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|The Faith of Men||Jack London|
|Page 5 of 10||
"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 pere, 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 pere. 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.
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