Jean might be ever so angry, but he never lost his temper. He might punish ever so sorely, but he never lost sight of his main objective and could not be induced to knock dollars off his own property. Incidentally he knew precisely what his aching hunger meant to Jan, and why the big dog stole. But that knowledge did not weigh one atom with Jean in apportioning Jan’s food, or his punishment for stealing; both being meted out, not with any view to Jan’s comfort, but solely with the aim of protecting the food-supply and keeping up Jan’s value in dollars. For Jean, before and above all else, was able; a finished product of the quite pitiless wilderness in which he made out, not only to survive where many went under, but in surviving to prosper.
MUTINY IN THE TEAM
Jean made sure he would sell Jan at Fort Frontenac. And that he did not was due to accidental causes over which he had no control.
Jean asked three hundred dollars. The would-be buyer—a man pretty nearly as able as Jean himself in northland craft—had only two hundred in cash; but possessed, besides, an invincible objection to owing or borrowing. (Resembling Jean in his knowledge of the wild, he was curiously different in most other ways, having a good deal of sentiment and a keen, almost conventional sense of honor.)
“He’s worth three hundred, all right,” said the man—who hailed from New England—when he had seen Jan at work.
“You bet,” said Jean, laconically.
“But I just haven’t got the money, or he’d be my dog.”
Jean grinned. “Ah, well, eet’s money talks,” said he. And on that they parted; for this last talk between them came when Jean’s team was pulling out for the north-west, after a profitable little rest-time in which Jean had exchanged a little rubbish for a lot of good food and a quite considerable wad of dollars.
But Jean did, on occasion, make mistakes; not vital mistakes, but slips that might injure his pocket. He made one when he put Jan in the lead, and named Bill wheeler, in place of Blackfoot. Jean wanted to make a completely educated dog of Jan as soon as might be. But he did not want to lose Bill—a very useful dog—nor yet to injure Blackfoot’s health and efficiency. Bill, as leader reduced to wheeling, made Blackfoot’s life a hell upon earth for the kindly wise old dog with Newfoundland blood in him; and that, of course, was not good for Blackfoot.
But this was not the worst of it. As recognized leader of the team, Bill could endure Jan’s officious zeal, and even make shift to suffer the big hound’s real supremacy, while by craft he could avoid a conflagration. So far, then, Bill had remained a force making for discipline and the working efficiency of the team. As wheeler, he became at one stride a crafty and embittered mutineer, aiming primarily at Jan’s discomfiture, and generally at the disruption of the team as a compact entity. When not occupied in working off his vindictive spleen upon poor Blackfoot, whose hind quarters he gashed at every opportunity, Bill concentrated all his notable energies upon stirring up disorder, indiscipline, confusion, and strife among his mates.