These things would, of course, have been ample in the shape of credentials and introduction for any dog of ripe experience. For puppy Jan (despite his hundred pounds of weight) they all went for nothing at all. His salutation was a joyous, if slightly cracked, bark; a sort of—
“Hullo! a stranger! Come on! What larks!”
And he went prancing like a rocking-horse up the lane to meet Grip, prepared to make a new friend, to romp, or do any other kind of thing that was not serious. But, as it happened, the dour Grip was far more than usually serious that morning. By over-severity in driving he had lost a lamb that day in rounding up a flock across the Downs. The little beast had slipped, under the pressure of the drive, and broken both fore legs at the bottom of a deep pit. Grip had not made three such blunders in his life, and the lambasting he had received for this one had bruised every bone in his body. But for all this, he might have shown a shade more tolerance toward Jan, since ninety-nine dogs in a hundred, even among the fighters, will show patience and good humor where puppies are concerned.
Jan’s actual greeting of the sheep-dog was exceedingly clumsy and awkward.
“Hullo, old hayseed!” he seemed to say as he bumped awkwardly into Grip’s right shoulder. “Come and have a game!”
That shoulder ought to have warned him. Its wiry mat of coat stood out like quills upon the fretful porcupine. But the rollicking, galumphing Jan was just then impervious to any such comparatively subtle indication as this.
Grip spake no single word; but his wall-eyes flashed white firelight and his long jaws snapped like a spring trap as Jan rebounded from the bump against his buttress of a shoulder. When those same steel jaws parted again, as they did a moment later, an appreciable piece of Jan’s left ear fell from them to the ground. Jan let out a cry, an exclamation of mingled anger, pain, bewilderment, and wrath. He turned, leaning forward, as though to ask the meaning of this outrage. On the instant, and again without a sound, the white-toothed trap opened and closed once more; this time leaving a bloody groove all down the black-and-gray side of Jan’s left shoulder.
At that point the sheep-dealer spoke, just a little too late.
“Get out o’ that!” he said, with a thrust of his staff at Jan. And—“Come in here, Grip,” he added to his own dog. But his orders came too late.