of one of the senior
officers of the corps. This pugnacious little chap wasted no time over
preliminaries, and apparently had no desire whatever to examine the
new-comer. He just flew straight at Jan's throat, snarling furiously.
Captain Arnutt was distressed, for he made sure the terrier would be
killed, and that Jan would thereby make an enemy of one of the senior
officers. But his fears were groundless, thanks to Jan's few weeks of
discipline and training before leaving Nuthill.

"Come in here--in--here--Jan, boy. Don't touch him. Come--in--here!"

Jan stood for one moment, listening, his hackles bristling resentment of
the terrier's insolence. And then he walked obediently to Dick's side,
the snarling, yapping terrier literally pendent from his neck.

"That was stupid of you, little chap," said Dick, when he had detached
the terrier and was holding him firmly in both his hands, still snarling
angrily. "If you were mine, you'd probably get a hiding, my son. As it
is, you'll stop that snarling. You--hear--me? Stop it!"

And reluctantly the terrier did cease his snarling. One could see the
little beast slowly calming down in Dick's strong hands, like an excited
patient under the spell of some mild anesthetic. And then, having calmed
him, Dick very carefully showed the terrier to Jan.

"Look at him, Jan, boy. He's privileged--not to be hurt. Never touch
him, lad. He belongs to us, you see. Never hurt him."

Then, rather ostentatiously stroking the terrier in full view of Jan,
Dick put the little beast down and bade it run away.

"No more snarling at Jan, mind. He belongs to us, you see."

And whether or not the terrier understood, he did, at all events, walk
off toward the veranda of his master's quarters without further
demonstrations of belligerency. Captain Arnutt joined enthusiastically
with Dick in bestowing praises upon Jan for his forbearance and
docility.

"I made sure the little fellow's number was up," said the captain. "One
good bite from this chap would have about settled his business. And,
mind you, he bit hard, too. There's blood on Jan's coat--look. A fine
welcome we've given you, old chap."

Dick had noticed the fleck of blood on the gray of Jan's dewlap, which
showed that the terrier had been very much in earnest. Jan's dense coat
was thinner just there than in most spots; but even there a good deal of
energy was required to yield flesh-hold to a terrier's jaws. But the
wound was trifling, and Dick, knowing his hound, wasted no sentiment
over a scratch of this sort.

"It's just as well, sir," said he to Captain Arnutt. "There are some
pretty tough huskies hanging about our quarters, and this little start
will warn Jan to keep a sharp lookout. He has to get used to more
warlike conditions than he knew in Sussex, and the sooner he
understands, the better for him--and for the others. I fancy he can take
care of himself."

"He's certainly got the first essential--discipline. I never saw a more
obedient dog."

Dick looked his pleasure at this, and ventured upon the hope that
Captain Arnutt would pass on this testimonial among his brother
officers; for well Dick knew the value to a dog like Jan of a good
reputation, more particularly in so well-ordered a little world as that
of the R.N.W.M.P. barracks.

This opening incident ended, Dick was free to take Jan down to the
stables and introduce him to his own horse and the other chargers in
that division, as well as to their riders. Dick devoted considerable
time and care to this introductory process, because he realized its
importance. He had obtained permission to quarter Jan with his horse;
and an hour's work provided a rough bench for Jan at one end of Paddy's
manger--Paddy being Dick's charger. Dick had another day and a half
before having to report himself for duty, and had made up his mind so to
instruct Jan during that period as to make it unnecessary that the hound
should ever be called upon to suffer the indignity of being tethered,
even during his, Dick's, absence.

The task proved an easy one, and Dick was given every kind of assistance
by his comrades, most of whom were at once attracted by Jan, and
inclined to regard him as an acquisition to be proud of. Before the day
was out Jan had successfully passed through a number of tolerably severe
tests of trustworthiness, and Dick was satisfied that he might safely be
spared the indignity of the chain.

For example, being left on his rough bench with an old dandy-brush to
guard, Jan was approached in turn by half a dozen of Dick's comrades,
who exhausted their ingenuity in trying to entice, frighten, or persuade
him from his post. Jan eyed them all quite good-humoredly, wagging his
tail in response to enticements, and growling a little, very quietly,
when they tried harsher tactics, but remaining throughout immovably in
charge of his post.

Then Dick went well out into the barrack-yard, and called quietly to
Jan. Instantly the long, silky ears lifted. Snatching up his dandy-brush
and gripping it firmly between his jaws, Jan rushed out into the yard,
there to be rewarded with the assurance of Dick's affectionate approval
and the enthusiastic plaudits of the other troopers.

"You've put the Indian sign on him, all right," said French, the
Devonshire man. "It must have taken some doing to lick him into that
shape."

"There's no Indian sign about it, old man," said Dick. "It isn't any
lambasting Jan's afraid of. You watch his face now, when I lift this
stick."

The men all watched, and noted that Jan did not move so much as an
eyelid in response to the lifting of a stick.

"Well, that's queer," said old Cartier, the French-Canadian dealer, who
was visiting a friend in the barracks. "Don't seem as though that dog
ever was licked."

"And so far as I know," said Dick, "he never has been. But, mind you,
that's not to say he never will be. I'd never hesitate to thrash a dog
if he deserved it, and thrash him good and hard, too. But so far Master
Jan has never asked for lickings. Have you Jan? That's why he's not
afraid of a stick; for I'd never hit a dog or a horse unless really to
punish him, so that he'd know it was a thrashing--not just a bit of bad
luck for him, or temper in me."

"H'm! I believe you could get two hundred an' feefty dollar for that
dog, up north," said Cartier, musingly; "maybe three hundred, if you
broke him to harness."

Dick smiled quietly, and nodded.

"No, no," said O'Malley, the man of Cork; "he's going to stay right here
an' be our mascot. Aren't ye, Jan?" And Jan affably signified his
agreement.

"That's all right," said French, knocking his pipe out against the heel
of his boot. "But what's going to happen to-morrow when Sergeant Moore
gets back with his Sourdough? You'll see some fun then, I fancy. Old
Sourdough's been boss dog around here a goodish while now, you know. He
won't stand for having this chap put his nose out of joint. And, mind
you, there's no dog in Regina can cock his tail at Sourdough. I saw him
knock the stuffing out of that big sheep-dog of MacDougall's last year,
and I tell you he'd have buried the sheep-dog before he left him, if
Sergeant Moore hadn't managed to get a halter through his collar and
pretty near choked him. It was a close thing; an' they reckoned the
sheep-dog had never met his master till then."

"Yep, that's a fact," said another man. "There'll be trouble with
Sourdough if you're not careful, Vaughan. He's a demon of a dog, an', by
gee! he's sourer than his boss, an' that's saying something."

"Well, yes, I'd thought about Sourdough," said Dick; "and I'm glad his
quarters are the other side of the yard."

"The other side!" said French. "Why, man, he owns the whole place. You
see how the other dogs kow-tow to him. He's sour, all right, and a
fighter from way back; but the way he's built he somehow doesn't seem to
make trouble with any dog that kow-tows to him. But God help the husky
that don't kow-tow. Sourdough will have his salute as boss, or he'll
have blood. That's the sort of a duck Sourdough is."

"Ah! Well, he'll get civility from us, won't he, Jan? and if that's all
he wants, there'll be no trouble. But I'll tell you what, you fellows:
if Jan's in the stable there with Paddy any time when I'm not about,
don't you let Sourdough come into our quarters at all."

"It'd take a hefty chap to keep Sourdough out, if he meant coming in,"
said O'Malley. "But I guess we'll do our best--eh, boys? I reckon our
Jan's a better mascot than the sergeant's tyke."

"But there mustn't be any fighting," added Dick; "and there won't be if
we're careful; for there's nothing sour about Jan here, and you've seen
he's obedient."



XXI

INTRODUCING SOURDOUGH


In some respect Jan's life at the R.N.W.M.P. headquarters might have
been simpler if he had been less lovable and less popular. As a matter
of fact, while pretty nearly every one in the barracks took a fancy to
the big hound and felt a certain pride in his unique appearance as a
R.N.W.M.P. dog, the members of Dick's own division adored Jan to a man.
His docility, his affectionate nature, and his uniform courtesy bound
them to him, even apart from their pride in him and the influence of
Dick Vaughan as champion heavy-weight boxer and crack horseman of the
force.

There were eight or ten other dogs in the barracks, all of whom
(including the bellicose fox-terrier who first welcomed Jan at the
gates) took kindly to the big hound from Sussex as soon as they knew him
and had tested his frank and kindly nature. They were none of them
really big dogs, and that fact alone, apart from Dick's teaching, made
Jan specially indulgent in his attitude toward them. After certain curt
warnings, the two or three dogs among them whose natures inclined them
to fighting seemed to realize contentedly enough that Jan was somewhat
outside their class, and in any case not a good person to quarrel with.

But there were two people who hated Jan from the moment they first set
eyes upon his fine form, and these were Sergeant Moore and his dog
Sourdough. The sergeant and his dog had a good deal in common with each
other and not very much in common with any one else. Sergeant Moore was
one of the few really unpopular men in the force. But, if nobody in the
district liked him, it is but fair to say that many feared him, and none
could be found who spoke ill of him in the sense of calling his honesty
or his competence into question.

The sergeant was a terror to evil-doers, a hard man to cross, and too
grim and sour to be any one's companion. But no man doubted his honesty,
and those who had no call to fear him entertained a certain respect for
him, even though they could not like the man. In addition to his
grimness he had a stingingly bitter tongue. He was not a fluent speaker;
but most of his words had an edge to them, and he dealt not at all in
compliments, never going beyond a curt nod by way of response to another
man's "Good day!" When, with the punctiliousness of the perfectly
disciplined man, he saluted an officer, there was that in his expression
and in the almost fierce quality of his movement which made the salute
something of a menace.

His forbidding disposition had probably stood between Sergeant Moore and
further promotion. His contemporaries, the older men of the corps, knew
he had once been married. His juniors had never seen the sergeant in
converse with a woman. Withal it was believed that Sergeant Moore had
one weakness, one soft spot in his armor. It was said that when he
believed himself to be quite alone with his dog Sourdough he indulged
himself in some of the tendernesses of a widowed father who lavishes all
his heart upon a single child.

There was little enough about Sourdough to remind one of a human child,
lovable or otherwise. If the master was grim and forbidding in manner
and appearance, the dog exhibited a broadly magnified reflection of the
same attributes. His color was a sandy grayish yellow without markings.
His coat was coarse, rather ragged, and extraordinarily dense. His
pricked ears were chipped and jagged from a hundred fights, and in a
diagonal line across his muzzle was a broad white scar, gotten, men
said, in combat with a timber-wolf in the Athabasca country.

It was a part of Sourdough's pose or policy in life to profess
short-sightedness. He would walk past a group of dogs as though unaware
of their existence. Yet let one of those dogs but cock an eye of
impudence in his direction, or glance with lifting eyebrow at one of his
fellows, with a sneer or jeer in his heart for Sourdough, and in that
instant Sourdough would be upon him like an angry lynx, with a bitter
snarl and a snap that was pretty certain to leave its scar. This done,
Sourdough would pass on, with hackles erect and a hunch of his shoulders
which seemed to say:

"When next you are inclined to rudeness, remember that Sourdough knows
all things, forgets nothing, and bites deep."

The story went that in his youth Sourdough had led a team of sled-dogs,
and that he had saved Moore's life on one occasion when every one of his
team-mates had either died or deserted his post. He was of the mixed
northern breed whose members are called huskies, but he was bigger and
heavier than most huskies and weighed just upon a hundred pounds. A
wagon-wheel had once gone over his tail (when nine dogs out of ten would
have lost their lives by receiving the wheel on their hind quarters),
and this appendage now had a curious bend in the middle of it, making it
rather like a bulldog's "crank" tail, but long and bushy. He was far
from being a handsome dog; but he looked every inch a fighter, and there
was a certain invincibility about his appearance which, combined with
his swiftness in action and the devastating severity of all his attacks,
served to win for him the submissive respect of almost every dog he met.
Occasionally, and upon a first meeting, some careless, undiscerning dog
would overlook these qualities. The same dog never made the same mistake
a second time.

Dick Vaughan made it his business to be on hand when Sourdough first met
Jan. When ordered to do so, Jan had learned to keep his muzzle within a
yard of Dick's heels, and that was his position when Sergeant Moore came
striding across the yard with Sourdough. Jan's hackles rose the moment
he set eyes on the big husky. Sourdough, as his way was, glared in
another direction. But his hackles rose also, and his upper lip lifted
slightly as the skin of his nose wrinkled. Clearly there was to be no
sympathy between these two.

Suddenly, and without apparently having looked in Jan's direction,
Sourdough leaped sideways at him, with an angry snarl.

"Keep in--Jan; keep in--boy!" said Dick, firmly, as he jumped between
the two dogs.

"Who gave you permission to bring that dog here?" snapped the sergeant
at Dick.

"Taking care of him for Captain Arnutt, sir," was the reply.

"H'm! Well, see you take care of him, then, and keep him out of the way.
Sourdough's boss here, and if this one is to stay around, the sooner he
learns it the better."

"Yes, sir. He's thoroughly good-tempered and obedient, though he is such
a big fellow," said Dick, still manoeuvering his legs as a barrier
betwixt the two dogs.

"It's little odds how big he is," growled the sergeant. "He'll have to
learn his lesson, an' I guess Sourdough will teach him."

Just then Sourdough succeeded in evading Dick and got well home on Jan's
right shoulder with a punishing slash of his razor fangs. Jan gave a
snarl that was half a roar. His antipathy had been aroused at the
outset. Now his blood was drawn. He had been ordered to keep to heel,
but--

"Keep in, there--Jan; keep in--keep in!"

The warning came not a second too soon. Almost the hound had sprung.

"Would you call your dog off, sir?" said Dick.

"I guess Sourdough'll call himself off when he's good an' ready,"
replied the sergeant; and himself strode on across the yard.

Once more Jan had to submit to the bitter ordeal of being slashed at by
Sourdough's teeth, as the big husky snarlingly passed him in the
sergeant's wake. It was little Jan cared for the bite, shrewd as that
was. His coat was dense. But again, and with a visible gulp of pain, he
was compelled to swallow the humiliation of lowering his muzzle in
answer to his lord's--

"Keep in, there! Steady! Keep in, Jan!"

It was a tough morsel to swallow. But the disciplined Jan swallowed it,
in full view of several lesser dogs and of half a dozen of Dick's
comrades. With it, however, came a natural swelling of the antipathy
which his first glimpse of Sourdough had implanted in the big hound, and
it may be, all things considered, that it would have been better for
both of them if Dick Vaughan had allowed the dogs to settle matters in
their own fashion. But he had Jan's future position in the barracks to
think of, and wished to consult Captain Arnutt before permitting any
open breach of the peace. Meantime, Jan's prestige had been lowered in
the eyes of half a dozen other dogs, each one of whom would certainly
presume upon the unresented affront they had seen put upon him by their
common enemy.

Captain Arnutt's advice was to let the dogs take their chances.

"Every one knows Sourdough is a morose old devil," he said, "and every
one has seen now that Jan is not a quarrelsome dog. If there's trouble,
they won't blame Jan, and Master Sourdough will have to take his gruel.
You don't think he'd seriously damage Jan, do you?"

"Well, he's got a deal more of ring-craft, sir, of course," said Dick,
with a smile. "Jan has had very little fighting experience, but he's
immensely strong and fit, and--No, I don't much think Sourdough could do
him any permanent harm; but one can't be certain. Sourdough is
practically a wolf, so far as fighting goes. He and his forebears have
fought ever since their eyes were opened. Whereas, I suppose there's
hardly been a fighter in a hundred generations of Jan's ancestors."

Dick Vaughan was probably thinking of the Lady Desdemona when he said
this. And, of course, it was true that, even on Finn's side, Jan had had
no fighting ancestors for very many generations. But Finn had been a
mighty fighter, and in the wild at that. And Jan had been born in a cave
and in his first weeks had tasted the wild life. Also he had fought
Grip, who fought like a wolf. Also he had learned many things from Finn
on the Sussex Downs; he did not know the meaning of fear, and his
hundred and sixty-four pounds of perfect development consisted almost
entirely of fighting material. There was no waste matter in Jan. Still,
Sourdough was a veritable wolf in combat, and for so long as he could
prevent a breach of the peace Dick decided he would do so. Accordingly,
while in barracks, Jan was kept pretty closely to sentinel duty in
Paddy's stall.



XXII

MURDER!


A day or so after Jan's first meeting with Sourdough a thing occurred in
Regina which, for a little while, occupied the minds of most people, to
the exclusion of such matters as the relations between any two dogs.

A woman and her husband were found murdered in a little fruiterer's and
greengrocer's shop. Evidence showed that the murder must have occurred
late at night. It was discovered quite early in the morning, and before
the first passenger-trains of the day stopped at Regina the line was
closely watched for a good many miles. It was believed that the murderer
could not be very far away. Suspicion attached to a compatriot of the
murdered pair, a Greek, who was found to be missing from his lodging.
Within three hours Sergeant Moore had rounded this man up a few miles
from the city, and placed him under arrest. But the man had been found
in the act of fishing, and there was not a tittle of evidence of any
kind against him.

Then a neighbor called at the R.N.W.M.P. barracks with word of an
Italian, now nowhere to be found, who had done some casual work for the
murdered couple, and had more than once been seen talking with the woman
in the little yard behind their shop. As it happened, the bearer of this
information imparted it to Dick Vaughan, who promptly went with it to
Captain Arnutt.

"Look here, sir," said Dick, with suppressed excitement, "my Jan is half
a bloodhound, and a splendid tracker. Will you let me take him down to
the shop and--"

"Why the deuce didn't you think of that earlier, before all the world
and his wife began investigating the place? Come on! Bring my horse and
your own."

Within half an hour, Captain Arnutt, Dick Vaughan, Jan, and one town
constable were alone in the little littered room of the tragedy, where
the dead lay practically as they had been discovered. Two incriminating
articles only had been found: a sheath-knife with a carved haft, and a
black soft felt hat. There was no name or initials on either, and both
might conceivably have belonged to the murdered man. As yet no one had
identified either article with any owner. The hat had been trodden down
by a boot-heel in a slither of blood on the floor-cloth of the squalid
little room.

Some chances had to be taken. Dick believed the hat and knife belonged
to the murderer, who had apparently ransacked the till of the little
shop and broken open a small carved and painted box which may have
contained money. It was perhaps impossible that Jan could understand
that murder had been done. But there was no shadow of doubt he knew
grave matters were toward. The concentrated earnestness of Dick Vaughan
had somehow communicated itself to the hound's mind. It was the hat and
not the knife to which Dick pinned his faith--the cheap, soiled,
crimson-lined felt hat, with its horrid stains and its imprint of a
boot-heel.

"It may have belonged to this poor chap," said Captain Arnutt, pointing
to the body of the shopkeeper. "It's just the kind nine Dagoes out of
ten do wear."

"That's true, sir, but the missing man's a Dago, too, you know; an
Italian. Italians are fond of knives like this and hats like that. Let's
try it, sir. Jan knows. Look at him."

Jan had sniffed long and meaningly at the bedraggled hat, and now was
unmistakably following a trail to the closed back door. The trouble was
that many feet had trodden that floor during the past few hours. Still,
there was a chance. Dick carefully wrapped the hat in paper, for
safe-keeping in his saddle-bag. Then the door was opened, and with eager
care the two men followed Jan out into the yard. Here it was obvious
that the confusion of fresh trails puzzled Jan for some minutes. Again
Dick showed him the hat, and again Jan sniffed. Then back to earth went
his muzzle, and all unseeing he brought up against the yard gate with a
sudden deep bay.

"That's the tracking note," said Dick, with suppressed eagerness. "We'd
better get our horses, sir."

Through the town streets Jan faltered only twice or thrice, and then not
for long. Within ten minutes he was on the open prairie, heading
northwestward, as for Long Lake, his pace steady and increasing now, his
deep-flewed muzzle low to the ground.

For more than two-and-twenty miles Jan loped along over the cocolike
dust of the trail, and never faltered once save at the side of a little
slough, where the two horsemen in his rear spent a few anxious minutes
while Jan paced this way and that, with indecision showing in each
movement of his massive head. And then, again with a rich deep bay--a
note of reassurance for the horseman, and of doom for a fugitive, if
such an one could have heard it--Jan was off again on the trail,
closely, but by no means hurryingly, followed by the captain and Dick.

In the twenty-second mile Jan brought his followers to the door of a
settler's little two-roomed shack, and then, within the minute, was off
again along the side of a half-mile stretch of wheat. Captain Arnutt
dismounted for a moment to speak to a woman who came to the door. Not
half an hour earlier she said, she had given a drink of tea and some
bread and meat to a dark, thin man with a red handkerchief tied over his
head. "A Dago he was," she said. And Captain Arnutt bit hard on one end
of his mustache as he thanked the woman, mounted again, and galloped off
after Dick and Jan.

As he rode, the captain turned back the flap of his magazine-pistol
holster; but the precaution was not needed. Jan was traveling at the
gallop now, and the height of his muzzle from the ground showed clearly
that he was on a warm trail, which, for such nostrils as his, required
no holding at all.

It was under the lee of a heap of last year's wheat-straw that Jan came
to the end of his trail; his fore feet planted hard in the dust before
him, his head well lifted, his jaws parted to give free passage to the
deep, bell-like call of his baying. The man with the red 'kerchief tied
over his head was evidently roused from sleep by Jan, and though the
hound showed no sign of molesting him, yet must he have formed a
terrifying picture for the newly opened eyes of the Italian. Almost
before the man had raised himself into a sitting posture Dick Vaughan
had jumped from the saddle and was beside him.

"Don't move," said Dick, "and the dog won't hurt you. If you move your
hands he'll be at your throat. See! Better let me slip these on--so! All
right, Jan, boy. Stay there."

When Captain Arnutt dismounted he found his subordinate standing beside
a handcuffed man, who sat on the ground, glaring hopelessly at the hound
responsible for his capture. Jan's tongue hung out from one side of his
parted jaws, and his face expressed satisfaction and good humor. He had
done his job and done it well. The thought of injuring his quarry had
never occurred to him, as Dick Vaughan very well knew, despite his
warning remark to the Italian. But although Jan had had no thought of
attacking the recumbent man he had trailed, he was very fully conscious
that this man was his quarry. The handcuffing episode had not been lost
upon him.

From the outset he had known that he and Dick were hunting that day. Why
they hunted man he had no idea. Personally, he had not so much pursued
an individual as he had hunted a certain smell. In coming upon the
sleeping Italian he had tracked down this particular smell. His
conception of his duty was, having tracked the smell to the man, to hand
the man over to Dick. That marked for him the end of his work; but not
by any means the end of his interest in the upshot of it.



XXIII

THE FIGHT ON THE PRAIRIE


Even without the confession he ultimately made, Jan's tracking, the
man's own empty leather sheath fitting the dagger he had left behind
him, and the watch, money, and rings found in his pockets, and proved to
be the property of the murdered couple, would have been sufficient to
condemn the Italian.

It appeared that the primary motive of the crime had not been theft, but
jealousy. At all events, the man's own story was that he had been the
lover of the woman he had killed. He paid the law's last penalty within
the confines of the R.N.W.M.P. barracks, and his capture and trial made
Jan for the time the most famous dog in Saskatchewan. Pictures of him
appeared in newspapers circulating all the way from Mexico to the Yukon;
and in his walks abroad with Dick Vaughan he was pointed out as "the
North-west Mounted Police bloodhound," and credited with all manner of
wonderful powers.

It was natural, of course, that he should be called a bloodhound; and it
did not occur to any one in Regina that his height, his fleetness, and
his shaggy black and iron-gray coat were anything but typical of the
bloodhound.

With one exception every man in the R.N.W.M.P. headquarters was proud
of Jan. Even the different barracks dogs were conscious of some great
addition to the big hound's prestige. The senior officers of the corps
went out of their way to praise and pet Jan, and Captain Arnutt had a
light steel collar made for him, with a shining plated surface, a lock
and key, and an inscription reading thus:

     Jan, of the Royal North-west Mounted Police, Regina.

But Jan's triumph earned him the mortal hatred of one man, and the
deference shown to him in barracks added bitterness to the jealous
antipathy already inspired by him in the hard old heart of Sourdough.
Sergeant Moore said nothing, but hate glowed in his somber eyes whenever
they lighted upon Jan's massive form.

"I believe he'd stick a knife in Jan, if he dared," said French, the man
of Devon. "You take my tip, Dick, and keep Jan well out of the
sergeant's way. The man's half crazed. His old Sourdough is all he's got
in the world for chick or child, and he'll never forgive your dog for
doing what Sourdough couldn't do."

"Oh, well," said Dick, with a tolerant smile, "I think he's too much of
a man to try and injure a good dog."

"An' that's precisely where you get left right away back," said
O'Malley. "I tell ye that blessed sergeant wouldn't think twice about
giving Jan a dose of poison if he thought he could get away with the
goods. And if he can teach Sourdough to kill Jan, I reckon he'd sooner
have that than a commission any day in the week. Man, you should watch
his face when he sees the dog. There's murder in it."

It was a fact that the praises showered upon Jan, the publicity given to
his doings, and, above all, the respect shown for the big hound within
R.N.W.M.P. circles, were the cause of real wretchedness to Sergeant
Moore. When a man who is well on in middle life becomes so thoroughly
isolated from friendly human influences as Sergeant Moore was, his mind
and his emotions are apt to take queer twists and turns, his judgment to
become strangely warped, his vision and sense of proportion to assume
the highly misleading characteristics of convex and concave mirrors,
which distort outrageously everything they reflect.

Sourdough, like his master, was dour, morose, forbidding, and a
confirmed solitary. He was also a singularly ugly and unattractive
creature, whom no man had ever seen at play. But prior to Jan's arrival
he had been the unquestioned chief and master among R.N.W.M.P. dogs.

"Surly old devil, Sourdough," men had been wont to say of him; "but, by
gee! there's no getting around him; you can't fool Sourdough. He'd go
for a grizzly, if the grizzly wouldn't give him the trail. Aye, he's a
hard case, all right, is Sourdough. You can't faze him."

And Sergeant Moore, without ever moving a muscle in his mahogany face
(all the skin of which was indurated from chin to scalp with the finest
of fine-drawn lines) had yet been moved to rare delight by such remarks.
He hugged them to him. He gloried in all such tributes to Sourdough's
dourness.

"Aye, you're tough, Old-Timer," he had been heard to growl to his dog;
"you're a hard case, all right. There isn't a soft hair on you, is
there, Sourdough? And they all know it. They may squeal, but they've got
to give trail when Sourdough comes along."

There were times when he would cuff the dog, or snatch his food from
him, for the sheer delight of hearing the beast snarl--as he always
would--at his own master.

"What a husky!" he would say in an ecstasy of admiration. "You'd go for
me if I gave you half a chance, wouldn't you, Sourdough? And I don't
blame you, you old tough."

And now it seemed the barracks had no time to note Sourdough's
implacable sourness; everybody was too busy praising that sleek,
well-groomed brute from England, of whom the sergeant thought very much
as some savage old-timers think of tenderfeet and remittance men, but
with a deal more of bitterness in his contempt.

"But Sourdough will spoil your fine coat for you, my gentleman, the
first time you come in our way," the sergeant would mutter to himself
when he chanced to see Dick giving Jan his morning brush-down after
Paddy was groomed.

He had been foiled half a dozen times in his attempts to get Sourdough
into Paddy's stall when Jan was there and Dick Vaughan engaged in any
way elsewhere. It seemed that some of Dick's comrades were always on
hand to bar the way; and, for appearance's sake, the sergeant could not
have it said that he had deliberately brought about a fight between his
dog and the valued hound of an officer, who was everybody's favorite.

"They're afraid, Sourdough, that's what it is; they're afraid you might
chew up the overgrown brute and spit him out in scraps about the yard.
Let 'em wait. We'll give 'em something to be afraid of presently."

He meant it, and he kept his word.

Since the Italian murder case, a regular craze had developed among the
men for trailing and the education of dogs. The barracks dogs were
constantly being added to, and every man who owned or could obtain a dog
gave his leisure to attempts--largely unsuccessful--at training the
animal to track.

O'Malley was one of the first to succumb to the new diversion, and was
lavishing immense care and patience upon the education of a cross-bred
Irish terrier, who would soon be able to wipe the eye of any Sassenach
dog in Canada, so he would! Meanwhile O'Malley, conveniently forgetful
of Jan's English nationality, was fond of borrowing the big hound for an
hour or so together to help him in his educational efforts on behalf of
Micky Doolan, the terrier. In such a matter Dick Vaughan and Jan were
equally approachable and good-natured. Indeed, the pair of them had
already done more than any of the different pupils' masters in the
matter of this revival of schooling among the barracks dogs.

It happened toward four o'clock of a late autumn day that Dick Vaughan
was engaged in Regina in attendance upon a great personage from Ottawa.
O'Malley, having borrowed Jan's services as helper, was busy giving
tracking lessons to Micky Doolan on the prairie, half a mile from
barracks. Chancing to look up from his work, O'Malley saw Sergeant Moore
approaching on foot, with Sourdough (as ever) at his heels. He did not
know that the sergeant had been watching him through binoculars from the
barracks, and that he had spent a quarter of an hour in carefully
devised efforts to exacerbate the never very amiable temper of
Sourdough.

O'Malley swore afterward that as the sergeant drew level with little
Micky Doolan (a dozen paces or so from the Irishman), he whispered to
Sourdough, and "sooled him on."

"Tsss--sss! To him, then, lad," is what O'Malley vowed the sergeant
said.

Be that as it may, Sourdough did wheel aside, as his way was, and
administer a savage slash of his fangs upon poor little Micky's neck. As
O'Malley rushed forward to protect his pet the game little beast,
instead of slinking back from tyrant Sourdough, a tribute that hard case
demanded from every dog he met, sprang forward with a snarl and a plucky
attempt to return the unsolicited bite he had received.

"Come in, come in, ye little fool!" yelled O'Malley.

But he was too late. A light of malevolent joy gleamed in the big
husky's red eyes as he plunged upon the terrier. One thrust of his
mighty shoulder sent the little chap spinning on his back, and there was
the throat-hold exposed to Sourdough's practised fangs. His bitter
temper had been carefully inflamed in advance, and demanded now the
sacrifice of blood, warm life-blood. His wide jaws flashed in upon the
terrier's throat just as O'Malley's boot took him in the rear.

"If ye touch that dog again, my man, I'll break your jaw for you," came
from the sergeant in a hoarse growl.

Now O'Malley was a disciplined man, and the sergeant was his official
superior. But, as it happened, the matter was now taken out of his
hands. Jan, who, before the sergeant's arrival, had been lying stretched
in the dust thirty paces distant, had risen then and stood stiffly,
watching Sourdough with raised hackles. At the moment that the husky's
fangs touched the skin of Micky's throat, Jan was upon him like a
battering-ram, shoulder to shoulder, with an impact that sent the husky
rolling, all four feet in the air, a position in which no barracks dog
had ever before seen Sourdough, and one in which any of them would have
given a day's food to find him. For that is the one position in which
even a Sourdough may with safety be attacked.

But Jan apparently (and very recklessly) scorned to avail himself of
this splendid opportunity. His own great weight and swiftly silent
movement had been responsible for Sourdough's complete downfall. And
now, while O'Malley grabbed his terrier in both arms, thankful the
little beast's throat was whole, Jan stood stiff-legged, with stiffly
arched neck and bristling hackles, glaring down at Sourdough, with the
expression which, among pugilistic school-boys, goes with the question,
"Have you had enough?"

"Enough!" Any such question could but prove abysmal ignorance of
Sourdough's quality. The big husky was not scratched, and of fighting he
could hardly be given enough while his heart continued to beat. Before,
he had been angered. Before, he had loathed and hated Jan. And now Jan
had rolled him over on his back as though he were a helpless whelp. Jan
had glared menacingly at him, at Sourdough, while he, the acknowledged
canine master and terror of that countryside, had all four feet in the
air. A flame of hatred surged about the husky's heart. His snarl as he
bounded to his feet was truly awe-inspiring. His writhen lips drew up
and back crescent-wise over red gums, showing huge yellow fangs and an
expression of most daunting ferocity.

In the next moment he tore a groove six inches long down Jan's left
shoulder, scooping out skin and fur as a machine saw might have done it;
and in the same second he was away again, wolf-like, his steel muscles
already contracting for the next attack.

Now Jan had no thought of fighting when he bowled Sourdough over. His
sole preoccupation had been the rescue of his little friend, Micky
Doolan, from what looked like certain death. Contact with Sourdough had
greatly stirred the combatant blood in him, as had also the hated smell
of the husky. Even then a call from Dick Vaughan would have met with
instant response from Jan. But there was no Dick Vaughan in sight.
Sergeant Moore stood gazing eagerly, a little anxiously even, but with
no hint of any thought of interfering with the meeting he had schemed to
bring about. O'Malley, clutching his terrier in his arms, was rather
distractedly calling:

"Come away in, Jan! Drop it now, Jan! Come in here, come in here, Jan!"

But O'Malley, after all, though an amiable person enough, and, as a
friend of Dick's, a man to be obeyed cheerfully enough in the ordinary
way, yet was not Dick. He was hardly a shadow of the sovereign. And then
came that fiery stroke that had opened a groove down Jan's left
shoulder.

After that, it is a moot point whether even Dick Vaughan's voice would
have served to penetrate the cloud of fury in which Jan moved. He became
very terrible in his wrath. One saw less of the bloodhound and more, far
more, of his sire, of royal Finn, the fighting wolfhound of the
Tinnaburra ranges, in his splendid pose, in the upward, scimitar curve
of his great tail, the rage in his red-hawed eyes, the vibrant defiance
of his baying roar.

But he lacked as yet his sire's inimitable fighting craft, just as he
lacked entirely the lightning cunning of the half-wolf Sourdough. And
before he had touched the husky his sound shoulder had been grooved, and
one of his ears badly torn.

It might have been better tactics on Sourdough's part to have made
direct for some killing hold, instead of administering these instructive
preliminary chastenings. Seeing clearly Jan's inferiority in wolf
tactics, Sourdough underrated the forces of his size, weight, endurance,
power, and quite indomitable bravery. In fact, the cunning Sourdough was
very thoroughly deceived by Jan. Never having in his varied experiences
encountered chivalry, nobility, nor yet much gallantry in a dog, he made
no allowance for these qualities in Jan. He could not conceive that the
attack which had bowled him over was no more than a generous attempt to
save Micky Doolan. And so he thought it was a challenge to combat; and
combat, as the husky saw it, meant an effort to kill by any and every
means available. In the same way, the reckless scorn of himself and of a
palpable advantage, which Jan had shown after knocking him over, was a
thing not to be comprehended for what it really was by Sourdough. He
thought it evidence of weakening, of sudden fear, of terror inspired in
Jan by the sight of the thing he had impulsively done.

Yes, Sourdough entirely misread Jan; and he believed now that he had
ample time in which to bleed and cripple the big hound by means of his
natural wolf tactics, and then to finish off a helpless enemy at
leisure. Cunning often does mislead those who possess it. In this case
it was responsible for tactics by which, had he but known it, Sourdough
presented his enemy with triple-thick armor, and schooled him finely for
the task that lay before him.

Sourdough's second slash cost Jan a split ear, but gave him flashlight
vision of his fight with Grip in Sussex, with Grip of the wolf-like
fighting methods. Sourdough's third attack cost Jan a burning groove
down his hitherto untouched shoulder; but, by that token, it effectually
completed the lesson of attack number two, and brought a final end to
the period of Sourdough's really enjoyable fighting. So poorly, then,
did Sourdough's cunning serve him, that his fourth attack came near to
costing him his life.

With bloody glee in his eyes, and wide-parted drooling jaws, he darted
in to take his fourth cut at Jan, eager for the joyous moment in which
the repetition of these slashes should have reduced Jan to ripeness for
the killing thrust--the throat-hold. But Jan had learned his lesson. At
the psychological fraction of a moment he changed his position, and,
instead of passing on comfortably through space after his attack,
Sourdough's shoulder met another bigger shoulder, braced like a granite
buttress to receive the impact, and the husky reached earth on his side.
That rather shook the wind out of him; but that was nothing by
comparison with the fact that, in the same moment, Jan's viselike jaws
closed about one side of his neck, close in to the skull where the hair
shortened. That was a serious moment, if you like, for Sourdough; for in
addition to the huge power of those jaws there was weight--a hundred and
sixty-four pounds of sinew, bone, and rubber-like muscle behind and
above the jaws.

A very desperate vigor stirred in Sourdough's limbs as he took the
course which is only taken at critical moments. He deliberately turned
farther on his back--the position of all others most dreaded--in order
to bring his feet into play, his jaws being momentarily helpless. His
abdominal muscles were in splendid order. Like a lynx, Sourdough drew in
and up his powerful hind quarters, and, as if they had been a missile
launched from a catapult, slashed his two hind feet along Jan's belly,
as a carpenter might rip a board down with a chisel.

In that same moment Sergeant Moore stepped forward, with a hoarse cry:

"Here, damme!" he shouted at O'Malley, "you'd better haul off your
captain's dog, or--or mine'll kill him!"

And with a resounding thwack he brought his riding-cane down across
Jan's forehead. It was this, rather than his own very serviceable two
chisels, that brought the husky sudden release from the grip upon his
neck, which, already deep-sunk, had been like to finish his career. The
high-crowned shape of Jan's skull, and the soft fineness of the skin and
hair that covered it, made him very sensitive to a blow on the head.
Also he knew it was a man's attack, and not a dog's. When he saw who the
man was, he roared at him very ferociously. And that was the first
occasion upon which Jan had ever shown his teeth in real anger to a
human.

Had not Sourdough been there, it is hard to say what might have
happened. As it was, the sergeant's intervention and Jan's angry
response thereto gave Sourdough the opportunity he had longed for. It
gave him, in safety, the rush at Jan from the side. It would have
availed him little if Jan had seen him coming. But Jan, engaged in
threatening his human enemy, saw nothing till the tremendous impact of
Sourdough's rush took him off his feet, and the husky got, not precisely
the true throat-hold he wanted, but a deadly hold, none the less, in the
flesh of Jan's dewlap.

The position of a few seconds earlier had been practically reversed.
Jan's blood was running between Sourdough's fangs now--a fiery tonic,
and veritable _eau-de-vie_ to the husky. Sourdough's catlike
tactics--perhaps the best and safest in such a case--were not adopted by
Jan, who never yet had used such a method. With a huge effort the hound
managed to twist his body in such a way as to gain foothold for his hind
feet; and then, by the exercise of sheer muscular strength, he curved
his neck and shoulder inch by inch (while still his blood slaked
Sourdough's thirst) until with sudden swiftness he was able to grip the
husky's near fore leg between his jaws, just on and below the knee.

Then Jan concentrated his whole being into the service of his jaws.
Sourdough gave a cry that was almost a scream, and his jaws flew apart,
dripping Jan's blood. Jan's teeth sank a shade deeper. Sourdough pivoted
round in agony, snapping at the air, and emitting an unearthly yowling,
snarling, grunting cry the while. Jan's teeth locked together, and then
were sharply withdrawn, leaving a very thoroughly smashed and punctured
fore leg to dangle by its skin and sinew.

During the past few seconds the sergeant had been raining down blows of
his cane on Jan's head. Now O'Malley grabbed Jan by his steel collar.

"By hivens, sergeant!" he spluttered, "if ye'll meet me afterwards,
without your stripes on, I'll--I'll give ye what Jan here'd give your
bloody wolf, if ye had the honesty to l'ave 'em to ut."

Jan dragged back momentarily, and--in justice to Sourdough's gameness,
be it said--the husky struggled hard from his master's entwining arms to
be at the enemy again on three legs. But O'Malley's pleadings were
urgent and his right arm strong (the left was curled round Micky
Doolan); and so it befell that, while Sergeant Moore remained tending
his wounded favorite, O'Malley, leading Jan, whose front was bleeding
badly, as were his shoulders and one ear, arrived at the barracks gates
just as Dick Vaughan trotted up to them, on his return from duty in
Regina.

"My hat!" cried Dick, as he dismounted. "Has he killed the sergeant's
dog?"

"He would ha' done, the darlin', if the sergeant had bin a man, in place
o' the mad divil he is," replied O'Malley.



XXIV

PROMOTION


For a week and more after the fight the barracks saw nothing of
Sourdough, whose leg was being mended for him in the stable of a
veterinary surgeon in Regina. Sergeant Moore would have made no
difficulty over spending half his pay upon the care of his beloved
husky.

Jan's ills were confined to flesh-wounds, and in any case Dick preferred
to doctor the big hound himself. The story of the fight, and of Sergeant
Moore's not very sporting part therein, was now known to every one in
the barracks, with the result that Jan became more than ever the
favorite of the force, and the sergeant more than ever its Ishmaelite,
against whom every man's hand was turned in thought, if not in deed. It
was little Sergeant Moore cared for that. It almost seemed as though he
welcomed and thrived upon the antipathy of his kind, even as a normal
person prospers upon the love of his fellows. The scowls of his comrades
were accepted by the sergeant as a form of tribute, so curiously may a
certain type of mind be warped by the influence of isolation.

It was at this stage, when Jan's flesh-wounds were no more than half
healed, that Captain Arnutt brought Dick Vaughan the intelligence that,
as the result of the Italian murder case and other matters, he was to be
promoted to acting-sergeant's rank, and given charge, on probation, of
the small post at Buck's Crossing, some sixty-odd miles north-west of
Regina.

The news brought something of a thrill to Dick, because it had been
arranged, by his own suggestion in Sussex, that his promotion to full
sergeant's rank should mark the period of quite another probationary
term; and here, undoubtedly, was a step toward it. On the other hand, he
had formed friendships in Regina; and while most of the people in the
barracks would be genuinely sorry to lose him, he, for his part, could
not contemplate without twinges of regret the prospect of exchanging
their society for the isolation of the two-roomed post-house at Buck's
Crossing.

"And in some ways it will be just as well for you and Jan to be out of
here for a time," said Captain Arnutt. "Sergeant Moore has quite a
number of fleas in his bonnet, and you can't afford to come to blows
with him--here, anyhow."

"No fear of that, sir," said Dick. "Why, he's nearly twice my age,
and--"

"Don't you make any mistake of that sort, my friend. There are limits to
any man's self-control. The sergeant may be twice your age, but he's
made of steel wire and moose-hide, and let me tell you he could give a
pretty good account of himself in a ring against any man in
Saskatchewan. Then, again, your intentions might be ever so good, but I
wouldn't like to answer for you, or for any other white man, if it comes
to being actually tackled by as heavy-handed a hard case as Sergeant
Moore. And then there's Sourdough. When that husky's leg is sound again
he'll be about as safe a domestic pet as a full-grown grizzly. No, it's
better you should be away for a bit. Also, my friend, it's a chance for
you. There are some pretty queer customers pass along that Buck's
Crossing trail these days, making north. Your beat's a long one. You'll
have a good deal of responsibility; and, who knows? You might win a
commission out of it. You won't be forgotten here, you know."

Then the order came that Dick was to take over the Buck's Crossing post
that same week. It was necessary for Dick to ride the whole sixty-odd
miles, but his kit was to be sent thirty-two miles by rail, and there
picked up by wagon for the remainder of the journey. Meantime there were
a number of stitches in Jan's dewlap and shoulders not yet ripe for
removal, and Dick decided that he would not ask the hound to cover over
sixty miles of trail in a day, as he meant to do. Therefore it was
arranged that O'Malley should see to putting Jan on the train when
Dick's kit was sent off, and that Jan should have a place in the wagon
for the thirty-odd miles lying between Buck's Crossing and its nearest
point of rail.

And then, having seen to these arrangements, Dick bade good-by to his
comrades, rubbed Jan's ears and told him to be a good lad till they met
again, in forty-eight hours' time, and rode away, carrying with him the
good wishes of every one in the barracks, with the exception of one who
looked out at him from the windows of the sergeants' quarters, with
grimly nodding head and a singularly baleful light in his eyes.

Sergeant Moore, who had just returned from three days' leave, had
learned from the veterinary surgeon that morning that Sourdough must
always limp a little on his near fore leg, which would be permanently a
little shorter than its fellow, by reason of the slight twist which
surgical care had been unable to prevent. Yet Sergeant Moore, for all
the glow of hatred in his eyes as he watched Dick Vaughan's departure,
nodded his grizzled head with the air of a man quite satisfied.

"So long, Tenderfoot," he growled. "You'll maybe find Sourdough's reach
a longer one than you reckon for, I'm thinking."

It was evident that day, to O'Malley and to all his friends, that Jan
felt the temporary parting with his lord and master a deal more than
Dick had seemed to feel it. And yet Jan could not possibly have known,
any more than Dick knew, as to what the promised forty-eight hours of
separation were to bring forth.



XXV

JAN GOES ON HIS TRAVELS


Jan spent that night beside O'Malley's bunk, in the face of regulations
to the contrary.

In the absence of Paddy from his stall, the good-hearted O'Malley had
not liked to leave Jan to the solitude of his bench. And shortly after
daylight next morning, with a new steel chain, purchased for this
journey, attached to his collar, Jan was put on board the west-bound
train consigned to Lambert's Siding, for wagon carriage, with Dick's
kit, to Buck's Crossing. Jan did not like this business at all. The
chain humiliated him, and the train was an abomination in his eyes. But
at the back of his mind was a dim consciousness that he was going to his
sovereign, and by his sovereign's will, and that was sufficient to
prevent any sort of protest on his part.

Arrived at Lambert's Siding, Jan's chain was fastened to a post by a
humorous person in greasy overalls, who said, as he noted the fine
dignity of Jan's appearance:

"Guess your kerridge will be along shortly, me lord."

The man in the overalls was a new hand transferred from the East, and
but lately settled in Canada, or he might probably have recognized Jan
as "the R.N.W.M.P. bloodhound," of newspaper celebrity.

A few minutes later a man in a fur cap drove up to the siding in a light
buckboard wagon, with a lot of sacking in its tray.

"Has Sergeant Vaughan's dog come from Regina?" asked the new-comer.

"Yep, I guess that's him," said Overalls.

"Well, I'm to pay his freight an' take him, and a wagon will call for
the other truck."

"That so?" rejoined Overalls, with indifference. "Well, I told me lord
his kerridge would be along shortly. Jest give us yer auto here, will
yer? Third line down. Hold on. Ye'd better have a receipt for the money.
Where's that blame pen?"

The first light snow of the season began to flutter down from out a
surprisingly clear sky, as Jan settled down in the buckboard, his chain
passed down through a hole and secured to the step outside, an
arrangement which struck Jan as highly unnecessary, since it kept his
head so low that he could not stand up in the wagon. However, Overalls
and the man in the fur cap (who had signed his name as Tom Smith) seemed
to think it all right, and so friendly Jan, his mind full of thoughts of
Dick Vaughan, accommodated himself docilely to the position, and was
soon quite a number of miles away from Lambert's Siding.

When the Buck's Crossing wagon arrived there an hour or so later, its
driver seemed surprised that there was no dog for him to carry with
Sergeant Vaughan's kit. But he was not a man given to speculation. He
just grunted, expectorated, and said, shortly:

"Well, I guess that's right, then. Muster made some other arrangement;
an' it's just as well, for I'm late an' I've got to have my near front
wheel off an' doctor it a bit, so I won't make the Crossin' till midday
to-morrow, I reckon. I'll be campin' at Lloyd's to-night."

Overalls just nodded as he took the wagoner's signature for Sergeant
Vaughan's kit; and without another thought both men dismissed from their
rather vacant minds (as was perfectly natural, no doubt) all further
thought of a matter which did not concern them, despite its
life-and-death importance to the son of Finn and Desdemona.

After perhaps an hour and a half, the buckboard was pulled up in a
fenced yard beside a small homestead. Here Jan parted with the man in
the fur cap and never set eyes upon him again. His chain was now taken
by a different sort of man; a very lean, spare, hard-bitten little man,
with bright dark eyes and a leather-colored face. He thanked the
fur-capped man for having kindly brought Jan along. Fur-cap deprecated
thanks, but accepted a dollar. And then the leather-faced man led Jan
away. They walked for perhaps a couple of miles, and then they were
joined by another man, who called the first man Jean, so that Jan looked
up quickly, thinking he had been addressed.

"Hees name Jan," explained the first man, casually, pointing to Jan's
collar.

"H'm! That so? Better get rid o' that collar, Jean, eh?"

From a bag in the buggy in which they had found the second man,
wire-cutters were produced, and Jan's collar cut in sunder and removed,
after a leather collar had been buckled on in its place and the chain
attached to that. Jan had a vague feeling of uneasiness about this
operation; but only a vague feeling. Like all other animal-folk, he had
long ago arrived at the conclusion that men-folk frequently did quite
unaccountable things; that a dog would have no rest in life if he set
himself to puzzle out a reason for everything he saw the sovereign
people do. Captain Arnutt had locked that collar about his neck, and a
very silly, stiff, and awkward contraption he had thought it. Now
another man, equally without apparent rhyme or reason, took it off and
substituted a leathern collar with a queer, fishy, gamy sort of smell.
Well, it would make little odds to Jan; if only these people would hurry
up about taking him to his own man.

Thinking of that, Jan quite gladly made the best of the very cramped
quarters given him in the buggy, though he grew desperately tired of
those same quarters before night fell and he was transferred to the more
roomy dog-box of a Canadian Northern train. Without doubt the train
would take him direct to Dick. (Until the previous day, his sole
experience of trains in Canada had been closely connected with Dick.) So
confident was Jan of this, that he bent himself quite cheerfully to the
task of tearing and eating the lump of meat given him by Jean before the
train started. Evidently this Jean was a friendly, well-disposed sort of
a person, and in any case any man at all engaged in taking Jan to Dick
Vaughan deserved ready obedience and respect.

In some such way Jan reflected what time the C.N.R. train by which he
traveled rumbled swiftly along its course for Edmonton; and Dick
Vaughan, away back in Buck's Crossing, wondered what might be delaying
the wagoner from Lambert's Siding; the wagoner he was not to see before
the middle of the next day, and then only to learn that the man knew
nothing of Jan's whereabouts.

When Jan left that train in the big crowded depot at Edmonton next day,
winter had descended upon the greater part of North America. The change
was the more marked for Jan by reason that snow had come to Edmonton a
full day earlier than it came to Lambert's Siding. Jan had seen snow
before on the Sussex Downs; but that had been a kind of snow quite
different from this. That snow had been soft and clammy. This was crisp
and dry as salt. Also the air was colder than any air Jan had ever
known, though mild enough for northern winter air, seeing that the
thermometer registered only some five and twenty degrees of frost. And
the sun shone brightly. There was no wind. It was an air rich in
kindling, stimulating properties; an air that made life, movement, and
activity desirable for all, and optimistic determination easy and
natural for most folk.

"By gar!" said Jean to his friend Jake, as together they led Jan from
the train. "You mark me now what I say, thees Jan he's got all them
huskies beat beefore he start. Eh? Hee's great dog, thees Jan."

Jake nodded, and the three of them strode on through the dry powdery
snow. One knew by their walk that these men had covered great distances
on their feet. Their knees swung easily to every stride, with a hint of
the dip that comes from long use of snow-shoes. For a little while Jan
hardly thought of Dick Vaughan, so busy was he in absorbing new
impressions. But when the walk had lasted almost an hour, he began again
to wonder about Dick, and his deep-pouched eyes took on once more the
set look of waiting watchfulness which meant that he was hoping at any
moment to sight his man.

And then they came to a small wooden house with a large barn and a
sod-walled stable beside it. Jan's chain was hitched round a stout
center post in the barn, and there he was left. Later Jean brought him a
tin dish of water and a big lump of dried fish which had had some warm
fat smeared over it, Jean having rightly guessed that it was Jan's first
experience of this form of dog-food. The fat was well enough, and Jan
licked it rather languidly. But the fish did not appeal to him, and so
he left it and went off to sleep, little thinking that he would get no
other kind of food than this for many days to come.

Toward the middle of the next day, Jan, feeling cramped and rather
miserable as the result of his unaccustomed confinement, changed his
mind about that fish and ate it; slowly, and without enjoyment, but yet
with some benefit to himself. Less than an hour later Jean entered to
him, carrying in his hands a contrivance of leather, with long trailing
ends.

For a minute or so Jean stood looking down upon Jan appraisingly. There
was no better judge of a dog--from one standpoint--in that part of
Canada.

"By gar!" he muttered between his teeth. "That Sergeant Moore hee's a
queer cuss, sure 'nuff, to give away a dog like thees for nothing; and
then, by gar, to pay me ten dollar for takin' heem."

Then he stooped down and rubbed Jan's ears, with a friendly,
knowledgeable way he had.

"Ah, you, Jan," he said, cheerily. "Here's your harness. Here, good dog,
I show you."

And he proceeded to buckle a set of dog-harness about Jan's massive
chest and shoulders. In doing so he noticed for the first time Dick's
stitches in the hound's dewlap and shoulders.

"By gar!" he said, with a grin. "You bin fightin', Jan, eh? Ah, well,
take care, Jan. We get no nursin' after fightin' here. Bes' leave that
job to the huskies, Jan. Come on--good dog."

A hundred yards away, on the far side of the shack, Jan came upon the
first dog-sled he had ever seen, with a team of seven dogs attached, now
lying resting on the dry snow. They were a mixed team, four of them
unmistakable huskies, one with collie characteristics, one having
Newfoundland blood (through many crosses), and one, the leader, having
the look of something midway between a big powerful Airedale and an old
English sheep-dog, including the bobtail. This leader, Bill, as he was
called, had the air of a master-worker, and was the only member of the
pack (except the wheeler) who did not snarl as Jan was led toward them.

With the dogs was Jake, wearing a deep fur cap that came well down over
the tops of his ears. In one hand Jake held a short-hafted whip with a
rawhide thong, the point of which he could put through a dog's coat from
ten paces distant.

"Take Mixer out an' put heem in behind Bill," said Jean. "We'll try Jan
in front of old Blackfoot."

It was not without thought, and kindly thought, that Jean ordered this
arrangement, for Blackfoot, though old and scarred, a trail-worn
veteran, had not a spark of unkindness in his composition. He was the
dog with Newfoundland blood in him, who, like Bill the leader, and
unlike the rest of the pack, had not snarled at sight of Jan. He even
held out a friendly muzzle in welcome as, rather reluctantly, Jan
allowed himself to be led to his place in front of Blackfoot. The husky
who filled the next forward place wheeled about as far as he could in
the traces and snapped viciously at Jan.

"Ah, Snip!" said Jean, quite pleasantly. But even as he spoke so
pleasantly, the whip he had picked up sang, and its thong, doubled,
landed fair and square in Snip's face, causing that worthy to whirl back
to his place with a yowl of consternation.

Jan was just beginning to think that he had put up with enough of this
sort of thing, and that he would leave these men and their dogs
altogether, when he heard a peremptory order given by Jean and felt
himself jerked forward by means of the harness he wore. In the same
moment Blackfoot's teeth nipped one of his hocks from behind, not
savagely, but yet sharply, and he bounded forward till checked by the
proximity of Snip's stern. He had no wish to touch Snip. But Snip also
was bounding forward it seemed. So Jan thrust out his fore feet and
checked. Instantly two things happened. A whip-lash curled painfully
round his left shoulder, crossing one of his newly healed wounds. And
again came a nip at one of his hocks, a sharper nip this time, and one
that drew two spots of blood.

"Mush, Jan! Mush on there!" said Jean, firmly, but not harshly; and
again the whip curled about Jan's shoulders as, puzzled, humiliated,
hurt, and above all bewildered, he plunged forward again in the traces,
and heard Jean mutter behind him:

"Good dog, thees Jan. By gar! hee's good dog."

And that was how the new life, the working life, began for Jan, the son
of Finn and Desdemona.



XXVI

THE RULE OF TRACE AND THONG


From this point there began for Jan a life so strangely, wildly
different from anything he had ever known or suspected to exist, that
only a dog of exceptionable fiber and stamina--in character as well as
physique--could possibly have survived transition to it from the smooth
routines which Jan had so far known.

To begin with, it was a life in which all days alike were full of toil,
of ordered, unremitting work. And until it began Jan had never done an
hour's work in his life. (In England, outside the sheep-dog fraternity
and a few of the sporting breeds, all dogs spend their lives in
unordered play, uncontrolled loafing, and largely superfluous sleeping.)

The Lady Desdemona, his mother, for example, would certainly not have
lived through a month of Jan's present life; very possibly not a week.
Finn would have endured it much longer, because of his experiences in
Australia, his knowledge of the wild kindred and their ways. But even
Finn, despite his huge strength and exceptional knowledge, would not
have come through this ordeal so well as Jan did, unless it had come to
him as early in life as it came to Jan. And even then his survival would
have been doubtful. The difference between the climates of Australia and
the North-west Territory is hardly greater than the difference in stress
and hardness between Finn's life in the Tinnaburra ranges, as leader of
a dingo pack, and Jan's life in North-west Canada as learner in a
sled-team.

The physical strength of Finn the wolfhound, in whose veins ran the
unmixed blood of many generations of wolfhound champions, might have
been equal to the strain of Jan's new life. But his pride, his
courtliness, his fine gentlemanliness, would likely have been the death
of him in such a case. He would have died nobly, be sure of that. But it
is likely he would have died. Now in the case of Jan, while he had
inherited much of his sire's fine courtesy, much of his dam's noble
dignity, yet these things were not so vitally of the essence of him as
they were of his parents. They were a part of his character, and they
had formed his manners. But they were not Jan.

The essential Jan was an immensely powerful hound of mixed blood reared
carefully, trained intelligently and well, and endowed from birth with a
tremendously keen appetite for life--a keener appetite for life than
falls to the lot of any champion-bred wolfhound or bloodhound. Jan was a
gentleman rather than a fine gentleman; before either he was a hound, a
dog; and before all else he was a master and lover of his life. And
since, by the arrangements of Sergeant Moore, "Tom Smith," Jean, and
Jake, he had to take his place between Snip and Blackfoot in a
sled-team, it was well, exceedingly well, for Jan that these things were
thus and not otherwise.

Jan's supper on the evening of his first day in the traces was a meal he
never forgot. The slab of dried fish Jean tossed to him was half as big
again as the pieces given to the other dogs. For Jean--a just and not
unkindly man in all such matters--well recognized that Jan was very much
bigger and heavier than the average husky. (Jan was three and a half
inches higher at the shoulder, and forty to fifty pounds heavier and
more massive than any of his team-mates.) His previous night's supper
Jan had eaten that morning. Still, the afternoon's work, in some thirty
or forty degrees of frost, had put an edge on his appetite, and he
tackled the fish--which two days before he would have scorned--with
avidity.

He had swallowed one mouthful and was about to tear off another, when
Snip intervened with a terrifying snarl between Jan and his food. Jan,
who was learning fast, turned also with a snarling growl to ward off
Snip's fangs. And in that moment--it was no more than a moment--Bill,
the leader, stole and swallowed the whole remainder of Jan's supper.

Jean was watching this, and did not try to prevent it. But leaving Jan
to settle with Snip, he descended upon Bill with his whip,
double-thonged, and administered as sound a trouncing to that hardy
warrior as any member of the team had ever received. That ended, Jean
swung on his heel and gave Snip the butt of the whip-handle across the
top of his nose, and this so shrewdly that Snip's muzzle ached for
twenty-four hours, reminding him, every minute of the time, that he must
not harry Jan--while his master was in sight.

It would have been easy for Jean to have spared another ration of fish
for Jan, since in a few more days they would reach a Hudson Bay post at
which fresh supplies were to be taken in. But Jean was too wise for
this. He preferred that Jan should go hungry because he wanted Jan to
learn quickly. Jan educated meant dollars to Jean, and a good many of
them. Jan uneducated, or learning but slowly, would, as Jean well knew,
very soon mean Jan dead--a mere section of dog-food worth no dollars at
all. So Jean laughed at the big hound.

"You see, Jan," he said. "You watch um, Jan, an' learn queek--eh? Yes, I
think you learn queek."

Thus in that little matter of the daily meal, if Jan had gone on making
the mistake he made on his first night in the wilderness, not all Jean's
authority could have saved him. The rest of the team, by hook or crook,
would have kept him food-less and killed him outright long before the
slower process of starvation could have released him. But, his first
lesson sufficed for Jan. When his next supper came he had done a day and
a half's work; he had lived and exerted himself more in that day and a
half than during any average month of his previous life. As a
consequence, when Bill and Snip looked round for Jan's supper, after
bolting their own, they saw a great hound with stiff legs and erect
hackles, alert in every hair of his body--but no supper. The supper,
very slightly masticated and swallowed with furious haste, was already
beginning its task of helping to stiffen Jan's fibers and give
fierceness to the lift of his upper lip.

But that was far from being the end of the lesson. In point of size, and
in other ways, Jan was exceptional. He needed more than the other dogs;
and because he needed more, and had the sort of personality which makes
for survival, he got more. Jean gave him more than was given to the
others. But that was not enough. Jan was so hungry, what with his
strivings in the traces and the novelty for him of this life of tense
unceasing effort and alertness, that his appetite was as a thorn in his
belly and as a spur to his ingenuity and enterprise.

It is the law of the sled-dog that you shall not steal your trace-mates'
grub. Jan broke this law wherever he saw the glint of a chance to do so;
that is, wherever he could manage it by force of fang and shoulder, or
by cunning--beyond the range of the whip. He did more. He stole his
master's food; not every day, of course, but just as often as extreme
cunning and tireless watchfulness enabled him to manage it. He was
caught once, and only once, and beaten off with a gee-pole and a club;
pretty sorely beaten, too. But--

"Don' mark heem, Jake! Don' touch hees head."

Jean might be ever so angry, but he never lost his temper. He might
punish ever so sorely, but he never lost sight of his main objective and
could not be induced to knock dollars off his own property. Incidentally
he knew precisely what his aching hunger meant to Jan, and why the big
dog stole. But that knowledge did not weigh one atom with Jean in
apportioning Jan's food, or his punishment for stealing; both being
meted out, not with any view to Jan's comfort, but solely with the aim
of protecting the food-supply and keeping up Jan's value in dollars. For
Jean, before and above all else, was able; a finished product of the
quite pitiless wilderness in which he made out, not only to survive
where many went under, but in surviving to prosper.



XXVII

MUTINY IN THE TEAM


Jean made sure he would sell Jan at Fort Frontenac. And that he did not
was due to accidental causes over which he had no control.

Jean asked three hundred dollars. The would-be buyer--a man pretty
nearly as able as Jean himself in northland craft--had only two hundred
in cash; but possessed, besides, an invincible objection to owing or
borrowing. (Resembling Jean in his knowledge of the wild, he was
curiously different in most other ways, having a good deal of sentiment
and a keen, almost conventional sense of honor.)

"He's worth three hundred, all right," said the man--who hailed from New
England--when he had seen Jan at work.

"You bet," said Jean, laconically.

"But I just haven't got the money, or he'd be my dog."

Jean grinned. "Ah, well, eet's money talks," said he. And on that they
parted; for this last talk between them came when Jean's team was
pulling out for the north-west, after a profitable little rest-time in
which Jean had exchanged a little rubbish for a lot of good food and a
quite considerable wad of dollars.

But Jean did, on occasion, make mistakes; not vital mistakes, but slips
that might injure his pocket. He made one when he put Jan in the lead,
and named Bill wheeler, in place of Blackfoot. Jean wanted to make a
completely educated dog of Jan as soon as might be. But he did not want
to lose Bill--a very useful dog--nor yet to injure Blackfoot's health
and efficiency. Bill, as leader reduced to wheeling, made Blackfoot's
life a hell upon earth for the kindly wise old dog with Newfoundland
blood in him; and that, of course, was not good for Blackfoot.

But this was not the worst of it. As recognized leader of the team, Bill
could endure Jan's officious zeal, and even make shift to suffer the big
hound's real supremacy, while by craft he could avoid a conflagration.
So far, then, Bill had remained a force making for discipline and the
working efficiency of the team. As wheeler, he became at one stride a
crafty and embittered mutineer, aiming primarily at Jan's discomfiture,
and generally at the disruption of the team as a compact entity. When
not occupied in working off his vindictive spleen upon poor Blackfoot,
whose hind quarters he gashed at every opportunity, Bill concentrated
all his notable energies upon stirring up disorder, indiscipline,
confusion, and strife among his mates.

Jean flogged Bill pretty severely; and in the interval he said:

"Tha's all right, Bill. Jan 'll lick all thees outer you, bimeby."

And that was where Jean's mistake lay. Jan could safely be trusted to
lick pretty well anything into, or out of, the rest of the team; but
there was that in Bill, the ex-leader, which no power on earth would
lick out of him. He knew it; and Jan knew it. And that was where, in
this one matter, they both saw a little farther than the astute Jean.
The thing of it was that what they saw did not trouble either of them.
They were content to bide the issue. But had he known of it, Jean would
not have been at all content with anything of the sort. Far from it.

In any event, the issue involved loss for Jean, since, as both dogs well
knew, it meant death for Jan or for Bill. They were quite content in
their knowledge. But Jean could not conceivably have found content in
any prospect involving himself in monetary loss; for that would have
been contrary to the only guiding principles he knew. Pride in his own
unfailing knowledge of dogs and life in the north helped to make Jean
establish Jan as leader of the team. But if he could have foreseen
monetary loss in the arrangement, his pride had assuredly been called
down and Bill re-established in the lead.

Jean saw that Jan made an exceptionally fine leader. There was no sort
of doubt about it. He set a tremendously high working standard, and
hustled the team into accepting it by the exercise of an almost
uncannily far-seeing severity. Nothing escaped him, least of all a hint
of any kind of shirking. He was quicker than Jean's whip, more sure, and
more compelling. But while Jean saw all this, and more, with genuine
admiration for Jan, and for his own astuteness in foretelling this
exceptional capacity and acquiring ownership of the hound, he also saw,
with angry puzzlement, that his team was falling off in condition and in
efficiency as a unit.

It was not that the leader lacked either justice or discretion in his
fiery severity. Jan displayed both to a miracle. But the team had to
live between his severity while at work, and Bill's bitter and tireless
persecution and crafty incendiarism outside the traces. Over all, for
their consolation, were the whips of the masters. But so infernally
crafty was Bill, that he never once allowed the masters to detect the
real wickedness of the part he played. They could see poor Blackfoot's
bleeding hocks: "We got to call heem Redleg soon. Damn that Beel!"--but
they could not see Bill's continuous crafty incitements to mutiny, or
the hundred and one ways in which he strove, when out of harness, to
work up hatred of Jan among his mates, or when in harness to play subtle
tricks which should produce an effect discreditable to the new leader.

Intuitively Jan became aware of most of these things. But even where he
detected Bill at fault, he could not trounce the ex-leader as he
trounced the other dogs, because he and Bill knew very well that there
could be no sparring, no such lightsome thing as mere chastisement,
between them. There was war to the death in Bill's snarl when Jan so
much as looked at him. He was perfectly certain he could, and would,
kill Jan directly a suitable opportunity offered. Jan was not so sure
about that; but he did know very well that he was not capable of just
thrashing Bill and letting it go at that; for over and above Bill's
unbeaten prowess as a fighter and master dog there was a mortal hatred
in him where Jan was concerned--a hatred which, weighed as a fighting
asset, was almost equivalent to a second set of fangs.

And then came the memorable evening upon which Jean killed a bull-moose
and all the team fed full--except Bill.



XXVIII

THE FEAST AND THE FASTER


Jean and Jake were not out on a hunting expedition, and if it had
involved hunting, the probabilities are Jean would never have bagged
that bull-moose. But it happened that, when his sharp eyes sighted the
moose in mid-afternoon, the poor beast had just managed to break one of
its forelegs in a deep hole masked by snow. It was practically a sitting
shot for Jean, and that at a range which made missing impossible for
such a man.

The dogs were wild with excitement, but fortunately they were still in
the traces and anchored to a laden sled. In spite of this there was
something of a stampede among them until Jean made it clear that he
meant the team to remain in harness for the present. Then the masters'
whips, backed by policeman Jan's remorseless fangs, soon had order
re-established. And this was as well, for at that particular juncture
Jean and Jake were traveling fairly light, and a strong team can quickly
work serious damage by stampeding among trees with a light sled.

When Jean had examined the moose, he decided to avail himself of the
magnificent supply of fresh food it offered, and to carry on as large a
share of the meat when frozen as the sled would take. To this end he and
Jake decided to camp for the night at a spot no more than a few hundred
paces away from the dead moose. The dogs were too much excited to lie
down in their traces. (It was many weeks since any of them had tasted
fresh meat, and though dried salmon makes an excellent working dietary,
it is, of course, a very different thing from fresh meat with blood in
it.) So they stood and sat erect, with parted jaws all drooling, while
Jean and Jake set to work with their long knives on the great carcass.

The cutting up of a full-grown moose is no light task, and darkness had
fallen before the two men had finished stowing away all the heavy frozen
strips of moose-meat the sled could carry. Then, having removed the
choicest portions for their own use for that night and the next day,
Jean and Jake set to work to loose the dogs that they might tackle their
banquet. Jean knew the eight of them could give a pretty good account of
the remains on the skeleton.

According to custom the leader was the first dog loosed. Jan made a
bee-line for the skeleton. Within a few seconds six other dogs were
streaking across the intervening stretch of soft snow between the camp
and the belt of timber in which the moose had fallen. But the seventh
dog, Bill--though his jaws had been dripping eagerness like all the rest
of them--walked slowly in the same direction as though food were a
matter of indifference to him.

"What in hell's the matter with that Bill?" said Jake. "Seems like as if
he's full, but he can't be."

"Beel, hee's an angry dog for sure," said Jean, with a grin.

"Looks 'most as if he's sick," said Jake.

"H'm! Hate-seeck, mebbe," replied Jean, as the two turned to the task of
preparing their own supper.

As a fact no dog was ever more fit or more perfectly self-controlled
than Bill was at that moment. In his own good time and with a most
singular deliberateness he did set his teeth in fresh moose. But he did
it much as house-dogs in the world of civilization put their noses into
their well-filled dinner-dishes, with a deliberate absence of gusto
which would have simply astounded any understanding observer who could
have seen it. The other seven dogs were blissfully unconscious of
anything under heaven outside their own ravening lust of flesh. In a
temperature well below zero, the lure of fresh-killed meat at the end of
fourteen hundred miles of solid pulling, and five or six weeks of fish
rations, is a force the strength of which cannot easily be conceived by
livers of the sheltered life. It is the pull of an overwhelming strong
passion.

And Bill, the deposed leader of the team, just nosed and tasted with the
calm indifferent temperateness of an English house-dog; while every
organ of his supremely healthy body ached with a veritable neuralgia of
longing for red meat.

The rest of the team, including Jan, fed like wolves; indeed, some of
them were literally but one or two removes from the wolf, and all of
them had of late lived a life which brings any dog very close to the
wolf in his habits and instincts. It is a life which, so far as his
instincts are concerned, carries a dog back and back through innumerable
generations till his contact with his primeval ancestors is very close
and real.

They fed like hungry wolves, and their feeding was not a pretty sight.
When in his ravenous guzzling one dog's nose chanced to be thrust at all
nearly to another's, there would arise a horrid sound of half-choked
snarling; the fierce hissing rattle of snarls which came from flesh and
blood-glutted jaws. Obeying instincts to the full as strong as any human
passion which has ever gone to the making of tragedy, these working-dogs
made a wild orgy of their feast. They wantoned and they wallowed in
their perfectly natural gluttony. Having fed full and overfull, they
desired more by reason of their long hunger for meat and the hard vigor
of their lives. The last remains of flesh exhausted, they gnawed and
tugged at bones, each snarling still, though half exhausted, whenever
other fangs than his own touched a chosen bone.

And Bill, despite the flame of desire in his bowels, just nosed and
tasted, eating no more than an ordinary workaday ration. Long before the
final stage of bone-gnawing he actually walked away and curled himself
down at the roots of a big spruce where the ground rose slightly, some
fifty paces distant from the place of orgy.

A couple of hundred yards away, by the shelter of their fire, Jean and
Jake composed themselves to rest and smoke; for they also had fed full.
One by one even the lustiest of the dogs forsook the bones, drawing back
heavily, lazily licking their chops. The dense calm of satiety descended
slowly upon all the visible life-shapes in that place like the fumes of
some potent narcotic--upon all forms of life save one. Bill, curled at
the root of his spruce, had within him a blazing fire of life and
activity which no earthly force could slake while his breath remained to
fan it. But the rest of the world slept.

The moon that night was too young to shed much light. But just after
Jean and Jake sleepily laid aside their pipes and closed their eyes, the
aurora borealis flamed out icily in a clear sky, bringing more than all
the light Bill needed. In that frozen stillness Bill's brain was like
the interior of a lighted factory with all its machinery in full swing.
Fed by hate and slowly accumulated stores of bitter anger, his thoughts
went throbbing in and out the lighted convolutions of his brain with the
silent positive efficiency of a gas-engine's pistons.

Bill understood everything in the world that night in his own world, and
he overlooked nothing. He would have given much, very much, to have been
able to remove Jean's camp a mile or so away. The belt of open
snow-space between it and him was all too narrow for his liking. Well he
knew how swiftly Jean could move, how certainly he could strike when the
need arose. But for this Bill had done murder that night, as surely as
ever softly treading human desperado in the dead of night has done
murder at a bedside. As it was he thought he must fight. Well, he was
prepared. Nay, his bowels yearned for it just as strongly as any dog's
bowels had yearned for fresh-killed meat that night. More strongly, for
in him the one yearning had mastered and ridden down the other yearning,
thus giving him his perfect preparation.

The full-fed team-dogs had been too idle that night to dig out proper
sleeping-nests for themselves in the snow. A mere circling whisp of head
and tail and feet had served them, and the upper half of Jan's
magnificent frame lay fully exposed halfway down the slope from Bill's
tree. Very deliberately now Bill rose, and moved toward Jan, walking
with dainty, springy steps like a cat at play. In all that countryside
Bill possessed an absolute monopoly of springiness and elasticity. But,
at their most sluggish, dogs in the northland are, of course, more alert
than the home-staying dogs of civilization. Snip snarled fatly as Bill
passed with his catlike tread. Jan, the crimson haw of one eye gleaming
as its lid lifted, growled savagely but low as Bill approached him. His
big limbs twitched convulsively and the hair about his shoulders
stiffened; but so grossly full-fed was he that he did not rise, though
the note of his growl ascended toward that of a snarl as Bill came
nearer.

Here again, and for the hundredth time that night, Bill's icy
self-control, his really marvelous command of his impulses, was sorely
tried. His enemy actually was recumbent in the snow before him, while
he, taut as a strung bow, was most exquisitely poised for the attack.
Why fight? Why not swift delicious murder, and the gush of the loathed
one's throat-blood between his fangs? Bill knew well why it must not be.
But given the knowledge, how many dogs in his case, nay, how many men
similarly tempted, could have forced discretion to master impulse?

Attempted murder must mean furious uproar, and uproar must mean
attempted rescue; and attempted rescue, so close to camp, might well rob
Bill of the life he claimed. It might leave Jan alive and himself
clubbed into insensibility. In the fire-lighted brain of Bill was
understanding of all things, and the determination to take no chances
with regard to this the greatest killing of his life.

And so, with the most delicate care, the most minutely measured
instalments of provocation, he proceeded to "crowd" the infinitely
sluggish Jan. So sunk in sloth was Jan that he, who three hours earlier
had been pricked to fury by an insolent glance from Bill's eyes, now
positively submitted to the actual touch of Bill's nose on his hocks
before he would budge. And then with a long snarl he only edged himself
a yard or two away.

"Be still, be still! For God's sake give peace!" his heavy movements
seemed to say.

Peace! And in Bill's lighted brain the roar of furnaces and the
remorseless whirl of swiftly driven machinery!

With the fathomless scorn of the self-mastering ascetic for the sodden
debauchee, Bill proceeded coldly with his task of "crowding" Jan out and
away from the safety of that place and into the wilderness. In a few
minutes he ventured to hasten matters by actually nipping one of Jan's
hind legs with his teeth. But with what precise delicacy! It had been
sweet to drive the fangs home and feel the bone and sinew crack. But
that would not mean death and might bring rescue. So Bill's jaws pressed
no more hardly than those of a nursing-mother of his kind what time she
draws a too venturesome pup into the shelter of her warm dugs.

It was beautifully done; a triumph of self-mastery and an exquisitely
gauged piece of tactics. It brought Jan quickly lumbering to his feet,
snarling savagely but not very loudly. It sent him sullenly some twenty,
thirty paces nearer to his doom and farther from the camp. A dozen paces
Bill followed him, crowding threateningly to enforce the right
direction. And then Bill halted, not wishing to risk causing Jan to
dodge and double backward toward the camp. And because his persecutor
stopped when he did, Jan followed the line of least resistance,
lumbering on down the slope into the deep wood for twenty paces more
before lowering himself again with a grunt for the repose which, to his
glutted sloth, seemed more desirable now than all the meat in the world,
aye, and of more pressing import than all his dignity, than all his new
pride in working efficiency in his leadership.

With a patience no red Indian could have excelled, Bill repeated these
tactics twenty or thirty times; but always with the same nicely balanced
accuracy; with ample pauses between each fresh beginning; with
mathematically accurate gauging of the precise provocation needed to
shift Jan farther and farther into the wilderness without seriously and
dangerously arousing his somnolent faculties.

But though he himself did not know it, and Bill could not possibly
suspect it, it yet was a fact that something of wakefulness remained and
grew through the intervals between Jan's forced marches. It seemed that
though he did most unwillingly move on and on at Bill's cunningly given
behests, Jan barely was roused from his heavy sleep into which he
plunged fathoms deep every time he resumed the recumbent position. So it
seemed. Thus Bill saw the outworking of his devilishly ingenious
tactics. And could Jan have understood any challenge on the subject, he
would have admitted that this was the way it worked.

And now, toward the end of Jan's twentieth or thirtieth move, when his
subconsciousness was simply one ache of continuous boding discomfort,
while still his outer consciousness barely permitted the lifting of his
heavy eyelids, now Bill, that incarnation of calculating watchfulness,
gathered up his magnificent muscles for the act which should bring the
first instalment of his reward, the guerdon of his season of
super-canine self-mastery. In another second or so Jan would sink down
again to sleep. Bill did not snarl or growl. He needed no trumpet-call.
He made no more sound than a cat makes in leaping for a bird. Yet he
rushed upon the blinking, half-comatose Jan as though impelled thereto
from the mouth of a spring cannon.

There was no possibility that in his then condition Jan could withstand
the shock of that furious impact. And he did not. Indeed, he spun
through the air feet uppermost, and Bill, in his eyes a cold flame of
elation, knew that when he did reach earth it would be to yield the
throat-hold at which your fighting-dog always aims, and to die the death
which he, Bill, had long pictured for the usurper of his office.



XXIX

THE FIGHT IN THE WOODS


The one thing for which Bill had made no allowance was the thing of
which he could not possibly have any knowledge; the strength of Jan's
subconscious self which had now been wide awake for some time.

During the fraction of time which Jan's body spent in mid-air this
subconscious self of his worked several miracles simultaneously. It
jagged the whole of Jan's outer consciousness into the widest
wakefulness. It explained to him the inner meaning of most things that
had happened since Jean shot the moose. And acting through a muscular
system which, always fine, had been made well-nigh perfect during the
past six weeks, it succeeded in accomplishing the patently impossible
and bringing Jan to earth again almost erect, certainly on his four feet
and with spread jaws pointing toward Bill--instead of landing him on the
broad of his back where Bill had quite properly and logically expected
to see him.

Now began the fight between Bill and Jan, ex-leader and leader; the
veteran northland dog, comparatively empty and exquisitely poised and
prepared; and the new-comer from the outside world, terribly full,
heavy, and unprepared. All, or nearly all, had fallen out as Bill had
planned. Their distance from the camp was a safe one; Jan was grossly
bloated and he, Bill, was in quite perfect fighting trim.

Only one thing was wrong: Jan ought, by all the calculations of his
enemy, to be lying feet up with his throat exposed; and instead he was
standing, and as it happened, on slightly raised ground, waiting with
dripping jaws for Bill's attack. Bill knew not fear. His brain was as
brilliantly lighted, his furnace of hate as hot within him, as ever.
But--the new-wakened Jan's snarl was certainly terrific, and his bulk,
as he stood there with erect stern, bristling hackles, high-lifted lips,
and legs planted like buttresses--the bulk of him was immense.

"Come on!" his roaring snarl seemed to say. And fiery Bill, like a
wrestler, pranced to and fro for an opening. Rage filled him to the
throat, but never for an instant did it cloud his vision. Jan's instinct
kept him still, warning him that he was too heavy now for the lightning
footwork of the wolves, that his sole chance lay in his strength, and
that by the same token his strength must be conserved.

Whoof! Tsss!

Jan's right ear hung in two separate flaps. Valiantly he strove to
extort some penalty by thrust of massive shoulder and clash of fangs.
But Bill to all seeming was twice his own length away in the same
instant that he flashed in to the attack. Jan breathed hard in a defiant
snarl.

Hup! Grrrr!

The massive shoulder which had missed its thrust was cut clear into the
bone, a groove four inches long, and in the selfsame fraction of a
second the catlike Bill, from two lengths distant, darted his red tongue
in and out at Jan in cold ribaldry.

A little show of temper now on Jan's part had been a thing of priceless
worth to Bill. Indeed, it was the ex-leader's one desire, its
provocation his sole objective for the moment. This it was that drew his
pointed red tongue in and out like a flame, this the tuning-fork that
gave his snarl its key; the note of insolent, jeering defiance.

"You hog! You're bloated. Ungainly beast, I can bleed you when and where
I will. Take that!" snarled Bill, as he flashed in again, tearing clean
away a little section of soft-coated fine skin from the left side of
Jan's dewlap, where Desdemona's blood in him left him but lightly
covered.

(In the bloodhound the skin is very loose and fine in texture all about
the head and flews and dewlap. In Jan it hardened quickly on the neck,
where the mat of his dense coat thickened.)

Again and again, not fewer than a dozen times in all, Bill drank deep of
sheer delight as he flashed in and out upon Jan, drawing blood every
single time, reaching bone more than once or twice, and winning back to
safety without the loss of so much as one hair.

Jan no longer snarled. He had no breath to waste. He was standing to his
fearsome punishment like a bulldog now. And like a bulldog he seemed, in
a heavy, dogged way, and almost to glory in the bitter thrusts he took.

Then Bill overstepped himself. Striving to win a second bite from the
one rush, he got the full thrust of Jan's bloody right shoulder so
shrewdly directed that Bill went down under it as corn under a sickle.
So far so good for Jan; and by good rights that thrust should have given
him his lead to victory. But the plain truth is Jan was too full of
moose-meat. He plunged down and forward for the throat-hold--appreciably
too late--and lost more than blood and fur from his flank as Bill
wheeled into action again without any apparent loss of poise, though he
had turned completely over on the snow.

Jan breathed like a bull as he resumed the defensive; and like a bull he
lowered his head with a swaying motion as though to ease his labored
breathing and drain his jaws of the spume that clogged them. He was
bleeding now from more than a dozen wounds. The frost nipped those
wounds stingingly. The hard trampled snow about his feet was flecked
with blood and foam--his life-blood, his foam. Bill remained unscathed
and to all seeming as coldly calculating as ever.

At this stage a backer of Jan (if any such reckless wight existed) might
easily have booked a hundred to one against the big hound from an
audience of experienced northland men, had any been there to see this
wonderful fray. It seemed a breathless business enough, with never a
moment for anything like reflection. But of a truth, as Jan swung his
massive head now in a gesture which added blazing coals to the fire of
triumphant hate in Bill, his mind was busy with a mort of curious
things. There were many differences between Jan and the average dog, and
this illustrated one of them. As he stood heavily swaying to Bill's
lightning attacks, he saw pictures in his busy mind through a mist of
blood; pictures that made the whole business of this fight far more
terrible for him than it would have been for most dogs.

The dominating picture Jan saw, and the one that kept forcing itself
forward upon the screen of his imagination through and over all the
others that came and went, was a picture of himself on his back in the
trampled snow. Bill's jaws were at his throat in this picture, and his
blood ebbed out, an awful tide, flooding the snow with its crimson for
as far as he could see. And then the picture moved and showed him the
satisfied, triumphant Bill, walking proudly away to the camp to his
regained leadership; and himself, Jan, stark, helpless, dead, in that
forsaken clear patch in the woods with only the cold gleam of the aurora
borealis to bear him company.

Another picture showed him the stripped framework of the moose and his
own reckless feasting there with the rest of the pack, while Bill,
pitilessly far-seeing Bill, watched them and abstained. Jan saw it all
now and gulped upon his bitterness as he realized how cunningly it had
all been planned, and just why it was that, while his enemy seemed made
of steel springs actuated by electricity, he, Jan, was heavy and clumsy
as an English house-dog.

So that was the way of this bloody business thought Jan as, swifter than
a bullet, Bill registered another visit to his streaming right shoulder.
There was no trace left now of that queer stubborn sort of bulldog glory
in the endurance of punishment which Jan had shown during the first
half-dozen attacks. His stern was still erect, bladelike, his hackles
almost as stiff as before. But the flame of his deep-hawed and now
glazing eyes had died down to a dim red smolder; his hard breathing
spared nothing for a snarl now, and his head and body movements were, if
anything, a little slower than before.

And in and out among the vivid pictures in his mind of immediate local
happenings came swiftly passing little silhouettes of people and
happenings farther away in point of time and distance. He saw Dick
Vaughan, in scarlet tunic and yellow-striped breeches, sitting on a box
with his, Jan's, head between his knees, his hands fondling the long
ears that now were so terribly torn and bloody. He saw the great, gray,
lordly Finn pacing gravely beside the Master and Betty Murdoch on the
Downs at Nuthill; himself trotting to and fro between Betty and the
noble hound that sired him. He heard Dick Vaughan's long, throbbing
whistle, and then the old familiar call:

"Jan, boy! Ja--an!"

And as he heard this call he had never once failed to answer, some
subtle force at work in Jan loosed the cord that had seemed to hold him
fettered to the heavy aftermath of his greed that night. His heart
swelled within him in answer to the sovereign's call, till it seemed to
send new blood, hot and compelling, racing through all his veins into
the last least crevices of his remotest members. His massive head ceased
to sway. It was uplifted in the moment that a roaring baying cry escaped
him; he knew not how or why. And that was the moment called
psychological. For it was the instant of a new and different attack from
Bill, this tremendous moment of Jan's real awakening.

For some minutes now, while he flashed in and out, bleeding his prey in
preparation for the final assault, Bill had noted with infinite cold joy
that swaying motion of Jan's great head. He knew it well for the gesture
of the baited creature, and as the head swung lower the flames of Bill's
hate shot higher and ever higher; for this lower swaying, as he knew,
was the signal of the end for which he had striven so cunningly and
long.

At the moment that Jan heard Dick's call, Bill drew up his muscles for
administration of the final thrust. (The bull had bled sufficiently. Now
for the steel in the nape.) Bill leaped, red froth flying from his bared
fangs. As he leaped, Jan's strange baying roar smote upon his senses
with a chill foreboding. He knew nothing of the call that had loosed
from its lethargy the essential Jan. But the roar spoke of doom and Bill
flinched; wavered in his attack, as a horse will momentarily waver at a
high leap. That peril might have passed. But it was part of a double
blunder. The leap had been wrongly conceived. It had come too soon. And
now the leaper balked, conscious of error; conscious also, dimly, of
some terrific change in Jan, heralded by his awe-inspiring cry.

Bill jarred down to earth, short of his mark, his feet ill placed, his
world awry. And in that instant the big hound was upon him like a bolt
from heaven: the strangest attack surely that ever dog faced, or so it
must have seemed to stricken Bill, the northland fighter for the killing
throat-hold, who never had seen the famous killing grip that was always
used by Jan's tall sire, Finn the wolfhound.

Jan came down upon Bill as though from the clouds. (He stood a full four
inches higher than Bill.) His huge jaws, stretched to cracking-point,
took Bill where the base of the skull meets the spinal cord. One jaw on
either side that rope of life, they drove down; through the matted armor
of Bill's coat, through skin and flesh, and on to their ultimate
destination, under the crushing pressure of a hundred and forty pounds
of steel-like muscle, bone, and sinew, the invincible product of the
trail-life developed upon a foundation of scientifically attained health
and strength.

Bill, the fearless and unbeaten, now screamed aloud; not for mercy, but
in mortal pain. His tense body squirmed, convulsed, under Jan's great
weight like a thing galvanized by electricity.

Jan's jaws sank deeper.

Bill snapped at the bloody snow in his frenzy, actually breaking his own
fangs.

Jan's jaws sank deeper.

A long horrible shudder passed through the squirming body of Bill. And
Jan's jaws sank a little deeper. Then with a dreadful sucking sound and
a sharp gasp for breath, those jaws parted and were withdrawn; for
Bill's long fight and his life were ended now, and Jan was quite alone
in that desolate place.



XXX

REAL LEADERSHIP


The thrifty Jean was far from pleased when, on the morning after his
lucky moose-shot, he found that the sled-team was short of one dog. As
it happened, Jake was the first to note the absence of Bill, the
ex-leader; and while he looked this way and that for the missing dog,
Jean, by a thought process which went a little farther, called Jan to
him and proceeded to look over the big hound.

"You don't need to look for no Beel," he said, grimly, to Jake. "Look
thees Jan, here. By gar! that was some fight, now I'm telling you. See
that, an' thees. Look that ear. See thees shoulder. By gar! that Beel he
fight good an' hard. But when he fight Jan, tha's the feenish--for
Beel."

Jake and Jean together made the best job they could of patching up Jan's
wounds a little against the frost and the rub of trace and breast-band.

"Good dog, too, that blame Bill," mused Jake.

"Sure, he was good dog, very good dog; by gar! yes," agreed Jean. "But
thees Jan, hee's best of all dogs. No good for Beel to fight heem. Only
he was too blame full o' moose-meat, he don' lose no blood to Beel, you
bet. That why Beel he don' eat las' night. Seeck? No. He too cunning,
that Beel." A long pause, while Jean spat out chewed tobacco and juice
over one of Jan's worst wounds, with a view to its antiseptic and
healing properties. And then, on a grunting sigh: "Ah, well, I reckon
that makes Jan's price five hunderd. That blame Beel, he worth two
hunderd any day."

So, by Jean's simple commercial method, the big hound's wounds and the
previous night's great fight were best summed up by reckoning that they
added two hundred dollars to Jan's market price. And, all things
considered, he was very likely right; for there could be no sort of
doubt about it, the episode had taught Jan lessons he never would
forget; it had advanced his education hugely and added a big slice to
the sum of his knowledge of the wild northland life. Therefore it had
made him the more fit to survive in the north; and hence it must have
added to his value.

Dogs may not do much talking one with another, as humans understand
talk; but their methods of intercourse suffice them. Just as Jean saw no
need to hunt for the missing Bill, once he had looked over Jan's wounds,
so every dog in the team knew perfectly well why Bill was not of their
number that morning. They asked no questions; but they knew. The thing
was indelibly recorded in their minds. Bill, who had mastered them, had
disputed Jan's mastery. And now Bill was no more. They would not forget.

But all the same, their deductive powers were far from perfect. They saw
in Jan a leader who could not hide the soreness and stiffness caused by
his many wounds. They, for their part, were feeling rather like
indiscreet workmen after a public holiday that has been too recklessly
enjoyed. They had no headache, but were feeling fat and lazy; and,
noting the stiffness of Jan's movements, they slouched and shirked, and
caused delays over the making of a start that morning.

"H'm! Too much moose-meat. Thees will be a short day," growled Jean, as
he reached out for his whip before proceeding farther with the
harnessing. Only the stiff-legged leader was in his place; the rest lay
dotted about with lolling tongues, bent on loafing.

Jan saw Jean go for his whip. But it was no fear of the lash that moved
him to action. He had been desperately conscious for a good many hours
of his stiffness and weariness, and had hoped his services as policeman
of the team would not have been needed that morning. Now, in a flash, he
comprehended the true position. And he knew the sled was now twice its
previous weight. He looked across at Jean, and gave a short, low bark,
which meant:

"Don't you trouble about your whip. This is my job. Don't suppose I've
forgotten it, or that this team is going to be any the weaker for Bill's
loss. Devil a bit of it."

And with that Jan tossed aside his stiffness and flew around among his
six team-mates, the very incarnation of masterful leadership. Not one
dog, not even old Blackfoot, escaped him; and if their leader began the
day's work as a sorely wounded dog, it was certain that each dog behind
him began it with one sore spot to occupy his mind withal. Inside of one
minute he had the six of them standing alertly to attention in their
respective places, waiting for their harness and itching to be off; not
by reason of any sudden access of virtue or industry in them, but
because the leader they had thought too sore and stiff to accomplish
much that day was pacing sternly up and down their rank, with fangs
bared, and the hint of a snarl in every breath he drew; ready, and
apparently rather anxious, to visit condign punishment upon the first
dog who should stir one paw a single inch from its proper place.

"Five hunderd!" shouted Jean, with his broad, cheery grin. "By gar! tha'
Jan hee's worth ten hunderd of any man's money for team-leadin'. Yes,
_sir_; an' you can say I said so. I don't care where the nex' come from;
tha' Jan, hee's masterpiece."

Jake readily admitted, when, over their pipes that night, he and Jean
came to review the day's run, that the team had worked better this day
than on any previous day in the past month.

"With double load, an' one dog short," Jean reminded him.

"That's so," said Jake. "I guess that moose-meat's put good heart into
them."

"Ah! moose-meat, hee's all right; good tack, for sure," said Jean. "But
tha's not moose-meat mushed them dogs on so fast an' trim to-day. No,
_sir_. Tha's Jan--bes' dog-musher in 'Merica to-day, now I'm tellin'
you. He don' got Beel to upset things to-day, and, by gar! you see how
he make them other dogs mush. You don't need no wheep, don't need no
musher, so's you got Jan a-leadin', now I'm tellin' you."

Jan imbued each of the other dogs with a portion of his own
inexhaustible pride in the team's perfect working. Ready to start in the
morning he would stand in the lead, pawing eagerly at the snow, his head
turning swiftly from side to side as he looked round to make sure his
followers were in order, and in his anxiety to catch the first breath of
the command to "Mush on there!"

And when the word came, with what a will those seven dogs bowed to their
work! How furiously their hard pads scrabbled at the trail, to overcome
the first inertia of the laden sled, before it gained the gliding
momentum which they would never allow it to lose for an instant until
the order came to halt! If any dog put one ounce less than the pressure
he was capable of exerting into his breast-band, Jan knew it that
instant, more surely than the watching man behind; and would let out a
sharp, low-sounding bark. And very well each dog in the team knew what
that bark meant. They feared it more than Jean's thong. For Jan had
taught them to know that this bark gave warning of a shrewder blow to
come than any whip could give; and a blow from which there would be no
possible escape. Men-folk might sometimes forget a promised cuff. Jan
was never known to forget a promised bite; and if twelve hours should
elapse between promise and payment, so much the worse for the payee; for
Jan had a system of his own for the reckoning of compound interest, the
efficacy of which, at one time or another, each dog in the team had
tested, and found deadly.

Yes, in the fortnight that followed the shooting of the moose and the
disappearance of Bill the sled-team driven by Jean and Jake was perhaps
the finest and the most efficient in all that white world of
hard-bitten, hard-trained, hard-working men and dogs. And, by that
token, there was no happier team living, and none in better condition.
There are not many teams, of course, whose members eat moose-flesh every
day. But quite apart from the substantial addition to their dietary
which Jean's lucky moose-shot brought, his sled-team was superbly fit
and efficient, because it was perfectly led and perfectly disciplined.

And then came all the strange confusion of the noisy mining town and the
end of this particular phase of Jan's life.



XXXI

THE COST OF INCOMPETENCE


Jan's private impressions of the northern mining town were, first, that
it was the most horrible place he had ever seen; second, that it was
perhaps the most interesting place he had ever seen; and, third and
lastly, that it was a very good place to get away from, and that he
would be pleased to exchange its complex interests for the clean,
arduous stress and strain of the trail.

Jan spent less than a week in the town; but into that week was packed
perhaps rather more than the allowance of new impressions and excitement
of one sort and another that go to make up the record of her first
season in town for the average human débutante. The cynic might protest
that many a modern débutante is as certainly put up for sale to the
highest bidder of the town season as Jan was. Well, at least the thing
is a good deal more carefully wrapped up and veiled, and a great deal
more time is given to it.

Jean was very firmly set in his determination not to part with Jan for a
cent under five hundred dollars. (Had not Jan cost him two hundred
dollars on the night of Bill's disappearance?) Had there been any really
knowledgeable judges of dogs in the town just then who needed a dog,
they would hardly have quarreled with his owner over Jan's price. But it
happened there were none. And the result was that Jan had to be put
through his paces five separate times for the benefit of five separate
prospective purchasers, not one of whom was really capable of
appreciating his superlative quality, before the five hundred dollars
demanded did eventually find its way into Jean's pouch and he was called
upon to part with his leader. He intended to give Snip the leadership of
his team now, because Snip was a curiously remorseless creature; and to
buy a husky as cheaply as might be to take the trace ahead of
Blackfoot--kindliest of wheelers.

Jean's parting with Jan was characteristic of the man. He had conceived
an admiring and prideful affection for the big hound, and had liefer
died than allow this to be shown to any other man. His pride in his
dog's ability, his full appreciation of the animal's many points--yes,
he would show these, and very insistently, to any man. But for his
perfectly genuine affection; that, as he understood it, was a culpable
weakness which no living soul must be permitted to suspect--no, not even
Jan himself. And that was where Jean fooled himself. For his occasional
blows and frequent curses did not in the least deceive Jan, who was
perfectly well aware of Jean's fondness for him, and, to a considerable
extent, reciprocated the feeling. He did not love Jean; but he liked the
man, and trusted and respected him for his all-round ability and
competence.

"Ye--es," said Jean, slowly, to the moneyed _chechaquo_ who had
purchased Jan, "tha' Jan, hee's ther bes' lead dog ever I see, an' I've
handled some. But ef you take my word, Mister Beeching, you won' ask Jan
to take no other place than lead in your team. Eef you do, your leader
'll hear about it, en he might lose some hide over it, too, I guess. But
tha' Jan, hee's a great lead dog, all right, an' I'm tellin' you. Well,
so long, boss; I'll be gettin' along. Git back there, you, Jan! By gar!
you stay right there now, when I say so. What 'n hell d'you want
follerin' me? Git back!"

That was how Jean bade Jan good-by. Jan, scenting trouble vaguely, was
determined to stick to Jean, and thought he went about it craftily
enough. But Jean caught him each time, and kicked him back to the place
where the _chechaquo_ stood, cuffing him roughly over the head by way of
final salutation.

"I'll larn ye to foller me," he said, sourly.

"Mighty little _he_ cares for his dogs!" thought the tenderfoot; and he
turned (with his more delicate sentiments) to caress Jan's head. But Jan
abruptly lowered his head to avoid the touch; though, obedient now to
Jean, the proved master, he remained where he had been told to stay.

But these things happened within twenty-four hours of Jan's departure
from that town. In the days immediately preceding this one of his
parting from Jean he had roamed the town at large with Blackfoot, Snip,
and the others of his team, observing, making acquaintances, fending off
attacks, administering punishment, and swaggering with the best among a
great company of sled-dogs of all sorts and sizes and in every varying
grade of condition, from fatted and vainglorious sleekness to downright
emaciation. For there were dogs here who, having recently shared cruelly
hard times with their men, would require weeks of recuperation to make
them fit for the rigors of the trail. Some of this latter sort were for
sale, and could be bought for a tenth of Jan's price, or less. Others,
again, were "resting," as the actors say, while their impoverished
masters worked at some other craft to earn money enough to give them
back the freedom of the trail.

None the less, he felt tolerably forlorn and desolate when, upon his
last evening there, he was led away by his new master, whose name, it
seemed, was Beeching, and locked in a small inclosure of high iron rails
with nine other dogs, the remaining complement of the team in which he
was now to serve. However, for a while he was kept too busy here to
spare much thought for the matter of the loss of his companions.

Every one of the nine strangers was sleek and well fed. _Chechaquo_
Beeching was bound for the sea and civilization, with the moderate pile
which a beginner's luck, rather than any skill or enterprise of his, had
brought him; and he was bent on doing the trip in style, he and his
curious friend, whom he called Harry. Of these nine finely conditioned
dogs, four had met Jan about the town and learned to show him some
deference. Two--Jinny and Poll--were bitches, and therefore not to be
regarded by Jan as possible opponents in a fight; but the remaining
three members of the crowd, lusty huskies, full of meat and insolence,
had never seen the big hound before, and these had to be thrashed pretty
soundly before Jan won his footing in the inclosure.

Fortunately, the two bitches were disposed to be friendly from the
outset, and of the three huskies, two were intently engaged upon bones
at the time of Jan's entrance. The third husky attacked him, blindly,
without stopping to exchange so much as glances. This little incident
was soon ended. In ten seconds Jan had bowled clean over on his back the
too temerarious Gutty--to give this particular husky the name under
which Mr. Beeching had bought him--and was shaking him by the throat as
a terrier shakes a rat. But Jan was far from being really angry, or
Gutty had paid with his life for the impudence of his attack; and when
the husky chokingly whined for mercy he was allowed to spring to his
feet and slink away into a dark corner, with nothing worse than a little
skin-wound to worry over.

The case of the other two huskies was more serious, however; for in the
half-light Jan chanced to brush against one of them as he gnawed his
bone; and in the next moment they both were leaping at him with clashing
fangs, convinced that he aimed at plunder. While Jan, in warding off
their attacks, tried to explain, good-humoredly, that he meant them no
ill, Jinny and Poll made off with their bones. But of this the two
huskies knew nothing, being fully occupied by their joint attack upon
the great dog who, had they but known it, was destined for some time to
be their master, in the traces and out of them.

It was a rather troublesome fight, involving considerable bloodshed; for
Fish and Pad, the two huskies, were quite notable battlers, and Jan, for
his part, was genuinely anxious to avoid any killing. He was quite
shrewd enough to know that he had now joined a new team, and, while it
was very necessary that his prowess should be recognized and respected,
he desired peace, and perfectly understood that, if he began by killing,
the results might be serious for the team and for himself.

In the end, having made some sacrifices, he had to inflict a severe gash
on the side of Pad's face, and to come near to throttling the life out
of Fish, before he could reduce the pair of them to a state of
comparatively decent, if still snarling, submission. After that there
was peace; Fish and Pad were too busy in dressing their wounds to notice
the loss of their bones; and Jan was free to introduce himself to the
others of the pack, which he did in friendly fashion enough, despite his
still raised hackles and rather noticeably stiff gait.

There was quite a gathering assembled next morning to see the last of
Jan's new masters. But though he eyed the crowd closely to find them,
Jan saw nothing of Jake or Jean, nor any of his old team-mates. Beeching
and Harry--the latter a gentleman who, having apparently no faith in his
own luck, believed in attaching himself firmly to any more fortunate
person who would tolerate his society--were, to all seeming, not really
unpopular. The thoroughly unpopular man is rarely guyed, with roars of
open laughter and back-slapping merriment, by men who wink and nod at
one another while joining forces in the matter of ragging their butt.

That was how Beeching was treated by the crowd of acquaintances who came
to give him his start on the southward, seaward trail. Harry was, for
the most part, merely ignored. It was understood that now, as in the
past, he was supposed to make himself "useful" by way of paying his
shot; and as he had never been known to be any other thing than useless,
it was evidence rather of the easy good nature than the perspicacity of
his associates that he never had actually lacked food and shelter in
that place. But that was as much, men thought, as "Tame Cat Harry" could
possibly expect. One of the last fond messages flung at Beeching, as his
overloaded sled swung out on the trail, was:

"Don't you be letting Harry loose, mind you, or he'll surely hark back
on the trail; an' then we'll shoot him on sight."

"Well, say," yelled another man, "if you do loose him any, be sure you
put a muzzle on him, so's to keep our grub-boxes safe."

After which crude gibe at Harry's sponging proclivities, Homeric
laughter set a period upon the town's farewell to Jan's new masters. And
that laughter stirred to fresh activity the uneasy want of confidence,
the rather cheerless sense of foreboding, which, for close upon
twenty-four hours now, had been growing in the breast of the team's
leader. Jan should, perhaps, have felt drawn toward Beeching and Harry,
since both were compatriots of his and hailed from southern England. But
England has sent a good many of her most confirmed wastrels oversea,
along with the very cream of her manhood; and whether or no, Jan had no
more confidence in his masters than he had in Gutty, the husky he had
thrashed overnight, and far less than he had in Fish and Pad, the two
opponents he had found so much more difficult to trounce.

As a fact, Jan's skepticism was amply justified. In the thirty-five-day
trip thus begun--which should have been completed in sixteen days--Jan
was given as striking an example of the effects of man's muddle-headed,
slack-minded incompetence as that which Jean had furnished him of the
effects of man's able-bodied, clear-headed competence and efficiency.
Jan never worked it out in precisely this way, but after his own simple
and direct fashion he came to the definite conclusion, before he had
been two days on the trail with Beeching and Harry, that, for his part,
he would sooner thole the harshest kind of severity or even cruelty in a
master, so that it be allied with competence, than he would endure this
evils which (in the northland more than in most places) attend all the
steps of the man who is slack, shiftless, and incompetent; and, be it
noted, make miserable the days of all and sundry who are forced to be in
any way dependent on that man.

It was with much wistful regret that Jan recalled in these days the
daily round of his life, after the fight with Bill, as Jean's lead dog.
The swift, positive, and ordered evolutions of those smoothly running
days seemed merely miraculous in retrospect as Jan compared his memory
of them with the wretched muddle of Beeching's wasteful scramble across
the country: They carried no trade goods, nothing save the necessary
dog-food and creature-comforts for the two men; yet their sled--an
extra-large one--was half as heavy again to pull as Jean's had been,
despite the ten primely conditioned dogs who made up Beeching's "flash"
team.

The morning was generally far advanced when Beeching and Harry started
in to clear the muddle of their amateurish night's camp, with all its
preposterous litter of bedding, utensils (always unclean), and other
wasteful truck such as no men can afford to carry in the northland. But
the day would be half done by the time their muddled preparations were
finally completed.

And then, more often than not, one of the men would add his own not
inconsiderable weight to that of the half-packed, overladen sled; and,
at the best, Harry as a trail-breaker and finder was of no more use than
a blind kitten would have been. A dozen times in the day a halt would be
called for some enforced repacking of the jerry-built load on the sled;
and at such times some unpacking would often have to be done to provide
liquor or other refreshment for the men. There were times when, on a
perfect trail, the day's run would be no more than twenty miles; and
there were days of bad trail, when even Jean would have been put to it
to make more than five and twenty miles, and these incompetents, with
their ten-dog team, covered a bare eight or ten miles.

Pride in his leadership was as impossible for Jan in these conditions as
was content or pride in his share of the work for any other member of
the team. But that was not the worst of it. During the first day or two
of the trip Jan was staggered to find that these new masters of his had
no notion of measuring dog-rations, or even of serving these with any
sort of regularity as to time, or portions, or gross quantity. They
would feed some or all the dogs, at any time of day at all, and in any
feckless way that came handy. At their first and second midday halts,
for instance, they flung down to the team, as though to a herd of sheep
or swine, food enough for three days' rations, their own leavings, and
the orthodox dog-ration stuff, in a mixed heap.

Given decent, proper feeding, Jan would have seen to it that order was
preserved and no thieving done. Each dog should have had his own
"whack," and none have been molested. But with all his genuine love of
order and discipline, Jan was no magician. He could not possibly
apportion out a scattered refuse-heap. He had necessarily to grab a
share for himself; and, as was inevitable, the weaker members of the
team went short, or got nothing.

Then--unheard-of profligacy--came another equally casual distribution at
night; and yet another, it might be, in the morning--in the morning,
with the trail before them!

It resolved itself into this: there were no dog-meals on that journey;
but only daily dog-fights--snarling, scrapping, blood and hatred-letting
scrimmages for grub; disgraceful episodes, in themselves sufficient to
shut out any hope of discipline in the team.

The quite inevitable shock came on the evening of the twelfth day. (With
his costly team, Beeching had gaily figured on fifteen days for the
entire trip, in place of the thirty-five days which it actually
occupied.) The only good thing that memorable twelfth day brought was
the end of Beeching's whisky-supply. Incidentally it marked, too, the
end of his easy-going good temper. And to the consternation of an
already thoroughly demoralized team, it brought also the serving out, in
a heap as before--this cruel and messy trick, more perhaps than any
other one thing, marked the men's wretched slackness and incompetence;
qualities generally more cruel in their effects than any harshness or
over-severity--of fish representing in the aggregate rather less than
half a day's ration for each dog in the team.

The next day, and the next, and the next brought a similar dispensation
to the dogs; no more. By this time the nightly feeding had become a
horrid and bloody battle.

"Nasty savage brutes!" said sponging Harry.

"Blood does tell," observed the oracular Beeching, himself by repute a
man of family. "They're every one of 'em mongrels."

The son of lordly Finn and queenly Desdemona attached no meaning to
these words, of course; but were it not for the discipline, the
generations of discipline in his blood, he could have strangled these
two muddlers for the tragic folly of their incompetence, the gross
exhibition of their slackness.

As the men themselves began to feel the belly-pinch, they brought up no
reserves of manhood, but, on the contrary, they took to cruelly beating
their now weakened team, when the dogs were safely tethered in the
traces, and to cowardly avoidance of the poor brutes at all other times.
Harry was quite unashamedly afraid to throw the dogs their beggarly half
or quarter ration; and but for Beeching, it may be the dogs had starved
while food still remained on the sled.

Maybe the fact that Beeching, with all his faults, had never reached
Harry's depths as a sponger, preserved him from this particular crime.
But he had small ground in that for self-gratulation, since it is a fact
remembered in the country that when he did eventually stagger down to
salt water with his sadly reduced team, the dogs had positively not had
their harness off for a week. Mr. Beeching and his precious partner had
been afraid to let their dogs out of the traces and the safe reach of
their whips!

The fatally unwise Gutty was the first to succumb. Fish downed him for a
morsel of food he had grabbed; and when the team had been over the spot
on which he fell, there simply was no Gutty left. Poll, the slighter of
the two bitches, died under Harry's whip--the haft of it--or she, like
Jinny, would have seen salt water, because their sex was their
protection--from their fellow-dogs, though not from the now starving and
insensate clowns who drove them.

Everything but the scant remains of the men's food had, of course, been
jettisoned before this. The dogs made a meal of the smart water-proof
sheets, and Jan ate Beeching's show pair of moccasins. The whole
business forms a wretched and shameful record that need not be
prolonged.

To be quite just, one should mention that Beeching was afoot (hammering
Jan's protruding haunches) when they staggered into the township on the
evening of the thirty-fifth day. Harry lay groaning on the sled, and had
been there, too lame to walk, he said, too despicable, perhaps, for
Death's consideration, for three days and more. The ten-dog team of
prime-conditioned animals of five weeks before consisted now of seven
gaunt, staggering creatures, each a bony framework, masked in dried
blood and bruises; each suffering jarring agony from every tremulous
step taken, and all together (as the market went) worth, it might be--to
a very speculative dog-doctor--say, ten dollars. The team had cost the
deplorable Beeching about three thousand.

But, as a matter of fact, Pad died in the moment of stoppage, and two of
his mates got their release while yet in the traces. Jan, Jinny, and two
others survived still at the bitter end of what was perhaps the most
wretchedly bungled trip ever made over that famous trail.



XXXII

JAN OBEYS ORDERS AT THE GREAT DIVIDE


Experienced observers contended that the most truly remarkable thing
about _Chechaquo_ Beeching was not, after all, his super-slackness or
his criminal stupidity, but his invincible luck.

Where many good men and true, infinitely capable and knowledgeable, had
starved, or failed to make a scavenger's wage, Beeching had tumbled into
possession of a couple of hundred thousand dollars, and, after having
sampled most methods of "burning" money known to the northland, still
had fully half this sum to his credit.

That was one astounding proof of his tenderfoot's luck. But more
remarkable evidence of it was found, by those who understood, in his
memorable journey to salt water.

By all the rules of the game, men said, Beeching and his hanger-on
should have been starved, frozen, and eaten by their outraged dogs a
week or more before the end of their trip. And failing that, some
old-timers pointed out, they should have been publicly lynched on
arrival at salt water.

Instead, they fell into the hands of roughly good-natured men, who not
only gave them food and drink and helped them down to the wharf, but
actually set them up with a traveling-kit of new clothing.

Then, again, consider the really astounding fact that a steamer should
have been waiting to cast off at the moment these two men arrived, and
that her skipper held his ship up for half an hour to suit the
convenience of the precious pair, and finally carried them on in his
best two cabins!

"But what about the sled and the team?" whined Harry, as he and Beeching
hobbled up the gangway of the waiting steamer, bound for luxury and
civilization. It may be Harry had thought of these as one of his
hard-earned perquisites.

"Oh, to blazes with the sled and dogs!" cried _Chechaquo_ Beeching. "The
town's welcome to 'em, for all I care."

Generous man! And at that precise moment, his tough life starved and
hammered out of his hardy body, the exhausted Fish was breathing his
last--still in the traces; and Jan, in whom the fires of life, though
better laid than those of ninety-nine dogs in a hundred, were burning
very low just now--barely flickering, indeed--was concentrating such
energies as remained in him upon gnawing feebly at his traces, for the
double purpose of extracting some nutriment from them, if that might be,
and freeing himself from their control.

The first of these aims was a tolerably hopeless one, since Jan could
not just now swallow any hard thing. But in the second he achieved
success, just as the steamer's gangway was hauled up and the population
of the town was engaged in waving farewell to the craft that connected
with the big outside world, where sentimentality and dollars rule, just
as in the northland muscle, grit, endurance--and dollars rule. Yes, even
there money does play one of the chief ruling parts. But, as a general
thing, sentimentality does not.

The remaining wrecks of the team, two dead, one dying, and three too far
gone in the same direction to be capable of any effort, lay where they
had fallen at the moment when willing hands had come to help their
masters to the steamer.

It may be that Jan had bigger physical reserves to draw upon than his
mates had. It is more likely, however, that the powers which kept him
striving still to live, after the others had given up effort, were
factors on the mental side of his composition. His memories were
stronger and more vivid, his imagination a thing far more complex, than
that of any husky. Also his faith in men and his desire for their help
and companionship--even after five weeks with Beeching and Harry--were
greatly stronger than the same factors were in any of his team-mates.
The culminative influences of hundreds of generations of civilization
spoke in him here.

And so, trailing beside him the gnawed-off ends of his traces, Jan
dragged his emaciated frame along in jerks over the hard-trodden snow
while the folk of the town cheered the departing steamer. In a little
while Jan came to a small tent, the flap of which hung loose and open.
At the entrance Jan smelt the fresh trail of a man; from within came--to
nostrils cunning as Jan's--the odor of foodstuffs. Jan propped and
jerked himself feebly into the tent, though for months now he had known
that it was forbidden to enter the habitations of men-folk.

Nosing weakly to and fro, Jan found on a low shelf a can of milk. A
half-blind jab of his muzzle brought it tumbling to the ground. Its lid
was open, but the milk was firmly frozen. Jan licked at it, cutting his
deep flews as he did so on the uneven edges of the tin. The warmth of
his tongue extracted a certain sweet milkiness from this. But the metal
edges were raw and sharp; Jan's exhaustion was very great, and presently
he sank down upon the twig-strewn ground, and lay there, breathing in
weak, sobbingly uncertain gasps, the milk-can between his outstretched
paws.

Jan was now drawing very near, nearer than he had ever been before, to
the Great Divide.

Within a hundred yards of Jan were groups of solid frame houses, with
warm kitchens in them, and abundant food. But the tent, standing by
itself, came first; and, though he could not know it, the tent was, on
the whole, the very best of all the habitations in that bleak little
town--for Jan. For this tent was the temporary home of an American named
Willis--James Gurney Willis; as knowledgeable a man as Jean himself and,
in addition, one known wherever he went into the northland as a white
man.

Not many minutes after Jan's lying down there Jim Willis came striding
up to his tent from the wharf, and found the half of its floor-space
occupied by the gaunt wreck of the biggest hound he had ever seen.
Willis was a man of experience in other places than the northland, and
he would always have known a bloodhound when he saw one. But never had
he seen a hound of any kind with such a frame as that he saw before him
now. The dead, blood-matted black and iron-gray coat was no bloodhound's
coat, he thought; too long and wiry and dense for that. But yet the
head--And, anyway, thought Willis, how came the poor beast to have died
just there, in his tent?

And in that moment the heavy lids of Jan's eyes twitched and lifted a
little. It was rather ghastly. They showed no eyes, properly speaking.
The eyes seemed to have receded, turned over, disappeared in some way.
All that the lifted lids showed Willis was two deep, triangular patches
of blood-red membrane. And above the prominent, thatched brows rose the
noble bloodhound forehead, serried wrinkle over wrinkle to the lofty
peak of the skull.

"My God!" muttered Willis, with no irreverent intent.

Always rich in the bloodhound characteristic of abundant folds of loose,
rolling skin about the head, neck, and shoulders, the wreck of Jan, from
which so very many pounds of solid flesh had been lost during the past
month, seemed to carry the skin of two hounds. And set deep in these
pouched and pendent folds of skin--tattered, blood-stained banners of
the hound's past glories--the face of Jan was as a wedge, incredibly
long and narrow.

His eyes had been torn out, it seemed. That was what forced the
exclamation from Willis. But it was only an abnormal extension of the
blood-red haws that Willis saw. The eyeballs had rolled up and back
somewhat, as they mostly do when a hound is _in extremis_; but they
would have shown if Jan had had the strength properly to lift his lids.
Yet he had seen Willis. It was his utter weakness, combined with the
hanging weight of his wrinkled face and flew-skin, that caused the
ghastly show of blood-red membrane only where eyeballs should have been.

But Jan did see Willis, and the loose skin of his battered shoulders
even shrank a little, in anticipation of a blow. Jan thought himself
still in the traces. (As a fact he was; and breast-band, too.)

The moment Willis spoke--his low "My God!"--Jan fancied he had heard the
old order to "Mush on!" and doubtless that another blow from the haft of
Beeching's whip was due. In view of his then desperate state, the effort
with which Jan answered the command he fancied he heard was a positive
miracle. He actually staggered to his feet, though too weak to lift his
eyelids, and plunged forward, with weakly scrabbling paws, to throw his
weight upon the traces. And plunging against nothing but space, he had
surely crashed to earth again, and in that moment crossed the Divide,
but for Willis.

Willis was not of the type of men who waste breath over repetitions of
exclamation of surprise. As Jan slowly heaved up his body, in a last
effort at duty, Willis swiftly lowered his own body, dropping upon his
knees, both arms widely extended. And it was at Willis's broad chest,
and between his strongly supporting arms, that the wreck of Jan plunged,
in response to what must be reckoned by far the greatest effort, till
then, that the great hound had ever made.

And if the thing had ended there, this incident alone proved that when
he chose the tent, before any of the more ambitious habitations near by,
Jan had chosen what was assuredly the best place for him in all that
town.



XXXIII

BACK TO THE TRAIL


Late that same evening two men who looked in to see Jim Willis found him
playing sick-nurse to all that remained of the strangest-looking hound
ever seen in those parts. His stove was well alight, and near by, on the
bed, were a spoon, a flask of whisky, a dish of hot milk, and some
meat-juice in a jar.

There was some talk about the hound, and then the bigger of the visitors
said:

"Well, Jim, what's it to be? Will you tackle the job, or won't you? You
must admit, if the trail _is_ bad, the money's pretty good. Will you
go?"

Willis nodded shortly. That meant acquiescence in the statement that the
money was "good." Then he pointed to the hound, whose head rested on his
knee. (He himself was sitting on the ground.)

"Well, no, Mike; I guess I won't," he said, slowly. "You say I'd have to
hit out to-morrow; and I reckon I'm going to try an' yank this feller
back into the world before I go anywheres."

"But, hell, Jim," said the other man, a little petulantly. "I like a
dawg as well as the next man, and this one does seem to have been some
husky in his time. Only--well, you admit yourself the money's good,
and--say, I won't try any bluffs with you. There ain't another man in
the place we could trust to do the job. Come, now, is it a go, Jim?"

Willis pondered a minute, eying Jan's head the while.

"Well, Mike," he said at length, "I've kinder given my word to this
feller here. He's a sort of a guest o' mine, in a way--in my tent, and
that. No, Mike, I'll not hit out to-morrow, not for any money. But if
you'd care to leave it for a week or ten days--ten days, say, I'll go.
An' that's the best I can do for ye. Think it over, an' let me know
to-morrow."

And with that the two men had to content themselves. They went out
growling. Three minutes later the shorter of the two returned.

"Say, Jim," he remarked, as he thrust his head and shoulders in at the
tent-flap, "I've been puzzling my head about that blame crittur ever
since we first come in; an' now I've located him. He's dyin' a long way
from home, Jim, is that dawg. But I can give ye his name. He's Jan,
that's who he is. There! See his eyes move then, when I said 'Jan.'
Look! Jan! See that?"

Jim Willis nodded comprehendingly as he watched Jan's feebly flickering
eyelids.

"Yes, sir," continued the other man; "I've seen a picture of him in the
Vancouver _News-Advertiser._ He's Jan of the R.N.W.M.P., that's who he
is; 'the Mounted Police bloodhound,' they called him. He tracked a
murderer down one time, somewhere out Regina way; though how in the
nation he ever made this burg has me fairly beat. Where'n the world did
that blame _chechaquo_ raise him, d'ye suppose? Surely he'd never have
sand enough to go around dog-stealing, would he? An' from the North-west
Mounted! Not on your life he wouldn't. Sneakin' coppers out've a blin'
man's bowl 'd be more in his line o' country, I reckon. But that's Jan,
all right; an' you can take it from me. Queer world, ain't it? Well, so
long, Jim. I jest thought I'd look back an' tell ye. So long!"

"So long, Jock. Oh, say, Jock! What's happened the rest o' that--that
feller's team, anyway?" asked Willis.

"Well, Seattle Charley told me they was plum petered out. Most of 'em's
died, I believe. But two or three's alive. That Indian musher across the
creek's got 'em, doctoring of 'em up, Charley says. He reckons to pull
some round, an' make a bit on 'em, I suppose. But this feller here, he's
too far gone, Jim. You can see he's done."

"Ah! Well, good night, Jock."

"S'long!"

And with that Jim Willis was left alone again with the hound he was
nursing.

He folded a deerskin coat loosely, and placed it under Jan's head. Then
he reached for his spoon, and proceeded to force down a little more warm
whisky and milk beside the clenched jaws. One knew, by the way he lifted
one of Jan's flews, raised the dog's head, and gently rubbed his gullet
between thumb and forefinger to help the liquor down, that he had
handled sick dogs before to-day. He had covered Jan's body with an old
buffalo robe, and now he proceeded to fill a jar with boiling water, and
placed that against Jan's chest.

       *       *       *       *       *

There could be no doubt but what Jan chose more wisely than he knew in
entering that tent.

On the morning of the ninth day--Jim Willis's word was a little better
than the bonds of some men--after the departure for the south of
Beeching and Harry, Willis hit the trail upon the commission he had
undertaken for Mike and Jock; or for the more richly moneyed powers
behind those two.

Willis's team consisted of five huskies, good workers all; and he
traveled pretty light, with a sled packed and lashed as only an old hand
at the trail can perform that task. But the queer thing about the outfit
was that Willis had a sixth dog with him, a dog half as large again as
any in the traces; and this one walked at Jim's heel, idle; though, at
the outset, it had taken some sharp talk to get him there. Indeed, the
big dog had almost fought for a place at the head of the team of
huskies. But Jim Willis was accustomed to see to it that his will, not
theirs, ruled all the dogs he handled; and as he had decided that this
particular dog should, for the present, run loose at his heels, the
thing fell out thus, and not otherwise.

In nine days Jan had made a really wonderful recovery. He was not strong
and hard yet, of course; but, as every one who had observed his case
admitted, it was something of a miracle that he should be alive at all.
And here he was setting out upon a fourteen-hundred-mile journey, and,
to begin with, fighting for a place in the traces.

"If I have any more of your back-talk, my gentleman," Jim Willis had
said, with gruff apparent sternness, "I'll truss you like a Thanksgiving
turkey an' lash you atop the sled. So you get to heel an' stay there.
D'ye hear me?"

And Jan, not without a hint of convalescent peevishness, had heard, and
dropped behind.

The bones of his big frame were still a deal too prominent, and he
carried more than even the bloodhound's proper share of loose, rolling
skin. But his fine black and iron-gray coat had regained its gleaming
vitality; his tread, if still a little uncertain, was springy; his dark
hazel eyes showed bright and full of spirit above their crimson haws;
his stern was carried more than half erect, and he was gaining weight in
almost every hour; not mere fatty substance--Willis saw to that--but the
genuine weight that comes with swelling muscles and the formation of
healthy flesh.

"There's nothing like the trail for a pick-me-up," said Jim Willis. And
as the days slipped past, and the miles of silent whiteness were flung
behind his sled, it became apparent that he was in the right of it, so
far, at all events, as Jan was concerned.

It was exactly forty-two days later that they sighted salt water again
and were met in the town's one street by Mike and Jock. And on that day,
as on each of twenty preceding days, Willis's team consisted of six
dogs, instead of five, and the leader of the team was half as big again
as his mates. It was noticed that Willis's whip was carried jammed in
the lower lashing of his sled-pack, instead of in his hand. He had
learned as much, and more, than Jean had ever known about Jan's powers
as a team-leader.

"No use for a whip with that chap in the lead," he told an inquirer. "If
you hit Jan, I reckon he'd bust the traces; and he don't give you a
chance to find fault with the huskies. I reckon he'd eat 'em before he'd
let 'em really need a whip. I haven't carried mine these three weeks
now."

"You don't say," commented a bystander. Jim nodded to show he did "say."

"I tell ye that dog he don't just do what you tell him; he finds out
what you want before you know it, and blame well does it before you can
open your mouth. An' he makes the huskies do it, too, on schedule, I can
tell you, or he'll know the reason why. Yes, sir. I take no credit for
his training. I guess he was kinder born to the job, an' knows it better
'n what I do. I don't know who did train him, if anybody ever did; but
as a leadin' sled-dog he's got all the Yukon whipped to a standstill.
He's the limit. Now you watch!"

Of set purpose, Willis spoke with elaborate carelessness.

"Just mush on a yard or two, not far, Jan."

His tone was conversational. Jan gave a short, low bark; and in the same
moment the five huskies flung themselves into their collars behind him.
The sled--its runners already tight frozen--creaked, jerked, and slid
forward just eight feet. Jan let out a low, warning growl. The team
stood still without a word from its owner.

"Say, does he talk?" asked a bystander. And then, with a chuckle: "Use a
knife an' fork to his grub, Jim?"

"Oh, as to that," said Willis, "he don't need to do no talkin'. He can
make any husky understand without talk; an' when that husky understands,
if he won't do as Jan says, Jan'll smother him, quick an' lively."

As Jan stood now at the head of his team, awaiting final orders, he
formed a picture of perfect canine health and fitness. He represented
most of a northlander's ideals and dreams of what a sled-dog should be,
plus certain other qualities that came to him from his breeding, and
that no dog-musher would have even hoped for in a sled-dog: his immense
size, for example, and his wonderful dignity and grace of form and
action.

Jan never had been so superlatively fit; so instinct in every least hair
of his coat, in every littlest vein of his body, with tingling life and
pulsing energy. His coat crackled if a man's hand was passed along his
black saddle.

Despite the lissom grace of all his motions, Jan moved every limb with a
kind of exuberant snap, as though his strength spilled over from its
superabundance, and had to be expended at every opportunity to avoid
surcharge. His movements formed his safety-valve, you fancied. Robbed of
these, his abounding vitality would surely burst through the cage of his
great body in some way, and destroy him. He walked as though the forces
of gravitation were but barely sufficient to tether him down to mother
earth.

"And I reckon he weighs near a hundred and sixty," said Willis; a guess
the store scales proved good that night, when Jan registered exactly one
hundred and fifty-seven pounds, though he carried no fat, nor an ounce
of any kind of waste material.



XXXIV

THE PEACE RIVER TRAIL


Winter set in with unusual rigor, the temperature dropping after heavy
snow to fifty below zero, and hovering between thirty and sixty below
for weeks together.

Jim Willis and his sled-team lived on a practically "straight" meat
diet. Jan had forgotten the taste of sun-dried salmon, and men and dogs
together were living now on moose-meat chopped with an ax from the slabs
and chunks that were stowed away on the sled. Willis occasionally
treated himself to a dish of boiled beans, and when fortune favored he
ate ptarmigan. But moose-meat was the staple for man and dogs alike.

For months the valleys they had traversed had been rich in game. But in
the northland the movements of game are mysterious and unaccountable;
and now, in a bleak and gloomy stretch of country north of the Caribou
Mountains, they had seen no trace of life of any kind for a fortnight
except wolves. And of these, by day and by night, Jim Willis had seen
and heard more than he cared about. It seemed the brutes had come from
country quite unlike the valleys Willis had traveled, and resembling
more nearly that in which he now found himself. For these wolves were
gaunt and poor, and the absence of game made them more than normally
audacious. So far from seeking to avoid man and his dogs, they seemed to
infest Willis's trail, ranging emptily and wistfully to his rear and
upon either side as hungry sharks patrol a ship's wake.

The circumstances would have had little enough of significance for
Willis, but for an accident which befell just before the cold snap set
in. Hastening along the track of a moose he had already mortally
wounded, beside one of the tributaries of the Mackenzie, Willis had had
the misfortune to take a false step among half-formed ice, and he and
his gun had fallen into deep water. The bigger part of a day was given
to the attempted salvaging of that gun. But in the end the quest had to
be relinquished.

The gun was never seen again; and, though Jim had good store of
ammunition, he now had no weapon of any sort or kind, save ax and whip.
This was the reason why the presence of large packs of hungry wolves
annoyed him and made him anxious to reach a Peace River station as
speedily as might be. He carried a fair stock of moose-meat, but
accidents might happen, and in any case, apart from the presence of
hungry wolves in large numbers, no man cares to be without weapons of
precision in the wilderness, for it is these which more than any other
thing give him his mastery over the predatory of the wild.

Just before three o'clock in an afternoon of still, intense cold, when
daylight was fading out, the narrow devious watercourse whose frozen
surface had formed Willis's trail for many a mile, brought him at last
to a bend of the Peace River from which he knew he could reach a
settlement within four or five days of good traveling. Therefore his
arrival at this point was of more interest and importance to Willis than
any ordinary camping halt. But it struck him as curious that Jan should
show the interest he did show in it.

"Seems like as if that blame dog knows everything," he muttered as he
saw Jan trotting to and fro over the trail, his flews sweeping the
trodden snow with eager, questing gestures, his stern waving as with
excitement of some sort.

"Surely there's been no game past this way," thought Willis, "or them
wolves would be on to the scent of it pretty quick."

He could hear his tireless escorts of the past week yowling a mile or
more away in the rear. Having built and lighted a fire of pine-knots, he
called the dogs about him to be fed. Jan seemed disinclined to answer
the call, being still busily questing to and fro. Willis had to call him
separately and sternly.

"You stay right here," he said, sharply. "This ain't no place for
hunting-excursions an' picnic-parties, let me tell you. You're big an'
husky, all right, but the gentlemen out back there 'd make no more o'
downing an' eatin' you than if you was a sody-cracker, so I tell ye now.
They're fifty to one an' hungry enough to eat chips."

His ration swallowed, Jan showed an inclination to roam again, though
his team-mates, with ears pricked and hackles rising in answer to the
wolf-calls, huddled about as near the camp-fire as they dared.

"H'm! 'Tain't jest like you to be contemplatin' sooicide, neither; but
it seems you've got some kind of a hunch that way to-night. Come here,
then," said Willis. And he proceeded to tether Jan securely to the sled,
within a yard of his own sleeping-place. "If I'd my old gun here, me
beauties," he growled, shaking his fist in the direction from which he
had come that day, "I'd give some o' ye something to howl about, I
reckon." Then to Jan, "Now you lie down there an' stay there till I
loose ye."

Obediently enough Jan proceeded to scoop out his nest in the snow, and
settle. But it was obvious that he labored with some unusual interest;
some unseen cause of excitement.

Next morning it seemed Jan had forgotten his peculiar interest in the
Peace River trail, his attention being confined strictly to the
customary routine of harnessing and schooling the team.

But two hours later he did a thing that Willis had never seen him do
before. He threw the team into disorder by coming to an abrupt
standstill in mid-trail without any hint of an order from his master. He
was sniffing hard at the trail, turning sharply from side to side, his
flews in the snow, while his nostrils avidly drank in whatever it was
they found there, as a parched dog drinks at a water-hole.

"Mush on there, Jan! What ye playin' at?" cried Willis.

At the word of command Jan plunged forward mechanically. But in the next
moment he had halted again and, nose in the snow, wheeled sharply to the
right, almost flinging on its side the dog immediately behind him in the
traces.

For an instant Jim Willis wondered uncomfortably if his leader had gone
mad. He had known sudden and apparently quite inexplicable cases of
madness among sled-dogs, and, like most others having any considerable
experience of the trail, he had more than once had to shoot a dog upon
whom madness had fallen. At all events, before striding forward to the
head of his team Willis fumbled under the lashings of the sled and drew
out the long-thonged dog-whip which for months now he had ceased to
carry on the trail, finding no use for it under Jan's leadership of the
team.

A glance now showed the cause of Jan's abrupt unordered right turn.
Close to the trail Jim saw the fresh remains of a camp-fire beside the
deep marks of a sled's runners.

"Well, an' what of it?" said he to Jan, sharply. "'Tain't the first time
you've struck another man's trail, is it? What 'n the nation ails ye to
be so het up about it, anyway?"

And then, with his practised trailer's eyes he began to examine these
tracks himself.

"H'm! Do seem kind o' queer, too," he muttered. "The sled's a
middlin'-heavy one, all right, only I don't see but one dog's track
here, and that's onusu'l. Mus' be a pretty good husky, Jan, to shift
that load on his own--eh? But hold on! I reckon there's two men slep'
here. But there's only one man's track on the trail, an' only one dog.
Some peculiar, I allow: but this here stoppin' and turnin' an' playin'
up is altogether outside the contrac', Jan. Clean contr'y to discipline.
Come, mush on there! D'ye hear me? Mush on, the lot o' ye."

It may be that, if he had had no reason for haste, Jim Willis would have
gone farther in the matter of investigating Jan's peculiar conduct. As
it was he saw every reason against delay and no justification for close
study of a trail which he was desirous only of putting behind him. As a
result he carried his whip for the rest of that day, and used it more
often than it had been used in all the months since he first saw Jan.
For, contrary to all habit and custom, Jan seemed to-day most singularly
indifferent to his master's wishes, and yet not indifferent, either, to
these or to anything, but so much preoccupied with other matters as to
be neglectful of these.

He checked frequently in his stride to sniff hard and long at the trail.
And after one or two of these checks Jim Willis sent the end of his
whip-thong sailing through the keen air from his place beside the sled
clear into Jan's flank by way of reminder and indorsement of his sharp,
"Mush on there, Jan!"

When a halt was called for camping, as the early winter darkness set in,
the unbelievable thing happened. Jan, the first dog to be loosed, took
one long, ardent sniff at the trail before him and then loped on ahead
with never a backward glance for master or team-mates.

"Here, you, Jan! Come in here! Come right in here! D'ye hear me? Jan!
Jan! You crazy? Come in here! Come--here!"

Jim Willis flung all his master's authority into the harsh
peremptoriness of his last call. And Jan checked in his stride as he
heard it. Then the hound shook his shoulders as though a whip-lash had
struck them, sniffed hard again at the trail, and went on.

Willis caused his whip to sing, and himself shouted till he was hoarse.
Jan, the perfect exemplar of sled-dog discipline, apparently defied him.
The big hound was out of sight now.

"Well!" exclaimed Willis as he turned to unharness and feed his other
dogs. And again, "Well!" And then, after a pause: "Now I know you're
plumb crazy. But all the same--Well, it's got me properly beat. Anyhow,
crazy or no, I guess you're meat just the same, an', by the great
Geewhillikins! you'll be dead meat, an' digested meat at that, before
you're an hour older, my son, if I know anything o' wolves." Later, as
he proceeded to thaw out his supper, "Well, I do reckon that's a blame
pity," growled Willis to his fire, by way of epitaph. And for Jim Willis
that was saying a good deal.



XXXV

THE END OF JAN'S LONE TRAIL


With every stride in his solitary progress along that dark trail Jan's
gait and appearance took on more of certitude and of swift concentration
upon an increasingly clear and definite objective.

Of the wolves in the neighborhood all save two remained, uneasily
ranging the neighborhood of the trail to the rear of Willis's camp. As
it seemed to them, Jim Willis's outfit was a sure and safe quarry. It
represented meat which must, in due course, become food for them. And so
they did not wish to leave it behind them, in a country bare of game.

Two venturesome speculators from the pack had, however, worked round to
the front, one on either side of the trail. And these were now loping
silent along, each sixty or seventy yards away, watching Jan. Jan was
conscious of their presence, as one is conscious of the proximity of
mosquitoes. He regarded their presence neither more nor less seriously
than this. But he did not forget them. Now and again one or other of
them would close in to, perhaps, twenty or thirty paces in a sweeping
curve. Then Jan's lip would writhe and rise on the side nearest the
encroaching wolf, and a long, bitter snarl of warning would escape him.

"If I hadn't got important business in hand, I'd stop and flay you for
your insolence," his snarl said. "I'll do it now, if you're not careful.
Sheer off!"

And each time the wolf sheered off, in a sweeping curve, still keeping
the lone hound under careful observation.

Wolves are very acute judges; desperate fighters for their lives and
when driven by hunger, but at no time really brave. If Jan had fallen by
the way, these two would have been into him like knives. While he ran,
exhibiting his fine powers, and snarled, showing his fearlessness, no
two wolves would tackle him, and even the full pack would likely have
trailed him for miles before venturing an attack.

But, however that might be, it is a fact that Jan spared no more than
the most occasional odd ends of thought for these two silent, slinking
watchers of his trail. His active mind was concentrated upon quite other
matters, and was becoming more and more set and concentrated, more
absorbingly preoccupied with every minute of his progress.

A bloodhound judge who had watched Jan now would have known that he no
longer sniffed the trail, as he ran, for guidance. The trail was too
fresh for that. He could have followed it with his nose held high in the
air. It was for the sheer joy it brought him that he ran now with
low-hanging flews, drinking in the scent he followed. And because of the
warmth of the trail, Jan followed it at the gallop, his great frame well
extended to every stride.

Of a sudden he checked. It was exactly as though he had run his head
into a noose on the end of a snare line made fast to one of the darkling
trees which skirted his path on the right-hand side. Here the scent
which he followed left the trail almost at right angles, turning into
the wood.

A moment more and Jan came into full view of a camp-fire, beside which
were a sled, a single dog, and two men. But Jan saw no camp-fire, nor
any other thing than the track under his questing nose.

The single dog by the sled leaped to its feet with a growling bark. One
of the two men stood up sharply in the firelight, ordering his dog in to
heel. His eyes (full of wonder) lighted then on the approaching figure
of Jan, head down; and he reached for his rifle where it lay athwart the
log on which he had been sitting.

As Jan drew in, the other dog flew at his throat. Without wasting breath
upon a snarl, Jan gave the husky his shoulder, with a jar which sent the
poor beast sprawling into the red flickering edge of the fire. And in
the same moment Jan let out a most singular cry as he reared up on his
hind feet, allowing his fore paws, very gently and without pressure, to
rest on the man's chest.

His cry had something of a bark in it, but yet was not a bark. It had a
good deal of a kind of crooning whine about it, but yet was not a whine.
It was just a cry of almost overpowering joy and gladness; and it was so
uncannily different from any dog-talk she had ever heard, that the
singed and frightened husky bitch by the fire stood gaping open-mouthed
to harken at it.

And the man--long-practised discipline made him lay down his gun,
instead of dropping it; and then he voiced an exclamation of
astonishment scarcely more articulate than Jan's own cry, and his two
arms swung out and around the hound's massive shoulders in a movement
that was an embrace.

"Why, Jan--dear old Jan! Jan, come back to me--here! Good old Jan!"

It was with something strangely like a sob that the bearded sergeant,
Dick Vaughan, sank down to a sitting position on the log, with Jan's
head between his hands.

His beard was evidence of a longish spell on the trail; and the weakness
that permitted of his catching his breath in a childlike sob--that was
due, perhaps, to solitude and the peculiar strain of his present
business on the trail, as well as to the great love he felt for the
hound he had thought lost to him for ever.

"How d'ye do, Devil! How d'ye do! We were just hurryin' on for your
place. Will ye take a drop o' rye? I'm boss here. That's only my
chore-boy you're slobberin' over, Mister Devil. Eh, but it's hunky down
to Coney Island, ain't it?"

These remarks came in a jerky sort of torrent from the second man, one
of whose peculiarities was that his arms above the elbow were lashed
with leather thongs to his body. There were leather hobbles about his
ankles, and on the ground near by him lay a pair of unlocked handcuffs,
carefully swathed in soft-tanned deerskin.

Sergeant Dick Vaughan's companion may possibly have accentuated the
solitude in which he traveled; such a companion could hardly have
mitigated it as a source of nervous strain, for he was mad as a March
hare. But there was nothing else harelike about him, for he was
homicidally mad, and had killed two men and half killed a third before
Sergeant Vaughan laid hands upon him. And his was not the only madness
the sergeant had had to contend with on this particular trip.

A strong and overtried man's weakness is not a thing that any one cares
to enlarge upon, but without offense it may perhaps be stated that tears
fell on the iron-gray hair of Jan's muzzle as he stood there with his
soft flews pressed hard against Dick Vaughan's thigh. It seemed he
wanted to bore right into the person of his sovereign lord; he who had
never asked for any man's caress through all the long months of
wandering, toil, and hardship that divided him from the Regina barracks.
His nose burrowed lovingly under Dick's coat with never a thought of
fear or of a trap, although, for many months now, his first instinct had
been to keep his head free, vision clear, and feet to the ground,
whatever befell.

"My old Jan! My dear old Jan!"

Dick Vaughan paid no sort of heed to the jerky maunderings of his poor
demented charge. But Jan did. Without stirring his head, Jan edged his
body away at right angles from the madman, and the hair bristled over
his shoulder-blades when the man spoke.

Jan did not know much about human ailments, perhaps, but he had seen a
husky go mad, and had narrowly escaped being bitten by the beast before
Jim Willis had shot it. He did not think it out in any way, but he was
intuitively conscious that this man was abnormal, irresponsible, unlike
other men. The homicidal devil was the force uppermost in this
particular man, and that naturally left no room for emanations of the
milk of human kindness and goodness. Jan was instantly aware of the
lack. In effect he knew this man was killing-mad.

But remarkable, nay unique, in his experience as the contact was, Jan
spared no thought for it. His hackles rose a little and he edged away
from the madman, because instinct in him enforced so much. For his mind
and his heart they were filled to overflowing; they were afloat on the
flood-tide of his consciousness of his sovereign's physical presence,
the touch of his body.

The night was far spent when Dick Vaughan proceeded to tether his
prisoner as comfortably as might be and to stretch himself in his
blankets for sleep. Jan may have slept a little that night, but his eyes
were never completely closed for more than a minute at a stretch; and
his muzzle, resting on his paws, was never more than three feet from
Dick's head. It was to be noted, too, that he chose to lie between Dick
and the madman, although the proximity of the latter was more than a
little painful to Jan.

Toward morning, when the fire was practically out, the husky bitch came
timidly nosing about Jan's neighborhood, and Jan breathed through his
nose at her in quite friendly fashion. But when she happened to place
one foot across the direct line in which the hound watched his
sovereign's face--then Jan growled, so low and softly as not to waken
Dick, and yet with a significance which the husky instantly comprehended
and acted on.

"Anywhere else you like, but not between my lord and me, for he is mine,
and I am his; not to be divided."

So said Jan's low, throaty growl. And the husky, comprehending,
withdrew, and dug herself a place in the snow under Jan's lee, which, as
the big hound thought, was well and fittingly done. He gave the bitch an
approving glance from the tail of one eye.

The pride of Jan, like his happiness, was just now deep beyond all reach
of plummets.



XXXVI

"SO LONG, JAN!"


The way in which Jan brought Jim Willis and Dick Vaughan together that
morning was notable and strange.

In finding Dick, Jan had found all he wanted in life. But at the back of
his mind was a sort of duty thought which made it clear to him that he
must let Willis know about these things, if possible. Willis had
undoubted and very strong claims upon the leader of his team, and Jan,
at this stage of his North American life and discipline, was not the dog
to ignore those claims. He wanted Jim Willis to know. He desired
absolution. And, short of letting Dick out of his sight--a step which no
threat or inducement would have led him to take--Jan was going to set
this matter right.

The outworking of his determination, in the first place, caused a number
of delays, and then, when by affectionate play of one kind and another
he could no longer keep Dick from the trail, he set to work to try and
drag or seduce his lord back over his tracks of the previous day. Now
Dick was far too well versed in doggy ways to make the mistake of
supposing that Jan was indulging mere wantonness. He knew very well that
Jan was not that sort of a dog.

"H'm! And then, again, old chap, as I said last night, you can't have
dropped from heaven upon the trail beneath. There must be somebody else
where you've come from. I see the collar and trace marks on your old
shoulders--bless you! What would Betty say to them, old son? So don't
excite yourself. We'll wait a bit and see what happens. I could do with
the help of a team, I can tell you, for my own shoulder's bruised to the
bone from the trace. You take it from me, Jan, one man and one husky are
no sort of a team. No, sir, no sort of a team at all. So sit down, my
son, and let me fill a pipe."

Naturally enough, Dick thought he waited as the result of his own
reflections, to see what things the trail Jan had traveled by would
bring forth. But, all the same, he would not have waited but for Jan's
artful insistence on it. Sometimes, but not very often, a dog acquires
such guile in the world of civilization. In the wild it comes easily and
naturally, even to animals having but a tithe of Jan's exceptional
intelligence and wealth of imagination.

Dick Vaughan had not waited long there beside the trail when his ears
and Jan's caught the sound of Jim Willis's voice and the singing of his
whip. Evidently, in the absence of their leader, Jan's team-mates had
not settled down very well to the day's work. In the distance, away back
on the trail, could be heard now and again the howl of a wolf.

Jim Willis showed no surprise when, in response to a wave of Dick's
hand, he drew up his team alongside a R.N.W.M.P. man and his own missing
team-leader. Jim was not much given to showing surprise in the presence
of other men. He nodded his comprehension, as Dick told the story of
Jan's appearance on the previous evening, and of his disappearance, many
months before, from Lambert's Siding in Saskatchewan.

"It's a bit of a miracle that I should find him again--or he find me,
rather--away up here, isn't it?" said Dick.

"Ah! Pretty 'cute sort of a dog, Jan," said the laconic Jim.

He was noting--one cannot tell with what queer twinges, with what
stirrings of the still deeps of his nature--the fact that, while Jan
lolled a friendly tongue at him and waved his stern when Jim spoke, he
yet remained, as though tied, with his head at Sergeant Vaughan's knee.

The two men leaned against Jim's sled and exchanged samples of tobacco
while Dick briefly told the tale of his travels, with his mad charge,
from a lonely silver-mining camp near the Great Slave Lake. It seemed
Dick had had some ground for fearing that he had stumbled upon some
horrible kind of epidemic of madness in the lone land he had been
traversing. At all events, one of the team of seven huskies with which
he started had developed raging madness within a day or so of the
beginning of his journey, and had had to be shot.

"I couldn't find that the brute had bitten any of the others, but next
day two of 'em suddenly went clean off, and they certainly did bite
another pair before I shot them. Next day I had to kill the other pair,
and was expecting every minute to see the bitch, the only one left,
break out. However, she seems to have escaped it."

Dick said nothing of the weary subsequent days in which he himself had
toiled hour after hour in the traces, ahead of his one dog, with a
maniac wrapped in rugs and lashed on the sled-pack. But Jim Willis
needed no telling. He saw the trace-marks all across the chest and
shoulders of Dick's coat, and he knew without any telling all about the
corresponding mark that must be showing on Dick's own skin.

"Well, say," he remarked, admiringly, "but you do seem to 've bin up
against it good an' hard."

Very briefly, and as though the matter barely called for mention, Dick
explained, in answer to an inquiry, why he had to make a dead burden of
the madman.

It seemed that when first his team had been reduced to one rather
undersized dog he did arrange for his charge to walk. And within an
hour, having cunningly awaited his opportunity, the demented creature
had leaped upon him from behind, exactly as a wolf might, and fastened
his teeth in Dick's neck. That, though Dick said little of it, had been
the beginning of a strange and terrible struggle, of which the sole
observer was a single sled-dog.

To and fro in the trampled snow the men had swayed and fought for fully
a quarter of an hour before Dick had finally mastered the madman and
bound him hand and foot. He was a big man, of muscular build, and
madness had added hugely to his natural capabilities as a fighter. Dick
Vaughan's bandaged neck, and his right thumb, bitten through to the
bone, would permanently carry the marks of this poor wretch's ferocity
in that lonely struggle on the trail.

"Don't seem right, somehow," was Jim Willis's comment. "I guess I'd have
had to put a bullet into him."

"Ah no; that wouldn't do at all," said Dick.

He did not attempt to explain just why; and perhaps he hardly could have
done so had he tried, for that would have involved some explanation of
the pride and the traditions of the force in which he served, and those
are things rarely spoken of by those who understand them best and are
most influenced by them.

"And where might you be making for now?" asked Jim.

"Well, I'm bound for Edmonton. But since I got down to this one little
husky I'd thought of making Fort Vermilion, to see if I could raise a
team there."

"Aye. Well, I was bound for steel at Edmonton, too, an' I've bin
reckoning on some such a place as Fort Vermilion since I lost my gun,"
said Jim. "I'm wholly tired o' makin' trail for these gentlemen
behind"--the howling of the wolves was still to be heard pretty
frequently--"without a shootin'-iron of any kind at all."

"It seems to me we're pretty well met, then," said Dick, with a smile,
"for I want what you've got, and you want what I've got."

"Well, I was kind o' figurin' on it that sort of a way myself," admitted
Jim. "If it suits you, I guess we can make out to rub along on your Jan
an' my dogs right through to Edmonton."

In the end the order of the march was arranged thus: two of Jim Willis's
dogs, with Jan to lead them, were harnessed to Dick's sled, with the
madman and Dick's rugs for its load. The remainder of Dick's pack was
loaded on Jim's sled and drawn by Jim's other three dogs, aided by the
sole survivor of Dick's team. And in this order a start was made on the
five-hundred-mile run to Edmonton.

From the first Jim showed frankly that there was to be no question as to
Jan's ownership. He told how Jock, back there on the edge of the North
Pacific, had informed him as to Jan's name and identity from a picture
seen in a newspaper. Then Dick broached the question of how much he was
to pay for Jan, seeing clearly how just was the other man's claim as
lawful owner of the hound. Jim laughed quietly at this.

"Why, no," he said; "I haven't just come to makin' dollars out of other
folks' dog-stealin'. No, sir. But it's true enough I have paid, in a
way, for Jan; an' I guess there's not another son of a gun in Canada,
but his rightful owner, with money enough to buy the dog from me. I'd
not've sold him. And I'll not sell him now--because a sun-dried salmon
could see he's yours a'ready. But I'll tell you what: I'm short of a
gun, an' I've kinder taken a fancy to this one o' yours--I reckon
because I'd had such a thirst on me for one before I struck your trail.
Jan is yours, anyway, but if you'd like to give me your gun to remember
ye by I'll say 'Thank you!'"

"Well, I'm sorry, but I can't make out to give you the gun, anyway,"
said Dick, "because it isn't mine. It's an R.N.W.M.P. gun. But you wait
another day or two, my friend, and when we've got shut of this gentleman
in Edmonton"--with a nod in the direction of the madman--"you and I will
give an hour or so to finding out the best gun in the city; and when
we've found it we'll have your name engraved on it, and underneath,
'From Jan, the R.N.W.M.P. hound, to the man who saved his life.' I know
you'll take a keepsake from Jan, boy."

And so it was arranged. Jim would not hear of any selling or buying of
the hound; but in Edmonton, where he sold his sled and team, preparatory
to taking train for the western seaboard, he accepted, as gift from Jan,
the best rifle Dick could find, inscribed as arranged; and, as gift from
Dick, a photograph of himself and Jan together.

Their parting was characteristic of life in the North-west. Each man
knew that in all human probability he would never again set eyes upon
the other. Yet they parted as intimate friends; for their coming
together--again most typical of north-western life--had been of the kind
which leads swiftly to close friendship--or to antipathy and hostility.

Dick, greatly impressed by the other man's solid worth, urged upon him
the claims of the R.N.W.M.P. as offering a career for him.

"For you," said Dick, "the work would all be simple as print; plain
sailing all the way."

Jim Willis, like most northland men, had a very real respect for the
R.N.W.M.P., but he smiled at the idea of joining the force.

"But why?" asked Dick. "It would be such easy work for you."

"Aye, I'll allow the work wouldn't exactly hev me beat," agreed Jim.
"But--Oh, well I ain't a Britisher, to begin with, an', what's more to
the p'int, a week in barracks 'd choke me."

"But they'd be wise enough to keep you pretty much on the trail; and
you're at home there."

"Yes, I guess the trail's about as near home as I'll ever get, mebbe,
but I'd have no sorter use for it if I j'ined your bunch."

"How's that?"

"Well, now, I guess that 'd be kinder hard to explain to you, Dick." (In
the northland, between men, it is always either Christian names or
"Mister.") "You see, we was raised different, you an' me; an' what comes
plum nateral to you would set me kickin' like a steer, first thing I'd
know. The trail suits me, all right, yes. But I hit it when I want to,
an' keep off it when I'm taken that-a-way. I'm only a poor man, but
ther' isn't a millionaire in America can buy the right to say 'Come
here' or 'Go there' to me, Dick, an', what's more, ther' ain't goin' to
be, not while I can sit up an' eat moose. It's mebbe not the best kind
of an outfit; an', then again, it's mebbe not jest the worst; but, any
ol' way you like, Dick, it's the only kind of an outfit I've got."

Dick nodded sympathetically.

"Why, yes, you can see it stickin' out all over. Look at that little
dust-up with the lun_at_ic. Well, now, I should jest 've pumped that
gentleman as full o' lead as ever he'd hold. 'You'd bite me,' I'd ha'
said. 'Well, Mister Lun_at_ic,' I'd ha' said, 'I count you no more 'n a
mad husky; an' when I see a mad husky, I shoot. So you take this,' I'd
ha' said, an' plugged him up good an' full. But for you--well, I see how
it is. He's a kind of a sacred duty, an' all the like o' that. Yes, I
know; only--only I'm not built that kind of a way, ye see."

And Jim was right, and Dick knew he was right. As white and straight and
true a man as any in the north, and able to the tips of his fingers and
toes, but--but not the "kind of an outfit" for the R.N.W.M.P.

And so they parted, on a hard hand-grip. And to Jan Jim Willis gave a
grim, appraising sort of a stare, and (spoken very gruffly) these words:

"Well, so long, Jan! The cards is yours, all right, an' I guess you take
the chips!"

He did not touch the big hound as he spoke. But then, despite their long
and close association, he never had touched Jan in the way of a caress.



XXXVII

BACK TO REGINA


Long before Sergeant Dick Vaughan--he was always spoken of thus, by both
his names--arrived at the R.N.W.M.P. headquarters in Regina news was
received there of his strange single-handed journey from the Great Slave
Lake, of the mad murderer, the mad dogs, of the sergeant's own toil in
the traces, and of his being tracked down by Jan.

The surgeon in Edmonton who attended to Dick's badly wounded and
poisoned neck and right thumb happened to be a man with a strong sense
of the picturesque and a quite journalistic faculty for visualizing
incidents of a romantic or adventurous nature.

An _Edmonton Bulletin_ reporter, in quest of a "story" for his paper,
had the good luck to corner the surgeon in his consulting-room. The
result took the form of promotion for that reporter, following upon
publication in the _Bulletin_ of a many-headed three-column article
which was quoted and reproduced all up and down America. Summaries of
the "story" were cabled to Europe. Snap-shots of Dick and Jan were
obtained by enterprising pressmen in Edmonton, and distributed quite
profitably for their owners to the ends of all the earth. Many months
afterward extracts and curiously garbled versions of this northland
Odyssey cropped up in the news-sheets of Siam, the Philippines,
Mauritius, Paraguay, and all manner of odd places.

Their London morning newspaper presented the matter at some length to
the Nuthill household and to Dr. Vaughan in Sussex, while Dick and Jim
Willis, five or six thousand miles away, were choosing a rifle to have
Jan's name inscribed upon it.

As a fact, the subject-matter of the story was sufficiently striking in
character, for in a temperature of fifty below zero, with no other help
than a little undersized husky bitch can give, it is no small matter for
one man to drag a laden sled for twelve days while looking after a
maniac who has come very near to killing him.

To this was added the romantic recovery of the famous "R.N.W.M.P.
bloodhound," as Jan was called; and that aspect of the business brought
special joy to the newspaper writers. To some extent also, no doubt, it
colored Dick's addition to R.N.W.M.P. records, and caused that addition
to figure more strikingly than it might otherwise have done in the
archives of the corps.

A quaint thing about it all was the fact that every one else knew more
about it than the two men most concerned, for it happened that neither
Dick Vaughan nor Jim Willis had ever cultivated the newspaper habit.
Willis was hugely startled and embarrassed, hundreds of miles away in
Vancouver, to find himself suddenly famous.

In Edmonton Dick Vaughan presented a very stern front to the
snap-shooters because he conceived the idea that he and Jan were being
guyed in some way. By the reporters he was presently given up as
hopeless, because he simply declined to tell them anything. Their
inquiries touched his professional pride as a disciplined man, and they
were told that Dick could have nothing whatever to say to them with
regard to his official duties. But his innocence made surprisingly
little difference in the long run. The surgeon's story was real
journalistic treasure-trove, the richest possible kind of mine for
ingenious writers to delve in; and after all the most determined
reticence in no way affects the working of cameras.

Withal, the welcome prepared for Dick and Jan at Regina station was
hardly less than alarming for one of the two men in Canada and the
United States who had not read the newspapers.

"You'll excuse my saying so, sir," explained Dick in a flustered aside
to Captain Arnutt, "but this is the very devil of a business. I--surely
I haven't got to say anything!"

The civilian crowd at the station was good-humoredly shouting for a
"speech," cameras were clicking away like pom-poms, and the Regina
pressmen were gripping Dick almost savagely by either arm, showing
considerable personal bravery thereby, for Jan growled very
threateningly as their hands touched the sergeant's tunic, and in common
humanity Dick was forced to grab the famous hound by the neck and give
him urgent orders to control his wrath.

As Dick subsequently explained to Captain Arnutt, the thing struck him
as the more awkward because, having found Jan, he desired now to be
allowed to resign from the force, as he wanted to return to England.

"But, hang it, man! you've been gazetted a full sergeant-inspector
and--unofficially, of course--I'm told we are only waiting word from
Ottawa about offering you commissioned rank."

Dick shrugged his shoulders in comic despair. His speech was finally
delivered from the perilous eminence of a booking-clerk's stool, an
elevation which Jan so gravely mistrusted that he felt impelled to rise
erect on his hind feet, placing both fore paws beside his lord's raised
heels, and thereby providing the camera men with the most famous of all
the snap-shots yet obtained.

The speech, as literally recorded in shorthand by one of Regina's most
promising young pressmen, if not a very finished or distinguished
effort, was clearly a hardy and quick-growing production, since it did
eventually develop into a long half-column in some newspapers, according
to the unimaginative and literal stenographic record aforementioned. It
was as follows:

"It's very good of you fellows--er--Right you are, sir! er--ladies and
gentlemen!--But, really, you know, I can't make a speech. It's no use.
I--er--I'm tremendously obliged to you all. What you say is--er--well,
the fact is I've only done what any other man in the service would have
done. It's splendid to see you all again and--I _have_ brought back the
Mounted Police Dog. Thank you!"

And, according to the shorthand man, that was all. But a generous
sub-editorial fraternity understood the speech differently; and
newspaper readers doubtless came to the conclusion that oratory must now
be added to the other accomplishments of the versatile R.N.W.M.P.

There were no embarrassing calls for speeches at the barracks, but even
there Dick (still closely attended by Jan, upon whom one of the
impressions produced by his return to the complex conditions of
civilization was an anxious fear that his sovereign lord would somehow
be spirited away from him if he ever let Dick out of his sight) was
called upon to face a raking fire of compliments from his commanding
officer, delivered in the presence of a full muster of commissioned and
non-commissioned ranks.

"You have done your duty finely as a sergeant of the Royal North-west
Mounted Police, and, for us who know what it means, I don't know that
the ablest man in the country can hope to earn higher praise than that."

Those were the chief's concluding words, and the full-throated, if
somewhat hoarse, cheer which they elicited from the men assembled behind
Dick and Jan, as well as from the group beside the chief, had the
curious effect of filling Dick's eyes with moisture of a sort that
pricked most painfully, so that as he came to the salute before retiring
he saw the familiar buildings in front of him but dimly, as through a
fog.



XXXVIII

THE FALL OF SOURDOUGH


Just before darkness fell that evening Captain Arnutt called Dick from
his quarters and asked him to go for a stroll. Together, and closely
followed by Jan, they started. Before the barracks gate was reached they
were met by Sergeant Moore, with Sourdough at his heels.

Sourdough had aged a good deal during the past year, but despite the
twist in his near fore leg, which caused him to limp slightly, the old
dog still held his own as despotic ruler of all the dogs in that
locality. But for a good many years he had done no work of any kind,
neither had he had any very serious fighting or come in contact with
northland dogs. His swiftest movements would have seemed clumsy and slow
to the working husky, inured to the comparative wildness of trace life
in the north. But his morose arrogance and ferocity had suffered no
diminution, as was shown by the fact that he flew straight for Jan's
throat directly he set eyes on the big hound.

"Call your dog off, Sergeant, or he'll be killed," shouted Dick.

Sergeant Moore spake no word. In his queer heart intelligence of Dick's
fame rankled bitterly, yet not so bitterly as the fact of Jan's return
to barracks. His obsession made him certain in his own mind that the
redoubtable Sourdough could certainly kill any dog. And so he spake no
word while Sourdough flew at Jan.

And for Jan, as he caught sight in the gloaming of his ancient enemy,
his hackles had risen very stiffly, his pendent lips had twitched
ominously.

Jan was perfectly well aware that the killing of Sourdough or any other
dog he had seen since his return to cities would be a supremely easy
matter for him. Indeed it would be for almost any dog having his
experience of the wild. And having in his simple dog mind no shadow of a
reason for sparing Sourdough, of all creatures that walked, one may take
it that Jan savored with some joyousness the prospect of the killing
which Sourdough's snarling rush presented to him.

He received that rush with a peculiar screwing thrust of his left
shoulder, the commonest trick among fighting-dogs in the northland, but
one for which old Sourdough seemed totally unprepared, since he made no
apparent preparation to withstand it, and as an inevitable consequence
was rolled clean over on his back by the force of his own impetus,
scientifically met.

That, by all the rules in the northland game of which Jan was a
past-master, brought Sourdough within seconds of his end. The throat was
exposed; the deadly underhold, given which no dog breathing could evade
Jan.

And at that moment came Dick's voice in very urgent and meaning
exhortation:

"Back, Jan! Don't kill him. He's too old. Back--here--Jan!"

Jan's jaws had parted for the killing grip. His whole frame was
perfectly poised for the thrust from which no dog placed as Sourdough
was could possibly escape. A swift shudder passed through him as though
his sovereign's words reached him on a cold blast, and, stiff-legged,
wondering, his shoulder hair all erect, and jaws still parted for the
fray, Jan stepped back to Dick's side.

"You'll have to keep that old tough in to heel if you mean to save him,
Sergeant," said Captain Arnutt. "You can't expect Jan to lie down to
him. Why don't you keep him in to heel, man?"

The sergeant passed on, saluting, without a word. Doubtless he had
liefer far that Captain Arnutt had hit him in the face. But, when all is
said, no words could hurt this curious monomaniac now, after that which
he had seen with his own eyes and that which he now saw.

Complete enlightenment had come to old Sourdough in one fraction of a
moment. In the moment when he reached earth, on his back, flung there by
his impact with the calculated screwing thrust of Jan's massive
shoulder, Sourdough knew that his day was over. He expected to die then
and there, and was prepared to die. Contact with Jan had told him in a
flash things which could not be written in a page. He tasted in that
moment the cold-drawn, pitiless efficiency of the methods of the
northland wild, and realized that he could no more stand against this
new Jan than a lady's house-bred lap-dog could have stood against
himself. As his feet left the ground his life was ended, as Sourdough
saw it.

And then had come Jan's miraculous, shuddering withdrawal, wholly
inexplicable, chilling to the heart in its uncanny unexpectedness.
Sourdough mechanically regained his footing, and then with low-hung
head, inward-curling tail, and crouching shoulders he slunk away at the
heel of his bitterly disappointed master. The collapse of this old
invincible within a few seconds was a rather horrid sight and a very
strange and startling one.

From that hour Sourdough was never again seen in the precincts of the
R.N.W.M.P. barracks, and, though many people puzzled over the old dog's
disappearance, none ever knew what became of him. The sergeant had been
for some time entitled to retire from the service. That night he
obtained his commanding officer's permission to do so.



XXXIX

HOW JAN CAME HOME


Captain Arnutt proved himself a friend indeed to Dick Vaughan. Once he
had come to understand the position, he fully sympathized with Dick's
wish to leave the service at once and return to England. That sympathy
he proceeded forthwith to translate into action, and within the month
Sergeant-Inspector Dick Vaughan had received his discharge and booked
his passage--with Jan's--for England.

Despite his elation over the prospect before him, Dick found the actual
parting with his comrades in Regina a good deal of a wrench. They were
fond of him, and of Jan, and proud of both. And Dick found when the
packing was over and valedictory remarks begun that these men had
entered pretty deeply into his life and general scheme of things.

They were good fellows all, these hard, spare, long-limbed riders of the
plains, and they and the North-west had made of the Dick who was now
bidding them good-by a man radically different in a hundred ways from
the careless, irresponsible, light-hearted Dick who had come to them a
few years back direct from kindly, indulgent Sussex.

Dick had become a fit and proper part of his western environment and had
"made good" in it, as the saying is. We most of us like doing that which
we do well. Dick's mature and able manhood had come to him in the West.
He would never lose it now, however far eastward he might travel.
But--the West and the good folk tugged pretty hard at his heart-strings,
as from the rear platform of his car on the east-bound train he watched
the waving stiff-brimmed hats of his comrades, and a little later the
last of the roofs of Saskatchewan's capital fading out in the distance.

Hard land as many have found it, hard though it had been in many ways
for Dick, the North-west had forced its bracing, stimulating spirit into
his being and made him the man he was, just so surely as the northland
wilderness had made of Jan the wonderful hound he now was.

And Dick left it all with a swelling heart; not unwillingly, because he
was going to a great promised happiness, but with a swelling heart none
the less, and a kind of mistiness of vision, due in great measure to the
real respect, the sincere gratitude he felt toward the land and life and
people who had helped him to make of himself a very much bigger and
better man than any previous efforts of his had promised to evolve out
of the same material in Sussex, for example.

Winter ruled still in the land, and so the actual seaboard--Halifax--and
not the big St. Lawrence port, was rail-head for Dick and Jan. But for
Jan the enforced confinement of the journey was greatly softened by
regular daily visits from his lord. And in Halifax two and a half days
of almost unbroken companionship awaited them before their steamer left.

This homeward journey was a totally different matter for Jan from the
outward trip. It was true he gave no thought to England as yet. But he
perfectly understood the general idea of travel. He knew that he and his
lord were on a journey together, that certain temporary separations were
an unavoidable feature of this sort of traveling, and that, the journey
done, the two of them would come together again. The sum of Jan's
knowledge, his reasoning powers, and his faculties of observation and
deduction were a hundredfold greater now than at the time of his
departure from England.

Jan loathed the close confinement of his life at sea, but he did not
rebel against it, neither was he cast down by it. He knew that it was to
be no more than a brief interlude, and he understood quite well that
though, unfortunately, men-folk had so arranged things that he must be
kept out of sight of his sovereign, save during those daily intervals of
delight in which Dick visited him in his house beside the butcher's
shop, yet his lord was in the same vessel with him, at no great distance
from him, and bound with him for the one destination. He knew that he
and Dick were traversing the one trail.

And sure enough the morning came at length, after all their shared
divagations since the night of meeting beside the Peace River trail,
when Jan stood beside his lord again, under the open sky and on the
steamer's boat-deck, watching the rapidly nearing shores of England.

Many pictures were passing through Jan's mind, some inspired by memory
of the tense, strenuous life he had left behind him in the northland,
but a larger number having for background and subjects scenes that he
remembered in his old life in Sussex-by-the-Sea.

The steamer was in yellow tidal waters now, with land close in all about
her. As Jan reached the open deck he had drawn in first one and then
another and another long, tremulous, deep breaths which, passing through
the infinitely delicate test-tubes of his wonderful nostrils, recorded
in his brain impressions more vivid and accurate than any that vision
could supply to him.

In this air, incalculably more soft and humid than any he had breathed
for many a long day, were subtly distinctive qualities that were quite
easily recognized by Jan. Well he knew now the meaning of this voyaging.
Well he knew that this was England. It was this knowledge made him lift
his muzzle and touch Dick's left hand with his tongue. The other hand
held binoculars through which Dick was gazing fixedly at the line of
wharfs they were approaching.

"Well, old chap," said he, in answer to the meaning touch. "You know all
about it, eh? I believe you do; begad, I quite believe you do. Well, see
if you can understand this: On the wharf there, where we shall be in a
few minutes, there's old Finn, your sire, waiting, and the Pater and the
Master, and--and there's Betty, Jan, boy, there's sweet Betty standing
there, and she's waiting for you and me. She's waiting there for us,
Jan, boy, and we're never going away from her again, old chap--never, as
long as ever we live."

And if Jan did not understand it all just then he did very soon
afterward, when he felt Betty Murdoch's arms about his neck, and lordly
gray old Finn was sniffing and nuzzling friendly-wise about his flanks.

Jan fully understood then that after all his far wanderings he had at
the last of it come home.


THE END





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