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Title: Northern Trails, Book I.
Author: Long, William Joseph, 1866-1952
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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NORTHERN TRAILS


BOOK I

By

William J. Long


_WOOD FOLK SERIES BOOK VI_


1905



PREFACE

In the original preface to "Northern Trails" the author stated that,
with the solitary exception of the salmon's life in the sea after he
vanishes from human sight, every incident recorded here is founded
squarely upon personal and accurate observation of animal life and
habits. I now repeat and emphasize that statement. Even when the
observations are, for the reader's sake, put into the form of a
connected story, there is not one trait or habit mentioned which is not
true to animal life.

Such a statement ought to be enough, especially as I have repeatedly
furnished evidence from reliable eye-witnesses to support every
observation that the critics have challenged; but of late a strenuous
public attack has been made upon the wolf story in this volume by two
men claiming to speak with authority. They take radical exception to my
record of a big white wolf killing a young caribou by snapping at the
chest and heart. They declared this method of killing to be "a
mathematical impossibility" and, by inference, a gross falsehood,
utterly ruinous to true ideas of wolves and of natural history.

As no facts or proofs are given to support this charge, the first thing
which a sensible man naturally does is to examine the fitness of the
critics, in order to ascertain upon what knowledge or experience they
base their dogmatic statements. One of these critics is a man who has no
personal knowledge of wolves or caribou, who asserts that the animal has
no possibility of reason or intelligence, and who has for years publicly
denied the observations of other men which tend to disprove his ancient
theory. It seems hardly worth while to argue about either wolves or men
with such a naturalist, or to point out that Descartes' idea of animals,
as purely mechanical or automatic creatures, has long since been laid
aside and was never considered seriously by any man who had lived close
to either wild or domestic animals. The second critic's knowledge of
wolves consists almost entirely of what he has happened to see when
chasing the creatures with dogs and hunters. Judging by his own nature
books, with their barbaric records of slaughter, his experience of wild
animals was gained while killing them. Such a man will undoubtedly
discover some things about animals, how they fight and hide and escape
their human enemies; but it hardly needs any argument to show that the
man who goes into the woods with dogs and rifles and the desire to kill
can never understand any living animal.

If you examine now any of the little books which he condemns, you will
find a totally different story: no record of chasing and killing, but
only of patient watching, of creeping near to wild animals and winning
their confidence whenever it is possible, of following them day and
night with no motive but the pure love of the thing and no object but to
see exactly what each animal is doing and to understand, so far as a man
can, the mystery of its dumb life.

Naturally a man in this attitude will see many traits of animal life
which are hidden from the game-killer as well as from the scientific
collector of skins. For instance, practically all wild animals are shy
and timid and run away at man's approach. This is the general experience
not only of hunters but of casual observers in the woods. Yet my own
experience has many times shown me exactly the opposite trait: that when
these same shy animals find me unexpectedly close at hand, more than
half the time they show no fear whatever but only an eager curiosity to
know who and what the creature is that sits so quietly near them.
Sometimes, indeed, they seem almost to understand the mental attitude
which has no thought of harm but only of sympathy and friendly interest.
Once I was followed for hours by a young wolf which acted precisely like
a lost dog, too timid to approach and too curious or lonely to run away.
He even wagged his tail when I called to him softly. Had I shot him on
sight, I would probably have foolishly believed that he intended to
attack me when he came trotting along my trail. Three separate times I
have touched a wild deer with my hand; once I touched a moose, once an
eagle, once a bear; and a score of times at least I have had to frighten
these big animals or get out of their way, when their curiosity brought
them too near for perfect comfort.

So much for the personal element, for the general attitude and fitness
of the observer and his critics. But the question is not chiefly a
personal one; it is simply a matter of truth and observation, and the
only honest or scientific method is, first, to go straight to nature and
find out the facts; and then--lest your own eyesight or judgment be at
fault--to consult other observers to find if, perchance, they also have
seen the facts exemplified. This is not so easy as to dogmatize or to
write animal stories; but it is the only safe method, and one which the
nature writer as well as the scientist must follow if his work is to
endure.

Following this good method, when the critics had proclaimed that my
record of a big wolf killing a young caribou by biting into the chest
and heart was an impossibility, I went straight to the big woods and, as
soon as the law allowed, secured photographs and exact measurements of
the first full-grown deer that crossed my trail. These photographs and
measurements show beyond any possibility of honest doubt the following
facts: (1) The lower chest of a deer, between and just behind the
forelegs, is thin and wedge-shaped, exactly as I stated, and the point
of the heart is well down in this narrow wedge. The distance through the
chest and point of the heart from side to side was, in this case,
exactly four and one-half inches. A man's hand, as shown in the
photograph, can easily grasp the whole lower chest of a deer, placing
thumb and forefinger over the heart on opposite sides. (2) The heart of
a deer, and indeed of all ruminant animals, lies close against the chest
walls and is easily reached and wounded. The chest cartilage, except in
an old deer, is soft; the ribs are thin and easily crushed, and the
spaces between the ribs are wide enough to admit a man's finger, to say
nothing of a wolf's fang. In this case the point of the heart, as the
deer lay on his side, was barely five eights of an inch from the
surface. (3) Any dog or wolf, therefore, having a spread of jaws of four
and one-half inches, and fangs three quarters of an inch long, could
easily grasp the chest of this deer from beneath and reach the heart
from either side. As the jaws of the big northern wolf spread from six
to eight inches and his fangs are over an inch long, to kill a deer in
this way would require but a slight effort. The chest of a caribou is
anatomically exactly like that of other deer; only the caribou fawn and
yearling of "Northern Trails" have smaller chests than the animals I
measured.

So much for the facts and the possibilities. As for specific instances,
years ago I found a deer just killed in the snow and beside him the
fresh tracks of a big wolf, which had probably been frightened away at
my approach. The deer was bitten just behind and beneath the left
shoulder, and one long fang had entered the heart. There was not another
scratch on the body, so far as I could discover. I thought this very
exceptional at the time; but years afterwards my Indian guide in the
interior of Newfoundland assured me that it was a common habit of
killing caribou among the big white wolves with which he was familiar.
To show that the peculiar habit is not confined to any one section, I
quote here from the sworn statements of three other eyewitnesses. The
first is superintendent of the Algonquin National Park, a man who has
spent a lifetime in the North Woods and who has at present an excellent
opportunity for observing wild-animal habits; the second is an educated
Sioux Indian; the third is a geologist and mining engineer, now
practicing his profession in Philadelphia.


ALGONQUIN PARK, ONTARIO, August 31, 1907.

This certifies that during the past thirty years spent in our Canadian
wilds, I have seen several animals killed by our large timber wolves. In
the winter of 1903 I saw two deer thus killed on Smoke Lake, Nipissing,
Ontario. One deer was bitten through the front chest, the other just
behind the foreleg. In each case there was no other wound on the body.

[Signed] G.W. BARTLETT, _Superintendent_.


I certify that I lived for twenty years in northern Nebraska and Dakota,
in a region where timber wolves were abundant.... I saw one horse that
had just been killed by a wolf. The front of his chest was torn open to
the heart. There was no other wound on the body. I once watched a wolf
kill a stray horse on the open prairie. He kept nipping at the hind
legs, making the horse turn rapidly till he grew dizzy and fell down.
Then the wolf snapped or bit into his chest.... The horse died in a few
moments.

[Signed] STEPHEN JONES (HEPIDAN).


I certify that in November, 1900, while surveying in Wyoming, my party
saw two wolves chase a two-year-old colt over a cliff some fifteen or
sixteen feet high. I was on the spot with two others immediately after
the incident occurred. The only injuries to the colt, aside from a
broken leg, were deep lacerations made by wolf fangs in the chest behind
the foreshoulder. In addition to this personal observation I have
frequently heard from hunters, herders, and cowboys that big wolves
frequently kill deer and other animals by snapping at the chest.

[Signed] F.S. PUSEY.


I have more evidence of the same kind from the region which I described
in "Northern Trails"; but I give these three simply to show that what
one man discovers as a surprising trait of some individual wolf or deer
may be common enough when we open our eyes to see. The fact that wolves
do not always or often kill in this way has nothing to do with the
question. I know one small region where old wolves generally hunt in
pairs and, so far as I can discover, one wolf always trips or throws the
game, while the other invariably does the killing at the throat. In
another region, including a part of Algonquin Park, in Ontario, I have
the records of several deer killed by wolves in a single winter; and in
every case the wolf slipped up behind his game and cut the femoral
artery, or the inner side of the hind leg, and then drew back quietly,
allowing the deer to bleed to death.

The point is, that because a thing is unusual or interesting it is not
necessarily false, as my dogmatic critics would have you believe. I have
studied animals, not as species but as individuals, and have recorded
some things which other and better naturalists have overlooked; but I
have sought for facts, first of all, as zealously as any biologist, and
have recorded only what I have every reason to believe is true. That
these facts are unusual means simply that we have at last found natural
history to be interesting, just as the discovery of unusual men and
incidents gives charm and meaning to the records of our humanity. There
may be honest errors or mistakes in these books--and no one tries half
so hard as the author to find and correct them--but meanwhile the fact
remains that, though six volumes of the Wood Folk books have already
been published, only three slight errors have thus far been pointed out,
and these were promptly and gratefully acknowledged.

The simple truth is that these observations of mine, though they are all
true, do not tell more than a small fraction of the interesting things
that wild animals do continually in their native state, when they are
not frightened by dogs and hunters, or when we are not blinded by our
preconceived notions in watching them. I have no doubt that romancing is
rife just now on the part of men who study animals in a library; but
personally, with my note-books full of incidents which I have never yet
recorded, I find the truth more interesting, and I cannot understand why
a man should deliberately choose romance when he can have the greater
joy of going into the wilderness to see with his own eyes and to
understand with his own heart just how the animals live. One thing seems
to me to be more and more certain: that we are only just beginning to
understand wild animals, and it is chiefly our own barbarism, our lust
of killing, our stupid stuffed specimens, and especially our prejudices
which stand in the way of greater knowledge. Meanwhile the critic who
asserts dogmatically what a wild animal will or will not do under
certain conditions only proves how carelessly he has watched them and
how little he has learned of Nature's infinite variety.

WILLIAM J. LONG

STAMFORD, CONNECTICUT



CONTENTS

WAYEESES THE STRONG ONE

THE OLD WOLF'S CHALLENGE

WHERE THE TRAIL BEGINS

NOEL AND MOOKA

THE WAY OF THE WOLF

THE WHITE WOLF'S HUNTING

TRAILS THAT CROSS IN THE SNOW


GLOSSARY OF INDIAN NAMES



FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS


"A QUICK SNAP WHERE THE HEART LAY"

"THE TERRIBLE HOWL OF A GREAT WHITE WOLF"

"WATCHING HER GROWING YOUNGSTERS"

"AS THE MOTHER'S LONG JAWS CLOSED OVER THE SMALL OF THE BACK"

"THE SILENT, APPALLING DEATH-WATCH BEGAN"



WAYEESES THE STRONG ONE



_The Old Wolf's Challenge_

We were beating up the Straits to the Labrador when a great gale swooped
down on us and drove us like a scared wild duck into a cleft in the
mountains, where the breakers roared and the seals barked on the black
rocks and the reefs bared their teeth on either side, like the long jaws
of a wolf, to snap at us as we passed.

In our flight we had picked up a fisherman--snatched him out of his
helpless punt as we luffed in a smother of spray, and dragged him
aboard, like an enormous frog, at the end of the jib sheet--and it was
he who now stood at the wheel of our little schooner and took her
careening in through the tickle of Harbor Woe. There, in a desolate,
rock-bound refuge on the Newfoundland coast, the _Wild Duck_ swung to
her anchor, veering nervously in the tide rip, tugging impatiently and
clanking her chains as if eager to be out again in the turmoil. At
sunset the gale blew itself out, and presently the moon wheeled full and
clear over the dark mountains.

Noel, my big Indian, was curled up asleep in a caribou skin by the
foremast; and the crew were all below asleep, every man glad in his
heart to be once more safe in a snug harbor. All about us stretched the
desolate wastes of sea and mountains, over which silence and darkness
brooded, as over the first great chaos. Near at hand were the black
rocks, eternally wet and smoking with the fog and gale; beyond towered
the icebergs, pale, cold, glittering like spires of silver in the
moonlight; far away, like a vague shadow, a handful of little gray
houses clung like barnacles to the base of a great bare hill whose foot
was in the sea and whose head wavered among the clouds of heaven. Not a
light shone, not a sound or a sign of life came from these little
houses, whose shells close daily at twilight over the life within, weary
with the day's work. Only the dogs were restless--those strange
creatures that shelter in our houses and share our bread, yet live in
another world, a dumb, silent, lonely world shut out from ours by
impassable barriers.

For hours these uncanny dogs had puzzled me, a score of vicious, hungry
brutes that drew the sledges in winter and that picked up a vagabond
living in the idle summer by hunting rabbits and raiding the fishermen's
flakes and pig-pens and by catching flounders in the sea as the tide
ebbed. Venture among them with fear in your heart and they would fly at
your legs and throat like wild beasts; but twirl a big stick jauntily,
or better still go quietly on your way without concern, and they would
skulk aside and watch you hungrily out of the corners of their surly
eyes, whose lids were red and bloodshot as a mastiff's. When the moon
rose I noticed them flitting about like witches on the lonely shore,
miles away from the hamlet; now sitting on their tails in a solemn
circle; now howling all together as if demented, and anon listening
intently in the vast silence, as if they heard or smelled or perhaps
just felt the presence of some unknown thing that was hidden from human
senses. And when I paddled ashore to watch them one ran swiftly past
without heeding me, his nose outstretched, his eyes green as foxfire in
the moonlight, while the others vanished like shadows among the black
rocks, each intent on his unknown quest.

That is why I had come up from my warm bunk at midnight to sit alone on
the taffrail, listening in the keen air to the howling that made me
shiver, spite of myself, and watching in the vague moonlight to
understand if possible what the brutes felt amid the primal silence and
desolation.

A long interval of profound stillness had passed, and I could just make
out the circle of dogs sitting on their tails on the open shore, when
suddenly, faint and far away, an unearthly howl came rolling down the
mountains, _ooooooo-ow-wow-wow!_ a long wailing crescendo beginning
softly, like a sound in a dream, and swelling into a roar that waked the
sleeping echoes and set them jumping like startled goats from crag to
crag. Instantly the huskies answered, every clog breaking out into
indescribable frenzied wailings, as a collie responds in agony to
certain chords of music that stir all the old wolf nature sleeping
within him. For five minutes the uproar was appalling; then it ceased
abruptly and the huskies ran wildly here and there among the rocks. From
far away an answer, an echo perhaps of their wailing, or, it may be, the
cry of the dogs of St. Margaret's, came ululating over the deep. Then
silence again, vast and unnatural, settling over the gloomy land like a
winding-sheet.

As the unknown howl trembled faintly in the air Noel, who had slept
undisturbed through all the clamor of the dogs, stirred uneasily by the
foremast. As it deepened and swelled into a roar that filled all the
night he threw off the caribou skin and came aft to where I was watching
alone. "Das Wayeeses. I know dat hwulf; he follow me one time, oh, long,
long while ago," he whispered. And taking my marine glasses he stood
beside me watching intently.

[Illustration: "The terrible howl of the great white wolf"]

There was another long period of waiting; our eyes grew weary, filled as
they were with shadows and uncertainties in the moonlight, and we turned
our ears to the hills, waiting with strained, silent expectancy for the
challenge. Suddenly Noel pointed upward and my eye caught something
moving swiftly on the crest of the mountain. A shadow with the slinking
trot of a wolf glided along the ridge between us and the moon. Just in
front of us it stopped, leaped upon a big rock, turned a pointed nose up
to the sky, sharp and clear as a fir top in the moonlight,
and--_ooooooo-ow-wow-wow!_ the terrible howl of a great white wolf
tumbled down on the husky dogs and set them howling as if possessed. No
doubt now of their queer actions which had puzzled me for hours past.
The wild wolf had called and the tame wolves waked to answer. Before my
dull ears had heard a rumor of it they were crazy with the excitement.
Now every chord in their wild hearts was twanging its thrilling answer
to the leader's summons, and my own heart awoke and thrilled as it never
did before to the call of a wild beast.

For an hour or more the old wolf sat there, challenging his degenerate
mates in every silence, calling the tame to be wild, the bound to be
free again, and listening gravely to the wailing answer of the dogs,
which refused with groanings, as if dragging themselves away from
overmastering temptation. Then the shadow vanished from the big rock on
the mountain, the huskies fled away wildly from the shore, and only the
sob of the breakers broke the stillness.

That was my first (and Noel's last) shadowy glimpse of Wayeeses, the
huge white wolf which I had come a thousand miles over land and sea to
study. All over the Long Range of the northern peninsula I followed him,
guided sometimes by a rumor--a hunter's story or a postman's fright,
caught far inland in winter and huddling close by his fire with his dogs
through the long winter night--and again by a track on the shore of some
lonely, unnamed pond, or the sight of a herd of caribou flying wildly
from some unseen danger. Here is the white wolf's story, learned partly
from much watching and following his tracks alone, but more from Noel
the Indian hunter, in endless tramps over the hills and caribou marshes
and in long quiet talks in the firelight beside the salmon rivers.



_Where the Trail Begins_

From a cave in the rocks, on the unnamed mountains that tower over
Harbor Weal on the north and east, a huge mother wolf appeared,
stealthily, as all wolves come out of their dens. A pair of green eyes
glowed steadily like coals deep within the dark entrance; a massive gray
head rested unseen against the lichens of a gray rock; then the whole
gaunt body glided like a passing cloud shadow into the June sunshine and
was lost in a cleft of the rocks.

There, in the deep shadow where no eye might notice the movement, the
old wolf shook off the delicious sleepiness that still lingered in all
her big muscles. First she spread her slender fore paws, working the
toes till they were all wide-awake, and bent her body at the shoulders
till her deep chest touched the earth. Next a hind leg stretched out
straight and tense as a bar, and was taken back again in nervous little
jerks. At the same time she yawned mightily, wrinkling her nose and
showing her red gums with the black fringes and the long white fangs
that could reach a deer's heart in a single snap. Then she leaped upon a
great rock and sat up straight, with her bushy tail curled close about
her fore paws, a savage, powerful, noble-looking beast, peering down
gravely over the green mountains to the shining sea.

A moment before the hillside had appeared utterly lifeless, so still and
rugged and desolate that one must notice and welcome the stir of a mouse
or ground squirrel in the moss, speaking of life that is glad and free
and vigorous even in the deepest solitudes; yet now, so quietly did the
old wolf appear, so perfectly did her rough gray coat blend with the
rough gray rocks, that the hillside seemed just as tenantless as before.
A stray wind seemed to move the mosses, that was all. Only where the
mountains once slept now they seemed wide-awake. Keen eyes saw every
moving thing, from the bees in the bluebells to the slow fishing-boats
far out at sea; sharp ears that were cocked like a collie's heard every
chirp and trill and rustle, and a nose that understood everything was
holding up every vagrant breeze and searching it for its message. For
the cubs were coming out for the first time to play in the big world,
and no wild mother ever lets that happen without first taking infinite
precautions that her little ones be not molested nor made afraid.

A faint breeze from the west strayed over the mountains and instantly
the old wolf turned her sensitive nose to question it. There on her
right, and just across a deep ravine where a torrent went leaping down
to the sea in hundred-foot jumps, a great stag caribou was standing,
still as a stone, on a lofty pinnacle, looking down over the marvelous
panorama spread wide beneath his feet. Every day Megaleep came there to
look, and the old wolf in her daily hunts often crossed the deep path
which he had worn through the moss from the wide table-lands over the
ridge to this sightly place where he could look down curiously at the
comings and goings of men on the sea. But at this season when small game
was abundant--and indeed at all seasons when not hunger-driven--the wolf
was peaceable and the caribou were not molested. Indeed the big stag
knew well where the old wolf denned. Every east wind brought her message
to his nostrils; but secure in his own strength and in the general peace
which prevails in the summer-time among all large animals of the north,
he came daily to look down on the harbor and wag his ears at the
fishing-boats, which he could never understand.

Strange neighbors these, the grim, savage mother wolf of the mountains,
hiding her young in dens of the rocks, and the wary, magnificent
wanderer of the broad caribou barrens; but they understood each other,
and neither wolf nor caribou had any fear or hostile intent one for the
other. And this is not strange at all, as might be supposed by those who
think animals are governed by fear on one hand and savage cruelty on the
other, but is one of the commonest things to be found by those who
follow faithfully the northern trails.

Wayeeses had chosen her den well, on the edge of the untrodden
solitudes--sixty miles as the crow flies--that stretch northward from
Harbor Weal to Harbor Woe. It was just under the ridge, in a sunny
hollow among the rocks, on the southern slope of the great mountains.
The earliest sunshine found the place and warmed it, bringing forth the
bluebells for a carpet, while in every dark hollow the snow lingered all
summer long, making dazzling white patches on the mountain; and under
the high waterfalls, that looked from the harbor like bits of silver
ribbon stretched over the green woods, the ice clung to the rocks in
fantastic knobs and gargoyles, making cold, deep pools for the trout to
play in. So it was both cool and warm there, and whatever the weather
the gaunt old mother wolf could always find just the right spot to sleep
away the afternoon. Best of all it was perfectly safe; for though from
the door of her den she could look down on the old Indian's cabin, like
a pebble on the shore, so steep were the billowing hills and so
impassable the ravines that no human foot ever trod the place, not even
in autumn when the fishermen left their boats at anchor in Harbor Weal
and camped inland on the paths of the big caribou herds.

Whether or not the father wolf ever knew where his cubs were hidden only
he himself could tell. He was an enormous brute, powerful and cunning
beyond measure, that haunted the lonely thickets and ponds bordering the
great caribou barrens over the ridge, and that kept a silent watch,
within howling distance, over the den which he never saw. Sometimes the
mother wolf met him on her wanderings and they hunted together. Often he
brought the game he had caught, a fox or a young goose; and sometimes
when she had hunted in vain he met her, as if he had understood her need
from a distance, and led her to where he had buried two or three of the
rabbits that swarmed in the thickets. But spite of the attention and the
indifferent watch which he kept, he never ventured near the den, which
he could have found easily enough by following the mother's track. The
old she-wolf would have flown at his throat like a fury had he showed
his head over the top of the ridge.

The reason for this was simple enough to the savage old mother, though
there are some things about it that men do not yet understand. Wolves,
like cats and foxes, and indeed like most wild male animals, have an
atrocious way of killing their own young when they find them
unprotected; so the mother animal searches out a den by herself and
rarely allows the male to come near it. Spite of this beastly habit it
must be said honestly of the old he-wolf that he shows a marvelous
gentleness towards his mate. He runs at the slightest show of teeth from
a mother wolf half his size, and will stand meekly a snap of the jaws or
a cruel gash of the terrible fangs in his flank without defending
himself. Even our hounds seem to have inherited something of this
primitive wolf trait, for there are seasons when, unless urged on by
men, they will not trouble a mother wolf or fox. Many times, in the
early spring, when foxes are mating, and again later when they are heavy
with young and incapable of a hard run, I have caught my hounds trotting
meekly after a mother fox, sniffing her trail indifferently and sitting
down with heads turned aside when she stops for a moment to watch and
yap at them disdainfully. And when you call them they come shamefaced;
though in winter-time, when running the same fox to death, they pay no
more heed to your call than to the crows clamoring over them. But we
must return to Wayeeses, sitting over her den on a great gray rock,
trying every breeze, searching every movement, harking to every chirp
and rustle before bringing her cubs out into the world.

Satisfied at last with her silent investigation she turned her head
towards the den. There was no sound, only one of those silent, unknown
communications that pass between animals. Instantly there was a
scratching, scurrying, whining, and three cubs tumbled out of the dark
hole in the rocks, with fuzzy yellow fur and bright eyes and sharp ears
and noses, like collies, all blinking and wondering and suddenly silent
at the big bright world which they had never seen before, so different
from the dark den under the rocks.

Indeed it was a marvelous world that the little cubs looked upon when
they came out to blink and wonder in the June sunshine. Contrasts
everywhere, that made the world seem too big for one little glance to
comprehend it all. Here the sunlight streamed and danced and quivered on
the warm rocks; there deep purple cloud shadows rested for hours, as if
asleep, or swept over the mountain side in an endless game of
fox-and-geese with the sunbeams. Here the birds trilled, the bees hummed
in the bluebells, the brook roared and sang on its way to the sea; while
over all the harmony of the world brooded a silence too great to be
disturbed. Sunlight and shadow, snow and ice, gloomy ravines and
dazzling mountain tops, mayflowers and singing birds and rustling winds
filled all the earth with color and movement and melody. From under
their very feet great masses of rock, tossed and tumbled as by a giant's
play, stretched downwards to where the green woods began and rolled in
vast billows to the harbor, which shone and sparkled in the sun, yet
seemed no bigger than their mother's paw. Fishing-boats with shining
sails hovered over it, like dragon-flies, going and coming from the
little houses that sheltered together under the opposite mountain, like
a cluster of gray toadstools by a towering pine stump. Most wonderful,
most interesting of all was the little gray hut on the shore, almost
under their feet, where little Noel and the Indian children played with
the tide like fiddler crabs, or pushed bravely out to meet the fishermen
in a bobbing nutshell. For wolf cubs are like collies in this, that they
seem to have a natural interest, perhaps a natural kinship with man, and
next to their own kind nothing arouses their interest like a group of
children playing.

So the little cubs took their first glimpse of the big world, of
mountains and sea and sunshine, and children playing on the shore, and
the world was altogether too wonderful for little heads to comprehend.
Nevertheless one plain impression remained, the same that you see in the
ears and nose and stumbling feet and wagging tail of every puppy-dog you
meet on the streets, that this bright world is a famous place, just made
a-purpose for little ones to play in. Sitting on their tails in a solemn
row the wolf cubs bent their heads and pointed their noses gravely at
the sea. There it was, all silver and blue and boundless, with tiny
white sails dancing over it, winking and flashing like entangled bits of
sunshine; and since the eyes of a cub, like those of a little child,
cannot judge distances, one stretched a paw at the nearest sail, miles
away, to turn it over and make it go the other way. They turned up their
heads sidewise and blinked at the sky, all blue and calm and infinite,
with white clouds sailing over it like swans on a limpid lake; and one
stood up on his hind legs and reached up both paws, like a kitten, to
pull down a cloud to play with. Then the wind stirred a feather near
them, the white feather of a ptarmigan which they had eaten yesterday,
and forgetting the big world and the sail and the cloud, the cubs took
to playing with the feather, chasing and worrying and tumbling over each
other, while the gaunt old mother wolf looked down from her rock and
watched and was satisfied.



_Noel and Mooka_

Down on the shore, that same bright June afternoon, little Noel and his
sister Mooka were going on wonderful sledge journeys, meeting wolves and
polar bears and caribou and all sorts of adventures, more wonderful by
far than any that ever came to imagination astride of a rocking-horse.
They had a rare team of dogs, Caesar and Wolf and Grouch and the
rest,--five or six uneasy crabs which they had caught and harnessed to a
tiny sledge made from a curved root and a shingle tied together with a
bit of sea-kelp. And when the crabs scurried away over the hard sand,
waving their claws wildly, Noel and Mooka would caper alongside,
cracking a little whip and crying "Hi, hi, Caesar! Hiya, Wolf! Hi, hiya,
hiya, yeeee!"--and then shrieking with laughter as the sledge overturned
and the crabs took to fighting and scratching in the tangled harness,
just like the husky dogs in winter. Mooka was trying to untangle them,
dancing about to keep her bare toes and fingers away from the nipping
claws, when she jumped up with a yell, the biggest crab hanging to the
end of her finger.

"Owee! oweeeee! Caesar bit me," she wailed. Then she stopped, with
finger in her mouth, while Caesar scrambled headlong into the tide; for
Noel was standing on the beach pointing at a brown sail far down in the
deep bay, where Southeast Brook came singing from the green wilderness.

"Ohé, Mooka! there's father and Old Tomah come back from salmon
fishing."

"Let's go meet um, little brother," said Mooka, her black eyes dancing;
and in a wink crabs and sledges were forgotten. The old punt was off in
a shake, the tattered sail up, skipper Noel lounging in the stern, like
an old salt, with the steering oar, while the crew, forgetting her
nipped finger, tugged valiantly at the main-sheet.

They were scooting away gloriously, rising and pounding the waves, when
Mooka, who did not have to steer and whose restless glance was roving
over every bay and hillside, jumped up, her eyes round as lynx's.

"Look, Noel, look! There's Megaleep again watching us." And Noel,
following her finger, saw far up on the mountain a stag caribou, small
and fine and clear as a cameo against the blue sky, where they had so
often noticed him with wonder watching them as they came shouting home
with the tide. Instantly Noel threw himself against the steering oar;
the punt came up floundering and shaking in the wind.

"Come on, little sister; we can go up Fox Brook. Tomah showed me trail."
And forgetting the salmon, as they had a moment before forgotten the
crabs and sledges, these two children of the wild, following every
breeze and bird call and blossoming bluebell and shining star alike,
tumbled ashore and went hurrying up the brook, splashing through the
shallows, darting like kingfishers over the points, and jumping like
wild goats from rock to rock. In an hour they were far up the mountain,
lying side by side on a great flat rock, looking across a deep
impassable valley and over two rounded hilltops, where the scrub spruces
looked like pins on a cushion, to the bare, rugged hillside where
Megaleep stood out like a watchman against the blue sky.

"Does he see us, little brother?" whispered Mooka, quivering with
excitement and panting from the rapid climb.

"See us? sartin, little sister; but that only make him want peek um some
more," said the little hunter. And raised carelessly on his elbows he
was telling Mooka how Megaleep the caribou trusted only his nose, and
how he watched and played peekaboo with anything which he could not
smell, and how in a snowstorm--

Noel was off now like a brook, babbling a deal of caribou lore which he
had learned from Old Tomah the hunter, when Mooka, whose restless black
eyes were always wandering, seized his arm.

"Hush, brother, and look, oh, look! there on the big rock!"

Noel's eyes had already caught the Indian trick of seeing only what they
look for, and so of separating an animal instantly from his
surroundings, however well he hides. That is why the whole hillside
seemed suddenly to vanish, spruces and harebells, snow-fields and
drifting white clouds all grouping themselves, like the unnoticed frame
of a picture, around a great gray rock with a huge shaggy she-wolf
keeping watch over it, silent, alert, motionless.

Something stirred in the shadow of the old wolf's watch-tower, tossing
and eddying and growing suddenly quiet, as if the wind were playing
among dead oak leaves. The keen young eyes saw it instantly, dilating
with surprise and excitement. The next instant they had clutched each
other's arms.

"Ooooo!" from Mooka.

"Cubs; keep still!" from Noel.

And shrinking close to the rock under a friendly dwarf spruce they lay
still as two rabbits, watching with round eyes, eager but unafraid, the
antics of three brown wolf cubs that were chasing the flies and tumbling
over some invisible plaything before the door of the den.

Hardly had they made the discovery when the old wolf slipped down from
the rock and stood for an instant over her little ones. Why the play
should stop now, while the breeze was still their comrade and the
sunshine was brighter than ever, or why they should steal away into the
dark den more silently than they had come, none of the cubs could tell.
They felt the order and they obeyed instantly--and that is always the
wonder of watching little wild things at play. The old mother wolf
vanished among the rocks and appeared again higher on the ridge, turning
her head uneasily to try every breeze and rustle and moving shadow. Then
she went questing into the spruce woods, feeling but not understanding
some subtle excitement in the air that was not there before, and only
the two Indian children were left keeping watch over the great wild
hillside.

For over an hour they lay there expectantly, but nothing stirred near
the den; then they too slipped away, silently as the little wild things,
and made their slow way down the brook, hand in hand in the deepening
shadows. Scarcely had they gone when the bushes stirred and the old
she-wolf, that had been ranging every ridge and valley since she
disappeared at the unknown alarm, glided over the spot where a moment
before Mooka and Noel had been watching. Swiftly, silently she followed
their steps; found the old trails coming up and the fresh trails
returning; then, sure at last that no danger threatened her own little
ones, she loped away up the hill and over the topmost ridge to the
caribou barrens and the thickets where young rabbits were already
stirring about in the twilight.

That night, in the cabin under the cliffs, Old Tomah had to rehearse
again all the wolf lore learned in sixty years of hunting: how,
fortunately for the deer, these enormous wolves had never been abundant
and were now very rare, a few having been shot, and more poisoned in the
starving times, and the rest having vanished, mysteriously as wolves do,
for some unknown reason. Bears, which are easily trapped and shot and
whose skins are worth each a month's wages to the fishermen, still hold
their own and even increase on the great island; while the wolves, once
more numerous, are slowly vanishing, though they are never hunted, and
not even Old Tomah himself could set a trap cunningly enough to catch
one. The old hunter told, while Mooka and Noel held their breaths and
drew closer to the light, how once, when he made his camp alone under a
cliff on the lake shore, seven huge wolves, white as the snow, came
racing swift and silent over the ice straight at the fire which he had
barely time to kindle; how he shot two, and the others, seizing the fish
he had just caught through the ice for his own supper, vanished over the
bank; and he could not say even now whether they meant him harm or no.
Again, as he talked and the grim old face lighted up at the memory, they
saw him crouched with his sledge-dogs by a blazing fire all the long
winter night, and around him in the darkness blazing points of light,
the eyes of wolves flashing back the firelight, and gaunt white forms
flitting about like shadows, drawing nearer and nearer with ever-growing
boldness till they seized his largest dog--though the brute lay so near
the fire that his hair singed--and whisked it away with an appalling
outcry. And still again, when Tomah was lost three days in the interior,
they saw him wandering with his pack over endless barrens and through
gloomy spruce woods, and near him all the time a young wolf that
followed his steps quietly, with half-friendly interest, and came no
nearer day or night.

All these things and many more the children heard from Old Tomah, and
among all his hunting experiences and the stories and legends which he
told them there was not one to make them afraid. For the horrible story
of Red Riding Hood is not known among the Indians, who know well how
untrue the tale is to wolf nature, and how foolish it is to frighten
children with false stories of wolves and bears, misrepresenting them as
savage and bloodthirsty brutes, when in truth they are but shy,
peace-loving animals, whose only motive toward man, except when crazed
by wounds or hunger, is one of childish curiosity. All these ferocious
animal stories have their origin in other centuries and in distant
lands, where they may possibly have been true, but more probably are
just as false to animal nature; for they seem to reflect not the shy
animal that men glimpsed in the woods, but rather the boastings of some
hunter, who always magnifies his own praise by increasing the ferocity
of the game he has killed, or else the pure imagination of some ancient
nurse who tried to increase her scant authority by frightening her
children with terrible tales. Here certainly the Indian attitude of
kinship, gained by long centuries of living near to the animals and
watching them closely, comes nearer to the truth of things. That is why
little Mooka and Noel could listen for hours to Old Tomah's animal
stories and then go away to bed and happy dreams, longing for the light
so that they might be off again to watch at the wolf's den.

One thing only disturbed them for a moment. Even these children had wolf
memories and vied with Old Tomah in eagerness of telling. They
remembered one fearful winter, years ago, when most of the families of
the little fishing village on the East Harbor had moved far inland to
sheltered cabins in the deep woods to escape the cold and the fearful
blizzards of the coast. One still moonlit night, when the snow lay deep
and the cold was intense and all the trees were cracking like pistols in
the frost, a mournful howling rose all around their little cabin. Light
footfalls sounded on the crust; there were scratchings at the very door
and hoarse breathings at every crack; while the dogs, with hackles up
straight and stiff on their necks, fled howling under beds and tables.
And when Mooka and Noel went fearfully with their mother to the little
window--for the men were far away on a caribou hunt--there were gaunt
white wolves, five or six of them, flitting restlessly about in the
moonlight, scratching at the cracks and even raising themselves on their
hind legs to look in at the little windows.

Mooka shivered a bit when she remembered the uncanny scene, and felt
again the strong pressure of her mother's arms holding her close; but
Old Tomah brushed away her fears with a smile and a word, as he had
always done when, as little children, they had showed fear at the
thunder or the gale or the cry of a wild beast in the night, till they
had grown to look upon all Nature's phenomena as hiding a smile as
kindly as that of Old Tomah himself, who had a face wrinkled and
terribly grim, to be sure, but who could smile and tell a story so that
every child trusted him. The wolves were hungry, starving hungry, he
said, and wanted only a dog, or one of the pigs. And Mooka remembered
with a bright laugh the two unruly pigs that had been taken inland as a
hostage to famine, and that must be carefully guarded from the teeth of
hungry prowlers, for they would soon be needed to keep the children
themselves from starving. Every night at early sunset, when the trees
began to groan and the keen winds from the mountains came whispering
through the woods, the two pigs were taken into the snug kitchen, where
with the dogs they slept so close to the stove that she could always
smell pork a-frying. Not a husky dog there but would have killed and
eaten one of these little pigs if he could have caught him around the
corner of the house after nightfall, though you would never have
suspected it if you had seen them so close together, keeping each other
warm after the fire went out. And besides the dogs and the wolves there
were lynxes--big, round-headed, savage-looking creatures--that came
prowling out of the deep woods every night, hungry for a taste of the
little pigs; and now and then an enormous polar bear, that had landed
from an iceberg, would shuffle swiftly and fearlessly among the handful
of little cabins, leaving his great footprints in every yard and tearing
to pieces, as if made of straw, the heavy log pens to which some of the
fishermen had foolishly confided their pigs or sheep. He even entered
the woodsheds and rummaged about after a stray fishbone or an old
sealskin boot, making a great rowdydow in the still night; and only the
smell of man, or the report of an old gun fired at him by some brave
woman out of the half-open window, kept him from pushing his enormous
weight against the very doors of the cabins.

Thinking of all these things, Mooka forgot her fears of the white
wolves, remembering with a kind of sympathy how hungry all these shy
prowlers must be to leave their own haunts, whence the rabbits and seals
had vanished, and venture boldly into the yards of men. As for Noel, he
remembered with regret that he was too small at the time to use the long
bow which he now carried on his rabbit and goose hunts; and as he took
it from the wall, thrumming its chord of caribou sinew and fingering the
sharp edge of a long arrow, he was hoping for just such another winter,
longing to try his skill and strength on some of these midnight
prowlers--a lynx, perhaps, not to begin too largely on a polar bear. So
there was no fear at all, but only an eager wonder, when they followed
up the brook next day to watch at the wolf's den. And even when Noel
found a track, a light oval track, larger but more slender than a dog's,
in some moist sand close beside their own footprints and evidently
following them, they remembered only the young wolf that had followed
Tomah and pressed on the more eagerly.

Day after day they returned to their watch-tower on the flat rock, under
the dwarf spruce at the head of the brook, and lying there side by side
they watched the play of the young wolf cubs. Every day they grew more
interested as the spirit of play entered into themselves, understanding
the gladness of the wild rough-and-tumble when one of the cubs lay in
wait for another and leaped upon him from ambush; understanding also
something of the feeling of the gaunt old she-wolf as she looked down
gravely from her gray rock watching her growing youngsters. Once they
brought an old spyglass which they had borrowed from a fisherman, and
through its sea-dimmed lenses they made out that one of the cubs was
larger than the other two, with a droop at the tip of his right ear,
like a pointed leaf that has been creased sharply between the fingers.
Mooka claimed that wolf instantly for her own, as if they were watching
the husky puppies, and by his broken ear said she should know him again
when he grew to be a big wolf, if he should ever follow her, as his
father perhaps had followed Old Tomah; but Noel, thinking of his bow and
his long arrow with the sharp point, thought of the winter night long
ago and hoped that his two wolves would know enough to keep away when
the pack came again, for he did not see any way to recognize and spare
them, especially in the moonlight. So they lay there making plans and
dreaming dreams, gentle or savage, for the little cubs that played with
the feathers and grasshoppers and cloud shadows, all unconscious that
any eyes but their mother's saw or cared for their wild, free playing.

[Illustration: "Watching her growing youngsters"]

Something bothered the old she-wolf in these days of watching. The den
was still secure, for no human foot had crossed the deep ravine or
ventured nearer than the opposite hilltop. Her nose told her that
unmistakably; but still she was uneasy, and whenever the cubs were
playing she felt, without knowing why, that she was being watched. When
she trailed over all the ridges in the twilight, seeking to know if
enemies had been near, she found always the scent of two human beings on
a flat rock under the dwarf spruces; and there were always the two
trails coming up and going down the brook. She followed once close
behind the two children, seeing them plainly all the way, till they came
in sight of the little cabin under the cliff, and from the door her
enemy man came out to meet them. For these two little ones, whose trail
she knew, the old she-wolf, like most mother animals in the presence of
children, felt no fear nor enmity whatever. But they watched her den and
her own little ones, that was sure enough; and why should any one watch
a den except to enter some time and destroy? That is a question which no
mother wolf could ever answer; for the wild animals, unlike dogs and
blue jays and men, mind strictly their own business and pay no attention
to other animals. They hate also to be watched; for the thought of
watching always suggests to their minds that which follows,--the hunt,
the rush, the wild break-away, and the run for life. Had she not herself
watched a hundred times at the rabbit's form, the fox's runway, the deer
path, the wild-goose nest? What could she expect for her own little
ones, therefore, when the man cubs, beings of larger reach and unknown
power, came daily to watch at her den?

All this unanswered puzzle must have passed through the old wolf's head
as she trotted up the brook away from the Indian cabin in the twilight.
When in doubt trust your fears,--that is wolf wisdom in a nutshell; and
that marks the difference between a wolf and a caribou, for instance,
which in doubt trusts his nose or his curiosity. So the old wolf took
counsel of her fears for her little ones, and that night carried them
one by one in her mouth, as a cat carries her kittens, miles away over
rocks and ravines and spruce thickets, to another den where no human eye
ever looked upon their play.

"Shall we see them again, little brother?" said Mooka wistfully, when
they had climbed to their watch-tower for the third time and seen
nothing. And Noel made confident answer:

"Oh, yes, we see um again, lil sister. Wayeeses got um wandering foot;
go 'way off long ways; bimeby come back on same trail. He jus' like
Injun, like um old camp best. Oh, yes, sartin we see um again." But
Noel's eyes looked far away as he spoke, and in his heart he was
thinking of his bow and his long arrow with the sharp point, and of a
moonlit night with white shapes flitting noiselessly over the snow and
scratching at the door of the little cabin.



_The Way of The Wolf_

A new experience had come to the little wolf cubs in a single
night,--the experience of fear. For weeks they had lain hid in the dark
den, or played fearlessly in the bright sunshine, guarded and kept at
every moment, day or night, by the gaunt old mother wolf that was their
only law, their only companion. At times they lay for hours hungry and
restless, longing to go out into the bright world, yet obeying a
stronger will than their own, even at a distance. For, once a wild
mother in her own dumb way has bidden her little ones lie still, they
rarely stir from the spot, refusing even to be dragged away from the
nest or den, knowing well the punishment in store if she return and find
them absent. Moreover, it is useless to dissimulate, to go out and play
and then to be sleeping innocently with the cubs when the old wolf's
shadow darkens the entrance. No concealment is possible from wolf's
nose; before she enters the den the mother knows perfectly all that has
happened since she went away. So the days glided by peacefully between
sleep and play, the cubs trusting absolutely in the strength and
tenderness that watched over them, the mother building the cubs' future
on the foundation of the two instincts which are strong in every wild
creature born into a world of danger,--the instinct to lie still and let
nature's coloring hide all defenseless little ones, and the instinct to
obey instantly a stronger will than their own.

There was no fear as yet, only instinctive wariness; for fear comes
largely from others' example, from alarms and excitement and cries of
danger, which only the grown animals understand. The old wolf had been
undisturbed; no dog or hunter had chased her; no trap or pitfall had
entangled her swift feet. Moreover, she had chosen her den well, where
no man had ever stood, and where only the eyes of two children had seen
her at a distance. So the little ones grew and played in the sunshine,
and had yet to learn what fear meant.

One day at dusk the mother entered swiftly and, without giving them food
as she had always done, seized a cub and disappeared. For the little
one, which had never before ventured beyond sight of the den, it was a
long journey indeed that followed,--miles and miles beside roaring
brooks and mist-filled ravines, through gloomy woods where no light
entered, and over bare ridges where the big stars sparkled just over his
ears as he hung, limp as a rabbit skin, from his mother's great jaws. An
owl hooted dismally, _whoo-hooo!_ and though he knew the sound well in
his peaceful nights, it brought now a certain shiver. The wind went
sniffing suspiciously among the spruce branches; a startled bird chirped
and whirred away out of their path; the brook roared among the rocks; a
big salmon jumped and tumbled back with resounding splash, and jumped
again as if the otter were after him. There was a sudden sharp cry, the
first and last voice of a hare when the weasel rises up in front of him;
then silence, and the fitful rustle of his mother's pads moving
steadily, swiftly over dry leaves. And all these sounds of the
wilderness night spoke to the little cub of some new thing, of swift
feet that follow and of something unknown and terrible that waits for
all unwary wild things. So fear was born.

The long journey ended at last before a dark hole in the hillside; and
the smell of his mother, the only familiar thing in his first strange
pilgrimage, greeted the cub from the rocks on either side as he passed
in out of the starlight. He was dropped without a sound in a larger den,
on some fresh-gathered leaves and dead grass, and lay there all alone,
very still, with the new feeling trembling all over him. A long hour
passed; a second cub was laid beside him, and the mother vanished as
before; another hour, and the wolf cubs were all together again with the
mother feeding them. Nor did any of them know where they were, nor why
they had come, nor the long, long way that led back to where the trail
began.

Next day when they were called out to play they saw a different and more
gloomy landscape, a chaos of granite rocks, a forest of evergreen, the
white plunge and rolling mist of a mountain torrent; but no silver sea
with fishing-boats drifting over it, like clouds in the sea over their
heads, and no gray hut with children running about like ants on the
distant shore. And as they played they began for the first time to
imitate the old mother keeping guard over them, sitting up often to
watch and listen and sift the winds, trying to understand what fear was,
and why they had been taken away from the sunny hillside where the world
was so much bigger and brighter than here. But home is where mother
is,--that, fortunately, is also true of the little Wood Folk, who
understand it in their own savage way for a season,--and in their wonder
at their new surroundings the memory of the old home gradually faded
away. They never knew with what endless care the new den had been
chosen; how the mother, in the days when she knew she was watched, had
searched it out and watched over it and put her nose to every ridge and
ravine and brook-side, day after day, till she was sure that no foot
save that of the wild things had touched the soil within miles of the
place. They felt only a greater wildness, a deeper solitude; and they
never forgot, though they were unmolested, the strange feeling that was
born in them on that first terrifying night journey in their mother's
jaws.

       *       *       *       *       *

Soon the food that was brought home at dawn--the rabbit or grouse, or
the bunch of rats hanging by their tails, with which the mother
supplemented their midday drink of milk--became altogether too scant to
satisfy their clamorous appetites; and in the bright afternoons and the
long summer twilights the mother led them forth on short journeys to
hunt for themselves. No big caribou or cunning fox cub, as one might
suppose, but "rats and mice and such small deer" were the limit of the
mother's ambition for her little ones. They began on stupid grubs that
one could find asleep under stones and roots, and then on beetles that
scrambled away briskly at the first alarm, and then, when the sunshine
was brightest, on grasshoppers,--lively, wary fellows that zipped and
buzzed away just when you were sure you had them, and that generally
landed from an astounding jump facing in a different direction, like a
flea, so as to be ready for your next move.

It was astonishing how quickly the cubs learned that game is not to be
picked up tamely, like huckleberries, and changed their style of
hunting,--creeping, instead of trotting openly so that even a porcupine
must notice them, hiding behind rocks and bushes and tufts of grass till
the precise moment came, and then leaping with the swoop of a goshawk on
a ptarmigan. A wolf that cannot catch a grasshopper has no business
hunting rabbits--this seemed to be the unconscious motive that led the
old mother, every sunny afternoon, to ignore the thickets where game was
hiding plentifully and take her cubs to the dry, sunny plains on the
edge of the caribou barrens. There for hours at a time they hunted
elusive grasshoppers, rushing helter-skelter over the dry moss, leaping
up to strike at the flying game with their paws like a kitten, or
snapping wildly to catch it in their mouths and coming down with a
back-breaking wriggle to keep themselves from tumbling over on their
heads. Then on again, with a droll expression and noses sharpened like
exclamation points, to find another grasshopper.

Small business indeed and often ludicrous, this playing at grasshopper
hunting. So it seems to us; so also, perhaps, to the wise old mother,
which knew all the ways of game, from crickets to caribou and from
ground sparrows to wild geese. But play is the first great
educator,--that is as true of animals as of men,--and to the cubs their
rough helter-skelter after hoppers was as exciting as a stag hunt to the
pack, as full of surprises as the wild chase through the soft snow after
a litter of lynx kittens. And though they knew it not, they were
learning things every hour of the sunny, playful afternoons that they
would remember and find useful all the days of their life.

So the funny little hunt went on, the mother watching gravely under a
bush where she was inconspicuous, and the cubs, full of zest and
inexperience, missing the flying tidbits more often than they swallowed
them, until they learned at last to locate all game accurately before
chasing or alarming it; and that is the rule, learned from hunting
grasshoppers, which a wolf follows ever afterward. Even after they knew
just where the grasshopper was hiding, watching them after a jump, and
leaped upon him swiftly from a distance, he often got away when they
lifted their paws to eat him. For the grasshopper was not dead under the
light paw, as they supposed, but only pressed into the moss waiting for
his chance to jump. Then the cubs learned another lesson: to hold their
game down with both paws pressed closely together, inserting their noses
like a wedge and keeping every crack of escape shut tight until they had
the slippery morsel safe under their back teeth. And even then it was
deliciously funny to watch their expression as they chewed, opening
their jaws wide as if swallowing a rabbit, snapping them shut again as
the grasshopper wiggled; and always with a doubt in their close-set
eyes, a questioning twist of head and ears, as if they were not quite
sure whether or not they were really eating him.

Another suggestive thing came out in these hunts, which you must notice
whether you watch wolves or coyotes or a den of fox cubs. Though no
sound came from the watchful old mother, the cubs seemed at every
instant under absolute control. One would rush away pell-mell after a
hopper, miss him and tumble away again, till he was some distance from
the busy group on the edge of the big lonely barren. In the midst of his
chase the mother would raise her head and watch the cub intently. No
sound was uttered that human ears could hear; but the chase ended right
there, on the instant, and the cub came trotting back like a well-broken
setter at the whistle. It was marvelous beyond comprehension, this
absolute authority and this silent command that brought a wolf back
instantly from the wildest chase, and that kept the cubs all together
under the watchful eyes that followed every movement. No wonder wolves
are intelligent in avoiding every trap and in hunting together to outwit
some fleet-footed quarry with unbelievable cunning. Here on the edge of
the vast, untrodden barren, far from human eyes, in an ordinary family
of wolf cubs playing wild and free, eager, headstrong, hungry, yet
always under control and instantly subject to a wiser head and a
stronger will than their own, was the explanation of it all. Later, in
the bitter, hungry winter, when a big caribou was afoot and the pack hot
on his trail, the cubs would remember the lesson, and every free wolf
would curb his hunger, obeying the silent signal to ease the game and
follow slowly while the leader raced unseen through the woods to head
the game and lie in ambush by the distant runway.

From grasshoppers the cubs took to hunting the wood-mice that nested in
the dry moss and swarmed on the edges of every thicket. This was keener
hunting; for the wood-mouse moves like a ray of light, and always makes
at least one false start to mislead any that may be watching for him.
The cubs soon learned that when Tookhees appeared and dodged back again,
as if frightened, it was not because he had seen them, but just because
he always appears that way. So they crouched and hid, like a cat, and
when a gray streak shot over the gray moss and vanished in a tuft of
grass they leaped for the spot--and always found it vacant. For Tookhees
always doubles on his trail, or burrows for a distance under the moss,
and never hides where he disappears. It took the cubs a long while to
find that out; and then they would creep and watch and listen till they
could locate the game by a stir under the moss, and pounce upon it and
nose it out from between their paws, just as they had done with the
grasshoppers. And when they crunched it at last like a ripe plum under
their teeth it was a delicious tidbit, worth all the trouble they had
taken to get it. For your wolf, unlike the ferocious, grandmother-eating
creature of the nursery, is at heart a peaceable fellow, most at home
and most happy when mouse hunting.

There was another kind of this mouse chasing which furnished better
sport and more juicy mouthfuls to the young cubs. Here and there on the
Newfoundland mountains the snow lingers all summer long. In every
northern hollow of the hills you see, from a distance, white patches no
bigger than your hat sparkling in the sun; but when you climb there,
after bear or caribou, you find great snow-fields, acres in extent and
from ten to a hundred feet deep, packed close and hard with the pressure
of a thousand winters. Often when it rains in the valleys, and raises
the salmon rivers to meet your expectations, a thin covering of new snow
covers these white fields; and then, if you go there, you will find the
new page written all over with the feet of birds and beasts. The mice
especially love these snow-fields for some unknown reason. All along the
edges you find the delicate, lacelike tracery which shows where little
feet have gone on busy errands or played together in the moonlight; and
if you watch there awhile you will surely see Tookhees come out of the
moss and scamper across a bit of snow and dive back to cover under the
moss again, as if he enjoyed the feeling of the cold snow under his feet
in the summer sunshine. He has tunnels there, too, going down to solid
ice, where he hides things to keep which would spoil if left in the heat
of his den under the mossy stone, and when food is scarce he draws upon
these cold-storage rooms; but most of his summer snow journeys, if one
may judge from watching him and from following his tracks, are taken for
play or comfort, just as the bull caribou comes up to lie in the snow,
with the strong sea wind in his face, to escape the flies which swarm in
the thickets below. Owl and hawk, fox and weasel and wildcat,--all the
prowlers of the day and night have long since discovered these good
hunting-grounds and leave the prints of wing and claw over the records
of the wood-mice; but still Tookhees returns, led by his love of the
snow-fields, and thrives and multiplies spite of all his enemies.

One moonlit night the old wolf took her cubs to the edge of one of these
snow-fields, where the eager eyes soon noticed dark streaks shooting
hither and yon over the bare white surface. At first they chased them
wildly; but one might as well try to catch a moonbeam, which has not so
many places to hide as a wood-mouse. Then, remembering the grasshoppers,
they crouched and crept and so caught a few. Meanwhile old mother wolf
lay still in hiding, contenting herself with snapping up the game that
came to her, instead of chasing it wildly all over the snow-field. The
example was not lost; for imitation is strong among intelligent animals,
and most of what they learn is due simply to following the mother. Soon
the cubs were still, one lying here under shadow of a bush, another
there by a gray rock that lifted its head out of the snow. As a dark
streak moved nervously by one of these hiding-places there would be a
rush, a snap, the _pchap pchap_ of jaws crunching a delicious morsel;
then all quiet again, with only gray, innocent-looking shadows resting
softly on the snow. So they moved gradually along the edges of the great
white field; and next morning the tracks were all there, plain as
daylight, telling their silent story of good hunting.

To vary their diet the mother now took them down to the shore to hunt
among the rocks for ducks' eggs. They were there by the hundreds,
scattered along the lonely bays just above high-water line, where the
eiders had their nests.

At first old mother wolf showed them where to look, and when she had
found a clutch of eggs would divide them fairly, keeping the hungry cubs
in order at a little distance and bringing each one his share, which he
ate without interference. Then when they understood the thing they
scattered nimbly to hunt for themselves, and the real fun began.

Now a cub, poking his nose industriously into every cranny and under
every thick bush, would find a great roll of down plucked from the
mother bird's breast, and scraping the top off carefully with his paw,
would find five or six large pale-green eggs, which he gobbled down,
shells, ducklings and all, before another cub should smell the good find
and caper up to share it. Again he would be startled out of his wits as
a large brown bird whirred and fluttered away from under his very nose.
Sitting on his tail he would watch her with comical regret and longing
till she tumbled into the tide and drifted swiftly away out of danger;
then, remembering what he came for, he would turn and follow her trail
back to the nest out of which she had stolen at his approach, and find
the eggs all warm for his breakfast. And when he had eaten all he wanted
he would take an egg in his mouth and run about uneasily here and there,
like a dog with a bone when he thinks he is watched, till he had made a
sad crisscross of his trail and found a spot where none could see him.
There he would dig a hole and bury his egg and go back for more; and on
his way would meet another cub running about with an egg in his mouth,
looking for a spot where no one would notice him.

From mice and eggs the young cubs turned to rabbits and hares; and these
were their staple food ever afterward when other game was scarce and the
wood-mice were hidden deep under the winter snows, safe at last for a
little season from all their enemies. Here for the first time the father
wolf appeared, coming in quietly one late afternoon, as if he knew, as
he probably did, just when he was needed. Beyond a glance he paid no
attention whatever to the cubs, only taking his place opposite the
mother as the wolves started abreast in a long line to beat the thicket.

By night the cubs had already caught several rabbits, snapping them up
as they played heedlessly in the moonlight, just as they had done with
the wood-mice. By day, however, the hunting was entirely different. Then
the hares and rabbits are resting in their hidden forms under the ferns,
or in a hollow between the roots of a brown stump. Like game birds,
whether on the nest or sitting quiet in hiding, the rabbits give out far
less scent at such times than when they are active; and the cubs,
stealing through the dense cover like shadows in imitation of the old
wolves, and always hunting upwind, would use their keen noses to locate
Moktaques before alarming him. If a cub succeeded, and snapped up a
rabbit before the surprised creature had time to gather headway, he
dropped behind with his catch, while the rest went slowly, carefully, on
through the cover. If he failed, as was generally the case at first, a
curious bit of wolf intelligence and wolf training came out at once.

As the wolves advanced the father and mother would steal gradually ahead
at either end of the line, rarely hunting themselves, but drawing the
nearest cub's attention to any game they had discovered, and then moving
silently to one side and a little ahead to watch the result. When the
cub rushed and missed, and the startled rabbit went flying away,
whirling to left or right as rabbits always do, there would be a
lightning change at the end of the line. A terrific rush, a snap of the
long jaws like a steel trap,--then the old wolf would toss back the
rabbit with a broken back, for the cub to finish him. Not till the cubs
first, and then the mother, had satisfied their hunger would the old
he-wolf hunt for himself. Then he would disappear, and they would not
see him for days at a time, until food was scarce and they needed him
once more.

One day, when the cubs were hungry and food scarce because of their
persistent hunting near the den, the mother brought them to the edge of
a dense thicket where rabbits were plentiful enough, but where the cover
was so thick that they could not follow the frightened game for an
instant. The old he-wolf had appeared at a distance and then vanished;
and the cubs, trotting along behind the mother, knew nothing of what was
coming or what was expected of them. They lay in hiding on the lee side
of the thicket, each one crouching under a bush or root, with the mother
off at one side perfectly hidden as usual.

Presently a rabbit appeared, hopping along in a crazy way, and ran plump
into the jaws of a wolf cub, which leaped up as if out of the ground,
and pulled down his game from the very top of the high jump which
Moktaques always gives when he is suddenly startled. Another and another
rabbit appeared mysteriously, and doubled back into the cover before
they could be caught. The cubs were filled with wonder. Such hunting was
never seen before; for rabbits stirred abroad by day, and ran right into
the hungry mouths instead of running away. Then, slinking along like a
shadow and stopping to look back and sniff the wind, appeared a big red
fox that had been sleeping away the afternoon on top of a stump in the
center of the thicket.

The old mother's eyes began to blaze as Eleemos drew near. There was a
rush, swift and sudden as the swoop of an eagle; a sharp call to follow
as the mother's long jaws closed over the small of the back, just as the
fox turned to leap away. Then she flung the paralyzed animal back like a
flash; the young wolves tumbled in upon him; and before he knew what had
happened Eleemos the Sly One was stretched out straight, with one cub at
his tail and another at his throat, tugging and worrying and grumbling
deep in their chests as the lust of their first fighting swept over
them. Then in vague, vanishing glimpses the old he-wolf appeared,
quartering swiftly, silently, back and forth through the thicket,
driving every living thing down-wind to where the cubs and the mother
were waiting to receive it.

[Illustration: "As the mother's long jaws closed over the small of the
back"]

That one lesson was enough for the cubs, though years would pass before
they could learn all the fine points of this beating the bush: to know
almost at a glance where the game, whether grouse or hare or fox or
lucivee, was hiding in the cover, and then for one wolf to drive it,
slowly or swiftly as the case might require, while the other hid beside
the most likely path of escape. A family of grouse must be coaxed along
and never see what is driving them, else they will flit into a tree and
be lost; while a cat must be startled out of her wits by a swift rush,
and sent flying away before she can make up her stupid mind what the row
is all about. A fox, almost as cunning as Wayeeses himself, must be made
to think that some dog enemy is slowly puzzling out his cold trail;
while a musquash searching for bake-apples, or a beaver going inland to
cut wood for his winter supplies of bark, must not be driven, but be
followed up swiftly by the path or canal by which he has ventured away
from the friendly water.

All these and many more things must be learned slowly at the expense of
many failures, especially when the cubs took to hunting alone and the
old wolves were not there to show them how; but they never forgot the
principle taught in that first rabbit drive,--that two hunters are
better than one to outwit any game when they hunt intelligently
together. That is why you so often find wolves going in pairs; and when
you study them or follow their tracks you discover that they play
continually into each other's hands. They seem to share the spoil as
intelligently as they catch it, the wolf that lies beside the runway and
pulls down the game giving up a portion gladly to the companion that
beats the bush, and rarely indeed is there any trace of quarreling
between them.

Like the eagles--which have long since learned the advantage of hunting
in pairs and of scouting for game in single file--the wolves, when
hunting deer on the open barrens where it is difficult to conceal their
advance, always travel in files, one following close behind the other;
so that, seen from in front where the game is watching, two or three
wolves will appear like a lone animal trotting across the plain. That
alarms the game far less at first; and not until the deer starts away
does the second wolf appear, shooting out from behind the leader. The
sight of another wolf appearing suddenly on his flank throws a young
deer into a panic, in which he is apt to lose his head and be caught by
the cunning hunters.

Curiously enough, the plains Indians, who travel in the same way when
hunting or scouting for enemies, first learned the trick--so an old
chief told me, and it is one of the traditions of his people--from
watching the timber wolves in their stealthy advance over the open
places.

The wolves were stealing through the woods all together, one late summer
afternoon, having beaten a cover without taking anything, when the
puzzled cubs suddenly found themselves alone. A moment before they had
been trotting along with the old wolves, nosing every cranny and knot
hole for mice and grubs, and stopping often for a roll and frolic, as
young cubs do in the gladness of life; now they pressed close together,
looking, listening, while a subtle excitement filled all the woods. For
the old wolves had disappeared, shooting ahead in great, silent bounds,
while the cubs waited with ears cocked and noses quivering, as if a
silent command had been understood.

The silence was intense; not a sound, not a stir in the quiet woods,
which seemed to be listening with the cubs and to be filled with the
same thrilling expectation. Suddenly the silence was broken by heavy
plunges far ahead, _crash! bump! bump!_ and there broke forth such an
uproar of yaps and howls as the cubs had never heard before. Instantly
they broke away on the trail, joining their shrill yelpings to the
clamor, so different from the ordinary stealthy wolf hunt, and filled
with a nameless excitement which they did not at all understand till the
reek of caribou poured into their hungry nostrils; whereupon they yelped
louder than ever. But they did not begin to understand the matter till
they caught glimpses of gray backs bounding hither and yon in the
underbrush, while the two great wolves raced easily on either side,
yapping sharply to increase the excitement, and guiding the startled,
foolish deer as surely, as intelligently, as a pair of collies herd a
flock of frightened sheep.

When the cubs broke out of the dense cover at last they found the two
old wolves sitting quietly on their tails before a rugged wall of rocks
that stretched away on either hand at the base of a great bare hill. In
front of them was a young cow caribou, threatening savagely with horns
and hoofs, while behind her cowered two half-grown fawns crowded into a
crevice of the rocks. Anger, rather than fear, blazed out in the
mother's mild eyes. Now she turned swiftly to press her excited young
ones back against the sheltering wall; now she whirled with a savage
grunt and charged headlong at the wolves, which merely leaped aside and
sat down silently again to watch the game, till the cubs raced out and
hovered uneasily about with a thousand questions in every eye and ear
and twitching nostril.

The reason for the hunt was now plain enough. Up to this time the
caribou had been let severely alone, though they were very numerous,
scattered through the dense coverts in every valley and on every
hillside. For Wayeeses is no wanton killer, as he is so often
represented to be, but sticks to small game whenever he can find it, and
leaves the deer unmolested. As for his motive in the matter, who shall
say, since no one understands the half of what a wolf does every day?
Perhaps it is a mere matter of taste, a preference for the smaller and
more juicy tidbits; more likely it is a combination of instinct and
judgment, with a possible outlook for the future unusual with beasts of
prey. The moment the young wolves take to harrying the deer--as they
invariably do if the mother wolf be not with them--the caribou leave the
country. The herds become, moreover, so wild and suspicious after a very
little wolf hunting that they are exceedingly difficult of approach; and
there is no living thing on earth, not even a white wolf or a trained
greyhound, that can tire or overtake a startled caribou. The swinging
rack of these big white wanderers looks easy enough when you see it; but
when the fleet staghounds are slipped, as has been more than once tested
in Newfoundland, try as hard as they will they cannot keep within sight
of the deer for a single quarter-mile, and no limit has ever yet been
found, either by dog or wolf, to Megaleep's tirelessness. So the old
wolves, relying possibly upon past experience, keep the cubs and hold
themselves strictly to small game as long as it can possibly be found.
Then when the bitter days of late winter come, with their scarcity of
small game and their unbearable hunger, the wolves turn to the caribou
as a last resort, killing a few here by stealth, rather than speed, and
then, when the game grows wild, going far off to another range where the
deer have not been disturbed and so can be approached more easily.

On this afternoon, however, the old mother wolf had run plump upon the
caribou and her fawns in the midst of a thicket, and had leaped forward
promptly to round them up for her hungry cubs. It would have been the
easiest matter in the world for an old wolf to hamstring one of the slow
fawns, or the mother caribou herself as she hovered in the rear to
defend her young; but there were other thoughts in the shaggy gray head
that had seen so much hunting. So the mother wolf drove the deer slowly,
puzzling them more and more, as a collie distracts the herd by his
yapping, out into the open where her cubs might join in the hunting.

The wolves now drew back, all save the mother, which advanced
hesitatingly to where the caribou stood with lowered head, watching
every move. Suddenly the cow charged, so swiftly, furiously, that the
old wolf seemed almost caught, and tumbled away with the broad hoofs
striking savagely at her flanks. Farther and farther the caribou drove
her enemy, roused now to frenzy at the wolf's nearness and apparent
cowardice. Then she whirled in a panic and rushed back to her little
ones, only to find that all the other wolves, as if frightened by her
furious charge, had drawn farther back from the cranny in the rocks.

Again the old she-wolf approached cautiously, and again the caribou
plunged at her and followed her lame retreat with headlong fury. An
electric shock seemed suddenly to touch the huge he-wolf. Like a flash
he leaped in on the fawns. One quick snap of the long jaws with the
terrible fangs; then, as if the whole thing were a bit of play, he loped
away easily with the cubs, circling to join the mother wolf, which
strangely enough did not return to the attack as the caribou charged
back, driving the cubs and the old he-wolf away like a flock of sheep.
The coast was now clear, not an enemy in the way; and the mother
caribou, with a triumphant bleat to her fawns to follow, plunged back
into the woods whence she had come.

One fawn only followed her. The other took a step or two, sank to his
knees, and rolled over on his side. When the wolves drew near quietly,
without a trace of the ferocity or the howling clamor with which such
scenes are usually pictured, the game was quite dead, one quick snap of
the old wolf's teeth just behind the fore legs having pierced the heart
more surely than a hunter's bullet. And the mother caribou, plunging
wildly away through the brush with the startled fawn jumping at her
heels, could not know that her mad flight was needless; that the
terrible enemy which had spared her and let her go free had no need nor
desire to follow.

       *       *       *       *       *

The fat autumn had now come with its abundant fare, and the caribou were
not again molested. Flocks of grouse and ptarmigan came out of the thick
coverts, in which they had been hiding all summer, and began to pluck
the berries of the open plains, where they could easily be waylaid and
caught by the growing wolf cubs. Plover came in hordes, sweeping over
the Straits from the Labrador; and when the wolves surrounded a flock of
the queer birds and hitched nearer and nearer, sinking their gray bodies
in the yielding gray moss till they looked like weather-worn logs, the
hunting was full of tense excitement, though the juicy mouthfuls were
few and far between. Fox cubs roamed abroad away from their mothers,
self-willed and reveling in the abundance; and it was now easy for two
of the young wolves to drive a fox out of his daytime cover and catch
him as he stole away.

After the plover came the ducks in myriads, filling the ponds and
flashets of the vast barrens with tumultuous quacking; and the young
wolves learned, like the foxes, to decoy the silly birds by rousing
their curiosity. They would hide in the grass, while one played and
rolled about on the open shore, till the ducks saw him and began to
stretch their necks and gabble their amazement at the strange thing,
which they had never seen before. Shy and wild as he naturally is, a
duck, like a caribou or a turkey, must take a peek at every new thing.
Now silent, now gabbling all together, the flock would veer and scatter
and draw together again, and finally swing in toward the shore, every
neck drawn straight as a string the better to see what was going on.
Nearer and nearer they would come, till a swift rush out of the grass
sent them off headlong, splashing and quacking with crazy clamor. But
one or two always stayed behind with the wolves to pay the price of
curiosity.

Then there were the young geese, which gathered in immense flocks in the
shallow bays, preparing and drilling for the autumn flight. Late in the
afternoon the old mother wolf with her cubs would steal down through the
woods, hiding and watching the flocks, and following them stealthily as
they moved along the shore. At night the great flock would approach a
sandbar, well out of the way of rocks and brush and everything that
might hide an enemy, and go to sleep in close little family groups on
the open shore. As the night darkened four shadows would lengthen out
from the nearest bank of shadows, creeping onward to the sand-bar with
the slow patience of the hours. A rush, a startled _honk!_ a terrific
clamor of wings and throats and smitten water. Then the four shadows
would rise up from the sand and trot back to the woods, each with a
burden on its shoulders and a sparkle in the close-set eyes over the
pointed jaws, which were closed on the neck of a goose, holding it tight
lest any outcry escape to tell the startled flock what had happened.

Besides this abundant game there were other good things to eat, and the
cubs rarely dined of the same dish twice in succession. Salmon and big
sea-trout swarmed now in every shallow of the clear brooks, and, after
spawning, these fish were much weakened and could easily be caught by a
little cunning. Every day and night the tide ebbed and flowed, and every
tide left its contribution in windrows of dead herring and caplin, with
scattered crabs and mussels for a relish, like plums in a pudding. A
wolf had only to trot for a mile or two along the tide line of a lonely
beach, picking up the good things which the sea had brought him, and
then go back to sleep or play satisfied. And if Wayeeses wanted game to
try his mettle and cunning, there were the big fat seals barking on the
black rocks, and he had only to cut between them and the sea and throw
himself upon the largest seal as the herd floundered ponderously back to
safety. A wolf rarely grips and holds an enemy; he snaps and lets go,
and snaps again at every swift chance; but here he must either hold fast
or lose his big game; and what between holding and letting go, as the
seals whirled with bared teeth and snapped viciously in turn, as they
scrambled away to the sea, the wolves had a lively time of it. Often
indeed, spite of three or four wolves, a big seal would tumble into the
tide, where the sharks followed his bloody trail and soon finished him.

Now for the first time the wolves, led by the rich abundance, began to
kill more than they needed for food and to hide it away, like the
squirrels, in anticipation of the coming winter. Like the blue and the
Arctic foxes, a strange instinct to store things seems to stir dimly at
times within them. Occasionally, instead of eating and sleeping after a
kill, the cubs, led by the mother wolf, would hunt half of the day and
night and carry all they caught to the snow-fields. There each one would
search out a cranny in the rocks and hide his game, covering it over
deeply with snow to kill the scent of it from the prowling foxes. Then
for days at a time they would forget the coming winter, and play as
heedlessly as if the woods would always be as full of game as now; and
again the mood would be upon them strongly, and they would kill all they
could find and hide it in another place. But the instinct--if indeed it
were instinct, and not the natural result of the mother's own
experience--was weak at best; and the first time the cubs were hungry or
lazy they would trail off to the hidden store. Long before the spring
with its bitter need was upon them they had eaten everything, and had
returned to the empty storehouse at least a dozen times, as a dog goes
again and again to the place where he once hid a bone, and nosed it all
over regretfully to be quite sure that they had overlooked nothing.

More interesting to the wolves in these glad days than the game or the
storehouse, or the piles of caplin which they cached under the sand on
the shore, were the wandering herds of caribou,--splendid old stags with
massive antlers, and long-legged, inquisitive fawns trotting after the
sleek cows, whose heads carried small pointed horns, more deadly by far
than the stags' cumbersome antlers. Wherever the wolves went they
crossed the trails of these wanderers swarming out of the thickets,
sometimes by twos and threes, and again in straggling, endless lines
converging upon the vast open barrens where the caribou gathered to
select their mates for another year. Where they all came from was a
mystery that filled the cubs' heads with constant wonder. During the
summer you see little of them,--here a cow with her fawn hiding deep in
the cover, there a big stag standing out like a watchman on the mountain
top; but when the early autumn comes they are everywhere, crossing
rivers and lakes at regular points, and following deep paths which their
ancestors have followed for countless generations.

The cows and fawns seemed gentle and harmless enough, though their very
numbers filled the young wolves with a certain awe. After their first
lesson it would have been easy enough for the cubs to have killed all
they wanted and to grow fat and lazy as the bears, which were now
stuffing themselves before going off to sleep for the winter; but the
old mother wolf held them firmly in check, for with plenty of small game
everywhere, all wolves are minded to go quietly about their own business
and let the caribou follow their own ways. When October came it brought
the big stags into the open,--splendid, imposing beasts, with swollen
necks and fierce red eyes and long white manes tossing in the wind. Then
the wolves had to stand aside; for the stags roamed over all the land,
pawing the moss in fury, bellowing their hoarse challenge, and charging
like a whirlwind upon every living thing that crossed their paths.

When the mother wolf, with her cubs at heel, saw one of these big furies
at a distance she would circle prudently to avoid him. Again, as the
cubs hunted rabbits, they would hear a crash of brush and a furious
challenge as some quarrelsome stag winded them; and the mother with her
cubs gathered close about her would watch alertly for his headlong rush.
As he charged out the wolves would scatter and leap nimbly aside, then
sit down on their tails in a solemn circle and watch as if studying the
strange beast. Again and again he would rush upon them, only to find
that he was fighting the wind. Mad as a hornet, he would single out a
cub and follow him headlong through brush and brake till some subtle
warning thrilled through his madness, telling him to heed his flank;
then as he whirled he would find the savage old mother close at his
heels, her white fangs bared and a dangerous flash in her eyes as she
saw the hamstring so near, so easy to reach. One spring and a snap, and
the ramping, masterful stag would have been helpless as a rabbit, his
tendons cut cleanly at the hock; another snap and he must come down,
spite of his great power, and be food for the growing cubs that sat on
their tails watching him, unterrified now by his fierce challenge. But
Megaleep's time had not yet come; besides, he was too tough. So the
wolves studied him awhile, amused perhaps at the rough play; then, as if
at a silent command, they vanished like shadows into the nearest cover,
leaving the big stag in his rage to think himself master of all the
world.

Sometimes as the old he-wolf ranged alone, a silent, powerful,
noble-looking brute, he would meet the caribou, and there would be a
fascinating bit of animal play. He rarely turned aside, knowing his own
power, and the cows and fawns after one look would bound aside and rack
away at a marvelous pace over the barrens. In a moment or two, finding
that they were not molested, they would turn and watch the wolf
curiously till he disappeared, trying perhaps to puzzle it out why the
ferocious enemy of the deep snows and the bitter cold should now be
harmless as the passing birds.

Again a young bull with his keen, polished spike-horns, more active and
dangerous but less confident than the over-antlered stags, would stand
in the old wolf's path, disputing with lowered front the right of way.
Here the right of way meant a good deal, for in many places on the high
plains the scrub spruces grow so thickly that a man can easily walk over
the tops of them on his snow-shoes, and the only possible passage in
summer-time is by means of the numerous paths worn through the scrub by
the passing of animals for untold ages. So one or the other of the two
splendid brutes that now approached each other in the narrow way must
turn aside or be beaten down underfoot.

Quietly, steadily, the old wolf would come on till almost within
springing distance, when he would stop and lift his great head,
wrinkling his chops to show the long white fangs, and rumbling a warning
deep in his massive chest. Then the caribou would lose his nerve; he
would stamp and fidget and bluster, and at last begin to circle
nervously, crashing his way into the scrub as if for a chance to take
his enemy in the flank. Whereupon the old wolf would trot quietly along
the path, paying no more heed to the interruption; while the young bull
would stand wondering, his body hidden in the scrub and his head thrust
into the narrow path to look after his strange adversary.

Another time, as the old wolf ranged along the edges of the barrens
where the caribou herds were gathering, he would hear the challenge of a
huge stag and the warning crack of twigs and the thunder of hoofs as the
brute charged. Still the wolf trotted quietly along, watching from the
corners of his eyes till the stag was upon him, when he sprang lightly
aside and let the rush go harmlessly by. Sitting on his tail he would
watch the caribou closely--and who could tell what was passing behind
those cunning eyes that glowed steadily like coals, unruffled as yet by
the passing winds, but ready at a rough breath to break out in flames of
fire? Again and again the stag would charge, growing more furious at
every failure; and every time the wolf leaped aside he left a terrible
gash in his enemy's neck or side, punishing him cruelly for his bullying
attack, yet strangely refusing to kill, as he might have done, or to
close on the hamstring with one swift snap that would have put the big
brute out of the fight forever. At last, knowing perhaps from past
experience the uselessness of punishing or of disputing with this madman
that felt no wounds in his rage, the wolf would lope away to cover,
followed by a victorious bugle-cry that rang over the wide barren and
echoed back from the mountain side. Then the wolf would circle back
stealthily and put his nose down into the stag's hoof-marks for a long,
deep sniff, and go quietly on his way again. A wolf's nose never
forgets. When he finds that trail wandering with a score of others over
the snow, in the bitter days to come when the pack are starving,
Wayeeses will know whom he is following.

Besides the caribou there were other things to rouse the cubs' curiosity
and give them something pleasant to do besides eating and sleeping. When
the hunter's moon rose full and clear over the woods, filling all
animals with strange unrest, the pack would circle the great harbor,
trotting silently along, nose to tail in single file, keeping on the
high ridge of mountains and looking like a distant train of husky dogs
against the moonlight. When over the fishing village they would sit
down, each one on the loftiest rock he could find, raise their muzzles
to the stars, and join in the long howl, _Ooooooo-wow-ow-ow!_ a
terrible, wailing cry that seemed to drive every dog within hearing
stark crazy. Out of the village lanes far below they rushed headlong,
and sitting on the beach in a wide circle, heads all in and tails out,
they raised their noses to the distant, wolf-topped pinnacles and joined
in the wailing answer. Then the wolves would sit very still, listening
with cocked ears to the cry of their captive kinsmen, till the dismal
howling died away into silence, when they would start the clamor into
life again by giving the wolf's challenge.

Why they did it, what they felt there in the strange unreality of the
moonlight, and what hushed their profound enmity, none can tell.
Ordinarily the wolf hates both fox and dog, and kills them whenever they
cross his path; but to-night the foxes were yapping an answer all around
them, and sometimes a few adventurous dogs would scale the mountains
silently to sit on the rocks and join in the wild wolf chorus, and not a
wolf stirred to molest them. All were more or less lunatic, and knew not
what they were doing.

For hours the uncanny comedy would drag itself on into the tense
midnight silence, the wailing cry growing more demented and heartrending
as the spell of ancient days fell again upon the degenerate huskies. Up
on the lonely mountain tops the moon looked down, still and cold, and
saw upon every pinnacle a dog or a wolf, each with his head turned up at
the sky, howling his heart out. Down in the hamlet, scattered for miles
along Deep Arm and the harbor shore, sleepers stirred uneasily at the
clamor, the women clutching their babies close, the men cursing the
crazy brutes and vowing all sorts of vengeance on the morrow. Then the
wolves would slip away like shadows into the vast upland barrens, and
the dogs, restless as witches with some unknown excitement, would run
back to whine and scratch at the doors of their masters' cabins.

Soon the big snowflakes were whirling in the air, busily weaving a soft
white winding-sheet for the autumn which was passing away. And truly it
had been a good time for the wolf cubs, as for most wild animals; and
they had grown large and strong with their fat feeding, and wise with
their many experiences. The ducks and geese vanished, driving southward
ahead of the fierce autumn gales, and only the late broods of hardy
eiders were left for a little season. Herring and caplin had long since
drifted away into unknown depths, where the tides flowed endlessly over
them and brought never a one ashore. Hares and ptarmigans turned white
to hide on the snow, so that wolf and fox would pass close by without
seeing them. Wood-mice pushed their winding tunnels and made their
vaulted play rooms deep under the drifts, where none might molest nor
make them afraid; and all game grew wary and wild, learning from
experience, as it always does, that only the keen can survive the fall
hunting. So the long winter, with its snow and ice and its bitter cold
and its grim threat of famine, settled heavily over Harbor Weal and the
Long Range where Wayeeses must find his living.



_The White Wolf's Hunting_

Threatening as the northern winter was, with its stern order to the
birds to depart, and to the beasts to put on their thick furs, and to
the little folk of the snow to hide themselves in white coats, and to
all living things to watch well the ways that they took, it could bring
no terror to Wayeeses and her powerful young cubs. The gladness of life
was upon them, with none of its pains or anxieties or fears, as we know
them; and they rolled and tumbled about in the first deep snow with the
abandon of young foxes, filled with wonder at the strange blanket that
covered the rough places of earth so softly and made their light
footsteps more noiseless than before. For to be noiseless and
inconspicuous, and so in harmony with his surroundings, is the first
desire of every creature of the vast solitudes.

Meeting the wolves now, as they roamed wild and free over the great
range, one would hardly have recognized the little brown creatures that
he saw playing about the den where the trail began. The cubs were
already noble-looking brutes, larger than the largest husky dog; and the
parents were taller, with longer legs and more massive heads and
powerful jaws, than any great timber-wolf. A tremendous vitality
thrilled in them from nose to paw tips. Their great bodies, as they lay
quiet in the snow with heads raised and hind legs bent under them, were
like powerful engines, tranquil under enormous pressure; and when they
rose the movement was like the quick snap of a steel spring. Indeed,
half the ordinary movements of Wayeeses are so quick that the eye cannot
follow them. One instant a wolf would be lying flat on his side, his
long legs outstretched on the moss, his eyes closed in the sleepy
sunshine, his body limp as a hound's after a fox chase; the next
instant, like the click and blink of a camera shutter, he would be
standing alert on all four feet, questioning the passing breeze or
looking intently into your eyes; and you could not imagine, much less
follow, the recoil of twenty big electric muscles that at some subtle
warning had snapped him automatically from one position to the other.
They were all snow-white, with long thick hair and a heavy mane that
added enormously to their imposing appearance; and they carried their
bushy tails almost straight out as they trotted along, with a slight
crook near the body,--the true wolf sign that still reappears in many
collies to tell a degenerate race of a noble ancestry.

After the first deep snows the family separated, led by their growing
hunger and by the difficulty of finding enough game in one cover to
supply all their needs. The mother and the smallest cub remained
together; the two larger cubs ranged on the other side of the mountain,
beating the bush and hunting into each other's mouth, as they had been
trained to do; while the big he-wolf hunted successfully by himself, as
he had done for years. Scattered as they were, they still kept track of
each other faithfully, and in a casual way looked after one another's
needs. Wherever he was, a wolf seemed to know by instinct where his
fellows were hunting many miles away. When in doubt he had only to mount
the highest hill and give the rallying cry, which carried an enormous
distance in the still cold air, to bring the pack swiftly and silently
about him.

At times, when the cubs were hungry after a two-days fast, they would
hear, faint and far away, the food cry, _yap-yap-yooo! yap-yap-yoooooo!_
quivering under the stars in the tense early-morning air, and would dart
away to find game freshly killed by one of the old wolves awaiting them.
Again, at nightfall, a cub's hunting cry, _ooooo, ow-ow! ooooo, ow-ow!_
a deep, almost musical hoot with two short barks at the end, would come
singing down from the uplands; and the wolves, leaving instantly the
game they were following, would hasten up to find the two cubs herding a
caribou in a cleft of the rocks,--a young caribou that had lost his
mother at the hands of the hunters, and that did not know how to take
care of himself. And one of the cubs would hold him there, sitting on
his tail in front of the caribou to prevent his escape, while the other
cub called the wolves away from their own hunting to come and join the
feast.

Whether this were a conscious attempt to spare the game, or to alarm it
as little as need be, it is impossible to say. Certainly the wolves
know, better apparently than men, that persistent hunting destroys its
own object, and that caribou especially, when much alarmed by dogs or
wolves or men, will take the alarm quickly, and the scattered herds,
moved by a common impulse of danger, will trail far away to other
ranges. That is why the wolf, unlike the less intelligent dog, hunts
always in a silent, stealthy, unobtrusive way; and why he stops hunting
and goes away the instant his own hunger is satisfied or another wolf
kills enough for all. And that is also the probable reason why he lets
the deer alone as long as he can find any other game.

This same intelligent provision was shown in another curious way. When a
wolf in his wide ranging found a good hunting-ground where small game
was plentiful, he would snap up a rabbit silently in the twilight and
then go far away, perhaps to join the other cubs in a gambol, or to
follow them to the cliffs over a fishing village and set all the dogs to
howling. By day he would lie close in some thick cover, miles away from
his hunting-ground. At twilight he would steal back and hunt quietly,
just long enough to get his game, and then trot away again, leaving the
cover as unharried as if there were not a wolf in the whole
neighborhood.

Such a good hunting-ground cannot long remain hidden from other prowlers
in the wilderness; and Wayeeses, who was keeping his discovery to
himself, would soon cross the trail of a certain old fox returning day
after day to the same good covers. No two foxes, nor mice, nor men, nor
any other two animals for that matter, ever leave the same scent,--any
old hound, which will hold steadily to one fox though a dozen others
cross or cover his trail, will show you that plainly in a day's
hunting,--and the wolf would soon know surely that the same fox was
poaching every night on his own preserves while he was away. To a
casual, wandering hunter he paid no attention; but this cunning poacher
must be laid by the heels, else there would not be a single rabbit left
in the cover. So Wayeeses, instead of hunting himself at twilight when
the rabbits are stirring, would wait till midday, when the sun is warm
and foxes are sleepy, and then come back to find the poacher's trail and
follow it to where Eleemos was resting for the day in a sunny opening in
the scrub. There Wayeeses would steal upon him from behind and put an
end to his poaching; or else, if the fox used the same nest daily, as is
often the case when he is not disturbed, the wolf would circle the scrub
warily to find the path by which Eleemos usually came out on his night's
hunting. When he found that out Wayeeses would dart away in the long,
rolling gallop that carries a wolf swiftly over the roughest country
without fatigue. In an hour or two he would be back again with another
wolf. Then Eleemos, dozing away in the winter sunshine, would hear an
unusual racket in the scrub behind him,--some heavy animal brushing
about heedlessly and sniffing loudly at a cold trail. No wolf certainly,
for a wolf makes no noise. So Eleemos would get down from his warm rock
and slip away, stopping to look back and listen jauntily to the clumsy
brute behind him, till he ran plump into the jaws of the other wolf that
was watching alert and silent beside the runway.

When the snows were deep and soft the wolves took to hunting the
lynxes,--big, savage, long-clawed fighters that swarm in the interior of
Newfoundland and play havoc with the small game. For a single lynx the
wolves hunted in pairs, trailing the big prowler stealthily and rushing
upon him from behind with a fierce uproar to startle the wits out of his
stupid head and send him off headlong, as cats go, before he knew what
was after him. Away he would go in mighty jumps, sinking shoulder deep,
often indeed up to his tufted ears, at every plunge. After him raced the
wolves, running lightly and taking advantage of the holes he had made in
the soft snow, till a swift snap in his flank brought Upweekis up with a
ferocious snarl to tear in pieces his pursuers.

Then began as savage a bit of fighting as the woods ever witness, teeth
against talons, wolf cunning against cat ferocity. Crouched in the snow,
spitting and snarling, his teeth bared and round eyes blazing and long
claws aching to close in a death grip, Upweekis waited impatient as a
fury for the rush. He is an ugly fighter; but he must always get close,
gripping his enemy with teeth and fore claws while the hind claws get in
their deadly work, kicking downward in powerful spasmodic blows and
ripping everything before them. A dog would rush in now and be torn to
pieces; but not so the wolves. Dancing lightly about the big lynx they
would watch their chance to leap and snap, sometimes avoiding the blow
of the swift paw with its terrible claws, and sometimes catching it on
their heavy manes; but always a long red mark showed on the lynx's
silver fur as the wolves' teeth clicked with the voice of a steel trap
and they leaped aside without serious injury. As the big cat grew blind
in his fury they would seize their chance like a flash and leap
together; one pair of long jaws would close hard on the spine behind the
tufted ears; another pair would grip a hind leg, while the wolves sprang
apart and braced to hold. Then the fight was all over; and the moose
birds, in pairs, came flitting in silently to see if there were not a
few unconsidered trifles of the feast for them to dispose of.

Occasionally, at nightfall, the wolves' hunting cry would ring out of
the woods as one of the cubs discovered three or four of the lynxes
growling horribly over some game they had pulled down together. For
Upweekis too, though generally a solitary fellow, often roams with a
savage band of freebooters to hunt the larger animals in the bitter
winter weather. No young wolf would ever run into one of these bands
alone; but when the pack rolled in upon them like a tempest the lynxes
would leap squalling away in a blind rush; and the two big wolves,
cutting in from the ends of the charging line, would turn a lynx kit
deftly aside for the cubs to hold. Then another for themselves, and the
hunt was over,--all but the feast at the end of it.

When a big and cunning lynx took to a tree at the first alarm the wolves
would go aside to leeward, where Upweekis could not see them, but where
their noses told them perfectly all that he was doing. Then began the
long game of patience, the wolves waiting for the game to come down, and
the lynx waiting for the wolves to go away. Upweekis was at a
disadvantage, for he could not see when he had won; and he generally
came down in an hour or two, only to find the wolves hot on his trail
before he had taken a dozen jumps. Whereupon he took to another tree and
the game began again.

[Illustration: "The silent, appalling death-watch began."]

When the night was exceeding cold--and one who has not felt it can
hardly imagine the bitter, killing intensity of a northern midnight in
February--the wolves, instead of going away, would wait under the tree
in which the lynx had taken refuge, and the silent, appalling
death-watch began. A lynx, though heavily furred, cannot long remain
exposed in the intense cold without moving. Moreover he must grip the
branch on which he sits more or less firmly with his claws, to keep from
falling; and the tense muscles, which flex the long claws to drive them
into the wood, soon grow weary and numb in the bitter frost. The wolves
meanwhile trot about to keep warm; while the stupid cat sits in one spot
slowly perishing, and never thinks of running up and down the tree to
keep himself alive. The feet grow benumbed at last, powerless to hold on
any longer, and the lynx tumbles off into the wolves' jaws; or else,
knowing the danger, he leaps for the nearest wolf and dies fighting.

Spite of the killing cold, the problem of keeping warm was to the wolves
always a simple one. Moving along through the winter night, always on a
swift, silent trot, they picked up what game came in their way, and
scarcely felt the eager cold that nipped at their ears, or the wind,
keen as an icicle, that strove to penetrate the shaggy white coats that
covered them. When their hunger was satisfied, or when the late day came
and found them still hunting hopefully, they would push their way into
the thick scrub from one of the numerous paths and lie down on a nest of
leaves, which even in midwinter were dry as if no snow or rain had ever
fallen. There, where no wind or gale however strong could penetrate, and
with the snow filling the low branches overhead and piled over them in a
soft, warm blanket three feet thick, they would push their sensitive
noses into their own thick fur to keep them warm, and sleep comfortably
till the early twilight came and called them out again to the hunting.

At times, when not near the scrub, they would burrow deep into a great
drift of snow and sleep in the warmest kind of a nest,--a trick that the
husky dogs, which are but wolves of yesterday, still remember. Like all
wild animals, they felt the coming of a storm long before the first
white flakes began to whirl in the air; and when a great storm
threatened they would lie down to sleep in a cave, or a cranny of the
rocks, and let the drifts pile soft and warm over them. However long the
storm, they never stirred abroad; partly for their own comfort, partly
because all game lies hid at such times and it is practically
impossible, even for a wolf, to find it. When a wolf has fed full he can
go a week without eating and suffer no great discomfort. So Wayeeses
would lie close and warm while the snow piled deep around him and the
gale raged over the sea and mountains, but passed unfelt and unheeded
over his head. Then, when the storm was over, he pawed his way up
through the drift and came out in a new, bright world, where the game,
with appetites sharpened by the long fast, was already stirring briskly
in every covert.

When March came, the bitterest month of all for the Wood Folk, even
Wayeeses was often hard pressed to find a living. Small game grew scarce
and very wild; the caribou had wandered far away to other ranges; and
the cubs would dig for hours after a mouse, or stalk a snowbird, or wait
with endless patience for a red squirrel to stop his chatter and come
down to search under the snow for a fir cone that he had hidden there in
the good autumn days. And once, when the hunger within was more nipping
than the eager cold without, one of the cubs found a bear sleeping in
his winter den among the rocks. With a sharp hunting cry, that sang like
a bullet over the frozen wastes, he called the whole pack about him.
While the rest lay in hiding the old he-wolf approached warily and
scratched Mooween out of his den, and then ran away to entice the big
brute into the open ground, where the pack rolled in upon him and killed
him in a terrible fight before he had fairly shaken the sleep out of his
eyes.

Old Tomah, the trapper, was abroad now, taking advantage of the spring
hunger. The wolves often crossed his snow-shoe trail, or followed it
swiftly to see whither it led. For a wolf, like a farm dog, is never
satisfied till he knows the ways of every living thing that crosses his
range. Following the broad trail Wayeeses would find here a trapped
animal, struggling desperately with the clog and the cruel gripping
teeth, there the flayed carcass of a lynx or an otter, and yonder the
leg of a dog or a piece of caribou meat hung by a cord over a runway,
with the snow disturbed beneath it where the deadly trap was hidden. One
glance, or a sniff at a distance, was enough for the wolf. Lynxes do not
go about the range without their skins, and meat does not naturally hang
on trees; so Wayeeses, knowing all the ways of the woods, would ignore
these baits absolutely. Nevertheless he followed the snow-shoe trails
until he knew where every unnatural thing lay hidden; and no matter how
hungry he was, or how cunningly the old Indian hid his devices, or
however deep the new snow covered all traces of man's work, Wayeeses
passed by on the other side and kept his dainty feet out of every snare
and pitfall.

Once, when the two cubs that hunted together were hard pinched with
hunger, they found Old Tomah in the twilight and followed him
stealthily. The old Indian was swinging along, silent as a shadow of the
woods, his gun on his shoulder and some skins on his back, heading
swiftly for the little hut under the cliff, where he burrowed for the
night as snug as a bear in his den. An old wolf would have known
instantly the danger, for man alone bites at a distance; but the
lop-eared cub, which was larger than his brother and therefore the
leader, raised his head for the hunting cry. The first yap had hardly
left his throat when the thunder roared, and something seared the wolf's
side like a hot iron. The cubs vanished like the smoke from the old gun.
Then the Indian came swiftly back on the trail, peering about with hawk
eyes to see the effect of his shot.

"By cosh! miss um dat time. Mus' be powder no good." Then, as he read
the plain record in the snow, "One,--by cosh! two hwulf, lil fool hwulf,
follow my footin'. Mus' be more, come soon pretty quick now; else he
don' howl dat way. Guess mebbe ol' Injun better stay in house nights."
And he trailed warily back to hide himself behind a rock and watch till
dark in front of his little _commoosie_.

Old Tomah's sleep was sound as usual that night; so he could not see the
five shadows that stole out of the woods, nor hear the light footfalls
that circled his camp, nor feel the breath, soft as an eddy of wind in a
spruce top, that whiffed at the crack under his door and drifted away
again. Next morning he saw the tracks and understood them; and as he
trailed away through the still woods he was wondering, in his silent
Indian way, why an old wolf should always bring Malsunsis, the cub, for
a good look and a sniff at anything that he is to avoid ever after.

When all else fails follow the caribou,--that is the law which governs
the wolf in the hungry days; but before they crossed the mountains and
followed the long valleys to the far southern ranges the wolves went
back to the hills, where the trail began, for a more exciting and
dangerous kind of hunting. The pack had held closer together of late;
for the old wolves must often share even a scant fox or rabbit with the
hungry and inexperienced youngsters. Now, when famine drove them to the
very doors of the one enemy to be feared, only the wisest and wariest
old wolf was fit to lead the foray.

The little fishing village was buried under drifts and almost deserted.
A few men lingered to watch the boats and houses; but the families had
all gone inland to the winter tilts for wood and shelter. By night the
wolves would come stealthily to prowl among the deserted lanes; and the
fishermen, asleep in their clothes under caribou skins, or sitting close
by the stove behind barred doors, would know nothing of the huge, gaunt
forms that flitted noiselessly past the frosted windows. If a pig were
left in his pen a sudden terrible squealing would break out on the still
night; and when the fisherman rushed out the pen would be empty, with
nothing whatever to account for piggie's disappearance. For to their
untrained eyes even the tracks of the wolves were covered up by those of
the numerous big huskies. If a cat prowled abroad, or an uneasy dog
scratched to be let out, there would be a squall, a yelp,--and the cat
would not come back, and the dog would never scratch at the door to be
let in again.

Only when nothing stirred in the village, when the dogs and cats had
been spirited away, and when not even a rat stole from under the houses
to gnaw at a fishbone, would the fishermen know of their big silent
visitors. Then the wolves would gather on a snow-drift just outside the
village and raise a howl, a frightful wail of famine and disappointment,
that made the air shudder. From within the houses the dogs answered with
mad clamor. A door would open to show first a long seal gun, then a
fisherman, then a fool dog that darted between the fisherman's legs and
capered away, ki-yi-ing a challenge to the universe. A silence, tense as
a bowstring; a sudden yelp--_Hui-hui_, as the fisherman whistled to the
dog that was being whisked away over the snow with a grip on his throat
that prevented any answer; then the fisherman would wait and call in
vain, and shiver, and go back to the fire again.

Almost every pleasant day a train of dogs would leave the village and go
far back on the hills to haul fire-wood, or poles for the new
fish-flakes. The wolves, watching from their old den, would follow at a
distance to pick up a careless dog that ventured away from the fire to
hunt rabbits when his harness was taken off. Occasionally a solitary
wood-chopper would start with sudden alarm as a big white form glided
into sight, and the alarm would be followed by genuine terror as he
found himself surrounded by five huge wolves that sat on their tails
watching him curiously. Gripping his ax he would hurry back to call his
companions and harness the dogs and hurry back to the village before the
early darkness should fall upon them. As the komatik went careering over
the snow, the dogs yelping and straining at the harness, the men running
alongside shouting _Hi-hi_ and cracking their whips, they could still
see, over their shoulders, the wolves following lightly close behind;
but when they rushed breathless into their houses, and grabbed their
guns, and ran back on the trail, there was nothing to be seen. For the
wolves, quick as light to feel the presence of danger, were already far
away, trotting swiftly up the frozen arm of the harbor, following
another sledge trail which came down that morning from the wilderness.

That same night the wolves appeared silently in the little lodge, far up
the Southeast Brook, where in a sheltered hollow of the hills the
fishermen's families were sleeping away the bitter winter. Here for one
long night they watched and waited in vain; for every living thing was
safe in the tilts behind barred doors. In the morning little Noel's eyes
kindled as he saw the wolves' tracks; and when they came back again the
tilts were watching. As the lop-eared cub darted after a cat that shot
like a ray of moonlight under a cabin, a window opened noiselessly, and
_zing!_ a bowstring twanged its sharp warning in the tense silence. With
a yelp the wolf tore the arrow from his shoulder. The warm blood
followed the barb, and he lapped it eagerly in his hunger. Then, as the
danger swept over him, he gave the trail cry and darted away. Doors
banged open here and there; dogs barked to crack their throats; seal
guns roared out and sent their heavy echoes crashing like thunder among
the hills. Silence fell again over the lodge; and there were left only a
few frightened dogs whose noses had already told them everything, a few
fishermen who watched and listened, and one Indian boy with a long bow
in his hand and an arrow ready on the string, who trailed away with a
little girl at his side trying to puzzle out the track of one wolf that
left a drop of blood here and there on the snow in the scant moonlight.

Far up on the hillside in a little opening of the woods the scattered
pack came together again. At the first uproar, so unbearable to a
silence-loving animal, they had vanished in five different directions;
yet so subtle, so perfect is the instinct which holds a wolf family
together that the old mother had scarcely entered the glade alone and
sat down to wait and listen when the other wolves joined her silently.
Malsunsis, the big cub, scarcely felt his wound at first, for the arrow
had but glanced through the thick skin and flesh, and he had torn it out
without difficulty; but the old he-wolf limped painfully and held up one
fore leg, pierced by a seal shot, as he loped away over the snow.

It was their first rough experience with men, and probably the one
feeling in every shaggy head was of puzzled wonder as to how and why it
had all happened. Hitherto they had avoided men with a certain awe, or
watched them curiously at a distance, trying to understand their
superior ways; and never a hostile feeling for the masters of the woods
had found place in a wolf's breast. Now man had spoken at last; his
voice was a brutal command to be gone, and curiously enough these
powerful big brutes, any one of which could have pulled down a man more
easily than a caribou, never thought of questioning the order.

It was certainly time to follow the caribou--that was probably the one
definite purpose that came upon the wolves, sitting in a silent,
questioning circle in the moonlight, with only the deep snows and the
empty woods around them. For a week they had not touched food; for
thrice that time they had not fed full, and a few days more would leave
them unable to cope with the big caribou, which are always full fed and
strong, thanks to nature's abundance of deer moss on the barrens. So
they started as by a single impulse, and the mother wolf led them
swiftly southward, hour after hour at a tireless pace, till the great
he-wolf weakened and turned aside to nurse his wounded fore leg. The
lop-eared cub drew out of the race at the same time. His own wound now
required the soft massage of his tongue to allay the fever; and besides,
the fear that was born in him, one night long ago, and that had slept
ever since, was now awake again, and for the first time he was afraid to
face the famine and the wilderness alone. So the pack swept on, as if
their feet would never tire, and the two wounded wolves crept into the
scrub and lay down together.

A strange, terrible feeling stole swiftly over the covert, which had
always hitherto been a place of rest and quiet content. The cub was
licking his wound softly when he looked up in sudden alarm, and there
was the great he-wolf looking at him hungrily, with a frightful flare in
his green eyes. The cub moved away startled and tried to soothe his
wound again; but the uncanny feeling was strong upon him still, and when
he turned his head there was the big wolf, which had crept forward till
he could see the cub behind a twisted spruce root, watching him steadily
with the same horrible stare in his unblinking eyes. The hackles rose up
on the cub's neck and a growl rumbled in his deep chest, for he knew now
what it all meant. The smell of blood was in the air, and the old
he-wolf, that had so often shared his kill to save the cubs, was now
going crazy in his awful hunger. Another moment and there would have
been a terrible duel in the scrub; but as the wolves sprang to their
feet and faced each other some deep, unknown feeling stirred within them
and they turned aside. The old wolf threw himself down heavily, facing
away from the temptation, and the cub slipped aside to find another den,
out of sight and smell of the huge leader, lest the scent of blood
should overcome them again and cause them to fly at each other's throats
in uncontrollable fury.

Next morning a queer thing happened, but not uncommon under the
circumstances among wolves and huskies. The cub was lying motionless,
his head on his paws, his eyes wide open, when something stirred near
him. A red squirrel came scampering through the scrub branches just
under the thick coating of snow that filled all their tops. Slowly,
carefully the young wolf gathered his feet under him, tense as a
bowstring. As the squirrel whisked overhead the wolf leaped like a
flash, caught him, and crushed him with a single grip. Then with the
squirrel in his mouth he made his way back to where the big leader was
lying, his head on his paws, his eyes turned aside. Slowly, warily the
cub approached, with a friendly twist of his ears and head, till he laid
the squirrel at the big wolf's very nose, then drew back a step and lay
with paws extended and tail thumping the leaves, watching till the
tidbit was seized ravenously and crushed and bolted in a single
mouthful. Next instant both wolves sprang to their feet and made their
way out of the scrub together.

They took up the trail of the pack where they had left it, and followed
it ten hours, the cub at a swift trot, the old wolf loping along on
three legs. Then a rest, and forward again, slower and slower, night
after day in ever-failing strength, till on the edge of a great barren
they stopped as if struck, trembling all over as the reek of game poured
into their starving nostrils.

Too weak now to kill or to follow the fleet caribou, they lay down in
the snow waiting, their ears cocked, their noses questioning every
breeze for its good news. Left to themselves the trail must end here,
for they could go no farther; but somewhere ahead in the vast silent
barren the cubs were trailing, and somewhere beyond them the old mother
wolf was laying her ambush.--Hark! from a spur of the valley, far below
on their left, rang out the food cry, singing its way in the frosty air
over woods and plains, and hurrying back over the trail to tell those
who had fallen by the way that they were not forgotten. And when they
leaped up, as at an electric shock, and raced for the cry, there were
the cubs and the mother wolf, their hunger already satisfied, and there
in the snow a young bull caribou to save them.

So the long, hard winter passed away, and spring came again with its
abundance. Grouse drummed a welcome in the woods; the _honk_ of wild
geese filled the air with a joyous clangor, and in every open pool the
ducks were quacking. No need now to cling like shadows to the herds of
caribou, and no further need for the pack to hold together. The ties
that held them melted like snows in the sunny hollows. First the old
wolves, then the cubs, one by one drifted away whither the game or their
new mates were calling them. When the summer came there was another den
on the high hill overlooking the harbor, where the little brown cubs
could look down with wonder at the shining sea and the slow
fishing-boats and the children playing on the shore; but the wolves
whose trail began there were far away over the mountains, following
their own ways, waiting for the crisp hunting cry that should bring them
again together.



_Trails that Cross in the Snow_

"Are we lost, little brother?" said Mooka, shivering.

No need of the question, startling and terrible as it was from the lips
of a child astray in the vast solitudes; for a great gale had swooped
down from the Arctic, blotting out in clouds of whirling snow the world
of plain and mountain and forest that, a moment before, had stretched
wide and still before the little hunters' eyes.

For an hour or more, running like startled deer, they had tried to
follow their own snow-shoe trail back over the wide barrens into the
friendly woods; but already the snow had filled it brim full, and
whatever faint trace was left of the long raquettes was caught up by the
gale and whirled away with a howl of exultation. Before them as they ran
every trail of wolf and caribou and snow-shoe, and every distant
landmark, had vanished; the world was but a chaos of mad rolling snow
clouds; and behind them--Their stout little hearts trembled as they saw
not a vestige of the trail they had just made. With the great world
itself, their own little tracks, as fast as they made them, were swept
and blotted out of existence. Like two sparrows that had dropped blinded
and bewildered on the vast plain out of the snow cloud, they huddled
together without one friendly sign to tell them whence they had come or
whither they were going. Worst of all, the instinct of direction, which
often guides an Indian through the still fog or the darkest night,
seemed benumbed by the cold and the tumult; and not even Old Tomah
himself could have told north or south in the blinding storm.

Still they ran on bravely, bending to the fierce blasts, heading the
wind as best they could, till Mooka, tripping a second time in a little
hollow where a brook ran deep under the snow, and knowing now that they
were but wandering in an endless circle, seized Noel's arm and repeated
her question:

"Are we lost, little brother?"

And Noel, lost and bewildered, but gripping his bow in his fur mitten
and peering here and there, like an old hunter, through the whirling
flakes and rolling gusts to catch some landmark, some lofty crag or low
tree-line that held steady in the mad dance of the world, still made
confident Indian answer:

"Noel not lost; Noel right here. Camp lost, little sister."

"Can we find um, little brother?"

"Oh, yes, we find um. Find um bimeby, pretty soon quick now, after
storm."

"But storm last all night, and it's soon dark. Can we rest and not
freeze? Mooka tired and--and frightened, little brother."

"Sartin we rest; build um _commoosie_ and sleep jus' like bear in his
den. Oh, yes, sartin we rest good," said Noel cheerfully.

"And the wolves, little brother?" whispered Mooka, looking back timidly
into the wild waste out of which they had come.

"Never mind hwolves; nothing hunts in storm, little sister. Come on, we
must find um woods now."

For one brief moment the little hunter stood with upturned face, while
Mooka bowed her head silently, and the great storm rolled unheeded over
them. Still holding his long bow he stretched both hands to the sky in
the mute appeal that _Keesuolukh_, the Great Mystery whom we call God,
would understand better than all words. Then turning their backs to the
gale they drifted swiftly away before it, like two wind-blown leaves,
running to keep from freezing, and holding each other's hands tight lest
they separate and be lost by the way.

The second winter had come, sealing up the gloomy land till it rang like
iron at the touch, then covering it deep with snow and polishing its
mute white face with hoar-frost and hail driven onward by the fierce
Arctic gales. An appalling silence rested on plains and mountains. Not a
chirp, not a rustle broke the intense, unnatural stillness. One might
travel all day long without a sight or sound of life; and when the early
twilight came and life stirred shyly from its coverts and snow caves,
the Wood Folk stole out into the bare white world on noiseless,
hesitating feet, as if in presence of the dead.

When the Moon of Famine came, the silence was rudely broken. Before
daylight one morning, when the air was so tense and still that a whisper
set it tinkling like silver bells, the rallying cry of the wolves rolled
down from a mountain top; and the three cubs, that had waited long for
the signal, left their separate trails far away and hurried to join the
old leader.

When the sun rose that morning one who stood on the high ridge of the
Top Gallants, far to the eastward of Harbor Weal, would have seen seven
trails winding down among the rocks and thickets. It needed only a
glance to show that the seven trails, each one as clear-cut and delicate
as that of a prowling fox, were the records of wolves' cautious feet;
and that they were no longer beating the thickets for grouse and
rabbits, but moving swiftly all together for the edges of the vast
barrens where the caribou herds were feeding. Another glance--but here
we must have the cunning eyes of Old Tomah the hunter--would have told
that two of the trails were those of enormous wolves which led the pack;
two others were plainly cubs that had not yet lost the cub trick of
frolicking in the soft snow; while three others were just wolves, big
and powerful brutes that moved as if on steel springs, and that still
held to the old pack because the time had not yet come for them to
scatter finally to their separate ways and head new packs of their own
in the great solitudes.

Out from the woods on the other side of the barren came two snow-shoe
trails, which advanced with short steps and rested lightly on the snow,
as if the makers of the trails were little people whose weight on the
snow-shoes made hardly more impression than the broad pads of Moktaques
the rabbit. They followed stealthily the winding records of a score of
caribou that had wandered like an eddying wind all over the barren,
stopping here and there to paw great holes in the snow for the caribou
moss that covered all the earth beneath. Out at the end of the trail two
Indian children, a girl and a boy, stole along with noiseless steps,
scanning the wide wastes for a cloud of mist--the frozen breath that
hovers over a herd of caribou--or peering keenly into the edges of the
woods for vague white shapes moving like shadows among the trees. So
they moved on swiftly, silently, till the boy stopped with a startled
exclamation, whipped out a long arrow with a barbed steel point, and
laid it ready across his bow. For at his feet was another light trail,
the trail of a wolf pack, that crossed his own, moving straight and
swift across the barren toward the unseen caribou.

Just in front, as the boy stopped, a slight motion broke the even white
surface that stretched away silent and lifeless on every side,--a motion
so faint and natural that Noel's keen eyes, sweeping the plain and the
edges of the distant woods, never noticed it. A vagrant wind, which had
been wandering and moaning all morning as if lost, seemed to stir the
snow and settle to rest again. But now, where the plain seemed most
empty and lifeless, seven great white wolves crouched down in the snow
in a little hollow, their paws extended, their hind legs bent like
powerful springs beneath them, their heads raised cautiously so that
only their ears and eyes showed above the rim of the little hollow where
they hid. So they lay, tense, alert, ready, watching with eager,
inquisitive eyes the two children drawing steadily nearer, the only sign
of life in the whole wide, desolate landscape.

       *       *       *       *       *

Follow the back trail of the snow-shoes now, while the wolves are
waiting, and it leads you over the great barren into the gloomy spruce
woods; beyond that it crosses two more barrens and stretches of
intervening forest; then up a great hill and down into a valley, where
the lodge lay hidden, buried deep under Newfoundland snows.

Here the fishermen lived, sleeping away the bitter winter. In the late
autumn they had left the fishing village at Harbor Weal, driven out like
the wild ducks by the fierce gales that raged over the whole coast. With
their abundant families and scant provisions they had followed the trail
up the Southwest Brook till it doubled around the mountain and led into
a great silent wood, sheltered on every side by the encircling hills.
Here the tilts were built with double walls, filled in between with
leaves and moss, to help the little stoves that struggled bravely with
the terrible cold; and the roofs were covered over with poles and bark,
or with the brown sails that had once driven the fishing-boats out and
in on the wings of the gale. The high mountains on the west stood
between them and the icy winds that swept down over the sea from the
Labrador and the Arctic wastes; wood in abundance was at their doors,
and the trout-stream that sang all day long under its bridges of snow
and ice was always ready to brim their kettles out of its abundance.

So the new life began pleasantly enough; but as the winter wore away and
provisions grew scarce and game vanished from the coverts, they all felt
the fearful pinch of famine. Every morning now a confused circle of
tracks in the snow showed where the wild prowlers of the woods had come
and sniffed at the very doors of the tilts in their ravening hunger.

Noel's father and Old Tomah were far away, trapping, in the interior;
and to Noel with his snares and his bow and arrows fell the pleasant
task of supplying the family's need when the stock of dried fish melted
away. On this March morning he had started with Mooka at daylight to
cross the mountains to some great barrens where he had found tracks and
knew that a few herds of caribou were still feeding. The sun was dimmed
as it rose, and the sun-dogs gave mute warning of the coming storm; but
the cupboard was empty at home, and even a little hunter thinks first of
the game he is following and lets the storm take care of itself. So they
hurried on unheeding,--Noel with his bow and arrows, Mooka with a little
bag containing a loaf and a few dried caplin,--peering under every brush
pile for the shining eyes of a rabbit, and picking up one big grouse and
a few ptarmigan among the bowlders of a great bare hillside. On the
edges of the great barren under the Top Gallants they found the fresh
tracks of feeding caribou, and were following eagerly when they ran
plump into the wolf trail.

Now by every law of the chase the game belonged to these earlier
hunters; and by every power in their gaunt, famished bodies the wolves
meant to have it. So said the trail. Every stealthy advance in single
file across, the open, every swift rush over the hollows that might hide
them from eyes watching back from the distant woods, showed the wolves'
purpose clear as daylight; and had Noel been wiser he would have read a
warning from the snow and turned aside. But he only drew his longest,
keenest arrow and pressed on more eagerly than before.

The two trails had crossed each other at last. Beginning near together,
one on the mountains, the other by the sea, they had followed their
separate devious ways, now far apart in the glad bright summer, now
drawing together in the moonlight of the winter's night. At times the
makers of the trails had watched each other in secret, shyly,
inquisitively, at a distance; but always fear or cunning had kept them
apart, the boy with his keen hunter's interest baffled and whetted by
the brutes' wariness, and the wolves drawn to the superior being by that
subtle instinct that once made glad hunting-dogs and collies of the wild
rangers of the plains, and that still leads a wolf to follow and watch
the doings of men with intense curiosity. Now the trails had met fairly
in the snow, and a few steps more would bring the boy and the wolf face
to face.

       *       *       *       *       *

Noel was stealing along warily, his arrow ready on the string. Mooka
beside him was watching a faint cloud of mist, the breath of caribou,
that blurred at times the dark tree-line in the distance, when one of
those mysterious warnings that befall the hunter in the far North rested
upon them suddenly like a heavy hand.

I know not what it is,--what lesser pressure of air, to which we respond
like a barometer; or what unknown chords there are within us that sleep
for years in the midst of society and that waken and answer, like an
animal's, to the subtle influence of nature,--but one can never be
watched by an unseen wild animal without feeling it vaguely; and one can
never be so keen on the trail that the storm, before it breaks, will not
whisper a warning to turn back to shelter before it is too late. To Noel
and Mooka, alone on the barrens, the sun was no dimmer than before; the
heavy gray bank of clouds still held sullenly to its place on the
horizon; and no eyes, however keen, would have noticed the tiny dark
spots that centered and glowed upon them over the rim of the little
hollow where the wolves were watching. Nevertheless, a sudden chill fell
upon them both. They stopped abruptly, shivering a bit, drawing closer
together and scanning the waste keenly to know what it all meant.

"_Mitcheegeesookh_, the storm!" said Noel sharply; and without another
word they turned and hurried back on their own trail. In a short half
hour the world would be swallowed up in chaos. To be caught out on the
barrens meant to be lost; and to be lost here without fire and shelter
meant death, swift and sure. So they ran on, hoping to strike the woods
before the blizzard burst upon them.

They were scarcely half-way to shelter when the white flakes began to
whirl around them. With startling, terrible swiftness the familiar world
vanished; the guiding trail was blotted out, and nothing but a wolf's
instinct could have held a straight course in the blinding fury of the
storm. Still they held on bravely, trying in vain to keep their
direction by the eddying winds, till Mooka stumbled twice at the same
hollow over a hidden brook, and they knew they were running blindly in a
circle of death. Frightened at the discovery they turned, as the caribou
do, keeping their backs steadily to the winds, and drifted slowly away
down the long barren.

Hour after hour they struggled on, hand in hand, without a thought of
where they were going. Twice Mooka fell and lay still, but was dragged
to her feet and hurried onward again. The little hunter's own strength
was almost gone, when a low moan rose steadily above the howl and hiss
of the gale. It was the spruce woods, bending their tops to the blast
and groaning at the strain. With a wild whoop Noel plunged forward, and
the next instant they were safe within the woods. All around them the
flakes sifted steadily, silently down into the thick covert, while the
storm passed with a great roar over their heads.

In the lee of a low-branched spruce they stopped again, as though by a
common impulse, while Noel lifted his hands. "Thanks, thanks,
_Keesuolukh_; we can take care of ourselves now," the brave little heart
was singing under the upstretched arms. Then they tumbled into the snow
and lay for a moment utterly relaxed, like two tired animals, in that
brief, delicious rest which follows a terrible struggle with the storm
and cold.

First they ate a little of their bread and fish to keep up their
spirits; then--for the storm that was upon them might last for
days--they set about preparing a shelter. With a little search, whooping
to each other lest they stray away, they found a big dry stub that some
gale had snapped off a few feet above the snow. While Mooka scurried
about, collecting birch bark and armfuls of dry branches, Noel took off
his snow-shoes and began with one of them to shovel away the snow in a
semicircle around the base of the stub. In a short half-hour he had a
deep hole there, with the snow banked up around it to the height of his
head. Next with his knife he cut a lot of light poles and scrub spruces
and, sticking the butts in his snowbank, laid the tops, like the sticks
of a wigwam, firmly against the big stub. A few armfuls of spruce boughs
shingled over this roof, and a few minutes' work shoveling snow thickly
upon them to hold them in place and to make a warm covering; then a
doorway, or rather a narrow tunnel, just beyond the stub on the straight
side of the semicircle, and their _commoosie_ was all ready. Let the
storm roar and the snow sift down! The thicker it fell the warmer would
be their shelter. They laughed and shouted now as they scurried out and
in, bringing boughs for a bed and the fire-wood which Mooka had
gathered.

Against the base of the dry stub they built their fire,--a wee, sociable
little fire such as an Indian always builds, which is far better than a
big one, for it draws you near and welcomes you cheerily, instead of
driving you away by its smoke and great heat. Soon the big stub itself
began to burn, glowing steadily with a heat that filled the snug little
_commoosie_, while the smoke found its way out of the hole in the roof
which Noel had left for that purpose. Later the stub burned through to
its hollow center, and then they had a famous chimney, which soon grew
hot and glowing inside, and added its mite to the children's comfort.

Noel and Mooka were drowsy now; but before the long night closed in upon
them they had gathered more wood, and laid aside some wisps of birch
bark to use when they should wake, cold and shivering, and find their
little fire gone out and the big stub losing its cheery glow. Then they
lay down to rest, and the night and the storm rolled on unheeded.

Towards morning they fell into a heavy sleep; for the big stub began to
burn more freely as the wind changed, and they need not stir every half
hour to feed their little fire and keep from freezing. It was broad
daylight, the storm had ceased, and a woodpecker was hammering loudly on
a hollow shell over their heads when they started up, wondering vaguely
where they were. Then while Noel broke out of the _commoosie_, which was
fairly buried under the snow, to find out where he was, Mooka rebuilt
the fire and plucked a ptarmigan and set it to toasting with the last of
their bread over the coals.

Noel came back soon with a cheery whoop to tell the little cook that
they had drifted before the storm down the whole length of the great
barren, and were camped now on the opposite side, just under the highest
ridge of the Top Gallants. There was not a track on the barrens, he
said; not a sign of wolf or caribou, which had probably wandered deeper
into the woods for shelter. So they ate their bread to the last crumb
and their bird to the last bone, and, giving up all thought of hunting,
started up the big barren, heading for the distant Lodge, where they had
long since been given up for lost.

They had crossed the barren and a mile of thick woods beyond when they
ran into the fresh trail of a dozen caribou. Following it swiftly they
came to the edge of a much smaller barren that they had crossed
yesterday, and saw at a glance that the trail stretched straight across
it. Not a caribou was in sight; but they might nevertheless be feeding,
or resting in the woods just beyond; and for the little hunters to show
themselves now in the open would mean that they would become instantly
the target for every keen eye that was watching the back trail. So they
started warily to circle the barren, keeping just within the fringe of
woods out of sight.

They had gone scarcely a hundred steps when Noel whipped out a long
arrow and pointed silently across the open. From the woods on the other
side the caribou had broken out of a dozen tunnels under the spruces,
and came trotting back in their old trails, straight downwind to where
the little hunters were hiding.

The deer were acting queerly,--now plunging away with the high, awkward
jumps that caribou use when startled; now swinging off on their swift,
tireless rack, and before they had settled to their stride halting
suddenly to look back and wag their ears at the trail. For Megaleep is
full of curiosity as a wild turkey, and always stops to get a little
entertainment out of every new thing that does not threaten him with
instant death. Then out of the woods behind them trotted five white
wolves,--not hunting, certainly! for whenever the caribou stopped to
look the wolves sat down on their tails and yawned. One lay down and
rolled over and over in the soft snow; another chased and capered after
his own brush, whirling round and round like a little whirlwind, and the
shrill _ki-yi_ of a cub wolf playing came faintly across the barren.

It was a strange scene, yet one often witnessed on the lonely plains of
the far North: the caribou halting, running away, and halting again to
look back and watch the queer antics of their big enemies, which seemed
now so playful and harmless; the cunning wolves playing on the game's
curiosity at every turn, knowing well that if once frightened the deer
would break away at a pace which would make pursuit hopeless. So they
followed rather than drove the foolish deer across the barren, holding
them with monkey tricks and kitten's capers, and restraining with an
iron grip their own fearful hunger and the blind impulse to rush in
headlong and have it all quickly over.

Kneeling behind a big spruce, Noel was trying nervously the spring and
temper of his long bow, divided in desire between the caribou, which
they needed sadly at home, and one of the great wolves whose death would
give him a place among the mighty hunters, when Mooka clutched his arm,
her eyes snapping with excitement, her finger pointing silently back on
their own trail. A vague shadow glided swiftly among the trees. An
enormous white wolf appeared, vanished, came near them again, and
crouched down under a low spruce branch waiting.

Again the two trails had crossed in the snow. The big wolf as he
appeared had thrust his nose into the snow-shoe tracks, and a sniff or
two told him everything,--who had passed, and how long ago, and what
they were doing, and how far ahead they were now waiting. But the
caribou were coming, coaxed along marvelously by the cubs and the old
mother; and the great silent wolf, that had left the pack playing with
the game while he circled the barren at top speed, now turned to the
business in hand with no thought nor fear of harm from the two children
whom he had watched but yesterday.

Not so Noel. The fire blazed out in his eyes; the long bow swung to the
wolf, bending like a steel spring, and the feathered shaft of an arrow
lay close against the boy's cheek. But Mooka caught his arm--

"Look, Noel, his ear! _Malsunsis_, my little wolf cub," she breathed
excitedly. And Noel, with a great wonder in his eyes, slacked his bow,
while his thoughts jumped far away to the den on the mountains where the
trail began, and to three little cubs playing like kittens with the
grasshoppers and the cloud shadows; for the great wolf that lay so still
near them, his eyes fixed in a steady glow upon the coming caribou, had
one ear bent sharply forward, like a leaf that has been creased between
the fingers.

Again Mooka broke the tense silence in a low whisper. "How many wolf
trails you see yesterday, little brother?"

"Seven," said Noel, whose eyes already had the cunning of Old Tomah's to
understand everything.

"Then where tother wolf? Only six here," breathed Mooka, looking timidly
all around, fearing to find the steady glare of green eyes fixed upon
them from the shadow of every thicket.

Noel stirred uneasily. Somewhere close at hand another huge wolf was
waiting; and a wholesome fear fell upon him, with a shiver at the
thought of how near he had come in his excitement to bringing the whole
savage pack snarling about his ears.

A snort of alarm cut short his thinking. There at the edge of the wood,
not twenty feet away, stood a caribou, pointing his ears at the children
whom he had almost stumbled over as he ran, thinking only of the wolves
behind. The long bow sprang back of itself; an arrow buzzed like a wasp
and buried itself deep in the white chest. Like a flash a second arrow
followed as the stag turned away, and with a jump or two he sank to his
knees, as if to rest awhile in the snow.

But Mooka scarcely saw these things. Her eyes were fastened on the great
white wolf which she had claimed for her own when he was a toddling cub.
He lay still as a stone under the tip of a bending spruce branch, his
eyes following every motion of a young bull caribou which three of the
wolves had singled out of the herd and were now guiding surely straight
to his hiding-place.

The snort and plunge of the smitten animal startled this young stag and
he turned aside from his course. Like a shadow the big wolf that Mooka
was watching changed his place so as to head the game, while two of the
pack on the open barrens slipped around the caribou and turned him back
again to the woods. At the edge of the cover the stag stopped for a last
look, pointing his ears first at Noel's caribou, which now lay very
still in the snow, then at the wolves, which with quick instinct had
singled him out of the herd, knowing in some subtle way he was watched
from beyond, and which gathered about him in a circle, sitting on their
tails and yawning. Slowly, silently Mooka's wolf crept forward, pushing
his great body through the snow. A terrific rush, a quick snap under the
stag's chest just behind the fore legs, where the heart lay; then the
big wolf leaped aside and sat down quietly again to watch.

It was soon finished. The stag plunged away, settled into his long rack,
slowed down to a swaying, weakening trot. After him at a distance glided
the big wolf, lapping eagerly at the crimson trail, but holding himself
with tremendous will power from rushing in headlong and driving the
game, which might run for miles if too hard pressed. The stag sank to
his knees; a sharp yelp rang like a pistol-shot through the still woods;
then the pack rolled in like a whirlwind, and it was all over.

Creeping near on the trail the little hunters crouched under a low
spruce, watching as if fascinated the wild feast of the wolves. Noel's
bow was ready in his hand; but luckily the sight of these huge, powerful
brutes overwhelmed him and drove all thoughts of killing out of his
head. Mooka plucked him by the sleeve at last, and pointed silently
homewards. It was surely time to go, for the biggest wolf had already
stretched himself and was licking his paws, while the two cubs with full
stomachs were rolling over and over and biting each other playfully in
the snow. Silently they stole away, stopping only to tie a rag to a
pointed stick, which they thrust between their own caribou's ribs to
make the wolves suspicious and keep them from tearing the game and
eating the tidbits while the little hunters hurried away to bring the
men with their guns and dog sledges.

They had almost crossed the second barren when Mooka, looking back
uneasily from the edge of the woods, saw a single big wolf emerge across
the barren and follow swiftly on their trail. Startled at the sight,
they turned swiftly to run; for that terrible feeling which sweeps over
a hunter, when for the first time he finds himself hunted in his turn,
had clutched their little hearts and crushed all their confidence. A
sudden panic seized them; they rushed away for the woods, running side
by side till they broke into the fringe of evergreen that surrounded the
barren. There they dropped breathless under a low fir and turned to
look.

"It was wrong to run, little brother," whispered Mooka.

"Why?" said Noel.

"Cause Wayeeses see it, and think we 'fraid."

"But I was 'fraid out there, little sister," confessed Noel bravely.
"Here we can climb tree; good chance shoot um with my arrows."

Like two frightened rabbits they crouched under the fir, staring back
with wild round eyes over the trail, fearing every instant to see the
savage pack break out of the woods and come howling after them. But only
the single big wolf appeared, trotting quietly along in their footsteps.
Within bowshot he stopped with head raised, looking, listening intently.
Then, as if he had seen them in their hiding, he turned aside, circled
widely to the left, and entered the woods far below.

Again the two little hunters hurried on through the silent, snow-filled
woods, a strange disquietude settling upon them as they felt they were
followed by unseen feet. Soon the feeling grew too strong to resist.
Noel with his bow ready, and a strange chill trickling like cold water
along his spine, was hiding behind a tree watching the back trail, when
a low exclamation from Mooka made him turn. There behind them, not ten
steps away, a huge white wolf was sitting quietly on his tail, watching
them with absorbed, silent intentness.

Fear and wonder, and swift memories of Old Tomah and the wolf that had
followed him when he was lost, swept over Noel in a flood. He rose
swiftly, the long bow bent, and again a deadly arrow cuddled softly
against his cheek; but there were doubts and fears in his eye till Mooka
caught his arm with a glad little laugh--

"My cub, little brother. See his ear, and oh, his tail! Watch um tail,
little brother." For at the first move the big wolf sprang alertly to
his feet, looked deep into Mooka's eyes with that intense, penetrating
light which serves a wild animal to read your very thoughts, and
instantly his great bushy tail was waving its friendly greeting.

It was indeed Malsunsis, the cub. Before the great storm broke he had
crouched with the pack in the hollow just in front of the little
hunters; and although the wolves were hungry, it was with feelings of
curiosity only that they watched the children, who seemed to the
powerful brutes hardly more to be feared than a couple of snowbirds
hopping across the vast barren. But they were children of men--that was
enough for the white-wolf packs, which for untold years had never been
known to molest a man. This morning Malsunsis had again crossed their
trail. He had seen them lying in wait for the caribou that his own pack
were driving; had seen Noel smite the bull, and was filled with wonder;
but his own business kept him still in hiding. Now, well fed and
good-natured, but more curious than ever, he had followed the trail of
these little folk to learn something about them.

Mooka as she watched him was brim full of an eagerness which swept away
all fear. "Tomah says, wolf and Injun hunt just alike; keep ver' still;
don't trouble game 'cept when he hungry," she whispered. "Says too,
_Keesuolukh_ made us friends 'fore white man come, spoil um everything.
Das what Malsunsis say now wid hees tail and eyes; only way he can talk
um, little brother. No, no,"--for Noel's bow was still strongly
bent,--"you must not shoot. Malsunsis think we friends." And trusting
her own brave little heart she stepped in front of the deadly arrow and
walked straight to the big wolf, which moved aside timidly and sat down
again at a distance, with the friendly expression of a lost collie in
eyes and ears and wagging tail tip.

Cheerfully enough Noel slacked his long bow, for the wonder of the woods
was strong upon him, and the hunting-spirit, which leads one forth to
frighten and kill and to break the blessed peace, had vanished in the
better sense of comradeship which steals over one when he watches the
Wood Folk alone and friendly in the midst of the solitudes. As they went
on their way again the big wolf trotted after them, keeping close to
their trail but never crossing it, and occasionally ranging up
alongside, as if to keep them in the right way. Where the woods were
thickest Noel, with no trail to guide him, swung uncertainly to left and
right, peering through the trees for some landmark on the distant hills.
Twice the big wolf trotted out to one side, returned and trotted out
again in the same direction; and Noel, taking the subtle hint, as an
Indian always does, bore steadily to the right till the great ridge,
beyond which the Lodge was hidden, loomed over the tree-tops. And to
this day he believes--and it is impossible, for I have tried, to
dissuade him--that the wolf knew where they were going and tried in his
own way to show them.

So they climbed the long ridge to the summit, and from the deep valley
beyond the smoke of the Lodge rose up to guide them. There the wolf
stopped; and though Noel whistled and Mooka called cheerily, as they
would to one of their own huskies that they had learned to love,
Malsunsis would go no farther. He sat there on the ridge, his tail
sweeping a circle in the snow behind him, his ears cocked to the
friendly call and his eyes following every step of the little hunters,
till they vanished in the woods below. Then he turned to follow his own
way in the wilderness.



GLOSSARY OF INDIAN NAMES

Cheokhes, _chê-ok-h[)e]s'_, the mink.

Cheplahgan, _chep-lâh'gan_, the bald eagle.

Ch'geegee-lokh-sis, _ch`gee-gee'lock-sis_, the chickadee.

Chigwooltz, _chig-wooltz'_, the bullfrog.

Clóte Scarpe, a legendary hero, like Hiawatha, of the Northern Indians.
Pronounced variously, Clote Scarpe, Groscap, Gluscap, etc.

Commoosie, _com-moo-sie'_, a little shelter, or hut, of boughs and bark.

Deedeeaskh, _dee-dee'ask_, the blue jay.

Eleemos, _el-ee'mos_, the fox.

Hawahak, _hâ-wâ-h[)a]k'_, the hawk.

Hetokh, _h[)e]t'[=o]kh_, the deer.

Hukweem, _huk-weem'_, the great northern diver, or loon.

Ismaques, _iss-mâ-ques'_, the fish-hawk.

Kagax, _k[)a]g'[)a]x_, the weasel.

Kakagos, _kâ-kâ-g[)o]s'_, the raven.

K'dunk, _k'dunk'_, the toad.

Keeokuskh, _kee-o-kusk'_, the muskrat.

Keeonekh, _kee'o-nek_, the otter.

Keesuolukh, _kee-su-[=o]'luk_, the Great Mystery, i.e. God.

Killooleet, _kil'loo-leet_, the white-throated sparrow.

Kookooskoos, _koo-koo-skoos'_, the great horned owl.

Kopseep, _kop'seep_, the salmon.

Koskomenos, _k[)o]s'k[)o]m-e-n[)o]s'_, the kingfisher.

Kupkawis, _cup-ka'wis_, the barred owl.

Kwaseekho, _kwâ-seek'ho_, the sheldrake.

Lhoks, _locks_, the panther.

Malsun, _m[)a]l'sun_, the wolf.

Malsunsis, _m[)a]l-sun'sis_, the little wolf cub.

Matwock, _m[)a]t'wok_, the white bear.

Meeko, _meek'[=o]_, the red squirrel.

Megaleep, _meg'â-leep_, the caribou.

Milicete, _mil'[)i]-cete_, the name of an Indian tribe; written also
Malicete.

Mitchegeesookh, _mitch-ë-gee'sook_, the snowstorm.

Mitches, _mit'ch[)e]s_, the birch partridge, or ruffed grouse.

Moktaques, _mok-tâ'ques_, the hare.

Mooween, _moo-ween'_, the black bear.

Mooweesuk, _moo-wee'suk_, the coon.

Musquash, _mus'quâsh_, the muskrat.

Nemox, _n[)e]m'ox_, the fisher.

Pekompf, _pe-kompf'_, the wildcat.

Pekquam, _pek-w[)a]m'_, the fisher.

Queokh, _qu[=e]'ok_, the sea-gull.

Quoskh, _quoskh_, the blue heron.

Seksagadagee, _sek'sâ-gä-dâ'gee_, the Canada grouse, or spruce
partridge.

Skooktum, _skook'tum_, the trout.

Tookhees, _tôk'hees_, the wood-mouse.

Umquenawis, _um-que-nâ'wis_, the moose.

Unk Wunk, _unk'wunk_, the porcupine.

Upweekis, _up-week'iss_, the Canada lynx.

Waptonk, _w[)a]p-tonk'_, the wild goose.

Wayeesis, _way-ee'sis_, the white wolf, the strong one.

Whitooweek, _whit-oo-week'_, the woodcock.





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