Occasionally there was, for some valid reason, an exception to his disapproval; as in the case, for instance, of Jack McMillan. For while he could not but deplore Jack’s headstrong ways, and his intolerance of authority in the past, he nevertheless felt a certain admiration for the big tawny dog who moved with the lithe ease of the panther, and held himself with the imposing dignity of the lion. An admiration for the dog whose reputation for wickedness extended even to the point of being called a “man-eater,” and was the source, far and near, of a respect largely tempered with fear.
There was always an air of repressed pride about Jack when he listened to the thrilling accounts of his crimes told with dramatic inspiration to horrified audiences; a pride which is not seemly save for great worth and good deeds. Yet in spite of these grave faults of character Dubby accorded McMillan the recognition due his wonderful strength and keen intelligence; for Dubby, while intolerant of mere speed, was ever alert to find the sterner and more rugged qualities in his associates.
Perhaps it was partly because Baldy possessed no trivial graces and manifested no disdain for the homely virtues of the work dogs whose faithfulness has won for them an honorable place in the community, that Dubby had soon given unmistakable signs of friendliness that helped to make Baldy’s new home endurable.
While Dubby’s championship was a great comfort, there were many things of every-day occurrence that surprised and annoyed Baldy. Out of the bewilderment that had at first overwhelmed him he had finally evolved two Great Rules of Conduct, which he observed implicitly—to Pull as Hard as he Could, and to Obey his Driver. This code of ethics is perfect for a trail dog of Alaska, but it was in the minor things that he was constantly perplexed—things in which it was difficult to distinguish between right and wrong, or at least between folly and wisdom. To tell where frankness of action became tactlessness, and the renunciation of passing pleasures a pose. It was particularly disconcerting to see that virtue often remained unnoticed, and that vice just as often escaped retribution; and what he saw might have undermined Baldy’s whole moral nature, but for the simple sincerity that was the key-note to his character. As an artless dog of nature he was accustomed, when the world did not seem just and right to him, to show it plainly—an attitude not conducive to popularity; and it often made him seem surly when as a matter of fact he was only puzzled or depressed. He could not feign an amiability to hide hatred and vindictiveness as did the Tolmans, and it was a constant shock to him to note how the hypocrisy of Tom and his brothers deluded their friends into a deep-seated belief in their integrity. Even after such depravity as chasing the Allan girl’s pet cat, stealing a neighbor’s dog-salmon, or attacking an inoffensive Cocker Spaniel, he had seen Tom so meek and pensive that no one could suspect him of wrong-doing who had not actually witnessed it; and he had seen the Woman, when she had actually witnessed it, become a sort of accessory after the fact, and shield Tom from “Scotty’s” just wrath, which was extraordinary and confusing.