Jan was just beginning to think that he had put up with enough of this sort of thing, and that he would leave these men and their dogs altogether, when he heard a peremptory order given by Jean and felt himself jerked forward by means of the harness he wore. In the same moment Blackfoot’s teeth nipped one of his hocks from behind, not savagely, but yet sharply, and he bounded forward till checked by the proximity of Snip’s stern. He had no wish to touch Snip. But Snip also was bounding forward it seemed. So Jan thrust out his fore feet and checked. Instantly two things happened. A whip-lash curled painfully round his left shoulder, crossing one of his newly healed wounds. And again came a nip at one of his hocks, a sharper nip this time, and one that drew two spots of blood.
“Mush, Jan! Mush on there!” said Jean, firmly, but not harshly; and again the whip curled about Jan’s shoulders as, puzzled, humiliated, hurt, and above all bewildered, he plunged forward again in the traces, and heard Jean mutter behind him:
“Good dog, thees Jan. By gar! hee’s good dog.”
And that was how the new life, the working life, began for Jan, the son of Finn and Desdemona.
THE RULE OF TRACE AND THONG
From this point there began for Jan a life so strangely, wildly different from anything he had ever known or suspected to exist, that only a dog of exceptionable fiber and stamina—in character as well as physique—could possibly have survived transition to it from the smooth routines which Jan had so far known.
To begin with, it was a life in which all days alike were full of toil, of ordered, unremitting work. And until it began Jan had never done an hour’s work in his life. (In England, outside the sheep-dog fraternity and a few of the sporting breeds, all dogs spend their lives in unordered play, uncontrolled loafing, and largely superfluous sleeping.)
The Lady Desdemona, his mother, for example, would certainly not have lived through a month of Jan’s present life; very possibly not a week. Finn would have endured it much longer, because of his experiences in Australia, his knowledge of the wild kindred and their ways. But even Finn, despite his huge strength and exceptional knowledge, would not have come through this ordeal so well as Jan did, unless it had come to him as early in life as it came to Jan. And even then his survival would have been doubtful. The difference between the climates of Australia and the North-west Territory is hardly greater than the difference in stress and hardness between Finn’s life in the Tinnaburra ranges, as leader of a dingo pack, and Jan’s life in North-west Canada as learner in a sled-team.