During the past few seconds the sergeant had been raining down blows of his cane on Jan’s head. Now O’Malley grabbed Jan by his steel collar.
“By hivens, sergeant!” he spluttered, “if ye’ll meet me afterwards, without your stripes on, I’ll—I’ll give ye what Jan here’d give your bloody wolf, if ye had the honesty to l’ave ’em to ut.”
Jan dragged back momentarily, and—in justice to Sourdough’s gameness, be it said—the husky struggled hard from his master’s entwining arms to be at the enemy again on three legs. But O’Malley’s pleadings were urgent and his right arm strong (the left was curled round Micky Doolan); and so it befell that, while Sergeant Moore remained tending his wounded favorite, O’Malley, leading Jan, whose front was bleeding badly, as were his shoulders and one ear, arrived at the barracks gates just as Dick Vaughan trotted up to them, on his return from duty in Regina.
“My hat!” cried Dick, as he dismounted. “Has he killed the sergeant’s dog?”
“He would ha’ done, the darlin’, if the sergeant had bin a man, in place o’ the mad divil he is,” replied O’Malley.
For a week and more after the fight the barracks saw nothing of Sourdough, whose leg was being mended for him in the stable of a veterinary surgeon in Regina. Sergeant Moore would have made no difficulty over spending half his pay upon the care of his beloved husky.
Jan’s ills were confined to flesh-wounds, and in any case Dick preferred to doctor the big hound himself. The story of the fight, and of Sergeant Moore’s not very sporting part therein, was now known to every one in the barracks, with the result that Jan became more than ever the favorite of the force, and the sergeant more than ever its Ishmaelite, against whom every man’s hand was turned in thought, if not in deed. It was little Sergeant Moore cared for that. It almost seemed as though he welcomed and thrived upon the antipathy of his kind, even as a normal person prospers upon the love of his fellows. The scowls of his comrades were accepted by the sergeant as a form of tribute, so curiously may a certain type of mind be warped by the influence of isolation.
It was at this stage, when Jan’s flesh-wounds were no more than half healed, that Captain Arnutt brought Dick Vaughan the intelligence that, as the result of the Italian murder case and other matters, he was to be promoted to acting-sergeant’s rank, and given charge, on probation, of the small post at Buck’s Crossing, some sixty-odd miles north-west of Regina.
The news brought something of a thrill to Dick, because it had been arranged, by his own suggestion in Sussex, that his promotion to full sergeant’s rank should mark the period of quite another probationary term; and here, undoubtedly, was a step toward it. On the other hand, he had formed friendships in Regina; and while most of the people in the barracks would be genuinely sorry to lose him, he, for his part, could not contemplate without twinges of regret the prospect of exchanging their society for the isolation of the two-roomed post-house at Buck’s Crossing.