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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesKazan, The Wolf Dog - Chapter 23. Professor Mcgill
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Kazan, The Wolf Dog - Chapter 23. Professor Mcgill Post by :sbeard Category :Long Stories Author :James Oliver Curwood Date :May 2012 Read :2270

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Kazan, The Wolf Dog - Chapter 23. Professor Mcgill

CHAPTER XXIII. PROFESSOR McGILL

Red Gold City was ripe for a night of relaxation. There had been some gambling, a few fights and enough liquor to create excitement now and then, but the presence of the mounted police had served to keep things unusually tame compared with events a few hundred miles farther north, in the Dawson country. The entertainment proposed by Sandy McTrigger and Jan Harker met with excited favor. The news spread for twenty miles about Red Gold City and there had never been greater excitement in the town than on the afternoon and night of the big fight. This was largely because Kazan and the huge Dane had been placed on exhibition, each dog in a specially made cage of his own, and a fever of betting began. Three hundred men, each of whom was paying five dollars to see the battle, viewed the gladiators through the bars of their cages. Harker's dog was a combination of Great Dane and mastiff, born in the North, and bred to the traces. Betting favored him by the odds of two to one. Occasionally it ran three to one. At these odds there was plenty of Kazan money. Those who were risking their money on him were the older wilderness men--men who had spent their lives among dogs, and who knew what the red glint in Kazan's eyes meant. An old Kootenay miner spoke low in another's ear:

"I'd bet on 'im even. I'd give odds if I had to. He'll fight all around the Dane. The Dane won't have no method."

"But he's got the weight," said the other dubiously. "Look at his jaws, an' his shoulders--"

"An' his big feet, an' his soft throat, an' the clumsy thickness of his belly," interrupted the Kootenay man. "For Gawd's sake, man, take my word for it, an' don't put your money on the Dane!"

Others thrust themselves between them. At first Kazan had snarled at all these faces about him. But now he lay back against the boarded side of the cage and eyed them sullenly from between his forepaws.

The fight was to be pulled off in Barker's place, a combination of saloon and cafe. The benches and tables had been cleared out and in the center of the one big room a cage ten feet square rested on a platform three and a half feet from the floor. Seats for the three hundred spectators were drawn closely around this. Suspended just above the open top of the cage were two big oil lamps with glass reflectors.

It was eight o'clock when Harker, McTrigger and two other men bore Kazan to the arena by means of the wooden bars that projected from the bottom of his cage. The big Dane was already in the fighting cage. He stood blinking his eyes in the brilliant light of the reflecting lamps. He pricked up his ears when he saw Kazan. Kazan did not show his fangs. Neither revealed the expected animosity. It was the first they had seen of each other, and a murmur of disappointment swept the ranks of the three hundred men. The Dane remained as motionless as a rock when Kazan was prodded from his own cage into the fighting cage. He did not leap or snarl. He regarded Kazan with a dubious questioning poise to his splendid head, and then looked again to the expectant and excited faces of the waiting men. For a few moments Kazan stood stiff-legged, facing the Dane. Then his shoulders dropped, and he, too, coolly faced the crowd that had expected a fight to the death. A laugh of derision swept through the closely seated rows. Catcalls, jeering taunts flung at McTrigger and Harker, and angry voices demanding their money back mingled with a tumult of growing discontent. Sandy's face was red with mortification and rage. The blue veins in Barker's forehead had swollen twice their normal size. He shook his fist in the face of the crowd, and shouted:

"Wait! Give 'em a chance, you dam' fools!"

At his words every voice was stilled. Kazan had turned. He was facing the huge Dane. And the Dane had turned his eyes to Kazan. Cautiously, prepared for a lunge or a sidestep, Kazan advanced a little. The Dane's shoulders bristled. He, too, advanced upon Kazan. Four feet apart they stood rigid. One could have heard a whisper in the room now. Sandy and Harker, standing close to the cage, scarcely breathed. Splendid in every limb and muscle, warriors of a hundred fights, and fearless to the point of death, the two half-wolf victims of man stood facing each other. None could see the questioning look in their brute eyes. None knew that in this thrilling moment the unseen hand of the wonderful Spirit God of the wilderness hovered between them, and that one of its miracles was descending upon them. It was _understanding_. Meeting in the open--rivals in the traces--they would have been rolling in the throes of terrific battle. But _here came that mute appeal of brotherhood. In the final moment, when only a step separated them, and when men expected to see the first mad lunge, the splendid Dane slowly raised his head and looked over Kazan's back through the glare of the lights. Harker trembled, and under his breath he cursed. The Dane's throat was open to Kazan. But between the beasts had passed the voiceless pledge of peace. Kazan did not leap. He turned. And shoulder to shoulder--splendid in their contempt of man--they stood and looked through the bars of their prison into the one of human faces.

A roar burst from the crowd--a roar of anger, of demand, of threat. In his rage Harker drew a revolver and leveled it at the Dane. Above the tumult of the crowd a single voice stopped him.

"Hold!" it demanded. "Hold--in the name of the law!"

For a moment there was silence. Every face turned in the direction of the voice. Two men stood on chairs behind the last row. One was Sergeant Brokaw, of the Royal Northwest Mounted. It was he who had spoken. He was holding up a hand, commanding silence and attention. On the chair beside him stood another man. He was thin, with drooping shoulders, and a pale smooth face--a little man, whose physique and hollow cheeks told nothing of the years he had spent close up along the raw edge of the Arctic. It was he who spoke now, while the sergeant held up his hand. His voice was low and quiet:

"I'll give the owners five hundred dollars for those dogs," he said.

Every man in the room heard the offer. Harker looked at Sandy. For an instant their heads were close together.

"They won't fight, and they'll make good team-mates," the little man went on. "I'll give the owners five hundred dollars."

Harker raised a hand.

"Make it six," he said. "Make it six and they're yours."

The little man hesitated. Then he nodded.

"I'll give you six hundred," he agreed.

Murmurs of discontent rose throughout the crowd. Harker climbed to the edge of the platform.

"We ain't to blame because they wouldn't fight," he shouted, "but if there's any of you small enough to want your money back you can git it as you go out. The dogs laid down on us, that's all. We ain't to blame."

The little man was edging his way between the chairs, accompanied by the sergeant of police. With his pale face close to the sapling bars of the cage he looked at Kazan and the big Dane.

"I guess we'll be good friends," he said, and he spoke so low that only the dogs heard his voice. "It's a big price, but we'll charge it to the Smithsonian, lads. I'm going to need a couple of four-footed friends of your moral caliber."

And no one knew why Kazan and the Dane drew nearer to the little scientist's side of the cage as he pulled out a big roll of bills and counted out six hundred dollars for Harker and Sandy McTrigger.

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