So that was the way of this bloody business thought Jan as, swifter than a bullet, Bill registered another visit to his streaming right shoulder. There was no trace left now of that queer stubborn sort of bulldog glory in the endurance of punishment which Jan had shown during the first half-dozen attacks. His stern was still erect, bladelike, his hackles almost as stiff as before. But the flame of his deep-hawed and now glazing eyes had died down to a dim red smolder; his hard breathing spared nothing for a snarl now, and his head and body movements were, if anything, a little slower than before.
And in and out among the vivid pictures in his mind of immediate local happenings came swiftly passing little silhouettes of people and happenings farther away in point of time and distance. He saw Dick Vaughan, in scarlet tunic and yellow-striped breeches, sitting on a box with his, Jan’s, head between his knees, his hands fondling the long ears that now were so terribly torn and bloody. He saw the great, gray, lordly Finn pacing gravely beside the Master and Betty Murdoch on the Downs at Nuthill; himself trotting to and fro between Betty and the noble hound that sired him. He heard Dick Vaughan’s long, throbbing whistle, and then the old familiar call:
“Jan, boy! Ja—an!”
And as he heard this call he had never once failed to answer, some subtle force at work in Jan loosed the cord that had seemed to hold him fettered to the heavy aftermath of his greed that night. His heart swelled within him in answer to the sovereign’s call, till it seemed to send new blood, hot and compelling, racing through all his veins into the last least crevices of his remotest members. His massive head ceased to sway. It was uplifted in the moment that a roaring baying cry escaped him; he knew not how or why. And that was the moment called psychological. For it was the instant of a new and different attack from Bill, this tremendous moment of Jan’s real awakening.
For some minutes now, while he flashed in and out, bleeding his prey in preparation for the final assault, Bill had noted with infinite cold joy that swaying motion of Jan’s great head. He knew it well for the gesture of the baited creature, and as the head swung lower the flames of Bill’s hate shot higher and ever higher; for this lower swaying, as he knew, was the signal of the end for which he had striven so cunningly and long.
At the moment that Jan heard Dick’s call, Bill drew up his muscles for administration of the final thrust. (The bull had bled sufficiently. Now for the steel in the nape.) Bill leaped, red froth flying from his bared fangs. As he leaped, Jan’s strange baying roar smote upon his senses with a chill foreboding. He knew nothing of the call that had loosed from its lethargy the essential Jan. But the roar spoke of doom and Bill flinched; wavered in his attack, as a horse will momentarily waver at a high leap. That peril might have passed. But it was part of a double blunder. The leap had been wrongly conceived. It had come too soon. And now the leaper balked, conscious of error; conscious also, dimly, of some terrific change in Jan, heralded by his awe-inspiring cry.