Batard. by jack london
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 grey 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