> >James Oliver Curwood "Baree, Son of Kazan"

James Curwood - Baree, Son of Kazan (4 )

: James Oliver Curwood "Baree, Son of Kazan".

 

CHAPTER 23

No man has ever looked clearly into the mystery of death as it is impressed upon the senses of the northern dog. It comes to him, sometimes, with the wind. Most frequently it must come with the wind, and yet there are ten thousand masters in the northland who will swear that their dogs have given warning of death hours before it actually came; and there are many of these thousands who know from experience that their teams will stop a quarter or half a mile from a strange cabin in which there lies unburied dead.

Yesterday Baree had smelled death, and he knew without process of reasoning that the dead was Pierrot. How he knew this, and why he accepted the fact as inevitable, is one of the mysteries which at times seems to give the direct challenge to those who concede nothing more than instinct to the brute mind. He knew that Pierrot was dead without exactly knowing what death was. But of one thing he was sure: he would never see Pierrot again. He would never hear his voice again; he would never hear again the swish-swish-swish of his snowshoes in the trail ahead, and so on the trap line he did not look for Pierrot. Pierrot was gone forever. But Baree had not yet associated death with Nepeese. He was filled with a great uneasiness. What came to him from out of the chasm had made him tremble with fear and suspense. He sensed the thrill of something strange, of something impending, and yet even as he had given the death howl in the chasm, it must have been for Pierrot. For he believed that Nepeese was alive, and he was now just as sure that he would overtake her on the trap line as he was positive yesterday that he would find her at the birchbark tepee.

Since yesterday morning's breakfast with the Willow, Baree had gone without eating. To appease his hunger meant to hunt, and his mind was too filled with his quest of Nepeese for that. He would have gone hungry all that day, but in the third mile from the cabin he came to a trap in which there was a big snowshoe rabbit. The rabbit was still alive, and he killed it and ate his fill. Until dark he did not miss a trap. In one of them there was a lynx; in another a fishercat. Out on the white surface of a lake he sniffed at a snowy mound under which lay the body of a red fox killed by one of Pierrot's poison baits. Both the lynx and the fishercat were alive, and the steel chains of their traps clanked sharply as they prepared to give Baree battle. But Baree was uninterested. He hurried on, his uneasiness growing as the day darkened and he found no sign of the Willow.

It was a wonderfully clear night after the stormcold and brilliant, with the shadows standing out as clearly as living things. The third suggestion came to Baree now. He was, like all animals, largely of one idea at a timea creature with whom all lesser impulses were governed by a single leading impulse. And this impulse, in the glow of the starlit night, was to reach as quickly as possible the first of Pierrot's two cabins on the trap line. There he would find Nepeese!

We won't call the process by which Baree came to this conclusion a process of reasoning. Instinct or reasoning, whatever it was, a fixed and positive faith came to Baree just the same. He began to miss the traps in his haste to cover distanceto reach the cabin. It was twenty-five miles from Pierrot's burned home to the first trap cabin, and Baree had made ten of these by nightfall. The remaining fifteen were the most difficult. In the open spaces the snow was belly-deep and soft. Frequently he plunged through drifts in which for a few moments he was buried. Three times during the early part of the night Baree heard the savage dirge of the wolves. Once it was a wild paean of triumph as the hunters pulled down their kill less than half a mile away in the deep forest. But the voice no longer called to him. It was repellenta voice of hatred and of treachery. Each time that he heard it he stopped in his tracks and snarled, while his spine stiffened.

At midnight Baree came to the tiny amphitheater in the forest where Pierrot had cut the logs for the first of his trapline cabins. For at least a minute Baree stood at the edge of the clearing, his ears very alert, his eyes bright with hope and expectation, while he sniffed the air. There was no smoke, no sound, no light in the one window of the log shack. His disappointment fell on him even as he stood there. Again he sensed the fact of his aloneness, of the barrenness of his quest. There was a disheartened slouch to his door. He had traveled twenty-five miles, and he was tired.

The snow was drifted deep at the doorway, and here Baree sat down and whined. It was no longer the anxious, questing whine of a few hours ago. Now it voiced hopelessness and a deep despair. For half an hour he sat shivering with his back to the door and his face to the starlit wilderness, as if there still remained the fleeting hope that Nepeese might follow after him over the trail. Then he burrowed himself a hole deep in the snowdrift and passed the remainder of the night in uneasy slumber.

With the first light of day Baree resumed the trail. He was not so alert this morning. There was the disconsolate droop to his tail which the Indians call the Akoosewinthe sign of the sick dog. And Baree was sicknot of body but of soul. The keenness of his hope had died, and he no longer expected to find the Willow. The second cabin at the far end of the trap line drew him on, but it inspired in him none of the enthusiasm with which he had hurried to the first. He traveled slowly and spasmodically, his suspicions of the forests again replacing the excitement of his quest. He approached each of Pierrot's traps and the deadfalls cautiously, and twice he showed his fangsonce at a marten that snapped at him from under a root where it had dragged the trap in which it was caught, and the second time at a big snowy owl that had come to steal bait and was now a prisoner at the end of a steel chain. It may be that Baree thought it was Oohoomisew and that he still remembered vividly the treacherous assault and fierce battle of that night when, as a puppy, he was dragging his sore and wounded body through the mystery and fear of the big timber. For he did more than to show his fangs. He tore the owl into pieces.

There were plenty of rabbits in Pierrot's traps, and Baree did not go hungry. He reached the second trap-line cabin late in the afternoon, after ten hours of traveling. He met with no very great disappointment here, for he had not anticipated very much. The snow had banked this cabin even higher than the other. It lay three feet deep against the door, and the window was white with a thick coating of frost. At this place, which was close to the edge of a big barren, and unsheltered by the thick forests farther back, Pierrot had built a shelter for his firewood, and in this shelter Baree made his temporary home. All the next day he remained somewhere near the end of the trap line, skirting the edge of the barren and investigating the short side line of a dozen traps which Pierrot and Nepeese had strung through a swamp in which there had been many signs of lynx. It was the third day before he set out on his return to the Gray Loon.

He did not travel very fast, spending two days in covering the twenty-five miles between the first and the second trap-line cabins. At the second cabin he remained for three days, and it was on the ninth day that he reached the Gray Loon. There was no change. There were no tracks in the snow but his own, made nine days ago.

Baree's quest for Nepeese became now more or less involuntary, a sort of daily routine. For a week he made his burrow in the dog corral, and at least twice between dawn and darkness he would go to the birchbark tepee and the chasm. His trail, soon beaten hard in the snow, became as fixed as Pierrot's trap line. It cut straight through the forest to the tepee, swinging slightly to the east so that it crossed the frozen surface of the Willow's swimming pool. From the tepee it swung in a circle through a part of the forest where Nepeese had frequently gathered armfuls of crimson fireflowers, and then to the chasm. Up and down the edge of the gorge it went, down into the little cup at the bottom of the chasm, and thence straight back to the dog corral.

And then, of a sudden, Baree made a change. He spent a night in the tepee. After that, whenever he was at the Gray Loon, during the day he always slept in the tepee. The two blankets were his bedand they were a part of Nepeese. And there, all through the long winter, he waited.

If Nepeese had returned in February and could have taken him unaware, she would have found a changed Baree. He was more than ever like a wolf; yet he never gave the wolf howl now, and always he snarled deep in his throat when he heard the cry of the pack. For several weeks the old trap line had supplied him with meat, but now he hunted. The tepee, in and out, was scattered with fur and bones. Oncealonehe caught a young deer in deep snow and killed it. Again, in the heart of a fierce February storm, he pursued a bull caribou so closely that it plunged over a cliff and broke its neck. He lived well, and in size and strength he was growing swiftly into a giant of his kind. In another six months he would be as large as Kazan, and his jaws were almost as powerful, even now.

Three times that winter Baree foughtonce with a lynx that sprang down upon him from a windfall while he was eating a freshly killed rabbit, and twice with two lone wolves. The lynx tore him unmercifully before it fled into the windfall. The younger of the wolves he killed; the other fight was a draw. More and more he became an outcast, living alone with his dreams and his smoldering hopes.

And Baree did dream. Many times, as he lay in the tepee, he would hear the voice of Nepeese. He would hear her sweet voice calling, her laughter, the sound of his name, and often he would start up to his feetthe old Baree for a thrilling moment or twoonly to lie down in his nest again with a low, grief-filled whine. And always when he heard the snap of a twig or some other sound in the forest, it was thought of Nepeese that flashed first into his brain. Some day she would return. That belief was a part of his existence as much as the sun and the moon and the stars.

The winter passed, and spring came, and still Baree continued to haunt his old trails, even going now and then over the old trap line as far as the first of the two cabins. The traps were rusted and sprung now; the thawing snow disclosed bones and feathers between their jaws. Under the deadfalls were remnants of fur, and out on the ice of the lakes were picked skeletons of foxes and wolves that had taken the poison baits. The last snow went. The swollen streams sang in the forests and canyons. The grass turned green, and the first flowers came.

Surely this was the time for Nepeese to come home! He watched for her expectantly. He went still more frequently to their swimming pool in the forest, and he hung closely to the burned cabin and the dog corral. Twice he sprang into the pool and whined as he swam about, as though she surely must join him in their old water frolic. And now, as the spring passed and summer came, there settled upon him slowly the gloom and misery of utter hopelessness. The flowers were all out now, and even the bakneesh vines glowed like red fire in the woods. Patches of green were beginning to hide the charred heap where the cabin had stood, and the blue-flower vines that covered the princess mother's grave were reaching out toward Pierrot's, as if the princess mother herself were the spirit of them.

All these things were happening, and the birds had mated and nested, and still Nepeese did not come! And at last something broke inside of Baree, his last hope, perhaps, his last dream; and one day he bade good-bye to the Gray Loon.

No one can say what it cost him to go. No one can say how he fought against the things that were holding him to the tepee, the old swimming pool, the familiar paths in the forest, and the two graves that were not so lonely now under the tall spruce. He went. He had no reasonsimply went. It may be that there is a Master whose hand guides the beast as well as the man, and that we know just enough of this guidance to call it instinct. For, in dragging himself away, Baree faced the Great Adventure.

It was there, in the north, waiting for himand into the north he went.

 

CHAPTER 24

It was early in August when Baree left the Gray Loon. He had no objective in view. But there was still left upon his mind, like the delicate impression of light and shadow on a negative, the memories of his earlier days. Things and happenings that he had almost forgotten recurred to him now, as his trail led him farther and farther away from the Gray Loon. And his earlier experiences became real again, pictures thrown out afresh in his mind by the breaking of the last ties that held him to the home of the Willow. Involuntarily he followed the trail of these impressionsof these past happenings, and slowly they helped to build up new interests for him.

A year in his life was a long timea decade of man's experience. It was more than a year ago that he had left Kazan and Gray Wolf and the old windfall, and yet now there came back to him indistinct memories of those days of his earliest puppyhood, of the stream into which he had fallen, and of his fierce battle with Papayuchisew. It was his later experiences that roused the older memories. He came to the blind canyon up which Nepeese and Pierrot had chased him. That seemed but yesterday. He entered the little meadow, and stood beside the great rock that had almost crushed the life out of the Willow's body; and then he remembered where Wakayoo, his big bear friend, had died under Pierrot's rifleand he smelled of Wakayoo's whitened bones where they lay scattered in the green grass, with flowers growing up among them.

A day and night he spent in the little meadow before he went back out of the canyon and into his old haunts along the creek, where Wakayoo had fished for him. There was another bear here now, and he also was fishing. Perhaps he was a son or a grandson of Wakayoo. Baree smelled where he had made his fish caches, and for three days he lived on fish before he struck out for the North.

And now, for the first time in many weeks, a bit of the old-time eagerness put speed into Baree's feet. Memories that had been hazy and indistinct through forgetfulness were becoming realities again, and as he would have returned to the Gray Loon had Nepeese been there so now, with something of the feeling of a wanderer going home, he returned to the old beaver pond.

It was that most glorious hour of a summer's daysunsetwhen he reached it. He stopped a hundred yards away, with the pond still hidden from his sight, and sniffed the air, and listened. The POND was there. He caught the cool, honey smell of it. But Umisk, and Beaver Tooth, and all the others? Would he find them? He strained his ears to catch a familiar sound, and after a moment or two it camea hollow splash in the water.

He went quietly through the alders and stood at last close to the spot where he had first made the acquaintance of Umisk. The surface of the pond was undulating slightly, two or three heads popped up. He saw the torpedolike wake of an old beaver towing a stick close to the opposite shore. He looked toward the dam, and it was as he had left it almost a year ago. He did not show himself for a time, but stood concealed in the young alders. He felt growing in him more and more a feeling of restfulness, a relaxation from the long strain of the lonely months during which he had waited for Nepeese.

With a long breath he lay down among the alders, with his head just enough exposed to give him a clear view. As the sun settled lower the pond became alive. Out on the shore where he had saved Umisk from the fox came another generation of young beaversthree of them, fat and waddling. Very softly Baree whined.

All that night he lay in the alders. The beaver pond became his home again. Conditions were changed, of course, and as days grew into weeks the inhabitants of Beaver Tooth's colony showed no signs of accepting the grown-up Baree as they had accepted the baby Baree of long ago. He was big, black, and wolfish nowa long-fanged and formidable-looking creature, and though he offered no violence he was regarded by the beavers with a deep-seated feeling of fear and suspicion.

On the other hand, Baree no longer felt the old puppyish desire to play with the baby beavers, so their aloofness did not trouble him as in those other days. Umisk was grown up, too, a fat and prosperous young buck who was just taking unto himself this year a wife, and who was at present very busy gathering his winter's rations. It is entirely probable that he did not associate the big black beast he saw now and then with the little Baree with whom he had smelled noses once upon a time, and it is quite likely that Baree did not recognize Umisk except as a part of the memories that had remained with him.

All through the month of August Baree made the beaver pond his headquarters. At times his excursions kept him away for two or three days at a time. These journeys were always into the north, sometimes a little east and sometimes a little west, but never again into the south. And at last, early in September, he left the beaver pond for good.

For many days his wanderings carried him in no one particular direction. He followed the hunting, living chiefly on rabbits and that simple-minded species of partridge known as the "fool hen." This diet, of course, was given variety by other things as they happened to come his way. Wild currants and raspberries were ripening, and Baree was fond of these. He also liked the bitter berries of the mountain ash, which, along with the soft balsam and spruce pitch which he licked with his tongue now and then, were good medicine for him. In shallow water he occasionally caught a fish. Now and then he hazarded a cautious battle with a porcupine, and if he was successful he feasted on the tenderest and most luscious of all the flesh that made up his menu.

Twice in September he killed young deer. The big "burns" that he occasionally came to no longer held terrors for him; in the midst of plenty he forgot the days in which he had gone hungry. In October he wandered as far west as the Geikie River, and then northward to Wollaston Lake, which was a good hundred miles north of the Gray Loon. The first week in November he turned south again, following the Canoe River for a distance, and then swinging westward along a twisting creek called The Little Black Bear with No Tail.

More than once during these weeks Baree came into touch with man, but, with the exception of the Cree hunter at the upper end of Wollaston Lake, no man had seen him. Three times in following the Geikie he lay crouched in the brush while canoes passed. Half a dozen times, in the stillness of night, he nosed about cabins and tepees in which there was life, and once he came so near to the Hudson's Bay Company post at Wollaston that he could hear the barking of dogs and the shouting of their masters.

And always he was seekingquesting for the thing that had gone out of his life. At the thresholds of the cabins he sniffed; outside of the tepees he circled close, gathering the wind. The canoes he watched with eyes in which there was a hopeful gleam. Once he thought the wind brought him the scent of Nepeese, and all at once his legs grew weak under his body and his heart seemed to stop beating. It was only for a moment or two. She came out of the tepeean Indian girl with her hands full of willow workand Baree slunk away unseen.

It was almost December when Lerue, a half-breed from Lac Bain, saw Baree's footprints in freshly fallen snow, and a little later caught a flash of him in the bush.

"Mon Dieu, I tell you his feet are as big as my hand, and he is as black as a raven's wing with the sun on it!" he exclaimed in the company's store at Lac Bain. "A fox? Non! He is half as big as a bear. A wolfoui! And black as the devil, m'sieus."

McTaggart was one of those who heard. He was putting his signature in ink to a letter he had written to the company when Lerue's words came to him. His hand stopped so suddenly that a drop of ink spattered on the letter. Through him there ran a curious shiver as he looked over at the half-breed. Just then Marie came in. McTaggart had brought her back from her tribe. Her big, dark eyes had a sick look in them, and some of her wild beauty had gone since a year ago.

"He was gone likethat!" Lerue was saying, with a snap of his fingers. He saw Marie, and stopped.

"Black, you say?" McTaggart said carelessly, without lifting his eyes from his writing. "Did he not bear some dog mark?"

Lerue shrugged his shoulders.

"He was gone like the wind, m'sieu. But he was a wolf."

With scarcely a sound that the others could hear Marie had whispered into the factor's ear, and folding his letter McTaggart rose quickly and left the store. He was gone an hour. Lerue and the others were puzzled. It was not often that Marie came into the store. It was not often that they saw her at all. She remained hidden in the factor's log house, and each time that he saw her Lerue thought that her face was a little thinner than the last, and her eyes bigger and hungrier looking. In his own heart there was a great yearning.

Many a night he passed the little window beyond which he knew that she was sleeping. Often he looked to catch a glimpse of her pale face, and he lived in the one happiness of knowing that Marie understood, and that into her eyes there came for an instant a different light when their glances met. No one else knew. The secret lay between themand patiently Lerue waited and watched. "Some day," he kept saying to himself"Some day"and that was all. The one word carried a world of meaning and of hope. When that day came he would take Marie straight to the missioner over at Fort Churchill, and they would be married. It was a dreama dream that made the long days and the longer nights on the trap line patiently endured. Now they were both slaves to the environing Power. Butsome day

Lerue was thinking of this when McTaggart returned at the end of the hour. The factor came straight up to where the half dozen of them were seated about the big box stove, and with a grunt of satisfaction shook the freshly fallen snow from his shoulders.

"Pierre Eustach has accepted the Government's offer and is going to guide that map-making party up into the Barrens this winter," he announced. "You know, Leruehe has a hundred and fifty traps and deadfalls set, and a big poison-bait country. A good line, eh? And I have leased it of him for the season. It will give me the outdoor work I needthree days on the trail, three days here. Eh, what do you say to the bargain?"

"It is good," said Lerue.

"Yes, it is good," said Roget.

"A wide fox country," said Mons Roule.

"And easy to travel," murmured Valence in a voice that was almost like a woman's.

 

CHAPTER 25

The trap line of Pierre Eustach ran thirty miles straight west of Lac Bain. It was not as long a line as Pierrot's had been, but it was like a main artery running through the heart of a rich fur country. It had belonged to Pierre Eustach's father, and his grandfather, and his great-grandfather, and beyond that it reached, Pierre averred, back to the very pulse of the finest blood in France. The books at McTaggart's Post went back only as far as the great-grandfather end of it, the older evidence of ownership being at Churchill. It was the finest game country between Reindeer Lake and the Barren Lands. It was in December that Baree came to it.

Again he was traveling southward in a slow and wandering fashion, seeking food in the deep snows. The Kistisew Kestin, or Great Storm, had come earlier than usual this winter, and for a week after it scarcely a hoof or claw was moving. Baree, unlike the other creatures, did not bury himself in the snow and wait for the skies to clear and crust to form. He was big, and powerful, and restless. Less than two years old, he weighed a good eighty pounds. His pads were broad and wolfish. His chest and shoulders were like a Malemute's, heavy and yet muscled for speed. He was wider between the eyes than the wolf-breed husky, and his eyes were larger, and entirely clear of the Wuttooi, or blood film, that marks the wolf and also to an extent the husky. His jaws were like Kazan's, perhaps even more powerful.

Through all that week of the Big Storm he traveled without food. There were four days of snow, with driving blizzards and fierce winds, and after that three days of intense cold in which every living creature kept to its warm dugout in the snow. Even the birds had burrowed themselves in. One might have walked on the backs of caribou and moose and not have guessed it. Baree sheltered himself during the worst of the storm but did not allow the snow to gather over him.

Every trapper from Hudson's Bay to the country of the Athabasca knew that after the Big Storm the famished fur animals would be seeking food, and that traps and deadfalls properly set and baited stood the biggest chance of the year of being filled. Some of them set out over their trap lines on the sixth day; some on the seventh, and others on the eighth. It was on the seventh day that Bush McTaggart started over Pierre Eustach's line, which was now his own for the season. It took him two days to uncover the traps, dig the snow from them, rebuild the fallen "trap houses," and rearrange the baits. On the third day he was back at Lac Bain.

It was on this day that Baree came to the cabin at the far end of McTaggart's line. McTaggart's trail was fresh in the snow about the cabin, and the instant Baree sniffed of it every drop of blood in his body seemed to leap suddenly with a strange excitement. It took perhaps half a minute for the scent that filled his nostrils to associate itself with what had gone before, and at the end of that half-minute there rumbled in Baree's chest a deep and sullen growl. For many minutes after that he stood like a black rock in the snow, watching the cabin.

Then slowly he began circling about it, drawing nearer and nearer, until at last he was sniffing at the threshold. No sound or smell of life came from inside, but he could smell the old smell of McTaggart. Then he faced the wildernessthe direction in which the trap line ran back to Lac Bain. He was trembling. His muscles twitched. He whined. Pictures were assembling more and more vividly in his mindthe fight in the cabin, Nepeese, the wild chase through the snow to the chasm's edgeeven the memory of that age-old struggle when McTaggart had caught him in the rabbit snare. In his whine there was a great yearning, almost expectation. Then it died slowly away. After all, the scent in the snow was of a thing that he had hated and wanted to kill, and not of anything that he had loved. For an instant nature had impressed on him the significance of associationsa brief space only, and then it was gone. The whine died away, but in its place came again that ominous growl.

Slowly he followed the trail and a quarter of a mile from the cabin struck the first trap on the line. Hunger had caved in his sides until he was like a starved wolf. In the first trap house McTaggart had placed as bait the hindquarter of a snowshoe rabbit. Baree reached in cautiously. He had learned many things on Pierrot's line: he had learned what the snap of a trap meant. He had felt the cruel pain of steel jaws; he knew better than the shrewdest fox what a deadfall would do when the trigger was sprungand Nepeese herself had taught him that he was never to touch a poison bait. So he closed his teeth gently in the rabbit flesh and drew it forth as cleverly as McTaggart himself could have done. He visited five traps before dark, and ate the five baits without springing a pan. The sixth was a deadfall. He circled about this until he had beaten a path in the snow. Then he went on into a warm balsam swamp and found himself a bed for the night.

The next day saw the beginning of the struggle that was to follow between the wits of man and beast. To Baree the encroachment of Bush McTaggart's trap line was not war; it was existence. It was to furnish him food, as Pierrot's line had furnished him food for many weeks. But he sensed the fact that in this instance he was lawbreaker and had an enemy to outwit. Had it been good hunting weather he might have gone on, for the unseen hand that was guiding his wanderings was drawing him slowly but surely back to the old beaver pond and the Gray Loon. As it was, with the snow deep and soft under himso deep that in places he plunged into it over his earsMcTaggart's trap line was like a trail of manna made for his special use.

He followed in the factor's snowshoe tracks, and in the third trap killed a rabbit. When he had finished with it nothing but the hair and crimson patches of blood lay upon the snow. Starved for many days, he was filled with a wolfish hunger, and before the day was over he had robbed the bait from a full dozen of McTaggart's traps. Three times he struck poison baitsvenison or caribou fat in the heart of which was a dose of strychnine, and each time his keen nostrils detected the danger. Pierrot had more than once noted the amazing fact that Baree could sense the presence of poison even when it was most skillfully injected into the frozen carcass of a deer. Foxes and wolves ate of flesh from which his supersensitive power of detecting the presence of deadly danger turned him away.

So he passed Bush McTaggart's poisoned tidbits, sniffing them on the way, and leaving the story of his suspicion in the manner of his footprints in the snow. Where McTaggart had halted at midday to cook his dinner Baree made these same cautious circles with his feet.

The second day, being less hungry and more keenly alive to the hated smell of his enemy, Baree ate less but was more destructive. McTaggart was not as skillful as Pierre Eustach in keeping the scent of his hands from the traps and "houses," and every now and then the smell of him was strong in Baree's nose. This wrought in Baree a swift and definite antagonism, a steadily increasing hatred where a few days before hatred was almost forgotten.

There is, perhaps, in the animal mind a process of simple computation which does not quite achieve the distinction of reason, and which is not altogether instinct, but which produces results that might be ascribed to either. Baree did not add two and two together to make four. He did not go back step by step to prove to himself that the man to whom this trap line belonged was the cause of all hit, griefs and troublesbut he DID find himself possessed of a deep and yearning hatred. McTaggart was the one creature except the wolves that he had ever hated. It was McTaggart who had hurt him, McTaggart who had hurt Pierrot, McTaggart who had made him lose his beloved NepeeseAND McTAGGART WAS HERE ON THIS TRAP LINE! If he had been wandering before, without object or destiny, he was given a mission now. It was to keep to the traps. To feed himself. And to vent his hatred and his vengeance as he lived.

The second day, in the center of a lake, he came upon the body of a wolf that had died of one of the poison baits. For a half-hour he mauled the dead beast until its skin was torn into ribbons. He did not taste the flesh. It was repugnant to him. It was his vengeance on the wolf breed. He stopped when he was half a dozen miles from Lac Bain, and turned back. At this particular point the line crossed a frozen stream beyond which was an open plain, and over that plain camewhen the wind was rightthe smoke and smell of the Post. The second night Baree lay with a full stomach in a thicket of banksian pine; the third day he was traveling westward over the trap line again.

Early on this morning Bush McTaggart started out to gather his catch, and where he crossed the stream six miles from Lac Bain he first saw Baree's tracks. He stopped to examine them with sudden and unusual interest, falling at last on his knees, whipping off the glove from his right hand, and picking up a single hair.

"The black wolf!"

He uttered the words in an odd, hard voice, and involuntarily his eyes turned straight in the direction of the Gray Loon. After that, even more carefully than before, he examined one of the clearly impressed tracks in the snow. When he rose to his feet there was in his face the look of one who had made an unpleasant discovery.

"A black wolf!" he repeated, and shrugged his shoulders. "Bah! Lerue is a fool. It is a dog." And then, after a moment, he muttered in a voice scarcely louder than a whisper, "HER DOG."

He went on, traveling in the trail of the dog. A new excitement possessed him that was more thrilling than the excitement of the hunt. Being human, it was his privilege to add two and two together, and out of two and two he madeBaree. There was little doubt in his mind. The thought had flashed on him first when Lerue had mentioned the black wolf. He was convinced after his examination of the tracks. They were the tracks of a dog, and the dog was black. Then he came to the first trap that had been robbed of its bait.

Under his breath he cursed. The bait was gone, and the trap was unsprung. The sharpened stick that had transfixed the bait was pulled out clean.

All that day Bush McTaggart followed a trail where Baree had left traces of his presence. Trap after trap he found robbed. On the lake he came upon the mangled wolf. From the first disturbing excitement of his discovery of Baree's presence his humor changed slowly to one of rage, and his rage increased as the day dragged out. He was not unacquainted with four-footed robbers of the trap line, but usually a wolf or a fox or a dog who had grown adept in thievery troubled only a few traps. But in this case Baree was traveling straight from trap to trap, and his footprints in the snow showed that he had stopped at each one. There was, to McTaggart, almost a human devilishness to his work. He evaded the poisons. Not once did he stretch his head or paw within the danger zone of a deadfall. For apparently no reason whatever he had destroyed a splendid mink, whose glossy fur lay scattered in worthless bits over the snow. Toward the end of the day McTaggart came to a deadfall in which a lynx had died. Baree had torn the silvery flank of the animal until the skin was of less than half value. McTaggart cursed aloud, and his breath came hot.

At dusk he reached the shack Pierre Eustach had built midway of his line, and took inventory of his fur. It was not more than a third of a catch; the lynx was half-ruined, a mink was torn completely in two. The second day he found still greater ruin, still more barren traps. He was like a madman. When he arrived at the second cabin, late in the afternoon, Baree's tracks were not an hour old in the snow. Three times during the night he heard the dog howling.

The third day McTaggart did not return to Lac Bain, but began a cautious hunt for Baree. An inch or two of fresh snow had fallen, and as if to take even greater measure of vengeance from his man enemy Baree had left his footprints freely within a radius of a hundred yards of the cabin. It was half an hour before McTaggart could pick out the straight trail, and he followed it for two hours into a thick banksian swamp. Baree kept with the wind. Now and then he caught the scent of his pursuer. A dozen times he waited until the other was so close he could hear the snap of brush, or the metallic click of twigs against his rifle barrel. And then, with a sudden inspiration that brought the curses afresh to McTaggart's lips, he swung in a wide circle and cut straight back for the trap line. When the factor reached the line, along toward noon, Baree had already begun his work. He had killed and eaten a rabbit. He had robbed three traps within the distance of a mile, and he was headed again straight over the trap line for Post Lac Bain.

It was the fifth day that Bush McTaggart returned to his post. He was in an ugly mood. Only Valence of the four Frenchmen was there, and it was Valence who heard his story, and afterward heard him cursing Marie. She came into the store a little later, big-eyed and frightened, one of her cheeks flaming red where McTaggart had struck her. While the storekeeper was getting her the canned salmon McTaggart wanted for his dinner Valence found the opportunity to whisper softly in her ear:

"M'sieu Lerue has trapped a silver fox," he said with low triumph. "He loves you, cherie, and he will have a splendid catch by springand sends you this message from his cabin up on The Little Black Bear with No Tail: BE READY TO FLY WHEN THE SOFT SNOWS COME!"

Marie did not look at him, but she heard, and her eyes shone so like stars when the young storekeeper gave her the salmon that he said to Valence, when she had gone:

"Blue Death, but she is still beautiful at times. Valence!"

To which Valence nodded with an odd smile.

 

CHAPTER 26

By the middle of January the war between Baree and Bush McTaggart had become more than an incidentmore than a passing adventure to the beast, and more than an irritating happening to the man. It was, for the time, the elemental raison d'etre of their lives. Baree hung to the trap line. He haunted it like a devastating specter, and each time that he sniffed afresh the scent of the factor from Lac Bain he was impressed still more strongly with the instinct that he was avenging himself upon a deadly enemy. Again and again he outwitted McTaggart. He continued to strip his traps of their bait and the humor grew in him more strongly to destroy the fur he came across. His greatest pleasure came to benot in eatingbut in destroying.

The fires of his hatred burned fiercer as the weeks passed, until at last he would snap and tear with his long fangs at the snow where McTaggart's feet had passed. And all of the time, away back of his madness, there was a vision of Nepeese that continued to grow more and more clearly in his brain. That first Great Lonelinessthe loneliness of the long days and longer nights of his waiting and seeking on the Gray Loon, oppressed him again as it had oppressed him in the early days of her disappearance. On starry or moonlit nights he sent forth his wailing cries for her again, and Bush McTaggart, listening to them in the middle of the night, felt strange shivers run up his spine. The man's hatred was different than the beast's, but perhaps even more implacable. With McTaggart it was not hatred alone. There was mixed with it an indefinable and superstitious fear, a thing he laughed at, a thing he cursed at, but which clung to him as surely as the scent of his trail clung to Baree's nose. Baree no longer stood for the animal alone; HE STOOD FOR NEPEESE. That was the thought that insisted in growing in McTaggart's ugly mind. Never a day passed now that he did not think of the Willow; never a night came and went without a visioning of her face.

He even fancied, on a certain night of storm, that he heard her voice out in the wailing of the windand less than a minute later he heard faintly a distant howl out in the forest. That night his heart was filled with a leaden dread. He shook himself. He smoked his pipe until the cabin was blue. He cursed Baree, and the stormbut there was no longer in him the bullying courage of old. He had not ceased to hate Baree; he still hated him as he had never hated a man, but he had an even greater reason now for wanting to kill him. It came to him first in his sleep, in a restless dream, and after that it lived, and livedTHE THOUGHT THAT THE SPIRIT OF NEPEESE WAS GUIDING BAREE IN THE RAVAGING OF HIS TRAP LINE!

After a time he ceased to talk at the Post about the Black Wolf that was robbing his line. The furs damaged by Baree's teeth he kept out of sight, and to himself he kept his secret. He learned every trick and scheme of the hunters who killed foxes and wolves along the Barrens. He tried three different poisons, one so powerful that a single drop of it meant death. He tried strychnine in gelatin capsules, in deer fat, caribou fat, moose liver, and even in the flesh of porcupine. At last, in preparing his poisons, he dipped his hands in beaver oil before he handled the venoms and flesh so that there could be no human smell. Foxes, wolves, and even the mink and ermine died of these baits, but Baree came always so nearand no nearer. In January McTaggart poisoned every bait in his trap houses. This produced at least one good result for him. From that day Baree no longer touched his baits, but ate only the rabbits he killed in the traps.

It was in January that McTaggart caught his first glimpse of Baree. He had placed his rifle against a tree, and was a dozen feet away from it at the time. It was as if Baree knew, and had come to taunt him. For when the factor suddenly looked up Baree was standing out clear from the dwarf spruce not twenty yards away from him, his white fangs gleaming and his eyes burning like coals. For a space McTaggart stared as if turned into stone. It was Baree. He recognized the white star, the white-tipped ear, and his heart thumped like a hammer in his breast. Very slowly he began to creep toward his rifle. His hand was reaching for it when like a flash Baree was gone.

This gave McTaggart his new idea. He blazed himself a fresh trail through the forests parallel with his trap line but at least five hundred yards distant from it. Wherever a trap or deadfall was set this new trail struck sharply in, like the point of a V, so that he could approach his line unobserved. By this strategy he believed that in time he was sure of getting a shot at the dog.

Again it was the man who was reasoning, and again it was the man who was defeated. The first day that McTaggart followed his new trail Baree also struck that trail. For a little while it puzzled him. Three times he cut back and forth between the old and the new trail. Then there was no doubt. The new trail was the FRESH trail, and he followed in the footsteps of the factor from Lac Bain. McTaggart did not know what was happening until his return trip, when he saw the story told in the snow. Baree had visited each trap, and without exception he had approached each time at the point of the inverted V. After a week of futile hunting, of lying in wait, of approaching at every point of the winda period during which McTaggart had twenty times cursed himself into fits of madness, another idea came to him. It was like an inspiration, and so simple that it seemed almost inconceivable that he had not thought of it before.

He hurried back to Post Lac Bain.

The second day after he was on the trail at dawn. This time he carried a pack in which there were a dozen strong wolf traps freshly dipped in beaver oil, and a rabbit which he had snared the previous night. Now and then he looked anxiously at the sky. It was clear until late in the afternoon, when banks of dark clouds began rolling up from the east. Half an hour later a few flakes of snow began falling. McTaggart let one of these drop on the back of his mittened hand, and examined it closely. It was soft and downy, and he gave vent to his satisfaction. It was what he wanted. Before morning there would be six inches of freshly fallen snow covering the trails.

He stopped at the next trap house and quickly set to work. First he threw away the poisoned bait in the "house" and replaced it with the rabbit. Then he began setting his wolf traps. Three of these he placed close to the "door" of the house, through which Baree would have to reach for the bait. The remaining nine he scattered at intervals of a foot or sixteen inches apart, so that when he was done a veritable cordon of traps guarded the house. He did not fasten the chains, but let them lay loose in the snow. If Baree got into one trap he would get into others and there would be no use of toggles. His work done, McTaggart hurried on through the thickening twilight of winter night to his shack. He was highly elated. This time there could be no such thing as failure. He had sprung every trap on his way from Lac Bain. In none of those traps would Baree find anything to eat until he came to the "nest" of twelve wolf traps.

Seven inches of snow fell that night, and the whole world seemed turned into a wonderful white robe. Like billows of feathers the snow clung to the trees and shrubs. It gave tall white caps to the rocks, and underfoot it was so light that a cartridge dropped from the hand sank out of sight. Baree was on the trap line early. He was more cautious this morning, for there was no longer the scent or snowshoe track of McTaggart to guide him. He struck the first trap about halfway between Lac Bain and the shack in which the factor was waiting. It was sprung, and there was no bait. Trap after trap he visited, and all of them he found sprung, and all without bait. He sniffed the air suspiciously, striving vainly to catch the tang of smoke, a whiff of the man smell.

Along toward noon he came to the "nest"the twelve treacherous traps waiting for him with gaping jaws half a foot under the blanket of snow. For a full minute he stood well outside the danger line, sniffing the air, and listening. He saw the rabbit, and his jaws closed with a hungry click. He moved a step nearer. Still he was suspiciousfor some strange and inexplicable reason he sensed danger. Anxiously he sought for it with his nose, his eyes, and his ears. And all about him there was a great silence and a great peace. His jaws clicked again. He whined softly. What was it stirring him? Where was the danger he could neither see nor smell? Slowly he circled about the trap house. Three times he circled round it, each circle drawing him a little neareruntil at last his feet almost touched the outer cordon of traps. Another minute he stood still; his ears flattened; in spite of the rich aroma of the rabbit in his nostrils SOMETHING WAS DRAWING HIM AWAY. In another moment he would have gone, but there came suddenlyand from directly behind the trap housea fierce little ratlike squeak, and the next instant Baree saw an ermine whiter than the snow tearing hungrily at the flesh of the rabbit. He forgot his strange premonition of danger. He growled fiercely, but his plucky little rival did not budge from his feast. And then he sprang straight into the "nest" that Bush McTaggart had made for him.

 

CHAPTER 27

The next morning Bush McTaggart heard the clanking of a chain when he was still a good quarter of a mile from the "nest." Was it a lynx? Was it a fishercat? Was it a wolf or a fox? OR WAS IT BAREE? He half ran the rest of the distance, and it last he came to where he could see, and his heart leaped into his throat when he saw that he had caught his enemy. He approached, holding his rifle ready to fire if by any chance the dog should free himself.

Baree lay on his side, panting from exhaustion and quivering with pain. A hoarse cry of exultation burst from McTaggart's lips as he drew nearer and looked at the snow. It was packed hard for many feet about the trap house, where Baree had struggled, and it was red with blood. The blood had come mostly from Baree's jaws. They were dripping now as he glared at his enemy. The steel jaws hidden under the snow had done their merciless work well. One of his forefeet was caught well up toward the first joint; both hind feet were caught. A fourth trap had closed on his flank, and in tearing the jaws loose he had pulled off a patch of skin half as big as McTaggart's hand. The snow told the story of his desperate fight all through the night. His bleeding jaws showed how vainly he had tried to break the imprisoning steel with his teeth. He was panting. His eyes were bloodshot.

But even now, after all his hours of agony, neither his spirit nor his courage was broken. When he saw McTaggart he made a lunge to his feet, almost instantly crumpling down into the snow again. But his forefeet were braced. His head and chest remained up, and the snarl that came from his throat was tigerish in its ferocity. Here, at lastnot more than a dozen feet from himwas the one thing in all the world that he hated more than he hated the wolf breed. And again he was helpless, as he had been helpless that other time in the rabbit snare.

The fierceness of his snarl did not disturb Bush McTaggart now. He saw how utterly the other was at his mercy, and with an exultant laugh he leaned his rifle against a tree, pulled oft his mittens, and began loading his pipe. This was the triumph he had looked forward to, the torture he had waited for. In his soul there was a hatred as deadly as Baree's, the hatred that a man might have for a man. He had expected to send a bullet through the dog. But this was betterto watch him dying by inches, to taunt him as he would have taunted a human, to walk about him so that he could hear the clank of the traps and see the fresh blood drip as Baree twisted his tortured legs and body to keep facing him. It was a splendid vengeance. He was so engrossed in it that he did not hear the approach of snowshoes behind him. It was a voicea man's voicethat turned him round in his tracks.

The man was a stranger, and he was younger than McTaggart by ten years. At least he looked no more than thirty-five or six, even with the short growth of blond beard he wore. He was of that sort that the average man would like at first glance; boyish, and yet a man; with clear eyes that looked out frankly from under the rim of his fur cap, a form lithe as an Indian's, and a face that did not bear the hard lines of the wilderness. Yet McTaggart knew before he had spoken that this man was of the wilderness, that he was heart and soul a part of it. His cap was of fisher skin. He wore a windproof coat of softly tanned caribou skin, belted at the waist with a long sash, and Indian fringed. The inside of the coat was furred. He was traveling on the long, slender bush country snowshoe. His pack, strapped over the shoulders, was small and compact; he was carrying his rifle in a cloth jacket. And from cap to snowshoes he was TRAVEL WORN. McTaggart, at a guess, would have said that he had traveled a thousand miles in the last few weeks. It was not this thought that sent the strange and chilling thrill up his back; but the sudden fear that in some strange way a whisper of the truth might have found its way down into the souththe truth of what had happened on the Gray Loonand that this travel-worn stranger wore under his caribou-skin coat the badge of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police. For that instant it was almost a terror that possessed him, and he stood mute.

The stranger had uttered only an amazed exclamation before. Now he said, with his eyes on Baree:

"God save us, but you've got the poor devil in a right proper mess, haven't you?"

There was something in the voice that reassured McTaggart. It was not a suspicious voice, and he saw that the stranger was more interested in the captured animal than in himself. He drew a deep breath.

"A trap robber," he said.

The stranger was staring still more closely at Baree. He thrust his gun stock downward in the snow and drew nearer to him.

"God save us againa dog!" he exclaimed.

From behind, McTaggart was watching the man with the eyes of a ferret.

"Yes, a dog," he answered. "A wild dog, half wolf at least. He's robbed me of a thousand dollars' worth of fur this winter."

The stranger squatted himself before Baree, with his mittened hands resting on his knees, and his white teeth gleaming in a half smile.

"You poor devil!" he said sympathetically. "So you're a trap robber, eh? An outlaw? Andthe police have got you! AndGod save us once morethey haven't played you a very square game!"

He rose and faced McTaggart.

"I had to set a lot of traps like that," the factor apologized, his face reddening slightly under the steady gaze of the stranger's blue eyes. Suddenly his animus rose. "And he's going to die there, inch by inch. I'm going to let him starve, and rot in the traps, to pay for all he's done." He picked up his gun, and added, with his eyes on the stranger and his finger ready at the trigger, "I'm Bush McTaggart, the factor at Lac Bain. Are you bound that way, M'sieu?"

"A few miles. I'm bound upcountrybeyond the Barrens."

McTaggart felt again the strange thrill.

"Government?" he asked.

The stranger nodded.

"Thepolice, perhaps," persisted McTaggart.

"Why, yesof coursethe police," said the stranger, looking straight into the factor's eyes. "And now, m'sieu, as a very great courtesy to the Law I'm going to ask you to send a bullet through that beast's head before we go on. Will you? Or shall I?"

"It's the law of the line," said McTaggart, "to let a trap robber rot in the traps. And that beast was a devil. Listen"

Swiftly, and yet leaving out none of the fine detail, he told of the weeks and months of strife between himself and Baree; of the maddening futility of all his tricks and schemes and the still more maddening cleverness of the beast he had at last succeeded in trapping.

"He was a devilthat clever," he cried fiercely when he had finished. "And nowwould you shoot him, or let him lie there and die by inches, as the devil should?"

The stranger was looking at Baree. His face was turned away from McTaggart. He said:

"I guess you are right. Let the devil rot. If you're heading for Lac Bain, m'sieu, I'll travel a short distance with you now. It will take a couple of miles to straighten out the line of my compass."

He picked up his gun. McTaggart led the way. At the end of half an hour the stranger stopped, and pointed north.

"Straight up therea good five hundred miles," he said, speaking as lightly as though he would reach home that night. "I'll leave you here."

He made no offer to shake hands. But in going, he said:

"You might report that John Madison has passed this way."

After that he traveled straight northward for half a mile through the deep forest. Then he swung westward for two miles, turned at a sharp angle into the south, and an hour after he had left McTaggart he was once more squatted on his heels almost within arms' reach of Baree.

And he was saying, as though speaking to a human companion:

"So that's what you've been, old boy. A trap robber, eh? An OUTLAW? And you beat him at the game for two months! And for that, because you're a better beast than he is, he wants to let you die here as slow as you can. An OUTLAW!" His voice broke into a pleasant laugh, the sort of laugh that warms one, even a beast. "That's funny. We ought to shake hands, Boy, by George, we had! You're a wild one, he says. Well, so am I. Told him my name was John Madison. It ain't. I'm Jim Carvel. And, oh Lord!all I said was 'police.' And that was right. It ain't a lie. I'm wanted by the whole corporationby every danged policeman between Hudson's Bay and the Mackenzie River. Shake, old man. We're in the same boat, an' I'm glad to meet you!"

 

CHAPTER 28

Jim Carvel held out his hand, and the snarl that was in Baree's throat died away. The man rose to his feet. He stood there, looking in the direction taken by Bush McTaggart, and chuckled in a curious, exultant sort of way.

There was friendliness even in that chuckle. There was friendliness in his eyes and in the shine of his teeth as he looked again at Baree. About him there was something that seemed to make the gray day brighter, that seemed to warm the chill aira strange something that radiated cheer and hope and comradeship just as a hot stove sends out the glow of heat. Baree felt it. For the first time since the two men had come his trap-torn body lost its tenseness; his back sagged; his teeth clicked as he shivered in his agony. To THIS man he betrayed his weakness. In his bloodshot eyes there was a hungering look as he watched Carvelthe self-confessed outlaw. And Jim Carvel again held out his handmuch nearer this time.

"You poor devil," he said, the smile going out of his face. "You poor devil!"

The words were like a caress to Bareethe first he had known since the loss of Nepeese and Pierrot. He dropped his head until his jaw lay flat in the snow. Carvel could see the blood dripping slowly from it.

"You poor devil!" he repeated.

There was no fear in the way he put forth his hand. It was the confidence of a great sincerity and a great compassion. It touched Baree's head and patted it in a brotherly fashion, and thenslowly and with a bit more cautionit went to the trap fastened to Baree's forepaw. In his half-crazed brain Baree was fighting to understand things, and the truth came finally when he felt the steel jaws of the trap open, and he drew forth his maimed foot. He did then what he had done to no other creature but Nepeese. Just once his hot tongue shot out and licked Carvel's hand. The man laughed. With his powerful hands he opened the other traps, and Baree was free.

For a few moments he lay without moving, his eyes fixed on the man. Carvel had seated himself on the snow-covered end of a birch log and was filling his pipe. Baree watched him light it; he noted with new interest the first purplish cloud of smoke that left Carvel's mouth. The man was not more than the length of two trap chains awayand he grinned at Baree.

"Screw up your nerve, old chap," he encouraged. "No bones broke. Just a little stiff. Mebby we'd betterget out."

He turned his face in the direction of Lac Bain. The suspicion was in his mind that McTaggart might turn back. Perhaps that same suspicion was impressed upon Baree, for when Carvel looked at him again he was on his feet, staggering a bit as he gained his equilibrium. In another moment the outlaw had swung the packsack from his shoulders and was opening it. He thrust in his hand and drew out a chunk of raw, red meat.

"Killed it this morning," he explained to Baree. "Yearling bull, tender as partridgeand that's as fine a sweetbread as ever came out from under a backbone. Try it!"

He tossed the flesh to Baree. There was no equivocation in the manner of its acceptance. Baree was famishedand the meat was flung to him by a friend. He buried his teeth in it. His jaws crunched it. New fire leapt into his blood as he feasted, but not for an instant did his reddened eyes leave the other's face. Carvel replaced his pack. He rose to his feet, took up his rifle, slipped on his snowshoes, and fronted the north.

"Come on. Boy," he said. "We've got to travel."

It was a matter-of-fact invitation, as though the two had been traveling companions for a long time. It was, perhaps, not only an invitation but partly a command. It puzzled Baree. For a full half-minute he stood motionless in his tracks gazing at Carvel as he strode into the north. A sudden convulsive twitching shot through Baree. He swung his head toward Lac Bain; he looked again at Carvel, and a whine that was scarcely more than a breath came out of his throat. The man was just about to disappear into the thick spruce. He paused, and looked back.

"Coming, Boy?"

Even at that distance Baree could see him grinning affably. He saw the outstretched hand, and the voice stirred new sensations in him. It was not like Pierrot's voice. He had never loved Pierrot. Neither was it soft and sweet like the Willow's. He had known only a few men, and all of them he had regarded with distrust. But this was a voice that disarmed him. It was lureful in its appeal. He wanted to answer it. He was filled with a desire, all at once, to follow close at the heels of this stranger. For the first time in his life a craving for the friendship of man possessed him. He did not move until Jim Carvel entered the spruce. Then he followed.

That night they were camped in a dense growth of cedars and balsams ten miles north of Bush McTaggart's trap line. For two hours it had snowed, and their trail was covered. It was still snowing, but not a flake of the white deluge sifted down through the thick canopy of boughs. Carvel had put up his small silk tent, and had built a fire. Their supper was over, and Baree lay on his belly facing the outlaw, almost within reach of his hand. With his back to a tree Carvel was smoking luxuriously. He had thrown off his cap and his coat, and in the warm fireglow he looked almost boyishly young. But even in that glow his jaws lost none of their squareness, nor his eyes their clear alertness.

"Seems good to have someone to talk to," he was saying to Baree. "Someone who can understand, an' keep his mouth shut. Did you ever want to howl, an' didn't dare? Well, that's me. Sometimes I've been on the point of bustin' because I wanted to talk to someone, an' couldn't."

He rubbed his hands together, and held them out toward the fire. Baree watched his movements and listened intently to every sound that escaped his lips. His eyes had in them now a dumb sort of worship, a look that warmed Carvel's heart and did away with the vast loneliness and emptiness of the night. Baree had dragged himself nearer to the man's feet, and suddenly Carvel leaned over and patted his head.

"I'm a bad one, old chap," he chuckled. "You haven't got it on menot a bit. Want to know what happened?" He waited a moment, and Baree looked at him steadily. Then Carvel went on, as if speaking to a human, "Let's seeit was five years ago, five years this December, just before Christmas time. Had a Dad. Fine old chap, my dad was. No Motherjust the Dad, an' when you added us up we made just One. Understand? And along came a white-striped skunk named Hardy and shot him one day because Dad had worked against him in politics. Out an' out murder. An' they didn't hang that skunk! No, sir, they didn't hang him. He had too much money, an' too many friends in politics, an' they let 'im off with two years in the penitentiary. But he didn't get there. Nos'elp me God, he didn't get there!"

Carvel was twisting his hands until his knuckles cracked. An exultant smile lighted up his face, and his eyes flashed back the firelight. Baree drew a deep breatha mere coincidence; but it was a tense moment for all that.

"No, he didn't get to the penitentiary," went on Carvel, looking straight at Baree again. "Yours truly knew what that meant, old chap. He'd have been pardoned inside a year. An' there was my dad, the biggest half of me, in his grave. So I just went up to that white-striped skunk right there before the judge's eyes, an' the lawyers' eyes, an' the eyes of all his dear relatives an' friendsAND I KILLED HIM! And I got away. Was out through a window before they woke up, hit for the bush country, and have been eating up the trails ever since. An' I guess God was with me, Boy. For He did a queer thing to help me out summer before last, just when the Mounties were after me hardest an' it looked pretty black. Man was found drowned down in the Reindeer Country, right where they thought I was cornered. An' the good Lord made that man look so much like me that he was buried under my name. So I'm officially dead, old chap. I don't need to be afraid any more so long as I don't get too familiar with people for a year or so longer, and 'way down inside me I've liked to believe God fixed it up in that way to help me out of a bad hole. What's YOUR opinion? Eh?"

He leaned forward for an answer. Baree had listened. Perhaps, in a way, he had understood. But it was another sound than Carvel's voice that came to his ears now. With his head close to the ground he heard it quite distinctly. He whined, and the whine ended in a snarl so low that Carvel just caught the warning note in it. He straightened. He stood up then, and faced the south. Baree stood beside him, his legs tense and his spine bristling.

After a moment Carvel said:

"Relatives of yours, old chap. Wolves."

He went into the tent for his rifle and cartridges.

 

CHAPTER 29

Baree was on his feet, rigid as hewn rock, when Carvel came out of the tent, and for a few moments Carvel stood in silence, watching him closely. Would the dog respond to the call of the pack? Did he belong to them? Would he gonow? The wolves were drawing nearer. They were not circling, as a caribou or a deer would have circled, but were traveling straightdead straight for their camp. The significance of this fact was easily understood by Carvel. All that afternoon Baree's feet had left a blood smell in their trail, and the wolves had struck the trail in the deep forest, where the falling snow had not covered it. Carvel was not alarmed. More than once in his five years of wandering between the Arctic and the Height of Land he had played the game with the wolves. Once he had almost lost, but that was out in the open Barren. Tonight he had a fire, and in the event of his firewood running out he had trees he could climb. His anxiety just now was centered in Baree. So he said, making his voice quite casual:

"You aren't going, are you, old chap?"

If Baree heard him he gave no evidence of it. But Carvel, still watching him closely, saw that the hair along his spine had risen like a brush, and then he heardgrowing slowly in Baree's throata snarl of ferocious hatred. It was the sort of snarl that had held back the factor from Lac Bain, and Carvel, opening the breech of his gun to see that all was right, chuckled happily. Baree may have heard the chuckle. Perhaps it meant something to him, for he turned his head suddenly and with flattened ears looked at his companion.

The wolves were silent now. Carvel knew what that meant, and he was tensely alert. In the stillness the click of the safety on his rifle sounded with metallic sharpness. For many minutes they heard nothing but the crack of the fire. Suddenly Baree's muscles seemed to snap. He sprang back, and faced the quarter behind Carvel, his head level with his shoulders, his inch-long fangs gleaming as he snarled into the black caverns of the forest beyond the rim of firelight. Carvel had turned like a shot. It was almost frighteningwhat he saw. A pair of eyes burning with greenish fire, and then another pair, and after that so many of them that he could not have counted them. He gave a sadden gasp. They were like cat eyes, only much larger. Some of them, catching the firelight fully, were red as coals, others flashed blue and greenliving things without bodies. With a swift glance he took in the black circle of the forest. They were out there, too; they were on all sides of them, but where he had seen them first they were thickest. In these first few seconds he had forgotten Baree, awed almost to stupefaction by that monster-eyed cordon of death that hemmed them in. There were fiftyperhaps a hundred wolves out there, afraid of nothing in all this savage world but fire. They had come up without the sound of a padded foot or a broken twig. If it had been later, and they had been asleep, and the fire out

He shuddered, and for a moment the thought got the better of his nerves. He had not intended to shoot except from necessity, but all at once his rifle came to his shoulder and he sent a stream of fire out where the eyes were thickest. Baree knew what the shots meant, and filled with the mad desire to get at the throat of one of his enemies he dashed in their direction. Carvel gave a startled yell as he went. He saw the flash of Baree's body, saw it swallowed up in the gloom, and in that same instant heard the deadly clash of fangs and the impact of bodies. A wild thrill shot through him. The dog had charged aloneand the wolves had waited. There could be but one end. His four-footed comrade had gone straight into the jaws of death!

He could hear the ravening snap of those jaws out in the darkness. It was sickening. His hand went to the Colt .45 at his belt, and he thrust his empty rifle butt downward into the snow. With the big automatic before his eyes he plunged out into the darkness, and from his lips there issued a wild yelling that could have been heard a mile away. With the yelling a steady stream of fire spat from the Colt into the mass of fighting beasts. There were eight shots in the automatic, and not until the plunger clicked with metallic emptiness did Carvel cease his yelling and retreat into the firelight. He listened, breathing deeply. He no longer saw eyes in the darkness, nor did he hear the movement of bodies. The suddenness and ferocity of his attack had driven back the wolf horde. But the dog! He caught his breath, and strained his eyes. A shadow was dragging itself into the circle of light. It was Baree. Carvel ran to him, put his arms under his shoulders, and brought him to the fire.

For a long time after that there was a questioning light in Carvel's eyes. He reloaded his guns, put fresh fuel on the fire, and from his pack dug out strips of cloth with which he bandaged three or four of the deepest cuts in Baree's legs. And a dozen times he asked, in a wondering sort of way,

"Now what the deuce made you do that, old chap? What have YOU got against the wolves?"

All that night he did not sleep, but watched.

Their experience with the wolves broke down the last bit of uncertainty that might have existed between the man and the dog. For days after that, as they traveled slowly north and west, Carvel nursed Baree as he might have cared for a sick child. Because of the dog's hurts, he made only a few miles a day. Baree understood, and in him there grew stronger and stronger a great love for the man whose hands were as gentle as the Willow's and whose voice warmed him with the thrill of an immeasurable comradeship. He no longer feared him or had a suspicion of him. And Carvel, on his part, was observing things. The vast emptiness of the world about them, and their aloneness, gave him the opportunity of pondering over unimportant details, and he found himself each day watching Baree a little more closely. He made at last a discovery which interested him deeply. Always, when they halted on the trail, Baree would turn his face to the south. When they were in camp it was from the south that he nosed the wind most frequently. This was quite natural, Carvel thought, for his old hunting grounds were back there. But as the days passed he began to notice other things. Now and then, looking off into the far country from which they had come, Baree would whine softly, and on that day he would be filled with a great restlessness. He gave no evidence of wanting to leave Carvel, but more and more Carvel came to understand that some mysterious call was coming to him from out of the south.

It was the wanderer's intention to swing over into the country of the Great Slave, a good eight hundred miles to the north and west, before the mush snows came. From there, when the waters opened in springtime, he planned to travel by canoe westward to the Mackenzie and ultimately to the mountains of British Columbia. These plans were changed in February. They were caught in a great storm in the Wholdaia Lake country, and when their fortunes looked darkest Carvel stumbled on a cabin in the heart of a deep spruce forest, and in this cabin there was a dead man. He had been dead for many days, and was frozen stiff. Carvel chopped a hole in the earth and buried him.

The cabin was a treasure trove to Carvel and Baree, and especially to the man. It evidently possessed no other owner than the one who had died. It was comfortable and stocked with provisions; and more than that, its owner had made a splendid catch of fur before the frost bit his lungs, and he died. Carvel went over them carefully and joyously. They were worth a thousand dollars at any post, and he could see no reason why they did not belong to him now. Within a week he had blazed out the dead man's snow-covered trap line and was trapping on his own account.

This was two hundred miles north and west of the Gray Loon, and soon Carvel observed that Baree did not face directly south in those moments when the strange call came to him, but south and east. And now, with each day that passed, the sun rose higher in the sky; it grew warmer; the snow softened underfoot, and in the air was the tremulous and growing throb of spring. With these things came the old yearning to Baree; the heart-thrilling call of the lonely graves back on the Gray Loon, of the burned cabin, the abandoned tepee beyond the pooland of Nepeese. In his sleep he saw visions of things. He heard again the low, sweet voice of the Willow, felt the touch of her hand, was at play with her once more in the dark shades of the forestand Carvel would sit and watch him as he dreamed, trying to read the meaning of what he saw and heard.

In April Carvel shouldered his furs up to the Hudson's Bay Company's post at Lac la Biche, which was still farther north. Baree accompanied him halfway, and thenat sundown Carvel returned to the cabin and found him there. He was so overjoyed that he caught the dog's head in his arms and hugged it. They lived in the cabin until May. The buds were swelling then, and the smell of growing things had begun to rise up out of the earth.

Then Carvel found the first of the early blue flowers.

That night he packed up.

"It's time to travel," he announced to Baree. "And I've sort of changed my mind. We're going backthere." And he pointed south.

 

CHAPTER 30

A strange humor possessed Carvel as he began the southward journey. He did not believe in omens, good or bad.

Superstition had played a small part in his life, but he possessed both curiosity and a love for adventure, and his years of lonely wandering had developed in him a wonderfully clear mental vision of things, which in other words might be called a singularly active imagination. He knew that some irresistible force was drawing Baree back into the souththat it was pulling him not only along a given line of the compass, but to an exact point in that line.

For no reason in particular the situation began to interest him more and more, and as his time was valueless, and he had no fixed destination in view, he began to experiment. For the first two days he marked the dog's course by compass. It was due southeast. On the third morning Carvel purposely struck a course straight west. He noted quickly the change in Bareehis restlessness at first, and after that the dejected manner in which he followed at his heels. Toward noon Carvel swung sharply to the south and east again, and almost immediately Baree regained his old eagerness, and ran ahead of his master.

After this, for many days, Carvel followed the trail of the dog.

"Mebby I'm an idiot, old chap," he apologized one evening. "But it's a bit of fun, after allan' I've got to hit the line of rail before I can get over to the mountains, so what's the difference? I'm gameso long as you don't take me back to that chap at Lac Bain. Nowwhat the devil! Are you hitting for his trap line, to get even? If that's the case"

He blew out a cloud of smoke from his pipe as he eyed Baree, and Baree, with his head between his forepaws, eyed him back.

A week later Baree answered Carvel's question by swinging westward to give a wide berth to Post Lac Bain. It was midafternoon when they crossed the trail along which Bush McTaggart's traps and deadfalls had been set. Baree did not even pause. He headed due south, traveling so fast that at times he was lost to Carvel's sight. A suppressed but intense excitement possessed him, and he whined whenever Carvel stopped to restalways with his nose sniffing the wind out of the south. Springtime, the flowers, the earth turning green, the singing of birds, and the sweet breaths in the air were bringing him back to that great yesterday when he had belonged to Nepeese. In his unreasoning mind there existed no longer a winter. The long months of cold and hunger were gone; in the new visionings that filled his brain they were forgotten. The birds and flowers and the blue skies had come back, and with them the Willow must surely have returned, and she was waiting for him now, just over there beyond that rim of green forest.

Something greater than mere curiosity began to take possession of Carvel. A whimsical humor became a fixed and deeper thought, an unreasoning anticipation that was accompanied by a certain thrill of subdued excitement. By the time they reached the old beaver pond the mystery of the strange adventure had a firm hold on him. From Beaver Tooth's colony Baree led him to the creek along which Wakayoo, the black bear, had fished, and thence straight to the Gray Loon.

It was early afternoon of a wonderful day. It was so still that the rippling waters of spring, singing in a thousand rills and streamlets, filled the forests with a droning music. In the warm sun the crimson bakneesh glowed like blood. In the open spaces the air was scented with the perfume of blue flowers. In the trees and bushes mated birds were building their nests. After the long sleep of winter nature was at work in all her glory. It was Unekepesim, the Mating Moon, the Home-building Moonand Baree was going home. Not to matehoodbut to Nepeese. He knew that she was there now, perhaps at the very edge of the chasm where he had seen her last. They would be playing together again soon, as they had played yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that, and in his joy he barked up into Carvel's face, and urged him to greater speed.

Then they came to the clearing, and once more Baree stood like a rock. Carvel saw the charred ruins of the burned cabin, and a moment later the two graves under the tall spruce. He began to understand as his eyes returned slowly to the waiting, listening dog. A great swelling rose in his throat, and after a moment or two he said softly, and with an effort,

"Boy, I guess you're home."

Baree did not hear. With his head up and his nose tilted to the blue sky he was sniffing the air. What was it that came to him with the perfumes of the forests and the green meadow? Why was it that he trembled now as he stood there? What was there in the air? Carvel asked himself, and his questing eyes tried to answer the questions. Nothing. There was death heredeath and desertion, that was all. And then, all at once, there came from Baree a strange cryalmost a human cryand he was gone like the wind.

Carvel had thrown off his pack. He dropped his rifle beside it now, and followed Baree. He ran swiftly, straight across the open, into the dwarf balsams, and into a grass-grown path that had once been worn by the travel of feet. He ran until he was panting for breath, and then stopped, and listened. He could hear nothing of Baree. But that old worn trail led on under the forest trees, and he followed it.

Close to the deep, dark pool in which he and the Willow had disported so often Baree, too, had stopped. He could hear the rippling of water, and his eyes shone with a gleaming fire as he searched for Nepeese. He expected to see her there, her slim white body shimmering in some dark shadow of overhanging spruce, or gleaming suddenly white as snow in one of the warm plashes of sunlight. His eyes sought out their old hiding places; the great split rock on the other side, the shelving banks under which they used to dive like otter, the spruce boughs that dipped down to the surface, and in the midst of which the Willow loved to pretend to hide while he searched the pool for her. And at last the realization was borne upon him that she was not there, that he had still farther to go.

He went on to the tepee. The little open space in which they had built their hidden wigwam was flooded with sunshine that came through a break in the forest to the west. The tepee was still there. It did not seem very much changed to Baree. And rising from the ground in front of the tepee was what had come to him faintly on the still airthe smoke of a small fire. Over that fire was bending a person, and it did not strike Baree as amazing, or at all unexpected, that this person should have two great shining braids down her back. He whined, and at his whine the person grew a little rigid, and turned slowly.

Even then it seemed quite the most natural thing in the world that it should be Nepeese, and none other. He had lost her yesterday. Today he had found her. And in answer to his whine there came a sobbing cry straight out of the heart of the Willow.

Carvel found them there a few minutes later, the dog's head hugged close up against the Willow's breast, and the Willow was cryingcrying like a little child, her face hidden from him on Baree's neck. He did not interrupt them, but waited; and as he waited something in the sobbing voice and the stillness of the forest seemed to whisper to him a bit of the story of the burned cabin and the two graves, and the meaning of the Call that had come to Baree from out of the south.

 

CHAPTER 31

That night there was a new campfire in the clearing. It was not a small fire, built with the fear that other eyes might see it, but a fire that sent its flames high. In the glow of it stood Carvel. And as the fire had changed from that small smoldering heap over which the Willow had cooked her dinner, so Carvel, the officially dead outlaw, had changed. The beard was gone from his face. He had thrown off his caribou-skin coat. His sleeves were rolled up to the elbows, and there was a wild flush in his face that was not altogether the work of wind and sun and storm, and a glow in his eyes that had not been there for five years, perhaps never before. His eyes were on Nepeese.

She sat in the firelight, leaning a little toward the blaze, her wonderful hair warmly reflecting its mellow light. Carvel did not move while she was in that attitude. He seemed scarcely to breathe. The glow in his eyes grew deeperthe worship of a man for a woman. Suddenly Nepeese turned and caught him before he could turn his gaze. There was nothing to hide in her own eyes. Like her face, they were alight with a new hope and a new gladness. Carvel sat down beside her on the birch log, and in his hand he took one of her thick braids and crumpled it as he talked. At their feet, watching them, lay Baree.

"Tomorrow or the next day I am going to Lac Bain," he said, a hard and bitter note back of the gentle worship in his voice. "I will not come back until I havekilled him."

The Willow looked straight into the fire. For a time there was a silence broken only by the crackling of the flames, and in that silence Carvel's fingers weaved in and out of the silken strands of the Willow's hair. His thoughts flashed back. What a chance he had missed that day on Bush McTaggart's trap lineif he had only known! His jaws set hard as he saw in the red-hot heart of the fire the mental pictures of the day when the factor from Lac Bain had killed Pierrot. She had told him the whole story. Her flight. Her plunge to what she had thought was certain death in the icy torrent of the chasm. Her miraculous escape from the watersand how she was discovered, nearly dead, by Tuboa, the toothless old Cree whom Pierrot out of pity had allowed to hunt in part of his domain. He felt within himself the tragedy and the horror of the one terrible hour in which the sun had gone out of the world for the Willow, and in the flames he could see faithful old Tuboa as he called on his last strength to bear Nepeese over the long miles that lay between the chasm and his cabin. He caught shifting visions of the weeks that followed in that cabin, weeks of hunger and of intense cold in which the Willow's life hung by a single thread. And at last, when the snows were deepest, Tuboa had died. Carvel's fingers clenched in the strands of the Willow's braid. A deep breath rose out of his chest, and he said, staring deep into the fire,

"Tomorrow I will go to Lac Bain."

For a moment Nepeese did not answer. She, too, was looking into the fire. Then she said:

"Tuboa meant to kill him when the spring came, and he could travel. When Tuboa died I knew that it was I who must kill him. So I came, with Tuboa's gun. It was fresh loadedyesterday. AndM'sieu Jeem"she looked up at him, a triumphant glow in her eyes as she added, almost in a whisper"You will not go to Lac Bain. I HAVE SENT A MESSENGER."

"A messenger?"

"Yes, Ookimow Jeema messenger. Two days ago. I sent word that I had not died, but was herewaiting for himand that I would be Iskwao now, his wife. Oo-oo, he will come, Ookimow Jeemhe will come fast. And you shall not kill him. Non!" She smiled into his face, and the throb of Carvel's heart was like a drum. "The gun is loaded," she said softly. "I will shoot."

"Two days ago," said Carvel. "And from Lac Bain it is"

"He will be here tomorrow," Nepeese answered him.

"Tomorrow, as the sun goes down, he will enter the clearing. I know. My blood has been singing it all day. Tomorrowtomorrowfor he will travel fast, Ookimow Jeem. Yes, he will come fast."

Carvel had bent his head. The soft tresses gripped in his fingers were crushed to his lips. The Willow, looking again into the fire, did not see. But she FELTand her soul was beating like the wings of a bird.

"Ookimow Jeem," she whispereda breath, a flutter of the lips so soft that Carvel heard no sound.

If old Tuboa had been there that night it is possible he would have read strange warnings in the winds that whispered now and then softly in the treetops. It was such a night; a night when the Red Gods whisper low among themselves, a carnival of glory in which even the dipping shadows and the high stars seemed to quiver with the life of a potent language. It is barely possible that old Tuboa, with his ninety years behind him, would have learned something, or that at least he would have SUSPECTED a thing which Carvel in his youth and confidence did not see. Tomorrowhe will come tomorrow! The Willow, exultant, had said that. But to old Tuboa the trees might have whispered, WHY NOT TONIGHT?

It was midnight when the big moon stood full above the little opening in the forest. In the tepee the Willow was sleeping. In a balsam shadow back from the fire slept Baree, and still farther back in the edge of a spruce thicket slept Carvel. Dog and man were tired. They had traveled far and fast that day, and they heard no sound.

But they had traveled neither so far nor so fast as Bush McTaggart. Between sunrise and midnight he had come forty miles when he strode out into the clearing where Pierrot's cabin had stood. Twice from the edge of the forest he had called; and now, when he found no answer, he stood under the light of the moon and listened. Nepeese was to be herewaiting. He was tired, but exhaustion could not still the fire that burned in his blood. It had been blazing all day, and nowso near its realization and its triumphthe old passion was like a rich wine in his veins. Somewhere, near where he stood, Nepeese was waiting for him, WAITING FOR HIM. Once again he called, his heart beating in a fierce anticipation as he listened. There was no answer. And then for a thrilling instant his breath stopped. He sniffed the airand there came to him faintly the smell of smoke.

With the first instinct of the forest man he fronted the wind that was but a faint breath under the starlit skies. He did not call again, but hastened across the clearing. Nepeese was off theresomewheresleeping beside her fire, and out of him there rose a low cry of exultation. He came to the edge of the forest; chance directed his steps to the overgrown trail. He followed it, and the smoke smell came stronger to his nostrils.

It was the forest man's instinct, too, that added the element of caution to his advance. That, and the utter stillness of the night. He broke no sticks under his feet. He disturbed the brush so quietly that it made no sound. When he came at last to the little open where Carvel's fire was still sending a spiral of spruce-scented smoke up into the air it was with a stealth that failed even to rouse Baree. Perhaps, deep down in him, there smoldered an old suspicion; perhaps it was because he wanted to come to her while she was sleeping. The sight of the tepee made his heart throb faster. It was light as day where it stood in the moonlight, and he saw hanging outside it a few bits of woman's apparel. He advanced soft-footed as a fox and stood a moment later with his hand on the cloth flap at the wigwam door, his head bent forward to catch the merest breath of sound. He could hear her breathing. For an instant his face turned so that the moonlight struck his eyes. They were aflame with a mad fire. Then, still very quietly, he drew aside the flap at the door.

It could not have been sound that roused Baree, hidden in the black balsam shadow a dozen paces away. Perhaps it was scent. His nostrils twitched first; then he awoke. For a few seconds his eyes glared at the bent figure in the tepee door. He knew that it was not Carvel. The old smellthe man-beast's smell, filled his nostrils like a hated poison. He sprang to his feet and stood with his lips snarling back slowly from his long fangs. McTaggart had disappeared. From inside the tepee there came a sound; a sudden movement of bodies, a startled ejaculation of one awakening from sleepand then a cry, a low, half-smothered, frightened cry, and in response to that cry Baree shot out from under the balsam with a sound in his throat that had in it the note of death.

In the edge of the spruce thicket Carvel rolled uneasily. Strange sounds were rousing him, cries that in his exhaustion came to him as if in a dream. At last he sat up, and then in sudden horror leaped to his feet and rushed toward the tepee. Nepeese was in the open, crying the name she had given him"OOKIMOW JEEMOOKIMOWJEEMOOKIMOW JEEM" She was standing there white and slim, her eyes with the blaze of the stars in them, and when she saw Carvel she flung out her arms to him, still crying:

"Ookimow JeemOo-oo, Ookimow Jeem"

In the tepee he heard the rage of a beast, the moaning cries of a man. He forgot that it was only last night he had come, and with a cry he swept the Willow to his breast, and the Willow's arms tightened round his neck as she moaned:

"Ookimow Jeemit is the man-beastin there! It is the man-beast from Lac Bainand Baree"

Truth flashed upon Carvel, and he caught Nepeese up in his arms and ran away with her from the sounds that had grown sickening and horrible. In the spruce thicket he put her feet once more to the ground. Her arms were still tight around his neck. He felt the wild terror of her body as it throbbed against him. Her breath was sobbing, and her eyes were on his face. He drew her closer, and suddenly he crushed his face down close against hers and felt for an instant the warm thrill of her lips against his own. And he heard the whisper, soft and trembling.

"Ooo-oo, OOKIMOW JEEM"

When Carvel returned to the fire, alone, his Colt in his hand, Baree was in front of the tepee waiting for him.

Carvel picked up a burning brand and entered the wigwam. When he came out his face was white. He tossed the brand in the fire, and went back to Nepeese. He had wrapped her in his blankets, and now he knelt down beside her and put his arms about her.

"He is dead, Nepeese."

"Dead, Ookimow Jeem?"

"Yes. Baree killed him."

She did not seem to breathe. Gently, with his lips in her hair. Carvel whispered his plans for their paradise.

"No one will know, my sweetheart. Tonight I will bury him and burn the tepee. Tomorrow we will start for Nelson House, where there is a missioner. And after thatwe will come backand I will build a new cabin where the old one burned. DO YOU LOVE ME, KA SAKAHET?"

"OM'yesOokimow JeemI love you"

Suddenly there came an interruption. Baree at last was giving his cry of triumph. It rose to the stars; it wailed over the roofs of the forests and filled the quiet skiesa wolfish howl of exultation, of achievement, of vengeance fulfilled. Its echoes died slowly away, and silence came again. A great peace whispered in the soft breath of the treetops. Out of the north came the mating call of a loon. About Carvel's shoulders the Willow's arms crept closer. And Carvel, out of his heart, thanked God.

<<<

James Oliver Curwood Baree, Son of Kazan
Copyright 2005-2017. ! ! homeenglish@mail.ru