|“||Hi, ya! Chook! Mush-on!||„|
Bâtard is the titular main protagonist of Jack London's 1902 short story of the same name. Despite his owner Black Leclère being seen as the villain, Bâtard is actually one, since his tragic life against his owner's abuse is what drove him insane to kill and steal. He is a devil who lives in the body of a wolfdog owned by Black Leclère, who has given him the shameful name "Diable".
Bâtard was known by many men as "Hell's Spawn", but his master, Black Leclere, chose for him the shameful name "Bâtard". The first time they met, Bâtard was a part-grown puppy, lean and hungry, with bitter eyes. His eyes glinted viciously, as he reached for Bâtard and dragged him out from the squirming litter. It was certain that they divined each other, for on the instant Bâtard had buried his puppy fangs in Leclere's hand, and Leclere, thumb and finger, was coolly choking his young life out of him.
Because he hated him with an exceeding bitter hate, Leclere bought Bâtard and gave him his shameful name. And for 5 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.
Bâtard 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 Bâtard, 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, Bâtard'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 Bâtard 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 Bâtard and Leclere is a history of war, of 5 cruel and 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 Bâtard 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.
Bâtard came nearer, the useless ear wabbling, the good ear cocked forward with devilish comprehension. He thrust his head on one side quizzically, and advanced with mincing, playful steps. He rubbed his body gently against the box till it shook and shook again. Bâtard snarled at the word and shook the box with greater force. Then he upreared, and with his fore paws threw his weight against it higher up. Leclere kicked out with one foot, but the rope bit into his neck and checked so abruptly as nearly to overbalance him.
Bâtard retreated, for 20 feet or so, with a fiendish levity in his bearing that Leclere could not mistake. He remembered the dog often breaking the scum of ice on the water hole by lifting up and throwing his weight upon it; and remembering, he understood what he now had in mind. Bâtard faced about and paused. He showed his white teeth in a grin, which Leclere answered; and then hurled his body through the air, in full charge, straight for the box. Fifteen minutes later, Slackwater Charley and Webster Shaw returning, caught a glimpse of a ghostly pendulum swinging back and forth in the dim light. As they hurriedly drew in closer, they made out the man's inert body, and a live thing that clung to it, and shook and worried, and gave to it the swaying motion.
Bâtard glared at Webster Shaw, and snarled threateningly, without loosing his jaws. Slackwater Charley got out his revolver, but his hand was shaking, as with a chill, and he fumbled. "Here you take it," he said, passing the weapon over. Webster Shaw laughed shortly, drew a sight between the gleaming eyes, and pressed the trigger. Bâtard's body twitched with the shock, threshed the ground spasmodically for a moment, and went suddenly limp. But his teeth still held fast locked. At the end, Bâtard ends up killing his owner, but is later killed himself.
- The name "Bâtard" means "bastard" or "mongrel" and "diable" means "devil" in French. Both are descriptive of the dog.