The weight of the medal carried the raw-hide necklace slipping through his fingers. Slowly now, with even impulse, the silver disc swung right, swung left, like the pendulum of a clock. Even the Nigger dog seemed hypnotised, following the dim shine of the tarnished token.
“I say Nicholas’s sister: ’It is thirty winters I see that silver picture first; I give you two dolla for him.’ She say ‘No.’ I say, ‘Gi’ fi’ dolla.’ ‘No.’ I sit and think far back—thirty winters back. ‘I gi’ ten dolla,’ I say. She say, ’I no sell; no—not for a hunner’—but she give it him! for to make Yukon Inua to let him go safe. Hein? Savvy?” And lapsing into Ingalik, he endorsed this credential not to be denied.
“It is true,” he wound up in English. The “Autocratrix Russorum” was solemnly handed back. “You have make a brave journey. It is I who unnerstan’—I, too, when I am young, I go with Dall on the Long Trail. We had dogs.” All the while, from all about the Leader’s owner, and out of every corner of the crowded room, had come a spirited punctuation of Kurilla’s speech—nods and grunts. “Yes, perhaps these white men deserved dogs—even Peetka’s!”
Kurilla limped back to his place, but turned to the Ingaliks before he sat down, and bending painfully over his stick, “Not Kurilla,” he said, as though speaking of one absent—“not Dall make so great journey, no dogs. Kurilla? Best guide in Yukon forty year. Kurilla say: ’Must have dogs—men like that!’” He limped back again and solemnly offered his hand to each of the travellers in turn. “Shake!” says he. Then, as though fascinated by the silver picture, he dropped down by the Boy, staring absently at the Great Katharine’s effigy. The general murmur was arrested by a movement from Peetka—he took his pipe out of his mouth and says he, handsomely:
“No liars. Sell dog,” adding, with regretful eye on the apostate Leader, “Him bully dog!”
And that was how the tobacco famine ended, and how the white men got their team.
THE ESQUIMAUX HORSE
“Plus je connais les hommes, plus j’aime les chiens.”
It doesn’t look hard to drive a dog-team, but just you try it. In moments of passion, the first few days after their acquisition, the Colonel and the Boy wondered why they had complicated a sufficiently difficult journey by adding to other cares a load of fish and three fiends.
“Think how well they went for Peetka.”
“Oh yes; part o’ their cussedness. They know we’re green hands, and they mean to make it lively.”
Well, they did. They sat on their haunches in the snow, and grinned at the whip-crackings and futile “Mush, mush!” of the Colonel. They snapped at the Boy and made sharp turns, tying him up in the traces and tumbling him into the snow. They howled all night long, except during a blessed interval of quiet while they ate their seal-skin harness. But man is the wiliest of the animals, and the one who profits by experience. In the end, the Boy became a capital driver; the dogs came to know he “meant business,” and settled into submission. “Nig,” as he called the bully dog for short, turned out “the best leader in the Yukon.”