But there were two people who hated Jan from the moment they first set eyes upon his fine form, and these were Sergeant Moore and his dog Sourdough. The sergeant and his dog had a good deal in common with each other and not very much in common with any one else. Sergeant Moore was one of the few really unpopular men in the force. But, if nobody in the district liked him, it is but fair to say that many feared him, and none could be found who spoke ill of him in the sense of calling his honesty or his competence into question.
The sergeant was a terror to evil-doers, a hard man to cross, and too grim and sour to be any one’s companion. But no man doubted his honesty, and those who had no call to fear him entertained a certain respect for him, even though they could not like the man. In addition to his grimness he had a stingingly bitter tongue. He was not a fluent speaker; but most of his words had an edge to them, and he dealt not at all in compliments, never going beyond a curt nod by way of response to another man’s “Good day!” When, with the punctiliousness of the perfectly disciplined man, he saluted an officer, there was that in his expression and in the almost fierce quality of his movement which made the salute something of a menace.
His forbidding disposition had probably stood between Sergeant Moore and further promotion. His contemporaries, the older men of the corps, knew he had once been married. His juniors had never seen the sergeant in converse with a woman. Withal it was believed that Sergeant Moore had one weakness, one soft spot in his armor. It was said that when he believed himself to be quite alone with his dog Sourdough he indulged himself in some of the tendernesses of a widowed father who lavishes all his heart upon a single child.
There was little enough about Sourdough to remind one of a human child, lovable or otherwise. If the master was grim and forbidding in manner and appearance, the dog exhibited a broadly magnified reflection of the same attributes. His color was a sandy grayish yellow without markings. His coat was coarse, rather ragged, and extraordinarily dense. His pricked ears were chipped and jagged from a hundred fights, and in a diagonal line across his muzzle was a broad white scar, gotten, men said, in combat with a timber-wolf in the Athabasca country.
It was a part of Sourdough’s pose or policy in life to profess short-sightedness. He would walk past a group of dogs as though unaware of their existence. Yet let one of those dogs but cock an eye of impudence in his direction, or glance with lifting eyebrow at one of his fellows, with a sneer or jeer in his heart for Sourdough, and in that instant Sourdough would be upon him like an angry lynx, with a bitter snarl and a snap that was pretty certain to leave its scar. This done, Sourdough would pass on, with hackles erect and a hunch of his shoulders which seemed to say:
“When next you are inclined to rudeness, remember that Sourdough knows all things, forgets nothing, and bites deep.”