The physical strength of Finn the wolfhound, in whose veins ran the unmixed blood of many generations of wolfhound champions, might have been equal to the strain of Jan’s new life. But his pride, his courtliness, his fine gentlemanliness, would likely have been the death of him in such a case. He would have died nobly, be sure of that. But it is likely he would have died. Now in the case of Jan, while he had inherited much of his sire’s fine courtesy, much of his dam’s noble dignity, yet these things were not so vitally of the essence of him as they were of his parents. They were a part of his character, and they had formed his manners. But they were not Jan.
The essential Jan was an immensely powerful hound of mixed blood reared carefully, trained intelligently and well, and endowed from birth with a tremendously keen appetite for life—a keener appetite for life than falls to the lot of any champion-bred wolfhound or bloodhound. Jan was a gentleman rather than a fine gentleman; before either he was a hound, a dog; and before all else he was a master and lover of his life. And since, by the arrangements of Sergeant Moore, “Tom Smith,” Jean, and Jake, he had to take his place between Snip and Blackfoot in a sled-team, it was well, exceedingly well, for Jan that these things were thus and not otherwise.
Jan’s supper on the evening of his first day in the traces was a meal he never forgot. The slab of dried fish Jean tossed to him was half as big again as the pieces given to the other dogs. For Jean—a just and not unkindly man in all such matters—well recognized that Jan was very much bigger and heavier than the average husky. (Jan was three and a half inches higher at the shoulder, and forty to fifty pounds heavier and more massive than any of his team-mates.) His previous night’s supper Jan had eaten that morning. Still, the afternoon’s work, in some thirty or forty degrees of frost, had put an edge on his appetite, and he tackled the fish—which two days before he would have scorned—with avidity.
He had swallowed one mouthful and was about to tear off another, when Snip intervened with a terrifying snarl between Jan and his food. Jan, who was learning fast, turned also with a snarling growl to ward off Snip’s fangs. And in that moment—it was no more than a moment—Bill, the leader, stole and swallowed the whole remainder of Jan’s supper.
Jean was watching this, and did not try to prevent it. But leaving Jan to settle with Snip, he descended upon Bill with his whip, double-thonged, and administered as sound a trouncing to that hardy warrior as any member of the team had ever received. That ended, Jean swung on his heel and gave Snip the butt of the whip-handle across the top of his nose, and this so shrewdly that Snip’s muzzle ached for twenty-four hours, reminding him, every minute of the time, that he must not harry Jan—while his master was in sight.