The night was far spent when Dick Vaughan proceeded to tether his prisoner as comfortably as might be and to stretch himself in his blankets for sleep. Jan may have slept a little that night, but his eyes were never completely closed for more than a minute at a stretch; and his muzzle, resting on his paws, was never more than three feet from Dick’s head. It was to be noted, too, that he chose to lie between Dick and the madman, although the proximity of the latter was more than a little painful to Jan.
Toward morning, when the fire was practically out, the husky bitch came timidly nosing about Jan’s neighborhood, and Jan breathed through his nose at her in quite friendly fashion. But when she happened to place one foot across the direct line in which the hound watched his sovereign’s face—then Jan growled, so low and softly as not to waken Dick, and yet with a significance which the husky instantly comprehended and acted on.
“Anywhere else you like, but not between my lord and me, for he is mine, and I am his; not to be divided.”
So said Jan’s low, throaty growl. And the husky, comprehending, withdrew, and dug herself a place in the snow under Jan’s lee, which, as the big hound thought, was well and fittingly done. He gave the bitch an approving glance from the tail of one eye.
The pride of Jan, like his happiness, was just now deep beyond all reach of plummets.
“SO LONG, JAN!”
The way in which Jan brought Jim Willis and Dick Vaughan together that morning was notable and strange.
In finding Dick, Jan had found all he wanted in life. But at the back of his mind was a sort of duty thought which made it clear to him that he must let Willis know about these things, if possible. Willis had undoubted and very strong claims upon the leader of his team, and Jan, at this stage of his North American life and discipline, was not the dog to ignore those claims. He wanted Jim Willis to know. He desired absolution. And, short of letting Dick out of his sight—a step which no threat or inducement would have led him to take—Jan was going to set this matter right.
The outworking of his determination, in the first place, caused a number of delays, and then, when by affectionate play of one kind and another he could no longer keep Dick from the trail, he set to work to try and drag or seduce his lord back over his tracks of the previous day. Now Dick was far too well versed in doggy ways to make the mistake of supposing that Jan was indulging mere wantonness. He knew very well that Jan was not that sort of a dog.
“H’m! And then, again, old chap, as I said last night, you can’t have dropped from heaven upon the trail beneath. There must be somebody else where you’ve come from. I see the collar and trace marks on your old shoulders—bless you! What would Betty say to them, old son? So don’t excite yourself. We’ll wait a bit and see what happens. I could do with the help of a team, I can tell you, for my own shoulder’s bruised to the bone from the trace. You take it from me, Jan, one man and one husky are no sort of a team. No, sir, no sort of a team at all. So sit down, my son, and let me fill a pipe.”