“It may have belonged to this poor chap,” said Captain Arnutt, pointing to the body of the shopkeeper. “It’s just the kind nine Dagoes out of ten do wear.”
“That’s true, sir, but the missing man’s a Dago, too, you know; an Italian. Italians are fond of knives like this and hats like that. Let’s try it, sir. Jan knows. Look at him.”
Jan had sniffed long and meaningly at the bedraggled hat, and now was unmistakably following a trail to the closed back door. The trouble was that many feet had trodden that floor during the past few hours. Still, there was a chance. Dick carefully wrapped the hat in paper, for safe-keeping in his saddle-bag. Then the door was opened, and with eager care the two men followed Jan out into the yard. Here it was obvious that the confusion of fresh trails puzzled Jan for some minutes. Again Dick showed him the hat, and again Jan sniffed. Then back to earth went his muzzle, and all unseeing he brought up against the yard gate with a sudden deep bay.
“That’s the tracking note,” said Dick, with suppressed eagerness. “We’d better get our horses, sir.”
Through the town streets Jan faltered only twice or thrice, and then not for long. Within ten minutes he was on the open prairie, heading northwestward, as for Long Lake, his pace steady and increasing now, his deep-flewed muzzle low to the ground.
For more than two-and-twenty miles Jan loped along over the cocolike dust of the trail, and never faltered once save at the side of a little slough, where the two horsemen in his rear spent a few anxious minutes while Jan paced this way and that, with indecision showing in each movement of his massive head. And then, again with a rich deep bay—a note of reassurance for the horseman, and of doom for a fugitive, if such an one could have heard it—Jan was off again on the trail, closely, but by no means hurryingly, followed by the captain and Dick.
In the twenty-second mile Jan brought his followers to the door of a settler’s little two-roomed shack, and then, within the minute, was off again along the side of a half-mile stretch of wheat. Captain Arnutt dismounted for a moment to speak to a woman who came to the door. Not half an hour earlier she said, she had given a drink of tea and some bread and meat to a dark, thin man with a red handkerchief tied over his head. “A Dago he was,” she said. And Captain Arnutt bit hard on one end of his mustache as he thanked the woman, mounted again, and galloped off after Dick and Jan.
As he rode, the captain turned back the flap of his magazine-pistol holster; but the precaution was not needed. Jan was traveling at the gallop now, and the height of his muzzle from the ground showed clearly that he was on a warm trail, which, for such nostrils as his, required no holding at all.