/usr/local/apache/htdocs/lib/public_html/book/LONDON/bbtard.txt Библиотека на Meta.Ua Batard
<META>
Интернет
Реестр
Новости
Рефераты
Товары
Библиотека
Библиотека
Попробуй новую версию Библиотеки!
http://testlib.meta.ua/
Онлайн переводчик
поменять

Jack London. Batard



---------------------------------------------------------------
(First published in The Cosmopolitan , June, 1902 as "Diable - A Dog")
---------------------------------------------------------------

Batard was a devil. This was recognized throughout the
Northland. "Hell's Spawn" he was called by many men, but his
master, Black Leclere, chose for him the shameful name
"Batard." Now Black Leclere was also a devil, and the twain
were well matched. There is a saying that when two devils come
together, hell is to pay. This is to be expected, and this
certainly was to be expected when Batard and Black Leclere came
together. The first time they met, Batard was a part-grown
puppy, lean and hungry, with bitter eyes; and they met with
snap and snarl, and wicked looks, for Leclere's upper lip had a
wolfish way of lifting and showing the white, cruel teeth. And
it lifted then, and his eyes glinted viciously, as he reached
for Batard and dragged him out from the squirming litter. It
was certain that they divined each other, for on the instant
Batard had buried his puppy fangs in Leclere's hand, and
Leclere, thumb and finger, was coolly choking his young life
out of him.
"Sacredam," the Frenchman said softly, flirting the quick
blood from his bitten hand and gazing down on the little puppy
choking and gasping in the snow.
Leclere turned to John Hamlin, storekeeper of the Sixty
Mile Post. "Dat fo' w'at Ah lak heem. 'Ow moch, eh, you,
M'sieu'? 'Ow moch? Ah buy heem, now; Ah buy heem queek."
And because he hated him with an exceeding bitter hate,
Leclere bought Batard and gave him his shameful name. And for
five years the twain adventured across the Northland, from St.
Michael's and the Yukon delta to the head-reaches of the Pelly
and even so far as the Peace River, Athabasca, and the Great
Slave. And they acquired a reputation for uncompromising
wickedness, the like of which never before attached itself to
man and dog.
Batard did not know his father, -- hence his name, -- but,
as John Hamlin knew, his father was a great gray timber wolf.
But the mother of Batard, as he dimly remembered her, was
snarling, bickering, obscene, husky, full-fronted and heavy-
chested, with a malign eye, a cat-like grip on life, and a
genius for trickery and evil. There was neither faith nor trust
in her. Her treachery alone could be relied upon, and her wild-
wood amours attested her general depravity. Much of evil and
much of strength were there in these, Batard's progenitors,
and, bone and flesh of their bone and flesh, he had inherited
it all. And then came Black Leclere, to lay his heavy hand on
the bit of pulsating puppy life, to press and prod and mould
till it became a big bristling beast, acute in knavery,
overspilling with hate, sinister, malignant, diabolical. With a
proper master Batard might have made an ordinary, fairly
efficient sled-dog. He never got the chance: Leclere but
confirmed him in his congenital iniquity.
The history of Batard and Leclere is a history of war --
of five cruel, relentless years, of which their first meeting
is fit summary. To begin with, it was Leclere's fault, for he
hated with understanding and intelligence, while the long-
legged, ungainly puppy hated only blindly, instinctively,
without reason or method. At first there were no refinements of
cruelty (these were to come later), but simple beatings and
crude brutalities. In one of these Batard had an ear injured.
He never regained control of the riven muscles, and ever after
the ear drooped limply down to keep keen the memory of his
tormentor. And he never forgot.
His puppyhood was a period of foolish rebellion. He was
always worsted, but he fought back because it was his nature to
fight back. And he was unconquerable. Yelping shrilly from the
pain of lash and club, he none the less contrived always to
throw in the defiant snarl, the bitter vindictive menace of his
soul which fetched without fail more blows and beatings. But
his was his mother's tenacious grip on life. Nothing could kill
him. He flourished under misfortune, grew fat with famine, and
out of his terrible struggle for life developed a preternatural
intelligence. His were the stealth and cunning of the husky,
his mother, and the fierceness and valor of the wolf, his
father.
Possibly it was because of his father that he never
wailed. His puppy yelps passed with his lanky legs, so that he
became grim and taciturn, quick to strike, slow to warn. He
answered curse with snarl, and blow with snap, grinning the
while his implacable hatred; but never again, under the
extremest agony, did Leclere bring from him the cry of fear nor
of pain. This unconquerableness but fanned Leclere's wrath and
stirred him to greater deviltries.
Did Leclere give Batard half a fish and to his mates whole
ones, Batard went forth to rob other dogs of their fish. Also
he robbed cach s and expressed himself in a thousand rogueries,
till he became a terror to all dogs and masters of dogs. Did
Leclere beat Batard and fondle Babette, -- Babette who was not
half the worker he was, -- why, Batard threw her down in the
snow and broke her hind leg in his heavy jaws, so that Leclere
was forced to shoot her. Likewise, in bloody battles, Batard
mastered all his team-mates, set them the law of trail and
forage, and made them live to the law he set. In five years he
heard but one kind word, received but one soft stroke of a
hand, and then he did not know what manner of things they were.


He leaped like the untamed thing he was, and his jaws were
together in a flash. It was the missionary at Sunrise, a
newcomer in the country, who spoke the kind word and gave the
soft stroke of the hand. And for six months after, he wrote no
letters home to the States, and the surgeon at McQuestion
travelled two hundred miles on the ice to save him from
bloodpoisoning.
Men and dogs looked askance at Batard when he drifted into
their camps and posts. The men greeted him with feet
threateningly lifted for the kick, the dogs with bristling
manes and bared fangs. Once a man did kick Batard, and Batard,
with quick wolf snap, closed his jaws like a steel trap on the
man's calf and crunched down to the bone. Whereat the man was
determined to have his life, only Black Leclere, with ominous
eyes and naked hunting-knife, stepped in between. The killing
of Batard -- ah, sacredam, that was a pleasure Leclere reserved
for himself. Some day it would happen, or else -- bah! who was
to know? Anyway, the problem would be solved.
For they had become problems to each other. The very
breath each drew was a challenge and a menace to the other.
Their hate bound them together as love could never bind.
Leclere was bent on the coming of the day when Batard should
wilt in spirit and cringe and whimper at his feet. And Batard
-- Leclere knew what was in Batard's mind, and more than once
had read it in Batard's eyes. And so clearly had he read, that
when Batard was at his back, he made it a point to glance often
over his shoulder.
Men marvelled when Leclere refused large money for the
dog. "Some day you'll kill him and be out his price," said John
Hamlin once, when Batard lay panting in the snow where Leclere
had kicked him, and no one knew whether his ribs were broken,
and no one dared look to see.
"Dat," said Leclere, dryly, "dat is my biz'ness, M'sieu'."
And the men marvelled that Batard did not run away. They
did not understand. But Leclere understood. He was a man who
lived much in the open, beyond the sound of human tongue, and
he had learned the voices of wind and storm, the sigh of night,
the whisper of dawn, the clash of day. In a dim way he could
hear the green things growing, the running of the sap, the
bursting of the bud. And he knew the subtle speech of the
things that moved, of the rabbit in the snare, the moody raven
beating the air with hollow wing, the baldface shuffling under
the moon, the wolf like a gray shadow gliding betwixt the
twilight and the dark. And to him Batard spoke clear and
direct. Full well he understood why Batard did not run away,
and he looked more often over his shoulder.
When in anger, Batard was not nice to look upon, and more
than once had he leapt for Leclere's throat, to be stretched
quivering and senseless in the snow, by the butt of the ever
ready dogwhip. And so Batard learned to bide his time. When he
reached his full strength and prime of youth, he thought the
time had come. He was broad-chested, powerfully muscled, of far
more than ordinary size, and his neck from head to shoulders
was a mass of bristling hair -- to all appearances a full-
blooded wolf. Leclere was lying asleep in his furs when Batard
deemed the time to be ripe. He crept upon him stealthily, head
low to earth and lone ear laid back, with a feline softness of
tread. Batard breathed gently, very gently, and not till he was
close at hand did he raise his head. He paused for a moment,
and looked at the bronzed bull throat, naked and knotty, and
swelling to a deep and steady pulse. The slaver dripped down
his fangs and slid off his tongue at the sight, and in that
moment he remembered his drooping ear, his uncounted blows and
prodigious wrongs, and without a sound sprang on the sleeping
man.
Leclere awoke to the pang of the fangs in his throat, and,
perfect animal that he was, he awoke clear-headed and with full
comprehension. He closed on Batard's windpipe with both his
hands, and rolled out of his furs to get his weight uppermost.
But the thousands of Batard's ancestors had clung at the
throats of unnumbered moose and caribou and dragged them down,
and the wisdom of those ancestors was his. When Leclere's
weight came on top of him, he drove his hind legs upward and
in, and clawed down chest and abdomen, ripping and tearing
through skin and muscle. And when he felt the man's body wince
above him and lift, he worried and shook at the man's throat.
His team-mates closed around in a snarling circle, and Batard,
with failing breath and fading sense, knew that their jaws were
hungry for him. But that did not matter -- it was the man, the
man above him, and he ripped and clawed, and shook and worried,
to the last ounce of his strength. But Leclere choked him with
both his hands, till Batard's chest heaved and writhed for the
air denied, and his eyes glazed and set, and his jaws slowly
loosened, and his tongue protruded black and swollen.
"Eh? Bon, you devil!" Leclere gurgled, mouth and throat
clogged with his own blood, as he shoved the dizzy dog from
him.
And then Leclere cursed the other dogs off as they fell
upon Batard. They drew back into a wider circle, squatting
alertly on their haunches and licking their chops, the hair on
every neck bristling and erect.
Batard recovered quickly, and at sound of Leclere's voice,
tottered to his feet and swayed weakly back and forth.
"A-h-ah! You beeg devil!" Leclere spluttered. "Ah fix you;
Ah fix you plentee, by Gar!"
Batard, the air biting into his exhausted lungs like wine,
flashed full into the man's face, his jaws missing and coming
together with a metallic clip. They rolled over and over on the
snow, Leclere striking madly with his fists. Then they
separated, face to face, and circled back and forth before each
other. Leclere could have drawn his knife. His rifle was at his
feet. But the beast in him was up and raging. He would do the
thing with his hands -- and his teeth. Batard sprang in, but
Leclere knocked him over with a blow of the fist, fell upon
him, and buried his teeth to the bone in the dog's shoulder.
It was a primordial setting and a primordial scene, such
as might have been in the savage youth of the world. An open
space in a dark forest, a ring of grinning wolf-dogs, and in
the centre two beasts, locked in combat, snapping and snarling,
raging madly about, panting, sobbing, cursing, straining, wild
with passion, in a fury of murder, ripping and tearing and
clawing in elemental brutishness.
But Leclere caught Batard behind the ear, with a blow from
his fist, knocking him over, and, for the instant, stunning
him. Then Leclere leaped upon him with his feet, and sprang up
and down, striving to grind him into the earth. Both Batard's
hind legs were broken ere Leclere ceased that he might catch
breath.
"A-a-ah! A-a-ah!" he screamed, incapable of speech,
shaking his fist, through sheer impotence of throat and larynx.
But Batard was indomitable. He lay there in a helpless
welter, his lip feebly lifting and writhing to the snarl he had
not the strength to utter. Leclere kicked him, and the tired
jaws closed on the ankle, but could not break the skin. Then
Leclere picked up the whip and proceeded almost to cut him to
pieces, at each stroke of the lash crying: "Dis taim Ah break
you! Eh? By Gar! Ah break you!"
In the end, exhausted, fainting from loss of blood, he
crumpled up and fell by his victim, and when the wolf-dogs
closed in to take their vengeance, with his last consciousness
dragged his body on top Batard to shield him from their fangs.
This occurred not far from Sunrise, and the missionary,
opening the door to Leclere a few hours later, was surprised to
note the absence of Batard from the team. Nor did his surprise
lessen when Leclere threw back the robes from the sled,
gathered Batard into his arms, and staggered across the
threshold. It happened that the surgeon of McQuestion, who was
something of a gadabout, was up on a gossip, and between them
they proceeded to repair Leclere.
"Merci, non," said he. "Do you fix firs' de dog. To die?
Non. Eet is not good. Becos' heem Ah mus' yet break. Dat fo'
w'at he mus' not die."
The surgeon called it a marvel, the missionary a miracle,
that Leclere pulled through at all; and so weakened was he,
that in the spring the fever got him, and he went on his back
again. Batard had been in even worse plight, but his grip on
life prevailed, and the bones of his hind legs knit, and his
organs righted themselves, during the several weeks he lay
strapped to the floor. And by the time Leclere, finally
convalescent, sallow and shaky, took the sun by the cabin door,
Batard had reasserted his supremacy among his kind, and brought
not only his own team-mates but the missionary's dogs into
subjection.
He moved never a muscle, nor twitched a hair, when, for
the first time, Leclere tottered out on the missionary's arm,
and sank down slowly and with infinite caution on the three-
legged stool.
"Bon! --" he said. "Bon! De good sun!" And he stretched
out his wasted hands and washed them in the warmth.
Then his gaze fell on the dog, and the old light blazed
back in his eyes. He touched the missionary lightly on the arm.
"Mon p re, dat is one beeg devil, dat Batard. You will bring me
one pistol, so, dat Ah drink de sun in peace."
And thenceforth for many days he sat in the sun before the
cabin door. He never dozed, and the pistol lay always across
his knees. Batard had a way, the first thing each day, of
looking for the weapon in its wonted place. At sight of it he
would lift his lip faintly in token that he understood, and
Leclere would lift his own lip in an answering grin. One day
the missionary took note of the trick.
"Bless me!" he said. "I really believe the brute
comprehends."
Leclere laughed softly. "Look you, mon p re. Dat w'at Ah
now spik, to dat does he lissen."
As if in confirmation, Batard just perceptibly wriggled
his lone ear up to catch the sound.
"Ah say `keel.'"
Batard growled deep down in his throat, the hair bristled
along his neck, and every muscle went tense and expectant.
"Ah lift de gun, so, like dat." And suiting action to
word, he sighted the pistol at Batard.
Batard, with a single leap, sideways, landed around the
corner of the cabin out of sight.
"Bless me!" he repeated at intervals.
Leclere grinned proudly.
"But why does he not run away?"
The Frenchman's shoulders went up in the racial shrug that
means all things from total ignorance to infinite
understanding.
"Then why do you not kill him?"
Again the shoulders went up.
"Mon p re," he said after a pause, "de taim is not yet. He
is one beeg devil. Some taim Ah break heem, so, an' so, all to
leetle bits. Hey? Some taim. Bon! --"
A day came when Leclere gathered his dogs together and
floated down in a bateau to Forty Mile, and on to the
Porcupine, where he took a commission from the P. C. Company,
and went exploring for the better part of a year. After that he
poled up the Koyokuk to deserted Arctic City, and later came
drifting back, from camp to camp, along the Yukon. And during
the long months Batard was well lessoned. He learned many
tortures, and, notably, the torture of hunger, the torture of
thirst, the torture of fire, and, worst of all, the torture of
music.
Like the rest of his kind, he did not enjoy music. It gave
him exquisite anguish, racking him nerve by nerve, and ripping
apart every fibre of his being. It made him howl, long and
wolf-like, as when the wolves bay the stars on frosty nights.
He could not help howling. It was his one weakness in the
contest with Leclere, and it was his shame. Leclere, on the
other hand, passionately loved music -- as passionately as he
loved strong drink. And when his soul clamored for expression,
it usually uttered itself in one or the other of the two ways,
and more usually in both ways. And when he had drunk, his brain
a-lilt with unsung song and the devil in him aroused and
rampant, his soul found its supreme utterance in torturing
Batard.
"Now we will haf a leetle museek," he would say. "Eh? W'at
you t'ink, Batard?"
It was only an old and battered harmonica, tenderly
treasured and patiently repaired; but it was the best that
money could buy, and out of its silver reeds he drew weird
vagrant airs that men had never heard before. Then Batard, dumb
of throat, with teeth tight clenched, would back away, inch by
inch, to the farthest cabin corner. And Leclere, playing,
playing, a stout club tucked under his arm, followed the animal
up, inch by inch, step by step, till there was no further
retreat.
At first Batard would crowd himself into the smallest
possible space, grovelling close to the floor; but as the music
came nearer and nearer, he was forced to uprear, his back
jammed into the logs, his fore legs fanning the air as though
to beat off the rippling waves of sound. He still kept his
teeth together, but severe muscular contractions attacked his
body, strange twitchings and jerkings, till he was all a-quiver
and writhing in silent torment. As he lost control, his jaws
spasmodically wrenched apart, and deep throaty vibrations
issued forth, too low in the register of sound for human ear to
catch. And then, nostrils distended, eyes dilated, hair
bristling in helpless rage, arose the long wolf howl. It came
with a slurring rush upward, swelling to a great heartbreaking
burst of sound, and dying away in sadly cadenced woe -- then
the next rush upward, octave upon octave; the bursting heart;
and the infinite sorrow and misery, fainting, fading, falling,
and dying slowly away.
It was fit for hell. And Leclere, with fiendish ken,
seemed to divine each particular nerve and heartstring, and
with long wails and tremblings and sobbing minors to make it
yield up its last shred of grief. It was frightful, and for
twenty-four hours after, Batard was nervous and unstrung,
starting at common sounds, tripping over his own shadow, but,
withal, vicious and masterful with his team-mates. Nor did he
show signs of a breaking spirit. Rather did he grow more grim
and taciturn, biding his time with an inscrutable patience that
began to puzzle and weigh upon Leclere. The dog would lie in
the firelight, motionless, for hours, gazing straight before
him at Leclere, and hating him with his bitter eyes.
Often the man felt that he had bucked against the very
essence of life -the unconquerable essence that swept the hawk
down out of the sky like a feathered thunderbolt, that drove
the great gray goose across the zones, that hurled the spawning
salmon through two thousand miles of boiling Yukon flood. At
such times he felt impelled to express his own unconquerable
essence; and with strong drink, wild music, and Batard, he
indulged in vast orgies, wherein he pitted his puny strength in
the face of things, and challenged all that was, and had been,
and was yet to be.
"Dere is somet'ing dere," he affirmed, when the rhythmed
vagaries of his mind touched the secret chords of Batard's
being and brought forth the long lugubrious howl. "Ah pool eet
out wid bot' my han's, so, an' so. Ha! Ha! Eet is fonee! Eet is
ver' fonee! De priest chant, de womans pray, de mans swear, de
leetle bird go peep-peep, Batard, heem go yow-yow -- an' eet is
all de ver' same t'ing. Ha! Ha!"
Father Gautier, a worthy priest, once reproved him with
instances of concrete perdition. He never reproved him again.
"Eet may be so, mon p re," he made answer. "An' Ah t'ink
Ah go troo hell asnappin', lak de hemlock troo de fire. Eh, mon
p re?"
But all bad things come to an end as well as good, and so
with Black Leclere. On the summer low water, in a poling boat,
he left McDougall for Sunrise. He left McDougall in company
with Timothy Brown, and arrived at Sunrise by himself. Further,
it was known that they had quarrelled just previous to pulling
out; for the Lizzie, a wheezy ten-ton sternwheeler, twenty-four
hours behind, beat Leclere in by three days. And when he did
get in, it was with a clean-drilled bullet-hole through his
shoulder muscle, and a tale of ambush and murder.
A strike had been made at Sunrise, and things had changed
considerably. With the infusion of several hundred gold-
seekers, a deal of whiskey, and half a dozen equipped gamblers,
the missionary had seen the page of his years of labor with the
Indians wiped clean. When the squaws became preoccupied with
cooking beans and keeping the fire going for the wifeless
miners, and the bucks with swapping their warm furs for black
bottles and broken timepieces, he took to his bed, said "bless
me" several times, and departed to his final accounting in a
rough-hewn, oblong box. Whereupon the gamblers moved their
roulette and faro tables into the mission house, and the click
of chips and clink of glasses went up from dawn till dark and
to dawn again.
Now Timothy Brown was well beloved among these adventurers
of the north. The one thing against him was his quick temper
and ready fist, -- a little thing, for which his kind heart and
forgiving hand more than atoned. On the other hand, there was
nothing to atone for Black Leclere. He was "black," as more
than one remembered deed bore witness, while he was as well
hated as the other was beloved. So the men of Sunrise put an
antiseptic dressing on his shoulder and haled him before Judge
Lynch.
It was a simple affair. He had quarrelled with Timothy
Brown at McDougall. With Timothy Brown he had left McDougall.
Without Timothy Brown he had arrived at Sunrise. Considered in
the light of his evilness, the unanimous conclusion was that he
had killed Timothy Brown. On the other hand, Leclere
acknowledged their facts, but challenged their conclusion, and
gave his own explanation. Twenty miles out of Sunrise he and
Timothy Brown were poling the boat along the rocky shore. From
that shore two rifle-shots rang out. Timothy Brown pitched out
of the boat and went down bubbling red, and that was the last
of Timothy Brown. He, Leclere, pitched into the bottom of the
boat with a stinging shoulder. He lay very quiet, peeping at
the shore. After a time two Indians stuck up their heads and
came out to the water's edge, carrying between them a birch-
bark canoe. As they launched it, Leclere let fly. He potted
one, who went over the side after the manner of Timothy Brown.
The other dropped into the bottom of the canoe, and then canoe
and poling boat went down the stream in a drifting battle.
After that they hung up on a split current, and the canoe
passed on one side of an island, the poling boat on the other.
That was the last of the canoe, and he came on into Sunrise.
Yes, from the way the Indian in the canoe jumped, he was sure
he had potted him. That was all.
This explanation was not deemed adequate. They gave him
ten hours' grace while the Lizzie steamed down to investigate.
Ten hours later she came wheezing back to Sunrise. There had
been nothing to investigate. No evidence had been found to back
up his statements. They told him to make his will, for he
possessed a fifty-thousand-dollar Sunrise claim, and they were
a law-abiding as well as a law-giving breed.
Leclere shrugged his shoulders. "Bot one t'ing," he said;
"a leetle, w'at you call, favor -- a leetle favor, dat is eet.
I gif my feefty t'ousan' dollair to de church. I gif my husky
dog, Batard, to de devil. De leetle favor? Firs' you hang heem,
an' den you hang me. Eet is good, eh?"
Good it was, they agreed, that Hell's Spawn should break
trail for his master across the last divide, and the court was
adjourned down to the river bank, where a big spruce tree stood
by itself. Slackwater Charley put a hangman's knot in the end
of a hauling-line, and the noose was slipped over Leclere's
head and pulled tight around his neck. His hands were tied
behind his back, and he was assisted to the top of a cracker
box. Then the running end of the line was passed over an
overhanging branch, drawn taut, and made fast. To kick the box
out from under would leave him dancing on the air.
"Now for the dog," said Webster Shaw, sometime mining
engineer. "You'll have to rope him, Slackwater."
Leclere grinned. Slackwater took a chew of tobacco, rove a
running noose, and proceeded leisurely to coil a few turns in
his hand. He paused once or twice to brush particularly
offensive mosquitoes from off his face. Everybody was brushing
mosquitoes, except Leclere, about whose head a small cloud was
visible. Even Batard, lying full-stretched on the ground, with
his fore paws rubbed the pests away from eyes and mouth.
But while Slackwater waited for Batard to lift his head, a
faint call came down the quiet air, and a man was seen waving
his arms and running across the flat from Sunrise. It was the
storekeeper.
"C-call 'er off, boys," he panted, as he came in among
them.
"Little Sandy and Bernadotte's jes' got in," he explained
with returning breath. "Landed down below an' come up by the
short cut. Got the Beaver with 'm. Picked 'm up in his canoe,
stuck in a back channel, with a couple of bullet holes in 'm.
Other buck was Klok-Kutz, the one that knocked spots out of his
squaw and dusted."
"Eh? W'at Ah say? Eh?" Leclere cried exultantly. "Dat de
one fo' sure! Ah know. Ah spik true."
"The thing to do is teach these damned Siwashes a little
manners," spoke Webster Shaw. "They're getting fat and sassy,
and we'll have to bring them down a peg. Round in all the bucks
and string up the Beaver for an object lesson. That's the
programme. Come on and let's see what he's got to say for
himself."
"Heh, M'sieu'!" Leclere called, as the crowd began to melt
away through the twilight in the direction of Sunrise. "Ah lak
ver' moch to see de fon."
"Oh, we'll turn you loose when we come back," Webster Shaw
shouted over his shoulder. "In the meantime meditate on your
sins and the ways of providence. It will do you good, so be
grateful."
As is the way with men who are accustomed to great
hazards, whose nerves are healthy and trained to patience, so
it was with Leclere, who settled himself to the long wait --
which is to say that he reconciled his mind to it. There was no
settling of the body, for the taut rope forced him to stand
rigidly erect. The least relaxation of the leg muscles pressed
the rough-fibred noose into his neck, while the upright
position caused him much pain in his wounded shoulder. He
projected his under lip and expelled his breath upward along
his face to blow the mosquitoes away from his eyes. But the
situation had its compensation. To be snatched from the maw of
death was well worth a little bodily suffering, only it was
unfortunate that he should miss the hanging of the Beaver.
And so he mused, till his eyes chanced to fall upon
Batard, head between fore paws and stretched on the ground
asleep. And then Leclere ceased to muse. He studied the animal
closely, striving to sense if the sleep were real or feigned.
Batard's sides were heaving regularly, but Leclere felt that
the breath came and went a shade too quickly; also he felt that
there was a vigilance or alertness to every hair that belied
unshackling sleep. He would have given his Sunrise claim to be
assured that the dog was not awake, and once, when one of his
joints cracked, he looked quickly and guiltily at Batard to see
if he roused. He did not rouse then, but a few minutes later he
got up slowly and lazily, stretched, and looked carefully about
him.
"Sacredam," said Leclere, under his breath.
Assured that no one was in sight or hearing, Batard sat
down, curled his upper lip almost into a smile, looked up at
Leclere, and licked his chops.
"Ah see my feenish," the man said, and laughed
sardonically aloud.
Batard came nearer, the useless ear wabbling, the good ear
cocked forward with devilish comprehension. He thrust his head
on one side quizzically, and advanced with mincing, playful
steps. He rubbed his body gently against the box till it shook
and shook again. Leclere teetered carefully to maintain his
equilibrium.
"Batard," he said calmly, "look out. Ah keel you." Batard
snarled at the word, and shook the box with greater force. Then
he upreared, and with his fore paws threw his weight against it
higher up. Leclere kicked out with one foot, but the rope bit
into his neck and checked so abruptly as nearly to overbalance
him.
"Hi, ya! Chook! Mush-on! --" he screamed.
Batard retreated, for twenty feet or so, with a fiendish
levity in his bearing that Leclere could not mistake. He
remembered the dog often breaking the scum of ice on the water
hole, by lifting up and throwing his weight upon it; and,
remembering, he understood what he now had in mind. Batard
faced about and paused. He showed his white teeth in a grin,
which Leclere answered; and then hurled his body through the
air, in full charge, straight for the box.
Fifteen minutes later, Slackwater Charley and Webster
Shaw, returning, caught a glimpse of a ghostly pendulum
swinging back and forth in the dim light. As they hurriedly
drew in closer, they made out the man's inert body, and a live
thing that clung to it, and shook and worried, and gave to it
the swaying motion.
"Hi, ya! Chook! you Spawn of Hell," yelled Webster Shaw.
But Batard glared at him, and snarled threateningly,
without loosing his jaws.
Slackwater Charley got out his revolver, but his hand was
shaking, as with a chill, and he fumbled.
"Here, you take it," he said, passing the weapon over.
Webster Shaw laughed shortly, drew a sight between the
gleaming eyes, and pressed the trigger. Batard's body twitched
with the shock, threshed the ground spasmodically for a moment,
and went suddenly limp. But his teeth still held fast locked.
Комментарии
Анонимно
Войти под своим именем


Ник:
Текст сообщения:
Введите код:  

Загрузка...
Поиск:
добавить сайт | реклама на портале | контекстная реклама | контакты Copyright © 1998-2020 <META> Все права защищены