And then came all the strange confusion of the noisy mining town and the end of this particular phase of Jan’s life.
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 debutante. The cynic might protest that many a modern debutante 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.