“Seems like as if that blame dog knows everything,” he muttered as he saw Jan trotting to and fro over the trail, his flews sweeping the trodden snow with eager, questing gestures, his stern waving as with excitement of some sort.
“Surely there’s been no game past this way,” thought Willis, “or them wolves would be on to the scent of it pretty quick.”
He could hear his tireless escorts of the past week yowling a mile or more away in the rear. Having built and lighted a fire of pine-knots, he called the dogs about him to be fed. Jan seemed disinclined to answer the call, being still busily questing to and fro. Willis had to call him separately and sternly.
“You stay right here,” he said, sharply. “This ain’t no place for hunting-excursions an’ picnic-parties, let me tell you. You’re big an’ husky, all right, but the gentlemen out back there ‘d make no more o’ downing an’ eatin’ you than if you was a sody-cracker, so I tell ye now. They’re fifty to one an’ hungry enough to eat chips.”
His ration swallowed, Jan showed an inclination to roam again, though his team-mates, with ears pricked and hackles rising in answer to the wolf-calls, huddled about as near the camp-fire as they dared.
“H’m! ‘Tain’t jest like you to be contemplatin’ sooicide, neither; but it seems you’ve got some kind of a hunch that way to-night. Come here, then,” said Willis. And he proceeded to tether Jan securely to the sled, within a yard of his own sleeping-place. “If I’d my old gun here, me beauties,” he growled, shaking his fist in the direction from which he had come that day, “I’d give some o’ ye something to howl about, I reckon.” Then to Jan, “Now you lie down there an’ stay there till I loose ye.”
Obediently enough Jan proceeded to scoop out his nest in the snow, and settle. But it was obvious that he labored with some unusual interest; some unseen cause of excitement.
Next morning it seemed Jan had forgotten his peculiar interest in the Peace River trail, his attention being confined strictly to the customary routine of harnessing and schooling the team.
But two hours later he did a thing that Willis had never seen him do before. He threw the team into disorder by coming to an abrupt standstill in mid-trail without any hint of an order from his master. He was sniffing hard at the trail, turning sharply from side to side, his flews in the snow, while his nostrils avidly drank in whatever it was they found there, as a parched dog drinks at a water-hole.
“Mush on there, Jan! What ye playin’ at?” cried Willis.
At the word of command Jan plunged forward mechanically. But in the next moment he had halted again and, nose in the snow, wheeled sharply to the right, almost flinging on its side the dog immediately behind him in the traces.