“But they’d be wise enough to keep you pretty much on the trail; and you’re at home there.”
“Yes, I guess the trail’s about as near home as I’ll ever get, mebbe, but I’d have no sorter use for it if I j’ined your bunch.”
“Well, now, I guess that ’d be kinder hard to explain to you, Dick.” (In the northland, between men, it is always either Christian names or “Mister.”) “You see, we was raised different, you an’ me; an’ what comes plum nateral to you would set me kickin’ like a steer, first thing I’d know. The trail suits me, all right, yes. But I hit it when I want to, an’ keep off it when I’m taken that-a-way. I’m only a poor man, but ther’ isn’t a millionaire in America can buy the right to say ’Come here’ or ‘Go there’ to me, Dick, an’, what’s more, ther’ ain’t goin’ to be, not while I can sit up an’ eat moose. It’s mebbe not the best kind of an outfit; an’, then again, it’s mebbe not jest the worst; but, any ol’ way you like, Dick, it’s the only kind of an outfit I’ve got.”
Dick nodded sympathetically.
“Why, yes, you can see it stickin’ out all over. Look at that little dust-up with the lun_at_ic. Well, now, I should jest ’ve pumped that gentleman as full o’ lead as ever he’d hold. ‘You’d bite me,’ I’d ha’ said. ‘Well, Mister Lun_at_ic,’ I’d ha’ said, ’I count you no more ’n a mad husky; an’ when I see a mad husky, I shoot. So you take this,’ I’d ha’ said, an’ plugged him up good an’ full. But for you—well, I see how it is. He’s a kind of a sacred duty, an’ all the like o’ that. Yes, I know; only—only I’m not built that kind of a way, ye see.”
And Jim was right, and Dick knew he was right. As white and straight and true a man as any in the north, and able to the tips of his fingers and toes, but—but not the “kind of an outfit” for the R.N.W.M.P.
And so they parted, on a hard hand-grip. And to Jan Jim Willis gave a grim, appraising sort of a stare, and (spoken very gruffly) these words:
“Well, so long, Jan! The cards is yours, all right, an’ I guess you take the chips!”
He did not touch the big hound as he spoke. But then, despite their long and close association, he never had touched Jan in the way of a caress.
BACK TO REGINA
Long before Sergeant Dick Vaughan—he was always spoken of thus, by both his names—arrived at the R.N.W.M.P. headquarters in Regina news was received there of his strange single-handed journey from the Great Slave Lake, of the mad murderer, the mad dogs, of the sergeant’s own toil in the traces, and of his being tracked down by Jan.
The surgeon in Edmonton who attended to Dick’s badly wounded and poisoned neck and right thumb happened to be a man with a strong sense of the picturesque and a quite journalistic faculty for visualizing incidents of a romantic or adventurous nature.