Sandy McTrigger grounded his canoe on the sand-bar with an exultant yell.
“Got you, you old devil, didn’t I?” he cried. “I’d ‘a’ got the other, too, if I’d ‘a’ had something besides this damned old relic!”
He turned Kazan’s head over with the butt of his gun, and the leer of satisfaction in his face gave place to a sudden look of amazement. For the first time he saw the collar about Kazan’s neck.
“My Gawd, it ain’t a wolf,” he gasped. “It’s a dog, Sandy McTrigger—a dog!"
McTrigger dropped on his knees in the sand. The look of exultation was gone from his face. He twisted the collar about the dog’s limp neck until he came to the worn plate, on which he could make out the faintly engraved letters K-a-z-a-n. He spelled the letters out one by one, and the look in his face was of one who still disbelieved what he had seen and heard.
“A dog!” he exclaimed again. “A dog, Sandy McTrigger an’ a—a beauty!”
He rose to his feet and looked down on his victim. A pool of blood lay in the white sand at the end of Kazan’s nose. After a moment Sandy bent over to see where his bullet had struck. His inspection filled him with a new and greater interest. The heavy ball from the muzzle-loader had struck Kazan fairly on top of the head. It was a glancing blow that had not even broken the skull, and like a flash Sandy understood the quivering and twitching of Kazan’s shoulders and legs. He had thought that they were the last muscular throes of death. But Kazan was not dying. He was only stunned, and would be on his feet again in a few minutes. Sandy was a connoisseur of dogs—of dogs that had worn sledge traces. He had lived among them two-thirds of his life. He could tell their age, their value, and a part of their history at a glance. In the snow he could tell the trail of a Mackenzie hound from that of a Malemute, and the track of an Eskimo dog from that of a Yukon husky. He looked at Kazan’s feet. They were wolf feet, and he chuckled. Kazan was part wild. He was big and powerful, and Sandy thought of the coming winter, and of the high prices that dogs would bring at Red Gold City. He went to the canoe and returned with a roll of stout moose-hide babiche. Then he sat down cross-legged in front of Kazan and began making a muzzle. He did this by plaiting babiche thongs in the same manner that one does in making the web of a snow-shoe. In ten minutes he had the muzzle over Kazan’s nose and fastened securely about his neck. To the dog’s collar he then fastened a ten-foot rope of babiche. After that he sat back and waited for Kazan to come to life.
When Kazan first lifted his head he could not see. There was a red film before his eyes. But this passed away swiftly and he saw the man. His first instinct was to rise to his feet. Three times he fell back before he could stand up. Sandy was squatted six feet from him, holding the end of the babiche, and grinning. Kazan’s fangs gleamed back. He growled, and the crest along his spine rose menacingly. Sandy jumped to his feet.