Intuitively Jan became aware of most of these things. But even where he detected Bill at fault, he could not trounce the ex-leader as he trounced the other dogs, because he and Bill knew very well that there could be no sparring, no such lightsome thing as mere chastisement, between them. There was war to the death in Bill’s snarl when Jan so much as looked at him. He was perfectly certain he could, and would, kill Jan directly a suitable opportunity offered. Jan was not so sure about that; but he did know very well that he was not capable of just thrashing Bill and letting it go at that; for over and above Bill’s unbeaten prowess as a fighter and master dog there was a mortal hatred in him where Jan was concerned—a hatred which, weighed as a fighting asset, was almost equivalent to a second set of fangs.
And then came the memorable evening upon which Jean killed a bull-moose and all the team fed full—except Bill.
THE FEAST AND THE FASTER
Jean and Jake were not out on a hunting expedition, and if it had involved hunting, the probabilities are Jean would never have bagged that bull-moose. But it happened that, when his sharp eyes sighted the moose in mid-afternoon, the poor beast had just managed to break one of its forelegs in a deep hole masked by snow. It was practically a sitting shot for Jean, and that at a range which made missing impossible for such a man.
The dogs were wild with excitement, but fortunately they were still in the traces and anchored to a laden sled. In spite of this there was something of a stampede among them until Jean made it clear that he meant the team to remain in harness for the present. Then the masters’ whips, backed by policeman Jan’s remorseless fangs, soon had order re-established. And this was as well, for at that particular juncture Jean and Jake were traveling fairly light, and a strong team can quickly work serious damage by stampeding among trees with a light sled.
When Jean had examined the moose, he decided to avail himself of the magnificent supply of fresh food it offered, and to carry on as large a share of the meat when frozen as the sled would take. To this end he and Jake decided to camp for the night at a spot no more than a few hundred paces away from the dead moose. The dogs were too much excited to lie down in their traces. (It was many weeks since any of them had tasted fresh meat, and though dried salmon makes an excellent working dietary, it is, of course, a very different thing from fresh meat with blood in it.) So they stood and sat erect, with parted jaws all drooling, while Jean and Jake set to work with their long knives on the great carcass.
The cutting up of a full-grown moose is no light task, and darkness had fallen before the two men had finished stowing away all the heavy frozen strips of moose-meat the sled could carry. Then, having removed the choicest portions for their own use for that night and the next day, Jean and Jake set to work to loose the dogs that they might tackle their banquet. Jean knew the eight of them could give a pretty good account of the remains on the skeleton.