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The Test
by [?]

Pierre “Feroce” showed disapproval in his every attitude as plainly as disgust peered from the seams in his dark face; it lurked in his scowl and in the curl of his long rawhide that bit among the sled dogs. So at least thought Willard, as he clung to the swinging sledge.

They were skirting the coast, keeping to the glare ice, wind-swept and clean, that lay outside the jumbled shore pack. The team ran silently in the free gait of the grey wolf, romping in harness from pure joy of motion and the intoxication of perfect life, making the sled runners whine like the song of a cutlass.

This route is dangerous, of course, from hidden cracks in the floes, and most travellers hug the bluffs, but he who rides with Pierre “Feroce” takes chances. It was this that had won him the name of “Wild” Pierre–the most reckless, tireless man of the trails, a scoffer at peril, bolting through danger with rush and frenzy, overcoming sheerly by vigour those obstacles which destroy strong men in the North.

The power that pulsed within him gleamed from his eyes, rang in his song, showed in the aggressive thrust of his sensual face.

This particular morning, however, Pierre’s distemper had crystallized into a great contempt for his companion. Of all trials, the most detestable is to hit the trail with half a man, a pale, anemic weakling like this stranger.

Though modest in the extent of his learning, Pierre gloated in a freedom of speech, the which no man dared deny him. He turned to eye his companion cynically for a second time, and contempt was patent in his gaze. Willard appeared slender and pallid in his furs, though his clear-cut features spoke a certain strength and much refinement.

“Bah! I t’ink you dam poor feller,” he said finally. “‘Ow you ‘goin’ stan’ thees trip, eh? She’s need beeg mans, not leetle runt like you.”

Amusement at this frankness glimmered in Willard’s eyes.

“You’re like all ignorant people. You think in order to stand hardship a man should be able to toss a sack of flour in his teeth or juggle a cask of salt-horse.”

“Sure t’ing,” grinned Pierre. “That’s right. Look at me. Mebbe you hear ’bout Pierre ‘Feroce’ sometime, eh?”

“Oh, yes; everybody knows you; knows you’re a big bully. I’ve seen you drink a quart of this wood alcohol they call whisky up here, and then jump the bar from a stand, but you’re all animal–you haven’t the refinement and the culture that makes real strength. It’s the mind that makes us stand punishment.”

“Ha! ha! ha!” laughed the Canadian. “Wat a fonny talk. She’ll take the heducate man for stan’ the col’, eh? Mon Dieu!” He roared again till the sled dogs turned fearful glances backward and bushy tails drooped under the weight of their fright. Great noise came oftenest with great rage from Pierre, and they had too frequently felt the both to forget.

“Yes, you haven’t the mentality. Sometime you’ll use up your physical resources and go to pieces like a burned wick.”

Pierre was greatly amused. His yellow teeth shone, and he gave vent to violent mirth as, following the thought, he pictured a naked mind wandering over the hills with the quicksilver at sixty degrees.

“Did you ever see a six-day race? Of course not; you barbarians haven’t sunk to the level of our dissolute East, where we joy in Roman spectacles, but if you had you’d see it’s will that wins; it’s the man that eats his soul by inches. The educated soldier stands the campaign best. You run too much to muscle–you’re not balanced.”

“I t’ink mebbe you’ll ‘ave chance for show ‘im, thees stout will of yours. She’s goin’ be long ‘mush’ troo the mountains, plentee snow, plentee cold.”