“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.