It would have been easy for Jean to have spared another ration of fish for Jan, since in a few more days they would reach a Hudson Bay post at which fresh supplies were to be taken in. But Jean was too wise for this. He preferred that Jan should go hungry because he wanted Jan to learn quickly. Jan educated meant dollars to Jean, and a good many of them. Jan uneducated, or learning but slowly, would, as Jean well knew, very soon mean Jan dead—a mere section of dog-food worth no dollars at all. So Jean laughed at the big hound.
“You see, Jan,” he said. “You watch um, Jan, an’ learn queek—eh? Yes, I think you learn queek.”
Thus in that little matter of the daily meal, if Jan had gone on making the mistake he made on his first night in the wilderness, not all Jean’s authority could have saved him. The rest of the team, by hook or crook, would have kept him food-less and killed him outright long before the slower process of starvation could have released him. But, his first lesson sufficed for Jan. When his next supper came he had done a day and a half’s work; he had lived and exerted himself more in that day and a half than during any average month of his previous life. As a consequence, when Bill and Snip looked round for Jan’s supper, after bolting their own, they saw a great hound with stiff legs and erect hackles, alert in every hair of his body—but no supper. The supper, very slightly masticated and swallowed with furious haste, was already beginning its task of helping to stiffen Jan’s fibers and give fierceness to the lift of his upper lip.
But that was far from being the end of the lesson. In point of size, and in other ways, Jan was exceptional. He needed more than the other dogs; and because he needed more, and had the sort of personality which makes for survival, he got more. Jean gave him more than was given to the others. But that was not enough. Jan was so hungry, what with his strivings in the traces and the novelty for him of this life of tense unceasing effort and alertness, that his appetite was as a thorn in his belly and as a spur to his ingenuity and enterprise.
It is the law of the sled-dog that you shall not steal your trace-mates’ grub. Jan broke this law wherever he saw the glint of a chance to do so; that is, wherever he could manage it by force of fang and shoulder, or by cunning—beyond the range of the whip. He did more. He stole his master’s food; not every day, of course, but just as often as extreme cunning and tireless watchfulness enabled him to manage it. He was caught once, and only once, and beaten off with a gee-pole and a club; pretty sorely beaten, too. But—
“Don’ mark heem, Jake! Don’ touch hees head.”