2. CHAPTER II - THE MAD GOD
A small number of white men lived in Fort Yukon. These men had
been long in the country. They called themselves Sour-doughs, and
took great pride in so classifying themselves. For other men, new
in the land, they felt nothing but disdain. The men who came
ashore from the steamers were newcomers. They were known as
CHECHAQUOS, and they always wilted at the application of the name.
They made their bread with baking-powder. This was the invidious
distinction between them and the Sour-doughs, who, forsooth, made
their bread from sour-dough because they had no baking-powder.
All of which is neither here nor there. The men in the fort
disdained the newcomers and enjoyed seeing them come to grief.
Especially did they enjoy the havoc worked amongst the newcomers'
dogs by White Fang and his disreputable gang. When a steamer
arrived, the men of the fort made it a point always to come down to
the bank and see the fun. They looked forward to it with as much
anticipation as did the Indian dogs, while they were not slow to
appreciate the savage and crafty part played by White Fang.
But there was one man amongst them who particularly enjoyed the
sport. He would come running at the first sound of a steamboat's
whistle; and when the last fight was over and White Fang and the
pack had scattered, he would return slowly to the fort, his face
heavy with regret. Sometimes, when a soft southland dog went down,
shrieking its death-cry under the fangs of the pack, this man would
be unable to contain himself, and would leap into the air and cry
out with delight. And always he had a sharp and covetous eye for
This man was called "Beauty" by the other men of the fort. No one
knew his first name, and in general he was known in the country as
Beauty Smith. But he was anything save a beauty. To antithesis
was due his naming. He was pre-eminently unbeautiful. Nature had
been niggardly with him. He was a small man to begin with; and
upon his meagre frame was deposited an even more strikingly meagre
head. Its apex might be likened to a point. In fact, in his
boyhood, before he had been named Beauty by his fellows, he had
been called "Pinhead."