With one exception every man in the R.N.W.M.P. headquarters was proud of Jan. Even the different barracks dogs were conscious of some great addition to the big hound’s prestige. The senior officers of the corps went out of their way to praise and pet Jan, and Captain Arnutt had a light steel collar made for him, with a shining plated surface, a lock and key, and an inscription reading thus:
Jan, of the Royal North-west Mounted Police, Regina.
But Jan’s triumph earned him the mortal hatred of one man, and the deference shown to him in barracks added bitterness to the jealous antipathy already inspired by him in the hard old heart of Sourdough. Sergeant Moore said nothing, but hate glowed in his somber eyes whenever they lighted upon Jan’s massive form.
“I believe he’d stick a knife in Jan, if he dared,” said French, the man of Devon. “You take my tip, Dick, and keep Jan well out of the sergeant’s way. The man’s half crazed. His old Sourdough is all he’s got in the world for chick or child, and he’ll never forgive your dog for doing what Sourdough couldn’t do.”
“Oh, well,” said Dick, with a tolerant smile, “I think he’s too much of a man to try and injure a good dog.”
“An’ that’s precisely where you get left right away back,” said O’Malley. “I tell ye that blessed sergeant wouldn’t think twice about giving Jan a dose of poison if he thought he could get away with the goods. And if he can teach Sourdough to kill Jan, I reckon he’d sooner have that than a commission any day in the week. Man, you should watch his face when he sees the dog. There’s murder in it.”
It was a fact that the praises showered upon Jan, the publicity given to his doings, and, above all, the respect shown for the big hound within R.N.W.M.P. circles, were the cause of real wretchedness to Sergeant Moore. When a man who is well on in middle life becomes so thoroughly isolated from friendly human influences as Sergeant Moore was, his mind and his emotions are apt to take queer twists and turns, his judgment to become strangely warped, his vision and sense of proportion to assume the highly misleading characteristics of convex and concave mirrors, which distort outrageously everything they reflect.
Sourdough, like his master, was dour, morose, forbidding, and a confirmed solitary. He was also a singularly ugly and unattractive creature, whom no man had ever seen at play. But prior to Jan’s arrival he had been the unquestioned chief and master among R.N.W.M.P. dogs.
“Surly old devil, Sourdough,” men had been wont to say of him; “but, by gee! there’s no getting around him; you can’t fool Sourdough. He’d go for a grizzly, if the grizzly wouldn’t give him the trail. Aye, he’s a hard case, all right, is Sourdough. You can’t faze him.”
And Sergeant Moore, without ever moving a muscle in his mahogany face (all the skin of which was indurated from chin to scalp with the finest of fine-drawn lines) had yet been moved to rare delight by such remarks. He hugged them to him. He gloried in all such tributes to Sourdough’s dourness.