Now began the fight between Bill and Jan, ex-leader and leader; the veteran northland dog, comparatively empty and exquisitely poised and prepared; and the new-comer from the outside world, terribly full, heavy, and unprepared. All, or nearly all, had fallen out as Bill had planned. Their distance from the camp was a safe one; Jan was grossly bloated and he, Bill, was in quite perfect fighting trim.
Only one thing was wrong: Jan ought, by all the calculations of his enemy, to be lying feet up with his throat exposed; and instead he was standing, and as it happened, on slightly raised ground, waiting with dripping jaws for Bill’s attack. Bill knew not fear. His brain was as brilliantly lighted, his furnace of hate as hot within him, as ever. But—the new-wakened Jan’s snarl was certainly terrific, and his bulk, as he stood there with erect stern, bristling hackles, high-lifted lips, and legs planted like buttresses—the bulk of him was immense.
“Come on!” his roaring snarl seemed to say. And fiery Bill, like a wrestler, pranced to and fro for an opening. Rage filled him to the throat, but never for an instant did it cloud his vision. Jan’s instinct kept him still, warning him that he was too heavy now for the lightning footwork of the wolves, that his sole chance lay in his strength, and that by the same token his strength must be conserved.
Jan’s right ear hung in two separate flaps. Valiantly he strove to extort some penalty by thrust of massive shoulder and clash of fangs. But Bill to all seeming was twice his own length away in the same instant that he flashed in to the attack. Jan breathed hard in a defiant snarl.
The massive shoulder which had missed its thrust was cut clear into the bone, a groove four inches long, and in the selfsame fraction of a second the catlike Bill, from two lengths distant, darted his red tongue in and out at Jan in cold ribaldry.
A little show of temper now on Jan’s part had been a thing of priceless worth to Bill. Indeed, it was the ex-leader’s one desire, its provocation his sole objective for the moment. This it was that drew his pointed red tongue in and out like a flame, this the tuning-fork that gave his snarl its key; the note of insolent, jeering defiance.
“You hog! You’re bloated. Ungainly beast, I can bleed you when and where I will. Take that!” snarled Bill, as he flashed in again, tearing clean away a little section of soft-coated fine skin from the left side of Jan’s dewlap, where Desdemona’s blood in him left him but lightly covered.
(In the bloodhound the skin is very loose and fine in texture all about the head and flews and dewlap. In Jan it hardened quickly on the neck, where the mat of his dense coat thickened.)
Again and again, not fewer than a dozen times in all, Bill drank deep of sheer delight as he flashed in and out upon Jan, drawing blood every single time, reaching bone more than once or twice, and winning back to safety without the loss of so much as one hair.