“You have done your duty finely as a sergeant of the Royal North-west Mounted Police, and, for us who know what it means, I don’t know that the ablest man in the country can hope to earn higher praise than that.”
Those were the chief’s concluding words, and the full-throated, if somewhat hoarse, cheer which they elicited from the men assembled behind Dick and Jan, as well as from the group beside the chief, had the curious effect of filling Dick’s eyes with moisture of a sort that pricked most painfully, so that as he came to the salute before retiring he saw the familiar buildings in front of him but dimly, as through a fog.
THE FALL OF SOURDOUGH
Just before darkness fell that evening Captain Arnutt called Dick from his quarters and asked him to go for a stroll. Together, and closely followed by Jan, they started. Before the barracks gate was reached they were met by Sergeant Moore, with Sourdough at his heels.
Sourdough had aged a good deal during the past year, but despite the twist in his near fore leg, which caused him to limp slightly, the old dog still held his own as despotic ruler of all the dogs in that locality. But for a good many years he had done no work of any kind, neither had he had any very serious fighting or come in contact with northland dogs. His swiftest movements would have seemed clumsy and slow to the working husky, inured to the comparative wildness of trace life in the north. But his morose arrogance and ferocity had suffered no diminution, as was shown by the fact that he flew straight for Jan’s throat directly he set eyes on the big hound.
“Call your dog off, Sergeant, or he’ll be killed,” shouted Dick.
Sergeant Moore spake no word. In his queer heart intelligence of Dick’s fame rankled bitterly, yet not so bitterly as the fact of Jan’s return to barracks. His obsession made him certain in his own mind that the redoubtable Sourdough could certainly kill any dog. And so he spake no word while Sourdough flew at Jan.
And for Jan, as he caught sight in the gloaming of his ancient enemy, his hackles had risen very stiffly, his pendent lips had twitched ominously.
Jan was perfectly well aware that the killing of Sourdough or any other dog he had seen since his return to cities would be a supremely easy matter for him. Indeed it would be for almost any dog having his experience of the wild. And having in his simple dog mind no shadow of a reason for sparing Sourdough, of all creatures that walked, one may take it that Jan savored with some joyousness the prospect of the killing which Sourdough’s snarling rush presented to him.
He received that rush with a peculiar screwing thrust of his left shoulder, the commonest trick among fighting-dogs in the northland, but one for which old Sourdough seemed totally unprepared, since he made no apparent preparation to withstand it, and as an inevitable consequence was rolled clean over on his back by the force of his own impetus, scientifically met.