Книга White Fang. Содержание - CHAPTER V-THE INDOMITABLE
«Come on, Matt, lend a hand,» the newcomer called the dog-musher, who had followed him into the ring.
Both men bent over the dogs. Matt took hold of White Fang, ready to pull when Cherokee's jaws should be loosened. This the younger man endeavoured to accomplish by clutching the bulldog's jaws in his hands and trying to spread them. It was a vain undertaking. As he pulled and tugged and wrenched, he kept exclaiming with every expulsion of breath, «Beasts!»
The crowd began to grow unruly, and some of the men were protesting against the spoiling of the sport; but they were silenced when the newcomer lifted his head from his work for a moment and glared at them.
«You damn beasts!» he finally exploded, and went back to his task.
«It's no use, Mr. Scott, you can't break 'm apart that way,» Matt said at last.
The pair paused and surveyed the locked dogs.
«Ain't bleedin' much,» Matt announced. «Ain't got all the way in yet.»
«But he's liable to any moment,» Scott answered. «There, did you see that! He shifted his grip in a bit.»
The younger man's excitement and apprehension for White Fang was growing. He struck Cherokee about the head savagely again and again. But that did not loosen the jaws. Cherokee wagged the stump of his tail in advertisement that he understood the meaning of the blows, but that he knew he was himself in the right and only doing his duty by keeping his grip.
«Won't some of you help?» Scott cried desperately at the crowd.
But no help was offered. Instead, the crowd began sarcastically to cheer him on and showered him with facetious advice.
«You'll have to get a pry,» Matt counselled.
The other reached into the holster at his hip, drew his revolver, and tried to thrust its muzzle between the bull-dog's jaws. He shoved, and shoved hard, till the grating of the steel against the locked teeth could be distinctly heard. Both men were on their knees, bending over the dogs. Tim Keenan strode into the ring. He paused beside Scott and touched him on the shoulder, saying ominously:
«Don't break them teeth, stranger.»
«Then I'll break his neck,» Scott retorted, continuing his shoving and wedging with the revolver muzzle.
«I said don't break them teeth,» the faro-dealer repeated more ominously than before.
But if it was a bluff he intended, it did not work. Scott never desisted from his efforts, though he looked up coolly and asked:
The faro-dealer grunted.
«Then get in here and break this grip.»
«Well, stranger,» the other drawled irritatingly, «I don't mind telling you that's something I ain't worked out for myself. I don't know how to turn the trick.»
«Then get out of the way,» was the reply, «and don't bother me. I'm busy.»
Tim Keenan continued standing over him, but Scott took no further notice of his presence. He had managed to get the muzzle in between the jaws on one side, and was trying to get it out between the jaws on the other side. This accomplished, he pried gently and carefully, loosening the jaws a bit at a time, while Matt, a bit at a time, extricated White Fang's mangled neck.
«Stand by to receive your dog,» was Scott's peremptory order to Cherokee's owner.
The faro-dealer stooped down obediently and got a firm hold on Cherokee.
«Now!» Scott warned, giving the final pry.
The dogs were drawn apart, the bull-dog struggling vigorously.
«Take him away,» Scott commanded, and Tim Keenan dragged Cherokee back into the crowd.
White Fang made several ineffectual efforts to get up. Once he gained his feet, but his legs were too weak to sustain him, and he slowly wilted and sank back into the snow. His eyes were half closed, and the surface of them was glassy. His jaws were apart, and through them the tongue protruded, draggled and limp. To all appearances he looked like a dog that had been strangled to death. Matt examined him.
«Just about all in,» he announced; «but he's breathin' all right.»
Beauty Smith had regained his feet and come over to look at White Fang.
«Matt, how much is a good sled-dog worth?» Scott asked.
The dog-musher, still on his knees and stooped over White Fang, calculated for a moment.
«Three hundred dollars,» he answered.
«And how much for one that's all chewed up like this one?» Scott asked, nudging White Fang with his foot.
«Half of that,» was the dog-musher's judgment. Scott turned upon Beauty Smith.
«Did you hear, Mr. Beast? I'm going to take your dog from you, and I'm going to give you a hundred and fifty for him.»
He opened his pocket-book and counted out the bills.
Beauty Smith put his hands behind his back, refusing to touch the proffered money.
«I ain't a-sellin',» he said.
«Oh, yes you are,» the other assured him. «Because I'm buying. Here's your money. The dog's mine.»
Beauty Smith, his hands still behind him, began to back away.
Scott sprang toward him, drawing his fist back to strike. Beauty Smith cowered down in anticipation of the blow.
«I've got my rights,» he whimpered.
«You've forfeited your rights to own that dog,» was the rejoinder. «Are you going to take the money? or do I have to hit you again?»
«All right,» Beauty Smith spoke up with the alacrity of fear. «But I take the money under protest,» he added. «The dog's a mint. I ain't a-goin' to be robbed. A man's got his rights.»
«Correct,» Scott answered, passing the money over to him. «A man's got his rights. But you're not a man. You're a beast.»
«Wait till I get back to Dawson,» Beauty Smith threatened. «I'll have the law on you.»
«If you open your mouth when you get back to Dawson, I'll have you run out of town. Understand?»
Beauty Smith replied with a grunt.
«Understand?» the other thundered with abrupt fierceness.
«Yes,» Beauty Smith grunted, shrinking away.
«Yes, sir,» Beauty Smith snarled.
«Look out! He'll bite!» some one shouted, and a guffaw of laughter went up.
Scott turned his back on him, and returned to help the dog-musher, who was working over White Fang.
Some of the men were already departing; others stood in groups, looking on and talking. Tim Keenan joined one of the groups.
«Who's that mug?» he asked.
«Weedon Scott,» some one answered.
«And who in hell is Weedon Scott?» the faro-dealer demanded.
«Oh, one of them crackerjack minin' experts. He's in with all the big bugs. If you want to keep out of trouble, you'll steer clear of him, that's my talk. He's all hunky with the officials. The Gold Commissioner's a special pal of his.»
«I thought he must be somebody,» was the faro-dealer's comment. «That's why I kept my hands offen him at the start.»
CHAPTER V-THE INDOMITABLE
«It's hopeless,» Weedon Scott confessed.
He sat on the step of his cabin and stared at the dog-musher, who responded with a shrug that was equally hopeless.
Together they looked at White Fang at the end of his stretched chain, bristling, snarling, ferocious, straining to get at the sled-dogs. Having received sundry lessons from Matt, said lessons being imparted by means of a club, the sled-dogs had learned to leave White Fang alone; and even then they were lying down at a distance, apparently oblivious of his existence.
«It's a wolf and there's no taming it,» Weedon Scott announced.
«Oh, I don't know about that,» Matt objected. «Might be a lot of dog in 'm, for all you can tell. But there's one thing I know sure, an' that there's no gettin' away from.»
The dog-musher paused and nodded his head confidentially at Moosehide Mountain.
«Well, don't be a miser with what you know,» Scott said sharply, after waiting a suitable length of time. «Spit it out. What is it?»
The dog-musher indicated White Fang with a backward thrust of his thumb.